Sunset over a field in Springbank west of Calgary.
I found this Highland bull on a fold west of the Springbank airport. He was scratching an itch along the broken planks in the corral when I stopped. He raised the horns, huffed and stared at me from under his dishevelled mop. Seemed like he was the master of his domain and he wasn’t particularly interested in my intrusion into it. A good character to photograph and then part ways with.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 800
The evening light was soft and warm last night. I loved the colour in the coats of this small herd in Springbank. #83 was particularly interested and turned out to be particularly photogenic.
The crops around the Springbank airport have all now been harvested. This leaves the fields shorn bare except for the uncollected bales of hay. The attraction drawing hawks is the exposed ground which presently offers little protection for field mice and the like. I have spent a fair bit of time walking and driving along the range roads to photograph some of the activity while it lasts. This Red-tailed hawk, one of the light morphs, was absolutely beautiful. It flew between a couple of posts before launching out across the meadows.
(please click on any image to open a higher resolution version)
This location, just west of Calgary, is one of my favourite places to photograph during the winter months when the sun sets behind the southern edge of the Canadian Rockies. Last night, a massive storm broke free of the mountains and stretched across the prairie. There were some great holes in the clouds that allowed sunlight to streak through here and there. A very dramatic scene to work with and create images of.
Behind the ominous forerunning clouds came the heavy rain. Here the rain is hammering Bragg Creek and moving quickly onto the fields.
As the storm’s intensity built, lightning seemed inevitable and I was lucky to catch this strike hitting along the Elbow River behind a hill in Redwood Meadows.
When the rain did arrive where I was photographing, cover in the car was the prudent option. It was no exaggeration to say this was a torrential downpour.
The Sibbald Herd is a large group of elk that forage west into the front range of the Kananaskis mountains and east to Springbank near Calgary. They move within a relatively thin band along the eastern part of their land and are often in the scrub brush that edges the farmland along Highway 22 between Highway 8 and the Trans Canada Highway. They often graze behind this ridge in a shallow valley but on this morning I found them lined up among the trees and the rocks. They were quite interested in my for a couple of minutes and then resumed grazing and wandered back behind the hill.
I photographed these animals about an hour after sunrise with the sun still below the crest of this ridge. The strong backlighting made for wider range from dark to light than my camera can capture so I chose to work with the structural elements within the scene. Reduced to black and white, there is an interesting relationship between the land and the elk highlighted in these pictures.
There was a storm that burst out of the mountains and settled over the prairies around Calgary in the middle of the week. With the warmer weather that preceded the blizzard, there are hundreds of shallow depressions currently masquerading as ponds in the fields and meadows. It serves the waterfowl that are currently migrating to their breeding grounds in the north. I found this resolute swan paddling in one of these pools in Springbank. Together with a partner, it was dunking its head looking for food and seemingly oblivious to the angry snow falling. The Tundra and Trumpeter Swans briefly stop in this part of Alberta, the largest regattas only staying for one or two days. By the end of this weekend, most will have flown on. I did not get too close to these birds so I have to guess that this is a Trumpeter as I could not see a yellow spot on the bill which is only found on the Tundra Swan. However, with the mottled grey plumage, I think it is an adolescent and I’m not certain whether the yellow spot only develops in adults. Either way, great to see these short-term visitors.
Leaving Calgary on my way home to Bragg Creek, I came across a bald eagle perched on a fence post. I love to photograph birds of prey, so I pulled off the road and jumped out of the car, camera and long lens in hand. Some eagles stay year round here but they are not common so I’m always excited to see one. I was curious to figure out why it was so low to the ground and close to the highway. Usually they are up in trees and closer to rivers than roads. As I moved a bit closer to the bird, his choice of location became obvious – there was a deer, victim of an encounter with a vehicle, crumpled in the ditch. The eagle was in the right spot to swoop down and feed while being able to keep an eye on his prize in between. There were magpies and a couple of crows nearby but none on the deer, they seemed to be keeping their distance.
I waited for a while to see if the eagle would go back to the deer but I must have come along right after it finished one sitting because it showed no interest in going back at that time. Eventually it took flight and circled over the road and up to a large tree a bit further up the hill. I left it there but probably should have set up my field stool and waited for the inevitable return. Really nice to see one of these impressive birds in our area.