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.
A snowstorm obliterated the opportunity to photograph the “supermoon” on March 18th but I was out in a field the night before to see how the moon looked. The moon was impressive and it was really great to be out in the moonlight for a few hours. In the image above, the pink sky is the result of the city glow and the light from the moon. With two of the three deer walking slowly during the long exposure, they have a ghostly appearance.
As the last couple of deer trotted past, I panned with them. Under the moonlight they were dimly illuminated so I raised the ISO, opened the aperture and underexposed a bit to try to capture enough light to show the landscape with the deer moving through it. Even with the noise in this image I like the motion.
Below, a simple landscape image with the moon as it rises clear of a band of haze laying just above the horizon.
A long exposure looking west towards the mountains was one of the last images from the evening. The layers in this photograph from the lights, to the hill, the mountains and into the stretched sky are interesting.
As for the moon itself, I didn’t take an image that really showed the scale of it during this close pass unlike some of the incredible photographs I have seen around the web. This image was taken with a telephoto lens and then cropped in slightly. It doesn’t convey how close the moon came but it is nice to photograph our lone satellite.
The low trajectory of the winter sun here in Alberta results in a short day with sunrise currently at 8:35 am and sunset at 4:30 pm. The angle makes for really good light through much of the day which compensates for the reduced daylight. The drives home have allowed me to enjoy some really nice sunsets. Here are a few that I was able to stop and watch for a few minutes.
This last one I wanted to get a soft feel to the scene but I may have gotten a bit carried away resulting in too much blur in the mountains. The fickle beauty of experimentation – sometimes it works and other times it seems to take time off.