The thunder and lightning rolled over the prairies several times over the past couple of weeks. On August 1st, I went out to photograph dusk as the smoke from the wildfires has helped create some beautiful evening scenes. The haze thinned after sunset and a large cloud took shape from it as the sky cooled into night.
While the color slipped away, the cloud grew and I caught a flicker of lightning on the northern edge. Rain didn’t fall and the wind never really picked up. However a fork crackled through the air every few minutes for the next couple of hours.
The storm slowly churned east towards Calgary and the open prairie beyond. The trailing edge left behind a clear sky dotted with stars. This last photograph caught the moon illuminating the cloud as it rose.
The wildfire smoke gave the setting sun a fiery hue as it fell towards the horizon on the first day of August. A few minutes earlier I had watched as it slipped into the clouds rendered indistinct in the hazy atmosphere. When the orb re-appeared just above the horizon, with the pink light tracing out the tops of the cloud bank, I enjoyed this beautiful moment.
Sunset over a field in Springbank west of Calgary.
My son and I returned from a weekend hiking and camping with good friends in the Monashee Provincial Park in British Columbia on Monday night. Wildfires have been a clear and present danger across the province for the whole summer and west of Golden we drove between two separate fires that were burning on mountainsides across the valley from each other. The thick smoke obscured the flames and blocked out much of the sun.
It was powerful to directly observe something we have followed all summer remotely. We stopped at a pullout briefly and then continued east towards home. The day retreated and when we were nearing Golden, the moon rose above the forest and mountain ridge lines.
The smoke in the air from the fires, and likely others that were not visible to us, turned the sky a purple colour at dusk that moved quickly into a deep blue.
The nearly full moon shone brightly and had an orange cast to it. Beauty from these wildfires that I enjoyed but that I would trade for rain there in a heartbeat.
On my way up to the mountains this weekend, the sun continued its struggle with the smoke from the wildfires. In the early evening I made my way along Highway 40 and stopped several times to watch the clouds and sun in this unusual scene.
I ended up on the shore of the Upper Kananaskis Lake about an hour before sunset. It was a warm night which I was grateful for – even in summer the wind can blow hard and cold across the lake at anytime. Over the next couple of hours a loon, a few people fishing and one large, extended family came and went. I moved down the shoreline slowly, taking photographs of the sun’s descent towards the jagged silhouette of the mountains the curve around the lake.
The smoke acts like a neutral density filter and drops the intensity of the sun’s light considerably. That allowed me to spend a lot of time exploring how the atmosphere, the sunlight and the landscape could be composed. All three changed in appearance and shape as the sun descended.
When the sun drew close to the mountains, the colors deepened and the silhouettes of the mountains were fantastic against the sky.
The fiery hues disappeared quickly once the sun fell behind the mountains. That left cooler tones to quietly take hold. At that point, I was alone on the shore and the tranquility held me there for a long while.
The sun has taken on a strange appearance each of the last few evenings. The smoke from the wildfires to the west was thick in the foothills west of Calgary last Thursday when I stopped along Highway 8. The pink globe in the sky drew my attention and, once stopped, I enjoyed watching the small clouds drifting past. This one looked like a dancing bull, or maybe a bison in full stride, as it charged across the sun.
I spent a lot of time on the prairies in December. These days started early in the morning so I was able to enjoy watching night give way to day. And several hours later, watch the principles switch as the short daylight hours ran out.
The sky in late October near the Rocky mountains often serves as a fantastic canvas for clouds, wind and sunshine to paint as they mix, blend and tear apart. I live on the eastern flank of the Rockies and am fortunate to be able to see a fair number of these beautiful collisions. This one was just before sunset in the third week of October on a recently paved country road off of Highway 8 between Bragg Creek and Calgary.
A double rainbow arched over Medicine Lake just before sunset in Jasper National Park. Light rain fell on Kian and I as we watched these rainbows develop on the edge of a storm that had rolled up the Maligne Valley. The sun was near setting so the sunlight was pure gold and the colors across the landscape were incredible.
On the Labour Day weekend, my son and I camped in Jasper. I hadn’t been there in over a year and I was shocked to see a vast swath of burnt hillsides in Medicine Lake area of the Malign Valley. Somehow I completely missed the Excelsior Wildfire that burned over a 1000 hectares between July 9th and 22nd, 2015. We were looking for wildlife and enjoying the chaotic weather when the sun broke through to paint select trees amid the skeleton forest left behind as a stark reminder of the wildfire.
Canon 5DIII camera + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/640 seconds at f/4 on ISO 3200
I spotted this Snowy owl perched on this oil and gas installation east of Langdon. She was about a kilometre off the road so I parked, grabbed my gear and headed over. She was scanning to the east while I approached from the west side. As I walked she kept an eye on my, swivelling her neck to watch me infrequently. From a hundred metres away, with colour brushing into the sky as the sun set, I stopped to compose this photograph. I love these birds and I love sunsets – these seemed to be interesting juxtapositions to the storage tank she was perched on.
I had fun pulling together this list of my landscape images that stood out to me. Last year I spent time in some beautiful places near and far which certainly helps towards making pretty pictures. Within those moments, I really enjoyed composing the images to try to create something more compelling than just pretty pictures – although I like those too!
I felt like I put more effort into my wildlife photography last year but am happy with the progression with my landscape images. The sky makes up so much of what makes or breaks a landscape image for me and I see my exploration of that continuing in 2016. If you are interested in seeing these of images, please click on any image or this link to open the image gallery. Thank you for visiting now and throughout the year.