Posts tagged “winter

A Snowy owl hunting on a rise

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The Snowy owl that I had photographed the previous week, I found again last Sunday.  This time she was on a snow-covered rise ~50 metres from the fence line.  It was much warmer than the week before and the sun was out so it was quite a pleasant visit.

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-6232

The owl perched taking in a complete view of her surroundings – me included.  The wind was gusting ahead of a chinook that was arching across the prairies so she crouched low whenever it picked up.

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In between one of the wind blasts, she caught sight or sound of something to her left and glided towards a broken post.  She hovered for a moment and then dropped to the ground.

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-6315

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-6320

She grabbed something and quickly swallowed it.  She landed a little further behind the rise and in line with the post so I missed a clear line on the hunt’s conclusion.

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She soon returned to scanning the field.

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And I found another sight line.

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Forest flights in a snowstorm

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4970

A snowstorm hit Bragg Creek last weekend quickly draping the area in white and pushing the temperature way down.  I caught sight of this owl along a familiar stretch of open forest divided by a gravel road.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4954

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4968

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4972

It was a steep challenge keeping sharp focus as she flew through the trees and with the heavy snowfall but I had a great hour or so watching her and trying to keep up.  I ended up with many in-focus tree, out-of-focus owl shots but when it worked out the other way around there were some interesting images.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4916

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4914

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5159

When I did return to my car, it did take a few minutes for my fingers to thaw – that’s always painful but quickly forgotten.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5244
She was very successful during the time I watched her.  Three field mice were the first courses for breakfast from five silent descents into the tall grass.  When time allows, I will share a few of those action shots in another photo story here.


Winter in Lake Louise: snow, ice and water

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Last weekend I spent the morning looking for wildlife along the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park.  I drove along, stopping several times for short hikes to get a view over the river valley or along a creek into the forest.  None of the animals graced me with their presence but the land made it a good morning nonetheless.  In Banff, the lakes are frozen but there was very little snow on the ground.  Halfway towards Lake Louise, the snow was more prevalent and when I got to the lake, the trees were heavy with snow, the ground was well-covered and winter was firmly set.  It has been a couple of years since I wandered along the lake shore in winter with camera in hand.  I enjoyed the time, working to create some images while listening to the multilingual hum from the other visitors as they came and went.  It was a good time to be up there to photograph.  The snow was falling gently, the river that drains out of the northeastern end of the lake was yet to freeze over and the clouds were moving fast so the peaks were in and out of view.  Lot’s of dynamic elements to weave together into a variety of images.  This was my favourite from a relaxed morning doing what I love.


Great gray owl winter flights

Great gray owl's winter flight - © Christopher Martin-6515

I love watching Great gray owls fly – particularly when they launch.  The snowstorm that hit Bragg Creek on Thursday night created a wintry scene that was still hiding spring on Saturday when I went out.  It made for an interesting backdrop to this owl as it took flight.

Great gray owl's winter flight - © Christopher Martin-6516

Great gray owl's winter flight - © Christopher Martin-6517


A hockey night in Calgary

Hockey night in Canada - © Christopher Martin-0966

I found this ice rink in a park near Marda Loop.  There were a few people playing hockey under the night lights.  I stopped for a few minutes to play with the patterns of the trees and lights against the rink.  I loved the setting and that everyone was out to enjoy this most traditional of Canadian pastimes.

Hockey night in Canada - © Christopher Martin-0978


De-icing planes at YYC – revisited

De-icing planes at YYC - 2014 © Christopher Martin-070025

I originally published one photograph of the patterns of steam created by workers de-icing planes in January 2014, the day after I took the picture when I arrived in Arizona.  I processed the image quite minimally as I believe I was working off of an iPad and had limited time to work on the images.  Last year, a more true to life, and to my eye more pleasing, version was recognized in the CBRE Urban Photographer of the Year competition.  This version required some processing as RAW files are quite flat and high contrast images can require a bit of work to bring them out.

De-icing planes at YYC - 2014 © Christopher Martin-070525

For a recent competition I entered, I submitted a series of different images from the same time.  I liked the abstract quality of the steam created by the patterns and swirls, backlit by the just risen sun.  I wanted to share those here – with the break in the freezing temperatures this morning, I thought it was a nice reminder of just how cold winter can be in Alberta!

De-icing at YYC - 2014 © Christopher Martin-070825

De-icing at YYC - 2014 © Christopher Martin-072725

De-icing planes at YYC - 2014 © Christopher Martin-070725

De-icing at YYC - 2014 © Christopher Martin-071425

 


Photographing through dawn on the prairies

Dawn hoar frost landscape - © Christopher Martin-9565

I spent a morning photographing the sun rising over the prairies west of Calgary on the weekend.  In the image above, the alpen glow to the west heralds the sun’s coming approach.  When the sun came up, the pink quickly washed out of the sky and painted the eastern flanks of the Rocky Mountains and then these stands of trees that break up this field along Highway 8.  I love watching these transitions as colors deepen, fade and change altogether.

Dawn hoar frost landscape - © Christopher Martin-9614

Facing a low sun, shadows stretched out long across the snow.  I played with those for a bit under the increasingly blue sky before heading home.

Dawn hoar frost landscape - © Christopher Martin-9755


Hoar frost abstract

Hoar frost abstract - © Christopher Martin-9788

It was -26°C as I stood with my tripod watching the sun climb off the horizon to start the day. Hoar frost enveloped these branches creating a beautifully tangled, chaotic pattern.  The sunlight streamed in, reflecting off of the ice and snow.


Elbow River Dawn

Elbow River Dawn - © Christopher Martin-1831-2

I went out for a mountain bike this morning along the Elbow River.  The temperature was near -20°C and the snow-covered trails were a bit slippery – and it was a great ride.  It was before the sun had come up and the land was emerging from the dark draped in soft, bluish light.  The alpen glow in the clear sky to the west added a magical pink hue to the scene.

Elbow River Dawn - © Christopher Martin-1826-2

These two images were taken before and after the sunlight lit up the Kananaskis mountains.  The first was at 8:27 and the next 13 minutes later, just a minute after sunrise.

Elbow River Dawn - © Christopher Martin-1841

 

 


A Sandcrawler stuck in the snow

Winter Jawas - © Christopher Martin-1535

Snow is exceptionally rare on Tatooine, the desert planet homeworld of Luke and Anakin Skywalker.  No matter how rare, snow fell near Wayfar recently and a Jawa Sandcrawler found a way to get stuck in it.

Winter Jawas - © Christopher Martin-1561

When Boba Fett arrived on the scene, things could have got much worse for the Jawas.  The Mandalorian bounty hunter may have come looking for something or someone but he did not stay long.  Nor did he help the Jawas which is not surprising given his occupation and general demeanour.

Boba Fett - © Christopher Martin-1581

Winter Jawas and Boba Fett - © Christopher Martin-1606

Winter Jawas - © Christopher Martin-1590

Note: I’m a Star Wars fan and with the latest release, The Force Awakens, my son and I have been spending a lot of time in that universe.  It was a fun bit of play making these setups.  May the force be with you.

Winter Jawas - © Christopher Martin-1538


Snowstorm silhouettes

Snowstorm silhouettes in Kananaskis Country - © Christopher Martin-0890

I love the abstract quality that snowstorms can bring to landscape.  A heavy snowfall in Kananaskis near the Highwood Pass changed the treeline into softened silhouettes.  The scene was suggestive of charcoal sketches I still enjoy drawing.


Elbow Falls in winter’s clothing

Winter sunrise at Elbow Falls - © Christopher Martin-4076

We have had a few stormy blasts throughout November and the snow seems to be intent on sticking around right now.  With the beauty of the winter landscape running through my head, I went up to Elbow Falls in Kananaskis early one morning to catch the sunrise.

WINTER DAWN AT ELBOW FALLS - © Christopher Martin-4088

It turned out to be a beautiful dawn matched only by the tranquility I was able to enjoy sharing the waterfall with the resident Dippers (small birds not swimmers!) and the rushing water.

WINTER DAWN AT ELBOW FALLS - © Christopher Martin-4106


Blowing snow abstracts along the Continental Divide

Blowing snow off of Beatrice Peak - © Christopher Martin-3028
After hiking along the Boom Lake trail last weekend, I drove into the Kootenay National Park for a little ways.  I stopped when I noticed the snow blowing off of the peaks along the Ball Range that is a line of mountains along the Continental Divide.  Looking up from the British Columbia – Alberta border on Highway 93, the snow was backlit by the sun which had still not risen above the wall created by Storm Mountain, Beatrice Peak and Stanley Peak.

Blowing snow off of Beatrice Peak - © Christopher Martin-3022

Wind pushed veils of cloud up the valley obscuring the ridgeline for seconds or minutes.  When the view was clear, it presented a constantly changing scene as the snow lifted into the air.

Blowing snow off of Beatrice Peak - © Christopher Martin-2968


A glimpse of winter at Boom Creek

Boom Creek dressed for winter - © Christopher Martin-2829

I went for a hike along the trail to Boom Lake on the weekend and felt like I walked into a preview of winter.  The lake is near the aptly named Storm Mountain on the western edge of Banff National Park and the area was already blanketed in 1-1.5′ (30-45cm) of snow.  With the sun shining, I was happy to walk along the trail for a couple of kilometres as it was an area new to me.  From the trailhead a bridge crosses over Boom Creek almost immediately.  I slipped under the bridge on my way out and set up the photograph above which I felt illustrated the wintry feel.  This image is also the December image on my just completed 2016 landscape calendar so it was a worthwhile hike on a couple of fronts!


Spring back into winter

Spring snow in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6776

At some time in the middle of night, clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped.   This morning there was a couple of inches of heavy, wet snow covering Bragg Creek.  I drove and walked along a couple of the country roads in West Bragg to photograph the landscape after what should be a short visit by the winter spirits.

Spring snow in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6784

Spring snow in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6836

 

Snow and a spring Robin in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6828


A Snowy Owl’s flight over the prairies

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1458

On the weekend I followed reports of Snowy owls northeast of Calgary near Irricana.  I left home early and arrived in the area just after sunrise.  I was lucky enough to spy the first Snowie of the day perched on a fence post glowing in the soft light.

Irricana Snowy Owl - © Christopher Martin-1415

The pure white owls were until quite recently thought to always be males.  That has been disproved leaving it hard to determine the gender from casual observation.  I will allow for the old convention though and refer to this one as a he.  The other four birds I photographed that morning were banded to varying degrees and I will refer to them as ladies in a future post.  It took only a few minutes before he launched and scouted low over the field for breakfast.  This was repeated a couple of times with each sortie ending with a return to the fence line.

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1457

On the last flight that I photographed of this owl, he flew away from the fence and landed in the middle of the field on a pipeline valve which allowed for an interesting backlit shot as he flared his wings to land.

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1474


Prairie landscapes

Prairie ghost light - © Christopher Martin-0264

An early morning east of Calgary near Strathmore looking for Snowy owls came up with only one shy one isolated in a field.  This allowed time to see the prairie landscape.  And, as it has turned out, one of the last days before the warm weather of the past couple of weeks came and melted all of the snow.  While I’m not missing the bitter cold, I did enjoy the icy air and snow-covered fields when I was out then.

Lonely Snowy Owl - © Christopher Martin-9963

Broke down - © Christopher Martin-0344

Backlight on the prairie - © Christopher Martin-9940


A sentinel on the Prairie

A sentinel on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-0331-3

I spent one morning this weekend on the prairies north of Strathmore around Bruce Lake.  This trip along the backroads came in between two chinooks and there was a thin blanket of snow that had fallen the day before to cover the land in white.  I had not explored this area previously and when I saw this tree framed by the broken down fence line, I was happy I to have come this way.  I can only imagine the vignettes that have played out in front of this gnarled trunk over many years.


Foxy runner

Foxy runner - © Christopher Martin-0195

 

I found this Red fox sprinting away from a farm west of Springbank, Alberta.  A dog was just giving up the chase when I caught sight of the fox running at full speed in the ditch.  By the time it passed me it was out of pursuit and was cantering along.


Eagles in the Elk Valley


Elk Eagle Valley - © Christopher Martin-0150

We were in Fernie a couple of weeks ago and on the drive home found a few Bald eagles who were flying around a carcass that had been pulled a few hundred meters off the highway.  They scattered when we first stopped but came circling back around the trees and back to the easy meal.  A nice break during the lean winter months.

Elk Eagle Valley - © Christopher Martin-0157

Elk Eagle Valley - © Christopher Martin-0161

 


Flying at the Canada Olympic Park

 

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Our kids are in a WinSport Snow School program learning to ski and snowboard at the Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.  The hill is a great place to learn and the instructors are adept working with children.  Both of them are having a blast out there.

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I watched them for an hour on Sunday and then wandered over to the terrain park to watch some very talented boarders and skiers fly.

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There are great rollers, kick jumps and skate park features which these snow creatures were ripping off of.  I had a great time watching them.  I grew up skiing in the mountains but never aired things out like this – so cool!

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And there was even a Superman laying it out…

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Coyote in Kananaskis

Kananaskis Coyote - © Christopher Martin-9379

This coyote trotted in front of us and then slipped into forest.  I kept my lens on her and she was curious enough to steal a quick look our way when she was in a small open space.  We were spending our anniversary in Kananaskis and it was a nice moment to include in “our” day.

Please note that I took artistic license with this image and desaturated the colour in the forest around the coyote. The woods in Kananaskis are not black and shades of grey.  For reference, the original image is included below.

Kananaskis Coyote - © Christopher Martin-9379-2

 


On a cold clear morning…

Alberta Sky - © Christopher Martin-8649

This strange cloud and a few stragglers lit up brilliantly ahead of the rising sun.  I was driving east towards Calgary and stopped for a few minutes to watch what looked more like a stack of cotton candy than a regular cloud.  Mind you, whenever I think a cloud is just a normal one, watching it morph unpredictably as it crosses the sky reminds they are magical creations.

 


Bobcats through the trees

 

Alberta Bobcat Lynx - © Christopher Martin-8851

There has been a bobcat and her kitten spotted several times over the past month in the forest that wraps around the community of Redwood Meadows.  The mixed forest and light snow provide excellent cover for these medium-sized cats so they can disappear without notice which makes actively searching them out a challenge.  Up until yesterday, I had yet to see either of our native lynx species, the Canada lynx and the bobcat, in the wild.  The mother was tawny almost having a tiger’s colouring when it slipped into the shadows when its kit had caught up and they went deeper into the woods.

Bobcat prowl - © Christopher Martin-8857

Driving into Redwood in mid-afternoon, we saw a cat crossing the road.  Nothing unusual until we drew a bit closer and realized it was much larger than a house cat and its spotted coat and bobbed tail indicated it was a lynx of one type or the other.  The reddish-tawny colouring was unlike any Lynx images that I have seen but a lack of direct experience saw me do a bit of research to confirm the identification.  The prominent spotting, colouring and white/black tip on the tail ruled out Canada Lynx leaving me sure that I had spent a bit of time with two beautiful bobcats.

Bobcat kitten - © Christopher Martin-8860

I couldn’t be more pleased to have had this opportunity to see this pair and in my own town.

Alberta Bobcat Lynx - © Christopher Martin-8853