Last night was one of the best nights I’ve spent outdoors enjoying creation. It was warm, no wind, very few insects and a major league bonus included seeing the fireflies I talked about in my last post. It didn’t stop there though!! The aurora borealis showed up and put on a nice show, so I was able to capture this image showing the reflection of the auroras in Gull Lake, which was very calm. Oh, the show wasn’t over yet – noctilucent clouds started to glow brilliantly along the horizon as you can see in the image. Listening to all the grebes, geese, ducks, loons and coyotes and even the fish making noises was an experience along with the stunning views is something everyone should put an effort into experiencing! These beautiful nights don’t last long in Alberta, so I love to take advantage of them when I can. I have a few more images that are worth posting, but I have been really busy all day already and I want a nap. Apparently things could fire up again tonight!!
[ Canon 5DmkIII, Canon EF 11-24mm L]
Hoping to catch a nice sunset I headed off to Gull Lake last night. It’s only a 30 minute drive, so a bit of a last minute desicion was no big deal. The temperature was 28ºC and the parking lot at the beach was packed solid when I arrived. I’m not one for big crowds anywhere, malls, carnivals etc. I much prefer quiet and so I didn’t haul out my cameras as they grab far too much attention. Instead I parked my butt on a bench and enjoyed the setting sun. It was interesting too, as I noticed thousands of small fish feeding on the insects on the surface of the water just like trout do and birds, both gulls and terns in turn skimming the surface picking off these fish as they surfaced. I have no idea what kind of fish they were, but I’m curious to know. While I was enjoying the warmth of the sun I got an e-mail alert about possible aurora, so I thought it would be nice to wait and see if they showed up.
Pretty much as soon as the sun disappeared below the horizon the crowds started thinning out quite quickly and I didn’t feel so conspicuous with my camera. It takes a long time to get dark at this time of year! The sun set at around 9:50pm and it takes a couple of hours for the sky to get dark. A few minutes before 11 a park warden came by to tell me they were locking up the gates and I would have to leave. I explained what I was doing and the warden said he wouldn’t kick me out of the park if I was to park outside the gate and walk back in. It’s under a kilometre to get in so I was all for the idea! He also mentioned that the evening before there had been a lot of fireflies around and that they were seen around midnight for an hour or so. This perked my interest as I have only ever seen fireflies once before while out chasing thunderstorms around this time of year a long time ago. I parked my car outside the gate and gathered together the minimum amount of gear I felt was necessary and wandered back down to the beach. The warden had given me a good tip and almost as if on que the first flash of greenish light of a firefly appeared in a small group of trees next to the beach. I set up my camera and took a twenty minute time exposure looking out over Gull Lake. As you can see the earth rotates and creates star trails in the sky, but the main attraction for me was the squiggly green lines tracing out the flight path of these amazing little insects!
[Olympus E-M5II, Panasonic 20mm f/1.7]
A few months back when the snow was just starting to fall I came across many many tree, big poplars, likely close to 80 years old, that had been cut and piled. Hundreds of them, to make more room for grain. The benefits of a windbreak gone. The benefits to all the birds and other wildlife that called it home, gone. the aesthetic beauty of these trees, gone. It felt like a disaster to me! What would make someone destroy such beauty for so small a gain?
Then, in spring as I was driving around Red Deer County during one of the last few flurries to spread it’s white powder coating on the land, I came across this beautiful windrow quite near to where the others had been cut. There was a thick fog all morning allowing only small glimpses of what was around me. A cold wind blew in and started to clear off the fog as the sun was rising. I noticed it shining through the fog only momentarily numerous times and managed to line it up with these majestic trees only to have it disappear just as quickly. I raced into this field in the hopes of seeing it again. Battling the strong cold wind, I managed to get the camera all set and ready with my gloves off and could feel my fingers stinging painfully. Putting my gloves on helped for sure, but being out in the wind was very unpleasant! Thankfully the sun poked out from behind the fog long enough to capture the view on film and after getting back to my car and warming up my fingers over the heating vents, I couldn’t help wonder if this windrow might be seeing it’s last season before falling to the bulldozers that seem intent on stripping our land of the few bits of remaining beauty.
[ Plaubel Makina 67, Kodak Portra 160 ]
Otherwise known as a pika, this adorable little guy entertained me and my friend Ron Yachimec while we were hiking in Yoho National Park. We had traversed many of the trails around Lake O’Hara, but hadn’t headed up to McArthur Lake. We decided to climb up Mount Schaffer, me only nearly to the top, Ron all the way, but then he has some good training in climbing skills! Such beautiful views from so high up but there were some rain showers starting up, and so on our decent we decided to scramble down a very long scree slope, which felt a lot like skiing moguls. Near the bottom where we joined up with the trail back to our campground we heard the unmistakeable shrill chirp of a pika. It didn’t take long to locate him as he scrambled among the boulders rounding up all his grasses etc. he had set out earlier to dry in the sun. He would grab a mouth full and head under the rocks only to pop his head out and check to see if there were any risks about before getting his next mouthful. I simply watched where he would stop and snuck up on the spot when he wasn’t looking or had dived under a boulder. When I was close enough to get a decent shop, I got my camera to the appropriate settings and waited. Within a few moments he was back. He spotted me and stopped to be sure I was an OK kind of guy and click, the memory was preserved an a small piece of Fuji Velvia film. I entered this image into the Canadian Geographic magazines photo contest at the time and it won the animal category and was published, which then resulted in a few print sales. All in all I was a pretty happy camper! (Pardon the pun)
[ Nikon F3HP, Nikon 80-200mm f/4, Fujichrome Velvia ]
[ Olympus E-M5II, Panasonic 100-300mm ]
Of course David Lindley is singing about a car – oh well! This old Mercury truck was found on an old farm south of Brooks, Alberta, near Rolling Hills. It was a creepy place too! My travelling partner Michael Chesworth went exploring the old farmhouse and discovered old bank deposit slips from the early fifties, and an old shot up television that had only the original dial that let you choose one of thirteen channels. I remember being a kid watching our old B&W TV that had this same sort of dial, unfortunately, we couldn’t even make use of the dial as we had the luxury of getting only one channel! So, if we didn’t like what was on we were back outside riding our bikes or playing hockey on the local rink, depending on the season of course. Anyways, back to this farm, there was no sign anywhere at the start of the dirt laneway indicating “No Trespassing” so we felt OK checking it out. This truck was one of three in the yard and the one I liked making images of the best. I made a lot of close-ups of the patina of the metal with my digital camera, but really felt a pinhole image would add a sense of being in a dream and also would give some indication of how I was feeling in this farmyard. It really makes you think about who it was that lived there and why it was left in the state it was. Someone had a full life here and we only got to see a few remnants of it. I would have to think it wasn’t a creepy existent either, but just the way things have gone since whomever it was departed, left us feeling a bit unsettled. This image was made with a ten minute exposure with my camera mounted to my tripod and awkwardly arranged just inside the cab of the truck. I thought my meter was out to lunch indicating such a long exposure, but here you are, and it was rather dark in the shadows of the cab. An hour or so later we hit the highway to a new destination still heading further south.
[ Zero Image 6×9, Kodak Portra 160 ]
I really enjoy the graphic qualities presented here. Essentially monochrome with a jolt of orange, this image has straight lines, curved lines, triangles, short lines, long lines, thick lines, thin lines, organic shapes, man-made shapes, dark tones, light tones, large blank area, and small detailed areas. It was fun to make the image even though I was being buffeted by very strong winds! I was shooting across a highway in order to get the composition I was after and got a lot of strange looks from people travelling by. It’s as if they have never seen someone with a camera on a tripod. I think they wouldn’t have even hardly glanced over my way if I had of been holding up my phone! :)
[ Olympus E-M5II, Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 ]
Farming, and of course the ever present oil and gas, are the main industries that Kneehill County can boast about. Farming to me is a romantic occupation where you operate by the light of the day and the changing of the seasons. You get your hands dirty and you work hard, but there would be a huge sense of accomplishment for the work done. I’m sure it’s not an easy way to make a living, but there are worse jobs out there! I grew up surrounded by grain fields and to this day love harvest season. The lights of combines and grain trucks late into the night peering through the grain dust that hovers near the ground as the humidity gets thicker. The many meals that are eaten on the tailgates of pick-ups and in general the excitement and nervousness of getting the crops safely into granaries. The smells that go along with harvest are amazing just the same as the turning of the fields in spring. The smell of fresh turned soil is amazing and then that of a field of bright yellow canola. I recall, too, the many fields of flax looking like mirages of lakes with the beautiful blue flowers. I don’t see much flax anymore, at least not around central Alberta. I can recall some years back in southern Manitoba there was a lot of flax.
This field had just finished being combined as the sun skimmed over the remaining stubble near Carbon. These tall granaries are nothing like the tiny wooden structures I remember, about the size of the small shed next to these, and they dwarf the tractor parked between them.
[ Plaubel Makina 67, Kodak Ektar 100 ]
Hopefully all we’ll see now is rain. The fluffy white rain has grown old on me now and I much prefer rain that doesn’t require me to shovel it off the sidewalks! Heading south into Red Deer County with my friend Michael Chesworth on our way to the extreme parts of southern Alberta, we had to endure a day of cold winds and this white stuff. We made rather slow progress as the scenes were really quite beautiful.
[ Olympus E-M5II, Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm ]
The Red Deer River badlands were my home for many years and now I can’t wait to get back as often as I can to photograph. Anyone want to take a road trip?
[ Olympus EM5II, Panasonic 100-300mm ]