Saturday, November 9, 2013

Chester Lake - November 9th, 2013

I drove out to Kananaskis today to visit the mountains. It's been a while since I've been able to get out and hold my camera in my hands and make some photos. I picked up some snowshoes on Friday and was wanting to try them out. In my research there are lots of cross country ski trails, but there aren't that many official snowshoe trails around. Chester Lake has some snowshoe trails and had received quite a bit of snow last weekend.  I'd been up there recently for fall photos so there is where I wanted to go.

In regards to snowshoeing, I imagined to some degree that having snowshoes would allow me to float on top of snow and that somehow it would be this frolic-y "bound through the snow with a big smile on my face" kind of experience.. however as it turns out, snowshoes aren't wings, nor are they anti-gravity shoes. They do help distribute your weight over a larger surface area so you don't sink as much on packed snow and all the jagged teeth on the bottom of the shoe gives you a certain amount of traction but magic carpets they are not. A hill is still a hill regardless of what you have on your feet and a hill must be climbed and gravity overcome in order to scale it.

I got to the Chester parking lot and started gathering my stuff for the hike. It didn't take long before I spotted the moose. There were four of them in the parking lot and they were going around and licking cars presumably to get the salt. Moose are quite tall and lanky looking so I was surprised when they moved and showed how nimble and graceful they actually are.. I was trying to position myself so I could get a photo of a young male - without a car in the background - when some skiers came zipping off the trail and into the parking lot. They spooked the moose a little bit and it bound off into the trees. At this point I decided to leave the moose alone and start off on my journey to the lake on my fancy snowshoes.

It didn't take too long before I needed a rest. I wasn't pacing myself very well and with my unrealistic expectations at how easy the snowshoes would make this - I had run out of breath. I rested and after a bit started up again and quickly was tired again.. then I started to sweat - a lot.. which seemed OK because I had a number of layers on including some sporty shirt that is supposed to whisk sweat away. I unzipped my coat and continued on for a bit until I needed another rest.  In reading about snowshoeing I learned that the proper etiquette is for snowshoe-ers to stay off the ski tracks so I was trying to go on the side but the snow was loose and deep and it was hard work to walk through this kind of snow. Hence all the sweating.

The trail to Chester lake eventually flattens out once your in the upper valley. When I finally got there I was excited to see that the light was very beautiful. The clouds were blocking the sun from hitting the upper mountains so there was this nice bit of sunshine hitting the ground but there were shadows up above on the mountains. In addition there was snow blanketing the ground providing a lot of nice textures.

Once I got to the lake itself I found it was covered with snow and ice. I was hoping that there might still be open water for some reflective photos, but no such luck.. I followed some tracks around the lake that eventually led up into the trees again. I`ve read about the 'elephant rocks' at Chester lake but haven't seen them and didn't really know where they were. I was sort of hoping that the trail would lead to them so I followed the tracks up into the trees.  After about 20 minutes or so the trail entered a clearing and this was where the rocks were.. They weren't really rocks per-say but were large (very large, like two story house large) hunks of rock there were scattered around the clearing.  I was excited to find them so I started to make some photos.  As I worked my way around the rocks making different shots I found myself waiting for the sun to dip below the clouds so the light would hit the rocks.  It did it once or twice while I wasn't really paying attention so I figured it would do it again.

I was standing there waiting, looking at the rocks, forming my composition so that when the light came I'd be ready to make the shot. While I was waiting for the light I was looking at the rock formations when all of a sudden it clicked and I saw them. The elephants. In the photo below I see two.

Elephant rocks

I made some shots and waited around some more to see if the clouds would let the sun out again but they did not so I moved on and made my way back down to the lake. Walking downhill was easier so I made good time. Past the lake and down down down to the parking lot. When I got there there were about nine cars and there were two moose left licking the cars. I circled around so as not to get too close but ended up herding them towards my car. I used my remote lock to make the horn beep and scare them off a little bit so I could get access to my car. After unpacking and changing out of my sweaty clothes I started my drive back to Calgary. It was just after four in the afternoon. Sun was to set at 5:00pm but it was already darker because of the clouds. Heading back towards Canmore I saw a coyote and a large bull moose on the side of the road. I stopped to make some photos of both.



Overall, it was an awesome day in the mountains. There are more photos from today posted and you can see them here.

Thanks for looking

Monday, October 14, 2013

Highway 66 - October 14, 2013

Yesterday the sky was overcast and cloudy, this morning there wasn`t a cloud in the sky which was disappointing because I was in the mountains yesterday but wasn`t today. After a late decision to go for a drive I found myself heading out of town. I wasn`t sure where I wanted to go and ended up driving down Highway 66 past Bragg Creek. The bridge is still out at Alan Bill from the floods this past spring so there was a bit of traffic as cars took turns going across the temporary bridge. It was such a nice day that there were lots and lots of people out on the road. Early on the drive I passed some trees that caught my eye but I didn't stop thinking that there would be lots of trees to look at. I drove all the way to the end of the road at Little Elbow. I was really hoping for more yellow leaves but many of the trees that I could see from the road were now naked. I was a tiny bit disappointed and on the way back stopped the car near the river to see if I could make a photo of something.

Walking along the edge of the river I noticed that there were some large rocks I could use to get a vantage point that would put the distant mountains just above some rapids. I knew going in that I should have changed my shoes but I thought I'd be careful enough that it wouldn't be a problem. The texture on the soles of my shoes wore away quite some time ago. When it rains I walk differently because there is a particular angle at which my shoes will hydroplane on things like wet tile, or plywood in construction zones, or even wet crosswalk paint. I'm not inexperienced at recovering from slipping in the streets and have only hit ground once that I can recall. So having hopped across a few rocks and noticing that one of my shoes had dipped into the river should have been a clear warning that my shoe would probably not be stable going forward. I was doing OK for a while but my attention was on getting the shot when my foot went full on into the water. I recovered but it wasn`t long before both feet had become submerged. I gave up on getting the shot when I fell backwards and found myself sitting in the river. Below is a photo that I captured from the middle of the Elbow river.

Elbow River

Luckily I had some extra clothes in the car and was able to get out of my wet pants, socks and shoes. I figured I should head home cause things just weren`t working out. As I drove I passed the trees that I`d seen on the way in I debated with myself about stopping and finally decided that I would. The fall colours are quickly fading and I wanted to take advantage of whatever is left. I parked the car along the side of the road and composed some shots of the trees.


I`m pleased with this photo and capturing it helped make the trip worthwhile. I love photographing trees and I love fall.

Thanks for looking

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Elbow Lake - October 13, 2013

Made a short family hike out to Elbow Lake on Sunday looking for some Fall colours. On the drive out we passed lots of yellow trees but as we made our way further south along Highway 40 and into higher elevations the scenery started to become snow covered. Around the Highwood Pass a lot of the leaves have fallen already as winter starts to settle in. For our trip the sky was cloudy and overcast which made it feel even more like winter. We walked around the lake and down the Elbow valley a ways towards Tombstone mountain. I was hoping to get to Edworthy falls but it was a bit further than I remembered and we ended up turning around. Elbow lake is just staring to freeze over and there was a light dusting of snow covering the ice, for a few minutes the sun was illuminating Tombstone mountain and I made this photo.

Elbow Lake

With the overcast light and the low contrast on the snow the image looked monochromatic already so I finished it in black and white.

Before we turned around we came across a few wind-swept larches.

Wind Swept Larch tree

Thanks for looking.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Larches at Chester Lake - October 6th, 2013

Larches at Chester Lake

I escaped the city a bit late (around noon) and wanted to drive down highway 40 to look for fall colours. My original plans for the day were to go to Chester lake to see the Larch trees that grow there. I'd been there a couple years ago with the kids in the summer and I had noticed that there were larch trees along the edge of the lake. Anytime I see larch trees I imagine going to that place in the fall to see them. For those of you that don't know larch trees are an evergreen (or Christmas tree) who's needles turn an intense yellow in the fall and fall off, just like a leafy tree. The needles grow out again in the spring and are soft like a koosh ball. They're usually found at alpine levels - high up on the mountains often at the top of the treeline. Now that it is early October and fall is quite established I hoped they'd be in their glory.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Kananaskis - Sept 6, 2013

Highway 40 into Kananaskis was just opened up from the winter gates for another 20kms. The highway had been closed due to the June floods causing all kinds of trouble with creeks and bridge crossings. There are still problems with the lower part of Highway 40 and it remains closed. The news sites were saying that the road was extended to the Lost Lemon Lookout. I was curious to find out where this was exactly because I'd really like to go explore Elbow lake and the Elbow valley before winter sets in. Looking on the internet, there is a Lost Lemon mine, but it doesn't really indicate where the lookout is on Highway 40. Searching for the term "Lost Lemon Lookout" would only show the news articles that said that the highway was now open to the Lost Lemon Lookout.. kind of redundant I think. So, after work on Friday I drove out there to see where the highway was closed.

The good news, if your also wondering, is that the Lost Lemon Lookout is past the Highwood pass summit by about 5 or more kms which is good news if you want to go to Elbow lake, Ptarmigan cirque or climb Mt. Rae or something near the Highwood pass.

Fall is in the pass at the higher elevations, the plants are starting to turn brilliant shades of yellow and red with many hues of green still present. While I was there the clouds were low and it was raining off and on. I was one of very few cars on the highway so I felt comfortable stopping whenever something caught my eye.

Below is a photograph I took of the fall colours just beyond the pass. It was raining at the time so I took the shot out of the window of my car.


On the drive out I also spent some time with a small herd of big horn sheep. They were at the corner of Highway 40 and the turnoff to the lakes and are often seen in this location. I like this group shot.

Small herd of bighorn sheep in Kananaskis

Sitting quietly in the grass the sheep eventually wandered close to where I was sitting.


Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dragons and Clouds - July 23, 2013

On the way home from work found myself driving through Bridgeland. There is a dog park on top of the hill there and I stoped to look for wild flowers. Instead I found that there were dragonflies about. This fellow sat on the twig and was reasonably still. I was using my 300mm lens with extension tubes on it. This was the first time that I'd tried the tubes out after picking them up more than a year ago. After a bit of wrangling with the equipment I was able to get a few macro shots of the dragonfly. In the original pic you can make out the lenses on the dragonfly's eyes which is pretty neat. I enjoy shooting macro shots like this not always for the end result but because I'm able to sit and focus (ha ha.. focus) on one thing for a while and forget everything else, like having a bit of tunnel vision. It's a nice escape from my mind - plus you get to stop, slowdown and look closely at something that you normally wouldn't see.


Then later in the evening it looked like there would be some interesting clouds and maybe a rainbow out east of the city so off I went.. reminds me of that aloof person that's always off chasing butterflies and rainbows. Hey, that's me! Anyway, as I was driving down the gravel road following the rainbow but it wasn't very strong and I couldn't find a composition to put it in on. There was this cool light coming from the west where the sun was making its way down to the horizon. I spotted this line of trees that were creating cool shadows on the ground in my rear view mirror so I stopped made a photograph of it.


Further down the road, I came across this farmers field where they had started harvesting. I liked the curves the hay makes on the ground and the interesting sky in the background. I tried to capture it using a couple of filters to block the light from the sky a bit so the camera could also capture the darker-in-shadow foreground.

First Harvest

I left here and while driving back stopped to photograph big storm clouds in the sky. As of yet, I've not posted any of those photos, but if I do, they'll show up here.

Thanks for looking,

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Morley Flats, again - July 18, 2013

Tonight I went back to Morley Flats in an attempt to try and capture the wildflowers with sunlight instead of shade. What's kind of cool is the mountains in the photo include both Mt. Yamnuska and Door Jamb mountain/Loder peak, which I've climbed recently. I used made two photos that I joined together to make a panorama.  I wasn't sure this would turn out when I shot it, but I like the results.

Two days ago I tried to take some photo's here and was attacked by mosquitoes and was bit on my hands by ants after bracing the camera against a fence post for stability. Today, in preparation I doused myself with bug spray to try and ward off the mosquitoes. This worked OK on my exposed skin but after the sun went behind the mountain the mosquitoes came out in force and were biting me through my shirt! Also, I was wearing sandals and ants were crawling onto my feet and biting my toes. There were ants everywhere,  it wasn`t like I accidentally ened up on an ant hill for a few minutes. I moved around a lot and every where I stopped the ants (and mosquitoes) were there. I would not recommend tenting on Morley Flats or lying down on the ground for any reason. However, if your looking for lots and lots of bluebells and brown-eyed susans with some mountains in the background this is the place to be.

Morley Flats

Any other shots from today that I upload will be here.

Thanks for looking