Sunday, November 15, 2009

Drumheller Sunday

Lying in bed dozing on a Sunday morning, Conor comes in for a snuggle. I was thinking that I want to go to the mountains. I've not been to the mountians for what seems like months. I want to go west, he says we should go to Drumheller. Conor wants to be a palentiologist, he wants to grow up and study marine dinosaurs. When I was 8, I remember trying to find money so I could go spend it at the arcade - Joust, Tron, Asteroids, Wizard of War, Defender.. probably couldn't even spell dinosaur when I was eight.

Skull fossil found in the Badlands of Drumheller or a cleverly designed fake ?

So here he was, trying to get me to agree to Drumheller, and I looked out the window from the bed where I was lying.. all I could see was a dull grey sky and I could hear the wind howling. Tried to imagine being in the mountains in the wind, in the cold - there is probably snow everywhere out there. We've not had much snow yet this year and I don't know if I'm prepared yet. If I'll have all the right stuff - mitts, hats, boots. I didn't really want to go anywhere if the weather wasn't going to play along but I also didn't want to stay home - I'd spent too much time on the couch the last few weekends with my best friend - the TV.

I got up. Ate my breakfast of toast with peanut butter and a coffee. "So Dad ?".. stalling, I ask about homework and piano.. Conor had some words to write out, both of them had to practice their piano. By 10:30 or so all the hard work was done and we were off.. Stopped at Safeway to get some snacks. It was cold in the supermarket parking lot, the wind was blowing hard. I had my doubts about what this day would bring. As I drove down the highway, my attitude changed a little, I thought it might be ok even though things might not turn out the way I would expect. I was hoping to go to the museum, then to walk around for a while in the canyon. At least I was out and about.

We drove east, out Country Hills blvd to Highway 9. Past Beiseker and finally east to Drumheller. Got there just after noon, twelve thirty maybe, the weather was calm there, no wind but the sky was overcast and greyish.

I packed up some camera stuff, lenses, flash, etc that I'd use in the museum.. I put the flash on the end of a gorilla pod so that when I used it I'd be able to hold it out further away from the camera.. Was testing the flash out when a museum employee came buy and said that I could only hold the tripod - I wouldn't be able to set it up anywhere. I did try to get the kids to hold the flash once or twice, but each time I asked them so I could make a picture, they would roll their eyes and pretend like I wasn't there.

We walked around the museum for a couple of hours.

Clare at the museum
Clare in the museum.. testing the flash against ambient.

Conor in the light
Conor, lit up by the exhibit.

Conor, swimming with the dinosaurs.

Clare checking out the skulls.

Clare in the parking lot, wasn't very busy today.

We left, and drove north from the museum on the Dinosaur Trail.. Drumheller is in the bottom of a big river valley the road winds along the valley bottom before climbing back up to prairie level. There is a lookout called Horse Thief Canyon that we parked at and did a little bit of hiking. The few times I've been there we've walked down the hill to the valley floor and explored out into the hills. This time, we went a different way, walking along the tops of the hills looking down into the valley.

I find that the landscape in the badlands is fractal in that you can keep looking closer and closer, and the details repeat at a smaller and smaller scale. I'm really quite taken with the landscape of the badlands, more than I thought I would be the first few times that I've been out there. I tried to capture some of of the details here, the natural lighting was a bit flat from the overcast clouds, so I used my flash and an umbrella to try and enhance it a bit. A little bit of post processing, and I like the results.

Outcrop of rock, lit with the flash and an umbrella to difuse the light.

Split Rock, again, lit with a nice soft umbrella.

The kids do awesome when we go out, they play well together and make up all kinds of crazy things. They made their own fossil on the hillside. I love how they can be out there in nature and find ways to express themselves. Clare became quite taken with the head of this dinosaur, and by the end of our adventure the rock somehow made it back into the van. Conor made sure that the head was replaced by another so as not to lose the intent of their effort for other explorers that may pass by.

Stone Fossil.

While we were hanging out on the hills, I saw that there was a band of open sky below the clouds, above the horizon. I could see that the sun was going to fall into that gap, and I was hoping that the light was going to stream in and light up the clouds and the valley we were standing in. I waited with eager anticipation.

Balancing act required to capture this image.

I wasn't disappointed. As the sun fell into the gap, I struggled to find a suitable vantage point from which to shoot the light. It came in hard and low, and threw everything into a beautiful golden hue for a few minutes.

Conor against the harsh contours of the badlands.

Clare being patient with me.

The Adventure kids.

I tried to capture the landscape, bracketing shots so I could include elements of the sunset against the foreground by blending the images together after. I shot five frames at 1 stop increments in order to record different levels of light and shadow. Generally, I pick two of them, process one for darkness and the other for brightness and blend them together. Is it cheating ? Some would say yes, but I just want to make nice pictures. I can't get that much dynamic range out of my camera. Using filters could work, but the horizon is not usually a straight line.

Sunset in Drumheller, Alberta.

The sun was setting pretty fast, and the kids were wanting to get out of there. If you look below, you can see them in the upper left, leading the way out.

Badlands sunset, kids are in the upper left corner.

We'd hurried back to the parking lot as the darkness came on, and this was one of the last shots. The sun was down, and it was starting to get dark.

Horse Thief Canyon, Drumheller, Alberta

We drove back into town, and stopped for dinner at McDonalds before driving back to Calgary. McDonalds in Drumheller to home in just over an hour.

Click Here to see all the pictures from our adventure.

Thanks for reading..

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