Friday, March 20, 2020

Frost and fire - March 20, 2020

When I first got up in the morning I peeked outside and it looked like the sky was cloud covered and that there wasn't going to be an interesting sunrise. I had thought that if it looked like the light was forming that I'd head out for some photos. A while later, as I drank my morning coffee, I noticed that the sun was indeed out and brightening the neighbors house. After deliberating back and forth for a few minutes I decided yes, I'll go.

Being that it was later I wasn't going to head towards downtown because all the great light would be gone. So I soon found myself driving east on McKnight towards Conrich behind a big truck that wasn't going very fast.

Usually when I finally decide to do something like this and I feel like I'm late to the game, I notice ALL the little delays.. like all the lights turning red as I reach the intersections, being trapped behind another car that doesn't care that I'm chasing light and so on. It's a test in patience.. Soon enough though, the truck pulled off and I had nothing but open road before me.


It was -13 degC out with no wind and some fog banks hanging above the fields making for interesting light. Frost had developed on the trees and fences painting the edges in white relief.

I've traveled down this road countless times looking for snowy owls or photography locations and as I drove I tried to figure out where to go. I always hope for something new, but it's flat prairie, it doesn't change all that much except with the different weather and light conditions. Soon I arrived at a field that has a bunch of largish trees that run inside a fence parallel to the road. I parked and started to look for compositions.

Outside in Shadows Field
Initially I wasn't going to go into the field and walked along the road for a ways looking for shots. I was quickly enamored with the shadows in the second photo above and stepped over the fence on a crusty snow drift, hoping that I wouldn't break through; straddling the barbed wire. Luckily it held. I took a number of shots as I slowly made my way back towards the where I'd parked. At the end my fingers were pretty cold inspite of the gloves and I decided to move on.

Driving further east while trying to warm my finger tips, which had started to ache, I ended up crossing Highway 9. Further on, I came to the train tracks where I'd made photos before.

I kind of though that the tracks had been decommissioned because they looked old? but there was a bunch of rail cars parked on the line. There was a flag and a lock on the track (similar to a car tire-boot that the parking people use to disable your car) keeping them in place.. I wondered if sometimes people steal the cars but figured it was probably to keep the cars from rolling away.

rail storage
I tried to take a few shots of the rail cars being mindful to not step in the snow drifts and leave footprints in case I ended up backtracking after scouting the area. I didn't stray too far because the snow was deep in the ditches and I was only wearing sneakers. I took a few photos then left. It was hard to compose the rail cars when I wasn't willing to get off the tracks and shoot from the side.

Further down, I stopped at this spot I liked how the trees on the right were leaning up against the rest of them.
Lean on me
I initially made a shot from the car window but soon decided to pull over and get out.  When it's cold out the temperature difference between the inside of the car and the outside creates a weird heat bubble around the window that distorts the air and I've had it affect the sharpness of photos I've taken.. so if I'm not being super lazy I'll park and get out of the car.  A lone truck made its way down the road and stopped to make sure I was ok. I told the guy I was just taking photos and waved my camera around but I'm not sure he really understood.

I converted the photo to monochrome in post processing and I like how the top frosted tips contrast against the sky.

The next scene is a location that I've shot before under different conditions. The two trees in front really grab my attention for some reason and with the frost and foggy horizon.. well. I will say I was pretty excited for this photo because I like it so much.

I approached from the outside, composing shots before moving closer so as not to leave footprints in any of my future attempts. This shot was near the end of my session where I was close enough to include the wash of snow in the foreground which is an interesting texture for what might have been a blank area.

By this point, I figured it was time to head home so I packed everything up and drove off.

The other day I had wanted to go downtown at sunset and had mapped out some locations using an app that shows where the sun will be at any given time but when I actually went outside I discovered that it was cloudy out.. I still drove around but had lost my enthusiasm for taking photos..

In a similar way - after confirming the western horizon was clear this time - I tried again. I picked a location and decided to head out after 6:30pm.  With it being very close to the spring equinox and the downtown avenues running almost due east-west my hope was to catch the sun at the end of a long building corridor. If I was positioned near Fort Calgary I should be able to capture the sun down 6th or 7th ave.. maybe 9th would work.

I parked in Inglewood and walked across the new bridge towards the zoo hoping to get to St.Patrick's Island where I'd cross the Skipping stone bridge and circle back to the car.

Goose tracks in the snow

Almost right away after surveying the sky, I figured that my idea wasn't going to work out.. according to the app, at sunset the sun would be almost lined up with the downtown streets.. which means that it'd be too low on the horizon by then. I think I need to try again in a couple weeks so that the sun is still above the horizon as it moves behind the downtown core.

Regardless, I kept on with my chosen path and made the image posted above.  It didn't seem like much when I shot it but after processing it, I think I like it more and more the light streaks and goose tracks in the snow are neat texture elements.

As I continued on, I could see that the sun could be positioned behind the tower. I had to move closer to the river to avoid some trees that were blocking the view.  I'm pretty sure I mentioned before that if I'm shooting the Calgary skyline that I have a compulsive need to include the tower. it just doesn't feel right if I don't.. and here would be a fun way to highlight it. ( ha ha.. a pun.. ) the rivers edge was soupy with mud and ice and I had to be careful not to slip.

Sundown on Cowtown
In the future that the sun could be captured in one or two of the building gaps from this location but today I think the sun is headed pretty much straight to ground ( which is what happened..)

I'm not sure the best thing to do is to zoom into a shot that has the sun directly in it.. Actually I had been tracking the sun since I parked the car; trying to find it's position and guess at it's destination and what angle I had to look for. I had sunspots in my vision for the last 30 minutes.

Not the best idea..

When trying to frame up this shot I kept my direct vision to the corner of the viewfinder which seemed to help, but it was still pretty blinding. I wasn't able to see the image preview on the back of the camera so I was, in fact, shooting blind.. ( another pun! )

I kept walking westwards but soon the sun was out of view and being in shadow I figured I was done for today. It was a pleasant walk back through Inglewood.. there are some nice houses along the river there. I imagined what it might be like to live in the area. Finally, I was back at the car and drove home.

Sometimes I'll post images on my photo site after the blog is finished. If you want to see if there are any other photos, feel free to click here.

Thanks for looking.

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