This last month has been full of trips for me – a couple weeks of backpacking near Abraham Lake and a canoe trip down the North Saskatchewan. They’ve been unusual trips for me though. Instead of the normal peaceful quiet of nature I was in the middle of roaring stoves, surrounded by laughing, yelling, talking, and singing students.
Despite the dramatic departure from my usual outdoor experiences, I really enjoyed these trips and the people who made them what they were. The few nights where I had the energy left to stay up into the night were my little oasis of quiet in these busy and fun-filled trips. Thanks to all my fellow leaders and travelers who made these trips memorable!
During the lunar eclipse of the super moon last fall I was out taking photos for the Royal Alberta Museum. After sunset I was still way out on the crest of a big open ridge, and the moon started to rise. This is just the beginning of the eclipse. By the time of the total eclipse, the moon looked much smaller and was high in the night sky.
There are a couple of ways to paint this experience. I was in a historically and spiritually significant place where I got to spend the day alone and watch the sun set and the moon rise. I got to experience the shadow of the earth creeping across the moon as the stars circled. It was absolutely breathtaking. Although I’m not part of the culture that has a connection to this place, the idea of people over thousands of years being in this spot to find meaning and direction is powerful.
On the other hand, I was sleep deprived from days of having to be at one location before sunrise, and then having to drive and hike to another location for evening light. For 6 hours I had been blasted by a gusting but never-ending gale which continued on into the night. I couldn’t hear anything because of the constant wind in my ears and my face was raw. The wind posed problems for my work. The photos had to be such a high resolution that I was stitching hundreds of them together, and if any one of those was blurry, the final result would be ruined. Trying to stabilize my tripod in the strong gusts of wind was tricky and occasionally futile. The mental exhaustion of having to pay such careful attention to each photo over the course of hours was getting to me. To add to this, it was getting dark and I was alone kilometers away from my vehicle in an area frequented by bears and cougars.
All together it made for an overwhelming experience.
210mm, f4, 1/250 of a second
This winter I got my first taste of ski touring and backcountry winter camping! Besides the blisters from borrowed boots, it was incredible and I look forward to many more trips. This trip I fell a lot, so not a whole lot of picture taking happened. I promise I’ll get better at skiing and deliver more photos in the future.
Taken in Molar Meadows, Banff
23mm, f7.1, 1/1000 of a second
It’s been a while since our last composition class, so I’m excited to have one scheduled again! We also have the ever popular “Mastering Your SLR” class coming up pretty quick. The Composition Class is May 8th and the Mastering Your SLR is April 24th. For information or to register visit the Mastering Your SLR page or the Composition page on the St. Albert Photo Classes website.
I took this photo in a cave in Cuba. It was a fascinating experience – partly lit because of the holes in the ceiling but still dark enough to need flashlights or headlamps. There were many little bats chittering away. They seemed to be hanging out in little groups (probably with their families) with one in each group keeping an eye on us to make sure we didn’t bother them.
I chose this photo for the Composition class announcement because it is an interesting example of some of the topics we discuss as a group. It is a good example of leading the viewer’s eye with lines and with strong contrast. It also shows how the contents of a photo are always viewed in relation to the edges. I love talking about this kind of stuff (and much more) with students and it’s always interesting to hear other perspectives on this! While everyone sees different things when they look at a photo there are a remarkable number of similarities in what we see. If you’re interested in composition I hope you can join us!
Just posting a quick warm photo of the beautiful province where I grew up: Saskatchewan. Spring is pretty much here and these are the evenings we have to look forward to soon!
135mm, f16, 1/25 of a second
On Saturday I’m teaching a Wildlife Photography class at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. There’s still a few spots left if you’re interested. You can register at https://ereg.edmonton.ca/. The course code is 554483. If this Saturday doesn’t work for you, we also have classes set up for May 14th (course number 554483) and we’re in the process of setting one up for July 23rd.
Then on April 24th Eric and I are teaching a Mastering Your SLR class at the St. Albert Community Hall. More information at http://stalbertphotoclasses.com/wp/mastering-your-slr/
Taken near Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, Alberta
210mm, f8, 1/500 of a second
At just the right temperature and humidity levels, frost will form in hexagonal towers. Here’s a more descriptive photo of what this looks like (click on the photo for a larger version). These towers were about 1cm tall.
Hoar frost is a beautiful phenomenon that can cause problems if you’re in the mountains in winter. The hoar frost forms on the snow, and when fresh snow falls on top of it, it forms a weak layer in the snowpack. This can make avalanches a lot more likely.
Taken in Yosemite National Park.
A wolf is one of those reclusive and rare animals that is not often seen around here. So when I got a chance to spend a few minutes with this wolf in Jasper, I was very excited. It was watchful and curious, but most of all it was very purposeful – it had somewhere to be.
I’ve debated posting this picture for a while. I think I’m a fairly tough critic of my own photos, and I don’t think this is an amazing photo. I think it’s okay. And I don’t like posting okay photos. I’d like to be known as a really good photographer, not an okay photographer. But the kid in me says “IT’S A WOLF!!! I SAW A WOLF!!!!” And that’s hard to discount.
While an interesting subject helps a photo, I don’t think it can make a photo on its own. I still think it has to have some appealing aesthetic value beyond an interesting subject to be a good photo. This creates a bit of a conundrum for the wildlife photographer in me. While I have taken thousands of wildlife photos, I generally have very little control over the backgrounds, the lighting, and the locations of the animals. And I don’t want that control. I want the animals to go about their lives undisturbed by me. I don’t want to force them into new places and to do things that are uncomfortable for them. That kind of behaviour can threaten their lives and make them less likely to reproduce.
Every once in a while, circumstances will align just right (and knowledge of animal behaviour can make this more likely), and I’ll be able to get a good wildlife photo. The more I’m out in the woods, the more this will happen. But for me there is beauty all around – both flora and fauna, and I’m content being a photographer of opportunity. I get to share incredible landscapes with these amazing animals, and I’m thankful for the odd encounter, whether or not I get an good photo.
The prospect of backpacking this summer has me pretty excited. It’s come up a few different ways in the past few weeks and it has me studying google maps, reading trip descriptions, dreaming, and remembering past trips. It’s not the most immediate thing, but it is a familiar thing I can come back to. In a couple weeks I’m going ski touring and winter camping for a few days, which will be new for me. New things come with both excitement and nervousness. But backpacking will be like climbing into a warm sleeping bag, like curling up with a purring cat. This photo is from quite a while ago in Banff National Park. I was looking through some old photos and reliving some old trips.
Banff National Park
32mm, f6.7 1/180 of a second
Thanks to everyone who made it out on Wednesday night to the St. Albert Photo Club! We had a packed room — I got to meet lots of photographers, and see some familiar faces. I had a great time and appreciated all your comments and questions! Best of luck to all of you in your photography adventures!
Bighorn Sheep in Jasper National Park
210mm, f4, 1/640 of a second