Absence of a Crowd

Tropical Beach at Night

It’s strange to me how much the presence or absence of people changes my experience of a place. In the daytime this beach is bustling with activity, which many people seem to enjoy so much. For me, it’s too much going on. I feel like I have to keep track of it all and I can’t, and that gets stressful. With a dedicated effort of willpower I can start to ignore everything that’s going on. But walking out here at night it is entirely deserted. Then the quiet lapping of the water on the sand and the twinkle of the stars are able to fill the void left by all the people.

Taken in Cuba
24mm, f1.4, 15 seconds

A Land Filled with Meaning

Bright Colors in the Belly Buttes

Being in the Belly Buttes was an interesting experience. They are on land owned by the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta, and I had to get special permission to hike here. On the one hand I felt at home – it felt open and free and the chance of running into random people was small. The only trails were deer and cow trails. On the other hand, I definitely felt I was travelling on someone else’s land, through someone else’s past, which holds a significance that I can only begin to understand. I wonder if this isn’t a feeling that should be more familiar to me – the sense of past and future people living with and on the land, the sense of the land meaning more than just a place to hike.

Evening Hikes

California Evening near Grey Whale Cove

I tend to go for a lot of evening hikes, walks, and runs. They require a different sort of planning than mid-day outings. They require an being aware of the terrain you’ve traveled over and knowing the directions to get back to your starting point in the dark. They require a headlamp and extra batteries in your pack. But if you’re prepared, an evening walk is a stress-free adventure. Often, right before sunset and at sunset is when animals are most active – having a final evening snack and finding a place to settle down for the night. Watching the sun set and the stars finally getting their chance to shine, watching the world slowly slip in darkness and stillness – it’s a peaceful, beautiful and exciting time.

Taken near Grey Whale Cove State Beach, California
12mm, f9, 1/125 of a second

A Different Life

A Different Life in the Cuban Countryside

I’m not sure if it’s growing up on a farm and now living in a city, or if it’s a symptom of a hectic life, or if it’s just another “grass is greener” kind of thought, but living here looks like a beautiful life to me. I’m sure it comes with its own struggles and frustrations. I wonder if the owners would be surprised to know that I sometimes dream of living there.

Taken in central Cuba.
40mm, f2.8, 1/4000 of a second.

Early Mornings

Still Pool on the Cline River

I’m not normally a morning person, but early mornings while camping are different. The stillness and peacefulness are too sweet to miss.

Taken by the Cline River, AB
12mm, f7.1, 1/320 of a second

Little Flashes of Light

Fireflies in a Manitoba Meadow

These fireflies seemed to like the swampy areas, but as the night went on they spread out to fly through the trees and around the meadows.

Taken in central Manitoba.
21mm, f5, 13 seconds

A Month of Camping

Camp site Overlooking the Cline River

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!

Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse Over the Prairies

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

Ski Touring Introduction

Molar Meadows Ski Touring

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

Finally, Composition

Roots in a Cave in Cuba

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!