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

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

Solar Activities at Night

A couple nights ago we got a spectacular display of northern lights here. Elk Island National Park is a dark sky preserve near Edmonton, and it was a great place to view them. Although a lot of people had a similar idea.

Also, if you missed the update on my last post, you can sign up for a Wildlife Photography Course I’m teaching at the Edmonton Valley Zoo here: City of Edmonton > Activities > Courses

12mm, f2.8, 20 seconds

Backpacking in Kananaskis

It’s been ages since I’ve been backpacking and this fall I went up to Aster Lake in Kananaskis Country and stayed for a couple nights. It was very quiet and beautiful. I didn’t see any other creatures the whole time I was there, human or animal.

Apparently I need to go backpacking a whole lot more because I found out how out of shape I am. And as I was setting up camp after a gruelling day getting up the mountain, I found out I packed two extra sleeping mats (in addition to my kind of heavy comfy mat) up inside my tent bag without realizing it (they were still packed in there from camping with Anna a few weeks back). Obviously I need to get my act together.

One thing I loved were the replaceable batteries in my phone. Of course there’s no signal up there, but I got to read a few books this way without any extra weight. I’m thoroughly enjoying a Kurt Vonnegut reading spree at the moment.

This photo is one of the many waterfalls on the outlet of Aster Lake, not far from the campsite. The moon was incredibly bright (you can see the shadows cast by the moon, especially on the waterfall).

7mm, f4, 25 seconds

Keeping the Fire Burning

Everyone has a drive to do something, but this drive is so easily overwhelmed. Depression makes you question it. Other projects distract you from it. The stresses of making a living crush it down. In this light, it sound fragile, but in my experience it’s anything but. It never goes away — it’s always there waiting to be acted on. And life becomes so much more fulfilling once you start to push some of the distractions off to the side and make room for the things you love.

This is just a long way of saying, “If there’s something out there you love doing, go do it.” Lately I’ve been cutting out some things I enjoy that were distracting me from the things I REALLY enjoy. And this has made a big difference.

7mm, f5, 13 seconds

Squeezing in Time For Adventure

This summer’s been busy and fall is getting even busier. Eventually you might start to see other types of photos besides my usual nature stuff pop up on this blog. But nature is always going to be my refuge — the place to renew my mind and spirit. And I find interpreting it through photography to be both peaceful and exciting at the same time.

Last week I managed to get away to Jasper for a day and a night. I got back from my first hike well after dark, and instead of heading straight to a campsite, I decided to go to Athabasca Falls. After midnight on a moonless night might be the one time (besides winter) when you get to be alone to see this spectacle. I don’t really have the proper gear to be doing astrophotography, but it was fun anyway. The foreground was briefly painted in with my headlamp.

19mm, f4, 20 seconds

Precursors

New (old) car. Check.

Trip to BC. Check.

Time to make this site an interesting place to visit again. Check.

Expect more soon. 🙂

(The two photos are from a foggy road near the North Thompson River – 20mm,f9,1/160 of a second – and on the beach at night near Tofino – 17mm,f4.5,10 seconds)

Stand of Aspen on an Elk Filled Fall Evening

This photo was taken in Cooking Lake Provincial Rec Area. Actually the name is “Cooking Lake – Blackfoot Grazing, Wildlife Provincial Recreation Area”, but that’s a ridiculously long name, and I don’t intend on typing it out every time I mention it. Anyway, this is the area just south of Elk Island National Park. It’s almost exactly the same, except it has a few fields and no bison. And you don’t have to pay to get in. All in all, a great area to go hiking.

This was an overcast day, and a little misty. There were water droplets on the grass and a bit of a breeze rustling the leaves too. It was in this muffled darkening atmosphere that I first noticed the elk. The bull was watching me, with his herd off to the side, behind a copse of apsen.


I crouched down and watched them for a while. A calf was still nursing, and many of the elk were grazing, but the bull kept watching me. As the light faded along with my vision, the herd moved off into the trees. That first photo was taken in the trees where the elk disappeared into, after it had become quite dark.