Aspen on a Clear Night

This was a 20 second exposure on a clear, still, moonless night in Dillberry Lake Provincial Park. This took some accurate esimating of the distance from me to the tree and a focus distance indicator on my lens. I’m not sure if some modern SLRs could autofocus in this kind of darkness, but mine certainly can’t.

I’m starting to enjoy night photography more all the time. It forces me to slow down — once it’s dark there’s really no rushing necessary. Sunsets and sunrises can be a little more stressful as they’re very time-limited. Finding the balance between enjoying the outdoors and becoming a professional photographer can sometimes be hard. There’s always pressure to get a better shot, a different composition. But coming up with something new is also extremely rewarding.

Aurora Borealis

Last night at 2:14am, this was the view from a field in Blackfoot Recreation Area. It was absolutely incredible to watch the northern lights swirl across the sky – mostly green but tinged with red.

I’ve rarely seen them brighter than this. The only time I remember was when I was 7 years old, at the house in the country where I grew up. I remember my whole family standing out in the back yard, staring straight up as northern lights of all different colors cut through the black sky above us. And I remember hearing a whooshing sound as they moved.

Sleeping by the Tracks

Sometimes on roadtrips it can be hard to find a quiet place to sleep. My trip to BC was quite the opposite — there seem to be old abandoned logging roads branching off every few kilometers. This was my home for one night on the way back from BC. The train went by once in the night and woke me up, but I love the sound of trains, and it lulled me back to sleep with dreams of far off destinations.

On a related note, I’m sad to be parting with my old Ford Escort wagon, which has been my home on many a road trip. The transmission went, and it’s an old car, and not worth repairing. I’m now on the hunt for another cheap, old, reliable vehicle that can haul my photos and display to shows, and that can sleep two.

Rare Fog in the Prairies

This photo was taken late in the evening on our way back from Grasslands National Park a while back. The thick fog softened everything and let the windbreak fade away into nothing. This look reminds me a bit some lomo or holga photos I’ve seen, but I really like that you can see a lot of the detail here, while still retaining that soft dreamy feeling. Although I suppose a big orange light leak would change the photo quite a bit.

Night Sky Over Lake Louise

Another night shot from Lake Louise. You can see the constellation of Orion right above Fairview Mountain and the Pleiades star cluster a little higher and to the right. The brightest star you can see right at the bottom is Sirius – the brightest star (besides our sun of course). That’s pretty much the extent of my constellation knowledge (for this part of the sky anyway). If there are any astonomy or mythology buffs out there, feel free to chime in.

Harvest Moon

Shots of the moon are hard to get. With a wide angle lens, the moon is a dot in the sky. With a telephoto, you have to make sure your exposure is short enough – the moon actually moves pretty fast. While keeping your exposure short, you still want enough depth of field to keep some detail in the foreground. If the moon is exposed correctly, everything else is too dark, and if everything else is exposed correctly, the moon is completely blown out (although both of these can look good). And then you have the whole chromatic aberration problem unless you have an amazingly expensive lens, because the scene is so high contrast. So I’ve never shown these before. These are not the sharpest photos in the world – I didn’t have the highest quality telephoto lens at the time. But I’m pretty happy with them too. They have a great feeling to them. This was at Cooking Lake Natural Area last year the night of the harvest moon.

The Light You Can’t See

I’ve been super busy lately with everything from web design work to McBain work to photography and product design work. Which is good, but makes it hard to get out shooting. A couple days ago, I was planning on going out for the day, but got so wrapped up in other things that I didn’t make it out until it was dark. Which was interesting.

I walked out into the darkness of the Beaverhill Lake plains. And it was really dark. New moon again (I seem to time those just right), but interesting for photography anyway. I really need to get a fast prime for night shooting. These are with my 17-40 f4.

Yes, those bright, out-of-focus dots are indeed stars. It was really hard to see to compose for this picture – I had a flashlight to help out which ruined my nightvision for the next ten minutes.

Limited Light

It’s one of those fall days where you look outside and shudder. Winter’s coming. It’s dark, grey, and just below freezing in the middle of the day. It’s not the kind of day that inspires one to get outside, but once I feel the crisp bite of cold air on my face and hear the silence magnified by the foggy air, I am reminded that almost any conditions can be magical if you embrace them.

All photos taken in Elk Island National Park.

Getting Lucky

“You got lucky and have a couple good photos. I imagine everyone has a few great pictures on their computer.” These were the words spoken to me today by a “photographer” who saw me selling prints at Folk Fest. It was interesting to hear, and I agreed with him. After all, it is true that many people have a few great photos; it is also true that I occasionally get lucky while taking photos. But I think he was implying that photographers (maybe nature photographers specifically) don’t have control over the quality of their photos. And that is completely false.

I don’t control the weather, the sun, the way the trees grow, or the layout of the mountains. This is the challenge of nature photography – adapting to the environment, finding strong compositions, waiting for or creating the right light. It’s about working with what is there to create a mood, a story, a little world within a frame. This takes a great deal of practice and skill, along with some experimenting. But there’s always a little luck involved.

These are from the Moss Lake trail in Elk Island National Park last night between 10 and midnight. It was overcast and a new moon so – pretty dark. (For what it’s worth, I was trying to create my own luck and time my visit right to catch the perseid meteor shower. As it turns out I had to work with an overcast sky, so I got these instead)