Surface Hoar Frost

Hexagonal Hoar Frost on Snow

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.

Subjects and Interest in Wildlife Photography

Gray Wolf Jasper 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.

Memory and Promise

Banff Mountain Sunset

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 for a Great Evening!

Bighorn Sheep Sharing a Ledge in Jasper

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

St. Albert Photo Club Talk

Mountain in Jasper Rising Through the Clouds

On Wednesday, Jan 13th (yes – in two days) I’ll be giving a talk at the St. Albert Photo Club. There will be a lot of practical photography advice, plenty of photos to critique and enjoy, and hopefully some inspiration. It will include a lot of nature photography, as that is mainly what I do, and it will also include other photos that I’ve never shown before. This may be slightly embarrassing for me, and hopefully entertaining and educational for you. I hope to see you there!

Jasper National Park, AB
210mm, f4, 1/5000 of a second

Warmth in Winter

Guanayara Cuba Pool in the Rainforest

Being Canadian, this was a strange winter. Going to Cuba was an interesting adventure and I could spend years exploring this mountainous rainforest, but when the cold air hit me at the Edmonton airport I knew I was home and everything felt right again!

On this tropical hike it was sometimes raining on us, sometimes sunny, and sometimes a bit of both. Either way it was warm and misty and incredibly beautiful. This pool was deep with a waterfall feeding it – the perfect spot for a swim.

Taken in Parque Guanayara, Cuba
18mm, f8, 1/100 of a second

Wildlife Photography Class

Lynx Edmonton Valley Zoo

On March 12th I’ll be teaching a Wildlife Photography workshop at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. This will be the first winter course at the zoo, and should give us some simple snowy backgrounds which should let the animals really stand out – a great opportunity for photographs. If you’re interested in registering you can go to ereg.edmonton.ca website (the course code is 554483) or call 311 in Edmonton.

I’m living in Camrose now, so I’m starting to think about teaching some classes down here if there’s interest. I haven’t had a lot of time to look into it yet, but if you’re interested, please either send me an email at joel.koop@gmail.com or in the comments below.

Lynx at the Edmonton Valley Zoo
210mm, f4, 1/250 of a second

Photo Classes in St. Albert

Southern Alberta Foothills

On Saturday January 23rd Eric and I are running the Mastering Your SLR class in St. Albert and it’s filling up fast. This is good news – if it fills up, we’ll schedule another date for people who couldn’t make this one.

We would also love to schedule a Composition & Editing and a Mastering Editing class if we get enough people in the SLR courses. If you’re interested in these, let me know. You can always sign up for class notifications on the right side of the page – StAlbertPhotoClasses.com

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Photo was taken near Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site
40mm, f5, 1/250 of a second

Open Spaces

St Mary Reservoir Minimalism

During the Royal Alberta Museum project, I got to spend a lot of time in southern Alberta. St Mary Reservoir was pretty low when I visited, and there were many kilometers of mudflats. There is very little change as you wander in such an empty space, but the little changes become more apparent. Every pebble, every crack in the mud becomes obvious because there’s nothing to distract. The one tree on the horizon is a constant companion no matter how far you walk. Thoughts become more solid. There are no interruptions here, and being comfortable with yourself becomes important.

The one challenge for me during the day was the constant wind – there is no escape. Early in the morning when it was still, it was absolutely stunning. And then, when the wind started, it was just a few playful wisps. But as the sun rose, the constant wind rose with it and it becomes like sandpaper – slowly wearing you down. Sometimes it would literally sandblast me as it picked up particles from the dry parts of the mudflats.

St. Mary Reservoir, Alberta
24mm, f16, 1/80 of a second

Possibilities

When you’re doing interesting things, you should share them with the world. The problem is you’re too busy doing things. This has been a wonderful problem for me this year, and I feel very fortunate.

San Luis Reservoir, California
56mm, f10, 1/250 of a second