Astotin Cattails

I went for a hike on Astotin Lake yesterday. I’ve been to the shore often enough looking out at all those islands, but I’ve never been on the lake. I decided, before it all melts, to walk out and see some islands up close.

I headed out, wondering how far I’d get. The crust on the snow wasn’t thick enough to support me and made it even harder to walk through the thigh-deep snow. I found a few old snowshoe tracks which usually held me up, and got out onto the lake. It turns out that further out onto the lake, it is easy walking. Once away from the shore I was only sinking down a few inches. This was a pleasant treat, and I got to three islands before heading back.

Here are some cattails (Typha latifolia) from the shore of an island in Astotin Lake.

Porcupine Dance

Here’s a cute porcupine I spent some time with yesterday in Elk Island National Park. He seemed quite curious about me, and not too worried. He was way up in a tiny little tree where I couldn’t reach him. Although I did hear some coyotes that sounded awfully close. It did look like someone tried to get him pretty recently though. He had a big patch on his rear where all the quills were missing. That must have been painful for some hungry coyote.

How I Love Creepy Trees

Taken on the Hayburger trail in Elk Island National Park while standing in snow above my waist. It was powdery snow, but still – hard to move. Makes me wonder how the animals survive the winter. It must take an incredible amount of energy to move anywhere at all, and food looks like it would be pretty scarce.

Disappearing Bison

(For full effect, please read in the voice of David Attenborough)

In the plains and woodlands of central Alberta, a most curious animal dwells. This animal swims through frozen water, easily powering its impressive bulk forward. At over 1 metric ton, it is ironically scared of most other animals, preferring either to be alone or to be in groups of its own kind. Behold the bisonshark. While almost impossible to detect when submerged, the bisonshark rises from the snow to move more quickly.

Taken yesterday in Elk Island National Park. The bison were only sometimes completely submerged, usually showing most of their top half. But yes, we do have a LOT of snow.

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)

The Last Photo

Wednesday night as I was driving home from a day of hiking an owl decided to sit in the middle of a dark road — in front of my car. I braked and swerved, as anyone would who likes owls at all. Despite my efforts there were two casualties. The first is obvious (the owl didn’t make it), but the second is a little more strange. When I got home, I opened the door of the car to grab my camera from where it had been sitting in the back seat. I got the camera, but strangely there was no lens attached. Or more accurately, there was part of a lens attached. My Sigma 150 macro had broken in two. The lens is held together in the middle by three small screws in plastic. After seeing this, I’m not sure how it stays together at all. So here is the last photo taken with this lens for now.

Cool Moose

Elk Island is packed with wildlife. Most of it is pretty skittish. The whitetail deer bound off before you notice them so all you see is a their tail waving at you. The wood buffalo keep a wary eye on you and stay far away (unless you’re driving of course). The moose though are a different story. The moose are calm, cool, and collected. They’re like “S’up? I’m busy eating. You want me to pose? Sure. How ’bout I turn this way? Mmmm, tasty twigs on this side.”