Some fairly long trip stories are coming soon. They will start on November 7th.
Taken at Cataract Pass, Jasper
12mm, f9, 1/40 of a second
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.
Mt Edith Cavell is one of the more spectacular mountains in Jasper. It is the home to Angel Glacier, a lake with icebergs floating in it, and many relatively tame pikas, marmots, and chipmunks. When I was in Jasper recently, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning so I could hike up Cavell Meadows in the dark to catch the sun rising on Mt. Edith Cavell. What did I come away with? A bunch of mushrooms. They’re just so cute.
I’m posting a series of tiny mushroom shots here over the next week. This one starts it off.
A few weeks ago I saw part of this canyon from the highway in Jasper and I had to go investigate. There wasn’t really a clear trail to it, but quite a few people have been here before. I tried walking up the lower canyon to get to this wall, and it might be possible if I wasn’t carrying a bunch of camera gear. There is a lot of scrambling past boulders, trees, and dry falls to get up the canyon and I eventually gave up and climbed the ridge beside. I’d like to go back in spring and see meltwater pouring out of this slot in the rocks — that would be a sight to see.
I was late getting to the park, so I started hiking around 6 in the evening. This was taken after sunset. If you look carefully at the tiny trees (you might have to click on the photo to see them), you can see the scale of this thing — the large tree on the left is more than double my height.
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
A couple weeks ago I posted a shot of icicles forming against the sky – it was a pretty high key shot (composed mostly of light tones). This last week I went back to the same place and caught the same scene from a different angle with very different lighting. Instead of the icicles being backlit by a bright sky, they were front-lit with a dark overhang behind them. With this contrast in lighting it was fairly easy to get lots of detail in the ice while completely getting rid of the small amount of ambient light behind the waterfall.
300mm, f5.6, 1/800 of a second
The ridge around those spruce trees is called a “lateral moraine” and was left behind by the Athabasca Glacier as it receded. I took this photo at the Columbia Ice Fields on a dark and cloudy day. I get the sense that this moraine is protecting the trees — like they’re sitting safe in their own fortress. And then I notice the mountain behind, which, by it’s comparative mass, renders the trees and moraine almost insignificant.
If you’re not interested in lenses, feel free to ignore the next bit. The photo is taken with the Panasonic 100-300 lens on my Olympus OM-D. When I got this lens, I was worried about it not being very sharp. I have looked up many reviews, but a lot of the photos in the reviews had shutter speeds under 1/1000 of a second with image stabilization turned on. It seems to me that this comments on the effectiveness of the IS, but says nothing about how sharp the lens is. Even using the lens on a tripod I find to be questionable because the center of balance is far infront of the tripod. So I ordered a lens collar with a tripod foot from Rudolf Rösch Feinmechanik. It didn’t get here in time for my trip to the mountains, so I don’t have a definitive review on the sharpness of the lens, but my initial impressions are that, while not being razor sharp, it is fairly good. The lens collar itself is beautiful — I’m thoroughly impressed. I will be using it a lot in the next while, and I’ll report back on its effectiveness.
1/4000 of a second, f7.1, 140mm
I’m finally back! With pictures! Happy New Year!
December was (as always) too busy, with far too little time for hiking and shooting. Thankfully I’m starting to recover, and last week I was able to go out to Jasper for a couple days, camp in the freezing weather, and completely enjoy it.
I also have some pendants back in stock after almost completely selling out at Christmas. I have many plans of updating websites and galleries, of taking lots of photos, of enabling online stores, and far too many more ideas to list here or ever complete. But I’ll work on stuff, and try to keep everyone updated.
Here’s a photo of a dry and dusty Jasper Lake from last week just after sunrise. I was getting blasted with a super cold wind, and even bundled up I had to run back to the shelter of the van after a few minutes.
I’m planning to start adding these technical details below my photos. I know people are interested, and I’ve resisted for a long time because I believe they’re not really important. I think people place way too much emphasis on what the right settings are and way too little on getting a good composition. But to do photography well, you do have to at least know what all the settings do, and which are important in any particular instance. So for those learning, I hope this extra information helps, but know that the photo is the important part — the settings just help you get there. For example, I took this photo at f8. Would f5.6 have worked? Pretty well. Would f11 have worked. Yup, even a little better than f8. Did it ruin the photo that the aperture wasn’t as high as ideal to get everything perfectly in focus? Not at all, this will print beautifully at 20×30, and I’m really happy with it. Photography is about creating a feeling, not about an aperture. It would have mattered far more if I had angled my camera up or down a degree or two, or if I’d taken the photo from a foot lower or higher — those things could have easily turned it into something I wouldn’t look at twice.
At this point I think I’m rambling, and I’m impressed if anyone actually read this far. Cheers.