Plants: Wild Mint

I thought people might find it interesting to see some of the plants I regularly come across while hiking. This is wild mint. It is usually found in damp or swampy areas. Sometimes I smell it before I see it but it is especially potent when you pick a leaf and crunch it up under your nose. It is sometimes hard to see from a distance because it is usually shorter than the reeds or grass surrounding it. You can identify it by the smell, but to make sure it’s actually mint, check that it has a squarish stem and the leaves are on opposite sides of the stem. It makes a very nice tea!

Taken near Crimson Lake, AB
40mm, f2.8, 1/60 of a second

There Will Come Soft Rains

It seems like all my favorite photos lately are taken during storms or on rainy days. Looking back through my photos from this spring, none of the photos from sunny hikes grab me, and I gravitate towards softer, rainier photos. I think water adds a dramatic element to photos (as well as stories – yes, I’m a Ray Bradbury fan) — it sets a mood.

The first photo was taken near Beaverhill Lake on a blustery day with my Sigma 150mm Macro at 1/125 of a second and f5.0. The second was at Chickakoo Lake – 1/800 of a second at f2.8.

Beaverhill Lake Grass

Warm sun and cool breeze: a beautiful fall day. The wind had matted the grass into interesting patterns in some places.

This was taken before all the snow hit. Looking out my window now, from the 12th floor, I can only see a couple blocks before the deluge of falling snow obscures everything. This snow would actually be perfect weather for photography but I really need to get winter tires on the van before I feel comfortable driving out to a natural area.

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.

Birch Tree Beside Bellis Lake

Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) in front of Bellis Lake on a lovely summer evening.

The warm bright sunlight on the bark against the dark blue water caught my attention, and the cloud reflected in the water just topped it off. The hardest part of a photo like this is simplifying — getting rid of all the things that will detract from the feeling I’m trying to capture. There can be so much surrounding a scene like this. There are lots of trees crowding around, I’m standing in a grove of alders and rose bushes, the far side of the lake is just a little above the top of the frame. But I’m capturing what I love, and the surroundings almost fade away — I capture what captures me.

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.

Somewhat Abstract Reflections

My mind is whirling with weird scientific names and terms for animal-related phenomena. Who thought Haliaeetus leucocephalus would roll off the tongue nicely? And since when is plastron the bottom of a turtle and not a superhero name? So I’m going to take a quiet moment and post a couple photos.

Both photos are peaceful reflections in Horseshoe Lake, taken a few minutes apart.

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.