Alpine Lakes in the Cline Pass

The October 16th Mastering Your SLR class is filling up fast, but there are still a few spots left!

For those of you wondering what I’ve been up to: the last couple of months I’ve been honing my leadership, teaching, and outdoor skills. It’s been a challenging and interesting journey that’s taken me down a few rivers, up into the mountains, and even inside a classroom. It has filled up most of my days, and I’ve missed time for focusing on my photography and posting updates here. I hope I get a chance to write down some of the stories and share some of the photos here soon.

Photo taken in the White Goat Wilderness Area
12mm, f10, 1/400 of a second

Layers of a Canyon

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.

When There Was No Snow

Sometimes the light hits an un-extraordinary subject in just the right way and creates an extraordinary scene. My favorite part of this photo, though, is going to depend on your monitor being a reasonable brightness. In a print this is something you can easily control but online it gets harder — I love the dark fall tones and subtle evening light in the background.

Taken in Elk Island National Park, 150mm, f2.8, 1/800 of a second.

Spring Going On Summer

Today was a beautiful day. The rain was steadily dripping from the leaves with an occasional heavier shower when a gust of wind came along. The loons were laughing and calling and the yellow warblers were busy in the branches overhead. I was out hiking with my camera, getting thoroughly soaked, taking lots of photos, searching for the birds whose calls I didn’t recognize. I went out prepared, with a mug of warm coffee for my morning breaks, and neoprene socks on (for the record – they are amazing. I will never hike in the rain without them again). It was the best morning I’ve had in a long time.

This summer I probably won’t have a lot of time — for hiking or blogging or all my other activities. I’m sad about this, but happy about the trade-offs. I’ll be learning lots and hopefully saving up some money. And I’m hoping to be a bit more free come September. So I’ll post updates as I can, but know that I’m learning things that will hopefully make this blog more interesting and give me a wider range of photo opportunities in the future.

Visual Design in Abstract Nature Photography

In some ways this is very similar to my previous post. (You may need to click on the photo to see the entire photo more easily) This photo was taken very close to where the last one was on Abraham Lake. They are both abstract photos of nature using very strong design principles. They both play with positive and negative space, but instead of being very organic, this is very angular. The composition is almost entirely based on the rule of thirds — the dark line in the ice is about 1/3rd of the way down and protrudes about 2/3rds of the way into the photo. The ice in the photo covers about 1/3rd of the area, and the snow covers the other 2/3rds. This visual weighting based on the rule of thirds generally works very well, even if the dark and light areas of a photo are not seperated by a straight line (although here they are clearly seperated by a horizontal line). So, while the rule of thirds is almost over-popularized, it is still effective for creating interesting and new compositions.

Stand of Aspen on an Elk Filled Fall Evening

This photo was taken in Cooking Lake Provincial Rec Area. Actually the name is “Cooking Lake – Blackfoot Grazing, Wildlife Provincial Recreation Area”, but that’s a ridiculously long name, and I don’t intend on typing it out every time I mention it. Anyway, this is the area just south of Elk Island National Park. It’s almost exactly the same, except it has a few fields and no bison. And you don’t have to pay to get in. All in all, a great area to go hiking.

This was an overcast day, and a little misty. There were water droplets on the grass and a bit of a breeze rustling the leaves too. It was in this muffled darkening atmosphere that I first noticed the elk. The bull was watching me, with his herd off to the side, behind a copse of apsen.

I crouched down and watched them for a while. A calf was still nursing, and many of the elk were grazing, but the bull kept watching me. As the light faded along with my vision, the herd moved off into the trees. That first photo was taken in the trees where the elk disappeared into, after it had become quite dark.

Chaos Photographed

This week has been crazy. My computer, fridge and car died. We’ve had tons of errands to run. I have design work which I’m trying to get to, a chaotic house, and guests staying over. Anna’s candidacy is next week (after which we’re leaving to see my parents), I have a wedding to photograph this weekend (I get to drive a borrowed car for that), and I work at McBain on Friday. We were planning on camping this week. That seems laughable at this point. I have to frame my photos for the VAAA photo competition before Saturday, and for that I need an art store to have cool white matboard in stock.

But good things are happening. I’m looking at getting my photos into another retail location in Edmonton (more to come once that’s finalized). I’m typing this on my shiny new Mac Mini. The Daffodil has been busy selling our photo pendants. Oh, and I had the best ice cream I’ve ever had today — at Kirstin’s Chocolate shop on 112 street — amazing.

This photo is a fairly accurate expression of my current state of mind. Things are in complete chaos around me, but it’s a centered chaos.

Wildlife and Wedding Photography

When you see an elk, what do you do? You stop and take a photo of course. And if the elk stays there, you get closer. After all, wasn’t it Robert Capa who said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”?

But for some reason your brain starts to throw up little red flags. Wait a minute, you also want context — the animal acting in its habitat. And maybe you don’t want a photo of an elk eyeball, maybe you want the whole elk. And anyway, isn’t it bad for animals to get accustomed to people? And dangerous for the people?

And then, for some strange reason, you start to think of photographing weddings, of posing and of lighting. Direct evening light is pretty good — it’s warm and lends definition to shapes, but what if you backlight this? That would wash it out and give it a dream-like quality. But animals are not as cooperative as people who hire you to take their photos. You have to do the moving, and there’s no adding light. You know that flash would bother this elk and disrupt his feeding, possibly making him aggressive.

So you do the moving, far enough away that the animal is not disturbed. You wait for the animal to move into a position that works, you get the sun at just the right angle, and you get a photo. You don’t know if it’s a good photo or a great photo, but you’re pretty sure it’s not a bad photo. And that is satisfying.

Sound in Visual Form

My favorite part of this photo is the tension. You can feel the impending crash of the water on the rocks — two parts interacting in a violent and beautiful way.

Taken at Panther Falls, Banff.

Flowing Color

Because I’m sure most people will be wondering about this, here’s the explanation. The top photo is the same as the bottom, except that the top has a cropping and shutter speed that I’m much happier with. This shows a little bit of the exploration of a subject process I go through when I see something interesting. (if it’s not clear — it’s a mini waterfall in grass, about a foot high)

Taken at the Ya Ha Tinda ranch.