Evening Hikes

California Evening near Grey Whale Cove

I tend to go for a lot of evening hikes, walks, and runs. They require a different sort of planning than mid-day outings. They require an being aware of the terrain you’ve traveled over and knowing the directions to get back to your starting point in the dark. They require a headlamp and extra batteries in your pack. But if you’re prepared, an evening walk is a stress-free adventure. Often, right before sunset and at sunset is when animals are most active – having a final evening snack and finding a place to settle down for the night. Watching the sun set and the stars finally getting their chance to shine, watching the world slowly slip in darkness and stillness – it’s a peaceful, beautiful and exciting time.

Taken near Grey Whale Cove State Beach, California
12mm, f9, 1/125 of a second

Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse Over the Prairies

During the lunar eclipse of the super moon last fall I was out taking photos for the Royal Alberta Museum. After sunset I was still way out on the crest of a big open ridge, and the moon started to rise. This is just the beginning of the eclipse. By the time of the total eclipse, the moon looked much smaller and was high in the night sky.

There are a couple of ways to paint this experience. I was in a historically and spiritually significant place where I got to spend the day alone and watch the sun set and the moon rise. I got to experience the shadow of the earth creeping across the moon as the stars circled. It was absolutely breathtaking. Although I’m not part of the culture that has a connection to this place, the idea of people over thousands of years being in this spot to find meaning and direction is powerful.

On the other hand, I was sleep deprived from days of having to be at one location before sunrise, and then having to drive and hike to another location for evening light. For 6 hours I had been blasted by a gusting but never-ending gale which continued on into the night. I couldn’t hear anything because of the constant wind in my ears and my face was raw. The wind posed problems for my work. The photos had to be such a high resolution that I was stitching hundreds of them together, and if any one of those was blurry, the final result would be ruined. Trying to stabilize my tripod in the strong gusts of wind was tricky and occasionally futile. The mental exhaustion of having to pay such careful attention to each photo over the course of hours was getting to me. To add to this, it was getting dark and I was alone kilometers away from my vehicle in an area frequented by bears and cougars.

All together it made for an overwhelming experience.

210mm, f4, 1/250 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.

Birch in the Afternoon

This was one of the most beautiful afternoon walks I’ve had in a while. I headed out to the Waskahegan Staging Area of the Blackfoot Lake Recreation Area, and wandered around for a few hours. I found this little birch grove, got dive bombed by black terns, conversed with a catbird, relaxed with a deer, shivered with howling coyotes, and got to enjoy a fantastic sunset. The only downside was the mosquitos, although there was a breeze for a bit that helped.

7mm, f5, 1/60 of a second

The Unexplored Magic of Swamps

Mountains, forests, lakes and oceans — these are the classic beautiful landscapes. Add a sunrise or sunset and you’ve got a good chance at a first rate photo. But where is the love for swamps? Or maybe “marshes” would be a more palatable word? They do have mud, insects, unexpected puddles and chest-high grasses, but they’re so full of mystery and character that their trials only strengthen their appeal.

This is a marsh near the North Thompson River, early in the morning before the sun rose. The air was still and the fog muffled the faint sounds of the world waking. I hope you can almost feel the damp, cool air on your skin and hear the heavy silence of the morning.

150mm, f6.3, 1/320 of a second

Abstract Oil Pipe Explained

At craft sales, I always have tags on the back of my photos with a title and short description. People seem to enjoy this, but sometimes a short tag is not enough. This photo, for instance, is only partially explained by the tag which says “Oilfield Remains”. So I often get questions, and I try to explain, but usually fail miserably. Well, here’s my (hopefully successful) explanation of the photo.

The story starts with me and Jason driving around the countryside finding nice things to take pictures of. This is a fairly common occurance in the life of a nature photographer. Oil rigs are also a fairly common occurance around Edmonton, so the two often coincide. We found this lovely oil rig just as the sun was setting, and of course I took the standard oil-rig-sunset shot which is the same as twenty billion other oil-rig-sunset shots. But hey, it gives me some context for the story.

Getting good photos means investigating things a little more, and while we’re wandering around the rig, we find (among other things) these random pieces of pipe on the ground. Rusty texture and curved lines catch my eye, and soon I’m down on the ground taking photos of this pipe elbow.

Well, in this photo there’s a bit too much going on for there to be a clear focal point, and the lines aren’t leading where they need to be leading. So I got a little closer, focused into the pipe, and took the photo you see at the top.