First Post! Night on the Icefields Parkway

Well, this is it, the beginning of my photo blog. Welcome, I’m glad you’re here. My new found interest in photography in the last couple years has lead me to this point of creating an outlet to share what I’ve been up to. Here you’ll find stories of my travels with my camera, see images I’ve made, and hopefully enjoy yourself along the way. Feel free to have a look around, browse through the galleries, or leave me a comment on a blog post. I’m excited to finally get this site up and running and looking forward to sharing my photography with you.

With that out of the way, let’s look at some images.

Here’s a couple from a night I spent out shooting on the icefields parkway in Banff National Park a couple months ago. There isn’t a lot of traffic out there in the middle of the night, so I had to improvise a little for this first shot I was trying to make. I wanted to see headlights and tail lights streaking around the curve in the road, but waiting for 2 cars to come by at the same time would have left me up there all night… and I still might not have gotten it. I remembered seeing a post a while back on Wayne Simpson’s blog where he did a similar shot and just used his camera’s timer and simply drove through the shot himself. What a great idea! Plus you get the added benefit of using your parked car’s headlights to help you focus. So I decided to give that a go and climbed up the little cliff and composed the shot, set the timer, climbed back down, then drove down the road, turned around and drove back. I tried a few different exposure times and settled on this one which was about 2 minutes. Lastly, I opened up the aperture to 2.8 to get a shot with the stars sharp and then added that layer in Photoshop. With a nearly full moon in the sky that night, it was so bright out that the stars really didn’t show up all that well. Oh well, at least it left me with lots of light on Mt. Chephren in the background.
Speaking of moon light, this shot of Herbert Lake was lit entirely by the moon. It’s just out of the frame and you can see its reflection in the ice on the lower left of the photo. I decided to go black and white for this one and then add a slight blue tone to it.
Before I settled into my seat for some sleep for the night, (which by the way I’ll be doing much differently next time… the reclined front seat of my truck is a long way from being a comfortable bed) I decided to set up a star trail shot. I’ve never done this before so I wanted to give it a try. I got things all set up then let it run while I slept (well, tried at least). I don’t know exactly when the batteries ran out, but I ended up with 55 4 min. exposures and once I stacked them Photoshop, this is how it came out.
I can’t say that I’m overly thrilled with the picture, especially with the moon being so bright and the stars not showing up all that well, but at least everything worked out with the timer, the exposures and then in processing. I’ll be better prepared now to do this again when the conditions are better for it.

When the sun came up I was sitting on the shore of Lower Waterfowl Lake looking up at Mt. Chephren. A beautiful cool, clear morning to be out in the rockies!

Evening on the Prairies

One night last week I went for a drive north of Calgary to see what I could find for pictures in the evening light. The sky was looking promising and I was hopeful for a colourful and dramatic sunset over the greens and yellows of the fields.  Nature however, had other plans which did not include my photographic pursuits that night.  I watched as the clouds cleared away and the sun made it’s way toward the horizon in a very un-dramatic fashion. Despite the boring skies I still enjoyed the evening out and managed to make a few images I like.

Early on in the evening, I quickly realized the classic, big picture prairie scenes just weren’t going to happen so I began looking for some more details to shoot.  I threw on the 105mm macro lens and started getting in close to the canola flowers.  I love using this lens because of the shallow depth of field and how it so beautifully blurs out the background into smooth washes of colour.  Here’s a couple of these:

This last image was the last one I took but probably my favourite of the night. The sun had nearly set and the last rays of light were just skimming across the field with a beautiful warm glow.  I used the 70-300 all the way out to 300mm to get in tight and emphasize the rows of colour.

Thanks for looking!

Nothing But a Bunch of Trees

Here’s a quick one from a recent shoot out in the Rockies. While making my way back towards Banff along the Bow Valley Parkway, I stopped to make this image looking into the trees.

I’ve been wanting to capture a tree image like this for a while now, but have just never actually stopped to do it. There are a few places along that stretch of road where the rows of trees just seem to fade away into darkness as you look deeper into the forest. I’ve often thought that this would make for an interesting image given the right conditions but just hadn’t quite seen what I was looking for yet. On this particular morning, the light was bright, yet overcast so it was nice and soft and even. This helped, along with finding a spot looking at the southwest side of the trees. (Anybody know why this orange colour comes out on that side of the trees? Is it the exposure to the sun? Any tree experts out there?) The real challenge though, was getting myself up high enough so I wouldn’t have to tilt the camera up and distort the perspective. I wound up setting the tripod up in the back of my truck as high as I could and that got me really close. I still ended up slightly tweaking the perspective a little more in Photoshop to get things looking truly vertical. I don’t know if I’ve completely got what I’ve been looking for here yet, but I think is’s close.

The most entertaining part of all this was watching the tourists pull up and try to see what I was photographing while I was standing up there in the back of my truck… only to see nothing but a bunch of trees.

Thanks for looking!

The 8 x 10 Crop

Most of the time I try as much as I can to avoid cropping away much of my images and to get the composition as right in the camera as possible. I feel like I’ve cheated and compromised the image if I have to resort to cropping to correct poor composition. There are times however, when the elements in the photo just don’t line up or look right to me in the 2 x 3 shape that most digital camera sensors use. In situations like this, where I feel like changing an image’s aspect ratio will improve it, I try to stick to the more traditional proportions such as 8 x 10 (or 4 x 5 for you math whizzes), or the square format. When I’m shooting images like this, I’m usually shooting with this in mind and I’m planning for the crop as I’m making the capture, so I see it as part of the pre-visualization process, as opposed to a processing “fix”.

Here’s a couple images I made recently where I felt the 8×10 shape was a better fit:

Fall on the Icefields Parkway

Well, I managed to pry myself out of town this past Friday for some shooting up on the Icefields Parkway. I’d have to say that that stretch of road between Lake Louise and Jasper has got to be one of the most beautiful drives in the country, if not the world. It’s certainly a favourite of mine, especially at this time of year. If you haven’t been up that road lately, do yourself a favour and make the drive, you won’t regret it. If you can, make a weekend (or more) out of it and spend some time in Jasper, go for a hike, or just stop at one of the many pull outs and enjoy the peaceful beauty of the rockies. Don’t be in a hurry to get there either, (seriously, the speed limit is only 90 km/hr) just take your time and enjoy the drive. I have more to come from this trip so stay tuned this week. Here’s a quick shot of from the road on my way back:

More From the Icefields Parkway

Here are a few more from my trip out shooting on the Icefields Parkway last week. I headed out of town Thursday night and made my way up to a spot just past Rampart Creek where I spent the night. It had rained most of the way up, and through the night as well, but when I woke up the clouds were clearing and it was looking like a great sunrise was in store. I hadn’t shot here before so I got up a little extra early to give myself some time to scout out a spot before the show began. So, I found a place that looked good, got set up and made a couple test exposures, then waited for the light to show up… and waited some more… this followed by more waiting… and then… nothing. As my wife would say, “I got foiled!”. The sun just didn’t ever make it through the clouds and make an appearance for me. So it goes for the landscape photog. We just keep getting ourselves out there and hoping we’ll catch the light. Sometimes we do, but more often, we don’t. Oh well, it was still a great morning to be out. After I went back up to my truck and cooked up a pot of coffee and some breakfast, I came back down to the water to make this image. This was the first sign of the sun I saw that day, and while this isn’t any kind of prize winner for sure, I thought it was a pretty scene worth capturing.
I grabbed a few detail shots of the reeds and their reflections on the water. This one was my favourite for it’s simplicity. Sometimes less really is more.
Further up the road I stopped at Nigel creek to take advantage of the overcast light and make some images of the flowing water. Using my Sigh-Ray Vari ND filter as well as my Warming Polarizer, I was able to make this 15 second exposure:
Thanks for looking, I still have a couple more images to come yet from this trip.

One More…

Here’s one more pic from my shoot last week. The treed slopes of Mount Coleman on the east side of the highway are a favourite spot of mine to go for fall colour in September. I was a little early for the peak colour this season (all the more reason to get out again soon!), but as you can see, there was still plenty to work with. On previous visits here, I’ve just shot from the side of the road looking up at the hill side, but this time I decided to hike up a little ways and try to get in closer. Apart from wet feet, I quite like what I came away with this time. Hope you do too!

Here are a couple more shots from this same area, taken on a rainy September day last year:

Reflections *Updated*

*Update to this post*
I just found out that this image of mine has been chosen by Darwin Wiggett as a winner this week in the How To Photograph The Canadian Rockies photo contest. I’m both flattered and humbled (and a little surprised) to have Darwin select an image of mine. He’s been a huge source of inspiration to me, and is someone I’ve learned a great deal from. If you don’t know who he is, go check out his images and his blog. If you aren’t inspired or moved in some way, you’d better check your pulse and make sure your heart’s still pumping.
Be sure to head over to the How To Photograph The Canadian Rockies blog to see the other weekly winners, and stay tuned for the grand prize winner to be announced next week.

Ok, back to the original post.

Here’s a shot that I just got around to working on from my last trip out to the Rockies. I was initially drawn to this isolated row of reeds and their reflections in the still water. The reflections of the clouds in the sky above add some interest to what would be a pretty boring reflection otherwise. I’ll admit, this one is leaning a little more on the abstract and artsy-fartsy side of things for me, but I actually kinda like it.
I went a little further in processing on this one than I sometimes do, with a little cropping and some cloning to clean up some a few stray reeds along the top edge. This was one of those times where I saw the image I was after, but could not physically get the camera into a position to isolate exactly what I wanted in the scene. Now, maybe if I’d gotten right down into the water and I had about a 15 foot tripod and a big ladder, I might have been able to do it, but come on, seriously… Photoshop was the obvious tool of choice here. I decided to take out the colour and go to black and white, and then add a cool-ish blue fill layer to tone the whole thing. Thanks for looking, I hope you like it!

Foiled Again!

To use my wife’s expression again, I was completely foiled in my attempt to capture a sunrise on my trip out shooting last week. When I woke up and crawled out of the truck, the heavy cloud cover and rain made it pretty clear I wasn’t going to get much of a show from the sun. While I was a little bummed that this was the second time I’d been to this location recently and not seen a sunrise, I wasn’t letting it get me down. Overcast and cloudy weather are still great for shooting, you just have to look for the right subject matter. Waterfalls and any other kinds flowing water are excellent in this kind of light, and are a favourite subject of mine to shoot, so I decided that’s what I would set out to find. On my last trip out a couple weeks back, I spent some time at Nigel Creek and left feeling like I had much more to explore there, so I decided to head back that way and see what I could find. I went to check out the area of the creek up above Panther Falls, and spotted this little waterfall from the road. It was only a short hike down and quite a nice little spot. I spent a couple hours here making several different images and I think I like this one the best.

What to Shoot?

As landscape photographers, we’re constantly in search of great light, especially at sunrise and sunset. It’s what’s known as the “golden hour” or “magic hour”, and it’s when some of the most awesome landscape photos are made. It’s kind of like the holy grail of landscape shooting you could say. It’s what drives shooters (myself included) to pry themselves out of bed at ridiculous hours of the morning to get themselves out to remote locations in time to shoot a sunrise. When it all comes together, it truly can be magical, and the resulting photos are worth every wink of lost sleep and effort that went into making them. Notice I said “when” it all comes together though. That’s because most of the time, it just doesn’t happen. It’s not like some types of shoots where we can just pull out a light and point it at our subject, add gels or change modifiers, and dial in exactly what we’re looking for. We’re kind of left to what mother nature gives us and we don’t get much choice in the matter.

So what do you do when the light show just doesn’t happen? I’ve been trying to make the most of my time out shooting lately and really trying to shoot for the conditions. As I wrote in my last post, you just have to look for the right subject matter that will work with the light you have. It involves a certain level of open mindedness and flexibility when you’re out there shooting, and it’s something I’ve really been working on lately. I’ve found that opening your eyes to what’s around you and what looks good in the light that’s there is a great way to bring back more keeper images on each trip out.

Here are a few detail shots I brought back from the my last trip out after getting foiled on the sunrise.

Thanks for looking!

A Foggy Morning

Here is a shot from a sunrise shoot last week up on the Icefields parkway. It was an interesting morning with lots of heavy low lying fog moving in and out. The fog was so thick when I composed these shots that I didn’t even really know exactly where the peak was going to be in the frame! I liked the lone tree on the other side of the pond and decided to place it right in the center of the frame for a more symmetrical composition. The fact that the peak was centered above the tree was a little bit lucky. I was gambling a little bit, hoping the fog would lift or break up as the sun was starting to light up the peaks. While it didn’t go quite as I’d hoped and I think I probably missed the best light behind one particularly thick patch that rolled in for a while, there were a couple nice moments that I was able to make a decent click.

I’ll post a couple more from this shoot later this week. I hope you enjoy these first couple:

I decided to with a 4×5 crop on this next one only because of how much clear sky there was left above the top of the mountain. As I said, I was kind of working blind when I composed this and couldn’t see at all where the peak was.

More From The Fog

Here is another shot from my trip out to the mountains last week. This one was just a quick shot of the hillside as a band of fog moved in and out. It moved so quickly that by the time I’d zoomed in a little to try a tighter composition, the fog was gone. I kind of like the way the fog separates the foreground and background layers from each other in this one and the dimension it adds to what would have been pretty flat looking scene without it.

Thanks for stopping by!