Photo of the Week: Week 1

Well it’s the beginning of a new year and I figure now is as good a time as any to start a new project here on the blog. I guess it’s not so much of a project as it a commitment. In an effort to push myself to be creating more work on a consistent basis, I’m starting a weekly photo post. Every Monday I will be posting a new image and my goal will be to have produced each image from sometime within the two weeks prior each post. Hopefully, a year from now I’ll have a nice stack of 52 images to look back on!

Here’s my fist image, it was taken exactly 2 weeks ago out in Kananaskis Country. The Kananaskis river at the Canoe Meadows area has a very intense colour to it and the rapids make for great abstract type photos. I tried several different compositions with shutter speeds ranging from 1/4 second all the way up to 13 seconds. This one was shot at 1/5th of a second and ended up as one of my favourites from the shoot. Hope you like it too!

Photo of the Week: Week 2

This week’s photo was taken on a chilly and clear morning up at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway last week. I arrived well before sunrise to allow myself enough time to hike out to the shore of the lake and find a spot to shoot. Thankfully, I had left quite a bit of time because I hadn’t counted on the waist deep snow and complete lack of a trail or ski track going out to the lake from the parking lot. After post holing my way out the lake and trying to avoid walking through any potential shots, I was thoroughly exhausted and eager to purchase a pair of snowshoes as soon as I got back to town! With clear skies and thick cloud to the east, there really wasn’t much for colour and dramatic light for the sunrise unfortunately. Thankfully though, a few clouds eventually started to form and the wind was blowing nice streams of snow off the tops of the peaks. I used a polarizing filter on this shot to help bring out the clouds and darken the blue sky. This was also my first shoot with my new full frame camera body, the Nikon D700 and I’m thrilled with finally being able to shoot truly wide angle shots with my 17-35. For those of you that don’t speak camera tech, my apologies… let’s just say that I REALLY like my new camera and leave it at that!

Photo of the Week: Week 3

This week’s photo was taken on the same outing as the image from last week which was exactly 2 weeks ago today. While I was taking my usual way back from Lake Louise along the Bow Valley Parkway, I stopped at Baker Creek to try to make some detail images of the ice formations along the edge of the creek. With the limited amount of open water and challenging vantage points to choose from, I struggled a little here at first, but after spending some time and looking a little harder I was able to come up with a couple of compositions I was happy with. The biggest challenge here was capturing the motion of the completely clear water. I had started out by using a polarizer as I normally would for a shot like this, but I found that without the reflections on the surface, the water was just disappearing completely from the image. I ended up rotating the polarizer back to where it was least effective and made use of the reflections to bring out the detail in the water. To give the image to cool look I was after, I first converted it to black and white, and then toned the shadow areas a deep blue colour.

Thanks for looking, I hope you enjoy this one!

Photo of the Week: Week 4

This week’s photo was from a quick run out to Vermillion Lakes near Banff with Wayne Simpson about a week and a half ago. The sunrises here can be outstanding this time of year, and the open water and ice formations provide lots of interesting foreground potential. Unfortunately for us, on this morning we had a clear blue sky and very little interest and drama in the sky. I’m sure not having much luck with sunrises the last little while! Oh well, it was still a great morning to be out with a good friend making images.

For this image, I shot two images focused at different points in the frame and then stacked them together. This allowed me to get the ice which was less than a foot away from the lens in sharp focus as well as the distant peak. I also used a 3 stop soft step filter to darken the sky gradually down towards the peak. While the colour and drama in the sky is certainly lacking, I liked the simplicity of this one and subtle transitions in the colour throughout the image.

I hope you enjoy it as well.

Photo of the Week: Week 5

Well, I’ve just returned from a 3 day trip out to the Rockies with Wayne Simpson. Based on the conditions and weather, we ended up spending most of our time at Abraham Lake which is an area I’ve been wanting to shoot for quite some time now. Both Wayne and I were introduced to Abraham Lake through the work of Darwin Wiggett who has really popularized the area with photographers in the last few years. Be sure to check out his amazing images from here and if you’re interested, his workshops and photo tours in the area as well (I believe there may also be an e-book on the area on the way too). Thankfully for me, Wayne had shot here before and knew where some of the better spots to shoot were, so I guess I should say thanks to both Wayne and Darwin for this one!

I made this image at sunrise as the sky just teased us with this little splash of colour. This turned out to be the only colour we would see in the sky for the entire trip, so I was glad to have gotten this one. The ice cracks and bubbles you see in the foreground are some of what Abraham Lake has become so famous for… that and the wind! What you can’t see in this image is that we were getting absolutely blasted by the wind coming straight towards us. Our faces and eyes were certainly feeling it after spending the entire day from before sunrise to after sunset essentially staring face first into the gale force wind. It was enough to blow us and our gear across the the ice at times! But it sure was fun!

Stay tuned for more images from the trip coming this week, and be sure to check out Wayne’s blog for his images as well.

Photo of the Week: Week 6

This week’s photo is another shot from my trip to Abraham Lake last week. As I mentioned in my last post, the wind here was pretty intense, and we spent the whole day shooting straight into it. For those of you reading Wayne’s blog as well, he wasn’t exaggerating at all when he said that I couldn’t see at the end of the day. With the wind drying out my eyes, it was as though I was trying to see through heavily fogged up windows. I was very thankful to have had Wayne there to drive us back that night!

Admittedly, this shot is very similar to two of Wayne’s shots that he’s already posted here and here, but with the conditions we had, these images were pretty hard to pass up. As Wayne said in his post, “it was so cool!” I’m always interested to see how two different photographers will approach capturing the same scene. There are so many variables and artistic choices we have when it comes to how we interpret a scene and translate it into the finished image.

To be honest, I like both of Wayne’s images better. His images always seem to have a certain elegance to them and I find he has a way of composing a little more dramatic, and engaging compositions that really pull you in. I always feel like I get my butt kicked when I’m out shooting with him, which is great because I’m always learning and being challenged. It really is a treat to be able to shoot with someone I’ve looked up to and been so inspired by.

I was shooting with my Nikon 14-24 mm lens (which is fantastic by the way!) for the first time on this trip, and since I haven’t yet purchased a filter system to work with it, I wasn’t able to use a ND grad to hold back the sky as I normally would. So, after coming up with a shutter speed that was capturing the blowing snow, I then had to shoot a couple of other under exposed frames for the sky and blend them together in processing. Because I knew I’d be bracketing like this, I also moved my focus to get the foreground nice and sharp in the first exposures then get the background in the later ones. Once I got into processing, I decided that the colour in the ice was not strong enough to contrast with the lack of colour in the sky very effectively so I went towards black and white. Here I was able to bring out lines of blowing snow against the dark ice and pull some of the shape drama out in the clouds. Thankfully, the sun was mostly obscured by the thick clouds, so I was able to hold a lot of the detail in the sky and the reflection in the ice was easier to manage. The last decision was to go with a blue tone to the image which I felt better conveyed the blowing cold that we felt there while we were shooting.

Thanks for looking, I hope you like this one!

Photo of the Week: Week 7 Postponed

This week’s photo has been postponed due to an unfortunate hard drive incident today. My system is currently restoring from the backup and I should hopefully be up and running in a day or two. Unfortunately, I won’t have any access to my photo library until that is complete. I was out shooting today for this week’s image, and will post something as soon as I am able to access my files and processing software.


– Ian

Photo of the Week: Week 7

Well I’m back in business after the mysterious hard drive failure earlier this week. Thankfully, everything was well backed up and I was able to restore my system without losing anything. The whole thing went down on Monday while I was out shooting for this week’s photo so it left me unable to post in time for the Monday deadline I’ve set for myself. I was pretty disappointed because I had made quite an effort to get out shooting that day after a very busy and exhausting couple of weeks without a chance to get out. Even after cutting it so close, I still wasn’t able to get an image up in time!

So, better late than never, here is the image for this week:

I decided to give Vermillion Lakes another try to see if I’d have any better luck with the sunrise this time. After the clear and colourless skies I had the last time I was there, I was really excited to see the nicely textured clouds hanging around as I walked out onto the ice. Unfortunately though, the sun just wasn’t quite able to make it through and light things up for me. Even with the lack of colour, I’m still pretty happy with how this one turned out. I hope you like it too.

Thanks for looking!

Photo of the Week: Week 8

This week’s image is a little different. That’s because as nature photographers, we mostly tend to gravitate towards the obvious naturally beautiful scenes. Cool mountain lakes, majestic soaring peaks, golden sunrises and sunsets… you get the idea. All that stuff is great, and I love to photograph it whenever I can. I really wouldn’t be much of a landscape shooter if I didn’t. But what about places where the beauty isn’t so obvious? Like say a bunch of burned out charred tree trunks with dead brown needles on them? That’s not really describing a lot of natural beauty there now is it? Well maybe it’s just me, but when I drove by this stand of trees on the Spray Lakes road where a recent forest fire had gone through, something caught my eye that made me want to capture some images. I was really drawn to the contrasts in the colours and the graphic nature of the lines and shapes I was seeing. While yes this is a scene of destruction and death for these trees you could say, it’s also a natural and healthy part of the life cycle of the forests. To my eyes, there was certainly beauty worth capturing here, and I hope this image gets some of that across.

Photo of the Week: Week 9

Well, I’m going to be honest here, I’m not very impressed with myself this week. In the busyness of life and work over the last 2 weeks, I did not get out shooting at all until late yesterday afternoon. I’m not trying to make excuses, I’m merely stating the reality that I did not make the time to shoot due to the other things I was doing instead. My intention in starting this weekly photo assignment was to push myself to get out more regularly and consistently put more time into making images. I feel like I just haven’t done that in the last couple weeks, and not surprisingly, it shows.
Landscape photography takes time. There just isn’t any way around that unfortunately. It takes time spent scouting locations, exploring the scene, working compositions, watching weather conditions and light, often returning later when the light is right (usually many times!), and so much more. If you’re after great images, there’s just no substitute for putting in the time, and that’s precisely what I did not do.
This image was one of only a few frames I shot last night out in Kananaskis. Not only did I not put in much time this week, I was incredibly inefficient with the time I did spend out shooting. Instead of settling in on a location early on while there was still some daylight left and just working for some images, I hurriedly looked around and drove up and down the road looking for something better, or more interesting, or in nicer light, or, or, or… you get the idea. All I did was waste my time. I eventually just stopped at a spot and realized that I needed to get down to business and do some shooting before the sun went down completely. This is the best I came up with in my rushed attempts to find something and make a shot, and frankly I’m not crazy about it.
So, I guess maybe this week’s post is less about the photo and more about a lesson learned on my part. Now, to make some time this next week to get out and do some shooting!

Photo of the Week: Week 10

This week’s photo is of one of my favourite peaks in the Rockies, Mt. Chephren. If you’ve driven up the Icefields Parkway, I’m sure you’ve no doubt seen and noticed this impressive peak towering high above Waterfowl Lakes. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something about it that keeps calling me back to try and get a better shot. Perhaps it’s because, despite many attempts, a great sunrise has been so elusive for me to capture here!

One day last week I ventured out well before the crack of dawn, leaving Calgary at 4:00 am to put myself in front the peak in time for sunrise. There was a specific spot I was looking for that I hadn’t visited before but based on some searching on Google Earth, I had a pretty good idea where I was going. As I snowshoed in along the river, I was relieved to see that I had found the location, and very impressed with the view! While the sunrise didn’t really happen for me, I was still able to come away with a few nice images and really enjoyed the couple hours I spent shooting there. For this image, I opted to go black and white due to the lack of colour in the scene, and then add a bit of a warm tone to it.

Thanks for looking, I hope you enjoy this one.

Photo of the Week: Week 11

This week’s photo was taken on the same outing as my image from last week from the banks of the Mistaya River below Mt. Chephren. After spending the first part of the morning working on wide angle shots, and realizing the best light had come and gone (or maybe just hadn’t come at all), I switched lenses and started focusing in on some details. While not great for wide and dramatic scenic shots, the soft overcast light that morning was ideal for detail shots. There were some great ice formations along the edges of the water and I spent quite some time wandering up and down the river bank making images. Flowing water is one of my favourite subjects to photograph and I just can’t seem to get enough of these kind of shots. I love making them and I’m continually trying to improve on what I’ve done before.

For this image, I was at 1/10th of a second which gave me some nice motion in the water but still retained a fair amount of detail. I was also using a polarizing filter to remove the reflections and darken the water. Knowing that I would be converting to black and white later, this helped to increase the contrast between the water and the ice.
I’m pretty happy with how this one turned out and I hope you enjoy it too. I still have a couple more images to share from this trip so stay tuned for those later this week.

Thanks for looking!