Photo of the Week: Week 25

This week’s photo is from the Graveyard Flats area up on the Icefields Parkway near the north end of Banff National Park. On the morning I went out shooting last week, I was gambling a little with the weather as I knew that some rainy conditions were on the way. While there was the potential for some great sunrise conditions with clear skies in the east and cloudy skies over the mountains as the storm systems moved in, there was also the very real possibility that I’d just end up under some very boring grey rain clouds. I was optimistic though and had a couple of locations in mind that would put me in a good position to capture the light if it did materialize. As luck would have it however, my gamble with the skies did not play out in my favour and the weather kicked my butt! I ended up searching around for quite a while for a spot to set up and shoot and ventured much further north than I had originally intended to go that morning. When I finally ended up at Graveyard Flats I was relieved to see the clouds breaking up and some light coming out to play so I made the best of it and started shooting. This area is a very interesting area to shoot with so many choices of foregrounds to use and the many peaks surrounding the flats. I’ve only shot here once or twice before and every time I leave wanting to come back to explore and spend more time there.

This was one of my favourites from the morning, I hope that you enjoy it as well.

Photo of the Week: Week 26

I decided to go in a little more abstract direction for this week’s photo. While I was up on the Icefields Parkway last week, the bright green colour of the new leaves on the trees was really grabbing my eye. I also really liked the way the white bark of the tree trunks stood out against the backdrop of green. After attempting a more literal approach at first, I was finding the image still looking too busy and lacking the emphasis I was looking for. I decided to pan the camera vertically during the exposure to blur the leaves and detail to simplify the image even further and make it really just about the lines and colour. While this is definitely a more artistic interpretation of the scene, I feel quite satisfied with the image in that I was able to capture and emphasize the elements that drew me to the scene in the first place.
As far as the technical details of the image go, it was actually pretty simple. I used a polarizer to cut the reflections on the wet leaves and saturate the colours, then after manually focusing, I played with a few different shutter speeds to get the motion effect I was going for. This one ended up being at 1/3 of a sec with me making a pretty quick dropping motion while holding the camera. The keeper rate on these kind of shots isn’t very high, so after working out the exposure it was just a matter of trying a bunch and getting one I liked.

Photo of the Week: Week 27

This week’s photo was the result of a bit of a gamble, a hunch, and a little luck. As I was approaching the location I had planned to shoot sunrise last week, I was noticing the weather was worsening and the conditions deteriorating the closer I got. I usually try to at least have a plan B location in mind, if not a plan C as well, just for situations like this when my first choice doesn’t work out. On this morning however, my plan B spot wasn’t looking so great either and with the sunrise quickly approaching, I was at a bit of a loss as to where to go and not sure what to do. As I was driving my way back towards what I though might be a decent plan C option, I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to have time to get there before the light showed up and that I was going to need to find something closer. After hurriedly looking around I decided to take a chance on a spot that I was hoping would give me the view of the nearby peaks I was after. It meant that I would have to hike up along a creek a little ways and hopefully find a clearing in the trees with a view towards the west. This would let me use the creek as a foreground while hopefully catching some nice light and sunrise colour in the sky on the peaks across the valley. I really didn’t know if I’d get it or not but with time running out, this was going to be the only shot I had to catch the sunrise light. I also knew that if this didn’t work out, I’d definitely be out of luck with no time to go anywhere else. Here’s what I ended up with, I’d say the gamble paid off, and I did get just a little lucky too. There were actually several nice shots to be had here of which this is just one. It’s always great to find a new spot, especially one with so much potential as this one. I’ll definitely be returning here to try my luck again soon!

Photo of the Week: Week 28

This week’s photo is from the same location as last week’s image up on the Icefields Parkway. After shooting the sunrise and making my way back towards my truck and some hot breakfast, I stopped to make a few detail images along the banks of the stream. I liked the combination of the new green leaves of the bushes against the cooler blue of the stream in the background. With the sun not fully up yet, the valley was still shaded which provided the perfect light for some water motion shots. It took a little experimenting to determine a shutter speed that would provide a nice blur to the water without losing all of the texture (1/6th of a sec in this case), but once I found the look I was after, it was just a matter of framing up the shot and then waiting for a break in the breeze to keep the leaves from moving during the exposure.

Thanks for stopping in, Enjoy!

Photo of the Week: Week 29

This week’s image is all about simplicity and seeing the less obvious. You’d never guess that I had gotten out of bed at 1:45 am to drive a few hours out to a location in the Rockies to be in position for sunrise by looking at this image would you? So often it seems that some of the most satisfying images for me come from the small and intimate scenes right under my nose, that I don’t even start looking for until after the dramatic light has come and gone.

On this particular morning I had set out with the intention of getting a nice sunrise shot of one of my favourite areas up on the Icefields Parkway but just didn’t have the conditions on my side. After the pressure of racing the light and setting up the big picture style compositions was over, it was as though my mind and eyes relaxed and I actually started really seeing what was around me. It was as if the anticipation and build up to the sunrise and the 100 or so frames I shot prior to this one were just the warm up exercise.

This image was one that I spent quite a bit of time on, even before ever lifting the camera to my eye or making any clicks of the shutter. At first I spent a while just looking at the grass along the riverbank and studying the shapes and reflections in the water, trying to find patterns I could isolate and focus in on. I actually found this particular spot twice without even knowing it… I shot a couple images that I thought were pretty nice, then moved on and somehow came back to the exact same spot and shot it again, only later realizing I had ended up back at the same place. I guess this little spot really had caught my eye!

So while I still don’t have the sunrise image I was looking for from this location, what I do have is an image I would never have thought I would make and one that I’m quite happy with. I have to continually remind myself not to get too hung up on my preconceived objectives and to be open to what images I can find just by slowing down and taking time to really see what’s around me. While you might say it was a waste to go all that way and to all that effort only to get an image I could have made in any old puddle with some grass in it, I think the process is what was most important to the success of this shot. Had I not spent those first hours looking so hard for images and watching the light so closely, I likely would have just walked right by this little scene and not given it a second look. It was only after immersing myself in the scene, and really spending some time studying what was going on around me that I was able to find and make the image.

Thanks for looking today, I hope you enjoy this one.

Photo of the Week: Week 30

I had the pleasure of doing a short trip out shooting late last week with friends and fellow photographers Darwin Wiggett and Wayne Simpson. After setting up camp at one of the campgrounds in Kananaskis Country, we spent a great evening shooting at one of Darwin’s secret spots he shared with Wayne and I. We were treated to some great sunset conditions and despite the “helicopter sized” (to quote Darwin) mosquitoes worked the little area surrounding a beaver pond for several hours, making the most of the quickly changing light show. The image below was taken towards the end of the night, just as we were about to head back out to the road. Darwin had already left and Wayne and I were in the process of packing up our bags thinking we’d make our way back out to the road as well and maybe make a few more shots if some more interesting light materialized. Just as we were taking our cameras off our tripods we noticed the clouds starting to light up and quickly decided we’d better stay put or we’d risk missing the show completely while hiking back out. Within minutes the sky lit up all around us and as it did I was able to capture this scene.

Stay tuned for more images from this trip coming soon, and in the meantime head over and check out the latest post on Darwin’s blog for his insightful (and entertaining) write up of the trip along with his (Awesome!) images from the next morning’s shoot. Be sure to keep an eye on Wayne’s blog for his images from the trip as well.

Thanks Wayne and Darwin for a great trip!

Photo of the Week: Week 31

This week’s photo of the week is the first of my images from the morning’s shoot at Wedge Pond on my trip out to Kananaskis with Darwin Wiggett and Wayne Simpson just over a week ago.

As we headed out form the campground hoping for a great sunrise, we very quickly realized that just wasn’t in the cards that day. Thick and low lying clouds were covering the entire valley and we couldn’t even make out any of the surrounding peaks. After looking around a little and discussing what some of our options were, we decided to head over to Wedge Pond to see what we could come up with. We figured that if some light did materialize and the clouds broke up, we’d be in a good spot to capture it but if not we’d at least have some options for detail shots. As we headed down the path towards the flooded shoreline of the pond, we quickly forgot all about trying to capture a great sunrise and simply immersed ourselves in the beautiful scene around us. As we began to look around, even before taking out our cameras, more and more potential shots came into view and before long we were each in our own little world and hard at work making images. We ended up spending several hours wandering around the pond making images of the shoreline, trees, reflections, pathways, wildflowers, and anything else that caught our eyes. It was so relaxing to just take our time and really explore the scene and make images as we saw them. We easily could have spent more time there but our stomachs and the unfortunate reality of our busy schedules back home were all that forced us to leave that morning. This was by far one of the most enjoyable outings I’ve been on in a long time.

Here’s one of the first few images I made that morning looking across the perfectly calm water to the shoreline on the opposite side. I’ll have a few more images from the morning coming in another post later this week, stay tuned…

Photo of the Week: Week 32

This week’s photo was taken late last week on a quick (and early!) trip up to the Graveyard Flats area on the Icefields Parkway. It’s just about a 3 hour drive from Calgary so getting there for sunrise makes for a pretty early start this time of year. As in hitting the road at 2:00 am kind of early… yawn…
The weather on the drive out was pretty sketchy with heavy clouds and a lot of rain and for a while it really wasn’t looking good for me. I’d checked the forecast and radar the night before and it looked like the worst of the rain should have been moving off close to sunrise, especially towards the north end of the park where I was headed, so that’s what I was hoping to find. It was looking pretty bad though and I was almost convinced to turn around and just cut my losses for the morning when I noticed, thanks to the light of a nearly full moon, a few breaks in the clouds showing up with some clear sky behind. With my hopes renewed, I continued on made my way to the flats and got ready to shoot.
While the cloud was still too heavy to really let the sun in and light things up, there were some nice patterns of clouds moving through and plenty of fog in the valley bottom near the water to keep things interesting. Normally there is lots of room to walk out onto the flats and many choices for foregrounds but this time I wasn’t able to get very far from the road at all due to the high water level. I did find this little spot though and kind of liked the curve in the shoreline along with the shape of the rapids in the water. I spent a nice amount of time here just working this little spot as the clouds and fog moved through before the sun was fully up for the day. This was one of my favourites from the morning, I hope you enjoy it too.

Photo of the Week: Week 33

This week’s photo comes to you from the Icefields Parkway once again (can you tell I like it up there?), this time from the Rampart Ponds area. This was taken shortly after sunrise once the light had made it’s way down to the valley bottom and my breakfast and coffee had made it’s way into my stomach. The fog behind the trees and the shape of the clouds were what caught my eye, along with the perfect reflection in the smooth water. Despite the rule that you should never place the horizon in the middle of the frame, I did it anyway to emphasize the symmetry of the shot.
I was fortunate with this one, because only moments later the wind picked up, the water got rough, the reflection disappeared, and the fog cleared out. Just like that, the shot was gone and I was glad to have captured it when I did. It’s amazing how quickly things can change out there, I guess that’s part of what makes it so exciting and satisfying when you can seize on of these beautiful moments.

Thanks for stopping in, I hope you like this one.

Photo of the Week: Week 34

I made this image last week on a quick overnight trip out to Kananaskis Country. I’d been to this particular creek once before but didn’t have time to hike in very far and basically just had to shoot from the road. I wanted to explore a little further this time so I left myself some more time and tried hiking up the valley. I was hoping that by gaining some elevation I might get up to a point where the view of the mountain wasn’t quite so blocked by the trees in the valley bottom. While it was a good thought, it was unfortunately pretty tough bush whacking through really dense brush and very slow going. After fighting my way up and really not making much progress I decided it just wasn’t going to happen and turned around. Realizing I was going to miss the sunset light on the hike back down and not having much of a backup location in mind, I had to make the best of what I had here in this tough spot. I stopped at a couple points along the creek to shoot some pictures and this one was about the best I came up with.

As I was heading back to the road, I moved away from the creek and to my surprise found a perfectly good trail heading up the valley… Isn’t that always the way it goes? I guess I’ll have to go back and try it again without the bushwhacking!

Photo of the Week: Week 35

Last week I enjoyed attending the “Badlands, Buicks and Old Buildings: The Prairie Tour” workshop put on by Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou (collectively known as Oopoomoo) in the Trochu area of Alberta. Were based out of the wonderful St. Ann Ranch in Trochu and from there we visited a bunch of different nearby locations to shoot photos. Darwin and Sam are truly excellent at what they do on these workshops and I would highly recommend to any photographer of any skill level that they attend one of the many workshops they offer (see their website for more details). I’ve always known them to be excellent photographers and teachers (Darwin is probably one of my biggest influences) but to see them in action in this context as workshop leaders has even further increased my level of respect for them.

I have many images to go through and process and I’m excited to share some of this new material with you. Being that I normally spend most of my shooting time out in the mountains, this subject matter is quite different from what I’m used to. I’ll be posting some more images in the days to come, but for now here is this week’s photo of the week of a classic prairie scene.

I really liked the kind of crazy looking leaning fence post so I singled it out from the rest of the fence and tried to use it as an anchor and leading line into the image. I purposely tried to create triangles using the diagonal lines within the composition to lead your eye up and through the frame. To add a little more interest, I used a solid neutral density filter on this one to give me a longer exposure and blur the motion of the grass blowing in the foreground.

Thanks for stopping in, and stay tuned for more from the workshop coming soon!

Photo of the Week: Week 36

This week’s photo is yet another image from the oopoomoo workshop last week. On Saturday afternoon we spent a couple of hours at the Trochu Arboretum which was a very interesting and beautiful location. The manicured gardens, pathways, ponds, and colourful flowers held so much potential for images but surprisingly, this proved to be one of the most challenging shoots for us. We were there in the middle of the afternoon in harsh sunlight on a very windy day which made things very difficult. It was a real challenge to find and isolate subjects from within the overall scene and a great exercise in developing our eye for truly seeing. Right near the end of our time there, I found this group of lilies which happened to be in the shade of some trees above. I began by working on some images of the colourful petals of the flowers which were what originally caught my eye. I made a couple of decent looking shots but wasn’t totally satisfied with what I was getting. Eventually, I noticed the stamen hanging down below the body of the flower and really liked the curving lines they created. I decided on this composition which only showed a portion of the stamen and isolated the curving lines against the background. From there it was just a matter of focusing and waiting for a break in the breeze to make the shot.

I hope you enjoy this one, I think it’s probably one of my favourites from the trip.