Photo of the Week: Week 13

Well, after another round of computer problems, I’m sure hoping I’m good to go for a while now. It appears my hard drive was the culprit and has since been replaced by Apple (thank you warranty!). It’s been a long week without the iMac on my desk and once again, I’m posting my weekly photo several days late. My apologies, I hope you can understand…

So, with that out of the way, here’s this week’s photo:

After getting up at 3:15 and leaving at 3:45, driving 3 hours into the mountains, snowshoeing down to a lake, crossing the river ice (nearly falling through I might add!), arriving at the location just before sunrise, and setting up a nice composition that morning… I did not take this picture. In fact, I essentially got nothing. Later that evening after returning home from a long day in the field, I noticed some colour in the sky starting to show up in the west just as I was about to pack away my gear for the night. I quickly grabbed my camera bag and tripod, crossed the street to the field across from my house and proceeded to make what would turn out to be my best images of the day. I guess this just goes to show you that you don’t always have to go very far to find a nice image. If the conditions are right and your eyes are open, great shots can be found. For this image, I was shooting towards the sunset in the west with my 70-300 lens just barely keeping the rooftops of the houses out of the frame. With the longer focal length and narrow field of view I was able to isolate the tree from the rest of the scene and simply place it against the colourful sky. A nice end to the day I’d say.
Thanks for stopping by!

Photo of the Week: Week 14

This week’s photo is once again a little late due to the computer issues from last week, but I think that things are finally getting back to fully functional status and I’m slowly getting caught up.

I shot this image just over a week ago out in Kananaskis Country at the Canoe Meadows area. While I’ve shot here a couple of times before and usually had good results, I wanted to try something different than what I’d done before here. I spent quite a bit of time just walking up and down the river bank studying the water and the different rapids without shooting anything before I decided on an idea to try. I would typically shoot scenes like this with flowing water using longer shutter speeds to smooth out the motion of the water and then contrast that against some sort of static object (ice, rock, branch, etc.) in the image. This time however, I decided to try the opposite, and go with a fast enough shutter speed to stop the motion of the water completely. I was looking at the rapids and the way the water was splashing up and down and thought there could be some interesting images there if I could capture it properly.

I knew that I wanted to try and get the splashing water against a dark background, so I used a polarizer to cut the reflections and darken the water. Because of the moving waves and splashes, the camera’s meter was having a really hard time correctly exposing the scene so I just went to manual mode and locked in an exposure that gave me good detail in the brightest parts of the water. Since I needed such a fast shutter speed (1/1000th) to stop the motion of the water, I had to shoot my lens as wide open as it would go (f/5.6 on my 70 – 300), and then push the ISO up to 1000.

The biggest challenge was getting focus on the waves and splashes as they went by because the water was moving so quickly, and because I was shooting with such shallow depth of field. I basically had to just sort of guess and anticipate where the action was going to happen and then do my best to pre focus on that spot. After that it was just a matter of firing off a LOT of frames to try and get something interesting.

While it was a challenging shot to make, I really enjoyed the process and had a lot of fun doing it. I can’t wait to try this technique again soon!

Photo of the Week: Week 15

This week’s photo was shot on a trip out to Spray Lakes early one morning this weekend with my buddy Wayne Simpson. It’s been kind of a long dry spell for each of us as far as sunrises go, so it was nice to see some colour in the sky that morning. This one was one of my favourites from the morning, I hope you enjoy it as well. Be sure to check out the image Wayne posted from the morning over on his blog as well.

Now, if you just went to Wayne’s blog and read his post (if you haven’t, go now. I’ll wait), you’re no doubt wondering about the rough morning I had that he’s talking about. I would have been happy to leave out these details of the day, but Wayne has been so kind as to point them out… he’s so thoughtful that way.
While we were looking around an area deciding where to shoot, I was walking along the path beside Wayne when I slipped on some well disguised ice and fell to the ground and in the process of trying to catch myself managed to pull off a complete shoulder roll and ended up flat on my back. Wayne simply look down at me and asked, “What are you doing?”. Miraculously though, I wasn’t hurt at all and more importantly, the coffee I was carrying had not spilled a drop! Further down the path, as we’d only just finished laughing off my tumbling routine and started checking out another area, I put my foot through the snow and straight down into the icy cold water of the pond. This was of course followed by more laughter… and then a change of socks.
Up next and on a more serious note, I discovered that my 14-24 lens had been damaged in a small tumble it took out of my camera bag earlier in the morning. We weren’t laughing at this one though… I had initially checked out the lens after the fall and thought things were ok, but once I mounted it on the camera I realized that the zoom ring wouldn’t turn and that it had somehow become jammed in place. So it’s going in for repair this week and I’ve got my fingers crossed that it won’t be anything too major and that I won’t be without it for very long.

So it was an interesting day out to say the least… One I won’t soon forget.

Photo of the Week: Week 16

This week’s photo of the week is from the same morning shoot as last week’s photo. It was taken about 40 minutes prior to that photo, well before the sunrise. On clear mornings, this is one of my favourite times to shoot for the soft glow that appears on the east facing peaks and the cool tones in the western sky. To the naked eye it would still appear pretty dark at this point, but the camera will record this light nicely using a long enough exposure. Here I needed a 20 second exposure for the scene to expose properly, and as an added bonus, there were some broken clouds moving through which added some nice interest in the sky.

This will likely be one of the last wide angle shots you’ll see from me for a little while here. For those of you following along, you’ll remember the lens dropping incident from last week… The lens has been sent to Nikon for repair and as of right now, I’m still waiting for a diagnosis and estimate. I’m told that it could be as much as 6 to 8 weeks before I get it back which I’m none too excited about. I have heard that quite often it is quicker than that so I’ve got my fingers crossed that that’ll be the case. For now I’m just going to have to do without it and exercise my creativity a little more I suppose. Wish me luck!

Photo of the Week: Week 17

I made this week’s photo earlier this week on a trip out towards Lake Louise for sunrise. Being that I’m working without my trusty wide angle lens these days (no word on when I’m getting it back yet by the way, only the news that the damage has been pegged at $600… ouch!), I had to find a location that would work well with my next widest lens, a 50mm. I’ve driven by this location many times and even stopped to get out and look through the camera a couple times, but never really tried to make a shot here before. I knew that the distances would be about right for a longer lens so I thought this might be a good time to give it a try. While this isn’t the colourful sunrise I was hoping I might see here, I’m still pleased with how this one turned out. I really like the low lying clouds in the scene, but they were a challenge in that they only parted enough to see the peaks for a few short moments. I find that these type of images just don’t really work for me if the mountain tops aren’t mostly visible, so I was glad to have been able to capture this one. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Photo of the Week: Week 18

This week’s photo was taken on a foggy and rainy morning near Banff, up on the Minnewanka Loop. This was a challenging morning with constantly changing conditions as the clouds and fog were quickly moving in and out all around me. My original intent was to get a shot overlooking Two Jack Lake towards Mt. Rundle in the west and I started out by setting up a composition there. Very quickly though, a particularly heavy band of fog came in and completely obscured the view. After waiting it out for a while and seeing no signs of things clearing up (and sunrise quickly approaching!) I decided to look for a shot facing the other direction where the cloud cover was less thick. So, I relocated myself a little further up the road and set up a shot with a long exposure to try to make use of the quickly moving clouds in the sky. As I started to see a little bit of colour in the clouds my hopes were up that I was going to get something great here at this new spot and I was glad to have made the move. That’s when I glanced back over my shoulder towards my original shot and noticed the the fog in front of Mt. Rundle was clearing ever so slightly and the first rays of the sun were lighting up the peak beautifully. It was gorgeous! And I was now facing the wrong direction, too far from the good composition I’d had earlier, with my camera in the middle of a long exposure… Doh! As quickly as I could, I turned my gear around and tried my best to make a decent shot from where I was of this sweet light. I didn’t even bother taking the time to take off the filters I had on the lens for the long exposure, I just used them and shot the same long exposure. I didn’t want to risk missing the light. I managed to get one shot off using a one minute exposure and within that time the fog had come back and it was over. Being that I was scrambling just to get some kind of shot at this point, I knew that I’d be focusing on just the peak and the sky and not using the distracting foreground trees. So after processing and a little cropping, here’s what I ended up with. While this isn’t the shot I would have set up there initially, I actually don’t mind how it turned out. The long exposure was essentially an accident but I quite like how the motion in the clouds adds to the image. It’s a nice surprise when accidents work out well like this!

Photo of the Week: Week 19

It’s great to be out in the mountains this time of year to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of spring. I just love seeing how the world comes to life again after the winter months. It’s such a change to hear the sounds of birds in the trees, and the rushing water all around as the snow melts away. The lakes and rivers are opening up and losing their ice, and the grass and plants are beginning to grow again for another season. It’s exciting to see it happening!
To welcome spring, I decided on this image for this week’s photo. It was taken about a week and a half ago just off the road along the Icefields Parkway. The green moss and flowing water are a nice change of subject matter after a winter of shooting snow and ice. While there is snow just outside the edges of the frame all around this shot (and quite a deep patch I had to hike through to get into position), the signs of spring’s determination to emerge are clear. I’m really looking forward to spending time out in the mountains this spring and summer, more than usual for some reason, and excited for the shooting possibilities of the new season!

Photo of the Week: Week 20

This week’s photo was taken early one morning this past week up at Spray Lakes in Kananskis Country. With the sun rising right around 6:00am these days, it’s starting to feel pretty early to get out there and into position for first light. On this trip, I headed out the night before and scouted things out then spent the night nearby to avoid the 3:00am wake up call I would have needed to get there in time from Calgary. Even with that though, the 4:45 alarm felt early enough!
This image was made about 20 minutes before sunrise at a nice spot on the shore of the lake. Having just got my 14-24mm lens back from repair, it felt great to get down close to the ice and make use of the foreground details. The clear sky was a little lacking in terms of interest but the pre dawn glow was still nice and provided soft and even light. I opted to crop this one down to the 4×5 proportion just to eliminate the boring sky in the upper portion of the image.
Hope you like it!

Photo of the Week: Week 21

This week’s photo comes to you from the same morning’s shoot as last week’s photo. After shooting the sunrise at Spray Lakes, we made our way back towards Calgary through Kananaskis Country along highway 40. It’s amazing the difference between one valley and another this time of year. Within just a short drive it went from cold, snowy conditions on the icy lakeshore to sunny blue skies and green leaves on the trees. It’s hard to believe these images were made on the same morning within only a couple hours of each other.

The aspen trees are just starting to grow their leaves now and they have a brilliant lime green colour to them. With the sun behind them providing strong backlight, they almost seemed to glow against the blue sky. I wanted to make use of this in an image so I stopped at a well treed spot near Barrier Lake to see what I could come up with. The curve in the horizon line here is a little misleading and might make you think this was taken with a fish-eye lens. I was actually only at 18mm for this one, and the curve is just the shape of the mountain in the background. By placing it where I did in the frame, I was able to achieve a similarly distorted effect to a fish-eye which I thought was kind of interesting. I was excited to be able to include a sunstar as well because I hadn’t yet had a chance to see how one would look with the 14-24mm lens since getting it this winter. This lens just never ceases to impress me!

Here is a second image I made along the same lines but with a more centred composition. I’m not really sure which one I like better… what do you think?

Photo of the Week: Week 22

This has been a pretty crazy couple of weeks for me and I really had to work to squeeze in a little time to do some landscape shooting. I managed to get out yesterday morning and headed up to Herbert Lake to catch the sunrise. This unfortunately meant hauling myself out of bed at 2:15 that morning, but it was great to get out anyway. The skies were clear and a little on the boring side, but I’m actually growing to appreciate the simplicity of these kinds of conditions. I like the peaceful mood, and I enjoy the compositional challenge of putting an image like this together. I always enjoy shooting at Herbert Lake where you can just wander up and down the shoreline framing up different shots with the various foregrounds to be found.
This was one of my favourites from the morning, I hope you enjoy it too.

Photo of the Week: Week 23

This week’s photo was taken on the same outing as last week’s image from Herbert Lake. After shooting the sunrise, I made my way back along the Bow Valley Parkway as I usually do between Lake Louise and Banff. I much prefer the slower speed limit and relaxed drive along that stretch of road to the the busy Trans Canada highway. I had to laugh at one point in the morning when, as I was cooking up some breakfast, a family of tourists stopped and asked me, “… is there anything to see along this road?”. I almost didn’t know what to say, it just seemed like such a silly question! After a quick chuckle (in an “are you seriously asking me that?” kind of way) I politely told them that it was an absolutely gorgeous drive, to take their time and just enjoy the views. I noticed one passenger had a camera at the ready and also mentioned that there was a good chance they might see some wildlife and might be able to get some great shots to take home with them. I really hope they weren’t disappointed with the drive that followed my advice. For me it just doesn’t get much better than driving along that quiet road enjoying the views in the early morning light.
As the sun began to make it’s way over the mountains on the east side of the valley, the backlit trees and their long shadows were really catching my eye. I stopped at a couple different spots to try and capture what I was seeing in a photo and I think I came close to getting what I was after in this shot. I wanted to see the shadow lines of the trees coming right towards me, radiating out from the centre, with a nice sunstar breaking through the tree cover. The challenge I found, was finding a foreground element to add some interest to the front of the image and play well with the lines of the tree shadows.
Thanks for looking, I hope like this one!

Photo of the Week: Week 24

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting up with fellow photographers Peter Carroll and Wayne Simpson for some shooting out in Kananaskis Country. With Peter being in from out of town for only a couple of days, and a really sketchy weather forecast, it was a bit of a challenging shoot to organize on short notice, but we eventually all landed in the same place for an evening of making photos. We met up at Spillway Lake where the evening light this time of year can be really nice and with a storm system on it’s way out of the area that day, we were optimistic that we’d get some interesting conditions as the sun made it’s way down.
Arriving early, we decided to use some time to both challenge ourselves and warm up a little by shooting some details images in a nearby pond. Each of us had commented that we’d seen this particular spot before and never successfully made an image there, so off we went to see what we could come up with. It was an interesting spot in which we all agreed there was something there to capture, but it was a very challenging scene to make sense of in a single photograph. This shot was my best attempt at it, and while I’m reasonably happy with the result, I do think there is more that could be done there. I’ll be curious to see what the other guys ended up with.

Thanks Pete and Wayne for a great evening!