Winter seemed a big long this year and by April I was desperate to get out and do something. Despite it not being very warm, and a strong north wind blowing I thought I would give Frank Lake a try to see if the birds were migrating yet.
While the birds were starting to arrive (most notably the Northern Pintails) the lake was still partially ice covered. Most of the shoreline was free of ice, but it was completely flooded and I couldn’t actually get near the lake. At the trail to the viewing blind where I parked my car the water came pretty much right out to the roadway, the walkway was completely submerged, and the actual blind had water halfway up the railings.
I walked around the lake shore for a bit despite it being completely unproductive, but eventually the wind took it’s toll and I gave up and headed home.
I went out to Banff for my annual February weekend at the timeshare. The weather was icy cold, despite the beautiful clear blue skies. We did a lot of driving around looking for wildlife. The first night there I spotted a bunch of Elk up on tunnel mountain drive and nearly died of hypothermia (ok not really) trying to photograph them. The light was on it’s way out so I had to get out of the car to use my tripod, although I think my shivering negated most of its effects. The next day we spotted a coyote walking down the railroad track off to the side of the Bow Valley Parkway. We made the usual stops at Vermilion Lakes and Castle Mountain. But it was too cold to really do a whole lot and we spent more time in the hot tub and lounging around the hotel than we did out taking pictures.
After my experience at Elk Island National Park in September 2012 (https://photoboom.ca/wp/?p=4575) I had been wanting to go back for another visit, and more specifically was hoping to visit in the winter and photography some bison in the snow.
This trip was a fair bit less successful, while we did see the bison herd it was way off in the distance, on the other side of the lake. We saw, and heard a bunch of coyotes, but never really got close enough to get decent pictures.
We did however have an interesting and close up encounter with one bison. While driving around the back side of Astotin lake when we came around the corner to find a lone bison in the middle of the road. When he spotted us his behavior was, well amusing to say the least. He (I’m assuming it was a young male by it’s demeanour, but I really have no idea) was jumping around and dancing up and down the side of the road shaking his head around and throwing up snow with his horns. I think it was a bit of foreplay and he was seriously considering mounting our truck. Either that or he thought we were a dominant bull and was getting ready for a fight. Unfortunately we were in a bad position and I wasn’t able to photograph any of his antics, but eventually he calmed down and headed off across the lake.
Apparently I didn’t get enough of the prairies on the drive down to Waterton a couple weeks back. So I headed out east this time in search of Snowy Owls. After driving around the country for a couple of hours with absolutely no luck until I finally spotted a beautiful male pheasant running around in the ditch. Unfortunately I was on a secondary highway at the time and couldn’t get pulled over until it had headed off across the fields.
I had decided to give up and was pulling into a roadway to turn the car around when I looked up, and sitting right there in front of me on top of a grain silo was a beautiful almost pure white snowy owl. I was only able to get a couple of shots off before it dropped down to the ground and out of sight behind the building.
An especially warm chinook blew in over the weekend, so Karl and I figured we would make the most of it and take a drive down to Waterton for the weekend. Of course as usual along with the warm weather came the strong winds blowing over the prairies. By the time we stopped to shoot some photos at the windfarm near Glenwood it was blowing so hard we could barely get out of the truck.
t was even worse when we got to the pullout that overlooks the park and the temperature had begun to drop. It was soon apparent that the Chinook hadn’t reached as far south as the Waterton, as it was cold and windy and snowing heavily. The ditches were deep with snow and after realising the parkways were all closed (probably should have checked on that first), we only made it as far as the sign stating that the gas station was also closed for the winter.
We were running low on gas and with no clue how far an open one might be we thought we had better play it safe. Heading back to the prairies (and the warmer chinook weather) we decided to spend the night in Lethbridge, I think we had a plan of some sort for the next day. But we woke to a full blown blizzard and had little choice but to face the weather and make the long slow drive home.
After a mostly uneventful day in Jasper I thought that rather than trying to shoot ugly scenery under grey overcast skies I would spend the day exploring the unknown stretch of Highway 40 between Hinton and Rocky Mountain House (I’ve previously driven the stretch from Highway 1, to Rocky Mountain House, and from Highway 1 all the way south to Highway 3 in the Crowsnest Pass and the US border).
As expected it was a long day of driving, with more than a few rather sketchy sections with the highway winding around and in a few cases making use of what must have been little more than forestry logging roads.
The weather was such that there was very little opportunity for any kind of landscape photography, and for most of the day you could hardly see the mountains at all.
I did have a couple of run-ins with some large groups of both Big-Horned Sheep and Elk, which is always fun.
What I found really interesting was how much industry is going on up there, with coal mines and logging operations all over the place.
Overall it was another pretty uneventful day, but I could imagine the drive being a lot more interesting and enjoyable on a sunny summer day.
Every year I get to spend a couple days in Banff during the last week of February. This year I spent most of it in driving up and down the Parkway, and south on the #93 all the way to Radium and back in search of wildlife, and didn’t see so much as a single deer. To make matters worse the weather was cold and dark and cloudy and entirely un-photogenic. I did a short hike along the shore of lake Minnewanka (to the caynon bridge and back), and spent some time playing around on the cracked ice and rocky outcroppings and of the lake. On the last day the weather finally did clear up just before sunset, and I had just enough time to race down to Vermillion lakes to snap a few pictures.
The weekend weather forecast was looking especially nice for February so I headed out just after sunrise for a drive through the mountains (I was trying to get out there before sunrise but as usual I seem to be incapable of actually getting out of town before dawn).
It wasn’t particularly nice out when I started out on Highway 40, it was cloudy, overcast, and snowing a little, and when I spotted a moose sleeping in the ditch in front of Boundary Ranch I stopped to shoot some photos, but between the weather and the shadow of the mountain the light was sub-par to say the least.
Shortly after I left the moose though the sun broke through the clouds and lit up the western range on the opposite side of the highway, and suddenly it was a beautiful winter morning. Stopping frequently to shoot pictures I made my way down the 40 and towards Canmore on the Spray Lakes Trail. The meadow at Mount Shark was looking particularly great with a smooth covering of drifted snow and the snaking line of the creek running through it.
By the time I hit the trailhead to Chester Lake I was feeling so inspired that I decided to throw on my snowshoes and go for a bit of an impromptu hike.
Chester Lake has been at the top of my list for a long time, yet despite trying on multiple occasions (it’s closed in the spring to stop trail erosion, and has a very healthy bear population which causes frequent closures in the summer time), I have never managed to make it there.
The hike to Chester Lake starts out climbing uphill on a wide well used trail through the forest. Though not particularly difficult the trail is steep enough to get the blood pumping, after climbing steadily for about three kilometres the trail flattens out and enters into a large open meadow. The wind was blowing hard and it was snowing and quite miserable when I got to the meadow and after a quick look I almost turned around and headed back down, mistaking the snow covered meadow for the lake. But I spotted some skiers (there was a large group of them doing avalanche safety) on the other side of the opening and realized my mistake. Eventually I did make it to the lake (it’s another kilometre or so through the open mostly level meadow to the lake), but didn’t stay long as it was getting late in the day and the weather was looked like it was getting worse.
As usually happens the sky had cleared up nicely by the time I got back to my car and I figured I might as well keep the day going and headed into Banff for a few more photos and nice long soak in the hot tub.
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I was feeling inspired after reading a post someone did about Snowy Owls at Boundary Bay in Vancouver. So I decided to head out east of the city and see if I could find some to photograph. I spent half the day driving around on gravel country roads, unfortunately I never did find any owls, but did spot a couple of Meadowlarks, and spent a bit of time chasing around a flock of a couple hundred Snow Bunting.
It was a long unproductive drive….. but still nice to spend the morning out of town.
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After hibernating through the first few weeks of the year cabin fever finally got the better of me, so I got up early and headed out towards Spray Lakes in Kananaskis Country to see what I could find.
All I can say is I didn’t find much at all. It was pretty much a whiteout as I headed up the hill from Canmore and along the side of the lake. As far a wildlife goes the one and only highlight was a squirrel sitting on its pile of pine cone debris. Once I hit highway 40 the snow had stopped, and the sky clearing slightly, but it was still painfully cold and windy so the few times I did stop it was short lived and not very productive.
On my last trip up to Bow Lake I found myself standing in the parking lot looking out across a field of snow that was at least five feet deep, and it suddenly occurred to me that I needed to buy snowshoes.
After looking around a bit I found a pair on sale for half price (thank you Black Friday) at Atmosphere, and decided to put aside my prejudiced of the Forzani Group (I don’t support them because they always mis-represent sales and all sorts of other dirty selling tricks….. and surprise they did it to me again…. but despite that it was still a great deal).
Anyway, the point is I bought a pair of snowshoes, and after starring at them on the living room floor for about a month I finally had a chance to try them out.
I wanted to try and get a picture of the Three Sisters Mountains from across Gap Lake on Highway 1A, and for what may be the first time ever I actually made it out there in the dark and was ready to go as the sun broke the horizon. Of course that never actually happened, because it was cloudy and overcast and colourless, and the mountains weren’t even visible across the lake. Not only that, but it was about fifteen below zero and the wind was so strong I only lasted about ten minutes outside (it was so windy that my tripod and camera went sliding across the ice in the middle of a shot, and I had to run out onto the lake after it, thankfully I had the tripod as low as it would go, and it never fell over).
After complete failure at Gap Lake I headed through Canmore and up the Spray Lakes Trail looking for wildlife, which I found absolutely none. It was cloudy and snowy the whole way with pretty much nothing to be seen. Eventually I made it to the Burstall Lakes parking area, where I was planning to give snowshoeing a try, but before I managed to get out of the car a half dozen SUVs pulled in behind me and what seemed like a hundred people piled out with cross-country skis.
So I left….
The next stop on the road was the Sawmill Trail, and after a quick look at the trail map I figured it was a good place for a first try.
I spent a good ten minutes in the parking lot trying to figuring out how to get the snowshoes on (apparently that wasn’t long enough, because about halfway through the hike one fell off and I realised I had it completely wrong). Eventually I made it onto the trail and headed into the forest. The trail was groomed which I thought was really silly at first, because why bother with snowshoes if the trail is groomed. But then later when it (the snowshoe) fell off in mid stride and I sunk hip deep in the middle of the trail I changed my mind about that.
When I first started out I was really surprised by how easy it was, and after a few minutes hardly even noticed I was wearing snowshoes. My favourite part was running downhill off-trail in deep powder sinking and sliding a foot or two with each step, it was a lot of fun.
The hike itself was nice, but not very exciting, although I think there may have been some nice mountain views (it was snowing the whole time, and I only caught a glimpse or two of the surrounding mountains), the trail was forested the entire way, with no room to get a decent scenic photo. There’s a couple of different trail options, the distance posted is only one possible route.
Although conditions could have been a whole lot better, and the trail wasn’t anything special it was a fantastic first try with the snowshoes, and I was defiantly impressed by the experience.
***Note to self…… Wear less clothes (it may have been cold in the parking lot, but five minutes up the trail I was stripping off layers and sweating like crazy)!
As far as photography goes, it was a pretty awful day, although I blame the weather for much of it, I now know that I have a lot to learn about winter photography.
Total distance: 5.07 km (3.2 mi)
Total time: 1:38:50
Moving time: 46:59
Average speed: 3.08 km/h (1.9 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 6.48 km/h (4.0 mi/h)
Max speed: 9.00 km/h (5.6 mi/h)
Average pace: 19.49 min/km (31.4 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 9.27 min/km (14.9 min/mi)
Min pace: 6.67 min/km (10.7 min/mi)
Max elevation: 1953 m (6409 ft)
Min elevation: 1810 m (5938 ft)
Elevation gain: 208 m (682 ft)
Max grade: 0 %
Min grade: 0 %
Recorded: 16-12-2012 10:17
Activity type: – Snowshoeing
I took a sunrise drive out to the mountains, heading first up the Bow Valley Parkway, and then up to the Icefields Parkway (#93) all the way to Saskatchewan River Crossing with an hour detour down the David Thompson Highway (#11).
The morning started out fantastic, if a little chilly, with great morning light on Castle Mountain, and a nice shiny layer of frost on the grass.
Unfortunately it didn’t last long and by the time I got to the Icefields Parkway it had turned cloudy and overcast and by Bow Lake the roads were shear ice, and there was a few feet of snow in the ditches. Once I headed down from the summit, the roadsides cleared up and I was able to do a bit of walking around. The mountains are not very scenic this time of year with a lot of dead grass and old dirty snow, but sometimes you just have to make due with what you’ve got (in this case it meant a lot of bracketing and HDR in post, to bring out what little colour and detail there was).
Eventually I headed east on the David Thompson Highway, with the idea of going to have a look at Abraham Lake, but I had no idea how far it was to lake and it was so windy out on the Kootenay Plains that I gave up and headed back before I made it there.
This was the first time I had ever driven east on the D.T.H. and I have to say the view of the long straight road leading directly into the distant mountain was pretty impressive.
I spent a fair bit of time wandering around in the mud by the river (below the bridge) at Saskatchewan River Crossing. There is some pretty nice scenery there, but again, everything looks pretty bleak this time of year. I will definitely have to find some time to spend there when the grass is green and the wild-flowers are blooming.
The drive back was a bit touchy with a about a foot of fresh unploughed snow (slush) that had come down at the summit since I had passed by earlier, but at least the ice that was there in the morning had melted.
As far as wildlife goes the day was a complete bust. On the way back I spotted an absolutely massive Elk on the Bow Valley Parkway, but it was gone into the trees by the time I stopped the car, that was the only living creature I saw all day. I did follow some really fresh wolf tracks for a little ways, until I broke through the ice and ended up ankle deep in mud (I think the wolf was following a weasel or something of that sort, whatever it was I didn’t recognize the tracks).
While driving down Spray Lakes Trail I spotted a Coyote crossing the road far off in the distance. By the time I got there it was long gone, so I hopped out of the car and headed down the hillside in the snow to try and find it’s tracks. To my surprise it wasn’t actually long gone. Instead it scared the hell out me when it jump out from behind some bushes about ten metres away. I think I surprised it just as much as it did me, because it took one look at me and bolted down the hill and off into the trees.
I followed it’s tracks for a little while and ended up at a open cut-line where I could see it running along in the distance (it was really far off by now).
Giving up I climbed back into the car and headed back down the road. A kilometre or so down the road I passed Buller Pond, and having been there many times before, it suddenly occurred to me that that same cut-line goes directly to the parking lot there. Sure enough I pulled into the far end of the lot and just as I stopped the car, the coyote came trotting up the hill into view.
Since I was still in my car, and was already there waiting, the coyote didn’t appear to be at all nervous about my presence, and wandered calmly around the parking completely ignoring me. It seemed to have something else on it’s mind (more likely on it’s nose, I think it was trying to follow a scent). When I finally left it was still in the trees on the side of the parking lot searching for something, but I figured I had bothered it long enough for one day. The light was pretty awful and I have definitely taken better photographs in the past, but it was actually a really great experience just watching it go about it’s business (I spent a lot more time watching than I did shooting photos).
It was a warm sunny Wednesday afternoon, and I was off work early so I figured I’d head out to Kananaskis for one last chance to shoot some pictures before the snow started to pile up. Heading down Highway #40 it was all sunshine and blue skies, but the wind was so strong and cold you couldn’t stand outside for more than a minute before being blinded by watering eyes (which always makes shooting photos a bit difficult). After a short walk around Mount Lorette Ponds, and some roadside shots of Barrier Lake I made my way up Spray Lakes Trail.
A bit of a winter storm blew through and I got snowed on for a while, before it cleared up again just in time for sunset. There was a fair amount of old dirty snow in the ditches along Spray Lakes Trail, so between that, the clouds, and the falling snow I didn’t shoot a whole lot of photos. On the way back I stopped for what turned out to be some pretty decent shots of Spillway Lake, the sky had totally cleared up by now, and the sun was pretty much down, but still shining off the mountain range across the lake, which made for some nice low-key high contrast images.
First real snowfall of the year, and I had to drive down to Millerville to do a delivery for work. Thankfully I brought my camera along, because once I got out into the country the fresh fields of snow and autumn colours were looking pretty great. Unfortunately it didn’t last long, and by the time I headed back (which is when I usually take more time to shoot pictures) the snow had pretty much melted away. Thankfully I did stop and get a couple of pictures before it was all gone.
I wanted to do some fishing before the spring run-off started so I headed out to McKinnon Flats. There was a bit of a wind, so I figured I’d use my spin rod. But when I got down to the river it soon became apearent that the wind was the least of my problems. While it had been warm lately and all the snow was pretty much gone, the ice on the riverbanks was a whole other story. As much as five feet thick in places, it made it almost impossible to even get to the rivers edge without risking falling through into the water. So I spent most of my time walking the bank looking for an opening.
I did finally find a spot where I could climb down off the ledge of ice onto a foot or so of exposed bank. And was rewarded with a solid bite, but never got it to shore (how I miss the days of barbed hooks).
I don’t think I had ever been to Big Hill Springs before, so when one of my photo groups planned an outing there I though it was a great idea. But when It came time to go I had a couple of friends wanting to come and we were running late. So we just went and did our own thing (I said hello to the group in passing, but that was about it).
The springs make up a nice little set of waterfalls, so we spent some time playing with long exposures. Other than the water there wasn’t really much to photograph, and the light was pretty flat and gloomy, so we ended up doing a bit of a hike (more like a walk) through the park.
There is a nice little trail that passes by all of the falls, and then continues on up through the forest in a big loop that ends up back at the parking lot. It was solid ice in a few spots, which got somewhat tricky on the steep sections, but other than that was a nice walk walk through the forest.
Total Distance: 2.59 km (1.6 mi)
Total Time: 1:03:30
Moving Time: 31:48
Average Speed: 2.45 km/h (1.5 mi/h)
Average Moving Speed: 4.89 km/h (3.0 mi/h)
Max Speed: 11.13 km/h (6.9 mi/h)
Min Elevation: 1178 m (3865 ft)
Max Elevation: 1266 m (4153 ft)
Elevation Gain: 215 m (705 ft)
Max Grade: 0 %
Min Grade: 0 %
Recorded: Sun Feb 05 14:54:56 MST 2012
Activity type: trail hiking
I went out early one morning for a drive up to Spray Lakes in Kananaskis Country with the intetion of getting some winter mountain pictures. It was a really cold morning, but thankfully by the time sun came up the sky was perfectly clear and it turned out to be a really nice day, (or as nice as a day can be in February). As much as I don’t like the snow it can make for some really good photography, especially when it’s still fresh and clean looking.
I was barely up the hill from Canmore when I spotted a couple Spruce Grouse, and stopped to chase them around for a few minutes until my fingers got too cold.
Later on I did a bit of a hike on the snowshoe trails around Mud Lake, and walked halfway across the ice of Spray Lakes, following on the path of a group of dog-sledders.
It was as good a morning as I could have hoped for to be out in the mountains at that time of year.
I saw some photos of Snowy Owls posted by a professional photographer that I follow, and it made me realize that I had never seen a wild Snowy Owl before. So after a bit of research, I found out that it was actually a good time of year to find them in the prairies east of Calgary.
As chance would have it a friend of mine was throwing a party that weekend at his house on the south-east corner of the city. So I figured I’d save myself some time and crash there for night so I could get an early start the next morning.
I headed out at around sunrise, but made the mistake of skipping breakfast before I left town. So after driving in circles around Wheatland County for a couple of hours I was in dire need of something to eat. I headed to Strathmore thinking I was the closest place for food and picked up some A&W. From Strathmore I headed back south looking for the road that would connect me to Glenmore Trail. I was running on very little sleep and was about down at this point.
I was still looking for somewhere to pull over and eat when I finally spotted what I was looking for, (I sped right past, almost dismissing it as a shopping bag snagged on a barbed wire fence). Thankfully it stayed put while I turned the car around pulled over in a driveway directly across the road.
I was there for about twenty minutes, watching and taking photos, and eating lunch before it finally flew out of range. After that I saw a Great-horned Owl, and a Bald Eagle before I made it back to Calgary (didn’t get any photos though).
What was really great about the trip was that I went out there with one goal and that was to find a Snowy Owl, and I actually succeeded!