Sunday, December 21, 2014

Clearing the brain....

It's been a while since I've been out to take photos. Mainly because I have someone I've been focusing more attention on, but yesterday, December 20th, I just had to get out, go for a drive, visit places I hadn't been before, and clear the head of some crazy thoughts that have been sneaking into my subconscious.

First stop was North or Calgary to get photos of the sunrise. Going to have to go back and re-do those one due to the extreme amount of dust on the lens. The wind was gusting so even though a thorough cleaning was done, it didn't stay clean enough for long exposure sunrise photos. Plus I have a better spot to be in now :)

Just East of Beiseker I saw my first of two snowy owls of the day. This one a male, was a poser and didn't fly away very quickly. The second one, a female, I saw towards Highway one along Highway 56 on my way back to Calgary....I opened my door and she flew off. No chance of a photo of her at all....

After that I went East on Highway 9 to Drumheller. Stopping off for my first time ever in the winter, at Horseshoe Canyon. Due to the very cold wind I didn't stay too long, but got a couple of shots. My main goal though was to visit Wayne, Alberta, which I had heard about, but never visited. I'm glad I did.

All through the valley in Drumheller the railroad tracks have been removed and the railroad ties are just stacked up in piles. The same went for the railroad tracks going to Wayne which used to be a bustling mining town of almost 2500 people. The hotel is the only original building still standing on it's main street, and has been redone and you can even stay a night or two in it. There is no cell service (at least for me..) in Wayne, but that's ok as there's a lot of history here, and with a current population of 38, it's very quiet.

I headed East and then South on Highway 56. There were a few nice barns out this way that I was able to get some shots of, and as you know, I like my old barns in photos!

When I got back to Calgary I figured I'd stop in at Fish Creek Provincial Park to see if I could spot and get some photos of, the infamous FCPP long tailed weasel. Unfortunately, it didn't show itself that afternoon. Hopefully one morning this week I'll get some shots of it prior to going up to Edmonton for 3 days at Christmas.

Anyway, it's good to get out of town, into the rural country, and relax, and stop thinking about things. Although some thoughts keep coming back, most are cured in a day like Saturday. :)

Cheers!

Fotoman

Monday, October 13, 2014



The Golden Hour


The last couple of weeks I've found out that Shawn, a security system specialist, and someone whom I've gotten along with well since I started at the datacentre, has a huge interest in photography as well. He also loves old abandoned things, and has wanted to try his hand at long exposure water shots. 

So, this past week I planned a trip to Kananaskis...it would be an early one as my mate Chris wanted some nice shots of the old abandoned CN Rail Caboose that sits in a field along hwy 7 just East of Eden Valley, on the South side of the Highwood Pass. I've never been up close and personal to this Caboose, but this morning I would walk down to it from the road and get some nice sunrise shots....at least we were hoping for a nice sunrise. There's something special about "The Golden Hour"...the peace. The calmness. The serenity.

We met near Longview and I was there at about 6:30am and got some nice shots of the moon that was in a fairly clear sky prior to Shawn and Max showing up. It was a cool morning at about -3/4 degrees celcius...good job I wore my sweater for this one!! 

We headed to the Caboose and while we were there the clouds to the East were starting to get a nice red and orange tinge on their outer edges....looked like we were going to get the nice sunrise we were hoping for. We spent about an hour and a half shooting the old Caboose and the colors in the sky kept changing every minute. The sun kissing the top of the mountains to our West was a nice sight as well.

After the Caboose, we proceeded up the Highwood Pass to the summit where I found they had never been up here before. It's always nice to be able to show people our beautiful treasures that are so close to home!! We were going to go to Upper Kananaskis Lake, but a storm blew in and it was even snowing a bit so we kept going to my favorite roadside waterfall; O'Shaughnessy falls.

Initially we were getting 6-8 second exposures at the bottom, but walking up the creek into the wooded area, it didn't take long to get to exposure times of 20-35 seconds!! I'm going to have to head out there in a couple of weeks one morning and as the sun is rising get some long (minutes?) exposures of this place....every visit there are different routes that the water takes over and around the rocks and around the mossy areas. The greens are amazing and the contrast with the yellows of the leaves and the dark rocks really provide some great shots.

After lunch in Canmore, we shot the abandoned and derelict old gas station that I'm assuming used to be run by the Native Band out there...

Another great day, with more great friends. Looking forward to seeing what we get up to in the next few weeks....whatever it is, we should be able to get some more stellar shots as always!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Cheers!

Fotoman


Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Grizzly Tale.....

A Grizzly Tale.....



For the last couple of weeks I've seen lots of photographers posting some great shots of Grizzlies from the Kananaskis area....I figured it should be my turn and decided to take a trip down "The 40" and back up....

The day started off with me not being able to sleep so I was on the road by 7am...with the crv fueled up heading west it started to rain a bit (as they had predicted), but soon it suddenly cleared up and had nice blue skies filled with fluffy white clouds. Being that it was so early still, I stopped for some longer than normal exposure shots of my favorite roadside waterfall, O'Shaughnessy Falls. I got a small scare when I turned the camera on to find out I had forgotten my 16GB memory card at home....luckily I have another 24GB of cards on me all times!!

The lower part of the falls are large rock steps (placed by man....from natural rocks from the area...) and the water flows quite quickly. After a few shots of the lower area, I made my way up the creek ignoring the cold water that was pouring into my supposed waterproof hiking boots. They were waterproof when I got them a few years ago, but the last couple of outings I've noticed some leaks....might be time for a new pair....
Higher up the creek, the rock turns to vibrant green moss with the crystal clear water flowing around and past rocks, logs, and moss piles. I love the summer in this area as the vibrant moss adds so much to the photos.

After taking quite a few photos I decided to continue heading South. I came to the "Kananaskis Village" turnoff and decided to keep going...I shouldn't have. As I drove by I noticed a Grizzly crossing the road. I quickly (and I mean quickly....) stopped and turned around and drove up the road. The last of the 3 crossing the road was collard and tagged with 151. Looking at the photos after I got home, I noticed that they were all tagged and collard and the other one I can see the number on is 150, so obviously a family. I met a nice young lady there taking photos and video on her phone and she works at the lodge. She told me that they have been in that area for a few weeks now and they're trying to "shoo" them away from the area so that nobody gets hurt....She told me that all 3 roamed through the front driveway parking area of the lodge the other night. I can see why they're trying to get them to move to a different location....some visitors could have been hurt if they spooked the bears when they were walking by the hotel....After spending about half an hour photographing the family, they moved up the river to the point I couldn't see them anymore.

After my awesome Grizzly encounter, I kept on going to the lower and upper lakes to see if any more bears were out and about for breakfast....but unfortunately, none were seen. Then I continued up the Highwood Pass and still didn't see any more bears.

I decided that I'd go back the same way and then home and when I got back to the Village area again, I decided to go and see if the bears were still around. I noticed a warden truck parked on the shoulder of Hwy 40 in that exact area so no doubt they were still in that immediate area. That's why they put the radio collars on, of course, so that they can track their location. Since I figured that either the warden had scared them off with a banger, or they were just sleeping and grazing and not coming out again, I decided to head home.

All in all, another fantastic drive for photos!! First Grizzly photos of 2014 (the other Grizzly near Radium I couldn't stop and photograph due to the no stopping zone), and some longer than normal exposures of the falls. A great morning!!!


Cheers!!

Fotoman


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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Calgary Flood - 1 Year Later!


Calgary Flood One Year Later



June 21st, 2013 is a weekend that will never be forgotten for a lot of people. Many people in communities in Calgary, cities like High River and Canmore, and even as far South and East as Medicine Hat are still trying to recover from complete losses of houses and possessions from last years Alberta flood. Some of the Reserves East of Calgary got hit hard as well, but this is what happens when you build along the banks of a river.

It started last year with about 3 weeks of solid rain, although it felt more like months... It hadn't been warm enough for the ground to thaw and there was a ton of snow left on the mountains. With all of the rain, plus the ice and snow from the mountains, obviously that had to go downstream.

I'm going to be uploading some of my flood photos from last year onto my website this weekend so that you can see the damage that mother nature did in a matter of 24 hours....it truly was amazing.

The Elbow River, pictured above, was so high that the water was above the road level in this photo. Last week Alberta had a forecast for a lot of rain so they let a lot of water out from dammed reservoirs upstream, and that is why the water level looks like it's high right now. They were preparing for a similar downpour but so far we have been lucky in central and northern Alberta. Southern Alberta last week weren't so lucky and even the southern town of Claresholm was flooded. This flood there though, wasn't due to water levels in the rivers (there is no river in that area...) but the fact that it is an older town, the sewer system simply just couldn't handle the amount of rainfall.

Around Calgary there are still a lot of the bike paths that haven't been rebuilt, and lots of back roads and trails in the mountains still closed. Around SE Alberta and around Calgary, there are a lot of bridges washed out and repair hasn't even begun to start on repairing these.

Let's just hope that rebuilding the infrastructure starts soon, but more importantly, the people that still are living in temporary housing in High River, can get back into their houses soon....another year without a home can only be more demoralizing for these people.

I was hoping to produce a photo book to release today, but I couldn't find a local printer that was affected by the flood, to help out....but 50% of all photo sales will be donated to families affected by the flood in High River as there are a large amount still in temporary housing facilities (aka: atco trailers).

Here's to more sunshine than rain all over the world....2013 was a horrible year worldwide for flooding.


Cheers!

Fotoman




Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bearing it all!


Bearing It All!!


It has been about 3 years since I traveled Highway 93 South to Radium Hot Springs, so I decided to go down there today. And I was treated to some fantastic sights!!! Ever since I started concentrating on wildlife photography, bears have always been my favorite subject. I have been fairly close to bears, and have spent a lot of time studying about them, and studying their behavior, and around them in the wild.

The morning started off at 7am with the sun shining and the skies blue. Filled up the CRV and headed west. Went down the 1a (aka: Bow Valley Parkway) between Banff and Castle Junction which is where Highway 93 South starts. Didn't see a thing along the 1a, so I was starting to think I might get skunked again for the second weekend in a row. However, a quick stop at the Osprey nest at Castle Junction just proved that a stop is always recommended no matter what. I could hear the Osprey talking back and forth and could tell one was in the trees near the gate that we normally stand by for the photos of them bringing fish back to the nest. So I slowly, and quietly, sneaked forward and in the gorgeous morning light the adult stood on a branch for a good 60 seconds before flying off. They are gorgeous birds and this is probably the best light I've ever had for an Osprey shot! So happy with the results!

Then, it was off down the 93 to Radium. Over the last couple of weeks I've heard that there has been LOTS of bear activity and today was no exception. There is an 11km area of the Southern part of the 93 that they are patroling, as they are not letting anyone pull over because of all of the bear activity. The first bear encounter was a lone male. When I pulled up it was strolling up a hill beside a waterfall, but didn't look back...would have made a fantastic shot with the water, but he wasn't interested in posing lol!
The car that was already pulled over took off and as a good wildlife photographer does, I waited...he went through the trees and came out roadside a little further down, to eat some of the dandylions. I took photos and watched this guy for a good 10 minutes before he took off deep into the woods and out of sight.

A little further down the road there was a Mom and 2 cubs. These cubs were a fair bit larger than the ones in the photo above, so obviously she had them a bit earlier than the 2nd Mom. Took photos of this Mom and 2 cubs for a good 20 minutes as people stopped and left...what a gorgeous sight to see the little ones playing and running around in between snacks on dandylions. Further down the hwy, on the same corner that I took a photo of a black bear that is on CanStock, there was another mom and 2 cubs (picture above). They were just inside the 11km stretch where we couldn't pull over, so I kept going.....didn't want to, but I did.

I carried on to Radium and didn't see anything other than a couple of deer. I stopped for a bit of fuel, but at $1.44.9/Litre, I only put a splash of $10 in as I had only used half a tank to get to Radium from Calgary. On the way back, about 20 minutes North of Radium, 2 park wardens had their lights on and were slowing traffic due to an absolutely GORGEOUS Grizzly that was eating dandylions roadside. This was in the 11km no pulling over zone, and obviously with the wardens there, I couldn't pull over. It killed me to not get a photo of this Grizzly because it had the most gorgeous coat of fur I've ever seen on a Grizzly to this day. An absolutely gorgeous specamin of a bear!!!

Back at the corner where the other Mom and 2 cubs were, they were now just out of the 11km no stopping zone, so I stopped for a very short time as this area only has a concrete barrier and no real pull off area. But able to get some snaps from my car of these 2 really young cubs, was just awesome!!!


Now back home...but it was a FANTASTIC day for bears!!!

Cheers!

Fotoman

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Friday, May 23, 2014

It's Eagle Time Again!!

Eagle Time Again!




Wow! It sure has been a while since I posted a trip on here....I've been on quite a few lately around Alberta, and with work being as busy as it has been, I honestly kept forgetting to post!! For that, I apologize as I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures.
Now that I'm working in Airdrie (about 15 minutes North of Calgary) I decided to head North West to Grand Valley Road in hopes of seeing a Great Grey Owl. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, but did get a couple of other surprises!

First was a HUGE Bald Eagle nest near Cremona. The picture above isn't of that Eagle unfortunately, as the photos from today are still uploading and wanted to post this before I forgot again lol The above photo is of one of the local Inglewood Baldies which return every year. After seeing the HUGE nest and Mrs. Baldie sitting in the large nest, I went over to Grand Valley Road. Driving that dusty road was nice and peaceful, however no GGO's :(

Coming towards the south part of the usual GGO area, I got my heart attack of the day. It is a beautiful day so my windows were open, music off (so that the wildlife don't run away right away when I stop the car) and driving quite slowly. Saw lots of deer so I was in hopes that I would see something else. That I did! Driving along suddenly I heard a large rustling noise, and out of the corner of my left eye saw a huge moose that almost ran into the side of my car!!! I quickly stopped and turned around. I think we were both scared because I've never seen a moose run in a circle and not know where to run after he almost ran into my car. As I turned around it trotted across the road and as soon as I grabbed my camera it eloquently leaped over the barbed wire fence and went into the trees slightly. It turned and I could see some small horns...definitely not a full grown spade, but it definitely wasn't a baby. Medium size moose are still bloody large animals lol
Unfortunately it ran off further into the woods right away so I couldn't get a photo.

Decided that from there, I would head back towards Airdrie and go down 84st NE which is a common "birding" road as there are lots of ponds which are roadside, which allow for some great photos fairly close up. My big surprise on this road was on the very north part, where a Swainson's Hawk was perched in a roadside tree. I stopped and started snapping away. Even walked right in front of the tree to get a better shot. It let out it's cry a few times (I love the sound of Raptors!) and suddenly a second hawk flew over. It initially flew onto it's back for about 8 seconds (like it was in a rodeo lol) then the second hawk moved onto the main branch. I love watching the actions and interactions of wildlife. Not sure if it was a male and female, but I'm assuming so, since it is "family" season where they have young ones or are mating....

Hoping to get more photos of the local Eagles tomorrow....and also hoping in a few weeks to go out far East Alberta, almost to the Saskatchewan border, to find some Bull snakes and Prairie Rattlers!!! Can't wait to photograph those!! It'll take a night's stay though as it's a bit too long for a day trip as I've been advised that the best times are early morning and late afternoon when it's a bit cooler, to see the snakes.

Hope you enjoyed hearing this adventure!

Cheers!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Wildlife! May Long Weekend!

Wildlife! I love it!


As many of you know, I love wildlife. I love being outdoors, and photographing animals of all kinds. May long weekend presented itself with the normal outrageous fuel prices, but I never have let that stop me from venturing out into the mountains.

May 18 - I was up early and on the road at 6:30am. The goal was to hopefully see some Great Grey Owls on the Grand Valley Road NW of Cochrane, then to head down highway 11 (The David Thompson Highway) to Highway 93 and hopefully see my first bear(s) of 2013!

Well, on the way along the 1A west of Cochrane, there were quite a few hawks sitting on the top of the telegraph poles...a promising sign for wildlife for the day...hopefully lol! There were tons of hawks up GVR too! and I drove up, and down, and back up, Grand Valley Road, but unfortunately, no owls...at about 9am I gave up and started to head on the way to the Icefields Parkway. Heading north on hwy 22, North of Cochrane, there were hawks all over the place...about every mile there was one or two sitting on fence posts and such. Through Sundre, on the way to Caroline (luckily I beat their parade start so I was able to quickly get through town...), and onto a fuel stop at Rocky Mountain house. I was getting close to Nordegg where they recently had a very large, out of control, wildfire. Amazingly though, when passing Nordegg, I couldn't smell any smoke or see any burnt trees like a wildfire normally leaves. Although Nordegg was evacuated, it obviously didn't get "that" close, which is good.
Just west of Nordegg, there was a large lake and I could see about 5 helicopters flying around with buckets under them. One filled up the bucket so I got some great shots of that. Obviously there are still some hot spots so they're dousing those.

About 10 minutes East of the Banff National Park boundary, I saw a black bear at the side of the road. It was a big one, so the first thing I did was look for any young in case I was in between them...but there wasn't any around that I could see. I stopped and started taking photos. About 4 other vehicles briefly stopped, and over the 15-20 minutes I was there, I got some fantastic shots. The photo above is one of those.

I took off down the road, and about 1km down the road, there was another one. This one looked a little smaller, but just like the other one, just was content at eating dandylions. After about another 20 minutes of shooting away, I decided to keep going. When I got towards the Bow Summit on Highway 93, south of Saskatchewan crossing, I understood why I saw the bears where I saw them. There is a LOT of snow still south of Saskatchewan Crossing, so the bears are sticking to wear the food is, obviously.

What a great trip!!


May 19th - Sunday.

My photography friend Robin has wanted to come with me on a trip for quite some time. Unfortunately, she gave me heck for not telling her about my bear hunting trip yesterday.....so, I said let's go out and about today. So, since she knew an area where she had seen a Bald Eagle, and I want some good shots of a Baldie, finally, that was our main objective.

So, we headed to where she had seen it yesterday, and Friday, but on initial findings, we didn't see anything. A couple of hawks and such, but nothing "big". We headed down a bank into this gulley near the river, and we heard a rustle to our right. We both turned, and I instinctively looked through my lens...it was a Porcupine!!!! The first one I'd seen in the wild, in Calgary. I had seen a HUGE one when I was young, up near Redwater when I lived in Fort Saskatchewan, but wasn't a photographer at that time. This one was quite small...so maybe not so old. I'll have to do some research as to their average size and age...just to get a bit more information on it. By the time we got back onto the area we saw it, it was climbing a tree...what an amazing sight!! It was scratching itself on the hind area every now and then, and it was just a really cute animal....obviously can be quite painful with it's barbs, but cute all the same. :)

I took just over 400 photos of "Spike" (that's our name for it...) and we decided to head up the river bank to see if we could run into the Bald Eagle (or Baldie, as we call him/her...). Unfortunately, no Eagle...we headed back to see if Spike was still there, and he was...so Robin filled her card, and I took a bunch more. Still had a couple hundred shots left on the card as I headed out of the trees from where Spike was in his tree.

I looked up and the Bald Eagle was flying right over us, but I couldn't get my camera raised in time before it was gone...then, to my luck, it came back with something (what looked like a Rabbit or Gopher...) in it's talons. I watched to see where it sort of landed, and we went back down into the gulley to see if we could see anything, but no luck. On the path, I saw an object a ways away that just didn't "look" like it fit as part of a tree. Looking through my 500mm lens, I could see it was a Bald Eagle standing at it's nest!! We had found it!! I showed Robin where it was and we both snapped away....this is where an 800mm with a 2x converter would be just the perfect thing to have!! But, you have to work with what you have. :)

A fantastic afternoon....and so far, an amazing weekend!!

Now to post some photos of Spike and Baldie!! :)

Cheers!

Fotoman