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Birch tree along rocky shore

A small birch tree stands in full autumn colours among the rocks and reeds along the lake shore at the Ministik Game Bird Sanctuary near Edmonton, Alberta.

Paper Birch along rocky Min­is­tik shore­line

It is unusu­al to find exposed rock along the shores of the lakes in this part of Alber­ta, but this beau­ti­ful shore­line along Oliv­er Lake in the Min­is­tik Game Bird Sanc­tu­ary just east of Edmon­ton had sev­er­al hun­dred meters of this gor­geous blue-grey stone typ­i­cal of the Beaver Hills/Cooking Lake moraine land­form. Tall reeds and grass­es, all dried up by this time, grew from between the stones and above the high water mark there were aspen, birch, and spruce. And then there was this tree — grow­ing near the water in a lit­tle clear­ing.

My tim­ing was just right — all the tree’s leaves had turned to this red­dish yel­low, with a few fall­en to the ground to con­trast the colour of the rocks (the next few days were quite windy, strip­ping most of these leaves for the sea­son). When I first arrived at this spot, the sun was rea­son­ably low in the sky, but the white bark of the birch tree was still reflect­ing too much light and the con­trast was more than my cam­era could cap­ture. Some­times, brack­et­ing expo­sures and com­bin­ing them to an HDR image for pro­cess­ing can reign in such high-con­trast scenes, but in this case a slight breeze was rustling the leaves and grass stems, which makes it very dif­fi­cult to blend mul­ti­ple expo­sures suc­cess­ful­ly.

Look­ing to the west how­ev­er, I noticed that a bank of high stra­tus clouds rose a few degrees above the hori­zon in the oth­er­wise per­fect­ly clear sky. Nor­mal­ly, this is bad news if you’re try­ing to pho­to­graph dra­mat­ic late-day side­light­ing and sun­set colours (which I was try­ing to do). In this case though, I wait­ed until the sun had just dipped behind the thin lead­ing edge of the clouds, caus­ing the light to dim a lit­tle and to dif­fuse ever so slight­ly — reduc­ing the con­trast in the scene, but still light­ing the bril­liant fall colours. I hur­ried to cap­ture a few com­po­si­tions that I’d deter­mined while wait­ing for the light, and far too quick­ly — the light was gone. I walked back to the truck as the lack­lus­tre sky sim­ply grew dark­er with the sun hid­den behind the advanc­ing clouds — but I couldn’t pos­si­bly have been any hap­pi­er.

A folio print of this image is for sale for whatever price you think is fair. Enter amount: $

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