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Reflections on Emerson Lake

Tall shoreline spruce are reflected in the glassy calm surface of Emerson Lake in northwestern Alberta

Spruce reflec­tions in Emer­son Lake

I made this pho­to­graph last sum­mer at Emer­son Lakes, eas­ily one of the most beau­ti­ful camp­grounds I’ve stayed at in Alberta. The week­end I was there was per­fect for camp­ing, yet we still had the place nearly to our­selves. There are sev­eral lakes, all sur­rounded by steep ridges (unusual for boreal Alberta) with a hik­ing trail weav­ing around them. Sun­dance Provin­cial Park is nearby with more hik­ing (to hoodoos!), and even a multi-day back­pack­ing route. I can’t rec­om­mend this spot enough if you like quiet, out-of-the-way camp­ing spots.

The detail I like best about this photo is the line angling up and left from just above the shore­line on the right. The line is ini­tially, and most strongly, cre­ated by the fallen spruce trunk but in the cen­tre of the frame, the fallen tree becomes hid­den but the visual line con­tin­ues along first one branch and then, more weakly still, another branch. I find that this angled line and its reflec­tion, cre­ate a sub­tle point of inter­est for the eye to fol­low through the oth­er­wise very ver­ti­cal composition.

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Golden sunrise on boreal lake

The first golden yellow rays of sunrise light up the far shore of a small boreal lake closely surrounded by dense spruce forest

Golden sun­light on spruce shoreline

This pho­to­graph is from a gor­geous morn­ing that I spent in the Obed Lake Provin­cial Park in west­ern Alberta. This is not actu­ally Obed Lake itself, but one of the smaller lakes in the park. There were loons swim­ming around, spar­rows and war­blers singing, and it was too chilly still for the mos­qui­toes to be flying — perfect.

The yel­low colour in the image is actu­ally toned down a lit­tle from what it looked like straight out the cam­era — it was really yel­low. (I guess that’s why they call dawn and dusk the “golden hour”.)

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More snow on spruce

Fresh snow covers the upper branches of two black spruce trees in the Wagner Natural Area

Fresh snow on two black spruce

Here’s another pho­to­graph from the same out­ing to Wag­ner Nat­ural Area as my last post. I like how the wispy-ness of the clouds con­trasts the solid, high con­trast forms of the snow-covered trees.

These are pretty clas­sic Alberta win­ter clouds — high, thin, light dif­fus­ing lay­ers with­out much def­i­n­i­tion (see this post that I wrote last win­ter). In this case though, I used a polar­iz­ing fil­ter to darken the blue sky show­ing through these thin cir­rus streaks, and that added enough con­trast to show the del­i­cate pat­terns of the cloud.

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Snow-laden black spruce

A thick cap of fresh snow covers the top of a thin, sparsely branched, black spruce tree

Snow cap on thin black spruce

After receiv­ing huge amounts of new snow over the past few weeks, we finally got a day where the sun man­aged to peak — weakly — through the clouds for a few hours. Since I was already on the west side of town, I decided to head out to the Wag­ner Nat­ural Area where, I hoped, the dense spruce trees cov­ered in deep snow would pro­vide an inter­est­ing pho­to­graphic oppor­tu­nity or two.

It was more chal­leng­ing than I expected — the huge amount of snow often looked like just a big pile slumped over every­thing, rather than con­trast­ing or com­pli­ment­ing the forms of the trees. But a chal­lenge can be good fun, and I did get a cou­ple images that I’m quite happy with — I’ll share some more over the next lit­tle while.

Non-vignetted version


The pro­cess­ing in this one was inspired by an image by a local pho­tog­ra­pher who I’ve men­tioned before, Joel Koop. He posted an image on his blog that was heav­ily vignetted (dark­ened in the cor­ners) in post-processing — and it looked great. I had already processed this one with a lit­tle bit of vignetting, but his image inspired me to try push­ing it a bit fur­ther, and I think I like it this way. What do you think? (I’ve included the non-vignetted ver­sion here for com­par­i­son — use your arrow keys to switch between versions.)

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Talbot Lake Ridges

Miette range from Talbot lake

Miette range from Tal­bot lake

One of my favourite pho­tographs I’ve taken, (yes, I’ll have a copy at the show this week­end), is this one which I called “Miette range from Tal­bot Lake.” I made this expo­sure back in Feb­ru­ary of 2007 as I was dri­ving home through Jasper National Park. The dead trees in this photo were killed in a con­trolled burn for­est fire in 2003. The still-standing, black­ened trunks con­trasted beau­ti­fully with the dust­ing of snow on the ridge. What I really love about the post-burn Tal­bot Lake area is that you get to see the sub­tle ridge and val­ley topog­ra­phy of the hills, which is nor­mally cov­ered by a thick blan­ket of spruce and fir trees. Com­bine that with a lit­tle side light­ing, a dust of snow or bloom­ing fire­weed, and me with a cam­era – I could hap­pily spend all day.

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