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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.

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