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Mountain sunset under heavy clouds

The last light of the sun setting behind rugged peaks shines below a sky of heavy clouds

Sun­set under heavy clouds

If you’ve signed up for my newslet­ter you’ll rec­og­nize these past few images that I’ve shared — this one is from a trip to Jasper National Park that I took this spring. I was lucky enough to drive into the moun­tains just as the sun dipped below the clouds for a few min­utes before sink­ing behind the moun­tain peaks. I don’t recall my cam­era set­tings for this par­tic­u­lar image, but I was def­i­nitely think­ing of the golden rule for land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy — “f/8 and be there”.

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Early spring dogwood colour

The last light as the sun sets catches a patch of red-osier dogwood behind several thin bare aspen saplings already in the evening shadow

Glow­ing dog­wood behind bare aspen saplings

Another sun­set pho­to­graph taken while doing owl sur­veys, this one was taken on a clear evening which made for less inter­est­ing skies as the pre­vi­ous night but allowed for more pre­dictably pro­gress­ing, steady light on the ground.

This time of year, my eyes ache for colour after the long win­ter and the red-osier dog­wood shrubs are often the first real glimpses of spring colour as they flush red in the very early spring — even before the snow has melted. In this image, I like how the intense red of the wil­lows in the last, warm rays of sun­light con­trast with the cool blues of the aspen saplings that are already in the evening’s shadow.

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Fiery cirrus clouds at sunset

The days last sunlight illuminates high icy clouds behind a clean horizon of fresh snow

Fiery sun­set over snowy horizon

I’ve been out con­duct­ing noc­tur­nal owl sur­veys in south-central Alberta for the past few weeks, which has given me the chance to take some great sun­set pho­tographs, and to try out pho­tograph­ing at night — lots of fun (but lots to learn too!)

This photo came after a whole day of cloud that finally broke at just the right time to allow the set­ting sun to peek through. If they coop­er­ate, a sky full of clouds sure makes for more inter­est­ing pho­tog­ra­phy than a “per­fectly” clear sky.

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Singing ice at Islet Lake

Cold early winter evening at Islet Lake

Cold early win­ter evening at Islet Lake

Last week I took my cam­era (and my daugh­ter) out to the Cook­ing Lake-Blackfoot Nat­ural Area, about 30 min east of Edmon­ton, for an after­noon walk while the weather was still rel­a­tively mild. There has been just a dust­ing of snow so far this year, so the ice on the lake was bare and exposed to the quickly cool­ing air. As the sun moved lower in the sky and the tem­per­a­ture dropped the ice began to make ter­rific heav­ing, groan­ing and boom­ing sounds. The fre­quency increased until there was nearly con­stant, resound­ing, echo­ing sound com­ing from the ice. Every­thing else was per­fectly still, and the singing of the ice was the per­fect back­ground music while I took this quick pho­to­graph – just as the last sun­light made the bare aspen on the far shore glow a warm orange-red, in con­trast to the cool blue of the shad­owed lake ice in the foreground.

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Spectacular sunset over Edmonton

Fiery altostratus sunset

Fiery alto­stra­tus sunset

This after­noon I went out for a walk at the Cook­ing Lake-Blackfoot Provin­cial Recre­ation Area. I spent sev­eral hours hap­pily walk­ing the Lost Lake/Islet Lake trails in unsea­son­ably warm weather, but with a flat, grey layer of drab alto­stra­tus cloud over­head. That is to say, there weren’t many good pho­to­graphic oppor­tu­ni­ties. As I was dri­ving home, how­ever, the sun snuck through a gap in the cloud just above the hori­zon – with stun­ning effect. I had to pull over to watch the – all too brief – colours spread across nearly the whole sky, and of course, take some pho­tographs. I find this type of sky can be very hard to get a good expo­sure, where it’s not too dark but the high­lights (espe­cially the yel­lows) aren’t blown out or over-saturated, leav­ing detail-less areas within the wispy strands of cloud. I think this one turned out quite well, and I really like how the pat­tern of the cloud could be eas­ily mis­taken for fire, which is just what the sky looked like for a few min­utes – aflame. I hope you enjoy it too.

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