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Dried grass calligraphy

A single grass stem with a curled dried leaf casts a calligraphic shadow across a rolling bank of fresh snow

Dried grass calligraphy on fresh snow

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny winter day in Edmonton (although a bit too warm—things shouldn’t be melting yet!) and I took the chance to take the snowshoes (and kid, and dog, and camera) out to the Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area. I like going into the park from the south end, parking at the Islet Lake staging area.

With all the snow we’ve gotten, the lakeshore topography has been smoothed out to gentle undulations of perfect, smooth snow. That, combined with the low sun this time of year, provides lots of chances for photographs with simple, elegant lines and minimal visual clutter.

Cooking lake post-top snow cones

Cooking lake post-top snow cones

(And then there’s this one—pretty much on the other end of the spectrum—using the same basic elements for slapstick rather than elegance… but can you guess which one my daughter preferred?)

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The Golden Hour – all day long

Late afternoon sun brightens up a patch of dried grasses along a wintery fenceline

Dried winter grasses along barbed wire fence

The “Golden Hour” is generally thought of as the first and last hour of sunlight in the day. During this time, the low angle of the sun casts soft, warm sidelighting that gives beautiful definition to a subject while keeping the contrast low and enhancing the rich colours. But during the winter, here at our northern latitudes, that light can last for most of the day.

It’s not uncommon for landscape photographers to pack it in after first light, however another Edmonton photographer whose work I really enjoy, Joel Koop, recently wrote a pair of blog posts (here and here) sharing how he takes on the challenge of mid-day light. I couldn’t agree more with him, and especially at this time of year I love to be outside in the afternoon, looking for just the right patch of light. (I took the photograph above in late November at just before 3 in the afternoon.)

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Trumpeter Swans at Ministik Lake

A Trumpeter Swan floats with a raft of ducks on Bray at the Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary

Trumpeter Swan at Ministik Lake

A pair of Trumpeter Swans float with a raft of ducks on Bray Lake at the Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary

Trumpeter Swan Pair at Ministik Lake

I was walking the Waskahegan Trail though the Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary a couple days ago (Oct 5th, to be precise), and came across this pair of swans. While it’s fairly common to see migrating Tundra Swans flying (and honking) overhead in flocks this time of year, I am pretty sure these are the much less common Trumpeter Swan—but I would really appreciate if someone more familiar with Trumpeters could confirm (or contest) my ID. These two birds were on Bray Lake, right in the middle of the sanctuary, and were there when I first passed the lake, and still there later in the afternoon on my way back. This is what I love about Ministik—there’s always something new to see, you just have to get out there and look for it.

Boreal colours at their autumn finest

Aspen, birch, reeds and grasses all glow golden in evening light along the shore of Oliver Lake at the Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary

Golden autumn aspen shoreline

If you’re in the Edmonton area, and haven’t been out enjoying (and photographing) the fall colours this week, I have one word for you—go! I’ll let this photograph speak the thousand words’ encouragement.

I’ve been exploring the south-west corner of Ministik Lake Sanctuary, following game trails along the shore of Oliver Lake and coming across views like this one. This is one of my favourite autumn combinations—yellow aspen & birch, bright dried grasses, all against a blue sky reflected in a still lake, and with just a few dark spruce thrown in for accent. Gorgeous.

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Autumn foliage triptych

Autumn foliage triptych

Autumn foliage triptych

Here are three photographs of autumn colour in the plants out at Ministik Lake. While processing these images, I played around with de-saturating all the colours except for those of the main subject. This kind of manipulation of the image is outside of the regular “darkroom-style” processing that I usually restrict myself to—but in this case, I really like how it looks. I also added a fairly heavy vignetting effect (the darkening of the corners) to further accentuate the main subject of each image.

With their similarities in colour, subject matter, and processing technique, I found that these three photographs complemented each other when viewed side-by-side. I don’t know the “theory” behind why some images work together as a group, but I do know that sometimes a triptych is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. (Click here to see a couple more of my favourite triptychs). As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts—just leave a comment below.

Autumn foliage triptych I

Autumn foliage triptych II

Autumn foliage triptych III

Click these thumbnails to see a larger vesion of each image individually (use your arrow keys to move between them).

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Waterfowl on a misty Minsitik lake

A pair of Canada Geese and a small flock of ducks rest on a calm lake on a foggy morning at Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary

Waterfowl on misty morning lake

Here’s another photograph that I made the same morning as the one in my previous post. Although I took it less than ten minutes later than the previous photo, from nearly the same spot on the lake shore, and rotated only about 90 degrees, this photograph has a completely different feel to it—and that’s one of the things that I love most about photographing the landscape.

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Early autumn sunrise at Ministik

A light fog hangs at sunrise in the yellow foliage of birch leaves just starting to turn to their fall colours

Morning mist and early autumn birch

I had the pleasure of spending a morning out at Ministik Lake, and what a morning it was. The forecast was for clear skies and the first good overnight frost of the year, with temperatures down to a few degrees above freezing. As the sun rose, light fog rose from the lakes and hung in the still air, frost hung lightly on the understory leaves, and the clear autumn light shone off the first of the birch trees just beginning to change colour—it was exquisite.

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