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Sunrise on Mount Edith Cavell

The first rays of sunlight illuminate the southeast face of Mount Edith Cavell on a clear winter morning in Jasper National Park

First light on south face of Mount Edith Cavell

Hap­py New Year! After a great trip to the west coast for the hol­i­days, I had the plea­sure of spend­ing my first pho­tog­ra­phy trip of the new year in the heart of the Rocky Mountains—Jasper Nation­al Park. I could hard­ly have asked for a bet­ter way to start the year than to be out there watch­ing the sun come up over fresh­ly snow-blan­ket­ed peaks, and freez­ing my fin­gers on my cam­era. I have a bunch of new pho­tos that I’m excit­ed to share, so check back soon!

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Winter bison at Elk Island Park

Two bison brace against the cold on a winter day at Elk Island National Park

Rest­ing win­ter bison

It’s been a win­try cou­ple of days in the Edmon­ton area, but these bison don’t seem to mind it. I took this pho­to­graph out at Elk Island Park recent­ly, and I love how the fresh snow is just lying on top of the large bison. I had the good for­tune of being able to watch a small herd slow­ly mov­ing along and graz­ing through the snow for about an hour before they moved fur­ther off into the trees.

I made a lot of images of the herd, but I was sur­prised when I got home and could look at the pho­tos large on my com­put­er, how many times there were stray pieces of grass in front their faces—not nec­es­sar­i­ly ruin­ing the shot, but def­i­nite­ly dis­tract­ing. I guess it makes sense—the bison spent almost the entire time graz­ing with their heads just above the ground, and the dried grass was often over half a meter high. It’s just inter­est­ing how, while I was there, my brain could ignore the visu­al dis­trac­tions, but at home, the light yel­low-brown slash­es against the deep, dark brown real­ly stood out. Some­thing to watch for next time…

P.S. I hope you like the “new and improved” larg­er in-post images start­ing with this entry. As always, you can click an image to view it full-screen. Enjoy!

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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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Frost on dried Goldenrod

Strong backlighting highlights the hoar frost coating the transluscent leaves of a dried Goldenrod stem

Dried Gold­en­rod leaves with hoar frost

Although this pho­to­graph was from a lit­tle ear­li­er in the sea­son than my last post, it was a sim­i­lar­ly frosty, beau­ti­ful day. It’s amaz­ing how a lin­ing of frost can add def­i­n­i­tion and visu­al inter­est to an oth­er­wise sub­dued scene. This is espe­cial­ly true when pho­tograph­ing with the sun behind your sub­ject, the back­light­ing mak­ing the frost shine while the rest of the sub­ject remains shad­owed. I also added a fair­ly heavy vignetting effect while pro­cess­ing this image, to fur­ther draw atten­tion to the lines cre­at­ed by the curled, dried gold­en­rod leaves.

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Hoar frost on lakeshore trees

Thick hoar frost covers the birch and spruce trees along a frozen lake edge at the Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary

Frost cov­ered trees on bright win­ter day

It’s been too long since I last post­ed a new photograph—my apolo­gies. Here is an image I made recent­ly, on a par­tic­u­lar­ly gor­geous after­noon at the Min­is­tik Lake Game Bird Sanc­tu­ary just east of Edmon­ton. All of the trees, shrubs, and even each blade of grass was bear­ing a thick cov­er­ing of frost. The sky was per­fect­ly clear and every­thing was sparkling—it was beau­ti­ful (and cold).

When I was pro­cess­ing this pho­to­graph, I used the dig­i­tal equiv­a­lent of the tech­nique of plac­ing a red fil­ter in front of the lens to dark­en the blue sky. This tech­nique (a favourite of Ansel Adams) adds a dra­mat­ic look to the sky and mak­ing the bright­ness of the fore­ground trees stand out even more.

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Dried fireweed detail

Even lighting, a close crop, and shallow depth-of-field accentuate the curves of a dried fireweed seedhead

Curves in dried fire­weed

I know it’s odd to call this post “Dried fire­weed detail” when 95% of the pho­to­graph is out of focus. For me how­ev­er, this image cap­tures the essence of the detail—and the depth—of the dried seed pods. The title’s also a bit if a play on words—using “detail” in the sense of a close-up of a por­tion of a larg­er work, like when a small sec­tion of a paint­ing is enlarged in a book to show a painter’s tech­nique, for exam­ple. I real­ly enjoy get­ting in close to a pho­to­graph­ic sub­ject to look for an angle that can cap­ture the greater “whole” of the sub­ject while show­ing only a small por­tion.

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Warm light on winter day

Angled sunlight creates warm colours on a mild winter day at Whitemud Ravine in Edmonton, Alberta

Warm win­ter colours

I took this pho­to­graph dur­ing a beau­ti­ful lunch-time walk through the White­mud Ravine. Although it was mid-day, because of the sea­son the light was angled low and fil­tered through a very light haze, giv­ing it a warm tone. It’s unusu­al to see warm-toned colours much dur­ing the win­ter, but if you catch it just right they can add an inter­est­ing mood to an image.

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