As soon as I stepped out of the truck at the car park for Upper Kananaskis Lake this week, I knew it was going to be a tough day. Storm clouds often make for the most beautiful images, so I had made the decision to head out to Kananaskis in the hope of finding some methane bubbles in the ice. The car park is sheltered by tall fir trees, but even from my sheltered position, I could hear the wind howling across the top of the dam, and see the clouds of spindrift being transported east to the lower lake.
Once booted up I scurried down to the lakeshore where my micro spikes bit into the frozen surface. I opted to hike the southwest shore where I have previously found plenty of methane bubbles. Unfortunately the ice was not clear enough for any significant finds, so I continued on into the teeth of the wind that swept the surface of the lake.
I did find numerous subjects and made a number of images along the way, all of which might be mistaken for black and white shots straight out of the camera. The storms overhead and resulting low cloud robbed the landscape of almost all colour. I did find a couple of shots where the light refracted enough to give some of the broken ice on the shore its usual turquoise blue, but overall every shot appeared in black and white straight through the viewfinder.
As a result of this effect I needed to find some strong image anchors to hold the eye and contrasting light to lead us though the shot, I think this one meets both criteria. The island in the midground almost merges with the mountains in the background, leaving quite a distance between the foreground anchors and the island. By lowering the camera position I was able to close the gap and magnify the dark ice 'anchors' in the foreground. While the image is not going to make the portfolio, I'm am happy with it given the circumstances on the day.
In keeping with my previous prairie theme, I recently called into the small hamlet of Rowley about 2 hours north east of my home.
In the 1920's Rowley was a bustling little town with over 500 inhabitants, all enjoying the neoteric agricultural boom in the area; less than 50 years later it was almost empty. This unusual little hamlet without water or sewer services now clings to life as a tourist hotspot in the guise of a 'ghost town'.
In the late 1970's, the few locals still remaining began restoring some of the old derelict buildings, by the 1980's Rowley was back on the map as a film location and heritage stop on the railroad that passed through the town. Unfortunately, in 1999 the railroad closed and a steady stream of 'leg stretchers' who might part with a few dollars was taken from the community again.
Still, here we are 100 years since it's heyday, Rowley and its 12 remaining inhabitants remain defiant, this tiny, stubborn little hamlet clings to life as a ghost town just 2 hours north east of a 21st century city that shares the same wide open prairie and spirit of defiance.
My image today shows the setting sun lighting the old grain elevators on the southwest outskirts of the town. I made some lovely images in the low light leaving me a choice of several for the blog today, but the simplicity of this image and its portrayal of the prairie cathedrals of Alberta was the one that finally shouted the loudest.
Yesterday I set out to find, as promised, something different for the blog. The obvious choice was to head east away from the majesty of the rocky mountains. Within no time at all after turning east, the foothills fade to flatlands, and the wide open spaces of the prairies open up in all directions.
It is a staggering juxtaposition as I head south on highway 22, to my right the bulwarks of the rocky mountains tear at the low cloud formations creating 'rivers' in the grey blanket overhead. To my left, the skies are so far out of reach that all things below them seem compressed by the weight of that heavy blanket.
I love driving the empty, arrow straight roads of the prairies, my own soundtrack accompanies the epic, slowly changing scenes beyond the windscreen, and I am cocooned in 21st century comfort as beautiful vistas offer themselves for consideration. The most obvious choice for anyone seeking images of the prairies are grain silos, and I did shoot some of those, but none that I felt were good enough for varying reasons. The second most obvious choice must be the abandoned homes and barns along the way, abandoned by humans at least, but still providing the most wonderful accommodation for all kinds of prairie wildlife, their value to the whole eco system should not be underestimated. Hence the title of the blog today, these beautiful old structures are indeed sanctuaries for many, long may they continue to be so.
My favourite sunset location by far is Lower Kananaskis Lake, there are so many options during the golden hour it is often difficult to know which one to take. Personally I like to shoot some wide shots with reflections providing such great perspective to a vanishing point way off at the far end of the lake. But, even as the wide angle sits on the tripod, ND graduated filter strapped to the lens, you'll see me stalking around with the 70-200 mm 'picking out' shots from the huge mountain ranges opposite.
Isolating sections of the illuminated ridge is always great fun, finding shapes and compositions that work does not come as easily as you may think. Finding a front range mountain that is sitting below the alpenglow helps provide real interest to the shot, as well as depth. Then an interesting shape such as this undulating 'snake' illuminated behind the dark foreground as the main topic and middle ground, then finally a little sky to provide a background.
This is the same ridge you see on the blog header, and on the home page of my site as well as repeatedly through my portfolio. But each image differs from its predecessor, different light, a different shape, different lenses all go into making new images with each visit.
So with sunset at the lower lake following on from sunrise at the upper lake, I feel I need to shoot something different for the next blog post, macro perhaps, or some night shots.....watch this space.
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