I took a trip Southwest of Calgary in search of Mountain Bluebirds as they are very common in that part of the city. I really enjoy making images of Bluebirds because they are very curious and they allow their visitors a very close approach. It helps that they are such bright and vibrantly colored birds that they are generally pretty easy to find.
The main reason I decided on this adventure on this particular day was because it was one of those hazy, gray, high overcast days where it’s really bright out, but you never actually see the sun. It was the perfect kind of day to make images of birds on or near the ground, and in particular for brightly colored birds like Bluebirds. And conversely it would have been a pretty bad day for making scenic landscape images or images of birds in flight (or even perched high in a tree) against a white background. I had heard many reports that the Bluebirds were already back in the area, so I packed up and headed out to a favorite location that I visited several times last year.
I found several pairs of bluebirds within minutes of my arrival in the area and I had several opportunities to make good images of both males and females. As is typical for many species of birds, male bluebirds are much brighter and more vibrant than the females.
Even though I found my intended target right away, my success didn’t last long and I found only a few more Bluebirds during the rest of the trip. I found one final pair just as I had decided to head for home.
I had a bit of a surprise when I found a Greater Yellowlegs in the glassy waters of a slough. This is another species that I had heard were back in the area, but this was the first that I’ve seen this season. They are very commonly found throughout the region later in the season, but there aren’t many around this early in the spring migration. This one posed very nicely for me and I made some of the best images I have of these elegant birds.
I saw several herds of Mule Deer in the farm fields while I was searching for Bluebirds. Mulies seem to be more common to the west of the city than to the east, and I haven’t been able to get this close to them very often. I have lots of images of White-tailed Deer, which thrive in the flat praire farmland to the east of the city, but I don’t have very many of Mule Deer. This solitary deer had become separated from a fairly large herd of animals that were further off in the same field. The rest of the deer wandered away when I stopped to watch, but this one kept eating and only occasionally looked up at me.
After the rest of the herd had crossed the road and disappeared into the brush, this one also decided that it should be on its way. I was lucky enough to make some very cool images of it jumping the fences on both sides of the road. All in all it was a great day to be outside!
Every month there is one day, usually a day or two after the full moon, where the moon sets just as the sun rises. If you time it just right, and if it isn’t too hazy or cloudy outside, then you can see the moon looking huge as it drops below the horizon. With the sun coming up on the opposite horizon the moon will glow very brightly in a beautiful shade of orange or pink.
I was out for an early morning birding trip yesterday and I had hoped to be able to make some nice pastoral images of the moon dropping behind the Rocky Mountains with the open fields of the foothills in the foreground. While I did see the sunrise, unfortunately the moon dropped into a cloudbank on the western horizon long before it was low enough for the pictures I has in my minds eye.
Before going to bed last night I told my wife that if our son, who has been sleeping very poorly lately, was awake before 6:30 AM then I would get up and take him with me for another attempt at my moon shot. Of course he woke up right at 6:30, which barely gave me enough time to get get both of us dressed and out the door, get all my gear into the car, and then find a nice location to shoot from… Fortunately we live near a ridge with a good view of the Rockies to the west, and so I went straight there. I had only 5 minutes from the time I parked the car to the time that the moon had fully dropped below the horizon. I managed to make a few images, and this one is one of my favorites of the bunch.
This image isn’t quite the pastoral scene that I had hoped make, but I like it anyway, and sometimes that’s how it goes. You can plan all you want, but if life gives you oranges instead of apples then you might have to make orange juice instead of apple pie! This is only the second time in the last year that everything came together perfectly for me to get my shot, and I have honestly been trying almost every month!
Sometimes you make the image you plan to make. Sometimes you get the butt…
NOTE – these birds were found while visitng my parents home in Winfield (near Kelowna, BC), not in Alberta. I had an interesting request for information from Jocelyn Hudon (Curator of Ornithology at the Royal Alberta Museum, and the Chair of the Alberta Bird Record Committee) wondering whether I had found these in Alberta. That would have been a much more exciting find since, according to Jocelyn, there have been fewer than 15 such discoveries in Alberta. This was not quite so exciting as that, but still interesting for me!
I have updated my Panoramic Image Collection with a couple of images that I’ve made recently. The image above is Castle Mountain as seen from the Bow Valley Parkway. Castle is located halfway between Banff and Lake Louise on the Bow Valley Parkway, and is a popular mountain for hiking and climbing. I really liked the way the wispy clouds partially covered the golden rocks of the mountain, and the brilliant blue sky in the background just gave it some extra oomph! As soon as I saw the mountain I knew I had to make a panoramic image.
The next one is another view of Mount Rundle as seen from Vermillion lakes. I have wanted to get some good sunrise or sunset images from this location for a long time and I’m really happy with what I got from my recent visit.
The images in the Panoramic gallery look really great printed big! I’ve printed a few of these at 12″ x 36″ and they look fantastic. Unfortunately the print service in my online store will only print as big as 12″ x 24″, so if you want something bigger please contact me directly and I will make a custom print to your specifications. Note that while most of my panoramics are sized in a 1:3 aspect ratio, some are only 1:2. Each one may need to be cropped differently when printed…
There are lots of large animals that are easily found in the Rocky Mountains (and the foothills). One of the most beautiful, and one of my personal favorites, is the Bighorn Sheep. These animals are usually very easy to find in the same places over and over again, and so I’ve been able to observe them many times.
I recently took a drive west of Calgary along a route that I had never taken before. In two different places along the highway (near Exshaw) I saw large herds of sheep shortly after passing warning signs for sheep in the area. It’s funny how often you can see warning signs for animals but then never actually see any of animals. That is definitely not the case with Bighorn Sheep!
Although there was one memorable time when I was gently reminded by a rather large sheep that they really are wild animals, they are generally very passive and aren’t very concerned by human interaction. These two herds almost completely ignored me and they barely bothered to glance up while continuing to eat their morning meal.