When the scent of lilac fills the air and butterflies flutter through blossom-filled bushes, you know that summer is near! Every season comes with a mix of variables that affect the ones that come afterward. I’m not sure what created the perfect storm for blossoms this spring, but in a word, they’ve been fantastic. The grounds have been strewn with petals, thick as snow in some places, and if you pause long enough, the buzzing of bees is like a symphony. A little purple prose for the morning, but what the heck—nature is deserving of the extravagance.
For the mothers…
The traditional definition of a mother lacks fluidity. It bestows a female parent with nurturing qualities whether they exist or don’t. It makes assumptions about parenting based on that definition that may or may not be true. Unfortunately, court systems are notorious for making these kinds of assumptions. I hope to see that change in my lifetime.
I know mothers of all kinds. Great ones, horrific ones, kind ones, damaging ones. I’m one of the lucky ones to have, not only a birth mother who is an amazing, loving, dynamic woman, but other women in my life who have played important roles.
Today we celebrate those mothers however they come—with two-legged or four-legged children. May you all have a great day!
Note: The bear above was quickly photographed with a telephoto lens from the safety of our vehicle. Its mother was standing close by, ready to defend and protect.
The boys are back in town…
I love the four seasons. Each of them brings opportunities to photograph a range of animals with vastly different backdrops. This image required a zoom lens and a healthy crop as the Elk, or Wapiti, meaning “white rump”, tend to scatter quickly if you happen to get too close. And if you’ve never heard these bulls during rut, I highly recommend it—their whistling scream is haunting as it echoes through the mountains.
We stopped on a snow-bermed road when a bright patch of orange—slightly off from the colors surrounding it—caught my eye. I’m glad we did because he might be the most beautiful of red foxes I’ve had the pleasure of photographing. He wasn’t concerned about our presence. A stubbly field separated us.
Foxes, like dogs, are members of the canidae family. While reading up on them I discovered that the remains of a man and a fox were found together in a Jordan cemetery four thousand years before the first known human and domestic dog were buried together. The setting for this photograph appealed to me a great deal. The snow load was too heavy for the old cabin, sturdy as it might once have been, and the fox appeared to have made it his homestead.
Last year, in the same area, we came across a vixen and kits. She was introducing them to their meal, a large ground squirrel. The cycle of life.
They say it’s spring…
March was one for the record books. I got to cross several things off my list. Light pillars soaring up into the heavens—a treat coming at the end of the season for spotting them. And the aurora! I’ve never seen a light show that magnificent before and as an extra treat, we got to share it with family.
The weather has hinted at spring, but we woke up this morning to a snowstorm. I used to dread spring’s arrival because it signaled the end of snowboard season, but I’ve been working on a beautiful bee and butterfly garden for several years now. I enjoy watching it come to life. Last year, perennial roots I’d planted bloomed for the first time and I have high hopes that my showy milkweed might flower this summer.
Garlic lays nestled beneath a bed of straw, topped with snow, and I can just see the tops of the chess pieces on the garden table.
Today’s image is an extra fancy snowflake. I could hate the fact that I’ll be out shoveling again, or I could embrace the beauty of a spring snowstorm. I think you know what I’ll do!
Oh, what a night!
So often when there’s a lot of hype about a solar storm it doesn’t come to fruition—understandably when there are so many variables—but that wasn’t the case on March 23rd!
Our evening began with a gorgeous sunset and to the west, a sliver of the moon and Venus. Even before darkness had fallen you could tell the night was going to be magical, but once it had, the sky exploded with northern lights covering the sky in every direction.
I’ve never photographed the rarer form, corona, before and if you were away from city lights and had allowed your eyes to adjust to the darkness, the show was stunning.
My eyes could see greens, reds, and pinks as well as patches of white racing through the overhead coronas.
At it’s peak, the coyotes and a nearby Great Horned Owl joined in with a vocal serenade. Magical. Simply magical.
One time I can live with light pollution…
I’ve been really lucky—or maybe really well prepared. I’ve photographed things that people only dream of seeing. I’ve shot rare cloud formations, the Northern Lights, and sub-auroral arcs called STEVE. Elephants and pangolin in the wilds of South Africa (thank you Jenny), grizzly and black bears in the Rocky Mountains (thank you Sonny), and a tornado in Alberta I was so close to that the shot didn’t require the full length of my zoom lens. But one of my favorite things to shoot is atmospheric optics and light. I’ve got Les Cowley to thank for that!
The light pillars in the photograph above have been on my bucket list for ages. Conditions have to come together exactly right before they’ll appear, and their appearance can be fleeting. You need finger-numbing, battery-draining temperatures, plate crystals in the atmosphere, and light pollution—that bane of a night photographer’s existence. Light pollution disrupts the natural patterns of wildlife and in the U.S. and Europe, 99% of people can’t experience a true dark sky. But when the lights combine with ice crystals floating gently in the sky, I can’t resist trying to capture them. There’s a season for sighting these pillars and where I live, we’re at the very end of it.
On this night, at 2:30 in the morning, I pulled on my husband’s very warm down-filled jacket and stumbled outside with my senior dog who’d woken me up for a potty break. Shooting upwards into the sky around me were the pillars I’d resigned myself to never seeing. They don’t shoot directly up from the light sources. The delicate crystal plates drift down and reflect the light back toward the viewer from a more midway point.
We were in the car in about five minutes and off on another optic adventure. One I won’t soon forget. The frozen fingers were worth it, and I was so happy to share the magical night with my husband.
Note: A shout out to Deborah Byrd of https://earthsky.org/ too for publishing so many of my images. It’s always an honor. And if you’d like to learn more about optics, visit Les Cowley’s incredible site https://atoptics.co.uk/
We love to travel around sunset or sunrise, and moonrise or moonset. The chance for optics, many which are fleeting, seem greater. Although the sun had risen a couple of hours earlier, it hadn’t yet cleared the Rocky Mountains of this image and particles in the air were sufficient enough to scatter sunlight, creating this wide crepuscular ray. It was a gorgeous day in the Rockies. The windswept snow sparkled with crystals. Wonderful things happen in March—spring battles winter and one day can bring snow, rain, graupel, and sunshine. I have a feeling this month will be extra special and I’m going to enjoy every day of it. Optics…they make every day better!
The Last of Us?
Alberta, Canada, has become a popular place for filming. You might recognize some of the following movie titles—Unforgiven, The Revenant, Brokeback Mountain, and Legends of the Fall—a handful that have been shot here.
This image was not a film set from the post-apocalyptic HBO series The Last of Us, recently filmed in parts of Alberta. This fire began in the early morning hours when the temperature outside was about -16 degrees F and it’s currently under investigation. As fire crews battled the blaze, the water began freezing and for perspective, one gallon of frozen water weighs just over eight pounds.
Built in the early nineteen hundreds, this historic hotel did not survive the lethal combination of fire and the crushing weight of the ice.
I remember this hotel from when I was in my twenties. The bar was a little on the rough side but stuff like that doesn’t matter as much when you’re young and invincible.
It was impossible to get close, so I shot these using my telephoto lens. While doing so I discovered that if positioned myself just right, I could capture a rainbow. Which I did right before my bare fingers turned numb from the cold.
What I love about my life is the passion my husband and I share for nature, and we make sure to take time to appreciate whatever that brings. Sometimes it’s beautiful but other times it’s incredibly destructive.
This fire did not take any lives, but a piece of history has been lost. The building was demolished a couple of hours after these photos were taken.
Take time to appreciate the places and people that surround you—you never know when they’ll be gone forever.
A first for me—a January rainbow! I love my ‘bows as much as I do halos and have captured a variety of them including doubles, redbows, cloudbows and fogbows—both solar and lunar. Winter rainbows aren’t common up here in Alberta, Canada, so this brief appearance of one made my day!