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Spring 2012 Canadian Rockies Photo Tour Results — Alan Ernst

June 26, 2012

I’m in sunny (and very hot) Arizona right now, and thinking back fondly to the more temperate weather we had on the Spring 2012 Photo Tour at Aurum Lodge. So what better way to try to get some of that feeling back, than to look at another set of favorite images from the tour? Here we have 5 photographs from lodge proprietor and detail photographer extraordinaire, Alan Ernst.

Alan has lived in the region for many years now, and the grand scenes, while still grand, are not primarily what attract his photographic eye. Instead, if you watch him at work, he has a sort of radar that’s always scanning for & locking in on small scenes and extractive details within the big scene. Take a look at the way he saw some of our locations; the descriptions are his.

And remember — if you think you’ve run out of things to see & photograph in your surroundings, narrow your focus and look for details. It’s more than likely that there will be a sudden explosion of new compositions waiting to be recognized.

Ventilation Fan Copyright © 2012 Alan Ernst

Brazeau Colliery – Ventilation Fan. Copyright © 2012 Alan Ernst

Lumix GH1 – Olympus 12-50mm lens at 13mm (26mm equiv) – f10 – 1/60s – ISO 100

In nature, architecture and many other subjects, I always look for patterns, texture, interesting lines, repetitions, perspective, etc.. This rusty fan in the “boneyard” at the Nordegg mine attracted my attention because of the flowerlike arrangement of the “petals” around the “stem”. I spent about 10 minutes finding the right angle, distance and composition I wanted. I cropped close enough to exclude all outside edges of the blades, grass at the bottom and other disturbing elements, then found an angle where the shaft and shadow made for good diagonals while placing the tip of the shaft in the shadow behind it. I purposely avoided the use of a polariser which would have rendered the colours more intense but also would have cut down the reflection of light on the right hand side which I liked better. Spending that extra time on composition to exclude / include every item you want, where you want it, always seems to pay off.

Calypso Orchids Copyright © 2012 Alan Ernst

Calypso Orchids. Copyright © 2012 Alan Ernst

Lumix GH1 – Olympus 12-50mm at 43mm (86mm equiv) – f8 – 1/20s – ISO 125

These lovely orchids are abundant around the lodge in spring and I wanted to capture them before they wilted. I spent a fair bit of time on this occasion to find a group of two or three in a location where the background was not too busy, then had to wait for a while as the light constantly changed from sun to cloud. Images like this are best taken under cloudy conditions or in the shade. I took various shots with different apertures to find the right balance of subject sharpness and out-of-focus background. The smaller sensor on the m4/3 system makes this more challenging, but at the same time the tilt / swivel LCD with live view is tremendously useful for low level shots like this.

Hoary Marmot Copyright © 2012 Alan Ernst

Hoary Marmot. Copyright © 2012 Alan Ernst

Lumix GH2 – 100-300mm lens at 300mm (600mm equiv) – f7.1 – 1/250s – ISO 160 – +2/3 EV

Returning from a “canyon crawl” just before the end of the tour, we came across a family of marmots near the road. They were somewhat hidden by grass and shrubs and separated as we stopped to take photographs. The big, fat male took off along the cliffs, the mom scurried right past me in the grass which did not make for any good shots, so I concentrated on the youngster who was foraging in the bushes on top of the cliff. I set up my camera below the lichen covered rock hoping it would make its way there, which indeed it did. Unfortunately, it was just lying there in the sun for a long time but eventually decided to poke its head over the rock to see why I was standing there all the while. With animal photography, patience, prediction and perseverance will make all the difference. I have many marmot pictures, but this one is among my favourites.

Mt Athabasca Copyright © 2012 Alan Ernst

Mt Athabasca. Copyright © 2012 Alan Ernst

Lumix GH1 – 14-45mm lens at 14mm (28mm equiv) – f9 – 1/500s – ISO 100

The area around the Icefields Centre in Jasper Park always has good photographic potential, no matter what the weather. We were fortunate to have a good mix of sun and cloud on our first day. Turning off the Parkway towards the parking lot I had noticed that the ice on the little pond beside the road had just started to break up. I decided to make my way back there, rather than head towards the glacier which I have photographed on so many occasions before. Kneeling in the mud I was able to place my camera at water level on a rock that just broke the surface. Again, this would not have been possible without the tilt / swivel screen on my camera. Since I was dirty already, I decided to take a whole series of images with different focal lengths, showing a varying degree of sky, submerged foreground and mountain vista. This very tight composition turned out to be my favourite, together with another shot taken at 7mm and cropped to a 3:1 ratio for a panoramic view of the landscape.

Scorched Pine Cones Copyright © 2012 Alan Ernst

Scorched Pine Cone. Copyright © 2012 Alan Ernst

Lumix GH1 – Olympus 12-50mm lens at 41mm (82mm equiv) – f14 – 1/160s – ISO 100

So often, when you look for a specific subject, you end up coming home with something totally different. On our outing to the burnt forest along the North Saskatchewan River, participants were looking to photograph Prairie Crocuses. I found some but they were past their prime. Instead, my eye was drawn to the beautifully and evenly lit mountain range on the other side of the river – a great panorama for the eye. Alas, there was no good foreground. A small dead pine tree looked promising but it was impossible from the lay of the land, to get a good composition without too many disturbing elements. Circling the skeleton tree with camera in hand, I noticed the profusion of pine cones and decided to capture these close-up, while relegating the mountains to the distant background. Many photographers I have met over the years will set out in the morning with a specific image in mind. When the conditions aren’t right, they will return disappointed or upset because they did not bag the shot they had “planned”. Likely, they missed a lot of great images along the way, simply because they were too focused on one scene, rather than working with what’s out there. Some photographers I know don’t venture out around mid day because the light “sucks”… yet, four out of the five shots in this selection were taken around noon in bright sun.

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