Sunday, December 4, 2011


One of the things I miss about city life is the night. Not so much 'nightlife' though that was very important to me in the past, I was not going out that much for a few years before I left the city. Simply being out walking around after dark. I have always tended to be up late, and while I love the sun and daylight, I also love the dramatic and fractured light and shadow of streetlights, neon, houselights and shoplights and the way they illuminate (or not) buildings, trees, streets, water, snow, people.....
Here, when its dark out, its dark out! We have lights on the outside of the house, which are sufficient to bring in wood, see if the cat's outside, walk over to mom's house, but not much more, and really there isn't anyplace to go at night- I'm not going to stroll into the bush or off down the gravel roads in the dark.
Snow actually makes the night less dark- moonlit nights become bright enough to see some distance in the open! and house lights extend their reach much further with the great white reflector on the ground. There still isn't much reason to be out at night, but on occasions when I've stepped out for firewood or to do a little snow shovelling near the house, I've stopped to marvel at the glittering of a million diamonds on the ground and draping the trees. You'd think I'd want to take photos,  but I've been too lazy to play around with tripods and extended exposures and never used flash much- so really, once the sun goes down, my camera goes to bed! Recently, my housemate was out early shovelling and took some flash photos which were kinda cool- lighting up the snow-covered trees, so I thought I'd try my hand, and went out after dark on a snowy night..
Some of the images are quite fun, especially while its snowing, and the flash catches individual flakes- the trees seem to be floating amongst the stars! Many of the images have an intriguing flatness, more like an engraving than a photograph...
Here are a few, full album at:

many are unaltered, a number are cropped, and just a few enhanced for contrast....

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Alberta Rocky Mountains, May 31, 2011 sets E,F

After Abraham Lake, the road continues on deeper into the mountains, towards the Banff National Park boundary, and the Saskatchewan River Crossing, where Highway 11, The David Thompson Highway, which has brought us all the way from home (running more or less east/west, though that varies in the mountains), ends at the junction with Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway, running between Banff and Jasper townsites, more or less north/south.

Typically we stop for some very expensive, mediocre quality refreshments at The Crossing- restaurant, cafeteria, pub, gift shop, motel, gas. All we've ever taken advantage of are the cafeteria, mainly, gift shop, occasionally, and gas, rarely...

A little roadside lake/pond that has a nice assortment of interesting plants, a bit later in the season- just getting started now.

Parking lot with a view at The Crossing.

The Crossing
Full album:

After the crossing, the Icefields Parkway heads north, mostly following valley level at a not very high elevation, until it reaches one massive switchback and suddenly climbs to a level not far below treeline. Up there, May 31 is still early spring, with only a few of the earliest plants active.

Halfway around the switchback.

One of a couple of stops at the top of the switchback, where you can look back down at where you came from, and out across the valleys in a couple of directions..

Among the few active plants this early, a pussywillow, Salix sp
Among the few active plants this early, Fragaria virginiana- flowering from  home all the way up!
Among the few active plants this early, Taraxacum sp. at this altitude, maybe a native?

Behind the viewing area, a wooded section with a  small waterfall; some nice plants back here in summer, but still under snow!

Snow well below tree-line still..

Arriving at the Columbia Icefield.
Full album:

Alberta Rocky Mountains, May 31, 2011 set D

 Another spot we've stopped a couple of times, still along Abraham Lake, this almost hidden turn-off is a little 'toe' of the mountain that has been cut off by the highway carving through. Although not a large area, there is a nice range of plants, some typical of higher elevations growing on the limestone bedrock, and plants common through the foothills and montane zones growing in sections of the site with deeper soil.

Androsace chamaejasme, occurring at a wide range of altitudes in some pretty dry and exposed  locations 

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi; an extremely widespread species- occurring in the mixed-forest  zone bordering the prairies, dryland habitat, and even up to alpine sites; several subspecies..

Dryas integrifolia; much less common than the common D drummondii, but still quite widespread; I think  this is my favourite Dryas, on account of the tiny pretty leaves.

Potentilla sp. there are a number of plants at this site, in flat gravelly soils as well as this crevice dweller; I haven't been there for full bloom on all of the plants.

Eriogonum - id'd  as E androsaceum (not by me) there are a number of plants at the site, though hard to see in summer colour- in fall they are an almost shocking pink; I've never been there for significant flowering..

Perhaps surprising at this rather dry site, but there are some extensive colonies of Viola adunca.
 Full album with more pics of these and others:

Still at the same site, a separate album for a couple of Brassicaceae family plants I have not identified:

A tiny thing! (see next photo, different plant, same species)  maybe Lesquerella sp?

Still a smallish plant, but huge compared to the previous! Also  unnamed by me...

Finally for this site, views and mountain sheep! The sheep come down to these lower altitudes fall through spring, moving up, up and away when the snow goes and alpine plants grow! They spend quite a bit of time in this relatively dry winter montane zone- you can see droppings in many places, and certain plants, such as the small sedges, are clearly cropped low..
View away down the highway, you can see a simila slope coming down on the right.

Sections of the site are bare rock like this or open gravel/scree; some are natural to the mountain, others probably scraped/dug during road construction.

You can see here the variations between deeper  soils, wind deposited  and built up onsite by sedges etc and areas of bare rock, gravel.

Looking out over Abraham Lake (man-made lake from a hydro-electric dam)

Looking down from the higher part of the site, parking area in the middle, grassy area with sheep hanging out below, then rocks leading down to the lake.

Grassy area with sheep hanging out in the lower part of the site.

Alberta Rocky Mountains, May 31, 2011 sets A-C

Time to start getting my mountain trip photos organised! 
I'm starting with May 31, 2011, since I had been posting photos from that to the NARGS and SRGC forums, and being now two trips behind there, I just want to post one link instead of finishing off this old trip.. Although I'm actually posting this on Aug 23, 2012, I will put the post under the date the trip was taken, so the photos will be in chronological order!

As usual, full albums are on Picasa, I will just post a few photos with links here.
 We set off early in the morning, heading for Rocky Mountain House for breakfast, and onward, on Highway 11 West.
First close view of the mountains is always exciting! Horses by the roadside: there are stock crossing signs, but we rarely see any!
We usually make a short stop somewhere near Nordegg, on one of the numerous rocky hillside embankments by the road. While these spots don't look that exciting from the road, there are plenty of interesting plants..

One of several nice peas in the area, this should be Oxytropis sericea

The ubiquitous but always charming Dryas drummondii; flowers are usually downturned like this, and only open slightly more; Seed heads later are much more conspicuous.

Easy to overlook to a local, since they are so common and widespread, nonetheless still charming, Fragaria virginiana.

Overview of this typical embankment.

Astragalus sp?

Early for this favourite, Packera cana (Senecio canus)

Taraxacum sp. native or not?
More pics of these and others:

Continuing on, and a usual stop along Abraham Lake, at a roadside viewpoint.
Things to come!

Arabis sp?

Draba sp? Part of the difficulty of naming some of these plants, especially  in the Brassicaceae family, is that seedpods can be crucial to id; seeing them only once or twice in the year may not be enough!

Abraham Lake
Full album (including leaves of unknown plants) :

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Willows and Friends

Following a discussion about fall fruiting willows /Salix sp on the NARGS forum(North American Rock Gardening Society; forum is free to join), I took some photos of willows with seedpods still intact over winter, and while I was out there, also took some photos of other woodies, animal tracks etc..
Here is the NARGS posting:
and here is the full album on Picasa: