2017 has been the year of the road trip! Not only did we do our big epic Waterton/Montana/Cypress Hills trip, we also did a few other smaller trips, including our inaugural visit to Grasslands National Park. For Canada’s 150th birthday, all the Federal Canadian parks have their
exorbitant entrance fees waved. We tried to take advantage of that as much as possible this year. I had been wanting to go to GNP for quite some time. But it’s a really different park experience. There is hardly any development in the park, let alone the region. We might associate things like playgrounds, swimming spots and beaches, ice cream stores and the like as “attractions” that will draw people to an area. Grasslands has none of these typical things. Instead, the park itself is the attraction.
The interesting (untold) history behind the creation of Grasslands is documented in the book “Dams of Contention” by Bill Redekop. The book centres around the creation of the Rafferty & Alameda Dams in South East Saskatchewan. The only reason I read the book is that I knew/know Ed and Harold Tetzlaff personally. I have a signed copy of the book in fact. As I read the book, Grasslands National Park was mentioned. In a convoluted and heavily political deal, GNP basically was created as a consolation prize for Saskatchewan after agreeing to translate Saskatchewan’s laws into French & appease/make a good impression for Quebec to sign the Canadian Constitution. This was all during the Mulroney days & the Meech Lake accord (p.131, 165). What a mouthful! When I went to Grasslands, I talked with one of the landowners who had sold their land to the government at the time of the creation of the park. She had no knowledge of this untold back story of the park’s creation.
Regardless of what actually took place in the park’s creation, it is one amazing place. For years it was a ranchers paradise. And by that, I mean it was a darn tough place to make a living. The land is dry and to sustain livestock you need a metric tonne of land. So the ranches in the area go on and on as far as the eye can see. Now the park does too. You feel about 2 inches tall walking around as the landscape is absolutely enormous and unruly. As you drive around and hike, the magnanimous quality of the area becomes abundantly clear.
The park exists in two blocks, West and East. The West has more development but the East is rapidly catching. The park has a very free quality about. Most National parks are tightly regulated. You can’t go off trails. You can’t do this, you can’t do that. Grasslands is free-for-all. You can go hiking. You can go horseback riding. You can drive. You can go where you like. In fact many of the hikes aren’t on trails of any kind. You can blaze your own trail which is refreshing. It’s a glorious dark sky preserve as well with no light pollution to speak of. We had rain every night we were there though. No stars for us. But the blessings of this wild and untamed landscape are also a bit of a double edged sword. Development and services are very scarce. If you go to Val Marie, I STRONGLY SUGGEST you fill up your gas tank. On our way to the East block we though we could fill up at Wood Mountain. Nope. We were panicking on our way to Rock Glen to get fuel!
One of the hikes we did with the family was the 70 Mile Butte hike. What a glorious walk it was. Of course we were on high alert so that the children didn’t get eaten by rattlesnakes. But the scenery is fantastic and well worth it! It was ridiculously hot but as you climbed the butte trail, the winds picked up and it was excellent! Apparently the aboriginals used the top of 70 Mile Butte for get togethers rather than the valley where there is no wind and insects galore. I stitched a panorama together of the view from the top in Lightroom. The photos still don’t do the view justice.
For accommodations, we stayed in the oTENTiks that the park has. You can bring a tent or camper but we elected to stay in the permanent structure. Glad we did. A heinous storm with gale force wind hit that night. The whole time I had visions of the oTENTik being carried off like Dorothy to the magical land of Oz! With no trees on the horizon to slow down the wind, it comes at you with full force! The park also has Wigwams that you can rent and camp in as well. All the sites are primitive camping and you need to bring your own water.
Grasslands National Park is a photographer’s paradise. The landscapes are vast and the perfect place for ultra-wide lenses. But even they fail to capture it all. Also, the opportunities for wildlife photography are endless. There are many unique species of animals from Bison to Prairie Dogs to Ferrets to Rattlesnakes and many others. It’s almost like being on a foreign safari shooting photos in GNP. My gear of choice with the family in tow was just my Nikon Df camera and my 24mm f/1.8 AF-S lens and the 70-200 f/4 AF-S lens. That’s it. It was a simple kit but I wanted to be as light as possible and still use full frame. It did the job admirably. I probably could have brought the 16-35 f/4 though for some extra wide angle goodness.
On our last day we decided to head over to the East Block and check it out. As mentioned previously, FUEL UP when you can! Otherwise there is basically nothing along the way. This aspect of non-development is an obstacle that tourism Saskatchewan should really look at addressing in the near future. The East Block has a lot more badlands than does the West. It was more reminiscent to Big Muddy to us. There are many cool hikes we would have liked to pursue but will have to wait until our kids are a bit older. The Valley of 1000 Devils will definitely be a must see! Grasslands National Park truly is another Saskatchewan diamond in the rough. Get off the beaten trail and goto Grasslands. It’s scenery and landscape are one of a kind. They define the wild spirit of the Land of the Living Skies! 😎
Day 9 saw us travel home from our epic Road Trip. But first, we made one last stop in Eastend, Saskatchewan!
Day 8 saw us travel from West Glacier, Montana USA to Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan Canada. We got searched at the Canadian border (of course) but the border guard took one look at our vacation-smelling mini-van and let us go. LOL. 😎 (more…)
My little guy got his Gold Belt in Karate the other day. He was super pumped! He’s a very serious and dedicated kid when it comes to pretty much everything, but especially Karate. I had the vision for this photo in my mind before I set out to capture it. Here’s the process involved.
Step 1: Lighting. There was still a good deal of ambient even though the sun was setting. I didn’t want to mess around with small flash so I grabbed my Alien Bee 1600 and fired it through a small Photoflex octobox. I had my lovely assistant Phoebe hold the light for me. We bolted it to the time-tested “Gandalf-Stick” – a collapsible paint pole with an adaptor end on it. Works like a charm for moving quickly. The lighting pattern was a simple cross light setup. Subject back to the sun as always for a sweet golden rim light.
Step 2: Work the posing. Just watch how two simple things drastically change the photo.
A) Nice photo but boring. We needed to convey Karate power in this image. Have me shoot down or even eye level doesn’t do that. We need to shoot up.
B) Getting there, now Ethan looks bigger and more powerful. In the photo. All we had to do drop to the ground. Also, I wanted a wide-ish angle shot so I’m using my Nikon 24mm f1.8G lens on the Nikon D800 for maximum mega-pretzels.
C) For the final image we needed the pose to actually have energy. I got Ethan to shout out the Karate attack word for “kill” as he did his kick. It got him laughing a bit which gave me a legit smile. The photo I had in my mind came to life and his posing was perfect. The wide angle lens adds to the over all feeling of power as it optically makes his foot look huge. The flash will always freeze the motion for you even at the relatively slow sync speed of 1/250 while adding a bit of motion blur which I think looks cool.
So there you have it. Great lighting combined with getting low and wide makes for a butt kickin’ shot that I will definitely be making into a giant print! 😎
Springtime is officially sprung in Saskatchewan when the Crocuses are blooming and the wood ticks are crawling! Both of which are true now! Oh well, we can still be excited about the Crocuses! 😎
I’m ultra behind in the blogging but I wanted to do an update. A mirrorless update. I’ve been a Fuji fan for quite a number of years now, using my omnipresent X100s camera all the time. Always JPEG. It became my high volume camera, especially for family trips where I refuse to lug around all my huge Nikon gear. But I want more quality and control than my iPhone camera gives me. The X100s was always the perfect companion. I love the 35mm equivalent field of view, especially for travel. It’s fantastic!
But it can be quite limiting. Which is almost always a good thing. Except for when it’s not. I found that all my travel photos, being the same focal length, were, well, the same. So I hummed and hawed about it and ended up getting a smokin’ deal on a FujiFilm XE2. I was going to buy the XPRO2 but didn’t (another blog post about that later). I got the XE2 with the “kit lens” which is an amazing lens, the 18-55. It’s a stunner. It’s sharp, it’s fast and it’s made of metal. Using Fuji is an experience in quality to say the least. Anyways, I’ve since picked up the 35mm f2 it’s a dream. But all summer long, all I shot was the 18-55.
I wanted to showcase the versatility of this compact mirrorless setup. These photos are travel photos from our cross Canada tour this summer. Western Manitoba all the way to Tofino, BC and back again. 4 provinces, thousands and thousands of kilometres traveled, Ocean, Waterfalls, Mountains, Forests, Prairies, all with one camera, one lens. Not only was it a versatile combination but it made the editing workflow nearly non-existent. By that I mean the XE2 utilizes a WYSIWYG viewfinder. The exposures seen through the eye piece are what you get in camera. Literally 97% of the time, it’s bang on. Very little editing has gone into these photos. The X system allows you to get it right in camera the first time, let alone the colour tweaks available through the film simulations. Fuji colour is the best, bar none! Anyways, here’s some photos.
Hey sports fans! It’s been far too long since I’ve posted anything on the ol’ blog. Well neglected no longer, here’s a long over due post.
Some friends since Kindergarten graduated high school this year. They thought it would be cool to do a friends photoshoot before heading off to University. So we got together one evening at the old farm. We thought it would be cool to some nice casual stuff but also to get the money’s worth out of the grad dresses! What a riot it was!
These girls are absolutely stunning! They all have gorgeous long hair that just screamed fashion lighting. We did some cool clamshell beauty stuff but as twilight came in, I wanted to push the envelope a bit. It was a typical Saskatchewan hurricane wind evening which made for a pretty slick wind machine. We got the girls on the road and drove an SUV up behind them with the high beams on to provide some continuous light for hair/dress motion blur. Then we froze the shot with flash at the end of the exposure. It makes for a pretty studio-esque photo shot on location!
Here’s a few more favs from the shoot. It was a total blast and we wish the girls all the best in University! 😎
Wowza! Been super busy with grads this year! It’s been great and we managed to get some keepers. Also, we’ve moved to USB drives for digital file delivery. Thanks to JF Custom Engraving for the laser work!
Congratulations to all the grads from Arcola, Carlyle, Oxbow and Carnduff! God’s blessings on the future!
I was going through some junk today and at the bottom of the pile was this long forgotten red Nikon filter from back in Dad’s film days. 52mm thread. My old 50mm 1.8 AF-D lens fits it as well as my sweet 28mm 2.8 manual lens. There also happened to be this ginormous storm rolling in. Black and White + Red filter. Very cool Ansel Adams setup. I drove around town doing some ad hoc landscape/cloudscape/street stuff. Shot in JPEG today too, rather than RAW. Not sure why. Felt like a JPEG kinda day. [cool]
The Saskatchewan sunrises and sunsets are incredible. This goes without saying. But time is of the essence. These moments of great light are fleeting and often within a few minutes they are gone forever! Never to be seen again. I guess the lesson is to make the most of the time we have been given; to enjoy and actually live in the moment we are in. This is the miraculous aspect of Photography. It has the ability to freeze time and memories. It gives us the opportunity to return to those fleeting moments and remember them.