Lake Winnipeg Freeze up

Grand Beach Provincial Park, Manitoba

It still amazes me at this time of year how quickly the lakes and rivers freeze over.  Only a short time ago, I can remember enjoying Thanksgiving at a friends cottage on the west side of Lake Winnipeg.  It was a perfectly nice fall day, not a sign of winter yet.  Although I had already experienced my first seasons winter blast in early October, while in the Rockies.  Once returning to Manitoba it seemed as though we had entered a time warp of sorts, we had left Alberta in near blizzard conditions and returned to Manitoba to enjoy an above seasonal fall.  Of course, weather can change very dramatically in the Canadian Prairies, now we are left with the bone chilling cold of the winter months.  But not all is bad, soon the ice will be thick enough on the rivers and lakes for all sorts of winter activities that take place on Manitoba’s frozen waterways.  Those that embrace the winter are already enjoying the benefits the cold weather brings with it.  I for one, like the fact we can experience four distinct seasons.  Do I get cabin fever?  You bet;  once March rolls around I really look forward to spring’s arrival, but at this time of year I’m ready to enjoy the winter season.

Gimli, Manitoba on Lake Winnipeg, Thanksgiving weekend

Ice forming on the Red River, north of Winnipeg

Lester Beach, Lake Winnipeg

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Adventures of Wallace and Angus

O.K., so this is a photo blog, that will deal with landscape, travel and nature photography for the most part.  But, I like many facets of photography, one being photographing my own dogs and any other mutts I come across.  So in the interest of breaking things up a little bit, and keeping things light once in awhile.  I figured it might be worthwhile to chronicle some of the interesting and maybe not so interesting adventures of Wallace and Angus.  Besides, on those really frigid winter days, or when I’m in a creative slump, I can always point the camera in their direction.

Episode 1:  The introduction

Name:  Wallace

Personality:  Laid back, not easily impressed, a creature of habit

Hobbies:  Eating, sleeping, running in the park

Wallace is a 9-year-old Chocolate Lab. mix.  He was a rescue  from the Winnipeg Humane Society, found along a highway west of the city.  In the photo you’ll notice he is missing an eye, due to a year-long battle with a fungal infection known as Blastomycosis.  Other than appearance, the disease has had no long-term effects on his health.  Blasto. has a fairly high level of re occurrence, but after 4 years he is still disease free.

Name: Angus

Personality:  demanding, greedy, center of the universe complex

Hobbies:  Following me everywhere, tracking, rolling in stuff

Angus is a 3-year-old Yellow Lab.   His ancestors were English Labs. bred for hunting, he is strong willed and can be a handful.   Since we are not hunters, he and Wallace travel with us often on photo excursions instead.

Stay tuned for more episodes!

Wooden Piers of Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba

One of my favorite places to photograph is Lake Winnipeg.  It’s close proximity to where I live and shear size, provide endless opportunity for exploration.   It’s the world’s 11th largest freshwater lake, and at times you would swear you’re on the shores of one of the world’s great oceans.  Locals call it the ‘Inland Sea’.  Lake Winnipeg is historically significant to Manitoba, and remains intertwined with the lives of all Manitoban’s to this day.   It serves as a massive reservoir for the large hydroelectric dams in the north, functions as a major commercial fishery, and is lined with thousands of cottages and sandy beaches.   Along the western shore, are Matlock and Dunnottar; cottage towns that are known for the series of wooden piers that line the lake.

The piers are roughly assembled from local timbers.  At first glance you may think they’re scenic, but nothing particularly special about them.  But they are unique; in this part of the world, the lakes freeze solid.  So every freezup the piers are disassembled before  succumbing to the crushing ice.   From what I’ve been told a local craftsmen then uses the wood to make log furniture, and in the spring the whole process starts all over.  When I first learned this, it put a whole new perspective and appreciation on the piers.

It’s impossible to represent an entire province with one type of landscape, you could argue an image of the prairie is more suitable in describing the landscape of Manitoba.   But when I think of Manitoba, it’s images like these of Lake Winnipeg that I always think of.

White Pelicans of Lockport, Manitoba

Only a short drive north of Winnipeg, Canada on the Red River, is the town of Lockport, Manitoba.  Home to St. Andrews Lock and Dam and the majestic American White Pelican, who are routinely seen almost floating in the air as they come in for landing, downstream of the turbulent waters.  The Red River at this location, is renowned for it’s fishing, particularly for the Catfish.  It also provides a very abundant food source for the White Pelican.

There seems to be a reasonable co-existence between local anglers and the Pelicans.  I say reasonable because the few times I have photographed there, an occasional fisherman shows his displeasure with the fact the Pelicans are taking away his potential catch.  More likely frustration over a poor outing, of course I don’t share this view.   Particularly when ten feet away a local fisherman is tossing his unwanted catch right into the mouth of the awaiting birds.  It’s a little like feeding your dogs from your dinner plate daily, which I am very guilty of, by the way; and then expecting that dog to behave perfectly when company comes over.

Coming in for a landing

The ‘Rule Breaker’

When this female moose ran by on a foggy fall morning, in Jasper National Park, I fired off a quick shot.   When I checked my settings, I was instantly disappointed.  Shutter speed was only 1/25 not nearly fast enough to freeze motion, the histogram showed blown highlights and I only managed a single frame.  We went about our morning exploring the shoreline of Maligne Lake, and getting a few interesting images.  When I returned home and viewed this on a large monitor, it began to grow on me.  It seems that when I shot this image I was fortunate to have panned along with the moose, creating a decent motion blurred effect and the head was still relatively sharp.  A skill I don’t often employ, something a Formula 1 race car photographer would be particularly good at.

As a professional photographer, who submits images to stock agencies, it’s very easy to get fixated on the technically perfect image.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t understand as much as possible about the technical aspects of photography, but to me photography is more a craft than anything else.  Part technical and part artistic, of course the latter is always subjective, and you will never stop learning the details.  Many great photographers push the limits, or ‘break the rules’ to produce some awe-inspiring images.  Many won’t tell you how many of their images are absolute failures.  I have had my fair share, that’s for sure, but on this one I got lucky.

Photographic inspiration and a lifelong love of horses

I’m an avid animal lover, particularly dogs.  When I visit someone’s home with a dog, I must admit I’m more drawn to the dog then the people I’m visiting.  Some may consider that strange, but it happens naturally, so there’s not much I can do about it.  Animals just bring a smile to my face, and animal abusers, well I’ll just say, they are the bottom of the barrel in my view.  But that’s a whole other story.

A couple years ago I caught the fascinating documentary of New York Photographer Robert M. Dutesco, as he photographed the wild horses of Sable Island off the east coast of Canada.   I was mesmerized while watching, a fashion photographer in this amazing stark, purely natural environment.  The Sable horses exist with no predators on this isolated windswept island.  They arrived decades earlier, the result of a shipwreck.

For reasons I don’t totally understand, I have always been interested in horses.  Perhaps I think of them as big dogs, I don’t really know why.  I grew up in a city, had virtually no contact with them, until I began photographing them later in life.  In fact I have ridden a horse exactly once, and it was not at all memorable.  The horses I see on the Canadian Prairie and Robert Dutesco’s adventure on Sable Island have inspired me to create some of my own series.

2009 Travel Photographer of the Year finalist, Homeland category

In a shameless attempt at self promotion, I’ve included in this post four of my images that have been shortlisted for the 2009 International Travel Photographer of the Year photography contest.  Needless to say I was surprised to make it this far.  Apparently their are thousands of worldwide entrants, both professional travel photographers and photo enthusiasts.   My images were all taken in the southern Canadian Prairies, three in Manitoba and one in Saskatchewan, and submitted under the Homeland Portfolio theme.  It does say one thing in particular, it’s not always necessary to be in an exotic locale to get a good image.  I think too many of us fail to appreciate what’s in our own backyards.  Who knows, maybe those who are unfamiliar with the Canadian Prairie might actually consider these places exotic; I know in many ways I do.

Honey Bee Hives
Rainstorm over Canola
Twisted Barn
Grain Silos