Bad Medicine

•September 21, 2015 • 3 Comments

Bad Medicine

The previous post showed a photo that I was not counting on. Today’s photo is the roughly what I had intended to be taking.

I say roughly because in previous years when visiting this exact spot the water was much, much lower and what you see now was a small tributary of Maligne River. This year for whatever reason the river seemed to be flowing higher than usual.

Medicine Lake is an interesting one because although a fair sized river flows into it there is no visible outlet. There is however at the north end of the lake, this was taken looking north, a place where on calm days water can be heard dripping into what is supposed to be a vast underground cavern. The rock here is mainly limestone which is very water soluble.

It is believed that there is a large system of yet undiscovered caverns between the lake and the Maligne Canyon, several kilometers away where the water from the lake mysteriously reappears. I am not making that up. I remember reading years ago about a test that was done with dye to see how long it would take or where the water would resurface.

I’ve been visiting this place for as long as I can remember. I recall being in a boat on Medicine Lake fishing with my family. At the time I might have been four or five years old. I do remember that I wasn’t yet in school so that might have been in the late 1950’s.

There was a fire near the lake this summer. I thought that it was only a minor one but while driving to Medicine I was overwhelmed by how far the fire had spread. Some beautiful old cottonwood trees that might have been over a hundred years old had burned down. They were one of my favorite trees to photograph come autumn in Jasper. Now most of them are gone surrounded by standing charred stumps.

In the photo above almost all of the mountain slope on the left is not live forest but what remains of a burned forest. The encouraging thing is that in a few years instead of this land being able to support only a few large ungulates it will be able to support so many more. When the tall forest canopy burns down the undergrowth that returns is lush and thick. That provides more suitable habitat for deer, moose, elk and the few caribou that frequent the region. Populations should be on the upswing there.

The burned forest isn’t pretty but it is healthy for the ecosystem.

Happy shooting,


Autumn in the Canadian Rockies

•September 19, 2015 • 3 Comments

Maligne River Autumn

Autumn is in full tilt in the Canadian rockies.

The colors of fall are bursting everywhere but I was seeing in black and white. That sounds like a contradiction but it actually makes sense.

For years I would make my annual trek to Jasper and Banff to capture the  brilliant yellows and golds that splatter across the Canadian rockies. Like a lot of things in life it got old. That’s not to say that I won’t one day be interested in it again. I am sure that I will but right now my mind is visualizing black and white.

The colors of autumn actually work for black and white photography in some instances. In the photo above for example the trees that center the image are cottonwoods that have turned golden. If they were their summer green they would have blended into the background never to be seen. Here they provide an interesting place for the eye to flow.

Autumn in Jasper and Banff is a pleasant time to  visit. There is so much less traffic than during the peak summer months and so many less people on the trails. I only spoke to one other photographer during my stay one evening while I was waiting for the sun to get lower in the sky near Bow Lake. That is nice because I associate the parks with wilderness and the last thing I want to be doing is getting out of the way of tourists or photographers at my favorite spots.

The morning I took the photo of the Maligne river that sits at the top of this post, I was actually looking in another direction hoping that the skies would favor me. As I waited for my camera to finish it’s five minute long exposure I wandered around looking for anything interesting and to my left my eye was drawn into the gentle curve of the Maligne River. The yellow of the cottonwoods immediately caught my eye and when the five minutes was up I was walking camera in hand towards a better vantage point of the river.

For me black and white photography is more about visualization than color photography is. I am constantly scanning the landscape for shapes because it is the shapes that help move the eye around the image. Areas of an image can be lightened and darkened to pull the view one way or another and that is exactly what I did here.

RAW color

I am posting a copy of the RAW image that reproduces very closely how the scene looked in color. As a color image it would not have worked nearly as well as black and white. Knowing how colors convert to black and white with different filters also helps. Back in the days of film if you wanted intense blue skies a red filter was placed in front of the camera lens. It would darken blues but lighten reds. In this case using a blue filter to manipulate the sky in photoshop made the blues darker and contrast the light clouds.

BTW for those that are curious the exposure here was five minutes long. Just enough to make the clouds more fluid and give the water a metallic look.

Happy shooting,


She’s Got Legs

•August 10, 2015 • 5 Comments

infrared, landscape, farm, rural, Dan Jurak, ethereal, fine art, fineart, black and white, Alberta, rural,

I hadn’t realized until I looked at the date of the last photos I had taken how long it had been since I last picked up my camera.

Today we had a scorcher in central Alberta. A scorcher for us might seem mild to those in hotter climates but when you’re not used to it, it does seem very hot.

On a whim earlier today I grabbed my camera modified to shoot infrared and drove a few minutes out of town to a favorite spot of mine.

This involves parking near an old railway track and walking for about twenty minutes to get to where the trees or shrubs look interesting. At one o’clock in the afternoon the sun was beating down hard on me as I made my way down the tracks.

It seems that infrared landscapes work best when there is direct sunlight or at least that is my experience. I have tried shooting on overcast days when the light was indirect and diffuse and the resulting images looked not only flat but the same as when you fog film. Very hazy and unappealing.

So, for infrared it seems that the time of day that I would NEVER photograph color works best for the IR.

I got to the tree I had in mind and squeezed off a few frames. Shooting in infrared literally is pointing and shooting. The displayed image on the back of my camera is too poor to accurately judge what I am seeing. I bracket five exposures and when I see something I like squeeze five quick frames off to later edit out the too dark or too light pics.

As I was walking back to my vehicle I kept an eye peeled for anything that might have photographic possibilities. The farm land bordering the rail tracks had old fashioned fence posts made of rough hewn poplar it looked like. Nothing fancy here. Just strip the bark off the tree, soak it in copper sulfate to prevent it from rotting and plant it in the ground.

The posts are all different and unique looking. I photographed a bunch of them and processed this one first.

When I take photos I unconsciously am looking for shapes that will fill the frame. After so many years it isn’t something that I think about it anymore instead it is a case of seeing, reacting and moving on.

It was only after I had finished processing this image that I noticed the very feminine shape of the fence post. Do you see it too? She’s got legs this old fence post does.

Happy shooting,


The Old Church in Dorothy, Alberta

•July 23, 2015 • 7 Comments

church, infrared, dorothy, alberta, landscape, badlands, drumheller, Alberta, #explorealberta, infrared, black and white, prairie,

I love to drive in the country. There doesn’t need to be a specific reason because for me it has always been a fun thing to do.

From my earliest memories I can remember sitting in the back seat of the car and peering out the window as the landscape zoomed by. Everything was interesting. Everything was fascinating.

Lately I do this by myself if only because I am retired and I get out whenever the urge strikes to take photos and/or explore. This past Tuesday was different. My two daughters and one of my brothers all had time off from their jobs. After a little planning it was decided to do the three hour drive from Edmonton to Drumheller, Alberta home of the world famous Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology (I had to look up the name because I know it as the dinosaur museum lulz).

The museum is situated in the Red Deer River Valley which courses its way through the Alberta prairie. It really is an amazing place. One minute you are driving across endlessly flat prairie where you can see from horizon to horizon unobstructed and the next you are descending tens of millions of years into the badlands of Alberta where the landscape looks like a scene out of an early western movie. In fact there have been many movies and automobile advertisements shot here over the years.

The last time I brought the kids here they were very young and saw the dinosaur museum through the eyes of children. This time there was talk about phylum and such. Things that they had learned in university. This time it was me who was listening to them explain things and not the other way around. LOL

The museum is a remarkable place and is one of the best in the world, full of dinosaur displays, many of which were excavated from the nearby badlands. A must see for anyone visiting western Canada.

I did bring my cameras along but they were not the primary reason for getting out. In a few years my girls will have their own families and obligations. Do it now or you might never be able to do it again like this.

As always when the kids travel with their uncle and I there is plenty of chatter and laughter. These are the days that memories are made of. Even though my girls are adults my brother still surprises them with bags of treats that make them giggle and squeal like the little girls they once were.

A few kilometers east of Drumheller is a little hamlet named Dorothy. Dorothy, Alberta has an old wooden grain elevator, one of the last standing ones in Alberta, two or three residences and two old churches which are very old. I wanted to drive to Dorothy and show the girls and my brother the churches. They are unlocked during the day and have a donation box for those who wish to help with the upkeep of the churches. While the three explored inside the church I grabbed my infrared camera body and wandered around the old buildings.

Nothing serious in the way of photos today. A few quick snapshots and off we went taking a roundabout way home across some fantastic prairie scenery.

When all is said at the end of a long life all that we are left with are memories and friendships. These are the kind of days that are treasured. A picture might be worth a thousand words but days like today…

Happy shooting,


Busy Busy Busy

•July 7, 2015 • 6 Comments

infrared, landscape, lifepixel, Dan Jurak, prairie, summer, tree, clouds, hills, Alberta, high key,

Two things that I know/feel about photographs.

Simple is best. Less is more.

That’s normally what I think but again rules are meant to be broken.

Here is a busy photograph. It just might be the busiest photo that I have ever posted but I like it.

In a week or two my opinion will probably change.

We have some more scorching weather coming over the next couple of days with a chance of rain for the weekend.

Always looking at the sky.

Happy shooting,



This Old House and the Skunk

•July 5, 2015 • 7 Comments

infrared, landscape, dan jurak, alberta, fineart, black and white, fineart, black & white, prairie, summer,

The Alberta prairie is dotted with hundreds and maybe thousands of these old, abandoned wooden structures.

This one is about an hours drive east of Edmonton where I live.

I first came across it last fall when I was driving back from photographing my favorite church. Taking a different way home can sometimes reveal undiscovered treasures like this one. When I first saw it the grasses around this old house were from waist to chest high and dead. It was autumn after all and most things had gone dormant for the year.

I took a few photos of it if only to remember it for the future. The light was bad and the sky horrible.

This photo was done in infrared which meant that I would not have to be up before dawn or out late just before sunset to catch the best light in color. Nope. With infrared the middle part of the day seems to be the best.

It was about one o’clock in the afternoon and on a hunch I drove out of town. The skies at that time were perfectly clear. Not usually a good thing for the kind of landscapes that I like. Because on previous days the cloud had started to form around noon I figured that if I got lucky the clouds would just be forming by the time I had gotten to the house and I was lucky. They had.

Just out of sight behind me was a sun dried skeleton of what I think was a moose lying in the tall grass. I never saw a skull so I wasn’t sure but it was a large mammal. Maybe an elk if not a moose? Beside the house the faint odor of underarms. As the wind blew I would catch scent of it. A skunk maybe?

Sure enough a few feet from the door of this old building lay the remains of a skunk. Maybe it had been shot or did it die a natural death? I dunno. What kills skunks?

Happy shooting,


The Delights of Walking the Less Traveled Trails

•July 4, 2015 • 5 Comments

infrared, landscape, fineart, black and white, black & white, Dan Jurak, prairie, summer, pasture, farm, trail, road, leaves, trees, poplar, dreamy, ethereal,

Summer is here. I am retired. Banff and Jasper National Parks are only a three or four hour drive from where I live and yet I choose to stay close to home. Oh sure, I will make it out there but more for a change of scenery than to take photos.

It is easy to see the obvious. Too easy. Stand at the viewpoint at Peyto Lake in Banff and you can’t help but be impressed. A turquoise lake nestled against a tall mountain range. Wow. I’ve taken that photo as have millions of others. It is a photo not to be missed. Add it to your trophy wall of world class landscape locations.

After a time the obvious starts to become old. If you haven’t photographed it before you no doubt have seen hundreds of others like it. It is time to start looking. Really looking around yourself and seeing what you have been ignoring all these years.

The world of infrared is kind of like that. There is a whole world unseen and to be discovered in the infrared.

Summer is probably the best time of year in Alberta to do infrared photography. Even though it has been dry here there is so much green and green goes white when shot with a camera modified for that kind of photography.

On the same afternoon that I photographed the church in the previous post I was aimlessly driving side roads looking for anything that would catch my eye. As I dipped into a small river valley and came out on the opposite side  I saw a small road leading through poplar trees into a cattle pasture. To the eye it looked unremarkable. To my mind it had possibilities. All that green foliage which was in shade might go white. The blue sky would become black. The clouds up in that sky would jump out against the darkness.

So I stopped the Rav, grabbed the infrared Nikon and did a bunch of grab shots. No tripod. No thinking about what I was doing just look through the viewfinder, frame what was interesting and snap away.

When doing this kind of photography the display on the camera back is almost useless. The image is a dark pink. I can’t tell accurately how it will convert so my main concern is to get the composition right. That I can do through the viewfinder.

lifepixel, infrared, RAW, landscape,

I have a preset in my RAW converter that I made up so that I can one click the RAW and get an accurate idea how the final might look. It is then I do most of my editing. I edit a lot because I bracket these photos heavily. Metered light is not the same as infrared light. What the meter might indicate one day could be over or under exposed so for every scene I take five identically bracketed shots weeding out the too dark and too light ones.

If you haven’t thought of infrared you really should. It shows the world in a whole different light. Literally.

Happy shooting,


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