With the summer fading, Jill and I said our goodbyes to the mountains – and my telephoto lens – and began the trek home to Toronto.
To ease our transition back into city life, we always attempt to find a couple of new adventures on the road home that will give us a wilderness encore. Last year it was Alberta’s Elk Island National Park.
So close to downtown Edmonton, I’ve long marvelled at the fact I’d never paid the park a visit.
After setting up camp, we explored Elk Island, home to one the last remaining pure bred herds of free-roaming plains bison (these animals have helped re-stock and re-introduce the species to areas all over North America over the last 100 years).
While small, it is an impressive oasis amongst the prairie farm fields that border the park on all sides.
By the end of our one and only night in Elk Island, we elected to photograph the sunset at Astotin Lake.
With a thunderstorm approaching from the west (mother nature hates me: this storm freaked me out and chased us from Jasper to Elk Island and even, eventually, to Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba), I questioned what kind of sunset the night would even deliver. But it was a beautiful sky, with the clouds creating a symbolic X to mark the spot of the storm’s approaching fury.
Jill and I set-up and snapped away.
…and changing light kept producing unique shots.
Finally, with the sun disappearing behind the clouds, Jill and a few others, also out to take in the sunset, decided the show was over and left.
Stubbornly wanting to soak in just a few more minutes of the wild, I remained lakeside, photographing the shades of grey the storm clouds were producing in the sky – and in the reflection.
Then, my stalker, a muskrat swam up to the dock from where I was shooting – and while too dark to photograph – gave me a chance to observe and appreciate the strange little creature.
Then a coyote pack from across the lake started to howl.
Then the elk herd, off some way to the north, began to bugle.
It was a perfect setting.
And then the sun returned.
First as a small pinkish hue amongst the clouds…
…the sun began to burn brighter and brighter…
…until developing into a ball of red, pink and purple behind the curtain of ominous clouds.
It was, without question, the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever witnessed.
I could hear other people running behind me, trying to get back to the beach in time to photograph the scene.
But as quickly as the pink ball of fire appeared, it disappeared. The sun had set and darkness was now truly upon us.
That night brought howling winds, torrential rains and vicious lightening. I didn’t sleep a wink, choosing to remain in the safety of the car while Jill, yet again, refused to leave the comfortable, if exposed, tent.
Despite the storm and my subsequent lack of sleep, that sunset will be my enduring memory of Elk Island and one of my favourite series of images I’ve ever captured.