Sunday, January 29, 2017

As Cold as Ice....Images from the International Ice Carving Competition at the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival 2017

After my not so successful attempt in photographing the ice sculptures at the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival last year, due to weather and timing, I made sure I had enough time and opportunity to capture them in their full glory this year.

What a venue, what a location, what amazing art!
Below the entry to the ice sculpture competition, framed by the majestic Rockies and Victoria glacier.

Every 3rd weekend in January ice carvers from all over the world meet here to compete. Ten teams of two, that are specifically invited for this event, transform 15 300 lb blocks of ice into a sculpture that represents a given competition motto.
This years motto, on the occasion of Canada's upcoming birthday:
"Canada - True North"

The rules are hard, the ice is cold, the time is short...

Intrigued about what "Clinebell" sculpting ice is, I did some research, this is what I found on the companies website: 

Pretty cool, literally....just imagine the logistics of getting 150 300lb blocks of ice situated....

Altogether I visited the festival 4 times during the few days I stayed in the area. The first time Sunday night, right after the competition had ended. And I was just blown away.....
Please click on the images to appreciate the details!

"Training Day" by Team Biasas won 1st place and the people's choice award this year.  The brothers Antonio and Ross Biasas, from the Philippines, delivered an amazing piece of art. Unfortunately the sculpture was located in a spot where it was extremely difficult to photograph it properly. I tried my best but feel I could not do it justice. It shows in unbelievable detail a mother bear catching fish swimming in a river, with her cub on the shore trying to copy the mothers hunting habits, while being challenged by what I believe is an eagle.

From the single scales on the multiple fish to the bubbles in the water and the intricate feathers of the eagle, the details are just mind blowing!

"Ancestral" by Team Russian Bears came in second.

The sculpture by Eduard Ponomarenka and Valeriy Batalov is very imposing and impressing

Clear forms and an exact execution make for a deep impact.

Team Jelgava made 3rd place with this monumental sculpture.

With "Memories of the North" Karlis Ile and Maija Puncule from Latvia created an epic piece of temporary art.

Looking at the sculpture from this angle one can indeed imagine how these majestic creatures roamed the area, they fit in just perfectly!

The Carvers Choice award went to another remarkable sculpture, "Lone Bison" by Team Ice Choppers. Even more remarkable that this was just a team of one, Don Lowing from the USA!

Again, a sculpture with lots of detail and meaning...

While I was strolling back and forth between the sculptures, I ran into this gentleman, a different kind of sculpture, but nevertheless, he caught my attention.  Honoring the Canadian Pacific Railway Swiss guides centennial this statue is dedicated to the memory of the Swiss mountain guides and was put in place in October 1999. He didn't have an eye for the sculptures, though, his mind was on the mountains....

Back to the ice...apart from the winners there were more extraordinary sculptures that are worth mentioning.

"Northern Roots" from Team Scott & Kee, (Scott Harrison, USA and Kee Gawah, Sweden/Malaysia) depicting an imposing dream catcher, is another example of intricate and detailed craftsmanship.

The artists' statement about this artwork sure helps taking in the full meaning of the sculpture and the thought process behind it.

"Northern Descent" shows us one of Canada's' signature bird in an iconic way

Team Frozen Art, Dean Murray and Edwin Hutchison from the USA, absolutely living up to their team name!

I just had to play with light and detail on this one...

Last but surely not least, my favorite sculpture of the competition.

"The Guardian" by Team Sakha, Egor Stepanov and Alexey Andreev from Russia, Republic of Sakha. These two won the Carver's Choice Award as well as the People's Choice Award last year with their sculpture " The Beloved Blue Shore". 

Majestic, elegant and and just stunningly beautiful.

I wish I would know the idea behind this sculpture...a Native Canadian version of Lady Liberty, holding a maple leaf in her hand, standing on a moose/caribou guarding Canada...that would be my interpretation...

Tips for visiting the International Ice Carving Competition at the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival:

During the actual competition one needs to buy tickets to visit the site, the tickets are available at the Banff/Lake Louise website.
If you are not a friend of crowds, just wait until about 5.30 on Sunday, or any time thereafter on the weekdays following the competition weekend. Entry is free and way less people are around....
For twilight and night photography you will need a tripod!
The sun hits the area only between about 10 am to 11.30 am during this time of the year. Visiting the ice carvings during an overcast day is rather frustrating, as they just don't show as well. If there is no sun in the forecast, go at night!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fall Wolves

Fall is such a wonderful season here in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I've visited the wolves at the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre twice already to get some wolf/fall images. Both times, however, it rained.....

But I came prepared and the overcast wet weather had it's good sides.
First of all it brings out the fall color.

Please feel free to click on the images to enlarge them.

 Secondly, where there is rain there are puddles, big puddles....

The wolves loved to play in the water,

and once they settled, the calm water showed their amazing reflections.

Thirdly, I have so much fun with the wolves, no matter the weather!!

And finally, I have a valid reason to come back, right?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Svalbard Part II

Good things come to those who wait....;-)
It was quite a busy fall, but as promised, here part 2 of the Svalbard adventure:

The top map shows where about Svalbard is located and the bottom map shows our particular trip (the highlighted locations are the ones featured in this blog). Due to the very mild winter and an early and comparatively warm spring almost all of the ice was gone and we could circumnavigate the island.

For those of you who want a quick refresher to Svalbard, Part I, click here.

Day six brought us to the area of Worsleyneset, where the exploration of Villa Oxford and an extended hike was planned. Finding an old hut called Villa Oxford certainly peaked my curiosity....A Norwegian hunter by the name of Hilmar Nøis built a few huts in the area, his first one was called the "Texas Bar". With this kind of wit he also put an old transport box to good use and built "Oxford Villa". The box originally carried airplane parts for an English expedition, with the goal to carry out the first aerial photography over this part of Svalbard. The leader of the expedition was George Binney from....Oxford! This hut was built in 1924 and it is in excellent condition.

Just as we had our first peaks around the hut, a very exciting radio call came in....there was a polar bear in the vicinity...
We jumed back into the Zodiacs...

and everybody was looking forward to see a polar bear up and close.

And here he was...

We followed the bear for most of the remaining morning. It was interesting to watch a bear so close and observe his behavior. A moving zodiac and the collar though were not the best conditions for stunning wildlife photography ;-)

In the afternoon we headed to Monacobreen, breen stands for glacier in norwegian, and this glacier was named after Duke Albert I. of Monaco, who mapped the glacier in 1906/7.

As we left the ship, the weather did not look too promising, but this outing ended up being one of my favorite ones of the whole adventure.

Blue sky came through and illuminated the most amazing icebergs I've ever seen.

A bearded seal chillin' on an ice float.

Here a GIF of a "mini" calving of an iceberg, caught from a moving and rocking Zodiac as we were passing by.

Ice sparkling...

...and amazing reflections!

As always, please click on the image to see them in more detail!

After this excursion it was hard to go back "home".

The following day the sea was a bit rough which worked out perfectly as we had planned to check out  Sallyhamna on the east side of the Fair Haven strait, which was named so by 17th century whalers for it's convenient navigation conditions. Sallyhamna itself is a little bay protected by a peninsula, so the waters here were nice and calm.

The whalers have left the remains of their doings in the form of several blubber ovens and graves. This dwelling shown here was built by Waldemar Kræmer, who named the place after his wife Sally who joined him occasionally here.
The hut is built on top of an old blubber oven with a whaler's grave inside...shudder!!
Searching for a remote vacation cabin?

Beautiful turquoise icebergs took our attention away from blubber ovens and graves, and let us, at least for periods at a time, forget, that icy rain was hitting us from the side...

The Black Guillemot and the

Barnacle Goose were quite oblivious to the weather.

After a hearty lunch we were out again, this time to visit Smeerenburg..."Blubber town"...
Smeerenburg was was one of the largest and is now one of the best known whaling stations.  At it's peak around the 1620's, seven Dutch companies and one Danish company with up to 200 men stayed at Smeerenburg during the short summer months. Smeerenburg is also the the site of the first, intentional, wintering of Europeans on Svalbard. . A guard of seven men succesfully wintered here from 1633 to 1634, the very following year though, none of the seven guards survived...

Wind and weather took away most of the dwellings, but some artifacts are remarkably well preserved.

For me the best part of the landing was, that we could head out for an extended walk, which gave ample opportunity for macro photography, away from blubber ovens and a grim whaling history.

Feather with rain drops

Artifacts with rocks

Droplets on purple saxifrage

On day 8 we landed at Ny London in the morning...
Two huts and lots of artifacts are telling a story typical for Spitzbergens' mining "gold rush". Between 1910 and 1913, the NEC (Northern Exploration Company) invested a lot of money in trail mining here, in the hope to find large quantities of high-grade marble.

And they found marble, but in such a low quality, that it was not worthwhile to exploit it. In this time though up to 70! men worked and lived there during the summer months. hence it is one of the most extensive sites of cultural heritage in Svalbard.

Later Ny London was used by overwintering hunters and trappers. Now it is taken care of and used by the scientists and people from across the bay, Ny Alesund, for scientific and recreational purposes.

To visit this site was a real treat, as we not only had the chance to photograph all the artifacts, but we also went out for a long hike.
Below a panorama taken from the highest point, overlooking parts of Kongsfjord. Please feel free to click on the panorama to see it in greater detail.

We also witnessed two juvenile reindeer playing, they were so immersed in their playing that they didn't even mind us.

In the afternoon we went on a Zodiac cruise to the 14th July Glacier, named by afore mentioned Duke Albert I. of Monaco. He also mapped this area and took the liberty to name a few places in his favor. This glacier is named after Bastille Day, a national French holiday.

The glacier was magnificent but the winds pushed heavy waves into the bay and photographing from the Zodiac was quite a challenge.

An Atlantic Puffin, taking off...

Our last day lead us to Alkhornet. And in typical Spitzbergen summer manner, the name-giving horn-shaped mountain was covered in fog.

Huge Kittiwakes and Guillemot colonies fertilized the tundra around the mountain and a surprisingly dense and versatile vegetation is thriving here through the mild summer months.

Tufted Saxifrage

And the lush vegetation of course attracts the reindeer.

With this peaceful image of a reindeer grazing next to a gurgling small waterfall our adventure concluded and we headed back to Longyearbyen and civilization. 


Maps: Courtesy of One Ocean Expeditions

All my historical and geological references are from Rolf Stange's book: Spitsbergen - Svalbard, which is available in English as well as in German. This is THE comprehensive book for anyone interested in Svalbard!

A very good read is also Christiane Ritter's book "A Woman in the Polar Night" by an Austrian painter Christiane Ritter, who spent a whole year (1933/34) in a hut on Spitzbergen's north coast together with her husband and another companion. Well written and spell binding! 
Für meine deutschen Freunde, am besten im Orginal lesen: "Eine Frau erlebt die Polarnacht".