Photography by Royce Howland


Prairie Power

A massive storm system spawns huge cells that surround the city of Calgary, one evening. This one's wild cloud formations catch the last light of day. The scale is immense, towering about a canola field and distant electricity transmission tower. Now that's prairie power! Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Winter in the mountains: icy trails, snow-capped mountains, frosty trees, brisk air. Yep, it's looking a lot like Christmas at the Cave & Basin, near Banff, Alberta. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Prairie Generations

Generations of families have worked the land across the Western prairies: farming, ranching and otherwise bringing in the harvest, made possible by the generative power of the sun, rain and earth. And let's not forget the wind, itself harvested by a new breed of generator, whose blades circle in the air currents that stir the crops below. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Blow Your Top II

Bright light, wind and some wild cloud formations created a dramatic scene over Ex Coelis Mountain on the Kootenay Plains. Looking like doom-and-gloom (hold the gloom), it seemed as if the mountain peaks were erupting into the sky. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Blow Your Top

Bright light, wind and some wild cloud formations create a dramatic scene over Ex Coelis Mountain on the Kootenay Plains. Looking like doom-and-gloom (hold the gloom), it seemed as if the mountain peaks were erupting into the sky. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Keeping a Weather Eye

Spring in the mountains can be a time of unsettled weather, and as the saying goes "bad weather makes for good photography." When I saw this elliptical cloud pattern developing above Abraham Mountain coming on towards dusk, it struck me as a giant eye in the sky. There was a bit of time to go before sunset, so I puttered around while keeping a weather eye on the formation. Fortunately it held in place until the light got more interesting. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

The Outrider

A perfect fall day in the mountains: still air, blue sky, bright sunlight, and a stand of golden aspen. The Icefields Parkway is the highway running between Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff. Some highway – if I stopped every time I saw a gorgeous view, I’d never get anywhere! Now that’s my kind of road. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Foxtail Sunset

As the sun sets to the west, lighting up a distant layer of clouds over the Rockies, a steady breeze tosses the heads of nearby patches of foxtail grass. It makes for an inviting combination of soft colors and textures on a summer evening along the shore of Lake Abraham. Seen after I had packed up to head back to the vehicle, it’s both the final and favorite image I captured that evening. I’m glad I stopped for it. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Red Glow on Blue

Powerful wind gusts whip along the rocky shore of Abraham Lake, early on this summer morning. The warm colors of the rising sunlight wash the overcast skies, and contend with the shadowy blue tones of the earth and water below. In the relative shelter of some trees, I watch the display and manage to stay just enough out of the blasting wind to capture the scene. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Spines of Ice

At the end of several of kilometers of walking up from the base of the Athabasca Glacier is this sight – the icefall, its dense core gleaming a cold blue-green under a coating of crumbled surface ice and rock dust. The glacier, many tens of meters thick, pours slowly over a ridge in the mountainside underneath. As it does, it fractures and calves off pieces of itself ranging from small chunks and plates to huge seracs. The jagged formations look like the spines of some massive dinosaur, extinct as indeed the glacier itself will be likely within my lifetime. That such a volume of millennia-old ice could be gone within years is almost beyond belief, especially when its chill, immense presence has been has been experienced up close. The Columbia Icefield is described as one of two hydrological apexes of North America (the other being in Glacier National Park in Montana). Meltwater from here flows into three separate oceans (Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic). But as the ancient glacier melts, it isn’t being replaced. Its disappearance will have many consequences. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Postcard from the Lake

On a clear, peaceful fall morning, the snow and rock faces of Crowfoot Mountain reflect in the shallow waters at one end of Bow Lake. This iconic stop along the Icefields Parkway is great for many picture-postcard moments. Wish you were here? Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Wave of Color

With mild Fall weather, color moved through the Rockies in a gradual wave this year, rather than a sudden sweep. Some aspen had already lost their leaves while stands nearby were in full color and others were still green. The wave of color swept up the flanks of Cirrus Mountain, cresting where the top of the treeline meets the rugged rock face. In afternoon light, the side of the mountain took on an amazing glow. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Fall Dawn Go Boom

Getting up early on a photo trip, one of the first things I do is have a look at the sky and check the weather satellite imagery if I can. Spotting some great lenticular clouds up top during the pre-dawn check, and seeing on the satellite that the prairies to the east were largely clear of cloud cover, I knew sunrise was almost sure to be fantastic. Nor was I disappointed! Getting to a favorite location looking over Mt. Michener and Abraham Lake, our small group was treated to an amazing explosion of dawn color that went on and on. That'll wake you up! Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Blue Misty For Me

A stiff wind and plunging temperature made for a cold sunrise scene at Abraham Lake one November morning. Mist billowed up from the lake surface, still clear of ice. The rocks held their place, but the water, mist and clouds – barely warmed up by the pale, pre-dawn light – were whipped into long lines and swirling shapes. Fun times, if I could keep the camera steady! Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Blue Dawn On the Rocks

Prior to sunrise at Abraham Lake on an early winter morning, everything looks crisp & cold and the initial photography heads in a blue direction. The past few days, wind moving across the lake has thrown continuous spray against the rocks and old stumps, which quickly develop intricate and strange coatings of ice. Step carefully, or dawn won’t be the only thing on the rocks. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Burning Sky At Peace River

Henry “12 Foot” Davis was a pioneer, prospector and trader in the Peace River region of northern Alberta, back in the 1800’s. He died just after the turn of the century, and his grave site is right at this spot, with a view out over the town and the Peace River itself. One evening during my visit, the winter sky put on a brilliant display over the unusually ice-free water. The overlook at Davis’ grave site, looking towards the confluence of the Smoky and Peace Rivers, was a pretty fine place to watch the show. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Peace On the Blue Water

The blue hour descends – sundown has come & gone, but full night has not yet fallen. Only a few stars are beginning to appear, dimly, nor is the moon yet a factor. The air is mostly still, and nothing else is moving or making a sound. In the cool twilight the faintly glowing mass of Vimy Peak looks even greater than usual, thanks to its reflection on the surface of Lower Waterton Lake. It’s a rare, peaceful time on the lake, and I drink it in. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Duck When You See the Flash

Huge, slow-moving storm cells collide over the city, creating the conditions for nearly continuous blasts of lightning and thunder that last for hours late on a summer Sunday night. In one patch of sky, lightning bolts arc over and over amongst the clouds, creating a strobe-like effect. Natural forces go crazy in an incredible display of light. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Now That's Some Striking Lightning

Huge, slow-moving storm cells collide over the city, creating the conditions for nearly continuous blasts of lightning and thunder that last for hours late on a summer Sunday night. Lightning deep inside the storm illuminates the structure of towering cloud formations from within, even if the lightning bolts themselves aren't visible. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Wind-blown Lupins and Crazy Clouds

Gale-force winds toss the lupins around pretty well, and force the heavy cloud cover into strange, twisted shapes. On my first trip to Iceland, the weather was unusually warm and pleasant, but I was hoping for some dramatic skies. Above the Svínafellsjökull glacier in Skaftafell National Park, I got my wish. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Calico Hills

Landmannalaugar is a region in Iceland’s southern highlands famous for its geothermal pools, lava fields and colored rhyolite mountains. It’s a strange and beautiful place to explore. Late in our visit here this day, clouds began to accumulate in the previously clear blue sky, echoing the snow clinging in calico patches to the warm, many-colored hills. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Calico Hills

Landmannalaugar is a region in Iceland’s southern highlands famous for its geothermal pools, lava fields and colored rhyolite mountains. It’s a strange and beautiful place to explore. Late in our visit here this day, clouds began to accumulate in the previously clear blue sky, echoing the snow clinging in calico patches to the warm, many-colored hills. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Glacier and Mini-bergs

This famous lagoon in Iceland is called Jökulsárlón. It’s at the foot of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, just off the main highway near Vatnajökull National Park. Formed only a few decades ago when the glacier began to recede from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the lagoon continues growing in size due to the on-going glacier melt. The lagoon has as much as doubled in size over the past ~15 years, and eventually a deep fjord may occupy this location. Today, icebergs calve off the retreating ice face and float in the lagoon until they melt down small enough to wash out onto the black sand beach, and then into the ocean beyond. It’s an amazing place to make photographs, or just to stand and wonder about the past and future of this region of ice and water. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Strolling Among the Mini-Bergs

Near Iceland’s Jökulsárlón glacier melt lagoon, there is a much-photographed black beach filled with chunks of ice. Small icebergs calve off of the retreating face of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and float in the lagoon until they melt down to an even smaller size, and can wash through the outlet from the lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean, past a few rocky outcrops on which a lighthouse stands. Many of the mini-bergs get caught on the beach for a time, washing in and out on the tide while they continue melting away. Here a couple of members of our travel group have gone for a stroll looking at another cluster of ice and mini-bergs, gleaming blue-white within the slate grey-green of the overcast conditions. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Devour

On the second of two back-to-back fall day trips to Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park, we enjoyed some great conditions. Good light sparked the vivid colors of the larches, while strong wind currents aloft created endless forms in the clouds. At one point, the wind-blown patterns coalesced into this ghostly face hovering in the sky above Mount Hungabee and the Opabin Plateau. Lake O'Hara is one of the crown jewels of the Canadian mountain park system, and on this day we devoured every minute of our time spent in this brilliant location. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Devour (monochrome)

On the second of two back-to-back fall day trips to Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park, we enjoyed some great conditions. Good light brought out the vivid color & contrast of the surroundings, while strong wind currents aloft created endless forms in the clouds. At one point, the wind-blown patterns coalesced into this ghostly face hovering in the sky above Mount Hungabee and the Opabin Plateau. Lake O'Hara is one of the crown jewels of the Canadian mountain park system, and on this day we devoured every minute of our time spent in this brilliant location. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Sunrise Over Deep Emerald Ice

Daybreak burst overhead on a Christmas morning near Banff. The sun rising behind Mt. Inglismaldie created a rich warm glow on clouds overhead, and brought forth a deep emerald green in the icy surface of Lake Minnewanka. It was a good day to be alive. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Interesting Times On the Road Ahead

Driving along the beautiful Bow Valley Parkway near Lake Louise, I had been keeping my eyes on interesting cloud patterns developing over the mountains to the north. At one point the road dropped away into a curve, and I knew I had found a location to stop in the waning evening light. Providing a view of Mt. Hector, the road turned towards the stormy-looking conditions and gave me the chance to make this composition. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Heavy Weather Coming Fast

At mid-day, massive cloud formations were blowing over the city at tremendous speed, coming from the west. I raced home and grabbed my camera, then drove east to try to get ahead of the system so it would blow towards me. As fast as I could go, I could not catch the leading edge of the clouds I had initially seen. But a new finger extended towards me, coming so quickly that I had to switch to my widest lens and still barely had time to make this photo before the leading edge was directly above. There's a saying that bad weather makes for good photography, and it's true. But 48 hours later the system that came behind this cloud had created violent flash flood conditions across southern Alberta. Many rivers and creeks burst their banks, a state of emergency was declared, and tens of thousands of my neighbors are being evacuated as I write this. The floods have already destroyed roads, bridges and homes, and even resulted in loss of life. This leaves me with dark emotions having documented the start of something so destructive, just 2 days before. It certainly affected my choice of monochrome treatment; in colour the scene looks altogether too cheerful. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Heavy Weather Coming Fast

At mid-day, massive cloud formations were blowing over the city at tremendous speed, coming from the west. I raced home and grabbed my camera, then drove east to try to get ahead of the system so it would blow towards me. As fast as I could go, I could not catch the leading edge of the clouds I had initially seen. But a new finger extended towards me, coming so quickly that I had to switch to my widest lens and still barely had time to make this photo before the leading edge was directly above. There's a saying that bad weather makes for good photography, and it's true. But 48 hours later the system that came behind this cloud had created violent flash flood conditions across southern Alberta. Many rivers and creeks burst their banks, a state of emergency was declared, and tens of thousands of my neighbors are being evacuated as I write this. The floods have already destroyed roads, bridges and homes, and even resulted in loss of life. This leaves me with dark emotions having documented the start a destructive force of nature just 2 days before; yet the scene I initially pictured in colour looks almost cheerful. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Something Wickedly Windy This Way Comes

Looking for fall in the Canadian Rockies during mid-September, conditions seemed less than promising. It was much warmer than usual for the time of year, everything was still green, and water levels in every river, lake, stream and pond were abnormally high. After a few days, however, the weather began to change, and this was a good sign. Not only because the change in weather was due to bring on more normal fall conditions, but because the change itself would create interesting situations. One evening, high winds coupled with broken clouds and a nearly full moon made for a spooky view from the back deck of the lodge -- almost like skipping fall and jumping straight to Halloween! Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Sundown Enchantment

Standing on the edge of Cypress Hills ranching country in Saskatchewan, it’s hard not to be taken in by the view. Layers of rolling terrain, cut through by narrow washes, carry forward until they blend into the flat prairie beyond. The Cypress Hills are like an oasis in the desert, like a ship surrounded by calm waters as far as the eye could see. And on a lucky day, the sky covers these hills in a blanket of light and colour, wrapping everything in the warm glow of a sun that’s falling away over the western horizon. Who could view this and not fall under the enchanting spell of this place? Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Enchantment, Cypress Hills

Standing on the edge of Cypress Hills ranching country in Saskatchewan, it’s hard not to be taken in by the view. Layers of rolling terrain, cut through by narrow washes, carry forward until they blend into the flat prairie beyond. The Cypress Hills are like an oasis in the desert, like a ship surrounded by calm waters as far as the eye could see. And on a lucky day, the sky covers these hills in a blanket of light, texture above to complement the texture below. The display presents the land as a tapestry showing a place from the imagination, encouraging my mind to travel as far as I can dream. Standing and seeing this is to be enchanted. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Does Earth Dream of Sky?

The western Canadian prairies are often described as "big sky country". The earth-bound space is wide open, but so is the huge region of sky above it. The two fit together so well, including in the Cypress Hills which rise up above the surrounding prairies. Some days, the spaces seem to particularly relate to each other, perhaps through echoing shapes, patterns or textures as I found here on this day. The cloud shapes seem almost organic, while the sparse shrubs on the plateau atop this stretch of the Cypress Hills seemed to mimic the cloud formation. Many humans down through the ages have yearned for the sky. It makes me wonder, a bit fancifully in the fall morning light: if the land itself could dream, would it ever dream of being sky? Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Summer Flow

It was a blustery, rainy day in Western Iceland. It seemed that everything was about flow, so I tried to flow with it. Rain was falling on everything, the wind was blowing everything about, river waters rushed over over rocks, and the many tendrils of Hraunfossar waterfall cascaded down the low face of the far canyon wall. The challenging weather meant few compositions could be made in the time available, but I was pleased to achieve at least one that shows something of the texture and vitality of the place. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Mt. Rundle Blues

It was an early winter morning, and conditions were peaceful and quiet all around. Before dawn, we stood on the ice of Two Jack Lake near Banff, waiting for whatever would come. This time is often called the blue hour but we couldn't have been happier to be out in it. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Mt. Rundle Tranquility

It was an early winter morning, and conditions were peaceful and quiet all around. Before dawn, we stood on the ice of Two Jack Lake near Banff, waiting for whatever would come. This time is often called the blue hour but we couldn't have been happier to be out in it. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Crown of Fire

When you chase the light sometimes you catch it, and other times it catches you. One evening we had chased light to the town of Ólafsvík on the north coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. But it was getting quite late, and we headed back before anything significant developed since the group was running on empty. Halfway to our guesthouse on the south coast, we saw the sky begin to catch fire above us. We were traveling a dark, rough, twisty mountain road through the volcanic region of Snæfellsjökull. Picking a spot that afforded some kind of view of a mountainous ridge on the outskirts of the main glacial area, we stopped for a few quick photographs. The chill wind was blowing like mad, the clouds were like flame over the dark lava rocks, and I couldn’t help but think this would be a great location to film a fantastical story. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Raindrops Flowing All Around

Spending three summer weeks in Iceland, I got to experience a record-breaking rainfall for the month of June dating back at least to 1920. Moving around and looking for breaks in the rain, a few minutes here or there often were sufficient to make an interesting photograph. Tucked into a brooding volcanic slope under thick fog and clouds, these old farm buildings were just on the side of the South Coast highway near Kirkjubaejarklaustur. They looked towards a small creek that flowed like a heavier river over some low rapids and falls, taking on more substance thanks to the torrential rain and run-off. A few minutes after this the raindrops began flowing again. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Together Alone

Driving across Gap Road between the West and Centre Blocks of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park provides great views of the ranching country spread across the gently rolling plains that form much of the top of the Cypress Hills region. Add in some summer pre-storm clouds and a solitary subject, and there's the makings of a photograph. Aside from my travelling companion and a few distant cows, I could easily imagine that the old tree and I were together alone, enjoying a companionable silence in the centre of this expansive space. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Dawn Creeps On Little Cat Feet

We went to the iconic Moraine Lake for sunrise, hoping for classic dawn light that would set the Wenkchemna peaks aglow, reflecting in a mirror-like lake surface below. Dawn crept along, but as fate would have it a cloud system to the east blocked the light we had hoped for. Instead, the interesting view was away from the standard over-the-lake direction. Directly behind us, low clouds and fog ebbed and flowed among the trees in the valley, reminding me of the first line of a short poem, "Fog", by Carl Sandburg -- "The fog comes on little cat feet." Normally I'm reluctant to play a stalking game with something feline in the mountains, but this time it was quite okay. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Are You Comin' or What?

In the ranching country of Cypress Hills during summer storm season, the eye rises along the rolling hills and then jumps even higher to take in the building cloud formation of a massive storm cell. Later that evening, this system dumped a tremendous amount of rain and hail on southwestern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta. Before the heavy weather hit, these two donkeys knew to head down and seek shelter. One kept going ahead of the other, but would stop, turn its head, and cock an ear as if to say, "are you comin' or what?" Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Are You Comin' or What?, Cypress Hills

In the ranching country of Cypress Hills during summer storm season, the eye rises along the rolling hills and then jumps even higher to take in the building cloud formation of a massive storm cell. Later that evening, this system dumped a tremendous amount of rain and hail on southwestern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta. Before the heavy weather hit, these two donkeys knew to head down and seek shelter. One kept going ahead of the other, but would stop, turn its head, and cock an ear as if to say, "are you comin' or what?" Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Digging the View

In the prairies and rolling hills of southern Alberta, storms roll over the land like heavy equipment rolls over a road. It can be time well spent just to find a vantage point where you can see the land stretch out around you, sit back, and watch the show. A roadside pullout near a ranch dugout, with a large backhoe parked in the distance, provided just that chance for me one stormy summer afternoon. I really dug the view. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Steamrolling the Hills

Driving along Gap Road one evening, between the West and Centre blocks of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, we crested a hill and saw a wall of cloud from a storm super cell dead ahead. Naturally we hit the brakes, got out, and looked. Realizing the storm front was incredibly massive and coming at us with the speed of a freight train, we quickly made a few photos and then bugged out of there, back the way we came. We didn't want to get steamrolled by whatever was hiding within those clouds. In the end it was a lot of rain and some snow, rather than the violent system we had feared. But it remains one of the most impressive storm cloud formations I've ever seen. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Pause for Reflection

On a fall morning along the shore of a mountain lake, with the sunrise gradually illuminating the sky and the lightest of breezes occasionally playing over the water, the peacefulness is such that you almost dare not breathe. Stay long enough, and the tranquility can ease in and relieve a lot of the stresses of "modern living". Over a century ago, John Muir wrote: "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike." That's true now more than ever. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Rising

Early on some chill mornings at Abraham Lake, there is a certain spot where countervailing wind patterns can trap a volume of billowing mist and low clouds in a stable, circulating flow. The best time to see this is shortly after dawn, just before the sun rises over the mountain ridge on the far side of the lake. Once the sun hits the mist, it burns off quickly; but before that happens, the flowing forms are beautifully lit up. On this morning, we experienced an entrancing series of abstract shapes as well as spirit-like figures cycling up and over in the wind and glowing in the first light of day. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Towards the Forest of the Heart

Out with good friends before sunrise on an early fall morning, they decided to take the left fork of a trail while I took the right fork. The path zigzagged down a section of rolling hills, towards open hillsides and stands of aspen, all cloaked in the rich colours of autumn. Facing west towards the setting, nearly-full moon, I saw a palette of delicate pastel dawn hues develop in the sky overhead. So I stopped to compose a photo along the path, and to watch the progress of the light. There's something about an aspen forest in the fall that warms the heart. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Following After

One winter day while I was leading a photography workshop at Abraham Lake, the wind was so strong that it was virtually impossible for anyone in the group to keep self or camera steady enough for classic, sharp landscape photographs. So I made this photo to illustrate deliberately rolling with windblown, blurred conditions, rather than fighting them. Later I decided I quite enjoyed the composition. It evokes for me the way we follow in the footsteps of others who went before us, occasionally (if we're aware) perceiving a lingering remnant of their past presence within our current circumstances. Who will follow in our footsteps, one day? And what echoes of our passing may they perceive? Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Cold Charred Sea of Ice

The ocean around the coast of Greenland is full of ice cast off from the glacial ice sheet covering most of the country. Small ice, large ice, white ice, blue ice, green ice, black ice, smooth ice, sharp ice, ice that most wouldn't look at twice. And then ice that is monumental, eye-catching, fantastical, breath-taking. Ice so cold it burns to the touch. Ancient ice that burns into the eyes and memory, as it changes and disappears day by day. While based at Tasiilaq, we went out on a small boat over the course of several days. Traveling out amongst these ice bergs is an experience I can never forget. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.

Happiness Is the Blues

While based in Tasiilaq, Greenland for a few days, we spent a lot of time on the water, cruising the coast and fjords. Glacier ice bergs of all sizes, shapes and colours of white, blue and green surrounded us constantly. There are practically no words to describe the frozen kaleidoscope within which we moved in our small boat. I have never been so happy in a boat before or since. Copyright © Royce Howland. All rights reserved.