sábado, 27 de julio de 2013

A Virtual Tour of Red Rock Coulee

By Dr. Robert Berdan 

A photographer enjoys the sunset at Red Rock Coulee in Southeast Alberta

Red Rock coulee is located in south east Alberta and is one of the most fascinating spots to visit and photograph. I have revisited this site many times and the challenge each time is to see and photograph something different. In this article I share some of my favourite sunset and sunrise photographs and some images taken under softer overcast light. The coulee supports a wide variety of wildflowers and wildlife such as mule deer, pronghorn antelope, rattle snakes, scorpions and short horned lizards. The area's birds include lark buntings, horned larks, grasshopper sparrows, western meadowlarks and nighthawks. But, it's the geology that is really interesting and I liken the place to the planet mars except of course for the plant and animal life. View map to location.

When photographers visit a location we can't control the weather or lighting. We can get up early and visit during sunrise or sunset, but there is no guarantee the lighting will be great. The thing to do then is work with what you have and look for alternative possibilities. I have even waited until dark and then experimented with light painting on the rocks.

If you plan to shoot at sunset or sunrise a tripod is an essential accessory along with a neutral density grad filter. I usually use a 2 stop hard edge grad filter when photographing on the prairies, Alternatively you could bracket your exposures and then combine them to create a high dynamic range photo (HDR) - something I am experimenting more with these days since one of my lenses such as the Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8 lens won't accept filters without an expensive filter holder.

Sunset at Red Rock Coulee - 2 Stop neutral density grad filter, additional grad filter added using Adobe Camera RAW

Moon setting over Red Rock Coulee - this photograph was taken while I was waiting for the sunrise around 4:30 am.

Warm evening light over Red Rock Coulee with the Sweet Grass hills in Montana visible in the distance.

Sunrise at Red Rock Coulee - 2 Stop Neutral density grad filter 12-24 mm /f4 lens.

Concretions emerging from the ground - the softer soil is washed away exposing the large harder concretions.

Woman in a circle (Donna Berdan) resting on a split concretion gives a sense of scale.

Pastel colours on hillside in Red Rock Coulee in morning sidelight.

Map lichen growing on small rock - overcast soft light 60 mm macro lens

Gumbo Evening Primrose flower (Oenothera caespitosa) - 60 mm Macro lens. These flowers vary from white to pink.

Service berry growing around a split concretion. I like to crop the sky out of the picture if its overcast.


Serviceberry, Saskatoon Berry, Western Serviceberry, Alder-Leaf Shadbush, Dwarf Shadbush, Western Juneberry are some of the names for this small flowery shrub in Red Rock coulee. (Amelanchier alnifolia). Found on rocky, dry slopes and well-drained thickets.

Cushion Milk-Vetch (Astragalus triphyllus) are rare and among the first to bloom in spring - photographed in May.

Shooting stars grow in clusters along the rim for Red Rock Coulee in spring (Dodecatheon pulchellum ) 60 mm macro lens.

Smooth Bluebeard-tongue (Penstemon nitidus ) 60 mm macro lens.

Sometimes called scrambled eggs, Golden Corydalis (Corydalis aurea) is an early blooming flower that flourishes on newly broken ground.

Backlit Prairie crocus flowers (Pulsatill ludoviciana) are common in spring around the top Red Rock coulee

Old man's whiskers (Geum triflorum) growing in the grass around the rim of the Coulee - pictures like this with fine detail often look much better when enlarged so the viewer can see the tiny blades of grass and flowery whiskers.

Prostate Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) growing over rocks is common in the coulee.

Cracked sloping shale sand, 60 mm macro lens.

Closeup view of Lichen (Xanthoria sp) found growing on most of the concretions.

Sunset Red Rock Coulee - 2 Stop Neutral density grad filter 20-35 mm zoom lens at f/16.

Self portrait with 10.5 mm fisheye lens. In this location the concretions are lined up almost side by side forming a wall.


Virtual Tours - to view click on the photograph or the link below to view 360 VR spherical movies (requires Flash or HTML 5)


All of these spherical movies were made during heavy overcast - I plan to return soon and photograph more panoramic movies under sunny conditions.

To view interactive 360 spherical movie in full screen mode - Click HERE

To view interactive 360 spherical movie in full screen mode - Click HERE

To view interactive 360 spherical movie in full screen mode - CLICK HERE

To view interactive 360 spherical movie in full screen mode - CLICK HERE

I find the geology, plant and animal life to be fascinating in Red Rock Coulee. The fact that relatively few people know about the area and even fewer folks visit is in part what I find so attractive. I have yet to photograph here in winter but it's in my plans. If you do visit, you can stay in Medicine hat and then drive about 40 minutes to this unusual reserve or if you are the hardy type, you can camp in a tent, your car or bring a small trailer. There is not a lot of parking space, but then I have rarely seen more then 2 or 3 cars parked in the lot. The best times to photograph are morning and evening when its still cool, after 10 am in summer temperatures can reach 37°C or higher. If it rains you will want to walk along the upper edge of the coulee where there is grass and avoid walking anywhere there is mud. There are a few animals to watch for notably rattle snake, scorpians, and short horned lizards. Even if you visit and its overcast its still possible to bring home nice photographs. RB

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