A Frozen Landscape: Winter in Elk Island National Park

I don't take the privilege of living so close to Canada's wild places for granted. Every moment in nature is a fleeting gift.

In late January, I spent a few days in Alberta's Elk Island National Park attempting to photograph the resident bison herds in the frigid landscape they call home. Though my bison shots fell short of what I hoped for, I came away with some atmospheric, pastel-colored images of the vast, winter landscape. Day one was a a bit of a bust, but by day two a freezing fog had rolled over the land, crusting all the tree branches with a thin layer of ice that lingered for two days. The fog hovered, and kept a lot of the light out, but on the first evening, my efforts (hours of trudging through two feet of snow on frozen lakes) were rewarded when the faintest hues of pink were allowed to creep in on the horizon, just beneath the freezing fog. It was just enough to color the atmosphere. 

During the earliest hours of day three, I had the privilege of observing several elk, both bulls and cows, sharing an open meadow with several bison. Unfortunately, the elk and bison had both moved quite far away and into the woods before there was enough light to photograph them. If I had tried to approach, the skittish elk of Elk Island would likely have been frightened by the sound of my footsteps crunching through the hard snow. I thought it best not to stress them during this lean time of year when food is scarce. I then turned my attention to the frosted trees and frozen lakes. 

 Freezing fog cloaks the forest in ice during a soft pink sunset at Astotin Lake (Nikon D750, 200-500mm f5.6 VR)

Freezing fog cloaks the forest in ice during a soft pink sunset at Astotin Lake (Nikon D750, 200-500mm f5.6 VR)

 Out for a family walk on frozen Astotin Lake (Nikon D750, 200-500mm f5.6 VR)

Out for a family walk on frozen Astotin Lake (Nikon D750, 200-500mm f5.6 VR)

 A bison grazes by the forest edge (Nikon D750, 200-500mm f5.6 VR)

A bison grazes by the forest edge (Nikon D750, 200-500mm f5.6 VR)

 Hoar Frost covers tree branches on the boreal plain (Nikon D750, 24-120mm f4 VR)

Hoar Frost covers tree branches on the boreal plain (Nikon D750, 24-120mm f4 VR)

 Hoar Frost covers tree branches on the boreal plain (Nikon D750, 200-500mm f 5.6 VR)

Hoar Frost covers tree branches on the boreal plain (Nikon D750, 200-500mm f 5.6 VR)

Read my guide to Elk Island National Park here. Find out what's in my camera bag here.