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“Never take your eye off the bull”

During rutting and calving seasons in the Fall and Spring, the number of elk sightings increases around The Banff Centre. Open spaces like the green space in front of the music building allow them to see potential predators coming from a distance while keeping their backs to a wall to minimize surprise attacks. It’s a good place to be.

This is no joke. Illustration by Kristy Davison.

This is no joke. Illustration by Kristy Davison.

Twenty years ago, the elk invasion had become so serious that a TBC Elk Action Plan was hatched. Options discussed with wardens included removing large trees to prevent pedestrians from being surprised by hidden elk, installing temporary electric fences, and placing canisters of artificial wolf scent in the woods surrounding the Leighton Studios.  Security at the time offered to ferry nervous staff or visitors through elk herds to other buildings on campus.

Things have calmed down since then, but I had caught a hot tip that our campus cowboys were wrangling the herds using only a hockey stick with a garbage bag tied to it and I felt compelled to investigate what sounded too good to be true. Crossing my fingers, I called up Alasdair “Grif” Griffith and Chris Furlan from Security who were prepared to divulge some of their tried-and-true tactics for cajoling the creatures off campus.


The Security team was quick to correct my misconception about the hockey stick.

“It’s a rake we use, not a hockey stick,” Grif said as he pulled said tool out of the back of the security van. The rake, a remnant pilfered from grounds crew’s throw-away pile, has half of its tines missing and handle sawed or broken off, and is wrapped in a green garbage bag. The handle is covered in duct tape for added grip and greater protection from splinters.

“I mean, the [park] wardens use a hockey stick and it’s the same principle. It’s just that the rake, it’s got more area. And so you can sometimes make a bigger or a louder noise with it,” Chris explained.

“So you think the rake is better than the hockey stick?” I asked.

“In my opinion, anyways.”

“I think it is, yeah,” Grif chimed in.

Wardens, take note.

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Paul Zizka: Chasing the aurora

Local mountain landscape and adventure photographer Paul Zizka gives us a look at the amazing aurora display of June 1, 2013 in Banff National Park.

One of Paul Zizka’s aurora borealis photos, shot at Herbert Lake, north of Lake Louise.

All aurora nights start with the same intention. “Oh I’ll just get out for an hour and be in bed by midnight…” Somehow I keep getting caught up taking in the celestial displays and end up staying out for much later than that.

Some shows warrant not going back to bed at all. The night that ended the month of May and kicked off June was one of those nights. The aurora danced for hours, filling up most of the Banff National Park sky at times, and often with a fantastic array of color. The only reason I went to bed that night was that eventually the sun rose and washed out the spectacle. We all wished the darkness would never end.

Many folks were caught by surprise, since the display didn’t get much hype prior to happening (unlike some previous events that were the rage on the major news networks). Much of western Canada was also blanketed in clouds, so many decided not to take their chances.

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On Photographers’ Time in the wilderness

A butterfly takes a time out on a tourist bus hubcap, and, below, a pika has a snack by the Consolation Lakes. Photos taken by Mark Louie in the 2012 Banff Wilderness Photography Workshop.

 Skies are clear and the morning is cold on our first full day of the 2012 Banff Wilderness Photography Workshop. I am feeling very fortunate to attend as a Banff Centre staff member who has worked as an administrator with artists for the past seven years. Our small group of participants and faculty meet in the parking lot, each one of us loaded with gear: camera bodies (plural); lenses:  fish-eye, macro, zoom, wide-angle, telephoto (Gus from Canmore has a lens wrapped in camouflage that approximates a bazooka); tripods; filters; memory sticks; secure digital cards; and laptops.  Continue Reading →

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Ice caves, adventure racers, night climbing

Last year, we made a few changes to the popular Banff Mountain Photography Competition. Instead of asking amateur and professional photographers to send in great individual mountain-themed photos, we asked them to send in photo essays, in a maximum of seven frames. We got more than 80 submissions, and put them in front of our three judges, Don Lee, who heads up The Banff Centre’s photographic department, and Alberta-based photographers Craig Richards and Dianne Bos.

“A good photo essay must be able to tell a story, even without text,” Don told us, after the finishing this year’s jury process. “Each image should be strong enough to stand on its own while at the same time it should blend with the other images to create something that’s even stronger or more interesting. Similar to a written story, there should be a strong start and finish, with the images in the middle working to fill out the essay, and just because a maximum of seven images are allowed, that doesn’t mean that seven images should be used if five will tell the story.”

Don shared a selection of several of the really strong finalists in this year’s competition:

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