Drumheller Valley and Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta

by Al Mierau
May 26, 2011


Hoodoos just east of Drumheller by Al Mierau ©

Hoodoo formation approximately ten minutes east of Drumheller adjacent to highway 576. Camera: Pentax K7 with Sigma 18-200mm lens. F11 at 1/350- ISO400.

Every long weekend in August, since 1995, my wife and I have camped at Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located approximately 60km north east of Brooks, Alberta. The park location should not not to be confused with the Royal Tyrrell Museum that is located north west in the City of Drumheller, Alberta. When skeleton finds occur in Dinosaur Provincial Park they are examined and studied at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller.

Panorama of the Badlands by Al Mierau ©

A panoramic view of the badlands along highway 576 at 7:44am. Twelve vertical images were taken with a hand held Pentax K7 camera, Sigma 18-200mm lens set at 26mm, ISO200, F8 aperture priority mode. The images were then stitched together in Panorama Studio 2 Pro and a slight level adjustment was done in Photoshop Elements 7.

View of Dinosaur Park by Al Mierau ©

A typical view from the campground at Dinosaur Provincial Park. Camera: Pentax K10d- lens Sigma 18-200mm. ISO100. Time: 2:54pm. Tripod: Manfrotto with quick disconnect head.

The area features hoodoos, cottonwoods, wildlife that includes over 160 species of birds, and dinosaur fossils. Over the years 40 species of dinosaurs have been found, including at least 300 complete skeletons. Some of the park area is accessible only by mini bus excursions provided by the park service guides. This is in the areas that have been set aside for paleontologist's to work. Other areas not protected are accessible by hiking from the campground. Off road type vehicles are not allowed. Temperatures during summer months can easily reach 30 to 40 degrees Celsius. Proper head gear for shade and an ample supply of drinking water are a must if one is venturing out during peak daylight hours. A word of caution here; the soil in this area tends to become very slippery after a rain or heavy dew. Be sure to wear proper footwear when hiking in this area. There is no cell phone coverage in this area. Photography of the various formations is best during evening hours, or just before sunrise. During those times the orange of the late afternoon light will accentuate the colour in the rock formations.

Dinosaur park evening by Al Mierau ©

A view to the north and the sun is setting behind the photographer at 6:40pm. Camera: Pentax K10d- lens Sigma 18-200mm. ISO100 Tripod: Manfrotto with quick disconnect head.

Dinosaur Park after sun down by Al Mierau ©

The same view, only at 7:20pm. You can see the importance of getting this type of shot before the sun disappears behind the hills. There is a dramatic change of lighting and sometimes the lighting can change in several minutes.

People walking through Dinosaur Park by Al Mierau ©

You don't have a high end SLR? Take along your small digital. With proper precautions one can come away with good quality images. Here we are hiking in an authorized area. Fossils can be found here but are not to be removed. Camera: Canon Power Shot SX100 IS set to "auto". Time 11:08am.

Typical view of Badlands by Al Mierau ©

This is another typical view along one of the hiking trails when we chose to take along a smaller camera. Camera: Canon Power Shot SX100 IS on Program mode. ISO80, F4 at 1/1250th second. Time: 11:13am. If one takes proper precautions you can come away with good quality images without having to haul heavier gear and lenses on these hikes.

Mule deer by Al Mierau ©

Deer are common in the campground area and will graze on any vegetables left on picnic tables. Camera: Fuji Fine Pix F200EXR in landscape mode setting.

The topography of this region is well suited for HDR photography so be sure to take along a good quality tripod even though most of us do not like to carry one. Even if you are not into HDR photography, a tripod is one of the single most important camera accessories you can make use of when photographing in this region. I tell my students it is just as important as a good quality lens. If you are going to be doing slow shutter speed work also take along a remote release to trip your shutter. When you are considering purchasing a tripod I recommend you take your camera, with favorite lens, to a professional camera shop. That last thing you ever want to buy is a flimsy low cost tripod at your local grocery store. Have them mount your camera on several tripods for your evaluation. A good quality tripod will be in the $200 range. If you want the same quality in carbon, ( sturdy, but very light weight), you are then in the $400 range. A good quality head will also set you back around $200.

Badlands facing north by Al Mierau ©

A typical view facing north east at 6:38am, just before the sun peaks over the formations to my left. This is one of those times when the camera does not see what the human eyes see. In situations like this HDR is called for. Three images were taken, setting the camera for normal exposure, +2EV, +0 EV and -2EV (EV is an acronym for exposure value). This image above is the normal exposure image - 0EV. The three RAW images were then combined with Photomatix Pro4. (see image below). Camera: Pentax K10d-lens Pentax 12-24mm SMC DA, Manfrotto tripod. Aperture priority mode f8.0 and ISO100.

HDR of Badlands by Al Mierau ©

The HDR final. This is very close to what my eyes perceived that morning, especially the golden light on the formations to the right and foreground.

August 18, 2007. A violent electrical storm occurred in this region. For approximately three hours we were treated to
an awesome display of natures fury. Since it was not raining we decided to set up our tripods and camera gear.
The image above was taken at 11:23pm and has not been processed in any editor except to reduce the size.
Camera: Pentax K10d. Lens- Sigma 18-200 at 22mm. ISO800. F3.5 - 10 second time exposure in manual mode. Manfrotto tripod with shutter cable release.

Lightening in Badlands by Al Mierau

11:23pm. Untouched image. F3.5 - 10 seconds in manual mode.

Al Mierau


Al spent many years photographing residential and commercial structures in the three western provinces. His images have been published in Gardens West, Air Canada, Grandfather, and Heritage Canada magazines. Al and his wife are retired, and reside in Saskatoon, SK.


To view more of Al's images visit: almierau.jalbum.net

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