My son and I were in Banff for the weekend and went out for a drive along the Vermilion Lakes just before sunset on Saturday night. We stopped at the first lake to watch the colors deepen on the face of Mount Rundle as the sun was going down. Another photographer, Grace Chen visiting from Calgary, asked me where the moon would be rising. I had to admit that I didn’t know – I hadn’t done any planning as Kian and I were water sliding all afternoon and the drive was a last-minute decision. I was quite surprised when I next looked in the viewfinder and saw a sliver of white rising behind the mountain! It was fun to point at the peak as a response to her question.
The moon climbed quickly, becoming steadily brighter and I finished shooting less than half an hour after first seeing it. The sunlight on the mountain moved from deep yellow to a beautiful red while the sky steadily darkened. It was not quite a full moon, being at 98%, but was still bright and wonderful.
Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 2000
I spent one morning in Banff on the weekend and came across a male Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) along the Bow Valley Parkway. He spent some time in one roadside meadow chewing on a everything green he could see.
Canon 5DII and 70-200mm lens at 122mm: 1/250 second at f/4 on ISO 800
Before long, he crossed the road and then headed into the trees leaving a group of vehicles and their occupants behind. I hoped he was heading towards a larger meadow about a mile east and drove there to wait and see.
Canon 5DIII and 70-200mm lens at 149mm: 1/1000 second at f/4 on ISO 2000
Apparently the dandelions and lush vegetation were calling him and after not too long a wait he strode out of the forest and continued chowing down. He stayed there for more than an hour, disappearing briefly a couple of times before finally heading deeper into the shadows.
Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/500 second at f/4 on ISO 1600
Although winter felt slow to leave, the greenery now seems abundant and makes me hopeful this bear and the other animals in the park will enjoy a long summer feast.
Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 1000
Just off Lake Minnewanka there was a small herd of Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) grazing along the side of the road. They were a mix of mothers, kids and young rams. All told there were less than fifteen animals stretched over a hundred or so meters. With the worsening weather, they looked to be a somber group and showed little interest beyond a few glances at much beyond the grass underfoot.
The rain had just turned to snow which bothered me more than these animals it seemed. I was hoping the storm might not be too heavy but this front edge had made me think that unlikely. For this encounter, I was happy to have the snow in the air to provide a bit of interest to the area around the sheep in some of the shots.
We watched one another for a few minutes before I headed off. The snow continued to pick up and almost a foot of snow (30cm) fell that night. This herd was smart to dine on the soon to be covered up grass along the road before the weather hit.
Canon 5DIII + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/4000th of a second at f/11 on ISO 400
The winds that came with the weather change last weekend were heavy when I left my home in Bragg Creek for the Banff National Park in the morning. When I got into the mountains, the Bow Valley was pretty calm but higher up on the slopes, the snow was blowing around in opaque sheets while the clouds raced by above. Watching from the Vermillion Lakes shoreline, I was mesmerized by the view of Mount Rundle. The sun catching the wispy snow drawn out over the slopes before fraying into the shadow as it flew over the cliffs was beautiful to watch.
A skein of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) broke from the standard V formation as they navigated through the Bow Valley corridor. It may have been wind shear out of the mountains that pushed the birds around but as I watched them rise over a forested hill and bank around a massive peak, I had a notion they were playing as they flew along. Very likely just my imagination having a bit of a run but I enjoyed watching the constantly changing pattern created by their silhouettes against the Banff National Park’s early winter landscape.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 80 seconds at f/11 on ISO 800
During the tail-end of the full phase of August’s blue moon I went to the edge of the first of the Vermilion Lakes just west of the Banff townsite and set up for a night of long exposures. I drifted in and out of sleep but my timer remote stayed awake and kept running across the dark hours of the night. The clouds raced across the sky under pretty steady winds. With the longer exposures, they were stretched out and occasionally lent a mystical quality to the images.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 658 seconds at f/11 on ISO 400
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 80 seconds at f/11 on ISO 800
As it drew closer to the morning, the land started to brighten and one of the last images revealed more of the scenery.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 238 seconds at f/11 on ISO 1000
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 2 seconds at f/22 on ISO 100
I enjoy photographing the landscapes around Moraine Lake and realized it had been almost a year since I went up and waited for sunrise there. I clambered up the moraine, the geological rock pile at the eastern edge of the lake, near the end of August and shared a beautiful dawn with a few other people spread out along the pathways.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 4 tenths of a second at f/11 on ISO 100
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 2.5 seconds at f/20 on ISO 50
On this visit to the Valley of the Ten Peaks, a cloudless sky to the east allowed the early sunlight open passage to the mountains above the lake. They did their part and caught the red ribbons wonderfully.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24-105mm lens: 1/13th of a second at f/11 on ISO 100
Even after the light had cooled there were still interesting images to be found around the valley.
Following a beautiful sunrise down on the Vermilion Lakes, my friend and I drove up towards Lake Minnewanka to see if there was any wildlife that wanted to be seen.
We spied this bull elk along the edge of the canal where the lake drains out grazing on the patches of snow-free grass.
He spent a little time in the water and the climbed out and moved towards us along the tree line. I loved the way the reflection cast by the elk and the trees onto the water shimmered and blurred.
Just after walking behind the stand of trees that hung over the water, the elk walked into the trees to graze. Returning to the car, we found the elk had moved to the edge of the trees by the road and that allowed us to watch him stripping bark of fallen tree branches.
The second sunrise at Vermilion Lake this weekend produced some wonderful images this weekend. There was a break between clouds and mountain peaks farther east so the clouds above Mount Rundle and the lake were painted with this amazing light. One of the best mornings that I have had in the Banff National Park.
The hot springs that seep into the water along the chain of lakes allow for a few pools without ice to remain open through the winter. These pools pull many photographers to their shores and this morning was no exception. It’s always interesting how quiet these moments become even with five other photographers nearby. The better the light gets, the quieter it usually becomes. It was silent at the peak of this morning’s sunrise.
Dawn at the second Vermilion Lake was beautiful with some lovely colour in the sky around Mount Rundle early in the sunrise. As the sun climbed, I moved into the contrasts and this one worked well in black and white.