Banff National Park

A glimpse of winter at Boom Creek

Boom Creek dressed for winter - © Christopher Martin-2829

I went for a hike along the trail to Boom Lake on the weekend and felt like I walked into a preview of winter.  The lake is near the aptly named Storm Mountain on the western edge of Banff National Park and the area was already blanketed in 1-1.5′ (30-45cm) of snow.  With the sun shining, I was happy to walk along the trail for a couple of kilometres as it was an area new to me.  From the trailhead a bridge crosses over Boom Creek almost immediately.  I slipped under the bridge on my way out and set up the photograph above which I felt illustrated the wintry feel.  This image is also the December image on my just completed 2016 landscape calendar so it was a worthwhile hike on a couple of fronts!

Dawn at Two Jack Lake in the Banff National Park

Two Jack Sunrise in Banff - © Christopher Martin-2600

With the cooler days that have come with November, we have had some snow fall up in the mountains.  I went up to Two Jack Lake for sunrise on Friday to see how things would look with a bit of snow in the picture.  Facing Mount Rundle and her reflection in the water there was just the odd skiff of snow along the shoreline.  The color deepened in the sky for a few minutes before it started to color the clouds clinging to the mountain.

Two Jack Sunrise in Banff - © Christopher Martin-2610

Two Jack Sunrise in Banff - © Christopher Martin-2607-2

When I first arrived, the sun was still a while away from lighting up the clouds.  The darker scene, below, allowed for a longer exposure and more stretch to the clouds and water.

Two Jack Sunrise in Banff - © Christopher Martin-2585

I love this time of year when snow starts to build up and the scenic opportunities shift to one dominated by the white blanket that settles unevenly across the land.  Winter in the Banff National Park is probably my favourite time of the year there.  It is exciting to be on the edge of it.

Two Jack Sunrise in Banff - © Christopher Martin-2648



Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1817

When I set up my gear on the shore of the first of the Vermilion Lakes, it was cold and dark.  I wanted to be there early to catch Jupiter and Venus in the eastern sky before it brightened too much.  The pair, with Mars less visible to the left, were directly above Mount Rundle’s peak when I arrived.

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1698

As the horizon brightened the stars faded while color started to creep into the clouds.  The lake was frozen with a thin cover of ice which gave abstract reflections of the sky and the silhouettes across the water.

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1733

(Please click on any image to see a higher resolution version)

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1772

Early sunshine brought a cloud to life as it stretched and broke up over Mount Rundle.  Before long, bright pink strands hung above the Bow Valley.  It was a beautiful morning and I loved watching it build from darkness into light.

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1801

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1808

The pink softened quickly and pastels held the sky until the sun blew away the soft hues of the early morning.

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1831





Rutting Elk in the Bow Valley

Bull Elk Rutting in Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1946

A small herd of bull elk were gathered near Moose Meadows on the Bow Valley Parkway when I was there on the weekend.  The frost bleached the grass and the cold air made the breath visible.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-1945

These were mature adults with massive antlers and they were putting them to use.  The rut is on and these elk were challenging each other repeatedly.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-1896

They would be eating grass and then stare at another one.  Soon after, they would stalk slowly towards each other and lock antlers. Once entwined, a push and a pull fight would take place.  Unlike Bighorn sheep battles where they smash into each other, these were shoving matches.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-1929

It was a cold morning which made for a particularly appealing scene to watch these giants battle.  The elk below was noticeably larger than the others and only one bull challenged him in the half hour that I watched.  That contest seemed like more of a measuring stick for the smaller one as it was short and there was no real challenge.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-2063

He wandered off after a while heading for the trees and leaving the others to graze and continue the odd skirmish.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-2087

An autumn Grizzly in the Banff National Park

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2378

On the weekend, I found a Grizzly bear traversing along the edge of the Bow Valley Parkway near the southeast entrance.  The bear, a female with the tag #148 (I think), I could see where she had been digging up roots but when I saw her she was already on the move.

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2372

She crossed the road between a couple of parked cars and then disappeared into the trees.  I played a hunch and drove a kilometre down the road and waited hoping she might continue in that direction.  A little while later, she came down the road and scrambled up onto this rock shelf above the road.

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear #148 - © Christopher Martin-2323

That offered a great view of this beautiful creature and I was able to create some solid imagery when she paused to decide on her next route.

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2308

Leaving the rocks, she crossed a grassy meadow and then walked through the open forest for a few hundred metres.  I loved watching her walk through the trees – at this time of the year her coat blends in with the autumn foliage.

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2405

She then crossed the road again and shuffled down the hillside.  Out of sight again and this time she did not return.  I saw a video of her fishing earlier this summer so maybe she went down to the river for that!

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2445

A clearing storm in the park

Storm clearing - © Christopher Martin-8704

This meadow in the Bow Valley often provides a reflection of the current of the weather affecting much of the park.  On this day in early November, the remnants of a storm was thrashing around in the mountains while more promising blue sky opened up above.


Vermilion overcast - © Christopher Martin-5473

Earlier in the morning, the clouds hung low over the Vermilion Lakes hiding all but the lowest slopes of Sulphur Mountain across the water.  Later in the day when I returned along the Trans Canada Highway the clouds were truly broken up and it proved to be a very nice autumn afternoon in the Banff National Park.

After the storm - © Christopher Martin-8897

Bow Valley – late autumn, early snow

First snow in the Bow Valley - © Christopher Martin-8598

Winter snuck an early snowstorm into Banff National Park’s Bow Valley last weekend.  By mid-morning, most of the snow had melted away in the valley bottom but the upper slopes were still dominated by the white mixed with the green of the forest.  It was a beautiful landscape to enjoy – we’ll see how long it takes before the snow takes hold for a longer stay.

November snow reflected in the Vermilion Lakes

November in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5469

(Please click any image to open a higher resolution version)

Following an unusually warm Hallowe’en, the temperature dropped below freezing.  That low pressure system was accompanied by heavy clouds and snow flew for the first and second days of November in southern Alberta.  On Sunday, I left Bragg Creek early in the morning with the snow still falling fast.  By the time I was in Banff, the cloud ceiling was much higher and the snow falling much softer.  Before noon, the sun was out and the winter wonderland was starting to melt away quickly at the lower elevations.  I went down to the Vermilion Lakes to see how things looked and check if any of the wild residents were wandering about.  I didn’t find much wildlife, but the landscape looking beautiful with the shoreline’s snow gone but the belt of white starting only twenty or so metres above.  When the long chain of freight cars riding the rails on the far side of the second lake came into view I stopped to take a few photographs.

November in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5473

Autumn at Pilot Pond in Banff

Autumn - © Christopher Martin-6513

We have enjoyed a long fall season this year.  Sometimes winter steals in before it seems like summer had closed off.  This autumn is now closing in on two months and has been quite a nice season.  I went to a small lake, Pilot Pond, which lies in the Bow Valley facing Pilot Mountain in the Banff National Park a week ago and felt the scenery around the water was a nice reflection of the fall we have had in the mountains.

Pilot Mountain in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-6030

(Please click any image to open a higher resolution version)

Autumn - © Christopher Martin-6501


Autumn - © Christopher Martin-6569


Autumn - © Christopher Martin-6471

Autumn - © Christopher Martin-6530

I was alone except for one female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) out on the water biding its time, and once flapping its wings, before continuing south.

Autumn - © Christopher Martin-5062








Daybreak over Banff

  Waiting for sunrise over Banff - © Christopher Martin-5850 I watched the sky brighten above the Banff from Norquay Meadow.  The moon lit the mountain a little while the townsite’s lights glowed in the valley below.

Moonrise over Mount Rundle


Moonrise over Rundle - © Christopher Martin-9579

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.

Mount Rundle Moonrise - © Christopher Martin-9546
I had been a bit disappointed that there were no clouds but that proved to be very fortunate.  I loved the clean elements of the blue sky, white moon and reddish rocks.

Mount Rundle Moonrise - © Christopher Martin-9590


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.

Mount Rundle Moonrise - © Christopher Martin-9588

Mount Rundle Moonrise Reflected - © Christopher Martin-4640

Moonrise over Rundle - © Christopher Martin-4643

Mount Rundle Moonrise - © Christopher Martin-4647

A Banff Grizzly on the move

A summer's walk - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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.

Stepping across the line - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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.

2014 © Christopher Martin

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.

Meadow lunch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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.

In the garden patch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 1000


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