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.
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.
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… and just about everywhere else in this part of the world is frozen solid. Temperatures have been stuck below -20°C for the week. Much too cold but rather beautiful. This branch hung over a trail I was on near Johnson Lake in the Banff National Park. It seemed to be a fitting summary of the change into full winter.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.