As the moon waxed towards full this weekend, I spent an evening at Elbow Falls to photograph the landscape at night. The clear air allowed stars to shine even with a relatively short exposure and small aperture (10 seconds and f/8.0, respectively). Always a bit lonely sitting out there for a couple of hours but the stars are really good company.
The 6400 ISO and the bright moonlight allowed for some of the great details at this magical place in Kananaskis Country to show in the image. I am impressed with the improvements in the dSLR’s low-light capabilities over the last couple of years. A couple of years ago I spent another evening up at these falls. At that time I was using a Canon 1D Mark III and when compared with the image above and others where I used a 5D Mark III, the detail, structure of the noise and the color are all vastly improved. The technology is less and less of an obstacle to realizing the images I want to make. I like that a lot.
Lake Louise is a favourite place for my wife and I to visit in the Banff National Park. This weekend, with my parents taking care of the kids for a night, we went up and stayed on the lake’s eastern shore at the Chateau. The view across the ice up to the Victoria Glacier and the surrounding peaks was hidden by nightfall by the time we arrived so I was anxious for the morning to come. As it turned out, I may have slept right through sunrise, if Bobbi hadn’t looked outside just after 7 and woken me up. The black of night had given way to the dark shades of blue ahead of the dawn. I looked outside and then raced out of the door a few minutes later.
Winter at Lake Louise is magical. The Fairmont had an ice carving competition earlier this year and the sculptures fanned out between the hotel and the lake. At night, they are lit up as is the patriotic castle that is in the middle of the skating rink cleared out on the lake ice.
An ice castle is made every winter by the Chateau’s chefs from large blocks of ice. Nearby is a hockey rink and the trailhead for ski trails along the northern shoreline. Through the evening and again during the day, as it turned out, these drew many visitors who walked, skated and skied around. However at the time I went down to the lake, in the early but quickly brightening morning, there were only a few other people around.
Two people were playing around with hockey sticks and a puck while a couple of other photographers were roaming across the ice. And there was one gentleman out skating laps around the castle – I was glad he wore a red coat.
Once the sunlight hit the peaks, the dark sky disappeared and the cold, clear dawn of a beautiful morning took hold. It was wonderful to be out on the lake and I had a lot of fun working with the details in the castle and the spectacular landscape surrounding it.
When the sun was rising out of the forest east of the lake, the warm light on the ice blocks provided another opportunity to play a bit longer before I headed in for breakfast with my dear, and patient, wife.
(click the image to go to a higher resolution version)
Spent most of the day up in Kananaskis hiking, photographing and looking for wildlife. Such a beautiful and varied country there. I get focused in on a particular location or species so that I forget about the whole package sometimes. Yesterday was one of those great times where I felt like I was enjoying, and appreciating, the whole. If you have a chance to head up to any of the areas that make up K-Country take it, I hope you like it as much as I do.
I am drawn back to Mount Kidd in Kananaskis over and over. In the morning the eastern light accentuates the crags and patterns in the rocks and dominates the skyline from many viewpoints along Highway 40. From these reflecting pools a bit further south the mountain doesn’t dominate in the same way but I like the balances that can be found between the peaks and the elements along the shoreline. Later in the morning, I worked the scene with black and white images in mind but with the first light, I was enjoying the splashes of colour.
Green algae under one of the ponds provided a green cast to some of the reflections. I thought the shapes under the water along with the colour were really interesting.
This pond had a floor of stones which was another detail to play with.
With the pink light receding to warm morning sunlight, I liked how the land still in shadow had a cool tone contrasted with the mountain and its reflection.
We stayed one night in the lodge on Emerald Lake in British Columbia so I was able to be on the water’s edge well ahead of sunrise the next morning. In the deep blues of the early morning, I could make out some heavy clouds in the sky so I was uncertain if a fiery sky was coming. The mountains that ring the eastern edge of the lake were streaked with thick fog rising off of the water and mixing with the clouds.
The sunlight was held up by a bank of grey so the drama never painted the sky however the details in the canoes, the bridge and along the shore as well as a slow shutter to drag out the sky and its reflection made for an enjoyable scene to work with.
I’m looking forward to getting back to this literal jewel of the Yoho National Park near the town of Field. A glowing sky of pinks, reds and oranges would be wonderful to see in this valley and reflected in the lake.
Moraine Lake is one of the Canadian Rockies most iconic landscapes. I have been there many times and it continues to share new magic with each visit. I was up on top of the rock pile with a couple of good friends for a quiet evening and we returned a few hours later for a cloudy sunrise. Both times presented views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks and the lake that I had not seen previously. I enjoyed them all immensely.
The evening watched as the clouds ran towards the horizon leaving open sky above the peaks that loom above the lake and curl west down the valley. The soft light near sunset looked beautiful where it touched the peaks and provided a very subtle contrast to the deepening blues and greens that ushered in the night.
When I was crossing the stream where the lake most visibly drains out, the bright colors in the landscape’s palette had been wrung out so I was drawn to the speck of orange upstream. I liked how this small information shelter’s log frame stood defiantly against the gloom. At this point, some great clouds had stretched out above the water and they provided an abstract mirror of the river’s folds as revealed in this 13 second exposure.
When we returned around 5am, the clouds had staked out all four corners of the sky. We watched breaks in the sky expectantly for more than an hour, taking us through sunrise without any light painting the peaks or the clouds curling around them. We were joined by a hopeful couple from Japan and two Chinese ladies on top of the moraine. Quiet chattering among the separate groups along with the occasional shutter click marking the time shuffling by. It was nice, not the dramatic alpen glow or early light that I have seen before but another interesting side of this valley.
Around 6:30 a large break in the clouds developed in the east and 15 minutes later the first shafts of sunlight hit the mountains. The light was still pretty warm and the drama I had been looking for unfolded for the next 45 minutes before the sun had risen too high for my landscape photography tastes. I enjoyed watching the color in the lake swirl and change as the house lights of the day came up. With stray clouds still wrapping peaks occasionally and the sunlight marching down the forest side of the lake, there was a lot to watch and to photograph.
Packing up, I retraced my steps down the path back towards the lodge. Crossing the river once more, I was drawn in again. This time the wet rocks were sparkling in the sunshine and I found the light on Yamnee (Mount Bowlen), Tonsa and Sapta (Mount Perren) particularly attractive. Breakfast was calling my friends (and me too – if I had been listening) and it was a good final image to complete this time with the lake, the valley and these wonderful peaks.
Following Saturday’s snow storm, we had a beautiful day today. Sunrise came along at 6am sharp this morning and I drove up to Elbow Falls early and met the day there. The snow was still holding onto the trees and rocks so the landscape along the river had a strong winter tone. I was hoping for the early, pink light to reflect off of the clouds stacked above the mountains into this scene. That did not happen, some clouds eastwards blocked the sunlight until the sun was well clear of the horizon. When the sunlight did reach into the valley, it was beautiful.
On the way up to the falls I even had a minute to take a nice photograph of a moose sitting up in her bedded down spot from the quick ending night. A pretty great morning in my photographic book.
Yesterday, I went out for a morning photography tour along the Vermilion Lakes just outside of Banff. I enjoy returning to this area and usually am rewarded by the wildlife, the landscapes or something little thing that draws my eye. I settled into a favourite spot along the second Vermilion Lake where there are some hot springs that seep out of the mountainside, collect into a network of small streams and keep a few pools of water free of the snow-covered sheet of ice that hides the rest of the lake.
Mount Rundle stands directly between the lakes and the point where the sun rises at this time of the year so you need some broken clouds to be in the right place to catch the warm light.
I was working on some images of the active lifestyle in the Rockies for a client and thought the summer set would be fun to post. With fall ready to give way to winter any day it was nice to recall the summer before the snow flies.
In July Jeff and I met a kayak team on the Kananaskis River during one of their training sessions. We definitely had the easier work scurrying over the rocks photographing compared to waging war against and conspiring with the water.
When I was in the Tonquin Valley with Art Wolfe and Gavriel Jecan, I had a minute to photograph Gav as he was bouldering. That ended when we noticed a grizzly bear among the rocks a stone’s throw away.
This guy, Chris as coincidence had it, was visiting friends in Jasper and came to Horseshoe Lake for one purpose: to hurl himself off this cliff about seventy feet above the lake. I remember doing some decent jumps but shooting him descending was a different perspective. I was impressed with his lack of hesitation and the nonchalance displayed when he swam back to the shore afterwards. It wasn’t enough to convince me to follow suit though.
I photographed a group of para-gliders, hang-gliders and other fliers from their launch at the top of a ridge above Golden in British Columbia. Watching them spiraling upwards on thermals, as this lady was doing in the image above, was amazing. I came away with a profound appreciation for the grace and the silence of these engine free forms of flight.
We went into the Tonquin Valley in August along a trail that started in forest, came up above the treeline and then slowly descended towards Amethyst Lake. In the image above, our guide Sarah is leading our group out of the valley. Seemingly not as adventurous as some of the other images, throw in a trailside bee hive and a six hour trek through rain and sleet, and I think it belongs.
I have been spending a fair amount of time in Kananaskis Country as autumn has taken hold across the Rockies in Southern Alberta. A couple of mornings I have spent daybreak on the shoreline of Wedge Pond just off Highway 40 a few kilometers south of the Nakiska Ski Resort. Before the sun rises high enough to hit Mount Kidd’s ridges, the whole mountain glows red in the pre-dawn light.
After only a couple of minutes, the sunlight reaches over The Wedge and Mt. McDougal to Kidd and then it quickly runs down the mountainside as the sun climbs into the sky.
The image above with the sun drawing a red band along the top of the mountain was from September 5th where all the trees skirting the pond were still in summer green. The first two images were taken just under three weeks later. A couple of cool days got the seasonal change kickstarted and the transformation to yellow and orange was complete in just a few days.
I had a request from a client for a large volume of landscape photographs of Western Canada so I pulled together my favourite images from this area. I published a webpage with these images in a gallery. If you are interested, please click this link.
Following on from my encounter with the moose calf and mother, I drove further along the Highwood Pass section of Highway 40 in Kananaskis and saw this mother grizzly bear leading her two cubs along the forest’s edge parallel to the road.
The color of these bears is fantastic. Blond is not exceptionally rare but is still striking to see. I stayed up on the road and watched them move swiftly through the dense underbrush before crossing the pavement and disappearing down into the valley.
I hope their momma can guide these two cubs into adulthood avoiding the dangers of the road and the rails that have impacted the grizzly population in the Rockies. They are incredible animals.
Being able to spend three nights in the Tonquin Valley allowed three chances to have great light in the morning. The landscape around the valley is honestly spectacular in every direction. The Ramparts, an iconic chain of peaks that string together the length of the valley, rise sharply up from the western shoreline of Amethyst Lake while there is a band of forested hills separating the shore from the sharp ridges that form the eastern edge of the valley.
The rocks, water, mountains and snow can be combined beautifully when photographing in the valley during the day with imagination being the only limitation during the daylight hours. However, adding in dramatic light when the clouds decide to play along provides a magical element to work with in the images. For two of the three mornings I was in the valley, there were moments where the sunlight crept under the blanket of clouds and the pinks and reds of the early morning shone through.
An incredible place to spend some time.
A photograph from a morning along the shoreline of the second of the three Vermilion Lakes near Banff in the National Park. Mount Rundle looms above Tunnel Mountain across the water. The ice gives way to this stretch of open water due to a small hot spring that seeps out of the rock and soil into the lake.
I have been up to Elbow Falls in Kananaskis a couple of times over the last while. It is a beautiful spot and it had been a few months since I spent any serious time up there with my camera so I’ve enjoyed these outings immensely.
This image was made well after sunset using a tripod, a long exposure and a bit of light painting on the water. I went crazy over the moonlight reflecting in the water, it has such an incredible tone to it.
I took the following photograph this morning with the falls at my back, looking east towards the brightening sky. I waited to see how the morning light would develop ahead of the rising sun and was rewarded with some clouds that moved in from the west and caught the early light.