I’ve been lucky to enjoy a number of great mornings (here, here and here) in the mountains as summer has wound down. Last weekend I went to Kananaskis to see how the autumn colors were coming in at the higher elevations. I went to Wedge Pond ahead of the sunrise and waited for the darkness to lift. Soon enough it did, and quickly, revealing the larch along the shoreline were starting to turn but there were more lime greens than yellows and golds. I’ll be back again in a week or two to try to catch the stands of gold before the needles fall and the leaves blow away.
I was not disappointed in any way though. The mist swirled across the calm water, drawing a line through the middle of the mountains and their reflections as the early morning blue gave way to the alpenglow.
Time spent at the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park is always worthwhile. It had been a while since I had watched day break there so on the weekend I drove up to do that. I went very early so I was able to make some long exposures at the second lake before the morning arrived.
With sunrise threatening, other people wanting to enjoy the quiet spectacle came down the road to find their spot. I didn’t mind adding a light streak into the scene!
When the clouds above the Fairholme Range to the east began to glow the day soon rushed in behind. The lake dazzled again, as usual, reflecting Mount Rundle and framing the energetic sky above as it ran through dawn’s color palette.
A small group of photographers assembled along the shoreline nearby as the sky’s performance heightened. The tone of the hushed murmurs suggested they were enjoying the moment. I certainly was.
My son and I returned from a weekend hiking and camping with good friends in the Monashee Provincial Park in British Columbia on Monday night. Wildfires have been a clear and present danger across the province for the whole summer and west of Golden we drove between two separate fires that were burning on mountainsides across the valley from each other. The thick smoke obscured the flames and blocked out much of the sun.
It was powerful to directly observe something we have followed all summer remotely. We stopped at a pullout briefly and then continued east towards home. The day retreated and when we were nearing Golden, the moon rose above the forest and mountain ridge lines.
The smoke in the air from the fires, and likely others that were not visible to us, turned the sky a purple colour at dusk that moved quickly into a deep blue.
The nearly full moon shone brightly and had an orange cast to it. Beauty from these wildfires that I enjoyed but that I would trade for rain there in a heartbeat.
This summer I feel like I have rediscovered the Kananaskis Lakes located in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. In particular, I have spent a lot of time at the upper lake. The peaks that ring the lake have appealed to me recently in a new way and I have been drawn to visit at different times of the day to photograph them.
The jagged profiles, mirrored reflections and rocky shoreline are all elements I love to work with and the Upper Kananaskis Lake knits these together in a beautiful way. These are a few of the photographs I like from these visits.
And here are some evening shots from an earlier post this summer as well. It’s a beautiful place to spend time.
Sandhill crane couples dance with each other. I found this pair in a field west of Bragg Creek and was lucky to be able to watch them.
A few Canada geese watched the dance as well. They seemed to watch with little interest. Far less than me.
I found grizzly bear #139 between the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes last weekend. He has a history of being in the news over the past couple of year (not a problem bear just one that people find with relative frequency so there are a fair number of images and articles on him). This time, he was strolling between the forest and the Kananaskis Lake road, grazing on the buffalo berries that are ripe and delicious (for the bears at least – they are too tart for my taste when they first ripen).
I left the bear after alerting one of the rangers to his presence as he was moving closer to a campground. I went for a walk along the shoreline a few kilometres away and returned past the spot an hour later. The bear had crossed the road by then and was grazing on the high side of the hill.
He has been referred to as scrawny in the past so it was good to see him looking healthy and devouring berries. He’s a beautiful bear – especially when he flashes that wonderful smile (please allow for a bit of anthropomorphization. I truly believe animals have personalities and emotions). I hope to cross paths with him again for years to come.
Wedge Pond is a favourite location of mine in Kananaskis Country. She sits below the massive chunk of rock that is Mount Kidd and in calm moments mirrors the entire mountain on her surface. Several more peaks along the Kananaskis River Valley are prominent from the shoreline as well. Collectively they provide a lot of visually appealing elements to work with when photographing around this little lake. I usually head there in late September when the aspen trees around the pond turn a brilliant yellow (previous posts with those images). A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a friendly Australian photographer who will be coming this way next month and was looking for some local information about Kananaskis and Wedge Pond in particular. That got me thinking about Wedge a little earlier than usual and I headed up in the wee hours on August 11th..
The mist was swirling early. Cold, humid air and a gentle breeze combined to push the mist across the water. On this day, the sky was clear and the alpenglow was visible above the mountains early and then slid down the surrounding peaks. The morning exceeded all expectations I may have had and I was blessed with an amazing start to the day. The red that first painted the peaks was soon washed over with golden sunlight and I headed up for a hike at Chester Lake.
The smoke from the wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta continues to come and go west of the Rockies in southwestern Alberta depending on severity of the fires, the weather and the wind. One morning last week it was particularly thick and made the rising sun a circle of deep red, orange and yellow. At one point wispy clouds layered above the sun that was truly beautiful to me.
There were two mule deer bucks nibbling on roadside grass that I came across last weekend. They were between the two Kananaskis Lakes and they ran up the hillside to the forest edge when another car passed by. This brought them into the morning sunshine which illuminated them wonderfully.
One of the stags paused at the top of the hill before disappearing behind the trees. The other walked along the ridge above the road for a few minutes.
He was enjoying the buffalo berries which are ripe throughout the valleys in Kananaskis now. I always think of these berries as being food for the bears but this fellow reminded me that they are a delicious snack for many of the animals in the Rockies.
The smoke from the wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta continues to roll across the west. That morning the resulting haze was quite heavy which warmed and softened the sunlight. Beautiful light to work with – a very small and personal silver lining to a massive issue impacting millions of people. This photo of peaks in the Kananaskis valley gives some indication of the atmosphere on that morning.
The stag kept an eye on me but with little traffic and me staying in my car had little provocation to join his partner in the woods. I left him still grazing and continued my travels around K-Country.
Last weekend I came across this grizzly bear late in the day along the Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40). He first came out of the forest on the high side of the hill and traveled through this patch of fireweed before slipping back into the woods.
He was in the trees briefly before continuing down the hill and coming to the road.
Meeting the pavement, he crossed straightaway – which is always a bit of uncertainty given the wildcard of a speeding vehicle. However this time the four vehicles nearby were all pulled over and no other traffic came so he had no issues.
Dark clouds rolled in and he disappeared down the bank so that ended the short visit. I headed up to Highwood Pass and watched the weather scrape over the mountains for a bit. Note: that is a great place to enjoy watching the land – the elevation, jagged peaks, often fast-moving clouds and ever-changing weather combine endlessly. When I drove back down, I found the bear further up the road in hillside of brambles feasting on buffalo berries. Failing light and falling rain softened the scene and made finding the bear and getting sharp images a challenge but I was grateful for another short visit with this beautiful bruin.
Returning from a sunrise shoot atop the rock pile that gives Moraine Lake its name, I found a beautiful black bear grazing on berries. The patch was close to the road connecting Moraine Lake with the Lake Louise area which meant a bear jam started to build right away. I didn’t stay for long, just grabbed a couple of shots out the window from the other side of the road. Great to see the berries coming in, they are a critical source of calories for the bears in the Banff National Park.
Last weekend I spent two mornings waiting for, and then watching the sunrise, on Moraine Lake. The two days were definitely not alike. On Saturday morning, the clouds hung low obscuring the tips along the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The color palette was decidedly cool. It was reminiscent of the night before after the sun had set at Upper Kananaskis Lake.
The next day welcomed clear skies in all directions. I would have welcomed a few clouds above the mountains to catch the alpenglow but the peaks down the valley soon did. And that was beautiful to enjoy. It had been a couple of years since the valley had shared this particular scene with me.
Watching the peaks glow red is stunning and I love watching that light spread down mountainsides, racing against the golden sunshine’s imminent arrival. The transition is very fast with the alpenglow lasting 4-5 minutes before the sunshine blends in and the red disappears from the rock faces.