Banff National Park

A grand morning at the Vermilion Lakes

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.


Berries and a black bear

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.

 


Two mornings on Moraine Lake


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.


A forest for all of its trees

There is a beautiful stand of aspen trees on the eastern edge of the Hillsdale Meadows which I have photographed for years throughout the seasons.  Last weekend I stopped for another visit with them.  This time around I was drawn to the contrast of the slender, white trunks and the dark spaces between them.

I worked a few different ideas before I found what an approach that allowed me to illustrate that contrast.  Using longer shutter speeds (1/8th of a second – 1/4th of a second) and moving the camera vertically during the exposure, the blurs created illustrated the contrast in a way I really like.


A chaotic sunrise in Banff National Park

Before the sun rose over the Fairholme Range, the scattered clouds stacked up in layers over the mountains.  They fought to catch the early splashes of pink and peach as the day approached.  The chaos of these splashes of color across the broken sky were beautiful to watch.


Dandelion hunting in Banff National Park

In Banff National Park’s Bow Valley, the dandelions are among the first flowers to come into bloom in large patches.  This draws the bears as it has to taste delicious compared to the other vegetarian items on their spring menu.  I spied this young grizzly bear mowing through one of these patches that was along the train tracks.  I always worry about the trains rolling through the park as they continue to have wildlife impacts. But during the short time I watched this bear grazing, no trains came by and no other distractions interrupted this bear’s snack.

Eventually she strode up the little hill, along the rails for a minute, gave me a quick look and then continued down the other side and into the woods.

 


A window of sunlight

As a storm cleared out of the Bow Valley, the clouds rose off the floor and climbed over the Massive Range.  Here, the sun lit up one of the Brett Mountain’s ridges for a moment.


A soft sunrise over the Vermilion Lakes

Dawn reached across the Fairholme Range and brushed the sky through to Mount Rundle. An eight second exposure traced the motion in the scene, blurring the water into soft streaks and stretching out the clouds above. Photographed on June 4, 2017 on the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park’s Bow Valley.


Scribbling with moonlight

The moon was scribbling on the surface of one of the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park on the weekend.


Early morning at Two Jack Lake

After a long night of spectacular auroras which I enjoyed from the western shore of Lake Minnewanka (one post here and the other there), I went to nearby Two Jack Lake to catch the sunrise.  The clouds, the sun and the mountains all conspired to present an amazing start to the morning.  The wind was a bit mischievous as it blew softly but steadily over the water breaking up Mount Rundle’s reflection in the image above and Mount Girouard’s in the one below.

At one point a Canada goose entered the water and I liked the way she showed up in this image blurring slightly during the 1.6 second exposure as it paddled by.

The goose carried on to the far side of the lake.  Later a paddle boarder followed the goose’s lead and went out for an early tour around the lake.  She was there with a photographer for a shoot – a pretty great morning for that.  I liked being able to add in a shot of her gliding across the water.

I packed up the tripod as the colour in the sky started to fade out and with the boarder making several passes in front of the scene which kept the water rippled.  I stopped at the overlook above the lake about twenty minutes later and made this last image of the paddle boarder silhouetted against the sunlit mountains reflecting in the water.


Lake Minnewanka’s Northern Lights

There have been strong Aurora Borealis events over the past couple of weeks.  These have extended far enough south that those of us in southern Alberta have been able to enjoy great displays in the night sky.  Throughout the earliest hours of May 20th the Northern Lights flashed, rippled and glowed over Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park.  It was a beautiful night with few clouds and a sky that looked like someone had spread out all the diamonds across a dark blanket.

Along the lake’s western shore, many people had come out to see the auroras.  When I passed the marina, the storm was in a lull but the green glow drew a sharp line on the Palliser Range’s silhouette.  I’m usually alone when I’m photographing at night so it was neat to be part of a loose community all there to enjoy this natural event.

Most people were lined up along the dam.  I hiked down a trail a bit further south and found a stretch of rock along the water’s edge that looked good to me.  I spent the next four hours watching the sky, scrambling around the rocks and photographing the aurora.  The photographs here are from the first hour during an active period following the lull.  I will share a few more from later in night in another post soon.

 


A fox trotting through the Bow Valley

In April, I crossed paths with a red fox near the Johnston Canyon campground.  She was running at a steady clip along the Bow Valley Parkway towards me.  I photographed her on the road and as she turned down towards the overflow parking lot and along the not then melted snow piles.

The fox stayed focus on wherever she was heading and only broke her pace while she crossed the snow.  There seemed to have been a few things that drew her attention momentarily.  It was less than ten minutes from when I saw her until she disappeared down a trail towards the river and possibly a bridge to cross it.