In August I photographed through the night along the Vermilion Lakes. The air was heavy with smoke from nearby wildfires. This long exposure caught the glow from the town of Banff as it pushed through thick haze and got caught in clouds hanging low in the Bow Valley. A timer and a flashlight allowed me to run out onto this dock on the third Vermilion Lake and trace out the circle in this image.
Watching the last light of the day slip away to the west from one of the piers on the Vermilion Lakes. I was reminded of this night scene from August when I was waiting for dawn near the same place last weekend.
When I arrived at the second Vermilion Lake and scrambled down to the shoreline I was alone and in darkness. Once I turned off my headlamp my eyes adjusted and a thin line brightening to the east. Mount Rundle stood resolutely across the water and I started to make out clouds as they slid toward the horizon.
The image above was a 25 second exposure on f/10 and ISO 800 taken at 7:25 AM. I used that to get a feel for how the scene looked as it was still too dark to make out much of the details and color in the sky with my eyes alone.
I didn’t mind the grass but I chose to focus on the sky and its reflection so a few steps to the right and setting up closer to the waterline was the next step. The clouds in the image above made a great frame around Rundle and the pre-sunrise colors intensified considerably by the time that I made this photograph at 7:35 AM.
The pre-dawn light’s color faded out before 8 AM. The lull before the fire came into the sky did not last long and I soon caught the first hints of pink catching in the clouds. The photograph of Tunnel Mountain, Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain above was taken at 8:10 using a 2 second exposure on f/16 at ISO 50. The light soon caught the clouds hanging low above the mountains in the image below (8:13 AM; 0.8 seconds; f/16; ISO 50). From there the reds and oranges started to splash across the sky above the Bow Valley.
By 8:16, the pinks had been driven off completely. Now the trick was to hold the really bright circle of sky left of Mount Rundle (in the centre of the image below – 0.6 seconds; f/16; ISO 50)). I was exposing off of that circle so that the highlights weren’t completely blown knowing that the RAW file captured by my camera would hold detail in the shadows elsewhere which I could recover in post.
I played with the focal length of several images during the exposure. This created streaks in the photograph which served as interesting leading lines into the sunrise and Mount Rundle. I shared my favourite one of these on the weekend (here) and below is another that I really liked as well. This one has more brightness in the foreground so it has a different feel for me (8:20; 0.5 seconds; f/16; ISO 50).
By 8:20, the fire was waning and only golds and oranges outlined the silhouette of the mountains. The photograph below being one of the last from my shoot (8:22; 0.3 seconds; f/16; ISO 50).
I jumped into a last frame just before the sun came over Rundle’s flank. I had wanted to catch a sunstar as it crested the mountain but the clouds got in the middle as can happen. That exposure was taken at 8:50 AM with a 4 second exposure (f/16 and ISO 100) using a heavy neutral density filter to get the extended shutter speed. A beautiful morning in one of those places I love returning to again and again. It’s rare that it doesn’t share a new look, or a few of them, with me each time.
Sunrise streaked around Mount Rundle over the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada yesterday. I arrived in darkness and had time to find a great spot that I have not photographed from before. The clouds picked up the earliest light in the pre-dawn and the color in the sky continued to intensify. For this image, I zoomed the focal length of the lens slightly during the 1/2 second exposure to create the lines of light leading to Rundle.
The ice started to recede on Two Jack Lake in late April this year. Waterfowl was drawn to the open water as they migrated back to Banff National Park. Some birds were resting briefly before continuing further north. For a small gaggle of Canada geese, they seemed to be planning for a longer stay.
At one point, one goose decided to chase another. The target flew off and was joined by his mate and they landed at another opening. Perhaps this was a territorial “discussion”. For me, it yielded a series of images with the aggressor splashing, flying and skimming across the water. The bird banked around the small cove towards me so I was in a great position to photograph him.
The remaining couple settled down quickly and returned to paddling on the water. A little while later one laid don near a stand of trees while the other went to the edge of the ice that still covered most of the lake.
On the first day of October, I was in Banff National Park and found great fall colors across the Bow Valley. I returned to Hillsdale Meadow along the Bow Valley Parkway where I expected the larch would be showing their best golds and yellows. I wasn’t disappointed! For this image, I used a slow shutter to abstract the landscape similar to how I had done with the same stand of trees in July. I moved the camera downwards during the 1/40th of a second exposure to exaggerate the vertical lines present in the golden trees and echoed in the evergreens in the mountainside behind.
This past summer I spent a lot of time at the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park. I was drawn there by a pair of common loons who nested on the third lake this year. This photograph was from May 27th at 5:41 am on a morning when I was alone with the loons and their beautiful, haunting calls to one another. After diving, they preen their feathers and eventually lean back, unfold their wings and vigorously flap them to shed water. This process always fascinates me and I love the way the still images look. It starts slowly, with the bird shifting their weight and then stretching out the wings while raising their bodies off the water. The flapping then starts and builds to a crescendo with the loon’s head pointing straight up, wings blurring furiously and water drops spraying off in all directions. And then it ends with the bird dropping back into the water and carrying on preening, diving or paddling along. The whole cycle lasting roughly 3-5 seconds. The image below is that peak in the cycle where it seems the bird itself might fly apart.
Forgive the double alliterations in the title! I recently came across one of these pictures in my image library. That recalled the encounter with this grizzly bear and her three cubs in 2012. It was wet morning in June and my friend Jeff and I were out photographing near the Vermilion Lakes. We found the bears under the trees. While mom was sleeping, these two year olds were rough housing with abandon.
Though the bared teeth look fierce no true biting happened. Even the play lost their interest before long and they alternated sprawling across mom and nursing. We left then and it seemed they were close to a nap themselves – although they may have powered up again instead.
When they separated, I was able to grab a couple of individual shots. Truly beautiful animals. Five years on, I wonder how they have made out. Their mother, 64, was well known in the Banff area but disappeared at the age of 25 and was assumed to have died in late 2013. I believe one of these cubs was 148 who was relocated out of Banff earlier this year. That move was due to her increasing encounters with humans but, tragically, she was shot and killed last Sunday in British Columbia. A death, legal though it was, which I am having great difficulty accepting. Particularly when that province will outlaw trophy hunting of grizzly bears starting on November 30th. I’m a bit teary now so I’ll finish here.
Here is one of the last photographs I took of 64.
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.
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.
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.