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.
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.
On my way up to the mountains this weekend, the sun continued its struggle with the smoke from the wildfires. In the early evening I made my way along Highway 40 and stopped several times to watch the clouds and sun in this unusual scene.
I ended up on the shore of the Upper Kananaskis Lake about an hour before sunset. It was a warm night which I was grateful for – even in summer the wind can blow hard and cold across the lake at anytime. Over the next couple of hours a loon, a few people fishing and one large, extended family came and went. I moved down the shoreline slowly, taking photographs of the sun’s descent towards the jagged silhouette of the mountains the curve around the lake.
The smoke acts like a neutral density filter and drops the intensity of the sun’s light considerably. That allowed me to spend a lot of time exploring how the atmosphere, the sunlight and the landscape could be composed. All three changed in appearance and shape as the sun descended.
When the sun drew close to the mountains, the colors deepened and the silhouettes of the mountains were fantastic against the sky.
The fiery hues disappeared quickly once the sun fell behind the mountains. That left cooler tones to quietly take hold. At that point, I was alone on the shore and the tranquility held me there for a long while.
Last weekend I spent the morning looking for wildlife along the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park. I drove along, stopping several times for short hikes to get a view over the river valley or along a creek into the forest. None of the animals graced me with their presence but the land made it a good morning nonetheless. In Banff, the lakes are frozen but there was very little snow on the ground. Halfway towards Lake Louise, the snow was more prevalent and when I got to the lake, the trees were heavy with snow, the ground was well-covered and winter was firmly set. It has been a couple of years since I wandered along the lake shore in winter with camera in hand. I enjoyed the time, working to create some images while listening to the multilingual hum from the other visitors as they came and went. It was a good time to be up there to photograph. The snow was falling gently, the river that drains out of the northeastern end of the lake was yet to freeze over and the clouds were moving fast so the peaks were in and out of view. Lot’s of dynamic elements to weave together into a variety of images. This was my favourite from a relaxed morning doing what I love.
I started a great day in Kananaskis earlier this weekend walking along the shoreline of the Upper Kananaskis Lake in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. At sunrise I was photographing a pair of moose, a mother and her calf, in a meadow and I ended up spending most of the morning at the Sarrail Falls. However, when I parked near the boat launch at the lake, the soft light, subtle autumn accents, calm water and brilliant reflection of the mountains in the water mesmerized me for several minutes. I had the lake to myself for a little while and enjoyed the beauty immensely.
When I ventured up to Jasper National Park in May, I spent the first night at the foot of the Athabasca Glacier. After laying my sleeping bag across the reclined passenger seat, I set up my tripod and camera along one of the trails that lead up to the edge of the ice.
Looking up the glacier, between the clouds as they slid by, a subtle green-blue glow was visible above the ice, rock and snow. With long exposures, the glow was more pronounced. I first thought it may be the Aurora Borealis but I was facing towards the southwest so I would have expected a show behind me more than where I was looking. It was a new moon that night so I’m not sure was responsible for the glow. Could it be the starlight on a clear night, free from light pollution, reflecting off of the ice? Maybe, but I really can’t explain it. It was hauntingly beautiful and I enjoyed spending a couple of hours in that place within this immeasurably vast universe – a night with the stars will get you thinking such things!
It was a great auditory experience as well, the ice cracks and rock falls echoed off the mountains and down the glacier field irregularly through the night which broke up the steady cries of the racing winds.
Sparkling stars, blurred clouds, glowing skies and jagged peaks – it was a special night.
During the chinook of the last few days there were several beautiful sunsets that I took time to enjoy. Looking west at the Rockies is one of my favourite skylines and their silhouette at dusk often adds immensely to a landscape photograph.
The chinook ended last night with the arrival of a snowstorm which continues this morning. I’m not too dismayed, it was nice to have a break of warm weather in the middle of winter.
The early light worked well with a few interesting clouds hanging above Elbow Falls on the day I was up there this weekend. The soft pink ahead of sunrise shared the sky with the waning full moon early. As the clouds turned to a deep peach color I moved just above the waterfall. From there the reflections of colour on the excited water were beautiful and I watched the morning open up.
A cold morning greeted me at Elbow Falls yesterday. I set up from a rocky perch above the river and enjoyed watching the day come in. The clouds above caught the early pink light while the land below was gently brushed by the alpen glow that preceded sunrise.
We stayed at Lake Louise a couple of weeks ago and I set up to take some photographs from my room of the ice sculptures lit up around the front lawn of the Chateau. It was then I noticed the stars and how wonderfully bright they were. With the reflection of lights from below there was a lot of distortion, refraction and general murk to wrestle with. The hazy arcs above the mountain are one of the interesting effects from the lamps around the pathways. I worked away for a little while and liked this somewhat abstract image of Mount Whyte under the night sky.
Wind blows snow off of Mount Rundle’s eastern peak. This was the vanguard of the storm that brought snow out onto the prairies over the weekend.
My friend and fellow photographer Jeff Rhude and I made it up to the reflecting pools which provide a beautiful mirror for Mount Kidd while it was still dark. While dawn was still only a bit of light to the east, I used an exposure just a bit over two minutes long to see this early morning.
The wind was blowing in short blasts as we were waiting and once it was brighter I took an opportunity to show a bit of that in the blurred water.
The morning got bright quickly when I was at a set of reflecting ponds just west of Wedge Pond and the Galatea Trailhead in Kananaskis. I met a fellow Calgarian photographer, Graham McKerrell, along the water’s edge and we watched the most promising cloud slip behind the mountain just a couple of minutes before the sunrise hit the face. The early light was still beautiful on the rock of Mount Kidd and its reflection. I really had fun once the morning sun was well established as I switched from hunting warm light to thinking about the sun and shadows for black and white images as seen here.
(please click on the image to link to a larger, higher resolution version)
These ponds are a beautiful location to welcome the morning, I hope to get out there once more this season.
(please click on any image to go to a higher resolution version)
The morning was cold as I walked down to Wedge Pond on Friday. No frost, but very chilly under the clear skies. I woke early so I was there before the skies had started to brighten. The only sounds were the splash of the occasional fish jumping and bull elk bugling challenges nearby in the forest. It was a special moment to take in. In the darkness the exposures ranged up to five minutes to show the pre-dawn scene as below. The slowly lightening sky to the east reflected on the upper flanks of the mountain.
As the sun approached, the birds started chattering and a few other photographers showed up for the alpen glow and then first light on Mount Kidd. Kananaskis lived up to expectations again. It was lovely to be on the lake’s shore for the morning with the autumn colours coming in.
Bobbi and I drove with the kids up to Lake Louise for a hike on Sunday. The walk around the north side of the lake was nice and the kids had a lot of fun. Not much time to photograph, too busy throwing rocks in the water with Kian and Kezia, but there was some interesting light on the mountainsides when I did stop for a minute.
On the drive back we went on a detour along Highway 93 into the Kootenay National Park. We turned around before Vermilion Crossing at the point where Floe Creek joins the Vermilion River which runs down the spine of the valley. Kootenay National Park has had several large forest fires in the past 40 years and there are huge stretches of matchstick trees. Under these ravaged trunks, evergreens have taken hold and bring color into the hillsides. In the rivers, glacial silt paints the water a lovely blue. Strong lines in the river’s canyon walls and in the burned out forest. A lot of great elements to choose from and work with.
Here are a few images from this bend in the river.
After riding out of the Tonquin Valley we spent the following day touring around the Jasper area. In the afternoon we drove up to Maligne Lake and hiked a couple of kilometers along the southeastern shoreline.
The mountains along the northern shore and down towards the far end of valley were on full display as we traveled along the trails edging the water.
Clouds, rain, sunlight and a bit of snow took turns hitting the peaks and running across the valleys. I love this area of the park as there is a lot of change in the type of mountains and the weather often seems to be determined to put on a show across the landscape.
I was on a horse for 6 hours last week to travel into the Tonquin Valley west of Jasper in the Canadian Rockies. I was working with a great group of people on a photography tour and we had a lot of fun (that dimmed a bit when the snow and rain were pelting us for the last two hours of the ride but spirits returned when we got into camp). The mountains on the western side of the valley are collectively known as The Ramparts. They rise straight up from the edge of the two lakes in the valley, Amethyst Lake and Moat Lake, and are spectacular.
The first evening and the next day we had overcast skies which reinforced the forbidding nature of the peaks. These images are from my first two sessions on the lakeshore getting familiar with the landscape.
Framing the peaks with the rocks provides a sense of the area and with the beautiful lichens add nice color to the scene.
The following two days that we stayed in the Tonquin Valley, the weather picked up pace, changing from snow to rain to sun steadily. The resulting light played wonderfully with the landscape and I look forward to sharing those images in the next couple of posts.
I went up to Elbow Falls to see if the aurora borealis wanted to come out and play. Recently I have been dreaming of images of the falls with the northern lights reflecting off of the water and casting an unusual glow on the land. So, I sat on a snow-covered boulder for a couple of hours after sunset waiting. The ionosphere was quiet while I was there and I didn’t see any trace of the lights (I checked AuroraMax the next day for the night’s activity and things picked up around 11:30, an hour after I left my perch above the river). However, the sky fading into night was beautiful to watch and when the stars emerged from the thin haze above the valley they were brilliant. Here, Betelgeuse is the orange star above the three stars that form Orion’s Belt and the large star above the ridge is Canis Major.
With time on my hands waiting, I kept busy photographing the river from a couple of spots and shooting the sky. Two great subjects to work with. In the image above, a high ISO and wide aperture setting allowed for a relatively short exposure in the darkness which kept the stars from tracing their march across the sky while allowing the water and clouds to stretch and blur. The grain in the image doesn’t work for some people but I like it here and I chose to leave most of it in during the processing.
Turning my back to the falls, I was facing east out of the mountains towards Calgary. The urban glow was faint to the human eye but I tried a long exposure and was struck by the colors and textures captured by the haze and wispy clouds. I played around with settings trying to get as many of the stars as possible to be visible as they created a great pattern amid the colorful sky.
So, I’ll be back up at Elbow Falls again to watch for the northern lights soon. The peak of the sun’s current active phase if forecasted to be in 2013 so there should be great opportunities to realize at least a few of the visuals rolling around in my head.
Sunset along the Rocky Mountains when looking west is often worthy of enjoying when possible. I was able to watch this interesting sky develop a few days ago as the daylight slipped away.
Here the sun just slipped behind the ridges of the mountains of eastern Kananaskis. I underexposed this scene to avoid burnt out highights near the sun. I like the resulting detail in the clouds and the golden hue of the image. Eight minutes later, I captured a larger scene of the sunset. The cotton candy texture and beautiful colour in the upper clouds steal the scene in the image below.
One of the last photographs I made was well above the mountains. Here I did not underexpose yielding a brighter scene. This has a heavenly feel to it that I find interesting.
Here I wanted to work with a dominant pattern across the water and up on the mountains. The diagonal lines of the ridges along the mountain slopes were receding into darkness but I had time to work within this composition.
With the snow that was falling and being blown around by the wind, the lines fade increasingly into the storm. One of the myriad looks of winter in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
This photograph is from the Third Vermilion Lake just outside the Banff townsite. I was out there for sunset on Saturday and things looked promising when a gap in the clouds started to open up but by the time the sun was low and there would have been some color in the sky, the storm had closed in and the grand sunset landscape was filed into the next time folder. I enjoyed watching the snow fall, an American Dipper play in the hot spring water and the winds blow across the ice and through the trees. It was a very nice evening outside.