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.
I spent the first half of the weekend in the Rocky Mountains of western Alberta and loved every minute. An amazing display of the Aurora Borealis over Lake Minnewanka and the first Grizzly bears that I’ve seen this year were among several highlights from the trip. In this image, clouds cleared out of the valleys just after sunrise in Kananaskis. I was continually reminded how beautiful this part of the world is.
Driving along Highway 22 after a day with the eagles, I was traveling parallel to the Livingstone Range of the Canadian Rockies. The foothills lead up to it in a couple of rounded hills and then the mountains jut up sharply from there. It was an impressive scene with the sharp contrast between hills and mountains as well as light and shadow of the late afternoon.
I had fun pulling together this list of my landscape images that stood out to me. Last year I spent time in some beautiful places near and far which certainly helps towards making pretty pictures. Within those moments, I really enjoyed composing the images to try to create something more compelling than just pretty pictures – although I like those too!
I felt like I put more effort into my wildlife photography last year but am happy with the progression with my landscape images. The sky makes up so much of what makes or breaks a landscape image for me and I see my exploration of that continuing in 2016. If you are interested in seeing these of images, please click on any image or this link to open the image gallery. Thank you for visiting now and throughout the year.
Canon 5DIII + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/4000th of a second at f/11 on ISO 400
The winds that came with the weather change last weekend were heavy when I left my home in Bragg Creek for the Banff National Park in the morning. When I got into the mountains, the Bow Valley was pretty calm but higher up on the slopes, the snow was blowing around in opaque sheets while the clouds raced by above. Watching from the Vermillion Lakes shoreline, I was mesmerized by the view of Mount Rundle. The sun catching the wispy snow drawn out over the slopes before fraying into the shadow as it flew over the cliffs was beautiful to watch.
I drove up to Apgar, a small village in Glacier National Park, this morning. I arrived at the southern edge of Lake McDonald in the dark and headed past the sleeping townsite for the rocky beach. The full moon provided a bit of light out over the water and I could see the mist was already rising up into the cold air. I started getting excited as the eastern edge of the sky brightened and silhouetted the mountain peaks above the north and east sides of the lake. The glow in the sky deepened and the colours came in beautifully.
As the intense colour began to fade, I was able to balance this great stem of autumn leaves with the lovely Grinnell argillite rocks under the water (the first image). A very beautiful morning in Montana’s Glacier National Park.
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.
(please click on either image to link to a higher resolution version)
My family spent the weekend at Lake Louise and I got out to greet the sunrise on the top of the rock pile at Moraine Lake on Sunday morning. As the eastern sky began to brighten clouds were swirling along the Valley of the Ten Peaks and I was hopeful for a nice backstop to develop above the mountains and catch the colourful light. When dawn was breaking the clouds had mostly cleared out around the lake but to the east a different set had anchored on the horizon and I worried that by the time the sun climbed that little bit higher and the light could paint the Ten Peaks, the colour may have faded to normal daylight. I waited, along with a few other photographers strung along the top of the trail, and we were granted a very short window where a beam of red light shot through a whole in the eastern cloudbank and painted the rocky slopes. The beam lasted well short of a minute but the valley transcended its normal beauty by a long margin while it lasted. Above is one of the images from this moment. I took the photograph below after the red light faded as the clouds returned and glided above the valley. The last sunrise I caught there was in July and by the time the light fought through the clouds stacked in front of the sun it had no colour left so I have no complaints with this weekend’s weather.
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.
The light this evening was lovely and the lines of the hillsides of the Foothills towards Kananaskis Country looked like a water-colour painting.
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.