During the warmer months, there are a number of great blue herons that settle around the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park. A couple of weeks ago, I was on the shore of the second lake watching daybreak over a smoke-filled Bow Valley.
Looking across the lake, I saw ten herons spread out across a marshy spot a couple of hundred meters away. They were a bit too far away to observe them closely but I liked watching them as they hunted, interacted with one another and preened their feathers.
An eagle flew overhead which sent all of the herons into the air. In twos and threes they sped away while the eagle stayed on a straight line towards the first lake. Within 15 minutes a couple of the herons returned. Shortly after that three others alighted in the shallows of another marshy area.
There was a trail that angled towards that spot so I hoisted the big lens and tripod and wandered down. The path died out, overgrown by tall grass, but not before leaving me less than 50 meters from the closest of the three herons there. I set up and then enjoyed an hour watching these birds doing their thing.
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.
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.
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.
The moon was scribbling on the surface of one of the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park on the weekend.
I found a pair of common loons on the third Vermilion Lake in the Banff National Park on the weekend. They were diving and skimming the water surface for food, enjoying the sunshine and paddling close to each other at different points.
The sunlight caught the iridescence in their feathers. It is beautiful when the red eyes glow and the silky greens shimmer along their necks.
The quick stab of wintry weather last weekend reminded me of a visit to the Vermilion Lakes in January. It was cold, -25°C cold, but this American dipper flitted around the pond with the energy typical of this species.
This was a welcome distraction from my wait for daybreak, still 15 minutes away, so I switched to a telephoto lens and photographed the comings and goings for a little while. Hot springs seep out of the hillside and run into the pond which keeps sections ice-free throughout the winter and creates the hazy mist that rolls in slow motion waves across the water. It was a beautiful spot to be on a frigid morning – even when my fingers might argue it was not worth it, I believe it was.