We had two terrific mornings at Two Jack Lake just outside of the town of Banff. The sunrises were spectacular each morning with great clouds that were lit up in reds and oranges. On the first morning, the light show didn't last too long and we left shortly after the show ended. We had much better luck on the second morning, as the sunrise colors gave way to some extraordinary golden hour light. Several of us went around the lake to explore what was over there. This is what we found that was waiting for us. A great view of Mount Rundle bathed in golden light with a near perfect reflection in the still waters of Two Jack. If you look closely, you can see the tent of someone who camped out overnight on the opposite shore.
There are some photos of Banff where the subjects aren't mountains, lakes, rivers, glaciers or wildlife. This is one of them. Along the Bow River Parkway, there is a spot where the tracks are used by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was made famous by the Canadian Pacific photographer, Nicholas Morant. For 44 years, Morant traveled the rails throughout Canada shooting trains and company properties (sounds like a job I would have loved). There aren't any signs for this spot, but it is located on the parkway about five minutes from Lake Louise. I have been there many times, but was never lucky enough to see a train on the tracks. Yes, I could have gotten a train schedule, but with all of the great subjects to shoot in Banff, I never did. Lady luck was on our side last month and I were able to see and finally get a shot with a train traveling on the tracks.
Next month, I will be revisiting the Palouse and its amazing landscape. I have been there once before in early June when the rolling landscape was a carpet of green and absolutely fell in love with it. The area has become a mecca for landscape photographers in recent years. The Palouse covers approximately 4,000 square miles in eastern Washington, western Idaho and a small portion of northeastern Oregon, which is slightly smaller than my home state of Connecticut. It is tough to truly measure as there are no signs or boundaries. The best way to determine whether you are in the Palouse is to use your eyes. There is a unique look to the landscape.
That being said, I have seen photos of the Palouse during harvest time when the landscape has changed from green to harvest brown and I am excited that I might be able to see it during that time. Of course, predicting the time of the harvest is akin to timing a visit to see fall foliage. It always depends on many things, especially the weather that year. I will keep my fingers crossed.
After staying in Banff for a week, a few of us headed up to Jasper National Park to experience this lesser known, but equally impressive part of the Canadian Rockies. The town of Jasper is a quieter and less crowded town than Banff, three hours to the south. It provides a great launching spot to explore the national park and also head into British Columbia to experience some terrific Provincial Parks.
One of the spots that we visited in British Columbia was Rearguard Falls. This is only one of two waterfalls that can be found on the 854 miles long Fraser River. This particular part of the river is famous, as it is the spawning ground of one of nature's most impressive migrations, namely the Sockeye Salmon. I think everyone has seen photos of the salmon swimming upstream when millions of salmon start their journey in the Pacific Ocean. On this cold overcast June day, there wasn't any salmon to be seen (they appear in late summer) so I set up where I imagined that the salmon would be leaping out of the water and took several long exposure photos.
A lot of photos have been posted from my recent trip to Banff of Herbert Lake. This little lake is mere steps off of the Icefields Parkway and, when the water is still, gives great reflection shots of the Canadian Rockies. The typical shot of Herbert Lake is looking straight westward, where you are able to capture more than eight peaks in the composition. It is a classic Canadian Rockies scene and one of my favorites.
I learned a long time ago that once you get "the" composition, start working the location for different subjects and compositions. I headed to the south end of the lake and looked northward to get this different look. Only two peaks in this photo, but Mother Nature still delivered a beautiful scene.
Most of the stops along the Icefields Parkway are views of mountain lakes, the fabulous Canadian Rockies and glaciers. This is particularly true of the portion of the parkway in Banff National Park. As you travel north on this amazing 140-mile road and enter Jasper National Park, waterfalls become more prevalent. There are several small ones along the way, but the first sizable one is this one, Sunwapta Falls. The falls actually consists of two falls, one downstream away from the first one that is closer to the parkway. The falls gets its name from the Assiniboine Native Americans meaning "turbulent water". The Athabasca River is sourced by the Columbia Glacier and is at its most spectacular in the spring with the snow melt. The river passes over the falls on its way to the town of Jasper to the north.
What a great place Venice is. It has such a different feel to the city mainly because of its canals, history and architecture. Of all of the cities I have been to, I wouldn't mind getting lost there. Every alley way has something different, and I found myself just stopping and looking around in delight. Some of the architecture is simple, but much of the city's architecture is ornate, really ornate. It's architectural style, is the Gothic with Byzantine and Ottoman influences.
We were staying in St. Mark's Square with some of the most ornate architecture in Venice. As I wandered around one night, I saw the statutes on the top of St Mark's framed by this arch. The inclusion of the yellow glow from light fixture made a nice contrast to the blue-hour light.
Last week I posted a photo of Victoria Glacier from Lake Louise showing the glacier lit up in alpenglow light. I also talked about how the crowds at Lake Louise increase dramatically as the morning grows later. Fortunately, with sunrise happening at 5:15am, we still had a relatively crowd-free chance to roam around the lake taking photos. The lake is pretty accessible from all sides, which allows for lots of different compositions. While the light wasn't the golden glow of sunrise when I took this photo, it was still very nice. The lake was smooth as glass, allowing for great reflection shots (my favorite type of photo). For this composition, I wanted to have Victoria Glacier in it while capturing the reflection of Mount Aberdeen in the waters of Lake Louise.
I know what you are thinking, "This isn't Banff". After two straight weeks, I am trying to ween myself off of posting Banff photos. I know it will be hard with all of the great locations that are there but I want to start adding some variety back into my photo stream. For those of you who love Banff, don't worry, as the withdrawal from my addiction from it will be a gradual one.
So how was I going to start changing it up? I decided to hop to a different season and a location much closer to where I live, fall in Vermont. This photo was shot about five years ago and pictures a classic autumn scene that is found throughout New England. The mountains are not nearly as big as the Rockies, but they add a nice layering to the landscape here. This photo was shot at sunrise and the fog added to the layering of the foliage and farmland.
The trip to Banff last month was a resounding success. Based upon the photos I have seen from my friends, their favorite place by far was Moraine Lake and for good reason. Every time I am asked where my favorite location in Banff is, my answer seems to change, but not anymore. Moraine Lake treated us with some amazing conditions from snow, rain, clouds and sunshine. Seeing it in all of those conditions has locked it in as my favorite location. Sure there is tremendous competition from all of the surrounding mountains, mountain lakes, waterfalls and glaciers but any lake that is surrounded by ten peaks (known as the Valley of the Ten Peaks) is usually the winner.
There have been so many photos of the lake posted by my friends (the disadvantage of being the last one home), I am posting my first photo of the lake with its always present canoes. I have always loved their color with the mountain peaks in the background.
We were blessed with some amazing light during our recent trip to Banff National Park. This was especially true of Two Jack Lake. Being only about ten minutes from our hotel, we visited there twice and were treated to beautiful light each time. This contrasts with my visit a couple of years ago when we visited the lake four times before getting decent light. As you can see, the light was amazing even though Mount Rundle was only partially lit (it never did get fully lit on this morning). Regardless, the clouds and the reflection more than made up for it. This is the reason you wake up at 3:30am for a June sunrise shoot.
Lake Louise is perhaps the most visited and photographed lake in Banff National Park. The number of tour buses and tourists that frequent there is staggering. The best time to shoot the lake with the Victoria Glacier reflected in it is at sunrise, That is also the time when there are the least amount of people around. An expensive way to make sure you get there at dawn is to stay at the Chateau Lake Louise that sits on the shore of the lake (a room in August with set you back $779 Canadian per night). I actually stayed in the Chateau in 2006 for a splurge (I got a bargain at $700 Canadian per night). Back then, I was able to get up right before dawn and walk to the shore and take photos with virtually no one there.
This trip was different. We left the town of Banff at 4:30am to make the 45 minute drive to Lake Louise. Much to my surprise, the lake was busy compared to my 2006 visit. At 5:15am, the boat house was open and at least ten canoes were already on the lake. Hard to believe. In any case, it was still sparser than it would be at 9:00am, when you wouldn't be able to move without bumping into someone.
My favorite place in Jasper National Park is, no doubt, Maligne Lake and the boat ride to Spirit Island. Although it is only technically an island two weeks out of the year when the water floods the thin patch of land leading to it, it is still world renowned. The island is located on the southern shore of Maligne Lake and is one of the most iconic and most photographed subjects in the Canadian Rockies. I am sure many of you have seen photos of it but didn't know where it was. How did this tiny island get so famous? We can thank Eastman Kodak. As part of a marketing effort, Kodak sent out one of their photographers, Peter Gales, to find remote locations that would help promote the sale of their film. He stumbled upon the island, which was only reachable by boat. His image became part of Kodak's Colorama display (larger than life photos in Grand Central Station). Over the more than 40 years that it hung there, millions upon millions of people viewed the photo.
To photograph it today, you have three choices. First, you can rent a kayak and paddle most of the day just to reach the island. You can either paddle back that night or camp out (with a permit). This is the best way to photograph it during great light. Second, you can take a boat tour that goes for 1.5 hours, but you only get 15 minutes at the island to photograph it before heading back to the boat. Lastly, they offer a photographer's tour that lasts for 2.5 hours, giving you plenty of time to shoot the island. You know which one I was up for. Of course, when I went to book the photographer's tour, I found out that it wasn't offered in June so I had to get as many shots as I could in my allotted 15 minutes.
Just past the Banff National Park border on the Icefields Parkway, you cross over into the equally beautiful Jasper National Park. Just a few kilometers further and you will come to the much visited Columbia Icefields and one of its eight glaciers, Athabasca Glacier. This glacier is quite popular as it is the most accessible and visible one. Another reason is that visitors can actually walk on the glacier (after paying a fee of course) by taking a specially designed snowcoach (aka Ice Explorer). The Ice Explorer's top speed is 11 mph on the glacier. During the afternoon, you can usually spot a lot of the Ice Explorers on the glacier. I took this photo on the way back from Jasper to the Calgary Airport. It was early morning, the light was terrific and, if you look closely, there is only one Ice Explorer on the glacier.
So, last week I wrote about a dangerous encounter with a grizzly that I was lucky to walk away from in Banff National Park. Later, in Jasper National Park, I had a much more peaceful encounter with this Bull Elk. We had just spent a glorious sunrise at Pyramid Lake, where the light was amazing and the lake was calm. We all walked away with photos of the lake, Pyramid Mountain, and Pyramid Island that we were quite happy with. After shooting for two and half hours, we all were hungry and started heading back to the hotel to grab a quick breakfast. Just as we turned the corner from the lake, we spotted this bull elk and several female elk at the end of Patricia Lake. I guess that breakfast would have to wait. The elk were pretty calm, munching on their breakfast. That allowed us to get some terrific photos of them. I was thankful that I had my new long lens so that I was able to get some great close-ups without endangering myself this time.
Whenever you are on a road trip with Jeff Clow, be prepared to take a lot of road shot photos. I mean lots of them. Jeff is a Jedi Master of these type of shots and he is always on the lookout for them. On last week's trip to Banff and Jasper National Parks, he was in his glory as the 140-mile Icefields Parkway that connects the two parks is a treasure trove of possible road shots. It is often comical to stop suddenly along the parkway and fifteen photographers hop out of their cars and run to the middle of the road to get a shot. It is a challenge as every car that approaches pulls over to the side of the road thinking we have spotted a grizzly bear. When they find out that there is no bear, they often drive off in a huff.
This shot was not actually a road shot at all. We stopped at the Parker Ridge parking area close to the Banff - Jasper border. Most of my fellow photographers went off to the right to shoot the valley. I noticed the small snow squall to the left of the mountain and thought it would make a cool road shot. I guess Jeff is rubbing off on me.
In case you were wondering whether all I shot in Banff were mountain reflections in lakes (I did shoot a lot of those), this photo will prove there are other things to shoot. On my first morning of the trip, a few of us headed to Moraine Lake. For those of you who follow my fellow photographers on Facebook, you may have noticed that the lake is a very popular and beautiful subject. Its location in the Valley of the Ten Peaks should give you a good indication of why it is so popular. The road leading to the lake also has some compelling subjects. My favorite along the road is the towering Mount Babel. I shot it back in 2006, and I made Jeff Clow look for the exact spot a couple of years ago. This time, it was easy to find and it had a special surprise for me. Overnight, a light snow had fallen, and when we first pulled up, snow flurries were in the air. Whenever you pull over to the side of the road in Banff, other cars stop, thinking you have found some wildlife. What they discovered instead was the sheer face of Mount Babel in all of its ruggedness. As I composed this shot, a small break in the clouds opened up and part of the mountain lit up, ever so briefly.
Being one of the last photographers home from a trip to Banff National Park, I am a bit behind everyone else's posts. I must say that their work so far is stellar and that I have the great benefit of shooting with excellent photographers that I also call friends. I will try to post different compositions so as not to repeat their work. I believe that this photograph of Waterfowl Lake qualifies as that. In fact, on my previous visits to this pristine lake, I had never shot from the southern end of the lake. A few of us headed up to Jasper National Park for a few days, and when we saw Mount Chephren reflected in the lake, we just had to stop.
After shooting the scene from the Icefields Parkway, I spotted something red at the far end of the lake. I decided to check out what is was and started the long walk to the end of the lake. Turns out that the red was another photographer who was just leaving. She was kind enough to show me the trail down to where she had been. When I got to the end, I stood and looked at this exact view. This was the best place to shoot Mount Chephren and also get the peaks to the north in the composition. I could have kicked myself for not exploring this section of the lake in previous trips, but now I will make this one of my first stops in future visits.
I just got back from my trip to Banff and Jasper National Parks late on Saturday. It was great to shoot with so many photo friends that I have met over the years. It was one epic get together. Long days (sunrise at 5:30am and sunset after 10:00pm) filled with lots of laughs and great scenery. I have often said that this area was my favorite place on Earth (at least where I have been) and it did not disappoint.
This week and next, I will try to show the beauty of the area. It all starts with the Canadian Rockies and mountain lakes. Weather patterns also play a role in its beauty. Snow one day and beautiful sunshine on others. On our first morning of the trip, a few of us traveled up the Icefields Parkway to the first lake of many, namely Herbert Lake. It was snowing off and on. The skies were stark and there were only two colors to be seen: blue and green. I have seen Herbert Lake in all of its glory in the early morning sunshine (we were to experience it later in the week), so I was actually thrilled to see a different look to it. The snow stopped long enough and the wind died down enough to get this reflection of the Canadian Rockies in the lake.
Tomorrow I will be flying to Alberta to meet up with a bunch of friends to spend time exploring Banff and Jasper National Parks. Some of my friends have been there before and are revisiting one of the most beautiful areas in the world. For others, it will be their first time there and I can't wait to see their reactions when they see it. No matter how many photos you see of this area, the reality is even better.
I will be gone for almost two weeks, and have decided to take a break from posting on my blog and Facebook while I am gone. I usually have automated posts when I travel, but after a few years of not missing a post, I think I have earned it.
I leave you with this black and white interpretation that I took on my last trip there on the famed Icefields Parkway just north of the Columbian Icefields. See you in two weeks or so.