I had not been back to the Canadian Rockies in the Winter in quite a few years and knew I had some unfinished business there. I rarely do this, but I decided to join a group expedition led by Marc Adamus. In addition to being the best landscape photographer on the planet, he has more extensive knowledge of the Canadian Rockies than any photographer that doesn’t live there. I knew he would take us to the best off-the-beaten-track locations at the right time.
Our first location was far south of the city of Canmore on a little side road that I’ve seen before, but never really stopped to see what was there. It was well before sunrise, but that was the best time to be there to capture the contrast of the distant mountain and sky.
We headed even further south from there to capture a sunrise scene and the reflection of mountains is a calm stream. We had to hike a short distance through some deep snow, which wasn’t easy, but it was worth all the effort. There are not many places you can get good snow-covered mountain reflections, but this was a real winner.
On the way back north, Marc noticed this mountain with a cool cloud in front of it, which was framed by these two small trees in front of it. We made a quick stop and captured the moment. Literally, within a minute the cloud was gone.
It was well below zero degrees Fahrenheit, and when that happens you are bound to get some nice fog over many of the rivers. We couldn’t resist a stop at this one river where the fog was doing its thing. It was a shot into to setting sun, but that was what made the fog stand out. Marc’s eye for scenes like this is incredible. I learned a lot just from this one shot.
We headed up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, but the weather was getting pretty nasty. No matter how creative you are, it's really difficult to do much with heavy overcast, and falling snow. The next day we headed back south on the Parkway and stopped at the Beauty Creek area right as we were getting what color we were going to get in the sky. It was another short hike in some deep snow to get to the creek where it lined up beautifully with a very large mountain. There are other possibilities in that area, and I will be back there another time for sure.
After lunch in Lake Louise, we saw the weather was clearing, so we headed back north on the Parkway to capture the long shadows of the Pine Trees caused by the setting sun. Like with the fog over the river, I might not have envisioned the possibilities that were here. The light in the scene leads you through it from the dark shadows to the bright sun.
Another location we stopped at was Castle Mountain. The goal here was to get something much different than a typical shot looking down the Bow River. The goal was to get very low to the ground, and using a small calm area of water alongside the river, capture the reflection of Castle Mountain. As you can see, it worked very well.
One of the last locations we went to was Lake Louise. At just the right time in the morning, the sun is bursting in the trees, the sky is filled with color and Fairview Mountain is reflecting in the water. It helps when you’re with someone that knows when that time is.
Our last morning was spent up at Abraham Lake. It was bitterly cold and the wind was blowing over 40 mph. The goal was to get out on the ice and shoot the ice bubbles, but I decided to stay back closer to the car and shoot the sunrise over the lake. This turned out to be fortunate for a nice lady that had gotten her car stuck in the snow as I knew how to get her out and get her back to the highway. Anyway, the sunrise was just incredible.
The group expedition had come to a close, but I was staying a few extra days on my own to shoot some of the more iconic scenes that are easy to get to. I feel it is always better to do these on your own and let the group leader take you to the spots you might never know about.
The weather was pretty good, and I felt it was the right day to go up to Emerald Lake for sunset. The snow was going to be moving back in the next afternoon. This turned out to be the right decision. The following are two shots, one from when the sky was filled with color and the other a little later when the light on the cabin stands out more. I rarely keep two shots of the same location, but they are composed a little differently for foreground and each has its own personality.
As I was standing there at Emerald Lake, I noticed in the opposite direction a wonderful winter scene with reflections of the trees and the colorful clouds with a little footbridge. Well, this was just too good to pass up. I was getting two different images at the same location. That doesn’t happen very often.
The next morning had the weather hanging in there. It was off to Morant's Curve to capture the red train engines of the Canadian Pacific Railway as they passed through the valley in front of the mountains. The truth is, even without the train, the scene is simply stunning in the winter. It was only about an hour wait until the morning freight train came by. It may not be artistic and dramatic, but it was a barrel of fun to do.
The weather changed to snow and was overcast again. So, the next morning I headed to Johnston Canyon to shoot the Lower Falls. The water shoots out from the base so I used a long exposure to capture that motion. Near the falls is this little scene that just looked like some kind of a face to me. Maybe the long days were getting to me and I was just seeing things.
It was time to begin the journey back home, but before I did, I wanted to drop by Lake Minnewanka and see if I could use some of the concepts discussed during the group expedition and get down low to something interesting. I tried a variety of spots that just didn’t seem to be working. I then noticed this triangular piece of ice surrounded by the lines in the snow that were leading to the mountain. I took several different focus stacks and came up with an image I think works pretty well.
It was a great trip and it’s just not possible to spend time with Marc and not learn something. I sincerely appreciate all the effort he puts into his craft and his instruction.
I’ll be heading out to Death Valley in March with my good friend Jess Lee. From winter in the Canadian Rockies to the desert, what a change.