September 28, 2012

Canada: Lower Half of Banff

I have made it back from Canada, safe and sound. I had such an amazing time I feel that trying to describe my feelings about it only fall short. My journey has only made me want to return and expand my reach northward. I'm trying to figure out how to swing a trip this winter, but we'll see if it actually works out. I'm going to break my posts up into sections of the park(s), starting with the lower half of Banff National Park; from Johnson Lake to Castle Mountain and everything in between. 

Johnson Lake was my first stop and where I hung out most of my first day. The sunset was one of the bests of the trip. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I had been running between a few spots to get the most out of this sunset, but that was the case for most of my days in Canada. It was a great starting point and really got me excited for what was to come.

Johnson Lake at Sunset, Banff National Park, Canada.
Kayakers on Johnson Lake, Banff National Park, Canada
Clouds over Mount Rundle, Banff National Park, Canada

On Sunday, I spent the entire day at Vermillion Lakes. It was nice and peaceful, but this was one of my longest days. I decided to stay out late and try for a night shot composite, which required standing in the same location from dusk until dark. I'm still working on the composite, but I will post it here when I finish (that is, of course, if it works out). The one thing I would strongly suggest for this location is some good hunting boots. There is no way I could have gotten the shots I did without my L.L. Bean hunting boots. This area is marshy and swampy, so if you're looking to shoot here, bring some boots that can get muddy and wet. 
This is also a great place for bird watching, which I was hoping to do during the day. I stalked a blue heron for a large part of the day without much success. It was camera shy to say the least and I was definitely wishing I had a 500 mm lens at that point. 

Mount Rundle at the Second and First Vermillion Lakes, Banff National Park, Canada
Second Vermillion Lake at Sunrise, Banff National Park, Canada

I spent the night at Two Jack Lake campground (which ended up being the last night before it closed for the winter) and took advantage of a nearby sunrise location. Cascade Mountain and Mount Rundle compete for attention in this part of the park and both are equally picturesque. The morning I was to photograph these two in Two Jack Lake I slept through my first alarm. Luckily, I got up, threw some pants and boots on and rushed out to get some of the first light on Cascade Mountain. I hadn't really scouted out the area, so I rushed to where it looked like I'd get views of Cascade Mountain. Most of the views were obscured by the trees and the bend of the shore, so I made the rash decision to wade out into the lake. I took my boots off, hiked up my pants and ended up waded in up to my waist. The views were better, but my motor skills were slowing down, so I figured I should get out of the freezing water and get my blood flowing again. 

Cascade Mountain at Two Jack Lake and Hillsdale Meadows in Fall, Banff National Park, Canada

My next adventure was heading through the Bow Valley Parkway to Castle Mountain and hitting the more unassuming spots along the way. One of my favorite parts of this stretch was the elk scarring on the trees. The dark parts of the trees are uniform throughout these forests. I was having a hard time conveying the uniformity and unique nature of the trees until I got closer and found the way the light was hitting the scars and the different designs in them created graphic images. I was really happy about the way they turned out.  

Elk scars, Banff National Park, Canada
Hillsdale Meadow in Fall, Banff National Park, Canada
Johnston Canyon Lower Waterfall, Banff National Park, Canada

Castle Mountain is a great area for some classic Canadian Rockies imagery. There is a gate near the bridge that allows you to access the river. It looks locked at first, but it's there to keep the animals off the highways. There were some other photographers on the north side of the bridge, but I wanted to have the bridge a part of my picture. I crossed underneath the bridge and quickly realized why most of the other photographers had stayed on that side. There was a part of the river that branched off and forced you to wade through to get to the other side. I figured I had waded through freezing water once today, what's it gonna hurt to do it again? I was glad I did because I was happy with the results, and I was able to enjoy the scenery all to myself.

Castle Mountain and Castle Mountain Bridge at Sunset, Banff National Park, Canada
Self Portrait on the Bow River, Banff National Park, Canada

September 19, 2012

Canada: Headed out of Banff

Few more Banff pics before I head through the Icefields. I have so much more to share, but I'm going to wait until I get back home before I start to really dig deep into editing. These places are so iconic and photographed so often I've been trying to make some unique photographs along with the iconic shots. Below are a some of my attempts to capture more unique imagery. Let me know what you think, and enjoy!

Canoes at Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

Lookout for Lake Louis, Banff National Park, Canada

Canoe and Kayak dock at Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

Two girls brave the cold wind at Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Canada.

September 18, 2012

Canada: Post Card

Mount Rundle reflected in Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park

Hello again from Canada! I've been pretty busy shooting away the last few days I've hardly put my camera down. It was a long night full of what I swear sounded like elks having epic battles, but I was able to get to Lake Louis to capture it's beauty before sunrise. More of that to come..

September 16, 2012

Canada: First Impressions

Self Portrait overlooking Johnson Lake in Banff National Park

My expectations of Canada have been met and exceeded on my first day. It is abundantly beautiful. I seem to have a difficult time deciding where to point my camera! I spent most of yesterday hanging around Johnson Lake in Banff National Park and was able to get some diverse imagery within a rather small area. It's amazing what you can find meandering through the different pathways in the dense forests around here. I found several locations I had scouted for sunset and in the last two hours I was running between all of them, chasing the light. I've been reading the recent article in Outdoor Photographer on Galen Rowell, and I find our philosophies to be fairly similar. I enjoy mastering the technicalities of a photograph and being able to conquer difficult lighting with my photographic knowledge, but there is something to Galen's most famous quote: "f/8 and be there." No photographic genius will ever be a "great" photographer if they don't get out and explore this world we live in. So much of photography is about the content in front of the lens. We can change our composition or settings a hundred times, but if the content is boring, it will most likely turn out to be a boring image. Personally, I got into photography because it seemed to go hand in hand with my philosophy on life. I want to be a part of it. Whatever it is. I enjoy documenting the adventure or event and telling the side of the story only I can tell. The key is to be there. It doesn't matter where. If you want to be a great photographer put yourself in the right place at the right time. Some people confuse this with luck. But there is so much more to it. Besides the planning and the watching and the research, the experience is what's going to set you apart. Being there is so much more than just being present. Being there is about experiencing it and living the adventure. If you live on the edge, your photographs will reflect that lifestyle. I am continually trying to better my photography, but I think this is one of the most important concepts to hold on to.
Johnson Lake had become my lake by the end of the night. Everyone had left to go have dinner in town just before the sky exploded with color. I felt so blessed to be able to witness such beauty and I continue to feel that everyday I am able to be in nature. It was an amazing night and I can't wait to continue my journey in Banff. Luckily, I found a quaint little cafe in town named McDonald's that provided wi-fi. I will hopefully be able to get a few more posts up while I'm on the road. In the mean time I hope you enjoy these teaser images of my first day in Banff National Park.

Johnson Lake in beautiful Banff National Park

Mushroom on the forest floor in Banff National Park

Johnson Lake Panorama

Alpenglow on the mountains near Johnson Lake in Banff National Park

September 14, 2012

Canada: Packing List

Well, the packing is done. I'm headed north for awhile and will hopefully come back with some winning imagery! I'll stay in touch as much as I can. Hopefully I'll be able to post along the way. In the mean time, here is a rundown of my packing list:

Phone (Yes, it is cracked.)
Book: Travels in Alaska by John Muir

Canon 5D Mark II
24 TS-E
Gitzo tripod
Kirk ballhead
Allen wrench
Shutter release cable
Singh-Ray filters
CF cards (32 GB)
Air blower
Battery charger
CF card cable
Macbook charger
500GB external hard drive 
Clik Elite backpack

Food supply
Water supply
Homemade cooking stove
Denatured alcohol - stove fuel
2x Headlamp
Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad
Coleman biodegradable wipes
Mess Kit
Notebook and pen

Patagonia sweater jacket
Columbia rain jacket
4x L/S shirts
5x S/S shirts
4x pants
Several undies
Several socks
Hiking boots
Casual shoes

September 11, 2012

Canada: Trip Planning

I’m getting ready for an amazing trip up north to the Canadian Rockies! I’ll be gone for a total of 11 days, spending most of it exploring Banff and Jasper National Parks. I’ll be driving the whole way, most of it with a friend, until I say goodbye and she continues on to meet up with family. We will hopefully be able to squeeze in a bit of Glacier National Park on the way back, but we’ll have to play it by ear. I have always been enthralled by the Canadian Wilderness and now I will actually be able to see and photograph its grand beauty.

I love planning and preparing for a trip, but this one has just about done me in. I think I've been so concerned about making it absolutely perfect that I've forgotten about letting things happen as they will. That’s all part of the adventure after all. It’s always good to have a plan and be prepared, but leave a little leeway for exploration, the unexpected or, heaven forbid, when things go wrong. Like Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia Clothing Company, said, “It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong.” I may not necessarily want things to go wrong, but there is something to that. There must be room to wiggle, to make last minute rash decisions. Planning is great. Don’t get me wrong. You can get more out of an “adventure” by wise planning, but there is something about living in the moment. Don’t be so stuck on an idea or plan that you forget where you are and experiencing it first hand. Sometimes I don’t recognize the beauty around me when I've had my mind set on a “picture” or an idea. Like my grandma and mom always say, “Don’t wish your life away” or in this case, don’t plan your life away. Soak in the goodness, keep an open mind and leave some room for when the adventure really begins.

I’m hoping to get one more post of my packing list in before I take off. We’ll see if I decide to bring the computer along...I might just be able to post along the way (pending wi-fi availability) and bring you along for the ride!

September 05, 2012

Rule #32 "Enjoy the Little Things"

Sometimes we forget about the little things. We can be so focused on the grand scene that the details tend to be overlooked. To quote rule #32 from the movie Zombieland, "Enjoy the little things". The end goal may be the focus, but those little things can create an entire picture sometimes more powerful than the initial goal. At least this was my experience last week as I headed up Big Cottonwood Canyon. The end goal was sunset at one of the small lakes in the area. Something similar to the shots I was able to capture at Cecret Lake one canyon over. Maybe a yellow tree here or there, some dramatic storm clouds, but it just didn't happen. I worked the scene for what it was and still ended up coming up short. It was a beautiful night, but I wasn't able to capture my vision in the final scene. My images of the hike in, however, were able to sum it up beautifully. I didn't need to capture that grand sweeping vista to convey the beauty that evening. I often forget this "rule" and can get distracted by the grand landscape. I'm not saying the grand landscape isn't, well, grand, but it is important to keep your eyes and mind open to the details and "less grand" scenes, too. Sometimes you just need to stop and enjoy the little things.