Having landed in Calgary, it felt as though Canada had decided to switch seasons whilst we were in the air. Alberta was steeped in snow, a far cry from the sunshine of BC. Both Alex and me must have looked pretty odd shivering outside the airport with sunburnt faces and minimal layers. Still, we were grateful for the contrast. Canada is such a huge and diverse country; it was just this sort of unpredictable weather we needed to help portray this. We’d captured the dense greenery of BC, now it was time for snowcapped peaks and icy alpine lakes.
What with our odd flight times, we only had one full day in the Banff area, but as you’ll see, we made the very best of the time we had.
Travel Alberta were kind enough to set us up with Dan, a photography guide, who proved to be an invaluable asset to our time here. He knew where to go, which vantage points to hike to and at which times the light was best. This did mean, however, that we were out at 5:30am to capture the sunrise over Moraine Lake. With so much traveling and so little sleep, the days had started to merge and it was with great difficulty that we left behind our fire-warmed cabins to hop into Dan’s car. It wasn’t long, however, before the grogginess left us and the excitement set in. Half way to Moraine Lake, in the early morning darkness, two wolves, one grey and one black, trotted out in front of the car and past our windows. We’d already heard how rare it was to see these creatures, and even Dan was excited, despite this being his back garden. It was the perfect wake up call and by the time we arrived at the lake we were ready for the day ahead.Read more
Due to the early hour and the intense cold (within ten minutes my face had gone numb and talking without sounding like I was slurring was near impossible) we were alone at the vantage point for at least half an hour, so we had plenty of time to find the perfect spot for that winning photograph. Before we knew it, the sunrays began to sneak over the horizon to illuminate the peaks that surround Moraine Lake. It was an incredible sight and even with a handful of other eager photographers now appearing, it remained peaceful and left us mesmerized.
As we’d captured the shots we wanted (and to spare my quickly freezing body any more pain), Dan suggested we get back in the car, grab a coffee and then move on to Lake Louise. An icon of Canada, this was a place I’d been eager to see ever since I’d first heard about it. It’s one of those few places on earth that is ten times better in real life than the photostoreped images of it that you see littered around the internet. The intense blue of the lake sat perfectly against the white of the mountain snow and the sky was as clear as it could be. It seemed the weather was on our side today.
We spent a lot of time finding new spots to get different angles for the photos. Then, for some reason, Dan and Alex decided to take off their shoes and go for a paddle. By this point I was sure my toes were dead from cold, so I offered to take the photos whilst they risked frostbite. The pictures turned out great though, so I like to think of their feet as martyrs of composition.
From Lake Louise it was on to the Icefields Parkway for a scenic drive to a number of other, lesser known lakes. Almost as soon as we hit the highway, we were treated to the sight of a young grizzly bear wandering amongst the roadside shrubbery. Whilst we’d got some incredible bear shots at Knight Inlet, this time we were much closer, and, with Dan’s zoom lens at hand, Alex was snap happy. After a few minutes we carried on our way and pulled up to Bow Lake. Just as stunning as Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, here we spent our time taking photos, skimming stones across the glassy surface and looking out to the glaciers and peaks beyond
After we’d shot what we could at Bow Lake, we carried on down the highway and turned into the parking lot for Peyto Lake and the Bow Summit. We walked the icy trail to the viewpoint and captured yet more incredible pictures. With the benefit of awe-inspiring landscapes like the ones we’d seen so far, it was becoming hard to take a bad photo.
As the day wore on, our energy levels began to dip. Dan, of course, had the perfect solution; a hike to the upper falls of Johnston Canyon. Despite our initial reservations, the fresh air and the sight of the powerful waterfalls actually reinvigorated us all. Apart from the trail we followed, the surroundings are completely untouched. The trees grow and fall, the water flows and the rocks erode in a completely natural way. Both Alex and me were becoming more and more envious of Dan’s lifestyle. Who else do we know that can say they’ve mountains, alpine lakes, grizzlies, waterfalls and stunning hiking trails a few minutes from their house?
After the hike, we went into Banff Town for some dinner and a few sunset shots over Banff Ave. It had been a long but successful day. We were so lucky with both weather and wildlife. Waking up on the day of departure to grey skies and a light drizzle, we couldn’t believe that we’d managed to pick the one-day where Banff had boasted blue skies and snow.
Once again we found ourselves packing our bags for a flight. From alpine living to the beautiful prairies of Saskatchewan, it was time to prepare for a different experience altogether.