I got a really good deal on a week long stay at a place by the Fairmont Hotsprings and headed out for some R&R. I spent the whole day driving out, through Kananaskis and Banff and Kootenay National Parks, stopping first at Gap lake to watch a variety of small songbirds. The weather was beautiful and I had great time exploring the shorelines at various points along the Bow and Kootenay rivers.
Once I got to Fairmont the weather turned rainy and overcast for the next few days, and I spent a lot of time relaxing around the hotel. That’s not to say I didn’t do much, I did a whole lot of driving all over the area. I explored the forestry roads in search of White Swan Lake. Photographed Colombia Lake at sunset. Drove a dirt track on the south side of the river valley halfway to Golden (and then continued on the rest of the way on the highway). Went hiking down to a old gold miners camp along a small creek. Walked around Canal flats where an old canal had been dug between Columbia Lake and the river which is in a different watershed.
I had really been hopeful that I would see some wildlife, but it was a bit of a letdown. The marshes and ponds were strangely devoid of waterfowl (despite it being the annual bird festival in the area). I did spot a black bear about 2 kilometres from the hotel after driving all the way to Golden and back without seeing anything. I had on my wide lens and after it crossed the road in front of my car I watched it from a stand up and scratch its back on a telephone pole while I was fumbling around with my camera, and of course it was gone by the time I got my long lens on.
I spent a lot of time driving up and down some sketchy forestry roads, but apart from a couple of deer and a huge flock of Coots in one of the mountain lakes it was entirely unproductive.
The highlight was an afternoon spent in the reed beds near Canal Flats, which was full of of Great Blue Herons. The light was pretty crappy so I was excited to go back the next day, but the Heron’s were mostly all gone.
As far as photography goes the way there and back again through Banff and Kananaskis was likely more productive than all the time I spent in BC, but I read an entire book about Coastal Wolves and spent more than a few hours in the jacuzzi tub. So I guess it was a successful trip.
I went out to Banff for my annual February weekend at the timeshare. The weather was icy cold, despite the beautiful clear blue skies. We did a lot of driving around looking for wildlife. The first night there I spotted a bunch of Elk up on tunnel mountain drive and nearly died of hypothermia (ok not really) trying to photograph them. The light was on it’s way out so I had to get out of the car to use my tripod, although I think my shivering negated most of its effects. The next day we spotted a coyote walking down the railroad track off to the side of the Bow Valley Parkway. We made the usual stops at Vermilion Lakes and Castle Mountain. But it was too cold to really do a whole lot and we spent more time in the hot tub and lounging around the hotel than we did out taking pictures.
We decided to take a weekend trip down to Cranbrook in British Columbia and although I’m not really sure why we decided to go there it seemed like a good idea at the time. I think the original destination was Kimberly, but when we got into town it was basically empty, so we decided to continue on to Cranbrook. The weekend turned out to be pretty uneventful and we didn’t end up doing a whole lot other than getting lost on some crappy forestry roads, and a really short hike that was supposed to go to a waterfall, but since the trail was washed out and neither of us wanted to get our feet wet, we never got within sight of the actual falls.
We also took a walk around a wetland on the edge of town, and photographed some Grebes and other waterfowl. Overall not very exciting, at least until we got back to Alberta, where we found a couple of young Osprey in a nest on top of a bridge at Castle Mountain in Banff. Although still juvenile they were nearly adult size, and we watched for a long time while up on the nest, one of them tested out it’s wings, flapping away on the verge of becoming airborne, but never quite achieving liftoff. Further down the parkway we ran into a pair (mother and yearling or two year old cub I think) of Black Bears feeding on berries in front of a mob of people.
What a great weekend… Karl and I headed out to Jasper on Friday morning making quick time (especially for us) up Highway 93. We stopped briefly for a Mountain Goat on the side of a cliff overlooking the highway, but other than that it was a pretty uneventful drive with cloudy overcast skies not worth photographing.
We made it to the campground relatively early, we had reserved a spot at Whistlers Campground, and on the way in we passed a bunch of Elk with cute little spotted fawns, but were too lazy to change lenses and decided to come back after setting up camp. Big big mistake, we never saw them again.
Later on we had some great success on the Malign Lake Road spotting a bunch of Black Bears, although with overcast skies the light was lacking and faded quickly, but the road was quite and we were able to spend some time photographing them.
The next morning we drove west to Mount Robson and encountered a grizzly on the side of Highway 16, but couldn’t really get into a decent position, until it crossed over the road in front of us. I managed to grab a couple of shots as we passed by on the busy highway, but it was so deep in the ditch that the angle made it almost impossible.
Back at the campground we met up with the Derkowski’s for lunch while they set up camp. After a bit more evening exploring and a ridiculously close encounter on foot with a black bear, we had spotted it from across the lake then parked and walked down to were it was heading and it popped up right in front of us, closer than we had expected.
After that it was dinner time and we feasted on some of the best ever Campfire Chili, and relaxed around the fire enjoying the all you can burn firewood that the campground offers.
The way back was slow with traffic. A washroom break was made amusing by the Parkway’s resident Ravens, and we spotted a beautiful bull Elk with velvet antlers on the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff.
I took a sunrise drive out to the mountains, heading first up the Bow Valley Parkway, and then up to the Icefields Parkway (#93) all the way to Saskatchewan River Crossing with an hour detour down the David Thompson Highway (#11).
The morning started out fantastic, if a little chilly, with great morning light on Castle Mountain, and a nice shiny layer of frost on the grass.
Unfortunately it didn’t last long and by the time I got to the Icefields Parkway it had turned cloudy and overcast and by Bow Lake the roads were shear ice, and there was a few feet of snow in the ditches. Once I headed down from the summit, the roadsides cleared up and I was able to do a bit of walking around. The mountains are not very scenic this time of year with a lot of dead grass and old dirty snow, but sometimes you just have to make due with what you’ve got (in this case it meant a lot of bracketing and HDR in post, to bring out what little colour and detail there was).
Eventually I headed east on the David Thompson Highway, with the idea of going to have a look at Abraham Lake, but I had no idea how far it was to lake and it was so windy out on the Kootenay Plains that I gave up and headed back before I made it there.
This was the first time I had ever driven east on the D.T.H. and I have to say the view of the long straight road leading directly into the distant mountain was pretty impressive.
I spent a fair bit of time wandering around in the mud by the river (below the bridge) at Saskatchewan River Crossing. There is some pretty nice scenery there, but again, everything looks pretty bleak this time of year. I will definitely have to find some time to spend there when the grass is green and the wild-flowers are blooming.
The drive back was a bit touchy with a about a foot of fresh unploughed snow (slush) that had come down at the summit since I had passed by earlier, but at least the ice that was there in the morning had melted.
As far as wildlife goes the day was a complete bust. On the way back I spotted an absolutely massive Elk on the Bow Valley Parkway, but it was gone into the trees by the time I stopped the car, that was the only living creature I saw all day. I did follow some really fresh wolf tracks for a little ways, until I broke through the ice and ended up ankle deep in mud (I think the wolf was following a weasel or something of that sort, whatever it was I didn’t recognize the tracks).
Bow Valley Provincial Park is a lot bigger than I expected. I’ve driven past the entrance a few hundred times, and did stop in once but only made it as far as the parking lot and information centre before the sun went down. So I think I assumed that was all there was to the park. There is actually a fair bit of road to explore, and a great little picnic area on the shore of the Bow river with a fantastic view of Mount John Laurie (Yamnuska). Which I will most definitely be revisiting with my fly rod come next spring.
I didn’t spend nearly as much time as I could have in Bow Valley because my plan was to drive the Banff Parkway and look for wildlife. Unfortunately once I got into the National Park the weather turned a bit nasty, and after a few hundred kilometres of driving the only animal encounter I had was with a massive bull Elk at the Johnson’s Canyon Parking lot. Which turned out pretty good despite the mob of cell phone tourist chasing the poor thing around.
Other than the Elk there wasn’t much going on for photography, although the sky did clear up a little, and turned into a spectacular sunset. Which I pretty much missed (I had the spot I wanted to photograph, but didn’t make it back there until it was mostly over). I did shoot a few pictures, but wasn’t really happy with the results, I tried to salvage them in post by converting to HDR’s but still couldn’t get the result I wanted.
I had to go out to Banff for work to do a delivery to a production company that was filming a movie out there, so I figured that I might as well bring my camera and make an afternoon of it.
And…. It was pretty much a waste of time……..!
I headed up the parkway, shot a couple bad photos at all the usual spots, and finally made it up to Moraine Lake (after years of failed attempts). But by the time I got there it was pretty much dark, a storm was rolling in, and the light and clouds were total garbage, so I climbed up the ‘Rock Pile’ took a few bad photos, and headed back.
Note to self (and any other photographers)…..
If you want to take pictures of Moraine Lake you need to go at sunrise in the early spring so that the sun is in position to give the view the light it deserves. Sunset in the fall is pretty much just a waste of time.
The pictures really were garbage, so I did what any self respecting photographer would do… Made them into HDR’s, and edited the $#!% out of them.
We were still a bit excited after seeing the bear near Golden. So we thought we’d take a detour and stop at Moraine Lake by Lake Louise (I’ve been trying to get there for three years now). Unfortunately, like usual the road to the lake was still closed.
Feeling unsatisfied we decided to take the slow route back to Banff down the Bow Valley Parkway. We stopped at all the usual scenic spots to take photos. The light was a bit contrasty (hence the HDRs), but it had turned into a nice day, and it was good to get out of the car.
We spotted a couple of really tame Elk, that wandered right down beside us while we were out having a look at a little pond I’ve never noticed before (the name escapes me).
It turned out to be a really beautiful sunset, but we were already on the way back, and anxious to be home before dark, so we didn’t bother stopping.
One of the photography groups I’m in planned a meet at Lake Louise to shoot pictures of the Winter Start World Cup Skiing Event, and another group had a meet planned in Banff for the next day. So I decided I might as well bring a friend and spend the whole weekend in the mountains. Unfortuantly the weather didn’t really cooperate, and the second meet got canceled (the host crashed her car on the icy roads on the way in from Canmore), and so the photos of the race were about all that I took the entire weekend.
The race was neat to see up close, but it’s not really my sort of thing. We ended up running late, and never did find the photo group, although after seeing their pictures I think we must have been standing about 10 feet away the whole time.
On the third day we headed out early for another drive down Maligne Lake Road and again encountered nothing. So after a bit of breakfast in town we hit the highway and made the long slow journey home. This time taking the Icefields Parkway (Hwy. #93), making all the usual stops along the way. Climbing around the ice at Tangle Falls, taking the short hike down to Mistaya Canyon, chasing (not very) wild Ravens around a parking lot, and wandering the shores of Bow and Waterfowl Lakes. Though there wasn’t any wildlife to be seen, it was a good drive home and a nice autumn day to be out in the mountains.
I wanted to take a drive up the Icefields parkway to see if I could find any of the big predators. So I stayed the night at a friends house in Lake Louise, and was up and on the highway before sunrise to see what I could find. Unfortunately the only wildlife I found was a couple of Spruce Grouse and an Osprey, but it was still a nice day for a drive.
I took a drive through Banff and up a ways on the Icefields Parkway last April. The weather was not very cooperative on highway 93, but it cleared up enough near banff for a couple of shots, and a bit of a hike through Johnston’s Canyon.
Found a really scenic canal out by Two-Jack Lake on the Minnewanka Loop, and stopped to take some pictures. Not having a wide angle lens, I did the next best thing.. and used photoshop to merge some of the pictures together. Although you can’t tell from the way they’re displayed here, the two long pictures are in the 50 megapixel range, which is pretty big. If you were to print them out at the optimal resolution they would be about 5 feet long.