Canadian Rockies

So I’ve departed the land of lush green forests, flowers, and snow, and after driving many hours through tree covered and otherwise abandoned Canadian lands, Ali and I found ourselves in the Canadian Rockies. Given that I’ve only got a very brief moment of internet, this will be a rather short story. But I’ll make sure to include more factual substance in my next posting after Ali and I return from our 8 day trip in Glacier National Park, which starts tomorrow. While Canada isn’t far from the US, it really is a different country. A lot more like Europe, and our 4 day trip into Assiniboine Provincial Park (in B.C., next to Banff) resembled my trip into the Swiss Alps last year much more than any ‘American’ wilderness experience. After hiking 18 miles (two days) we arrived at Lake Magog, at the base of Mt. Assiniboine – the Matterhorn of Canada. We weren’t alone, as in European style, folks could be helicoptered to the lodge overlooking the lake for $145 Canadian, one way. This of course meant we could have fresh cakes, tea, and beer, which we did. If I had to pick out one thing about the Canadian Rockies that I find most unique and interesting, it would be the multitude of turquoise colored lakes, due to the finely crushed glacial sediment drifting in the water (the color is caused by the same physics that makes the sky blue).

“Magog Dreaming” ~ Assiniboine Provincial Park, B.C., Canada
The Tech: Canon 5D, 17-40mm @ 21mm, polarizer, 2 stop hard GND, 2x 3-stop ND’s, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 2 minutes
Processing: It took a lot of color balance and channel mixer work to get this to look right – the filters for some reason created a very pink and purple cast on the sky and mountain. I’m not sure why, as the filters are top of the line and truly neutral.. this only appears on some very long exposures – perhaps it’s a certain combination or even orientation that causes it.

We spent a day in the area exploring some of the many beautiful lakes around, and one point the wind and light created some neat abstract opportunities on Cerulean Lake’s surface..

“Cerulean Lake” ~ Assiniboine Provincial Park, B.C., Canada
The Tech: Canon 5D, 100-400mm @ 360mm, handheld
Exposure: iso 400, f/8, 1/500th sec
Processing: I enhanced the colors a little more than usual on this one, as it’s an abstract, and it’s about colors..

For some reason, I’m still not entirely sure why, we decided to hike out the full 18 miles in one day. This wouldn’t have been a huge issue, except that the last shuttle from the trail head to the parking lot left at 5:30pm, and we didn’t leave camp till 10am. To complicate matters, we encountered 3 grizzly bears on our way out – a mother and three cubs, though I use that word loosely as they weren’t much smaller than momma bear. Fortunately we encountered them at the perfect place along the trail – we were on a very steep hillside (~70 degrees), and they were about 100 ft downhill from us. While they acknowledged our existence, they didn’t seem bothered at all and kept eating their berries. So these were photographed from a safe distance with my telephoto from the trail, while Ali stood by with the pepper-spray just in case they got really angry for no reason.

“Grizzly Bear” ~ Assiniboine Provincial Park, B.C., Canada
The Tech: Canon 5D, 100-400mm @ 400mm, handheld
Exposure: iso 800, f/5.6, 1/400th sec
Notes: Slight crop for additional magnification.

After hiking out I spent the following sunset and sunrise at Morraine Lake, which is famous for it’s picture perfect view of a turquoise lake, mountains, rocks and trees. I was fortunate to get some weather in the skies, though the best show of color unfortunately was looking the opposite way. This one was from sunrise, shame there’s almost no snow on the mountains though!

“Moraine Pastels” ~ Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Canada
The Tech: Canon 5D, 17-40mm @ 21mm, 2-stop hard GND, tripod
Exposure: iso 200, f/11, 2.5 sec
Processing: It took a fair amount of work with the channel mixer to bring out the delicate colors in the sky.
Notes: With the wide angle lens, and being relatively far from my foreground objects, I used a lower aperture than I normally do as I wanted to freeze the clouds in this one, and there wasn’t much light.

After that we decided to head on down to Glacier to explore a little and get things ready for our big trip. We spent two nights at Two Medicine Lake, a classic and lovely lake side mountain view. The first night was stormy, and I chose to shoot at Two Medicine Lake itself to capture the largest storm waves I could, whereas the following evening was a bit calmer, and I moved to a smaller lake just downstream of the main lake to capture the evening colors. This scene is more amenable to sunrise, as these views are looking almost due West, but the sunrises were rather bland. And again, what I would have given for a sprinkling of snow…

“Angry Sinopah” ~ Two Medicine Lake, Glacier National Park
The Tech: Canon 5D, 17-40mm @ 24mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 1/10th sec
Processing: Lots of burning and dodging.. still not done
Notes: For dynamic water I find exposures somewhere around 1/8th-1/13th of a second provide the perfect mix of moving and frozen motion.

“Sinopah Meditates” ~ Two Medicine Lake, Glacier National Park
The Tech: Canon 5D, 17-40mm @ 29mm, 2-stop hard GND, 2x 3-stop hard ND’s, tripod
Exposure: complicated. Using a programmable cable release I fired off about 10 30 second exposures at iso 100 and f/16. Then in photoshop I layered them to simulate a longer (5 min) exposure equivalent. This approach makes for less chances in screwing up in the exposure, provides less noise through averaging, and lets me choose exactly which (consecutive) exposures I want to use for maximum color.
Processing: see exposure.

And that brings me to the end of this brief posting. I’ll be sure to dig up some exciting grizzly bear stories and rocky mountain geology, and I’ll do my best to have some good (but safe) adventures with Ali in our next 8 days. If you’re curious about our destinations, we’ll be starting in Waterton NP, Canada, and traveling clockwise on the North Circle Trek, one of the top hikes in the world according to Following that we’ll explore Yellowstone for a few days, Craters of the Moon National Monument (Idaho), and maybe some exploring in the Wasatch of Uintas, or maybe we’ll just vegetate in Ali’s hot tub in Salt Lake City for a few days. But first Ali’s got to turn in her Med school secondaries.. thus the internet, so now I must go and do a last minute read through for her…

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