Autumn In The Canadian Rockies – Part I

canrockies15-33-3-6Last September, my three compadres and I flew in to Calgary airport from literally all over the country for a quick trip through the Canadian Rockies.  Todd flew in from North Carolina, Mark caught a flight in from Orlando and Tom shopped around for a better flight than mine and came in from LAX.   The airport was a bit smaller than what we were expecting but we were through customs and on the road in our rented mini van faster than I would have expected.  I think Todd was the last one in, and we wasted no time in setting off for for Banff.

By 4 PM, we had arrived at Banff National park and we forked over quite a sum for the four of us for four days of shooting in the parks.  After buying our passes, we made a bee line for Lake Louise with was the first of many lakes on our list.  We knew we didn’t have many clouds to work with, but we also knew that the sun would be going down soon and we didn’t have any time to waste.  We pulled up to Lake Louise and the doors flew open and the four of us went off in all directions at once.


We shot for maybe just under an hour and then we we all piled back in and we raced off for Moraine Lake.  Again, we headed off in different directions.  Tom, Mark and Tom headed up around the perimeter of the lake, but as I approached, I noticed some photographers perched above the lake and knew that I needed to get up there if I wanted some elevation for my shots.  I backtracked and eventually found the trail leading up to the overlook.  I was running at this point as it looked like the sun would dip behind the ridge at any moment, and the late afternoon light streaming across the lake was just fantastic.  I was just about to the top of the trail when I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks.  A photographer was working with a bride on the ridge just above me.  I knew I would be encroaching on another photographer’s shot, but hey.  How could I help it if I just happened to be taking a photo of that ridge and some random bride walked into my frame?   This particular random bride, however, was stunning and she was backlit by the golden afternoon light.  I took several shots, but chose to only post one where her face isn’t visible as I’m pretty sure I would need a model release if she was recognizable.

I then continued on my trip up to the overlook and arrived just as the sun was about to sink behind the ridge.  I fired off shots in all directions before the sun finally disappeared a scant 10 minutes after I arrived:


After we lost the sun, we knew we wouldn’t have time for dinner.  The sun might be down on Morraine Lake, but it was certainly still up over other lakes.  We were hoping to make it out to Peyto while the sun was still up, so we took off like a shot.  I was driving and I was feeling pretty confident after staring at Canadian maps for the better part of 3 months before we made our trip up.  So imagine how stupid I felt when I realized that I had passed the turn off for the Icefields Parkway.  We were well on our way to Vancouver before I finally stopped and looked at the map.  I really felt terrible as I felt that my mistake could have just cost us an epic golden hour shot.  I turned the car around and we raced back in the opposite direction.  In spite of our efforts, it was well past sunset by the time we arrived at Peyto Lake.



On our way back to the hotel, we made one final stop to catch the moon rising above Bowman Lake:


As we had exhausted our options for the first day, we headed back to  Banff where we grabbed a late dinner at McDonald’s before dropping Mark and Tom off at the Fairmont while budget conscious Todd and I headed off to a Holiday Inn in Canmore.

After just a few hours of sleep, we woke up at 4:30 and headed off to a spot along the Vermillion Lakes to see if we would get lucky for the sunrise.

We were feeling pretty good about our chances right up until two vans full of asian tourists pulled up along side us with their headlights on and proceeded to completely inundate the entire shoreline where we were trying to shoot.  Realizing that our blue hour was effectively blown to shreds, we quickly packed up and drove further up the shoreline looking for another spot.


We found a spot and quickly jumped out as the horizon was beginning to glow in the East.  We had only been there for about 20 minutes when the two vans pulled up again and the same group of tourists piled out again.  Gritting our teeth, we waded out into the weeds hoping to keep them out of our shots.  Even though the sky didn’t completely light up, we were all fairly satisfied with our results as we jumped back in the van to race off to our next location.


Next up on our list was Two Jack Lake.  On our way out to the lake, we noticed a group of cars that had pulled over and, of course, we stopped to see what the commotion was all about.  We noticed a small heard of elk grazing out in the fields, but what really caught our eye was a huge bull with a giant rack kicking back enjoying the view.  We were all Nikon shooters so of course we all turned expectantly to Tom who was trying out the Sigma 150-600. Fortunately for us, Tom was in a charitable mood and we all took turns shooting this ginormous Elk.  It’s probably worth mentioning that all of us were impressed by the quality of the Sigma.  This shot was taken from several hundred yards away but it’s been cropped quite a bit.  I think I caught this guy right before he sneezed.



We had lost the early sunrise glow by this point, but we were hoping for some early morning sun.


The sun never quite made it out from behind the clouds and after shooting for just a short time longer, we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up.  We then headed to McDonald’s again for a quick breakfast…or maybe it was lunch…before heading off to Bactrax to rent our equipment for our afternoon trip to Lake O’hara.

(To Be Continued…)







3 thoughts on “Autumn In The Canadian Rockies – Part I

  1. Greg Stevenson

    Happy to finally see more from this trip, Bill! Keep it up.

    • William McIntosh

      Thanks Greg!

  2. Mike Day

    These places you visit are like storyboard dreamlands. Love these incredible journeys you take us all on and the narrative on how its all acquired.

    Mike D.

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