Banff National Park - August 2018 - Nick Souvall

Banff National Park - August 2018

       After a couple of incredible days in Glacier National Park, Katie and I headed off further North towards Banff National Park. Just like most landscape photographers, Banff National Park has been at the top of my list of places I want to visit. The Canadian Rockies are known throughout the world for having some of the most breathtaking mountain peaks, beautiful turquoise lakes, and awesome mountain towns. It’s safe to say that I was excited to spend a couple days in this wonderful place.

      We arrived at our first campsite at Two Jack Lake late in the afternoon. This campsite was one of my favorites from the entire trip. We were surrounded by a forest of beautiful, tall pine trees. With the overcast sky and the hazy atmosphere, it created a very mystical feeling at our campsite. Although the clouds were helping with the mood, they were ruining our hope of having a good sunset.

      Our original plan was to photograph Two Jack Lake for sunset photos. Even though the sky wasn't looking promising, we drove the short distance to the lake anyway. Two Jack Lake is a beautiful lake with amazing views of Table Mountain. We relaxed by the lake shore and waited for the sun to go down. As time went on, a little bit of color began to peak through the clouds on the horizon. There wasn't a lot of color in the sky, but it definitely helped the picture slightly. After spending a little bit of time photographing Two Jack Lake, we went a little further down the road to Lake Minnewanka. Lake Minnewanka is similar to Two Jack Lake, only larger and with views of Mount Inglismaldie and Mount Girouard. Even without the light we were hoping for, both lakes were really beautiful and photogenic. I definitely have to add these lakes to my list of places I need to return to.

       Our plan for the next morning was to go back to Lake Minnewanka and photograph the sunrise and then go look for some wildlife to photograph. We woke up to even more overcast skies, so we decided to skip the sunrise shoot and head to Kananskis to search for wildlife. We spent the entire morning on a very bumpy but beautiful drive around Kananskis and Canmore. The drive started off with some great sightings of a bighorn sheep and a group of deer. This got me excited and hopeful for the rest of the drive, but as we continued driving, we unfortunately didn’t see any animals for a while. Finally, we saw an animal in the distance toward the side of the road. It was a small black bear, the animal I was looking forward to photographing the most. Unfortunately, as we got closer the bear ran off into the forest and was gone. I was sad to not get the chance to photograph it, but happy that we saw it regardless.

       We continued on the bumpy road and were suddenly met with a wall of fog. Fog can be really beautiful and fun to photograph. We stopped a couple of times to take moody pictures of the forest as we continued down the road. As we drove around a corner in the road, the fog lifted and we got an amazing view of the mountains and valley below as the fog was lifting. It was a really beautiful moment as the sunlight was burning up the fog, and it made for a nice picture with the soft, diffused light.

       After searching for wildlife for a while we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and having coffee in Canmore, a beautiful mountain town just outside of Banff National Park. After relaxing and charging all of our batteries we left for our sunset spot. Our spot was at Policeman Creek outside of Canmore with great views of the Three Sisters. Before we got to the viewpoint, there were many large, high clouds in the sky making us hopeful that we would get a good sunset. But as we set up our cameras, the clouds started to disappear. The warm light was still very beautiful as it hit the mountain peaks and the trees across the creek. We even got to see a beaver in the river as we waited for the conclusion of the sunset. The clouds soon disappeared, and the warm light turned into a red alpenglow light as the sun began to set on another beautiful day in the Canadian Rockies. Both pictures turned out okay, but I still wasn’t completely satisfied with any of the pictures I had taken in Canada so far. During the sunset I wanted to try something new and took a time-lapse of the sunset. Since there were no clouds in the sky, the video didn’t turn out great but it was fun to try a different technique.

       The next morning we woke up early once again and headed to the Vermillion Lakes to photograph the sunrise. The Vermillion Lakes are another really popular photography spot in Banff National Park. The haze had returned, and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky which made the sunrise pretty dull. After photographing the lake for a while, some clouds started to appear over Mount Rundle which helped the photo a little bit. The warm light filling the lake and the valley was wonderful. After a couple days of photographing in some hazy conditions, it was discouraging to not get any photos that I was really proud of.

      After photographing the Vermillion Lakes we made the decision to make the drive up to Jasper National Park, hoping to leave the haze behind in Banff. To get to Jasper National Park we had to drive over the Icefields Parkway, one of the most beautiful drives in the entire world. The Icefields Parkway winds through beautiful Rocky Mountain peaks, icefields, and breathtaking valleys with views of glaciers all around. Unfortunately for us, the haze was almost worse on the highway. It was so bad that we couldn’t really see and appreciate the wonderful views around us.

       Once we got to our campsite in Jasper National Park, the haze started to disappear. We went to Sunwapta Falls to photograph the sunset. Sunwapta Falls is one of the most impressive and unique waterfalls I’ve ever seen. The roaring, icy white water flowing off the glaciers of the Rocky Mountains flows through the valley, splitting into two streams creating a small island of trees in the middle of the river. The river then comes back together leading to a beautiful 60 foot waterfall. It’s such a magnificent and picturesque scene. There were heavy clouds in the sky, so I wasn’t expecting much for the sunset. Fortunately the sky did catch a little bit of color and turned into a beautiful moment and made for a nice image.

       The next morning we were headed to another impressive waterfall in Jasper National Park. Athabasca Falls is one of the most popular photography spots in the Canadian Rockies. I had been looking forward to photographing this beautiful place for a while. We got to the waterfall and waited for the sun to rise over the mountains. The haze in the sky actually helped the scene, creating a nice warm color. Once the sun rose over the mountain I took the picture as the light started to hit the roaring water flowing over the beautiful rocks. This image along with the picture of Sunwapta falls have become some of my favorite pictures of our trip to Banff and Jasper.

       I was happy with the images I made in Jasper as we were heading back to Banff National Park. We once again drove over the Icefields Parkway. This time we were able to see all the views this road had to offer. There was still a lot of haze but through the haze we could see amazing views of jagged peaks, giant glaciers, and breath-taking valleys. It was one of the most incredible drives I’ve ever been on. The next campsite we stayed at was at the Waterfowl Lakes on the Icefield Parkway. Out of all the campsites we stayed at on our trip, this one was hands-down my favorite. The Waterfowl Lakes were absolutely stunning, and stick out in my mind as some of the most incredible lakes I’ve been to. The water was a crazy turquoise blue with a striking view of the dramatic and jagged Mount Chephren. The Waterfowl Lakes were so amazing, we decided to stay there for sunset and photograph the lake. There weren’t many clouds in the sky and the haze had gotten pretty bad, so the image of the lake wasn’t great. I still can’t complain, because sitting watching the sunset was such a delightful moment and one of my favorite memories of our trip.

       The next morning we were headed to another one of the most popular spots in the Canadian Rockies. Peyto Lake has become extremely popular among landscape photographers and tourists, and for good reason. The view of the lake is pretty amazing. The lake is an unbelievable blue color at the base of some incredible peaks. Once again the sunrise was filled with hazy colors making for a soft and pleasant image.

       On what would be our last night in the Canadian Rockies before we had to make the long drive back home, we wanted to do something special. We had waited for the haze to clear before heading to the iconic Moraine Lake, but the haze never did quite clear up the way we had hoped. However, since it was our last day in Canada we knew we had to go for it. Moraine Lake is one of the most popular tourist spots in the world. The parking lot was initially full at Moraine Lake, so we stopped at Lake Louise, another popular mountain lake. We took some quick pictures and then headed back down the road to Moraine Lake to catch the sunset. Moraine Lake is a place I’ve been wanting to visit for such a long time. Even though some may consider it to be over photographed, I still think everyone should go see this breathtaking place for themselves. The lake if filled with brilliant blueish green water nestled at the bottom of the Valley of Ten Peaks, some of the most impressive and dramatic mountains in the Canadian Rockies. There is a reason this lake is one of the most popular lakes in the world, because it’s absolutely stunning.

       To our disappointment, the haze hadn’t cleared and finding a spot to photograph the sunset without tourists walking in frame was challenging. It was a bit frustrating, but it’s hard to be mad in a place as beautiful as Moraine Lake. The sunset was still really beautiful with the hazy clouds above the mountains catching some color. Watching the sunset at such an amazing place was an experience I’ll cherish even if the pictures didn’t turn out quite like I would have hoped.

       Once the sun went down and all the groups of tourists left, me and Katie stayed and had the entire place to ourselves. We planned on shooting the Milky Way over the mountains but had to wait for the moon to set as well. One of the reasons I love taking astrophotography pictures is for that time between the sun setting and the sky to get completely dark, which is known as the “blue hour”. I really enjoy the calmness of watching the last light fade as the stars appear in the sky. I usually take this time to stop and enjoy the wonderful views all around us. Once the moon had set, I finally took some shots of the Milky Way over the lake. When I first saw the image on the camera, I was ecstatic. The haze that was in the sky had faded away, making the image better than I could have imagined. I was so happy with the way this photo turned out and glad to get an image of this iconic place that is a little more unique and that I’m proud of.

      On our way home after an amazing night of photography at one of the most popular lakes in the world, Katie and I made one quick stop before we headed off to bed. Since the Moraine Lake photos turned out so well, we had the idea to photograph the Milky Way at the Waterfowl Lakes overlook as well. It didn’t take us long, but we got some amazing images of the stars above the lake. I’m glad we decided to stop here because like the Moraine Lake Milky Way pictures, these pictures turned out to be some of my favorites from the entire trip. Ending our trip at these amazing places was a great way to put an explanation point on such a perfect trip.

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