Glacier National Park - Nick Souvall

Glacier National Park - August 2018

     Earlier this summer in August, Katie and I went to a place I've wanted to visit for a long time. Ever since I've seen pictures of Glacier National Park I knew I had to visit this place and photograph it. Glacier is such a unique and beautiful location that I was extremely excited to visit for the first time.

     Our drive to Glacier goes through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, so we knew we had to stop and take some pictures. We got to the Tetons really late on Saturday night. We slept the night in the front seat of Katie's car as all our stuff was in the back. I use the term sleep lightly as I'm not sure I was even asleep for more than one combined hour. It was one of the worst nights of sleep I've ever gotten. The chance of a good sunrise was looking bleak as the sky was filled with heavy dark clouds. We headed to Scwabachers Landing hoping the sun will somehow peaks through the clouds. Once we got on the trail I immediately saw a large Bull Moose trudging through the river. Turns out there were actually two moose there as a cow moose appeared as well. So instead of photographing the nonexistent sunrise we photographed the two moose instead. They were beautiful moose and I think I got some good shots of them. My favorites were one where it appears the Moose are kissing or sniffing each other and one a little later when the Moose left the water and had the beautiful Teton Mountains in the background. I was pretty grateful to see these moose since the light never panned out and I love anytime we can see these beautiful animals in the wild.

     Before heading to Glacier, Katie and I had to make a quick stop. Katie’s family lives in Florence Montana, a small town south of Missoula, Montana. We stayed with her Aunt and Uncle who live on a beautiful property. Her grandparents live just down the road where they have a horse ranch, where Katie's horse lives. It was such an amazing couple of days spent relaxing, meeting Katie's family, and even riding a horse for the first time. The short time that we spent there is something I'm going to remember for a long time.

     Before our trip I had heard that Glacier National Park in the summer can be extremely busy, especially along the Going to the Sun Road area. We left early so that we would arrive at the park early enough to get a campsite but apparently not early enough. The first site we went to was full but we got extremely lucky to find a campsite at the second campground we checked at Avalanche Campground. I think all things turned out as the campground was extremely nice and was really close to one of the hikes we wanted to do. That hike was the hike to Avalanche Lake. It was a easy 4.5 mile hike through a beautiful lush creek. Once we made it to the stunning lake we were surrounded by beautiful views of the surrounding glacially carved mountains. It’s a beautiful lake but unfortunately the haze was pretty bad and the lake was pretty crowded with people. I was able to find a nice composition for a photo with some nice rocks on the beach in the foreground. We didn't stay at the lake for very long but managed to grab some pictures of the creek on our way back.

     For sunset we made our way to the shore of Lake McDonald. Lake McDonald is one of Glacier National Park's most iconic views. The shore of the lake is filled with beautiful colorful stones that make for a great photo. The water was peacefully calm and sitting on the beach with Katie taking pictures of the lake at sunset was a beautiful moment. The sunset wasn't great due to the smoke and haze, but there was some nice hazy color in the sky. It wasn't the photo I had in mind, but it still turned out nice nonetheless. Once the sun had set on an amazing first day in Glacier National Park, we headed off to sleep to get ready for the morning.

      While we hadn't originally planned on shooting sunrise this morning, we had to get up early to find a campsite anyway so we decided to find somewhere to shoot. We were driving over the beautiful Going to the Sun Road at dawn. It was stunning to see as the ambient light started to show the beautiful valleys and mountains in the distance. Once we arrived at the top of Logan Pass we decided to stop and try and find a place to take photos of the sunrise. We headed off on the boardwalk toward Hidden Lake. The path was filled with beautiful fields of wildflowers on both sides. I walked pretty far along the path before I found the perfect patch of flowers with a nice view of Mount Clements in the background. The sun finally rose, lighting up the hazy clouds and the side of the mountain.

      After grabbing a couple pictures I headed off on the trail looking for more compositions. I found a couple more fields of flowers to photograph. The light was still really nice and it felt like I was reaching the top of the pass so I continued further on. I hiked for longer than I realized and never even reached the lake. I stopped short of the lake when I saw a pair of mountain goats at the top of the pass. There was one adult mountain goat followed by a small baby goat. I was so lucky to see these amazing animals and photograph them. My favorite image was of the adult mountain goat with the top of Bearhat Mountain in the background.

      I might have stayed and photographed the goats for longer than I should have. We left the top of Logan Pass a lot later than I had planned. Unfortunately when we arrived at Saint Marry Campground it was already full. Our plan of leaving early to get a campsite didn't go as planned since we spent too much time photographing the wildflowers and mountain goats. This forced us to have to spend the night at a KOA campground outside of the park. While I usually do not like KOA campgrounds, in this instance it was nice since the campground had a pool. With it being so hot and smoky out, it was nice to spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool.

      For sunset we headed back to the top of Logan Pass. There was a spot on the side of the road that I wanted to photograph. There is a bend in the road that has an amazing view of one of the mountains split by Bird Woman Falls off in the distance. It’s a stunning view, especially with all of the beautiful purple lupine flowers in the foreground. Again the sunset wasn't great due to the haze, but the view was still amazing. It was another beautiful night watching the sunset in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

      After spending the past couple morning fighting for campsites, we wanted to get up early and get a campsite inside the park. So we headed out early back to the Saint Marry Campground. We decided to forego sunrise and showed up to the campsite way before sunrise. Luckily for us this turned out alright since the sky was a little overcast anyway. We finally got a campsite after still waiting in a long line. I've never experienced a park being this busy, but there was nothing we could do about it. 

      As me and Katie were relaxing in our campground, I heard a little chatter coming from the other campers. People were all looking at something and I heard someone mention a bear. I got extremely excited. It had been years since I had seen a bear and I've wanted to photograph one ever since I bought a camera. We headed to where the people were gathering and pointing off in the distance. Once we got there we finally saw the first bear of our trip. It was a small Cinnamon Black Bear travelling across the hillside. We soon found out that there were two bears as a baby cub was following behind the mom. Watching the adorable cub as it traversed logs and rocks to catch up to its mom was so exciting. I attempted to photograph the bears but without a bigger lens, the images didn't come out great. The photos might be a little noisy, but it was a great and memorable experience.

      For our sunset shoot, we headed on a five minute drive to Wild Goose Island Overlook. This overlook is an awesome spot to view Wild Goose Island in the middle of Saint Mary Lake with the towering mountains in the background. It was still hazy so I didn't expect the sunset to be out of this world. There was a little bit of soft color in the sky, which was a nice surprise. From the overlook you can also take a short trail down to the shore. I found some nice rock formations that lead to the lake which made for a good composition. While I would have preferred a more clear night, the haze had a nice effect. It added some depth to the photo and made the island stand out a little more than usual. Overall I really enjoyed this spot. The sunset was nice but I definitely want to return here to get some better images on a clear day.

      As it turns out we returned back to the Wild Goose Island Overlook the next morning. We wanted to try and photograph the sunrise, hoping for a clear day. Fortunately for us it appeared as if the haze was starting to go away. Unfortunately though there were no clouds in the sky, making the sunrise pretty boring. We waited for a while and eventually some clouds formed above the lake. There was still some good golden light hitting the mountains and the trees making for a decent image. While I didn't get the mind blowing image from this overlook that I planned on, I got a couple of good shots that I'm happy with.

     A short drive from Wild Goose Island Overlook is the start to our next hike. We were hiking to Saint Marry Falls. It’s a short hike to the impressive falls. It’s a really beautiful two tiered waterfall surrounded by reddish orange rocks with stunning turquoise water. As beautiful as the waterfall was, I was struggling to come up with a composition that I loved. While I was taking pictures and trying to come up with a good composition, the sun came out and started to shine on the rocks. In the end I came up with one or two images that I liked. In the first shot, I really enjoyed how the water flowed throughout the frame, but wished to see more of the waterfall in the background. In the second shot I liked that you could see more of the double waterfall, but the foreground wasn't as interesting. Overall, I'm happy with how both images turned out and enjoyed the short hike to this awesome waterfall.

      There were some heavy clouds in the sky almost all day, but Katie and I decided that we would still try and photograph the sunset. We were headed back to the top of Logan Pass to photograph Hidden Lake. Hidden Lake was probably the spot that I was most eager to photograph in Glacier. It's a beautiful blue lake surrounded by giant unique glacially carved peaks seen from an overlook on the top of Logan Pass.

      We hiked through the boardwalk surrounded by fields of flowers. We made our way up the pass as the clouds started to disperse. The light was beginning to look really nice. I was trying to hurry to the lake since I wasn't sure how long it would last. As we got closer I was getting more and more nervous since we were hearing a good amount of thunder. The thunder wasn't very close but I was hoping it wasn't moving our way. Luckily it didn't, and after a couple of small short burst of rainfall the weather cleared up. When we got to the overlook, the view was stunning. The view was so much bigger and more beautiful than any of the pictures I've seen of the lake. The light was looking amazing as well and I was even more excited for the promise of a good sunset.

      I walked along the trail looking for a good composition. As soon as I walked past the first overlook I noticed a group of mountain goats. The light was hitting them really nice and I tried to set up an image of them with the lake in the background, but they scampered off before I got the opportunity. I finally settled on a composition along the trail with a group of flowers in the foreground. The light was looking amazing as the storm was clearing. It was an amazing location with amazing light, which made for one of my favorite images from the trip. It was a perfect way to end our time in Glacier.

      The next morning, before we headed to Banff National Park we made a quick stop at Swiftcurrent Lake in the Many Glacier area of the park. We had wanted to photograph the sunrise here, but we were both just too tired so we decided to sleep in. By the time we got there the light wasn't great but the lake was still beautiful. I decided to go for a longer exposure to smooth out the water. Overall the picture turned out nice. There were still some nice clouds in the sky, and the color of the water was spectacular. Glacier National Park was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. It's a shame that it was so smoky from all the forest fires since a lot of our views were obstructed from the haze. Glacier is definitely a place I need to return to and spend more time in. Our time there was amazing and I can't wait till we are able to go back.

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