Calgary to Vancouver! (episode 1–Banff and Moraine Lake)

This was a family trip, and that’s my excuse for not getting too many “serious” landscapes Smile with tongue out however as with any location, you would need to really explore it in detail, find the shots and then visit again and again at the right times of day, and year to get the best results, so even if this was a photo trip, good landscape would be a fortunate event.  This is why I take landscape workshops once in a while btw – its not that I need anyone to show me how to operate the camera, make exposure or focus – I’ve got a number of techniques down pretty well now for gathering the data.  Having someone that knows the location on the trip though – now that’s worth investing in.  Mind you, I did get lucky with the light on a couple of occasions and a few half decent landscapes did drop out..

IMG_0940So, the Griswald Lloyd family Vacation from the flatlands of Calgary through the Rocky Mountains, Scooby Doo world, some surreal Stepford-esque fake Swiss Towns to the very pleasant seaside-town-grown-big that is Vancouver.  Our land-ship for this trip, due to general ineptitude at Avis was the Dodge Grand Caravan you can see on the right.  Big, build quality and design from the 80’s and an engine that would struggle to pull the skin off a custard.  The old style hydraulic slushbox was as ancient as the styling, and would take 3 days to sort out a change of gear.  An absolute pain to drive on the open road, it would slow down on the hills until you pressed so much on the throttle pedal it eventually changed down and then gradually picked up speed.  As imagesoon as you backed off though it would change up and start slowing down again… I’m not sure the steering wheel was actually connected to anything either.  It was big though, and with the 3rd row of seats folded away into the floor, our 3 large suitcases went in the back easily.

Our first stop was Banff, a small town mainly comprised of hotels and shopping malls.  Banff is a good looking town – the buildings are all sympathetically designed and mostly, the hotel parking is underground.  We visited Sulphur Mountain via the gondola, and the Vermillion Lakes.





Now, mountains, on days like these in the summer, are full of haze. The view is of a very low contrast with harsh light up close.  Making pictures is harder than you might imagine – up in the Rockies, mountain peaks all around punctuated with lakes, and pointy trees – the image opportunities must be boundless right?  Well, there are plenty of images to be made if you look hard enough, however just swinging the camera about and aiming it at a group of rocks won’t make for a spectacular images.  Sure, I did this – you kid yourself that there is something there, however when you get down to reviewing them later, well not many of them really stand out.  The image below of the distant peaks receding into the mist, was something I knew I could make though, and sought out a suitable collection of peaks with my 70-200 f/4.  Shot from right outside the door to the original weather station/shack right on the top of the mountain, there is almost no colour in the image, just a steel grey/blue monochrome.  I changed the colour using the split tone panel in Lightroom.  This is the kind of inoffensive flat landscape

Distant mountains to the west from Sulphur Mountainthat people might put up on a wall – on canvas.  The dramatic wide angle, big foreground, water and mountain type images are not typical wall furniture, certainly not in the UK, whereas nice simple graphic shapes – recognisable as a landscape, but somehow abstract, are more likely to find their way into offices, restaurants and maybe even a house or two.

Meanwhile, back down at lake level, we spent an afternoon at the Vermillion lakes, and during the harsh sunlit afternoon, I took to chasing dragonflies.  I looked like a sort of demented gnome sat on the rocks chasing these things in 3D space with my 70-200mm f/4.  Despite all of the 51 point 3D matrix doodads with gold plated alluvial dampers, I ended up pulling the focus manually on these – with the camera in focus priority, it will only shoot when it sees focus on the selected focus point.  The AF just doesn’t see them quickly enough – or at all – they’re just a minor fuzzy patch if the lens is focussed much past them in either direction.  The close focussing ability (1m from the sensor) was a great help on this lens (versus the f/2.8 which is 1.4m)

I came back to the lake later on, but was too late to capture the best of the evening light.  I did manage to catch the sun on Mt. Rundle with it’s reflection in the lake, however the best of the light had gone and the trees on the far bank were The Rundlesin shade.    We stayed in Banff for 3 days and then went on to Lake Louise.  On _OHL9080the way, we stopped off at Moraine Lake.  “Moraine” is the stuff left behind by the glacier when it melted – crushed up bits of rock.   In some cases, it dams up the valley forming a “moraine dammed lake” that is fed from the melt-water of the glacier, which contains very fine “rock flour” that sits, suspended in the water and gives it this almost cartoon like blue-green colour.  It also means the lake reaches its greatest height during the summer, as the melt-water flow is at it’s highest.  The suspended particles make the water almost opaque, where it is deepest, with the effect dropping off towards the shallows.  I helped this along by using a wide angle lens , pointed down into the water, to remove reflections in the foreground water.  I balanced in some rocks and pieces of driftwood, waiting for the canoe to get to a nice position.



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