Canada: Lower Half of Banff

I have made it back from Canada, safe and sound. I had such an amazing time I feel that trying to describe my feelings about it only fall short. My journey has only made me want to return and expand my reach northward. I’m trying to figure out how to swing a trip this winter, but we’ll see if it actually works out. I’m going to break my posts up into sections of the park(s), starting with the lower half of Banff National Park; from Johnson Lake to Castle Mountain and everything in between.
Johnson Lake was my first stop and where I hung out most of my first day. The sunset was one of the bests of the trip. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I had been running between a few spots to get the most out of this sunset, but that was the case for most of my days in Canada. It was a great starting point and really got me excited for what was to come.
 

Kayakers on Johnson Lake, Banff National Park, Canada
On Sunday, I spent the entire day at Vermillion Lakes. It was nice and peaceful, but this was one of my longest days. I decided to stay out late and try for a night shot composite, which required standing in the same location from dusk until dark. I’m still working on the composite, but I will post it here when I finish (that is, of course, if it works out). The one thing I would strongly suggest for this location is some good hunting boots. There is no way I could have gotten the shots I did without my L.L. Bean hunting boots. This area is marshy and swampy, so if you’re looking to shoot here, bring some boots that can get muddy and wet.
This is also a great place for bird watching, which I was hoping to do during the day. I stalked a blue heron for a large part of the day without much success. It was camera shy to say the least and I was definitely wishing I had a 500 mm lens at that point.


I spent the night at Two Jack Lake campground (which ended up being the last night before it closed for the winter) and took advantage of a nearby sunrise location. Cascade Mountain and Mount Rundle compete for attention in this part of the park and both are equally picturesque. The morning I was to photograph these two in Two Jack Lake I slept through my first alarm. Luckily, I got up, threw some pants and boots on and rushed out to get some of the first light on Cascade Mountain. I hadn’t really scouted out the area, so I rushed to where it looked like I’d get views of Cascade Mountain. Most of the views were obscured by the trees and the bend of the shore, so I made the rash decision to wade out into the lake. I took my boots off, hiked up my pants and ended up waded in up to my waist. The views were better, but my motor skills were slowing down, so I figured I should get out of the freezing water and get my blood flowing again.
Cascade Mountain at Two Jack Lake and Hillsdale Meadows in Fall, Banff National Park, Canada
My next adventure was heading through the Bow Valley Parkway to Castle Mountain and hitting the more unassuming spots along the way. One of my favorite parts of this stretch was the elk scarring on the trees. The dark parts of the trees are uniform throughout these forests. I was having a hard time conveying the uniformity and unique nature of the trees until I got closer and found the way the light was hitting the scars and the different designs in them created graphic images. I was really happy about the way they turned out.
Elk scars, Banff National Park, Canada
Hillsdale Meadow in Fall, Banff National Park, Canada
Johnston Canyon Lower Waterfall, Banff National Park, Canada

Castle Mountain is a great area for some classic Canadian Rockies imagery. There is a gate near the bridge that allows you to access the river. It looks locked at first, but it’s there to keep the animals off the highways. There were some other photographers on the north side of the bridge, but I wanted to have the bridge a part of my picture. I crossed underneath the bridge and quickly realized why most of the other photographers had stayed on that side. There was a part of the river that branched off and forced you to wade through to get to the other side. I figured I had waded through freezing water once today, what’s it gonna hurt to do it again? I was glad I did because I was happy with the results, and I was able to enjoy the scenery all to myself.

Castle Mountain and Castle Mountain Bridge at Sunset, Banff National Park, Canada
Self Portrait on the Bow River, Banff National Park, Canada
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