The Palouse extends into the western part of Idaho and, while there are not as many photographic opportunities as there are in Washington, there are still a few gems to be found.. This "salt box" barn is one of them and sits all alone in this little valley and stands out primarily due to its bright red color. It contrasts quite well with the surrounding green farmland and blue sky. For those of you who follow me regularly, you know that I often wonder how things got their names. So here are a couple of useless tidbits. The term "salt box" is a reference to the old wooden boxes that were used to store salt (no, I am not old enough to remember them). This style of barns and houses originated in New England, and were built that way so that snow would slide down the steep roofs. The other arcane tidbit is the name of the town that this barn is located in, Moscow. It turns out that one of the original traders was born in Moscow, Russia, and he opened the first trading post in the area. I had never heard of the town before my visit, but was surprised to also find out that it is the home of the University of Idaho.
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park is the largest lake in the park as well as its main attraction. I have always thought the word Yoho was a strange name until I found out that it is a Cree name meaning awe and wonder. That fits the park perfectly. The lake gets its brilliant color from fine particles of glacial sediment suspended in the water. The lake itself is totally surrounded by the President Range of the Canadian Rockies. Unfortunately the mountains were not visible on the morning we visited as overcast skies and low-hanging clouds obscured them. A slight drizzle added to the atmosphere. The lake was unusually still, so reflections were clearly visible. I wanted to get a photo of Emerald Lake Lodge's Restuarant (some mistakenly think it is a Tea House), the Lodge's Boathouse and the bridge connecting the two. To accomplish this, I hiked around to the opposite shore and was able to capture this composition.
From mid-May through June, I was fortunate to have visited Grand Teton National Park, The Palouse in eastern Washington, Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. It was a busy time and I am glad to be spending July and August close to home before I hit the road again in September. The Palouse is often referred to as America's version of Tuscany. The main difference is that the miles upon miles of undulating farmland is a patchwork of wheat and soybeans rather than vines. The character of the landscape changes with the seasons. Spring brings us all shades of green into the early months of summer. As summer comes, these hues change into amber waves of grain. The fall brings reds and gold and winter covers the land with a blanket of white. The best place to watch the transformation is from the top of Steptoe Butte. The butte, rising 3,000 feet above the farmland, provides a 360-degree view. My favorite spot to photograph is this scene with a building sticking out from the green patchwork. For many years, I thought the building was called the Whitman County Growers building but have recently discovered that is not the case. I have tried to find out what the building is known as, but haven't been able to. If anyone can name it, I would appreciate knowing its name.
What is there to say about Oxbow Bend that hasn't been said before? It is an iconic location that has been photographed millions of times. Every time that I visit there (and there have been many), I am always curious what Mother Nature will show us. Will there be a sunrise that lights up Mount Moran? Will there be great clouds that will light up when the sun rises above the horizon? Will we even be able to see the peaks of the Tetons? Will the waters of the Snake River be still enough to give a mirror-like refection? As you drive from the town of Jackson in the dark, you ponder the answers to these questions during the 45 minutes it takes to get there. As you look to the sky for the answers, you realize that you won't be sure until you actually pull into the parking lot. Sometimes you are disappointed and other times you are happy. That is what makes us photographers keep revisiting this iconic sight and, when it works, any previous disappointments seem to melt away.
When one thinks of hoodoos (a tall, thin spire of rock), they imagine places like Bryce Canyon, where it seems that the whole landscape is full of them. There actually are hoodoos in the town of Banff, but don't expect much, as they pale in comparison to what you might think. Instead, take the hoodoo overlook trail to see this view. It is a beautiful landscape that shows the town in the distance, with the fabulous Banff Springs hotel nestled in the center of this photo on the slopes of Tunnel Mountain. In the center in the distance is Sulphur Mountain and Sanson Peak, along with the slope of Mount Rundle on the left. Below is the Bow River, which splits into two and then merges together just before downtown, creating Bow Falls. Looking at this scene from afar illustrates why Banff is a prime vacation spot for people from all around the world. Oh, by the way, you can see a little of the top of the hoodoos in the foreground.
Sometimes it is fun to come up with a shot that takes a bit of work to get. Pyramid Lake is mere kilometers from downtown Jasper and is a big attraction which serves as the anchor of Pyramid Mountain. Along the shoreline of the lake there is a small secluded section surrounded by forest where several kayaks are tied up on a makeshift dock. I have never been there when the kayaks are in use and I don't know if they are ever used. I've used them as foreground elements many times in the past and planned to do do again. When I got there to do so, my friend John McCaine was already there shooting. I had noticed other boats in stages of disrepair buried in the brush before, so I decided to trail-blaze to see if I could get a shot. After fighting through the brush and getting a few scratches on the way, I found this grounded boat. I had hoped to get a shot of it with Pyramid Mountain as the background, but all I could get was its slope to the right. I was able to get a shot of Pyramid Island in the distance instead.
The other day, I posted a photo of Moraine Lake and proclaimed it in a tie with Spirit Island as the most iconic scene of the Canadian Rockies. I thought I would post this photo of Spirit Island and let you make the choice. As you can see, Spirit Island is technically not a island, although during some parts of the year, it is. Spirit Island is located on Maligne Lake and the only way to get there is by boat. That leaves two main choices - rent a kayak and spend most of the day paddling there or sign up for one of the boat tours that take you there. The boat ride itself is worth the trip as you cruise about 35 minutes with the glorious Canadian Rockies towering on all sides of the lake. The cherry on top is spending either 15 or 30 minutes at Spirit Island (depends on the cost of the particular boat ride) and get to photograph the island from below and above. As you can see, it makes a great subject surrounded by the majestic mountains.
Most people think that the Canadian Rockies run through the Province of Alberta. That is true, but a good portion of them also run through British Columbia. In fact, the Canadian Rockies serve as a boundary line between the two provinces. When you want to visit the highest peak in all of the Canadian Rockies, a trip to Mount Robson Provincial Park is in order. Mount Robson towers above the visitor's center almost 13,000 feet above sea level. Next to the visitor's center is an open field that, in June, has beautifully colored lupines that act as a great foreground against the mountain. After shooting in the field for awhile and inadvertently stepping on a large anthill (I literally had ants in my pants), I walked up the stairs to the deck of the Visitor's Center to check out the view. As I reached the upper steps, I saw the deck railing curving away from me and thought that would make an unique composition with Mount Robson as the background.
Moraine Lake is arguably the most iconic location in the Canadian Rockies, although Spirit Island in Jasper is right up there (I'll call it a tie). The thing about Moraine Lake, especially in June, is that you never know what you will get until you get there. I have been there at sunrise in glorious light, overcast skies, snow, rain and sleet. Each condition lends itself to interesting photos. Last month, it was overcast skies and a cold wind. As I walked up the trail to the top of the rockpile (my favorite place to shoot sunrise), I knew that it was going to be a challenging shoot. First, the rockpile was already pretty crowded and the overcast skies held no promise. Everyone was shivering and hoping for the best. My experiences shooting there in the past told me to be patient and wait it out (not my strong suit). Sure enough, maybe after an hour of waiting, we got a glimmer of light that briefly lit up a portion of the mountains and I was happy to get this shot. With a location like this, little goes a long way.
There are so many places to photograph Mount Rundle around the town of Banff, it is hard to choose which one to go to first. Two Jack Lake and Vermilion Lakes are top notch locations to do so, but there are other less visited spots that offer great views like this one at Cascade Ponds. Just outside of town, the ponds are a day-use facility with hiking trails, picnic tables, restrooms and, most importantly, superb views. The ponds are fed by snow melt from Cascade Mountain, so the level of the ponds is often dependent on the past winter's snowfall. I have been to the ponds when they have dried up. Fortunately, the water level at the ponds last month were quite healthy and I was able to get a good reflection of Mount Rundle in them.
The Canadian Rockies are blessed with so many lakes that it might take years to visit each one. Fortunately, a good number of lakes are easily accessible to enjoy. Lake Edith is located just outside of the town of Jasper and, at sunrise, it is usually deserted. On this morning, the lake had some really great mist rising off of it's surface. Adding to the scene was a glass-like surface that allowed for reflections of the mist as well as Pyramid Mountain in the distance. Of course, a good foreground is desired for most landscape photos, and what photographer can resist canoes laying idle on the banks of a lake?
Happy Fourth of July! Yesterday, I posted a photo of grizzly bears and today I am, for the first time ever, posting another wildlife photo. I shot this photo of a female bighorn sheep in the National Elk Reserve just outside of Jackson. The group of bighorn sheep was primarily female, and they were all in the process of shedding their winter coats. Since they usually don't look great when they shed, I tried to zoom in to get portrait shots. The sheep started to smile at me as I took the photo (either that or she wanted to bite me).
Those of you that have followed me over the years know me as a landscape and travel photographer. I usually don't plan trips around wildlife but will gladly photograph them when they are present. Over the last year or so, I have been more interested in capturing wildlife. It takes a little different skill set than landscapes and I am learning that it doesn't come quickly. I experienced three true "bear jams" recently in the Grand Tetons and I may be getting the wildlife bug. This photo was taken early in my visit and was of grizzly bear 399 and one of her cubs sharing a tender moment.
Photographers often wish for a cloudy day. No, not the overcast white sky that we hate, but rather the wonderful cumulous clouds that look like someone painted them on the blue sky. Great locations look even greater when the skies have clouds. Last month, we were blessed with this type of sky at Vermilion Lakes, just outside the downtown of the town of Banff. These three lakes, at the foothills of Mount Norquay, offer great views of Sulphur Mountain and Mount Rundle. The area is often teeming with wildlife and the road to the lakes have been closed due to heighten grizzly activity in the past.
There is a saying that the third time is a charm. When it comes to the weather surrounding or over mountains, the saying simply does not apply. Watching numerous weather apps is just as futile (even more futile than having them predict your local weather). Why? It is a scientific fact that mountains create their own weather. Don't ask me how as I am not qualified to answer this, but my experience of many years of traveling and shooting them simply proves it to be true.
Last week, it took a fourth visit to Bow Lake when the magic happened unexpectedly. Our first three visits saw rain, snow, wind and low-hanging clouds. Not ideal, but we were still able to get some nice moody photos. On our last day in Banff, we headed toward Jasper National Park with very little expectations. The forecast was for rain and we were hoping for a few breaks along the Icefields Parkway. When we pulled into the parking area for Bow Lake, magic happened. The sun was shining, cumulous clouds were above, and most surprisingly, the lake was as still as glass. I couldn't get out of our car fast enough. It was hard not to get a great shot. The magic lasted for about 20 minutes, but what a 20 minutes it was.
This was my fourth straight year of visiting the Palouse and each year there is something different. The harshness of the winter, the current prices of different crops, and crop rotation often determines the look of the Palouse's undulating farmland. One thing that has been consistent however, is that many of the old barns are slowing disappearing from the landscape. Quite a few have fallen down since my first visit. It used to be that fallen barns were left on the ground, some with just roofs remaining, but that is no longer the case. It seems that even the fallen barns are totally gone. That is a shame that these old barns are gone, as they have terrific character that the newer barns simply lack. Add to that the dwindling number of abandoned houses and one in particular leaning schoolhouse, the Palouse may have a very different feel to it sometime in the near future. That doesn't mean that the Palouse will not continue to be a terrific destination for photographers but its look will be different.
Along the famed Icefields Parkway near the town of Jasper, there are two waterfall locations that are must stop places. The two falls are only 15 miles apart from one another, but they couldn't be any different from one another. Athabasca Falls is fed by the Athabasca River, whose source is snow melt from the Athabasca Glacier. Sunwapta Falls is fed by the Sunwapta River, whose source is the Columbian Icefield. The Sunwapta River actually feeds into the Athabasca River and its waters are part of the Athabasca Falls. The topography is also a bit different. From Athabasca, the scene is pure river and towering mountain, while Sunwapta is more of as small island with the river flowing around it. Mountains are a much smaller part of Sunpwapta.
I ventured on the right side of Sunwapta Falls, which was a bit harder to climb down to. There was only one other photographer there and I had the lay of the land. The water was moving quite quickly and I elected to shoot some long exposure, which accentuated the water's flow.
The first three weeks of June was the start of a terrific photographic journey for me. First stop was the Palouse for a week, followed by a trip to Banff National Park, then followed by a trip to Jasper National Park. I got off to a great start at, where else, but Steptoe Butte. While the Palouse has many locations that show the beautiful rolling landscape of the fertile farmland, there is no mistaking the shots taken from the top of the butte. The butte towers over 3,600 feet above the farmland below and offers 360-degree vistas. Shooting there can be overwhelming if you shoot with a wide to mid-range lens, as the many details get lost in the overall scene. I find the most effective shots are with a long lens where you can take a close look at the undulations, details and shadows. It is no wonder that the Palouse is often compared to Tuscany.
Pyramid Lake, Island and Mountain are prime sunrise locations just outside downtown Jasper. When the alarm went off at 3:30am and I looked outside, I knew we would be lucky to get a decent shot of the mountain and island. It was overcast and low-hanging clouds were obscuring them. Mother Nature must have felt bad for us, and on our way there we were fortunate to see some elk that were waiting for us to capture their photographs. After leaving them and turning the corner, we stopped at Pyramid Lake Lodge. Pyramid Mountain was indeed blocked out, but we had a little more luck. Looking away from the mountain to the west, the clouds were putting on a light show. The paddleboats were a welcome foreground element that anchored the scene.
Finally catching up after an almost three week trip to the Palouse, Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. It was terrific revisiting these locations with old and new friends. During our stay in Alberta, we encountered snow, rain and wind, which can be typical in June. We also had some terrific weather days there too. This photo of Crowfoot Glacier was taken on our last day as we drove the Icefields Parkway from Jasper to the Calgary Airport. This section of the Parkway is just north of Bow lake looking south.