I recently spent the weekend nestled in a cabin in the mountains between Banff and Lake Louise to celebrate another trip around the sun. I could have happily stayed out there forever, but Creepy-dog was a bit concerned that we lived there now, and spent every night crying to go home. Sleep deprived, I was determined to make the most of my time and set my alarms to make sure I didn't miss out on any good light to point a camera at. As I sat at the kitchen table in the dark at 6 am, nursing a precious cup of coffee and calculating how long I could nap before the sun rose, I was painfully aware that only a few years ago the annual celebration would have seen me awake from dusk to dawn with only a fraction of the effort and only self inflicted pain. I finished my coffee, scrutinized the dark circles under my eyes, grabbed my camera bag and hobbled out the door, wondering if the local wolf pack would accept a cute new member by the name of Creepy.
The week before, I had unsuccessfully scouted a location near Lake Louise for a potential sunrise photo, losing a pair of hiking poles in the process. After trudging through the snow for a few hours, I determined that the best views were in fact, at the trail head parking lot. Fortunately the scouting trip wasn't a complete waste of time, I had noticed a far more accessible location earlier in the day, and upon returning a week later, made it my first stop for sunrise.
As hundreds of vehicles whizzed by, I slowly waded through open channels of the Bow River and quickly tuned out the sounds of the Trans Canada Highway.
I kicked myself for choosing an East facing range to focus on with such an explosive sunrise behind me, but just as I suspected, the first light of the day lit up the peaks of the Massive Range to the West in a brilliant display of alpenglow. I tried my best to steady the tripod on mounds of ice over the open water, failing often but occasionally succeeding.
After the sun rose, I met up with Mr. Bastard and Creepy for a quick little hike in to one of the quiet hidden gems in Banff National Park, Silverton Falls. Located under a kilometre from the road, by 10 am I was in bed for my first nap of the day.
Later, we drove up to Johnstons Canyon and upon seeing the chaos in the parking lot, decided the lesser known Marble Canyon in nearby Kootenay National Park was a much more desirable afternoon stroll.
Mr. Bastard struggled up some of the trail at Marble Canyon while I lagged behind him, bragging about my grippy yak-traxed hiking boots and breezing up the snow packed hills. Unfortunately, my grippy boots couldn't save me when, to the delight of Mr. Bastard, I fell into a snow covered hole and did a dramatic slow motion face plant into the snow. I shut up about my boots after that...
(Mr. Bastard would like to state for the record, that despite his non-grippy boots, he didn't fall, not even once)
Bastard family portrait, me coated in a fresh coat of snow after a less than graceful moment
I decided the area would be my next sunrise destination, and early next morning I yak-traxed my way up the trail again and set up my camera and tripod on a bridge overlooking the canyon. The stillness of a cold winter dawn enveloped me and everything in sight. Feeling very alone but not wanting to miss out on a potential photo, I fidgeted nervously as I waited for the sun to rise. Fiddling with the camera, re-positioning the tripod and cursing at the one tree in the frame that I couldn't cut out.
Suddenly, I heard a peculiar squeaking sound and my heart leapt in to my throat. It's the middle of winter! What could possibly squeak out here? My mind settled on the most logical conclusion.
My eyes darted nervously as I gripped my bear spray, looking for the squeaking pack of ravenous wolves. They must be famished if they can only muster out such a pathetic squeak. My hands trembled as I started to move my camera gear back towards the bag to pack and make a hasty exit. The tripod legs brushed against the bridge railing, squeaking as they folded in. With solid evidence refuting my hypothesis about a pack of ravenous squeaking wolves now laid before me, I still required a few deep breaths to calm the nerves and steady the camera.
"It's only the tripod" I muttered to myself.
I yelled out "IT'S ONLY THE TRIPOD!" injecting a little bit of humanity into the stillness of the morning.
I felt better, and with the sun rising, there was no more time for silly fears.
I snapped a few photos of the composition I had decided on the day before, but noticing the light on the mountains in the distance further down the highway I abandoned my post and sprinted down the trail.
Only a few kilometres down the road, it became clear that I was going to miss out on the light I was chasing, and turned the truck around to head for home. Feeling a bit dejected, I pulled into a little rest stop to try to salvage some scenery and early morning atmosphere while I still could. I waded through thigh deep snow, using the squeaky legged tripod to keep me upright. It wasn't long before I found a little pocket of photographic goodness. I smiled as I knelt down in a pool of open water among the snowdrifts, snapped a photo and vowed to return before I had even left.