Vermillion Lakes. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Day Trip Blog

01/15/17: Winter Wonderland within the Rocky Mountains.


While driving away from the Rocky Mountains this past August, I made plans to come back when the winter season fully settled in so I could look at this beautiful piece of paradise in another way. Since my last travel blog entry, I worked on getting Resonance Reflection Photography ready for its next step. With a lot of time spent behind the laptop, I’m happy to say that I’m prepared to sell my prints from my trip across Canada from this past summer. With that said, I felt like I spent a lot of time away from what gets me going which is finding new locations to capture. I decided on making time to get my gear cleaned up, pack up my car, and headed to the Rockies and explore a landscape that inspires me in ways only nature can provide.

Frozen river within Johnston Canyon.
Lower falls. Johnston Canyon.

I didn’t have a lot of time to spend out in the mountains, so I decided to make it a day trip. After waking up very early in the morning and having my caffeinated beverage by my side, it was a four-hour drive south from Edmonton straight to the Banff National Park gate. Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. To commemorate the occasion they were offering park passes for free. Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity. The morning brought the great promise of what was to come. The beautiful pink glow over the prairies is a sight to see. On Highway 2 it’s a right turn on Stoney Trail which sits on the outskirts of Calgary, and then it’s one last turnoff on Highway 1 straight to the mountains. You get to see the mountains in the distance before you get close to Calgary, and everytime they pop up from the western horizon I smile from ear to ear. Through the Kananaskis country, you start getting immersed into the massive stone behemoths. The drive in is stunning, partly because if you drive from Edmonton, it’s a huge change from the flat landscape to the Rockies. Huge change. Canmore is town nestled into the Rockies with great stores and restaurants to check out and an incredible feel among the community. As I was passing through the park gate with the sun shining bright and music blaring through my car, I knew it was going to be a good day. My first stop was going to be Johnston Canyon. I had seen many photos of how this location transforms in the winter season. The massive ice formations, the snow that covers the area, the great pallet of colors with the depth of the ice, the flowing water that’s visible in some areas, and the stone walls that surround and complete the composition. It all adds up to potentially great photography.

Frozen waterfall. Great stone walls to finish the composition. Johnston Canyon.
Overview of one of the waterfalls. Johnston Canyon.

I got in fairly early which meant there was no struggle in finding a parking space. With my gear bag fully loaded for the occasion, I took a deep breath and strapped on what seemed like the weight of a small person on my back. The sun was bright, and the sky was clear with no wind to deal with at all, very lovely day indeed. One of the great things with snow is when you explore locations to shoot all you have to look for is tracks that lead off the beaten path. Use your discretion and common sense when you decide to do so but its a tip I’m glad to share. There’s a series of waterfalls within the area, the lower and upper falls. Using my scouting skills, I decided to look for another way to get to the lower falls. One pathway brought me alongside the river which turned out to be a beautiful walk within the canyon. When the voices of people faded into the distance, my mental state became relaxed, and from there I could start to appreciate the moment entirely. Nature has always been my source of therapy, and after walking towards this frozen waterfall, I knew I was getting the mental stimulus I needed from editing photos of beautiful landscape for several months.

Upper Falls. Johnston Canyon.

With my first exciting shots of the day, I noticed people were coming my way towards the falls, so I took it as my cue to leave the area. Onto the main trail, I made my way towards the upper falls. When I got close, I could see ice climbers that were alongside the ice structures. When I got to the lookout point of where you can see the upper falls, I noticed people were walking on a trail by the river that leads close to the waterfall. I left the lookout point, found the trail and made my way towards where the ice climbers were on the ground. The viewpoint became a fantastic opportunity to be close to the upper falls. The ice climbers were friendly to talk too, and they had two lovely dogs that I fell in love with instantly. One of them came to me quickly, but I eventually found out that he was more interested in the microphone on my camcorder. After getting the microphone out of the dog’s mouth, I bid farewell to the climbers and their furry friends and made my way towards the parking lot. Taking a big sigh of relief after taking the gear bag off my back, I got onto the Bow Valley Parkway and headed towards the town of Banff. I went up the road that goes to the Mount Norquay Ski Resort and had a quick snack by a stunning lookout point of the town of Banff. I had two stops left for the day, Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake. These are two locations that I enjoy spending time at. With the winter season settled the lakes I remembered several months ago looks just as amazing as I left them. Instead of the beautiful clear water, it’s this vast white flat plain that gives you a whole new perspective of the surrounding mountains. When I was in Jasper in the summertime, I rented a kayak and went for a quick stroll on Pyramid Lake. The change in possible angles from being on shore to floating, or this case standing in the middle of a lake, is fantastic.

Ice Climbers alongside the Upper Falls. Johnston Canyon.

With another set of great shots in the bag, I made my way back down to the town of Banff to get some fuel for the long drive back home. The sun was setting behind the western mountains, and it dawns on me that I’m clearly missing a great opportunity for sunset lighting over the mountains. The Vermillion Lakes instantly popped into my head so, with my attention aimed to reach the area with some light to spare, I put on some motivating music, and the chase was on! I managed to get a great spot where I could park my car and setup facing Mount Rundle. What was left of lighting from the slowly descending sunset was perfect. I got my tripod, my remote shutter, made sure all the settings were right and clicked away. I sat down by the tripod and registered as much as I could of the moment, of the day for that matter. You know you have a beautiful landscape to work when you lose complete track of time. Everyone has their little piece of paradise to go too. A place where when times get tough, your headspace gets cluttered, or you gain the need to want to connect with an entity that’s special to you. Over the last nine years, the Rockies have been my retreat for those situations. Every time I get surrounded by the ancient stone figures, I feel like the weight of whatever that was bothering me goes away. With a place that can offer so much for me, the very least I can do is capture its beauty and share it to the eyes and imaginations who don’t have the ability to experience just how beautiful this place is. With the sunset disappearing, I got my gas tank filled up, my coffee in hand and my cruise control on. I made my way out of the mountains feeling refreshed and connected to what matters to me, my happiness and inspiration completely restored. Until next time, farewell for now!

River by Two Jack Lake. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
Sunset over Mount Rundle. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Thank you so much for reading my blog. If you want to know more about my work and what I’m up too, please follow me with the links below. Take care everyone, get out there and have a great adventure!

Check out my Vlog Entry of my Day Trip in Johnston Canyon below:

Exploring Johnston Canyon

Website: www.resonancereflectionphotography.com- Quick announcement, I’m selling prints of my photograhps from my Canadian Cross Country Road trip so make sure to check it out here! “My Gift To You”

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