Crossing Uneven Ground

Travels in Canada – Between Banff and Jasper

“What do you see?” shouted the guy who was getting out of his car. I had stopped traffic again, totally unintentionally but this happens all the time between Banff and Jasper.  There were three cars pulled up behind my parked car and I could see another one lurching off the highway and rolling onto the gravel shoulder.  I had a camera on a tripod and this attracts onlookers.  Whenever I pulled to the side of the road and got out my gear it was not uncommon for five or six cars to eventually accumulate behind mine.

“I see this!” I gesticulated majestically while sweeping my arm in an arc indicating the vista in front of us.  It was mid-September, morning light was hitting a copse of gold-splashed aspen in the foreground.  Behind them a vast mountain scape was materializing as heavy clouds broke free from the lowlands and parted, transforming the background from blank opacity to a subtle arrangement of beatific whites.  I was trembling a bit, as I do, when I feel imminent contact with my photographic muse and also getting a little annoyed, as I do, when I feel imminent contact with tourists milling around in a scene I’m trying to compose.

“Oh,” said the guy, unimpressed.  “I thought you saw an elk.”  He got in his car and left.

I strode into the area purposefully, setting up my tripod, adjusting the angle and dodging the mustering troop of tourists. The light and clouds were changing fast.  I made several images including the one below.

Snowy Mountains and Aspen

There is a little road outside of Banff along Vermilion Lakes that we returned to several times.  Snow fell at night and gave a light dusting to the mountains. Surprisingly there were only sporadic cars along this place.  It was relaxing here.  Joanne and I would park the car and just wander up and down the road, witnessing the changing light and clouds.  Sometimes the lake was mirror-like and reflected an expansive sky. I actually made several good images at that spot including the one below.

Vermilion Lake Reeds

Maybe you find what you’re looking for when you are out in the world traveling but maybe its best to be open to whatever you find.  Expectations be damned.   Maybe that guy will find an elk.  Joanne and I did and we weren’t expecting to.  We knew there were elk around Jasper but when we checked into our cabin at Pine Bungalows we were surprised to find out they have a resident wild elk herd there.  Being September, they were in rut so really didn’t care about humans at all.  The big bulls just went rampaging along the little roads that connected the cabins and if you got between them and a cow…well just don’t get between them and a cow.

Bull Elk

This royal elk regularly did what elks do in September. Right outside our cabin door, he bugled and chased cows with no regard to our presence.

Mountain goats come to lower elevations to visit the river that runs along the Icefields Parkway near Jasper, Alberta.

Soon after a wildlife sighting, photographers would start to sprout from the roadside like spring flowers.

Mile for mile highways 1A and the Icefields Parkway in Alberta have been the most beautiful and photographically rewarding roads I’ve seen.  The photographic community apparently concurs because image-seekers sporting high end optics are abundant.  Early mornings, a mantra you will hear me repeat ad nauseam, are the best.  The light is the best, the coffee is the best and, if you’re photographing in a world hot-spot like Alberta, the photographers are the best.  Folks who get up at 4am and hang out in the dark waiting for morning light in sub-freezing temps are a pretty interesting lot.  They tend to respect your spot.  That is if they see you lining up a shot, they stay out of the way.  Mostly.

Two of my images from our September trip have been selected by Blank Wall Gallery in Athens, Greece.  I really like this gallery and I like the photographs they display, even when they don’t pick any of mine.  Snowy Mountains and Aspen is in their “Landscapes” show on now and Vermilion Lakes Reeds, will actually be shown in Crete at a show they are calling the “Chanai International Photography Festival or CIP.  That show starts in late August until early September.




17 thoughts on “Travels in Canada – Between Banff and Jasper

  1. Robert Welker

    Beautiful photos! I agree with Mary Pat: your writing evoked a sense of being with you, and, for me, vivid memories of traveling the area- another spectacular landscape around every corner.

    1. Tom Post author

      You and many of my photo friends agree… That trip in the Jasper / Banff areas gets high ratings….and yes!, amazing scenes around every corner. Thanks for the comment.

    1. Tom Post author

      I think it’s the best drive in North America. I hope you get to take it sometime. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Margo

    Amazing what the artists eyes see and the locals pass by every day. You have to stop and smell the roses along the way I guess.
    Great photos Tom!

    1. Tom Post author

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photography Margo and hope you guys are doing well. Yep, that’s one thing about doing photography on a trip…it really slows you down. Nice to be retired and able to take your time about things.

  3. Joy Stacey

    Just stunning photos, Tom. I think you must like Canada. Loved the look of gentle surprise on the goat’s face. We have only seen the Banff-Jasper area in Summer so these photos help us reimagine the scenes in the cold. Thanks,

    1. Tom Post author

      The nice thing about our Banff-Jasper trip is it seemed only to snow at night so each morning we’d wake up to fresh white highlights on the mountains. Thanks for the comment Joy, it’s good to hear from you.

    1. Tom Post author

      I’m not sure about a castle. The lodge at Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada is pretty amazing. It is the Prince of Wales lodge and may be what you’re thinking about. That place is north of our Glacier National Park. We’ve been to Glacier but not to Waterton Lakes. The whole area is worth exploring. Joanne and I are in “home repair” mode this year so not traveling too much right now.

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