Summer in Banff, Jasper and Glacier National Parks

August 17, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Being a photographer is not without its hazards. I've bonked myself on the forehead with the camera, strained my rotator cuff lugging heavy gear, and suffered bruising from tripod mishaps. Up until this point, however, I've managed to avoid surprise encounters with grizzly bears by sticking with the herd when I'm in their territory. That's why I signed up for two photography workshops this summer to visit the Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park. 


The first workshop took place in Banff and Jasper National Parks. It was led by professional photographer Jim Steinberg. Jim is an award-winning photographer and an outstanding teacher. Although the weather was often windy, overcast and rainy, there were wonderful moments when everything was just right, as in this image of Mt. Rundle at dawn, on Two Jack Lake.

Two Jack Lake at DawnTwo Jack Lake at DawnA gentle breeze ripples the surface of Two Jack Lake, as dawn lights up the clouds above Mt. Rundle in Banff National Park. The name of the lake may originate from a poker game played by three good friends: Captain Jack Standly, Jack Watters, and George Stewart, the first superintendent of Banff National Park.

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada


One of the most appealing aspects of the Canadian Rockies is the unusual turquoise- green color of the glacial lakes. The color is caused by the grinding effect of glacial ice on bedrock, producing rock flour. Meltwater from the glacier carries the rock flour into the lake, where most of it remains suspended in the water, refracting the light. This image of Lake Louise was taken shortly after a thunderstorm rumbled through the area. 

Shoreline at Lake LouiseShoreline at Lake LouiseShoreline rocks lead into the blue-green, glacial water of Lake Louise in Banff National Park. The lake's unusual color is the result of glacial movement over rock, creating fine rock particles known as rock flour. Meltwater from the glaciers at the head of the valley carries the rock flour into the lake, where it remains suspended in the water, refracting the light.
Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada


The image below is Moraine Lake, in the Valley of Ten Peaks. The lake is a deeper shade of turquoise than Lake Louise, indicating less rock flour in the water. To get to this vantage point, I climbed down the very steep slope above the lake using my tripod like a trekking pole, carefully picking my way through the boulders and loose rocks. 


One of the more unusual locations I photographed was the Sawbuck Prescribed Burn. Park rangers intentionally set fire to specific areas within the park to improve wildlife habitat by increasing plant diversity and manage the forest density. The Sawbuck burn took place in the spring of 2014. Fireweed is one of the first varieties of plants to grow after a burn. The contrast of the black, charred wood and the vivid pink flowers made this area a paradise of color, shape, and pattern. 


The Whirlpool River in Jasper National Park, is fed by meltwater from the Hooker Icefield and the Mount Brown Icefield. It's milky, rushing waters flow north into the Athabasca River. Early fur trappers traveled through the Whirlpool River Valley as they made their way into the Rocky Mountains. Seeing it at twilight reminds me of an illustration from a book of fairy tales. 

Whirlpool RiverWhirlpool RiverTwilight on the Whirlpool River in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. Meltwater from the Mount Brown ice field and the Hooker ice field flows into the Whirlpool. Early fur traders crossed the Rocky Mountains by passing through the Whirlpool River Valley.

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada


At the end of the week, I flew from Calgary to Kalispell to begin my second workshop at Glacier National Park. The workshop was led by Andy Cook of Rocky Mountain Reflections. Andy is an outstanding photographer and is an especially enthusiastic and  helpful instructor. As my first mentor, he has had an enormous influence on my understanding of the technical and artistic aspects of photography. My high expectations for the week were tempered somewhat by windy conditions and a wildfire in the park, which closed some of the planned stops on our itinerary.


This was a welcome, relatively still evening in the park. The shoreline of Lake McDonald has numerous, vividly-colored rocks in the shallows. It is the largest lake in Glacier National Park, measuring ten miles long, one mile wide and almost 500 feet deep at its deepest point.


 Swift-moving Avalanche Creek sculpted the rock walls of dramatic Avalanche Gorge. Moist conditions in the gorge create an ideal environment for moss, ferns and 500 year old cedar trees in an old growth forest. 



My two weeks in the northern Rockies went by quickly. I enjoyed meeting many other talented photographers who share my passion for landscape photography. I'd love to return to this area again and spend more time exploring the beauty of the wilderness. As John Muir puts it, "The mountains are calling and I must go."





For additional information about the locations and the workshop leaders, click on the links below:


 Andy Cook's photography website  

Jim Steinberg's photography website

Parks Cananda website               



Glacier National Park website      









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