Finding Dawn at Moraine Lake

Ask me where my favourite spot in the world at dawn is.  Go on, ask me!

The truth is, that well defining my favourite place on the planet, or even my favourite country to travel, is a bit of a task, I’ve always had one favourite place to watch the light rise on the world: Moraine Lake.  And today, I’ll get to do just that once again.

I leave the Deer Lodge in Lake Louise well before even a hint of black has left the sky.  It has rained the night before and the ground is still soaked from the storm.  A cold humid wind still blows through the pre-dawn air.  I pop into my car and drive the 20 minutes through the narrow winding road along the edge of a mountain pass.

As I arrive, a still black sky still hangs bleakly above my head.  A heavy fog weighs down on the Moraine Lake parking lot, and a near depressed air lingers.  I flip on my Lumia 1020 as a guiding torch, and a small mist flickers within the light.

Moraine Lake, Canada

In completely darkness, I wander down a familiar but distant path.  It’s been so long, that I’m almost feeling deja-vu rather than familiarity.  I’ve been here a couple dozen times before.  It’s always beautiful, but never the same.  I think that’s what I love about Moraine Lake, it’s always evolving, it’s always persuading a different mood, a different light.  Today it’s bleak.  I can hardly see my hand in front of my face.  I’m sure that when the light arrives, I’ll be sat in the midst of a blanket of cotton swab clouds looking into a squall of white.

I turn past a sign warning of grizzly bears in the area and up the rock pile for which this place gets it’s name.  For years, it was said that this giant pile of rock on the edge of the lake was caused by glacial moraine.  However, recent research wonders if the pile was actually formed from a massive landslide.  Whatever the cause, the reminisce of natural causation is a massive pile of boulders and rocks withing which cute little pikas, that look like little tennis balls with ears, crawl and squeak.

Moraine Lake-3

I perch myself on the top of the hill and wiped the sweat from my forehead.  I toss my bag on the ground and pull out all the usual tools of my trade: tripod, camera, smartphone, wide-angle lens, filters, and wireless trigger.  Awkwardly, I stretch my feet across two slick rocks and attempt to find balance for my tripod.  Once I do, I drop my camera on top, then a blanket of plastic to protect if from the rain as the darkness of the morning lifts.

Moraine Lake, Canada

I sit down on a soft-looking rock and can’t help but feel like my live has come full circle.  It’s moments like this where you realize how far you’ve come, and how much you’ve changed.  Five years prior, I was sitting in this same spot wearing a driver’s uniform from my summer job driving tour buses.  I was dreaming of leading tours around the world, maybe photographing it, and perhaps becoming a journalist of sorts.  Today, I’ve done all those things, and more.  I can’t help but feel a sense of pride.  How often do we change our dreams rather than chase them?  How often is a person rewarded with this kind of reflective moment to realize how far they’ve come?  I couldn’t be happier.

Moraine Lake, ALberta

My moment of euphoric self-indulgence is chased by a platinum blue light that floats into the scene below.  In front of me, the clouds lift enough for me to catch the peak of some of the ten peaks that surround this majestic lake.  Moraine Lake glimmers below in its perfect shade of blue.

Moraine Lake, Canada

I race between cameras, light settings, and compositions for about 15minutes giggling with each shutter than finishes it’s burst.  Then, as quickly as they left, the clouds sink back into the Valley of Ten Peaks and soaks the scene.  I stand and watch the scene dissolve into a mess of white haze before retreating down to the base.

Moraine Lake, Canada

I stop in at the lodge for a cup of sugar-spiked coffee and head to the parking lot.  As I open the door of my rental and start tossing my gear in, the first tour bus of many that will arrive today pulls to a stop.  Excited tourists with camera slung around their shoulders twist their necks for their first views of the most beautiful lake in the Rockies.  I hear some say things along the lines of: “Oh my god! How beautiful.”

“You’re not wrong,” I think as I drive off. “But you should have seen her an hour ago!”


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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3 Comments

  1. stunning!!! some of the most beautiful pics I have ever seen. what a beautiful place

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  2. Amazing! I can see why you return there. There are some shades of blue in there that I don’t think I’ve seen before.

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    • Yeah Andy, Moraine is such a perfect spot! Gotta love that blue!

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