A Night of Photography in Banff National Park
Dec23

A Night of Photography in Banff National Park

I found myself a bit stuck in Calgary for much of the month of November.  I needed to get both my driver’s license and passport renewed. But, of course, you need ID to do things like fly, and go to bars, so I couldn’t do both pieces of ID at the same time (since I also flew to Regina to be on the morning news). But, once I finally got everything sorted out in the city, I made sure I had time to head out to the Rockies to do some shooting.  But, as you might know, I’m about 50% cheap, and 50% crazy.  So, instead of making a week of it, I thought “I’ll bet I can shoot all my locations in Banff National Park in one single evening.”  And that’s what I did.  My goal for the Rockies on this visit home was to work on some night photography imagery. So, at 7pm I left Calgary for the mountains, and I would spend the next 12 hours driving, location hunting, and, of course, shooting in Banff National Park. My Locations In total, I tried to shoot 7 different locations on my trip.  However, my two locations in Yoho National Park on the BC side of the border didn’t work out because there was just too much cloud cover.  So, I actually just worked at 5. Vermillion Lakes My first location is a bit of a classic in Banff National Park.  It’s a great spot to shoot in the wintertime because the lake is actually partially hot spring fed meaning that there is open water basically year round.  The challenge to it is that you do get light pollution from the townsite of Banff.  Here, I shot 3 different styles of night photography. I shot 50mm images at an open aperture, I shot quick exposures at high ISO, and I shot extremely long exposures getting star trails. These are some of my images from this location: Castle Mountain I had been envisioning a really specific shot for Castle Mountain from the old highway.  I really wanted to capture a shot of the road itself, with the mountain as the backdrop.  But, it was impossible. First of all, it was far too dark to see the mountains at night when I went looking, so finding my spot was tricky. Then, when I found the spot the road was quite narrow and icy, and I was worried about a car coming down the road too quick and not being able to avoid my car. And thirdly, my second worry was probably illegitimate because the 4 times I went up and down...

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Winter on the Icefields Parkway
Dec20

Winter on the Icefields Parkway

After finishing up in Jasper, I had to get back to Calgary – the city where I went to university and where most of my friends and family live.  My buddy Jeff Bartlett (check out his portfolio here) was kind enough to drive me down the Icefields Parkway and then through Kananaskis to get me home.  Of course, a couple photographers can’t just drive through the mountains without shooting them.  And, Alberta got a tonne of fresh snow so we really did make some fresh tracks and have beautiful white snow to work with.  The Icefields Parkway in the wintertime is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Then again, it’s stunning any time of year. This was our day driving one of the most spectacular roads in the world. Is the Icefields Parkway open in the Winter? The short answer is, yes the Icefields parkway is open in the winter.  In fact, it’s the highest elevation road in all of Canada that’s open year round.   However, that’s not to say that the road doesn’t close.  The road can close throughout the winter for a number of reasons.  The first, of course, being a winter storm or incredibly icy roads.  The road can also be closed because of avalanches (both natural and ones triggered on purpose by the park), rockslides, and other reasons.  A trip down the parkway is never a guarantee in the winter, so always be prepared to have enough time to drive around if you need to get from Jasper to Banff or farther south. What are Road Conditions Like? Again, the road conditions on the Icefields Parkway really depend day-to-day.  It depends on whether the snowplows have been over it after snow, if there’s enough salt and dirt laid down for traction, and how much ice is on the road.  Before you set off to drive the road in the winter, be sure that you ask about the conditions. Also, you probably don’t want to cruise down the road in a little city car with summer tires.  And, no matter what you choose to drive be sure you’re prepared with warm clothes and some snacks in case you get stuck, have an accident, or have car trouble. Locations worth Photographing on the Icefields Parkway in Winter Winter is tricky to shoot photography in the Rockies for the simple fact that most of the lakes are completely frozen over by late December or early January.  Thus, I like to find open pieces of water along the Athabasca Glacier, or head for the larger lakes that tend to stay open for a bit longer.  On...

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Creating a Time Lapse on the Via Rail Across Canada
Nov30

Creating a Time Lapse on the Via Rail Across Canada

I once again had the great opportunity to take the Via Rail across Canada.  It’s now my third time taking the train, and each time is just such a perfect escape and great experience.  I love train travel, in general.  It’s easily my favourite form of travel.  It’s especially cool when you’re crossing a country as massive as Canada. We started in the city lights of Toronto, and then flowed across the Great Shield, hit the prairies, and then made our way into the Rockies.  The trip, however, wasn’t without it’s missteps. A train ahead of us had a minor derailment and we were about 12 hours behind schedule by the time it was cleaned up.  For some, it might have been an issue. For me, it just meant I got more time on the train. Since I’ve been on the train so much, I really wanted to do something a little bit different this time.  Thus, I created a time lapse video of the journey.  This is what I put together as well as the final outcome. My Tools for the Time Lapse Putting the time lapse together was a bit of a tricky thing since you’re essentially stuck inside the train for the 3 days. There’s no way to shoot out an open window, and everything you take from inside the train is through glass windows.  Still, I managed to shoot quite a bit of decent footage using just a couple tools: GoPro Hero 3+: I used this for most of my shots. It’s just so easy to shoot time lapse on the GoPros. Canon 60D: I used my old Canon 60D to shoot quite a bit of footage. TriggerTrap: I have a product called the TriggerTrap which helps with shooting time lapse on the DSLR. I used this along with the app for the product on most of my non-motion shots on the 60D. Radian: You might remember my review of the Radian a couple months ago. It’s a time lapse machine that rotates the camera well also having it shoot imagery that you can flip into a motion time lapse when it’s done. Anytime you see a circular motion in the time lapse I was using the Radian to create that effect. 3 Legged Thing Tripod: I used my travel tripod for most of my shots. Joby GorillaPod: I also have a GorillaPod by Joby that is strong enough to handle my DSLR and big lenses. I used this a couple times. How I Edited the Time Lapse Once I shot the images, I brought the files into Lightroom one sequence at a time.  Then, I’d edit...

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On Location in Whistler, British Columbia
Dec19

On Location in Whistler, British Columbia

Well, that about wraps up the winter adventure for a bit.  On one side of things, I’m excited to be headed back into the warmth soon.  After 5 straight years without winter, the cold has been a bit tough for me.  On the other side of the coin, I really enjoyed all the winter activities and snowy scenes here in Canada.  It has brought back a lot of memories to my childhood. My last true adventure this winter in Canada took me to one of my favourite places, Whistler, BC.  We hoped aboard a flight to Vancouver and were whisked away to the resort town for 3 days of action-packed adventure.  It was exactly what I needed.  Now, I had been to Whistler a bunch of times before, but always in the summer or fall.  However, in the Winter, this town is completely different, and totally alive.  Of course, the fact that Christmas is right around the corner helped liven things up a bit, too. Anyways, if you want to see what we got up to in Whistler, during our quick trip to town, check out the video and then scroll past it for the info and photography.   What we Got up to in Whistler Our schedule in Whistler was insane.  Literally, we didn’t have much more than a couple free minutes here and there.  We skied, we ziplined, we spa-ed, and we even starred in some footage for a 2015 commercial campaign, which was fun. Ziplining with ZipTrek EcoAdventures at Dusk I’ve gone ziplining a couple times before.  The first time I ziplined was in Costa Rica about 10 years ago.  I’ve also done it in places like Ometepe Island in Nicaragua.  But, this was a completely different experience.  We basically went up right at dusk, meaning we were flying through the trees and over the valleys in the blue hour and partial darkness.  It just added to the experience.  The runs that Ziptrek offer in Whistler are awesome.  One of the lines had us running at speeds well over 80 km/h.  Intense!  Ziptrek Ecotours is a great company, too.  They really go above and beyond not just taking clients on the lines, but educating them on the forest and the eco-system.  Plus, they donate a good chunk of their proceeds to good causes around the world. Fire and Ice Show Right after ziplining, we grabbed our camera gear and headed to the base of the mountain for the “Fire and Ice Show”, in which skiers and snowboarders chuck some crazy tricks through a burning ring of fire.  It was really entertaining to see, but it was...

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The Value of Self-Evaluation Regardless of the Trade
Dec12

The Value of Self-Evaluation Regardless of the Trade

The entire purpose of my Enterprise Rent-a-Car road trip to Drumheller was to show people what it takes to pursue a passion. Yes, it takes effort, time, overcoming some obstacles, and it involves help from people that want to see you succeed.  But, I think one of the most little talked about aspects of pursuing your passion is self-evaluation.  No matter what it is you do, evaluating where you’re at, what your strengths are, and where you can improve, is so valuable to growth.  If you sit around telling yourself that you’re amazing, and that the reason you get no respect is because you haven’t been lucky enough, then you’ll only stagnate. In photography terms, it’s easy to shoot images and then sit back and watch the praise from friends, family, social media junkies and colleagues.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in how good you are rather than how good you can be.  It’s something that I have to force myself to do, and really make a point of self-evaluating my skills on a regular basis.  One of the spots where I spend a lot of time self-evaluating is in the digital darkroom when I edit my images. In the video, I explaing what goes through my head when I’m looking at my images or out in the field.  Below, is a little bit more information about this images in Drumheller and how I shot them. Three Images and Where I Went Wrong The images I’m posting below are three photos where I did something wrong.  Now, obviously, as a professional photographer I’m far more picky about what “wrong” means.  Moreover, the interesting aspect of this all is that 5 years ago I would have been stoked with these images.  But, that’s where self-evaluation will get you.  It constantly has you pushing your limits. This is the image I most mad about. When I look at this photo now I think it had real potential to be a wall mounted print. However, it’s not sharp. And, the worst part is that it’s not sharp because of shake or too slow a shutter speed, it’s sharp because I used the wrong aperture. I wanted to create a nice blurred foreground so I shot at f/2.8 which was totally unnecessary. At f/2.8 with a landscape you can really easily miss the focus. Had I simply shot this at f/4 or f/5 it would have been sharp and likely a popular image to sell. Moreover, I am a victim of laziness with this photo. I should have busted up my tripod to ensure it was sharp. You live and learn, I guess....

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