Cold is a Good Motivator

I’ve just got back from a trip to Banff and Abraham lake in Canada. What an adventure! Not all of it was safe or easy. Winter roads can be quite challenging to drive.

My body was challenged too with the cold that I’ve never experienced before in my life. First day it was -31C. The day after it was -21C which seemed like an improvement but it was slightly windy which made it feel even colder.

On the third night I wake up earlier to photograph sunrise at Abraham lake. The place is popular for photography due to natural phenomenon. The lake freezes up deeply during winter and as freezes up methane bubbles rising from the lake bottom get captured any preserved in the ice creating fantastic three-dimensional structures.

As I got to the lake, to location I explored and decided on the day before. It was cold, very cold. The wind was howling outside rocking my car from side to side. Despite layers and layers of clothes I had on me, once I stepped outside I got cold within seconds.

I immediately got back in the car. I could not convince my body to go outside again. No matter how beautiful sunrise was going to be I could hike to the lake and back in such weather.

As I was faced with this challenged my first reaction was to just sit in the car and watch the sunrise. Then I thought that maybe I should get out of the box and photograph something else. I remembered the trees with a small frozen pond around them with ice shining like a mirror. I drove to that place. It was cold but it was quiet, still, no wind at all. I felt warm and cozy.

That ended up the place where I photographed the sunrise. There were no bubbles in the ice in my photos but the sky was nice and I liked the trees and the frozen pond around them.

In fact, I realized, I’m not that attached to the bubbles in the ice. I’m fascinated with the phenomenon and I like to look at them but I don’t feel emotional connection to the scenes involving them. Thanks to extreme cold and wind that drove me away from the lake I found something of my own, something that I enjoyed more photographically.

Time Changes Landscape

On my last trip I decided to revisit the place I took the following photo at way back in 2011 in Zion National Park.

I like the location. I like that I found it on my own. I like that it is just off the beaten path enough to be there by myself away from crowds of tourists and photographers.

I did suspect that there would be some changes. Sure I would not get so lucky with the clouds and the light. But I did not expect to find my beloved tree dead. Its time has come I guess. Everything that lives eventually dies.

The Light 2

The morning in the backcounty of the Monument Valley started with rain. The sky was overcast. There was no sunrise.

We photographed anyway because we were there. It is better to do than do not. I photograph whereever I am and whenever I am. Who knows when is the next time the opportunity like that presents itself.

After about an hour of photographing we decided it was time to go back. As we packed up the sun broke thru the clouds. The was only one whole in the clouds and a spot of light was slowly moving across the valley lighting up its different features creating new and new images.

We’ve unpacked and started photographing the same place all over again. This time in a new light.

Double Sunrise

I’ve mentioned this before: the sunset is not over until it is dark. The reverse applies to sunrise: the sunrise is not over until it is day light.

On my recent trip to Hawaii I went for sunrise to this spot that I had scouted ahead of time. I had to scramble thru the bushes in the dark with a flash light but what wouldn’t you do to get to a spot you like.

I started photographing even before sunrise to see if anything interesting comes out from that. Nothing interesting was coming out. Then the color showed up in the sky.

After a few images the light, the color disappeared. It looked like twilight again. I guess the cloud ran over and blocked sun light.

But I knew not to abandon my post. I simply sat and enjoyed the motions of waves back and forth, back and forth. Until the sun broke out in earnest.

Vacation of Photographer is Photography

Are you like me and take a camera equipment with you on a family vacation? And I don’t mean a small camera for family snapshots. I mean large tripod and backpack full of lenses, filters and big camera. Even if for a moment, even for a little bit I want to enjoy the new place thru a viewfinder.

I’ve just come back from a trip with my son to Hawaii. There is not mucch opportunity for photography with a 10 year old who does not like hiking. Fortunately, our hotel location in Kauai happened to be picturesque. I did not need to wonder far away for a sunrise, just sneak out of the hotel grounds.

Two Problems

There are two problems in photography: too little good pictures and too many good pictures. I’m joking of cause. There are a lot of more important problems like soul searching. But that’s the problem that I face right now: there are just too many good pictures from the trip to Enchantment lakes.

Almost every photo is “golden”. Either I’m a good photographer or golden larches make every picture “golden”. The place is just too beautiful to fail to impress.

With that here is one photo that I really like.

Sunrise in Enchantments
Sunrise in Enchantments

One Step Back

I’m back from Norway. Well, I’ve been back to Seattle for two months, enjoying my old friends: Olympic National Park, Rainier National Park, Enchantment Lakes and trails around Seattle.

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One of the icon places in Rainier National Park is Reflection Lakes. In fact by far this is the place to photograph at sunrise. And pray the water is still as a mirror. I had not visited it for a while as it is over-photographed in my opinion. I had preferred exploring new places in this vast park.

On a whim of nostalgia since I have not been in the park for four months I went there to enjoy the classic view. It was the first  freezing night of the season. Frost was covering grass, logs, and few remaining leaves. Fog was rising over the lakes and slowly moving over the still water.

There were a few more photographers besides me there. All of them trying to get as close as possible to the water going for pure perfect reflection photograph. I on the other hand step back a bit and have edge of the lake nicely framing the mountain reflection. Here is my almost classic image of the mountain:

But then I thought that what was really interesting and unique about that morning was the first frost. So, I walked away from the lake to the point where I had seen two logs pointing in the direction of the mountain. To me these images are more interesting. The first one was taken before sunrise during twilight and the second one was taken right after sunrise.

Learning to Work on a Move

I’m in a long trip to Europe for three months. I’m making photos along the way. That means that I need to get to learn to work with limited resources namely laptop. Typically during a few days or a week photo trip I don’t do any post-processing; my focus is on collecting material.

Three month though is pretty long time to go without any sharing. so I’m getting used to post-processing on a laptop and getting used to long waits.

My first stop was Tuscany. Here is an image I took near Asciano.

Like a Pianist

Recently (four months ago) I bought myself a new camera. Just then I understood just how much my previous camera had become an extension of me. I did not even think about controls, I just thought about picture I want and fingers did all the work.

There was a lot to learn with the new camera. I’ve read thru the manual repeating all the steps that I thought were important to me. I started making photos. I stumbled over and over, had to think about what buttons to press, what dials to turn. Many pictures went straight to trash – they were technically very bad: out of focus, under-exposed, over-exposed.

I kept practicing. I had to re-read parts of the manual because I forgot how to make certain adjustments. At last during the trip to Alberta I noticed that my fingers do all the work automatically again. It was such a pleasant feeling to be in control of the camera again. I somehow think it is similar to how pianist is playing on a piano.

Here is the final set of images from the trip.

Never Can Take the Same Photo Twice

“No man ever steps in the same river twice” – Heraclitus

There is a set of small lakes near Banff called Vermillion Lakes. They are easier to access and a nice spot for sunrise photography. I visited them several times: on my way to Abraham Lake and on the way back. They are mostly frozen during winter that is if the winter is actually cold but there are a few of hot springs coming into them that never seem to freeze up.

I found myself a nice cozy place there which I kept coming back to photograph over and over. Initially, I wanted to repeat the photo I took the first time, just with a slightly different composition. When I came the second time though I discovered that the weather changed the look completely. After that the change itself was more interesting to me. So, I kept coming to the same place to see how it looks like at sunrise or sunset, how it looks in warmer weather and in colder weather.

Here are a few photos that I like the most out of my study of the same place.

Sunrise after snowfall:

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Twilight before sunrise with warm weather:

Sunset with clear sky when the temperature dropped below 0C again. I’ve waited for this one until gradient of color reaches its peak. (BTW, I love watching Earth’s shadow moving across the sky.)