Be careful what you wish for
There can be few more naturally beautiful parts of the world than the Canadian Rockies. A bold claim I know, but driving along the Icefields Parkway surrounded by rugged mountain ranges rising majestically above endless pine forests, that is certainly how it feels. The breathtaking view is broken only by the occasional rushing river, carving it’s way through the rocky landscape or one of the unbelievably blue glacial lakes. The vivid colour of the lakes comes from sunlight reflecting off glacial silt or rock flour suspended in the water.
Arriving here several days before the start of a workshop to make the final preparations before the guests arrived, we were greeted by blue skies and temperatures in the low 20s, glorious weather for hiking and perfect for picture postcard shots but, while privately congratulating myself for having packed those shorts ‘just in case’, I was also thinking that it wasn’t ideal for landscape photography. Haze caused by the smoke from forest fires in the US and Canada wasn’t helping, reducing clarity and making the golden hour light at sunrise and sunset rather flat. On the evening before the tour was due to start we were at the stunning Moraine Lake. The view from the ‘rock pile’ beside the Lake is always breathtaking whatever the weather, but looking down from our vantage point there, watching another sunset fizzle out, we were hoping for a dramatic change of weather.
Landscape photographers are never satisfied, even when faced with a breathtaking view we still fret about the weather and conditions. Personally, although I’m as obsessed by the weather as the next man, I think it would get rather dull if conditions were always perfect, isn’t it part of the challenge to find the image whatever the weather? It’s often surprising what you can come up with if you keep an open mind and embrace what you are given. In the end the weather in Canada did change (frequently!) and we had to just that!
The hazy sunshine was quickly replaced by 100% low cloud cover and later rain, in fact pretty much everything was thrown at us over the course of the week and the itinerary that we had spent days fine tuning, was in tatters before the end of day one!
This is part of the challenge of running a workshop and persistence goes a long way on these occasions. The willingness to wait it out however grim the weather looks, in the hope of a glimpse of light which reaped rewards on more than one occasion on this trip but in particular on a wet morning at Lake Louise.
Having arrived well before sunrise and been standing on the shores of Lake Louise for over an hour, cameras set up and dry under an assortment of carrier bags and camera covers, we were on the point of giving up. Then from out of nowhere a break in the clouds lit up the view before us for several minutes and we even had the slightest hint of a rainbow. As the low clouds closed in again we switched lenses and focused on detail shots of the clouds drifting across the mountains before happily headed off to breakfast, the wet start forgotten.
The weather wasn’t all bad and thanks to local knowledge, the aforementioned persistence and having a great group, we not only made it work despite the challenging weather but we came away with some great images and had fun along the way… let’s face it, if you can’t enjoy a week here with your camera you probably need a new hobby.
So exactly one week after hoping the sunny weather would change, we were stood in the same spot at Moraine Lake, the ground covered by several inches of unseasonably early (but no less cold) snow, hoping the low clouds would clear enough to give us a glimpse of the mountains beyond. Thankfully they did and we were treated to a beautiful morning, but as the title says, be careful what you wish for!