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An Early June Photography Tour of the Canadian Rockies

I made my second trip to the Canadian Rockies in early June, revisiting some places for the second time and exploring some new places for the first time.

By: Nick Palastro + Save to a List

Last Fall I took my first trip up to the Canadian Rockies and fell in love with the towering, glacial covered behemoth mountains and the variety of forest terrain that I was exposed to. Check out the story of my first trip here. I knew I wanted to go back to revisit some of the iconic scenes again as well as expose myself to some new (to me) locations. I linked up again with Sarah Lyndsay out of Salmon Arm and Nick Fitzhardinge, who lives in Canmore. They put together a tremendous itinerary in Banff, the Icefields Parkway, and Jasper where I got to see some of the popular destinations as well as a few lesser visited locations that having a local guide such as Nick and Sarah, knew all about.

Day One & Two

Upon arrival to Calgary in late May, the city and surrounding suburbs were shrouded in THE MOST dense wildfire smoke which had me quite worried. I had no need to worry however as by the time I reached the mountains the majority of the smoke had dissipated. I kept my exploring fairly relaxed the first couple nights in Canmore as I knew I had a loaded schedule coming up soon. I spent the first night wandering along the Bow River for sunset where it was still a little smokey...

and the next afternoon I hung out at Quarry Lake. I captured this one of HaLing Peak (and also did some Game of Thrones reading).

Day Three (first of the tour)

The first day of the tour, Nick and Sarah took me to Johnson Lake for a short hike. The views and weather were fantastic. I really like the pine around the lake and took an ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) shot of the forest.

We then drove over into Kootenay National Park and stop at spot along the Vermilion River. This was the first time I had driven across the Continental Divide, which was slightly exciting to me. Next we checked into the vintage Lake Louise Lodge. I relaxed next to Lake Louise while reading more Game of Thrones. The last of the ice was just about melted and the lake was a brilliant blue color. That evening we shot the nearby Herbert Lake. I'll share a different shot of the lake later on!

Day Four

Our first early sunrise of the trip! We made the drive up to Moraine Lake on gloomy, cloudy morning. I was however, able to actually see the mountains unlike last Fall! The lake still had some ice on it which made for some nice foreground elements.

I also found some roots to use as the sky caught litttttle bit of color later on in the morning.

After Moraine, we went over to Morant's Curve. The Curve is a beautiful roadside pull off area along the Bow Valley Parkway where the Canadian Pacific Railway passes next to the Bow River with a stunning panoramic backdrop of the Rockies. After watching the train roll by we made our way back across the Continental Divide into Yoho National Park for an evening at the popular Emerald Lake. Cilantro is the cafe that is photographed a lot at the lodge so I enjoyed getting my own shot at photographing this iconic location in the Canadian Rockies! Luckily, the lake was not that crowded that evening which was a bonus for sure.

After our evening at Emerald Lake in Yoho, we made our way back to Lake Louise. The skies were forecasted to be fairly clear that night and with a new moon, that meant some astrophotography was going down. I was extremely happy about this. Living in Virginia, there is a lot of haze and light pollution to deal with. In the clear Canadian air of the Rockies, there is not a lot of haze or light pollution! Stop number one was at Peyto Lake. Once I got home to edit I noticed the image had a distinct purple and green glow which could only mean there was some aurora! The bright light near the Wolf's ear was from another adventurer photographing the lake from the shoreline. Stop two was at Bow Lake where Nick and I enjoy some amazing conditions. The final stop that night was back to Herbert Lake where the lake was a complete mirror, reflecting the Milky Way in it's waters. The light on the mountains in the background were from the town of Lake Louise. With it being June much further north than what I am used to, sunrise was quickly approaching. There was a short window to get astro work in.

Day Five

After nearly a full night of shooting astro, a little bit of extra sleep was in order. We did not get up for sunrise on this day. We made an afternoon trip to Peyto Lake again, stopped at Waterfowl Lakes, shot the vast expanse of the Saskatchewan River Crossing, and as some foul weather started to move back into the valley, made our way back down towards Waterfowl Lakes with one more evening sunset stop at Peyto Lake. I ended up being very happy with my long exposure shot of Peyto Lake at sunset. The clouds were catching all sorts of different levels of light because of showers moving in and out of the valley and that created an awesome psychedelic look in the final image!

Day 6
Exhaustion was beginning to set in but that didn't matter, rest could happen when I got home. We spent the night at the Num Ti Jah Lodge of the shores of Bow Lake. This meant for sunrise, all we had to do was walk out the front door! It was a fairly flat and mundane morning that lacked much cloud movement and color. I did manage to find a small stream along the shoreline that worked as a composition I liked enough.

The rest of the day for driving up the Icefields Parkway into Jasper National Park. We stopped at Tangle Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and a few various overlooks before arriving in Jasper and checking into the lodge. That evening we stopped at a few lakes such as Annette, Patricia, and Pyramid Lakes. Sunset was fairly flat again as it was overcast the majority of the day.

Day 7

For sunrise, we made our way east to a spot along side a creek. A fresh coating of snow caked the upper elevations of the mountains. My favorite shot of the morning came from a telephoto shot of Pyramid Mountain. The reddish rocks were covered in snow and clouds were moving all around the peak while the skies were crystal blue.

After grabbing some breakfast, afternoon was to be spent at the stunning Maligne Lake. We took a cruise out the famous Spirit Island and on the cruise the tour guide gave us the basic information about the surrounding lands. Unfortunately, the cruise only lets you stay out near the island for 15 minutes. Still, it was an awesome sight and the cruise was pretty relaxing. Leaving Maligne Lake we saw a few Black Bears foraging alongside the road. To finish the day up, we stopped at Athabasca Falls where the light was falling nicely on the raging waters. The finale was a stop at bridge which crossed the Athabasca River to catch the sunset colors radiating from the coming storms.

Day 8

The last full day up in the Rockies was going to be a long driving day. Completely exhausted and sleep deprived at this point and a forecast that was not promising at all for sunrise light, you just have to press on. Sleep can come later. My photo guide Nick took me up to a spot near the town of Jasper called Edge of the World. This was a short hike that offered tremendous panoramic views of the valley and town below. There wasn't much to have been had in terms of composition, or it may have been I was just too tired to think, but I did manage a panoramic as the orange light from the town faded as the ambient light grew.

We met up with the rest of our crew for breakfast, packed our bags, and made way for Canmore. The forecast that day as we drove through the higher elevations was for SNOW! This was June 7th. It is not supposed to snow on June 7th according to everything I know about life (I am from/live the Washington DC area). We drove up to Peyto Lake and it was a complete winter wonderland. I took what may have been my favorite image of the trip. A panoramic shot of the icy blue waters of Peyto Lake in the middle of a snowstorm!

After Peyto, Nick took my back to Moraine while the other members caught a quick nap. I was hoping to see the lake shrouded in snowfall, similar to the way Peyto was. I ended up catching a little bit of snow at the lake, nothing like Peyto, but it was still gorgeous none-the-less!

After I satisfied my exhausted photo needs at Moraine Lake, I allowed us to continue on to Canmore. We grabbed some pizza for dinner, did some editing and headed out for one more evening shoot at Policeman Creek. I was able to catch the setting crescent moon in the frame to conclude the day and just about the trip... One more morning to go!

Day Nine

This was the final morning and last shoot of the trip. At this point the brain was barely functioning. I figure I can sleep on the bus ride back to Calgary and the plane flights back home. The planned meeting spot at Vermilion Lakes was going to be a dud. Everything was fogged over so we had to get above the clouds which we did! The last two images I am sharing on this never ending story and thank you for making it this far! Feel free to find me on instagram and ask me any questions you may have! @nickpalastro

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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