The Lumix Diaries Canadian Rockies Fall Colors Tour
The Lumix Diaries Canadian Rockies Fall Colors Tour. Below are twenty five of my favorite pictures.
September 27, 2014
Just arrived at the gorgeous Delta lodge in Kananaskis Country of Alberta, Canada. We left Calgary early this afternoon and had an hour drive into the fabulously breathtaking Canadian Rockies. We arrived at the Delta Lodge about 2:30pm, got organized with our rooms and will be heading out for an evening shoot at 4:00pm.
Looks like the aspen leaves are just about at their peak. Beautiful oranges, yellows, gold and a few reddish hues brighten the mountain hill sides. We’ll be concentrating on landscapes this trip and if all goes well we’ll have at least a few animals to photograph as well.
My main camera gear for this trip is 2-GH4s, 7-14mm, 12-35mm, 35-100mm as well as the 45-175mm and the powerful but diminutive 100-300mm zooms. I’ve also brought along my GX7 and Tanya will be using the GM1 for our people pics and other opportunities. Our first stop this evening was a couple of roadside destinations including the beautiful Wedge Lake. We only had a couple of hours to shoot this afternoon but it was productive. More tomorrow.
September 28, 2014
Up at 6:30am to drive the backroads of Kananaskis Country. Our first destination is Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. We’ve had some beautiful scenic opportunities along the lakes, and Tanya is cooking a field breakfast for everyone along the lake shore.
This is one of the highlights of our Canadian Rockies Adventure for me. She’s an amazing cook, and her culinary magic in the cool fresh air of the mountains created over a camp stove is always a bonus. We spend time photographing the mountains in the beautiful early morning light.
After breakfast we make our way towards Canmore. It’s a tourist town with lots of young people. Along the route we see a mother moose and her older calf. I bring out the GH4 with the 100-300mm zoom to make sure we keep a safe distance. Lisa, one of our long time Explorers, is yearning for more telephoto reach so I shoot a few pictures and hand her the Lumix super zoom. She loves it and makes the comment her and Gerry will need to add this to their Christmas list this year.
Lunch in Canmore then on to Banff National Park and our hotel, the beautiful Banff Caribou Lodge. Hard to believe such there’s a bustling city in the middle of a national park but that’s how they do it in Canada. Evening rolls around and we head to Vermillion Lakes for an evening landscape shoot. The lakes with the fall colored cattails and willows with Mount Rundell in the background give us plenty to shoot.
September 29, 2014
Another early morning, but this time we plan to check out a location for the majestic and inspiring elk. One of my earlier books was about elk and I shot a good number of the photos here in the Canadian Rockies. We venture down to the south end of town and find a herd of cows with one large bull. It’s rutting season so he’s tending his herd. It’s still dark, but we wait patiently and he performs beautifully for us. I congratulate all Explorers who stick it out, having the patience to let the animals relax and eventually give us the opportunities so many hope for.
Later we take a ride on the local Banff Gondola. It’s a spectacular way to see the breathtaking beauty of the Bow Valley. It was a bit windy and cold at the top so it was a short trip but everybody loved the ride and spectacular scenery.
After our gondola ride we make our way north towards Lake Louise. Along the way we stop for a hike up Johnston Canyon. It’s one of my favorite hikes with lots of opportunities for trying the silky water effect a long shutter speed will create.
September 30, 2014
It’s not far from the town of Banff to our hotel on Lake Louise. The day starts off rainy and we walk the lake trail trying to find something to shoot. We make our way over to the shop across the shore where they rent colorful red canoes. In the rain it’s about what we have to work with. I have two GH4’s with me, one with the 12-35mm and the other with the 45-175mm zoom. I shoot a few wide frames then zero in on some of the lines all these cherry red boats exhibit.
The overcast light and streaks of water from the falling rain make for a shiny, textured surface. I shoot a few frames and start looking for more ideas. The mirror image below is another idea.
We make our way back to the hotel for breakfast then a small group of us head for the Lake Agnes Teahouse which is a strenuous hike, about an hour up the mountain.
It’s a beautiful hike and at the top is a small lake where you can have lunch, a cup of coffee, or tea.
We make our way back to the lodge and spend the late afternoon talking about digital workflow using both Aperture and Lightroom.
October 1, 2014
Yesterday was rainy and we had to wait for this morning for the spectacular views Lake Louise is famous for. We weren’t disappointed! The image below was shot just out of the Lake Louise hotel, and yes, there were lots of other folks taking in the beautiful scenery. The sun rose this AM at about 7:40 or so, and more than one person had a difficult time hauling their tired bodies out from the opulent bedding the hotel provides. Nobody complained however; the scene was too amazing to complain.
For this image I used Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2. I’m no master at it for sure and if you think this looks like HDR then I’ve failed. Please post your thoughts in the comments. I typically see very few HDR images I really like and subtlety is essential in my mind. But this scene cried out for something other than split neutral grad I’ve used in the past. The technique I use for creating a series of images to run through Nik’s HDR software is this. First I switch over to complete manual exposure. Normally I shoot mostly on Program. Yes, Program, but that’s another story. The first frame I shoot is with my hand over the lens or with a lens cap on. It’s helpful for HDR sequence to have a black frame on the front and at the end. I then set my focus using the AF of the camera. Once the focus is set I switch the AF off. The next step is to start exposing the frames. The first exposure is dead on what the camera’s meter suggests, then I shoot three exposures under at 1 stop each. Next I go back up the scale and shoot three exposures over what the camera suggests at one stop each. I should also mention that White Balance is set to cloudy. Finally I finish with another black frame by putting my hand over the lens and shooting an exposure. for now the process is finished. Eventually I select all frames in Aperture and the select Edit In which takes the frames into Nik’s HDR EFIX Pro 2. The rest is computer magic. Within Nik there are lots of choices, most of them as phony looking as an Elvis impersonator so I search for the one that is most realistic. Then I fine-tune the image with some of the options Nik has available. That’s it. Let me know what you think.
After the morning we hit the road for our five hour trip to Jasper. The entire day is a series of stops for waterfalls, scenics, restrooms and more scenics. Just as we enter the outskirts of Jasper we see a beautiful bull elk. We end the day with a great shoot just before the light gets too dark to shoot.
October 2, 2014
We’re on the bus at 7:30am; our goal is to look for wildlife. We make our way down the main highway and find what seems to be the same big bull we saw the night before. He’s out along the road feeding, not a cow in sight. It seems the rut is winding down. We stop to shoot for 30 minutes or so and then decide to look for other animals in better light.
Our search takes us up around Patricia Lake where we find beautiful frost covered plants in Cottonwood Slough. It’s a chance to get out my Lumix/Leica Elmarit 45mm macro. Shooting macro with the GH4 is a major difference from how I would shoot with my Nikons. Using the GH4’s back LCD is so much more comfortable. Gone is the need to get on my hands and knees in most situations and straining my neck to look through the optical viewfinder. Macro with a mirrorless camera is probably one of the most enjoyable advantages these cameras offer. My macro photography has improved dramatically, mainly since I enjoy doing it more when there is less difficulty involved.
The morning skies began to fill with white puffy clouds adding interest to an otherwise cobalt atmosphere. The jagged mountains and yellow colored aspens contrast beautifully and provide optimal picture taking subject matter.
We don’t see any other elk but the reflections in the water are stunning. Our morning light has become a bit more harsh but the glassy waters of Patricia Lake offer one photo opportunity after another. It really is a stunning morning to be alive.
Around 11:00am our bus driver Hugh guides us to a wonderful place in downtown Jasper known as Smitty’s Pancake House. We converge in mass but they handle the group with ease and all enjoy a late breakfast. Our next move is back to our cabins at the Fairmont Jasper Lodge. Our next adventure started at 3:00pm.
This afternoon our goal is Maligne Lake. I’ve seen bighorn sheep on the road to this area in years past and I’m hopeful we can see them again. Unfortunately the sheep didn’t work out, however, we did see another cow moose with a calf. She was very close to the side of the road so we kept our distance a hundred yards to the south. Not a lot of opportunity for pictures but we did get a few.
Most of what we find along our route to Maligne Lake are scenics. We stop by Medicine Lake and document the dry lake bed. Medicine Lake actually loses all its water through a series of underground caves at the far end. In the summer the glacial meltwater is enough to keep it filled but as the warm season progresses and the melt water mostly stops, the underground plumbing allows the water to drain until it no longer looks like a lake. It looks mostly like a river bed actually.
There are more fall colors along the way, a few more scenics but no wildlife. Unfortunately that’s how wildlife is, unpredictable, and thankfully the group understands we can’t control mother nature. We shoot some more aspens, another mountain range or two and finally make to the end of the road.
The image above was shot with my GH4 and the Lumix 12-35mm F/2.8 lens. The nearly identical image below was shot with my Nikon D600 and 24-70mm F/2.8 lens. I shot both wanting to see how much of a difference there would be. Can you tell the difference? Tell me what you think in the comments of the Blog. Would love to hear your opinions.
The day ends with a dinner at one of our large, beautiful, hand-carved log lodge. Tanya picked up some wild Coho salmon, chicken and a special sausage made my local Mennonites.
She fixed my favorite Kale coleslaw along with a coconut rice. There was wine for those who wanted, sodas and water for the others. Eli gave us a great reason for a birthday cake and everybody went to their cabins completely satisfied.
October 3, 2014
On the road by 7:00 am for our three hour trip to Banff. Our first stop is the Bear’s Paw Bakery, the one on main street in Jasper. Coffee and amazing bakery goods are their speciality. They did not disappoint.
All sorts of goodies including danish of nearly all varieties, apple, cherry, strawberry and chocolate, raspberry white chocolate scones, cinnamon sticky buns, aloha muffins, bran muffins and croissants filled the glass case. I ordered a berry tart, a large cup of coffee and waited for the others. Soon we were off, on our way for the town of Banff and eventually our hotel in Calgary.
Along the way we found a small family of mountain goats. The weather was clear so we were able to take in the Columbia Ice Field. But mainly we drove. The one stop I desperately wanted to make was Tangle Falls. A beautiful waterfall I’ve never seen without lots of harsh open sunshine. Today the light was perfectly overcast, just the right type for silky water images of a waterfall.
We pulled over along the side of the road just across from Tangle Falls. I grabbed the GH4 with the 12-35mm zoom. For this image I used my tripod as well. I attached the GH4 to the ball head and set the camera on Program. I went in to the menu and set Shutter Delay to 1 second. This allowed me to remove my hands from the camera as it fired untouched. I shot mostly verticals since a waterfall typically lends itself to this format. I dialed the aperture down to F/22 which brought the shutter speed down to 1/5th of a second. Plenty slow for that silky water look I wanted.
Back on the bus and off we went for the town of Banff. It was a long but relaxing ride. A few slept, a few worked on their pictures, several made the comment they would like to stay another month. Until next time when the Lumix Diaries return. Coming up next, Romania.