Top 15 Images of 2015, by Paul Zizka

2015 was one of the best years yet, with my travels taking me to some places on my bucket list, such as Arctic Bay, Nunavut, and Greenland (can you tell I like Northern destinations?). Additionally, I was treated to a successful ascent of Mt. Robson, family time in Belize, some spectacular sessions shooting the aurora borealis, and various adventures here in the Canadian Rockies.

It is difficult to summarize a whole year in just 15 images, but these were some of the ones that stuck out most for me or perhaps provide me with the strongest memories. Each image has a story unto itself (a story I offer each month in my newsletter). Here, I’ll tell you the story behind by far one of the most popular images of the year, as well as one from a skating trip I won’t soon forget! The Top 15 list follows below.

Thanks, as always, for all of your support this past year. 2016 is looking like it will be a great year ahead, and I am grateful to have such an invested community to share it with.

Ice World by Paul Zizka Photography.
Ice World by Paul Zizka Photography.

Ice World: Behind the Scenes

Let’s go all the way back to the beginning of the year for this “behind-the-scenes”: January 16th, 2015. Along with two friends, Lukas and Laurel, I had grand plans for the day, but one-by-one those were abandoned as the weather forecast got progressively worse. We sat in a coffee shop brainstorming ideas for a cool day-trip somewhere closeby. I suggested: “How about we skate the length of Lake Minnewanka. I’ve always wanted to do it and it’s supposed to be in OK shape. It’ll be fun and different.” Laurel and Lukas showed interest, but Lukas hadn’t skated in 20 years and Laurel had no skates. Nevermind those hurdles, we found ourselves parking at the lake shortly thereafter, with rental skates in hand. After ploughing through snow for the first kilometre or so, we stumbled upon crystal-clear, smooth ice.

Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park, and is usually the last one to freeze (typically around Christmas). Because it iss very exposed to chinook winds, it often gets blown free of snow right in the middle of winter to yield fantastic skating conditions, such as the ones we enjoyed that day. The westerly winds quickly pushed us towards the far end of the lake and it wasn’t too long before we found ourselves 20 kilometres away from the car and the closest road. We commented on how great it was to be able to get in the backcountry using only skates!

As we rounded the last bend towards the Devil’s Gap (more or less where the mountains end and prairies begin), we came upon an amazing sight: the largest and most elaborate patch of trapped methane bubbles any of us had ever seen. The lakes of the Canadian Rockies are famous for the phenomenon: organic matter decays on the lake bottom and releases methane bubbles that are trapped in the frozen surface of the lake as layers of ice form. I have seen such bubbles at several locations across the Rockies, but never on such a scale, and with such clarity and variety. Thankfully, a long time ago I swore to carry at least basic camera gear (body and wide lens) everywhere I go. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I was on my belly trying to compose and document what lay before us.

After a few straight-up landscape shots I asked Laurel to skate directly away from me, so as to convey a sense of scale and get an interesting image. This is what we ended up with. I love this image because it’s a reminder of one of the most surreal and fun mountain experiences I have everhad. I’m very much looking forward to returning to that area this winter and perhaps spending the night (although I’ll be dreading the 25-km skate back to the road against the wind a little!).

Top 15 Images of 2015

In no particular order. Click on any photo to start slideshow. 

All of the images below are available to purchase as custom prints (in various sizes and formats).
All of the images above are available to purchase as custom prints (in various sizes and formats).