As a photographer, I love to take some time each December to review what was created over the last year. I know I’ve taken a few images that are compelling to me if I can look at them and re-live my year through them. So, please allow me to share 16 images that are special to me, as well as the stories behind them. These are not necessarily images that others liked or that made a killing on social media, but they’re shots that got me fired up creatively. Enjoy!
Click on any image to enlarge and start the slideshow.
1. This first image is a self-portrait taken in January on a blustery day at Lake Minnewanka. It’s become a yearly mission for me to skate 25km to the far end of the lake. For one, it’s an amazing, exhilarating way to get into the backcountry. Secondly, the methane bubbles tend to be absolutely incredible around that area. The making of the image involved a mild amount of frustration due to high, inconsistent winds. There would be a calm window lasting perhaps 30 seconds, followed by strong gusts that would make the tripod slide along the surface of the ice. Eventually, with a little patience, it all came together. Conditions allowed for a longer exposure (f/16, ISO 100, 10-stop filter), and then I returned to the camera to take a few frames focused on the foreground bubbles to try then blend and get a sharp image from foreground to background.
2. I had the pleasure of photographing the aurora borealis about 50 times this year. It never gets old. A particularly memorable display was this one here, in the Torngat Mountains of Labrador. It was short-lived, but extremely bright. Watching the lights dance over this complete, remote wilderness was something I’ll never forget. Labrador is such an incredible place. I shot this from the safety of the Torngat Base Camp, inside an electric fence. There’s no getting out at night due to the plethora of polar bears. 🙂 We’re heading back in July and we have one spot left on the trip if anyone’s interested!
3. One very dark night last April I skied down to the Peyto lakeshore to introduce two friends to a tree I am particularly fond of. 🙂 We were fortunate that shortly upon arriving at the lake, Jupiter lined up perfectly with that incredibly photogenic tree. It was amazing to watch: as if an angular hand was manipulating Juipter to have a closer look! Peyto Lake, Banff National Park.
4. This is one of those images that was previsualized, dreamed up well ahead of time without really knowing if it would actually work. Shooting the Milky Way at its prime at Two Jack Lake is easily planned with any of the great apps out there. I use PhotoPills myself. The crux would be to get standup paddleboarder Sue Shih out there and retain sharpness throughout the image. With a little help from Sue and fellow photographer Trent Enzsol, and a few trips into the lake to set Sue up on milk crates, things eventually worked out! It was probably one of the most technically-challenging images we’ve put together this year, but I loved the result of Sue seemingly floating across the universe and towards Mount Rundle.
5. Interesting story behind this one, which was shot last September in Greenland. We dragged the underwater housing on a handful of flights, to the edge of the Greenland ice cap, and then onto the ice for several kilometres. And we ended up using it once due to conditions, for this one shot. Thankfully Mathieu Le Lay and I were both happy with how it turned out.
6. This is a self-portrait I took in early February. I had set up an ice climbing shoot at the popular Athabasca Glacier ice cave, and got to the parking lot about an hour before the climbers did. While walking towards the ice I noticed a green glow over my right shoulder. I power-walked to the glacier (you never know how long an aurora display will last!), thinking of an effective image I could set up quickly. I set up the composition, got the camera to shoot continuously, ran over to the cave, dropped a headlamp at the back of it, and then walked up that little pedestal of ice. This was the result. Thankfully, the show lasted well after the climbers arrived and were able to shoot some aurora climbing shots as well. The cave has since collapsed, but made for many memorable moments. I’ll share a few more in the comments here.
7. From a January day of shooting fat biking around Banff National Park. We were on our way to Abraham Lake to shoot an image I’ll post in the comments, but the light and drama happening at Waterfowl Lakes were too amazing to pass up. I asked Mark and Felix (shown here) to get out there, way out there, and I started shooting at 300mm to exaggerate the size of Mts Kaufmann and Sarbach in the background. A bold black and white conversion seemed to emphasize that drama.
8. This was probably one of the most rewarding images to come out of the Greenland expedition for me. Mathieu Le Lay and I had spotted the crevasse in the daytime, about 2 km form our camp, and there was no doubt we both wanted to go back at night. I thought it might look cool to lower a headlamp to the bottom of it. Because we did not have enough rope, we tied a bunch of stuff sacks together and lower a spare lamp to the bottom, to make the crevasse glow from within. The thunderbolt shape of the hole from that angle was just luck. Then we waited for about an hour for the clouds to finally part and reveal the aurora. I had my composition set ahead of time and asked (yelled) Mathieu to quickly get onto position. The window of opportunity lasted perhaps a minute. We spent the rest of the night waiting for the skies to open up, but it was not to be. What a place to be able to explore, regardless of conditions.
9. It is a self-portrait I took on Disko Island in September. The whole island is stunning, but that particular stretch of coastline is absolutely enchanting. Think arches, black sand beaches, waterfalls, columnar basalt – completely different from the rest of Greenland. And then the aurora comes out to dance above it all at nightfall.
10. This is from way back in January, shot at a place called Panther Falls. It is perhaps one of the most underphotographed spots in Banff National Park given the creative possibilities and the easy, quick approach. I’m trying to get better at thinking of framing when out in the field. It’s counter-intuitive to me, because often it means taking a step back from the action instead of getting closer (and it is the latter approach that usually makes for less cluttered, more powerful photographs). The tiny chamber I was shooting from forced me to shoot with the fisheye lens. Otherwise those foreground ice curtains would have barely shown in the frame.
11. This is a self-portrait from iconic Moraine Lake, back in May. I’ve shot at the lake many times over the years, and while the magic of the place never wears off, sometimes I find it’s difficult to come up with something fresh in those places that I’m so familiar with. I’m sure others will relate! I was pleased to see how low the water levels were that night, and how many new features were exposed. Suddenly Moraine Lake was full of possibilities! 🙂 I spotted this boulder island on the far side of the lake and decided to get a close-up look. I took a few people-free photos and then considered adding the human element. Because I’d done some underwater images at sunset, I was already wearing my waders. Unfortunately, after setting up the camera to shoot continuously, I proceeded to make my way to the island. About halfway there I experienced that all-too-familiar feeling of the waders filling up, and realized that the water was a lot deeper than I expected. I decided that I was excited enough about the potential to keep going and do the short swim over. That, and I knew that was the final shot of the night for me, and my vehicle was a 10-minute walk away. 🙂 For the tech people: Canon 5D3, Canon 24mm f/1.4 at f/2.0, intervalometer, ISO 1600, 30 seconds, a splashlight pointing down to bring back the turquoise of the lake, and a headlamp on the boulder pointing up at me.
12. Yet another self-portrait from world-famous Moraine Lake! This time though, open water was nowhere to be found. This was January 9th, a cold night in the mountains, and the valley was in a deep freeze. I try to ski up to Moraine Lake at night in the winter every year. It doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to get to, and it provides a completely different experience of the lake. No generator, no light pollution, no traffic. Absolutely soundless and full of stars. The way the Rockies used to be. 🙂 The surface of the lake was rather featureless so I opted to add a little foreground interest by jumping in the shot after setting up the camera halfway up the Rockpile.
13. A dreamy image from one of my most memorable trips of the year. I was fortunate to spend a week in one of Canada’s newest national parks back in August: Torngat Mountains National Park. It has a “last frontier” feel with its extreme isolation, rugged mountains, large polar bear population and nightly aurora displays. This was taken at about 3 in the morning. The camera already detected the first light of day, yet noctilucent clouds still graced the horizon. Above it all the aurora borealis took on an incredible variety of shapes throughout the night. We’ve had one spot opening up for our July 2017 trip to amazing Labrador! Details here: https://offbeatphoto.ca/offbeat/workshops/
14. A self-portrait from the famous ice roads of the Yellowknife area, in the Northwest Territories. After finishing back-to-back astrophotography workshops, I returned to a spot we had visited with the participants. The idea was to align the rising moon with the ice road. The northern lights were a welcome addition to the scene. The foreground effect was obtained through just lying down on a headlamp. The dark, deep waters of Great Slave Lake beneath the ice are a little bit creepy at night!
15. Few people would associate an image like this with the Yukon. Yet this is one of many incredibly varied scenes one finds in the Kluane Lake area. Not too, too far away from here lies the 5,959-m summit of Mount Logan, lost in Canada’s largest expanse of glacier ice. Canada’s North is much more varied than most think, and is full of surprises for the photographer willing to seek them out.
16. I suppose this photograph is representative of what 2016 has been for me artistically: a self-portrait taken in the dark, in rather surreal conditions! But mostly, it shows my home, Banff National Park, a place I enjoy exploring more and more every year. Despite considerable time on the road this year, I’m thankful to have spend many nights under the skies of the Canadian Rockies in 2016. This remains one of the most peculiar northern lights displays I’ve ever seen: picket fence aurora, with a purplish pillar feature that no one can explain to this day (as far as I know). Not only that, but this is looking more or less south. It is very unusual at our latitude to witness the aurora duelling with the brightest portion of the Milky Way! I hopped on a rock in Two Jack Lake to add a bit of interest to the bottom part of the frame and to increase the “dreamy factor”.