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Abstract Vision

What is your definition of abstract photography? Is it simply photographing something that we don’t recognize? Or perhaps does it need to be blurry for it to be considered abstract? Whatever your definition may be, it’s something that I have become interested in from about two years ago. I later found out though, that making an impactful abstract photograph is harder than it seems. Why? I’ll explain below.

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Lake Louise at Banff National Park

A trip through Banff National Park wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the beautiful Lake Louise. Lake Louise, named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, is surrounded by mountains, and centred by the iconic Chateau Lake Louise. One of the most popular tourist destinations of Banff National Park, be sure to take your time and enjoy the beauty of the area.

Chateau Lake Louise

Chateau Lake Louise from the Fairview lookout.

While we didn’t stay at the Chateau Lake Louise, we were fortunate enough to stay at the lodge by Moraine Lake. Being so close to Lake Louise, I was able to come here for a sunrise shoot, which really brought out the beauty of the surroundings.

Lake Louise Sunrise

A long exposure of Lake Louise during sunrise.

If walking the grounds around Chateau Lake Louise isn’t enough, the area is a gateway to a number of hiking trails, some more challenging than others. We opted to go to the Lake Agnes Tea House, which is one of the more popular hikes in the area. The tea house, home to over 100 teas, is a perfect way to cap off a hike up the mountainside. In addition to teas, they serve soups, sandwiches, and desserts to satiate a hungry appetite, to ready yourself to continue on to other hikes that extend from there, or to simply go back down the mountainside.

Lake Agnes

Lake Agnes with the teahouse behind me.

The first part of the trail has you hiking through trees, offering not much in terms of views. As you hike higher, you’ll be awarded with glimpses of Lake Louise like you’ve never seen before. The total elevation gain for this hike is about 400m and will take you about 30min-45min. each way depending on your speed.

Lake Louise from the Trails

Lake Louise seen from the trails.

For an even more spectacular view of Lake Louise, you’ll want to start a hike on the other side of the lake, which will bring you to the Fairview Lookout. With an elevation gain of about 100m, and a short but steep hike up, you’ll be gifted with great views of Lake Louise and the mountain ranges behind it.

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 32mm

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 32mm

Although Lake Louise can be beautiful by itself, I believe the real beauty of the area are the hikes that surround it, offering spectacular vistas of Banff National Park.

Be sure to research the hikes surrounding the area and make some time to do them when you come to Lake Louise. While there may be a plethora of sites to do research from, listed below are a few of the sites that I used when doing my own research.

Happy trails!

Caledon Fall Colours

A fall season wouldn’t be the same without a visit to Caledon, Ontario, no matter how short a visit it may be. One weekend I had the fortune of driving up there on a whim on my way back from errands. It was an unexpected drive, but the weather was definitely cooperating. I couldn’t really say the same thing about traffic up there though!

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 16mm

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 16mm

These photos are all taken within a walking distance from the Cheltenham Badlands. Since they had blocked off the sideroads immediately in front of the Badlands, we were all forced to park down the street on the next block, making everybody walk a few minutes to the natural wonder of Cheltenham. On our way there, however, I looked towards a sideroad to find a glorious spectacle of colour that was far more interesting that the actual Badlands that I was going to take a look at. The Equestrian home seen above was surrounded by great colours with lush greenery in the foreground. I didn’t see any horses nearby that were willing to approach my camera unfortunately.

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 14mm

I did, however, find this pea-shaped tree which caught my attention for awhile. It was an oddly-shaped tree standing all by itself. The fence in front of it played nicely as you see it make its way into the far distance. I can only assume the pea-shape was formed because of the power lines running right next to it. This area was so attractive that a family of six was sitting behind me on the grass, enjoying a nice picnic.

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 24mm

Like I sometimes do with my tours of the city and surrounding areas, I did a brief Periscope broadcast of the area. I showed the bright colours of the Ontario fall season to the world. You can see the actual broadcast below on my katch.me feed.

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 17mm

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 17mm

And finally as I always like to do, I looked up to see the colours against the clear blue sky. In this case, there were some green still present in the tree, making it for a kaleidoscope of colours. It really was a great way to end off the drive that took me around through Belfountain, where it was too crowded that I couldn’t even stop to admire the surroundings.

This fall season I wasn’t expecting to see such vibrant colours all around. I was pleasantly surprised during most of my visits to various locations around the GTA though. I have to admit, wherever I’ve gone, it’s been a pretty good season for colours. The weekends were sunny, which also made for some good photo-taking opportunities.


Periscope Broadcast

View the Periscope broadcast of the Cheltenham Badlands and its surrounding fall colours!

Mount St. Louis Moonstone in Autumn Colours

For any landscape photographer, the autumn season is a magical time of the year. With the leaves changing colours altering the landscape dramatically, it’s literally a photographer’s playground.

This year while I went to a few different places to see the leaves, it was one of the more unexpected places that I saw the most striking of colours. Contrasting greatly with the greenery of the slopes, the surrounding trees with their orange, yellow, and red leaves made this location a secret gem that I don’t think many people would ever have expected it to be.

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 82mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 82mm

Mount St. Louis Moonstone is a ski resort located north of Barrie. Visible from Highway 400, you could easily drive past it if weren’t for the changing colours of the leaves beckoning photographers to come and take their photos. And that’s just what they did this past weekend as I was heading north on the 400. A small detour made this photo tour well worth the time.

It was undoubtedly a great spectacle to see because of two reasons:

  1. The greenery of the slopes contrasted greatly with the surrounding leaves that this further accentuated the vibrancy of the colours.
  2. I came here shortly before sunset, which gave me great lighting on the leaves, making for some special moments.
Nikon D800, 1/60 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 130mm

Nikon D800, 1/60 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 130mm

Because this is a ski resort, the ski lifts added another element to the landscape that worked really well. Normally we may not associate ski lifts with the autumn season but they really go hand-in-hand here, don’t you think? It’s no secret I actually really like this combination, as I’ve done this in the past whenever I’ve come across ski lifts; just take a look at my photos from Sunshine Ski Resort in Banff, and while I know I took one from another ski resort in Ontario, the actual photo escapes me at the moment.

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 200mm

Standing from the base of the mountain, I equipped myself with a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 70-200mm f/2.8 to get these photos. Since the ski lifts and trees were fairly far away from me, the latter telephoto lens came in handy quite a bit. Focusing on the very top ski lift terminal, I was able to bring in the coloured leaves to the foreground in the photo below.

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/11, ISO 100, 180mm

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/11, ISO 100, 180mm

Had I more time on my hands, I would have loved to walk up the slope to the top of the hill and see the view from there. I’m sure it would have been a great view. Instead, I walked from one side of the hill to the other and got a different perspective on the hills and the magnificent colours that surrounded the slopes of Mount St. Louis Moonstone.

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 56mm

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 56mm

While an overview picture really shows the area and the colours, the tighter photos where I focused on select elements of the landscape brings in more details. For example, the photo below has the trees with their bright orange and yellow on either side of the photo really brings out the lush green slope in the middle.

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 190mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 190mm

The ski lifts as they go up the slope gets hidden amongst the shadows of the trees. This deepens the bluish tint, which contrasts even more with the orange and yellow leaves surrounding it.

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 200mm

And finally, after seeing the curvature of the wooden fence below, I knew I had to get that into the frame somehow. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s just something about wooden fences that screams autumn scenery to me.

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 70mm

I loved this detour I made over the weekend. It actually made my trip up north worth while since my intended destination didn’t yield as colourful a picture as the ones I took here at Mount St. Louis Moonstone. Just an hour and a half away from Toronto, this ski resort may very well be a stop that I have to make every fall season. It’s just a shame I wasn’t into skiing or snowboarding!

 

Every year the colours are different in their vibrancy and colour range. The results are heavily dependant on whether the temperature drops quickly or drastically. This year, the autumn season started off fairly warm, which—depending on whom you ask—could be a good or bad thing. With the gradual temperature drop, the colour of the leaves weren’t as vibrant or bright as they could have been had the temperature dropped suddenly. When this happens, the leaves typically fall to the ground well before they reach their peak colours, making it harder to spot the orange-red colours of the leaves still intact on the trees.

Nonetheless it was the perfect weekend for a road trip, so that’s exactly what I did this past weekend. I took a drive up north to see if the colours were closer to their peak than here in the city. To help you with the colour changes, I use the ever-so-handy Ontario Colour Leaves Report. They update this every couple of days so it’s a great way to see what the regions are like in terms of their colours.

T

Bokeh effects the natural way

Nikon D800, 8.0 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 8.0 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 14mm

When you’re out shooting and you’re concentrating on your subject, it’s easy to forget about your surroundings. This is what happened one morning while I was busy shooting the sunrise. I loved the colours in front of me so much that I was too busy setting my camera and settings up when I didn’t realize the waves crashing against the rocks in front of me would be capable of splashing beyond the rocks.

It caught me by surprise and I had no time to react when a huge wave came crashing on the rocks in front of me, splashing water all over myself and my camera. I was lucky I layered myself so that only the outer-most layer got soaked. My second layer actually kept me dry for the remainder of my shoot that morning.

As for my camera and lens? Well, it was wet, but with the wind blowing hard, it dried the rain off of my gear in no time. I wiped the water off of the glass and was ready to continue shooting again.

I underestimated the weather that morning as I didn’t realize being at least 10 feet away from the rocks wouldn’t be enough to keep me dry. Every now and then I would get mists of water splash on my lens, forcing me to wipe the lens. It kept me from concentrating on taking more pictures.

The light was so magnificent that morning that a little bit of water really didn’t bother me. I took this shot above before wiping the mist off of the lens, giving me a natural bokeh effect from the drops of water on my front glass. You can still see the background sunrise and the great colour it was giving off, which makes this for a great photo despite the circumstance.

It’s these imperfect pictures that will tell a story year down the road, and will make you smile again at all the trouble you went through to get that golden sunrise moment.

Old Fort Point Summit in Jasper

The hike up to Old Fort Point summit may not be the easiest hike around, but its relative distance to the town of Jasper and the resulting view from the top make this hike a must for anybody visiting Jasper National Park.

Nikon D800, 1/1000 sec., f/8.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/1000 sec., f/8.0, ISO 200, 14mm

I don’t recall who it was that suggested I go there, but I’m glad I listened because it wasn’t on my list of places to visit, but offered some of the more spectacular views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The total length of this hike if you follow the looped trail markers, is about 4km and will take you about one to two hours. Going to the summit, however, is a much shorter hike, albeit not necessarily any easier. The elevation gain is about 130m. but don’t let that fool you; if you start from the base of the cliff near the Athabasca River monument (where the photo above was taken), taking  the wooden stairs, it’s a fairly steep climb all the way up in a short amount of time. Be sure to take breaks if you get tired.

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Climbing up the pathway, you’ll first reach an initial plateau area where you can walk around and enjoy the panoramic view. In the photo below, these hikers decided to take a break at this plateau before continuing on to the summit.

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec.f, f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec.f, f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

If you look around though, you’ll see that there’s a lookout just above where you’re standing. To get to the highest point, you’ll have to continue on the trail going around the lookout point. Keep to the left and you’ll eventually make your way up to the summit. Take care hiking around the lookout point though, as the path does get a little narrow.

Bears are also known to frequent the area now and again so be on the lookout for them as well.

Nikon D800, 1/8 sec., f/11, ISO 100 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/8 sec., f/11, ISO 100 70mm

The view up at the very top is very rewarding, especially after hiking up a steep grade such as this. Be sure to stay awhile and take in the scenery. Those low-laying clouds that hug the mountain’s peak can only be seen in the mornings.

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/11, ISO 100, 150mm

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/11, ISO 100, 150mm

On the way down, be sure to take in the scenery on the other side of the lookout, where you’ll be able to see the mountain ranges in the far distance. The morning clouds right above the valley made for some great photos.

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 70mm

I loved this view so much that I came back multiple times making sure I was here during a sunset and a sunrise.

Nikon D800, 1/60 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/60 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

At the top of the summit, you can continue on the loop hike by following the trail behind the lookout. I opted to go back down the way I came up as I was merely interested in the view and not the loop hike itself.

Whatever the case may be, this is a hike that should not be missed. Take it easy and take your time if needed. Don’t feel like you have to run up the trail, which looks like what this girl may have done!

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

Toronto Sunrise

Even though I’ve been going out on several Toronto sunrise shoots these past few months, they never bore me. Each one is different and unique in their own way. Even if the skies are clear with no clouds to reflect the sunshine, seeing that first light come up above the horizon is reason enough to wake up at 5am and drive to the lake.

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/22, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/22, ISO 100, 70mm

The morning I took this Toronto sunrise, I thought nothing of it. It wasn’t the most dramatic of sunrises as the sun just came up with no spectacular showing of colours. There were no clouds to reflect the lights, and the water was surprisingly calm with no swans or ducks. I took a few random shots anyway hoping to get some sort of memory from the day. I’m glad I caught the birds in the sky as that adds a little more to the picture.

A few days later, I came back to this photo only to realize that it was a rather nice looking sunrise picture with the right amount of sun spikes, perfectly positioned behind the trees, emitting that warm sunrise glow. After tweaking some colours and cleaning the image up, I have to say it’s one photo that I’m really happy with.

The takeaway here is that even if you think you didn’t come out with something good on a shoot, don’t discount all of your photos just yet. Wait a few days and let your photos “marinate,” as I mentioned in this previous post. When you see your photos after a few days later, you’ll see them in a new light, so-to-speak, and will appreciate it differently.

 

Moraine Lake Lodge in Banff National Park

Moraine Lake Lodge, situated in a valley of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park is a perfect getaway for that special occasion. It is the only lodge located within the immediate vicinity of Moraine Lake, offering great amenities for everyone. In the photo below, you can see Moraine Lake Lodge to the right, nestled within the trees.

Nikon D800, 2.0 sec., f/16, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 2.0 sec., f/16, ISO 100, 14mm

My two-night stay at Moraine Lake Lodge almost never happened, but thanks to the exceptionally warm weather Alberta was having this Spring season, the snow had melted quicker, allowing the lodge to open its doors to its guests earlier than usual. We stayed here in early June where the weather was almost summer-like and similarly, when some hiking trails opened early as well.

The lodge wants to offer its guests “an oasis of calm,” allowing them to relax and destress from the busy everyday lives they lead. In doing so, the lodge has no television or telephones within their rooms. That was fine with me; when you come to Moraine Lake, you’re not here to watch TV—you’d best be out hiking and enjoying nature at her finest. Their one “concession” was to install wifi access. However this connection was hard to connect to, even from our room, which was closer to the main lobby area.

Our room in the Wenkchemna Wing (Room 22), had everything we needed, and even included a welcome champagne with a personal note written beside it. The queen-sized bed was comfortable and there was plenty of room in the sitting area by the fireplace.

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

The bathroom was clean, spacious, included plenty of plush towels, and included great bath products from Aveda.

Nikon D800, 1/4 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/4 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

Wait, did someone say fireplace? Yes. As a matter of fact, each room in the lodge comes with its own fireplace to warm you up. It makes things that much more romantic and inviting, especially after you come back from that delicious dinner in the dining room.

Nikon D800, 1/5 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 20mm

Nikon D800, 1/5 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 20mm

And on the other side is a neat little shelving unit complete with coffee maker, wine glasses, an umbrella, and more.

Nikon D800, 1/3 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/3 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Just beyond the fireplace, the balcony offers another great place to sit and relax in. The view can’t be beat as you are literally just metres away from Moraine Lake.

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

The view from our balcony was fantastic. You can see the canoes for rent to the right, and the jade-coloured Moraine Lake just meters away. The walkway you see here is part of the path that leads you all the way to the far end of Moraine Lake. It’s a great little trail that will take you about 25-30min. one way.

Nikon D800, 1/60sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/60sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Amenities

Guests at Moraine Lake Lodge get complimentary access to the rental canoes. Moreover, you are allowed to take them out before and after the general public is allowed to rent them, giving you a chance to canoe out in the open water by yourself. Unfortunately for us, it was still a little too cold to canoe out in the open waters so we had to pass on this opportunity.

Everyday they offer their guests an afternoon tea with complimentary tea and pastries in their games and reading area. Some days it’s just nice to sit and relax on the sofa with that big fireplace roaring next to you.

If hiking is more to your liking, there are a couple trails nearby that give you spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and Moraine Lake. The staff here at the lodge enjoy hiking just as much as we do. So depending on the schedule, they will offer complimentary hiking guides at one of the trails here at Moraine Lake, like the one below (Consolation Lake hike).

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 70mm

It was nice to see our waitress for one evening be our hiking guide the next day. She led our group through the Consolation Lakes hike, which brings you to some beautiful streams and mountain scenery. At the time, this trail was restricted to group hikes of four or more people due to bear activity within the vicinity. Fortunately our group was much larger, so we were able to enjoy this hike. Had we come here by ourselves, we wouldn’t have been able to hike through this trail. Our guide was very knowledgable, telling us stories of the wilderness and explaining to us facts about the area.

Fine Dining at Moraine Lake Lodge

Just like the hiking and scenery here, the dinner at Moraine Lake Lodge did not disappoint. We dined here for two nights, and each night the menu was different and executed just right.

The rack of lamb I had here was one of the best—if not the best—rack of lamb I have tasted. The meat was so tender, not gamey at all, and had the perfect taste to it. The portions were quite generous as well.

The only complaint I would have of the dining room experience would be the actual dining room itself. It was quite cold whenever we came in here. Even though the fire place was lit, the heat did not do much for people sitting on the other side of the room. Further, being by the windows also did not help getting warm either. Whatever the case may be, we found the temperature to be slightly on the cool side, which at times made the overall experience a little less fine dining.

The Dining Room at Moraine Lake Lodge

The Dining Room at Moraine Lake Lodge

Conclusion

Whatever the case may be, Moraine Lake Lodge is an exceptional place to stay, and one that I would recommend if you have the budget for it, as all of this does not come cheap. If you think about it though, don’t you deserve to pamper yourself a little now and then? We made sure to stay at more economical places during the first part of our trip so that we could end our trip with a bang by relaxing and enjoying the comforts of this luxurious lodge. The view and surrounding nature can’t be beat. And with dishes like the above being served on a changing daily menu, it really is a great place for a cozy getaway for two.

And for photographers, you can’t beat just walking down a few steps for a sunrise and/or sunset photoshoot at one of the most iconic places in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

For more information on Moraine Lake Lodge, head over to their website: http://morainelake.com.

Valley of the Five Lakes in Jasper National Park

The Valley of the Five Lakes is located just a few kms away from the town of Jasper. It offers some spectacular views of the bottom of the valley in a relatively easy 4.5km hike for the complete loop.

Each lake offers its own character and beauty so hiking in anticipation of seeing the next lake will keep you going if not the beautiful surroundings of nature. On average, prepare for about a 2 hour hike with some stopping along the way to view the lakes.

This hike was one of the first hikes we went on upon arrival in Alberta, so to see the natural beauty of these lakes were just thrilling for us. While I don’t recall which order I saw the lakes in, I do remember the first time I saw that beautiful jade- and blue-coloured lake in front of me, I was in awe. I couldn’t believe a lake could be so colourful.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO 200, 14mm

This lake below was the longest of the five lakes. I crouched down to get a low perspective of the lake so that I can still see the details of the rocks in the foreground. The beautifully clear water enables us to see right to the bottom of the lake, in addition to being able to see the reflection of the sky and clouds in the background.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/7.1, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/7.1, ISO 200, 14mm

Parks Canada had placed these red Adirondack chairs in select areas throughout the national parks within Canada. These were the first chairs that we came across. I think it’s a great way to explore the many tourist destinations that Canada has to offer, as they are always placed in an ideal location.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/7.1, ISO 200, 16mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/7.1, ISO 200, 16mm

The colours of these lakes are surreal, and that’s what attracts many people on this hike. The trails can get crowded during peak times so if you want to avoid the crowds, go earlier in the day. Fortunately for us, we stayed at a lodge not too far from here so we were able to hike this first thing in the morning.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/7.1, ISO 200, 20mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/7.1, ISO 200, 20mm

For a relatively easy hike with a lot of eye-candy, the loop at the Valley of the Five Lakes is a perfect destination in the morning. The beautiful surroundings will make you want to see more of what Jasper National Park has to offer, and thus is a great introduction to the park.

What was your experience at the Valley of the Five Lakes like? Let me know in the comments below.