The Perks of a Window Seat

Our flight back from the UK (back in May…) left us speechless at some of the views we had from the aircraft, so much so I decided to opt for a series of daily photos for a Window-Seat Week.

Perks of a Window Seat I: mountains and glaciers on the eastern coast of Greenland. After a couple of hours ignoring the sea of clouds outside, our attention was caught by the sudden appearance of blue ocean moments before flying over the Greenland coast. The incredible sight of the coastal sea ice, jagged mountains, and enormous calving glaciers flowing off the ice sheet had us glued to the window. Gradually the peaks were swallowed up by the vast expanse of snow and ice and we returned to our books.

Perks of a Window Seat II: flying over the Rockies in Banff National Park reminds me that it’s been too long since we last visited. This view shows the Icefields Parkway near Mistaya Lake and the Waterfowl Lakes to the north, the Saskatchewan Crossing area near the top left corner. I always enjoy seeing places I’ve been from the air!

Perks of a Window Seat III: flying back to Vancouver last week, our view was hazy from forest fires in Alberta but we could still make out the mountains and it made the puffy cumulus clouds really stand out.

Perks of a Window Seat IV: descending into YVR was the most fun part of our flight, with the opportunity for close-up views of some very familiar mountains. First up was Mt Judge Howay, a well-known, distinctive double-peaked mountain visible from many places in the Lower Mainland. Beautiful in its own right but the layer of clouds clinging to the northwest ridge of Mt Kranrod add extra gorgeousness.

Perks of a Window Seat V: it was hazy as we approached YVR but we could still make out some of the jagged peaks of the Coast Mountains. The Five Fingers group is most prominent with Mount Garibaldi showing up ever so faintly in the distance.

Perks of a Window Seat VI: perhaps my favourite photo of this series, partly because it’s such a familiar peak but also because I’ve stood on its summit. It is, of course, Golden Ears peak itself, along with the jagged Edge Peak and Blanchard Needle (Alouette Mountain is right at the bottom).

And thus concludes my Window-Seat Week πŸ™‚

Reflecting mountains

Mt Chephren reflected in Lower Waterfowl Lake. After I posted my third photo last week, I thought I was done with this view. Not so! I found yet another photo, this one taken the morning after the previous sunset shots. But I think this​ is definitely the last πŸ™‚

No sooner had I posted my photo last week, and declared it my last of Mt Chephren, I found myself poring over the photos from that same 2009 trip to the Rockies only to come face-to-face with yet another picture of this mountain and the lake. It’s pretty obvious why I took it – a mirror-calm lake and morning sunshine on the mountains. Postcard material really.

One thing that doesn’t come across in any of the photos of Mt Chephren is its scale. With the camera at its widest viewing angle (equivalent to 28 mm), the top of the mountain and the tip of its reflection don’t quite fit into the frame. And of course there’s nothing else in the photo to lend a sense of scale. That’s the frustration with mountain photography. All too often you get a lovely photograph of some scenery, but without a sense of really being there, or an idea of how imposing the mountains are.

I think of photos of Garibaldi Lake in particular. When you’re at the lake, the mountains and glaciers on the far side look impressive, despite their distance. But not a single photo of them really captures that feeling. Thinking about what that has in common with the photo above is the fact that they’re mountains on the opposite side of a lake, and those photos are inevitably taken at lake level, reducing the mountains to a two-dimensional backdrop as the third dimension into the scene is compressed.

So what can you do as a photographer? It’s hard to get a human out in the middle of the lake, at least not without ruining the reflection πŸ˜‰ Getting some height over the lake often helps as it expands the depth of the scene. Or just accept them as they are, and treat them as being the view from a comfortable chair by the side of a lake.

Chephren the Third

Mount Chephren the Third – a calm, clear summer night at Lower Waterfowl Lake for the last of my 3 photos of this view.

Taken half-an-hour later than last week’s photo of Mount Chephren, the sky begins to turn indigo as night falls while the north-western sky still retains its post-sunset glow. For this reason I really enjoy summers in the Rockies. Being a bit further north than Vancouver brings longer days, while, on top of that, the mountains are near the western edge of the Mountain time zone so sunset occurs at a “later” time than expected for that time zone. (See this page for a demonstration.) Since I’m not a morning person, I don’t miss the corresponding lack of daylight in the early hours, but at that time of year it hardly matters.

Photogenic

Mt Chephren looking very photogenic above Lower Waterfowl Lake. Or should that be Lower Waterfowl Lake looking very photogenic below Mt Chephren?

A classic Rockies scene: a beautiful glacial lake and a striking summit. This photo was taken in 2011 on our tour of Banff and Jasper with my parents, and I think it may have been my Mum’s favourite spot. We had lunch at a picnic table in the campground with this view in front of us. Just beautiful…

I have two more versions of this scene that I’ll post for the next couple of Mountain Mondays.

Elk!

Elk! Mum and Dad’s first (but definitely not the last) wildlife sighting in the Rockies back in 2011.

After collecting Mum and Dad in Canmore, we headed back to Johnston Canyon where we were staying in one of the cabins. Of course we had to take the quieter Bow Valley Parkway just in case there was any wildlife to spot. And sure enough, we rounded a bend and we saw a few cars pulled over. My first reaction was “bear jam!” and I was delighted at the prospect of my parents seeing a bear within minutes of being in the Rockies. Ah well, it was “just” an elk. But what an elk! A huge bull with an impressive rack of antlers. And it was more than content to let us take photos while it munched away on the grass at the side of the road. A pretty good start to the holiday!

Squirrel!

Neither chipmunk nor marmot (I’ve heard them called both) but a golden-mantled ground squirrel. On a rock at Moraine Lake. Eating, and looking cute. Naturally.

Another photo from our 2011 trip to the Rockies, we saw lots of these little critters including one that ran right across our picnic table in search of a snack.

It shouldn’t annoy me but it does when people call them chipmunks… I just want to yell, “THEY’RE NOT CHIPMUNKS!” Chipmunks have a stripe across their eyes; these critters do not. And marmots are waaay bigger πŸ™‚