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.

Chephren at dusk

Take 2 for Mount Chephren, this time at dusk. We were making our way north away from the rain around Banff towards clearer skies in Jasper and the campground at Waterfowl Lakes was the perfect overnight stop for our first dry night in several days.

Another view of Mt Chephren, actually taken before the one I posted last week. Back in 2009, we spent two weeks in the Rockies, the first spent exploring the Mt Assiniboine area, and the second for us to do some touring and day-hiking. The weather had been mixed; we finally got fed up of the rain down in the Banff-Lake Louise area and noticed that things looked better in Jasper. Destination Jasper, then!

We took our time heading north on the gloriously scenic Icefields Parkway, stopping off at the viewpoints and fitting in a quick hike to Helen Lake. Along the way we cased out a few campgrounds before settling in for a comfortable and – more importantly – dry night at Waterfowl Lakes. The clouds drifted away, the skies cleared and sat outside for the first time in what felt like ages!


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.

The White Mountain

I’ve decided this week deserves some photos from Hawaii πŸ™‚ For Mountain Monday I’m starting with a view of Maunakea, its summit dotted with white telescope domes, as seen from the hike up to Mauna Loa.

I didn’t post much on Instagram last week, mostly because I hadn’t taken much recently that I thought was any good. But I had this idea late yesterday to post a week’s worth of photos from various trips to Hawaii as a way to fill in the current gap in my photographic output. I have quite a few photos from the land of aloha taken over the years, so I imagine that this won’t be the last time I have a Hawaii feature week. And it gave me the idea to feature different places I’ve explored too.

Back to the photo. Maria and I had wanted to hike up to the summit of Mauna Loa for years, and we finally got around to tackling it in August 2014. This is the view across the broken lava fields towards its bigger sister, Mauna Kea – the white mountain – which turns out to be the tallest mountain in the world as measured from the sea bed where it begins. The various observatory domes are gleaming white at the summit, and the colour changes from the lush green of the saddle into the yellows and browns of the ranchland before the vegetation runs out and the rusty colour of the cinder takes over. (Walking on Mauna Kea is how I imagine it feels to be on Mars.) It’s a view I’d been wanting to see for over two decades and it was a truly spectacular sight.

At some point in the years since I first visited Hawaii, Mauna Kea came to be referred to as Maunakea and so I’m never quite sure which way to spell it these days. I’m hedging my bets and using both πŸ™‚

A Chilly Yak

Yak Peak, intimidating and majestic in its winter coat, but a surprisingly fun hike in summer. Thankfully it was easy to get this shot from the car to avoid going back out into that frigid cold!

On our way back from our New Year backcountry adventure we drove along the Coquihalla highway, passing Yak Peak perfectly lit by the afternoon sun. I love this angle as it makes the mountain look just so spectacular, and for so long left me wondering how on earth it was possible to get to its summit without being a rock climber. After last August’s hike, I know now its secret πŸ˜‰

Back to today, and the famous Coquihalla breeze was blowing snow across the ridge tops. While it was tempting to wish ourselves up there for the view, it was cold enough without the extra wind chill, so we were quite content to admire the scene from the car and warm up with refreshments from the Blue Moose!


Stature. I’ve taken so many photos of Crown Mountain over the past few years, yet very few have really captured just how imposing a mountain it is. This one comes close but I cropped in too close for it to fit into the stupid Instagram format. The full size version is on Flickr.

Given its impressive, jagged profile and the fact that we have a clear view from our balcony, Crown Mountain must be the most-photographed mountain in our photo collection. A quick check on Flickr shows that we have 79 photos tagged with “Crown Mountain”, which includes photos we took on Crown itself and those taken from neighbouring mountains. (Mts Garibaldi and Baker also feature highly in our photo stream.) Not bad. For the most part, the photos I’ve taken over the years have been what you could call “pretty mountain” photos – in other words, a scene that has intrinsic appeal but remains a bit abstract or detached from reality.

Now, I’ve come to realize that it’s hard to capture the scale of any mountain really, as you need something human-scale in the frame as well. People work well, but failing that buildings. And it helps to use a telephoto lens to compress the horizontal distance and make the comparison more immediate. These are aspects of photography that I already knew, and yet for some reason had never really put them into action, at least not until the other day down at Locarno Beach. It may have taken me a few years, but I’ve finally got a photo of Crown that does a passable job at capturing its stature.