Canadian Rockies

Oh, Canada!

4,500 miles driven, 15 days, 7 National Parks. Whew!

We did so much during our 2-week trip to the Canadian Rockies that I know I will begin to forget details like the places we saw and our timeline, so I wanted to make sure to chronicle it here while it’s still fresh in my mind.

We tried to take this trip 5 years ago but our plans changed drastically. Two days before leaving, I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that sidelined us for a long time. We cancelled the trip and thankfully got most of our money back from all the reservations we had made. I still thank God for the timing, for not allowing that tragedy to happen while we were deep in the wilderness. So. This was a re-do trip. Except this go-round we had more time and a little more money, which is always a win!

We started in Glacier National Park in Montana. Montana has been hit hard by forest fires this year and we were so sad to see just how much of the park had been devastated by fire, not only this one but from years past. We saw thousands of acres that had been scorched by fire. Some areas burned in 1967 and some burned just a few years back. The haze and smoke was so thick that it was pretty difficult to see the mountains on our first day there.

Lake McDonald with lots of smoky haze

 

On our 2nd day in Glacier, we hiked the famous Highline Trail to the Granite Park Chalet, which is a cool stone backcountry lodge where you can stay if you make reservations like 18 month in advance. We got an early start because this is the most popular trail in the park and we really wanted to avoid crowds. We spent almost the entire time hiking in the fog and clouds which was so cool!

 

After another day in Glacier, we headed on towards Waterton National Park in Canada. What a remarkable place! We stayed at the Prince of Wales Hotel, which sits perched atop a hill looking over the Park and town of Waterton. We really only had enough time in Waterton to eat dinner, stroll through town, get a good night’s sleep and drive around in the morning. Of all the places we visited, this is the one where I wish we had more time to explore and appreciate.After Waterton we made a quick stop at a Canadian healthcare clinic because David got the Shingles. We were super impressed with how fast, easy and cheap the whole process way! After a stop at the pharmacy, we headed towards Banff. To be totally honest, I didn’t love the actual town of Banff. It was overly crowded, commercialized and it had a vibe like it was just catering to the rich tourists that were in town. Meh. Not a huge fan of all that. I did love the mountains surrounding Banff however – beautiful! We stayed in Banff long enough to talk with the Rangers about out backcountry trip, buy a topo map and set up camp while we prepped for our multi-day backpacking trip into the Assiniboine Provincial Park the next day.

This backpacking trip almost didn’t happen. Wildfires had forced the closure of Assiniboine and nearby areas for almost a month and we didn’t think that it wouldn’t open up in time for us. As luck would have it, it opened the day before we had planned to hike in. We did 10 miles on our first day and camped out at Marvel Lake. Bear activity was high and we saw…umm, evidence, of bears everywhere but we never actually encountered one thankfully.

 

Our goal on the second day was Lake Magog  which sits at the base of Mount Assiniboine (also known as the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies) and it has a campground that we were originally planning to stay at. But upon arrival we learned that the campground was actually not scenic at all. 20 miles in to this beautiful area and the camp sites were all tucked away in dense pine forests with no views at all. I was sooo frustrated!

Thankfully, the Assiniboine Lodge is also at the base of Mount Assiniboine. This is a luxury lodge and the only way to it is to either hike in or take a helicopter and they usually book out 12-18 months in advance. Rooms go for $650/night, cabins are $800/night and then they have cute little backcountry huts as well. We hit another streak of luck, the Lodge had so many cancellations due to the fire evacuations that they had several backcountry huts available for $20/night. Yes please! We took them up on that offer without hesitation.

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Lake Magog at the base of Mnt. Assiniboine

We spent several days hiking around the Assiniboine wilderness, reading on lakeshores and sleeping soundly in our little primitive backcountry hut.

Next came the highlight of our backpacking trip….the helicopter ride! We decided long ago that if we were going to hike 20 miles in to this place, we were going to enjoy a wonderful ride out and get an aerial view of the terrain we hiked. It was AMAZING!!! I loved not having to carry all our gear back out after hiking a combined 40 miles in the area, we were ready for someone else to do the work in getting us out haha!

We stayed the night in Canmore with enough time to do a load of laundry and grab a burger and beer before heading north. Our next stop was Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and the Icefields Parkway on our way up to Jasper.

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Lake Louise
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What some of these amazing places are actually like….bleh. so. crowded.

Jasper was the place we stayed the longest and it was probably my favorite. It’s absolutely huge and the opportunities to see and do amazing things are endless. It was also much less crowded, it seemed like most people just didn’t want to venture up that far north. We did so much in Jasper! Boat cruises, mountain biking, hiking, fishing. It was awesome! I was really sad to leave this amazing place because I knew that it meant our trip was coming to a close.

We headed back south and made our way over to YOHO National Park, Glacier National Park of Canada and Revelstoke National Park. These 3 parks are on the smaller side but they were all beautiful and I’m glad we had a chance to explore them! Glacier was the only one that felt relatively inaccessible. In order to see a lot of Glacier, you had to embark on a 10-12 mile hike which we just didn’t have the time for.

My overall impression is that the Canadian Rockies are incredible! We saw so many jaw-dropping sights, I lost count. The mountains are rugged, jagged and steep. The glaciers are thick, the water is silty blue and the people are kind.

I could have done without so many tourists at a few of the places we went to, but that’s what you get when you only hit the National Parks. I frequently got overwhelmed by the crowds and had to leave certain sites.

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Landscape Life Lessons

When David bought me my first camera, I remember him taking me to a lake near our home so I could practice taking pictures. I had only the basics down but I remember being so excited to just get out there and try. I took this picture below and immediately decided my calling in life was to be a landscape photographer. Ha! How naive I was…

About 30 seconds later, reality set in. In order to actually make a living as a landscape photographer, you have to like…get people to buy your work and stuff. And you have to sell a lot of it. Like, a lot. So I opted for the next best thing that was actually profitable. Wedding photography.

In the years since that first Pentax K100 was in my hands, landscape photography has sort of sat on the back burner. I focused so much on growing my business and building a client base that my first love got a little neglected. But this year, since I have decided to focus more on elopements and take on less stressful weddings, I’m finding myself with more time to focus on my original passion.

I stumbled across Ben Horne’s YouTube channel where he documents his landscape photography adventures throughout the west and I was immediately hooked. He’s like the Bob Ross of photography. I could watch his videos for hours, they’re so relaxing and inspiring. Something about watching those videos lit a little spark inside me. Made me think, “Hey, I could start pursuing this a little more seriously now that I have some time on my hands.”

I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself a “real” landscape photographer. Let’s face it, there’s a lot working against me: 3am wake-up calls, hiking in the dark alone, my unwillingness to carry 50 lbs. of gear up a mountain etc. I admire the real guys too much to even pretend to be like them. Whenever I’m running out the door to catch a sunset, I yell to David “bye babe, I’m off to to be a fake landscape photographer!” I’m a total wannabe and I’m perfectly fine with that. But I’m having a lot of fun pretending. And I’m learning a lot too. I’m learning about myself, my gear, nature, light, timing, weather patterns, all sorts of stuff.

One of the biggest things I’ve realized is that landscape photography is quite solitary. I mean really, how often do you see a big group of landscape photographers heading out into the wilderness together? It’s not really a group activity. And so you wind up sitting by yourself on top of a mountain to watch the sun set. Or you wind up hiking alone, as I’ve been doing frequently. Or you wind up driving around for hours trying to find the perfect spot. You’ve got to be good with being by yourself. Thankfully, I am. But landscape photography has brought it to a whole new level.

I’m learning a lot about patience too. You need a lot of patience to watch the weather and lighting patterns. And you have to be attentive too because sometimes the ideal shot lasts for just a few seconds. I find that I keep trying to rush things. I’m eager to get in, get the shot and get out. About a dozen times now I’ve set up a shot, waited a while for the light to be right and then given up because I didn’t think it was going to happen, only to look in my rear view mirror 20 minutes later and see the shot I wanted. I always thought of myself as a patient person (thanks, infertility!) but landscape photography is showing me just how much room I have to grow.

I’m also learning about being ok with walking away empty handed. Take today for example. I woke up early to hike up to a waterfall I had always wanted to see. But when I got there I discovered that the lighting was really poor and it would be hours before I could get a decent photo. Plus the location was tricky and I couldn’t find a decent angle to shoot from that didn’t cause me to get wet or fight with willow branches. So I bailed and figured I’d catch a good sunset tonight instead. I had been watching these cute little puffy white clouds pass by all day long, our sky was full of them. I thought that they’d illuminate well at sunset tonight so I packed up my gear and drove to a spot about 30 minutes away that I had scouted out earlier. When I got to the spot, all the clouds had moved out east and nothing was coming over the western horizon. The sun set. Nothing. I waited. Nothing. I waited some more. Still nothing. The end. It was a total flop of a sunset. I drove home without a single usable picture. And I’m trying to learn to be ok with that (operative word is trying).

I half jokingly tagged one of my Instagram photos last night #landscapelifelessons as I was talking about this whole patience thing. It got me thinking about all the things landscape photography has been teaching me lately and man, there are a lot of life lessons in there. I would guess there will probably be a few more photos of mine down the road that have that hashtag! I still have a lot to learn and a lot of mistakes to make. But since I’m only pretending to be a landscape photographer, there’s no pressure. I can just sit back, relax and enjoy documenting God’s creation. It’s a never ending supply of inspiration!

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;

    where morning dawns, where evening fades,

    you call forth songs of joy. You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.”
Psalm 65:8-9

This & That

  • First thing’s first. No birth control for this girl. We talked about it, I prayed about it and I just can’t do it. I kinda want to, for the sake of getting my body under control a little bit. But I just can’t.
  • So I know that I’m a professional photographer and all, so you would expect that I would have some pretty stellar way of keeping track of, organizing, printing and displaying all the pictures we take each year. But you would be wrong. Up until now anyway 🙂 I fiiiinally got a system down for organizing all our pictures and creating albums for each year. It took a lot of time and effort, but I did it! We now have an album of images for each year we’ve been married. It was really fun digging back through all our old pictures and picking out our favorites to include!

     
     

  • We’ve had lots of snow here in CO lately. Just one snow storm after another, and I personally love it. LOVE it. It could snow every single day, all winter long and I’d be a happy camper. It’s so peaceful and quiet……*sigh* I would love snow even more if there were no people involved in snow storms. People make snow storms complicated and stressful. People slide off the roads, people get in car accidents, people fire up their snow blowers at 6:30 am, people run to the grocery store and buy all the food as if they might die of starvation if they don’t buy that 6th bag of Cheetos. People make snow storms kind of annoying. 🙂 This picture was taken the day before the storms started. We took a little 6 mile hike in one of our favorite areas and enjoyed some 50 degree weather.

And this was a few days later 🙂
  • Today was my first day back to school! Eeeeek! As I drove for 2 hours through snow and rush hour traffic, I came up with more than enough excuses to turn around and drive home. But I stayed the course, I made it to campus, I prayed against fear and doubt that had been creeping in my heart and I stepped into class. I found a seat, nervously looked around, took a sip of coffee and opened my notebook. As our professor opened up class in prayer, I almost burst into tears. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude…. for second chances, for the gift of education, for the ability to attend class for the sake of learning and personal growth, for the chance to redeem my first experience in grad school. During our 3 hour lecture, I had the distinct impression that my heart was being healed. Right there, in the classroom. I could feel the rough edges being smoothed, the holes being filled. I devoured every word my professor spoke, I soaked up every powerpoint slide, every question he answered, every commentary he made. It was such a different experience from the first time I took this class. Radically different. Praise Jesus!
  • The Broncos lost the Super Bowl. I’m sad. Let’s move on, shall we?
  • I spent the better part of 8 hours on Friday dealing with image theft, copyright violation, DMCA, Cease&Desist letters and the eventual takedown of another “photographer” who decided it would be a good idea to steal my photos and post them on her website and FB page, pretending it was her work. Let’s just say she picked the wrong photographer to steal from 😉 After multiple attempts to contact her and demand she remove my photos from her website, she eventually called me on the phone to scream at me and accuse me of attempting to ruin her business. She accused me of slander and harassment and all sorts of other stuff. It got a little ugly. By pure coincidence, a few other photographers found out she had stolen their photos too. Before long, the whole situation had blown up on social media and within 12 hours, this girl had received over 300 emails from my fellow comrades demanding she remove the photos and shut her entire business down. And as I write this, my photos have been removed, she has issued an apology and her site has been shut down. Man, I love being a part of such an amazing community of photographers who are willing to fight for each other. There is a lawsuit pending against her, started by a few of the other photographers who she stole from. I don’t think I’ll be getting in the middle of that. I have a low tolerance for drama 😉
  • IF Gathering is this week! Woot! Our gathering is smaller than we were originally planning, but I think it’s for the best. It’s going to allow for lots of time to really dig in, connect, fellowship and learn together. And, there’s going to be Panera and an endless supply of coffee, count me in! 🙂

Us

I mentioned last year that we have some friends who are professional photographers. As a professional photographer myself, I’m ridiculously picky about who I’ll let take my picture. I’m annoying like that. But these friends of our are truly so talented and we love our little annual photo swap that we get to do with them each year!

This year, we decided to go big or go home. We made a 4 hour trek into the middle of Wyoming, trusting our friends when they said they had the “perfect” location to shoot at. We showed up, and my jaw dropped. Yep, this place was perfect!!! The aspen trees were beautiful, the light was golden and gorgeous, it was so still and peaceful. I loved every single second! We had a really fun afternoon running around the woods taking pictures. It was a great way to spend time with our friends and also get some really awesome photos too! After our shoot, we ate dinner at this adorable little hole in the wall place in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It was such a fun evening!

When I saw all of these images, I couldn’t help but tear up. There was something so powerful about these pictures as a whole to me. These were taken not long after my surgery (praise God for a miraculous healing!!) and cause to me to have such a deep appreciation for David and what we have together, just the two of us. The fact that we are still this happy, still this in love and crazy for each other after going through such a difficult period in life….I can’t wait to see us when we are when we are in a season of good fortune. To me, these pictures are a testimony to the power of God in marriage…..and a testimony that my husband gets better looking with each year that goes by….and a testimony to the fact that occasionally, professional photographers can make you look skinnier than you really are 😉

 HA! David, trying to do Zoolander’s Blue Steel

 Bow-chika-bow-wooow 😉

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” -Romans 15:13

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Good news! I think I’m starting to like photography again! 🙂

First, I’ve had 2 shoots with clients go really really well. I prayed before both of them, asking for creativity, inspiration, the ability to see my clients the way God sees them. And at both shoots I found myself relaxed, happy and excited over the images I was taking. Both shoots, I left thinking “I wish the sun would stay up longer, this was so fun, I wish I had another 30 minutes or so to shoot!” Whaaaaat?! I haven’t thought like that in probably 18 months. I usually can’t wait to end the shoot and go home.

Then the other day, I had a really strong urge to start a personal photography project. So I packed up the car and headed out for a full day of shooting…just for fun. Whaaaat?! I haven’t done that in probably 3 years or so. And not only did I really like the images, but I had a lot of fun taking them.

I don’t know what God is doing in my heart, but I like it! I certainly don’t think that I’m “cured” from my artistic burnout, but I do feel some changes in my heart. Thank you Jesus!!!


Here are 3 of my favorite images that I’ve taken over the last week or two.


 I snapped this the other day, driving home. Colorado is so beautiful!

Pictures!

David and I have some dear friends of ours who also happen to be photographers. They’re a husband & wife team and they’re super talented! The wife actually photographed our wedding 5 years ago, it was her first one! She and I both started our photography businesses around the same time, it’s been so cool to encourage each other along the way and celebrate success and growth together.

David came up with the brilliant idea of dong a photo swap with our friends. They’re professional photographers, I’m a professional photographer…so why not take pictures of each other! So each year we’re going to get together and do a mini photo shoot. This was our first year and it was a huge success despite unfortunate timing. We had to reschedule our shoot SIX times due to snow and illness. But we finally met up and had a good time!

I think I might even use one of these for a Christmas card picture. Ahem, in 5 years of marriage, I have yet to send out a Christmas card..but I’m thinking 2011 will be our year to finally do it!

I’m so glad we did these pictures, I think it is so important to have good pictures done every now and then to document your life. Here are a couple pics!