A Spontaneous Adventure to the Rockies / by Ricardo Seah

Spontaneous Overnight Photo-trip to Banff

 First stop on the photography checklist. Photographing Moraine Lake as the sun is setting.

First stop on the photography checklist. Photographing Moraine Lake as the sun is setting.

From deserts and canyons of Arizona to the cool and lush Canadian Rocky Mountains. Here’s a little summary of my latest spontaneous adventure to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. 


Q&A Time

But Ricardo haven’t you been to the Rockies before?

Yes! And the thing is I can never get enough of it! It’s just such a beautiful and picturesque place. Literally everywhere you turn is a photo opportunity and its a place you can keep returning to because the seasons change and theres always a new location to shoot.

How long was this adventure? 

It was literally a 2 Days 1 Night spontaneous adventure

So where in the Rockies did you go to this time?

 

This time I visited Banff and due to the time constrain only managed to photograph a few locations. The primary objective of this trip was to photograph Moraine Lake at sunset and sunrise the following day. 

The secondary objective was to photograph other lakes within Banff such as Peyto Lake and  the famous Lake Louise. 


Here are some of my shots from Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake and Lake Louise

My tips for photographing the Rockies during this time of year:

  • Have a tripod.

    • I cannot stress this point enough. Especially if you want the best sunset-landscape or astrophotography shots, you are going to need a proper tripod. Do yourself a favour and invest in a good one, not that cheap plastic/tacky ones. The last thing you want is for your tripod to fail on you and have a tripod leg break during your trip (just ask my buddy @guangyow whose old tripod broke while doing astrophotography).  

  • Bring gloves and dress appropriately.

    • Although I brought the right attire and shoes, I’ll admit, I totally forgot to bring gloves. And because of this my hands were absolutely freezing especially since my tripod was made of metal. But its a good lesson to learn from and the pain was worth enduring for the pictures.

  • Get to desired shooting locations before the crowd.

    • If you know you want to capture a specific event such as sunrise then you should be aware that you aren't the only one who has that in mind. Get to the location before the crowd does because the last thing you want is a bunch of tourists with selfie sticks in your frame. 

    • Arrive an hour beforehand if possible, this will allow for time to find parking and will allow you time to find the right spot. This will also hopefully help you avoid those big bus loads of tourists. As I left Moraine Lake after getting my sunrise shots there were at least 6 buses that were going in while I was going out (that would have been at least 200 people to deal with).

  • Include buffer time.

    • Related to the previous point, allow yourself some buffer time to get to locations because there is considerable traffic at certain times of day approaching places of interest such as Moraine lake. Parking can also be a hassle because of the sheer amount of people who want to visit the location so take into account that it might take some time to get a parking spot.

  • Bring extra batteries & memory cards.

    • The last thing you want is for your battery to die or realise you don’t have anymore space on your card while a magical moment unveils (eg. sunrise/sunset). Batteries die faster in the cold so bring a couple of spares. Since you are probably going to be shooting in RAW file format (recommended if you are doing any post-processing), you will be filling up those memory cards fast so definitely bring extras and keep them in a proper case to keep them protected.

  • If you have polarising & ND filters bring them.

    • This will help bring back some of those blown out highlights in the sky while exposing for the landscape/foreground. (i.e. these filters can help you get a more evenly lit shot)

  • Take all the shots but be intentional and don’t delete anything.

    • I don’t know why but especially when I was first starting out as a photographer I just didn’t take certain shots because in my mind they weren’t going to be perfect or were just inconvenient.

    • But think about it. you’ve travelled all this way and that one shot you didn’t take could have been "the one". Whats there to lose? Just take everything you have in mind and don't give in to self doubt and irrational fears. It's better than going home and hating yourself for not shooting it from up there or from down low or across there.  

  • Take a couple shots where everyone is then move.

    • Shoot where all the other tourists and instagram folks are shooting from but move on after that to find the shot that will make your image unique. 

    • I like to to spend 10% of my time on locations taking the "popular shot" or "postcard shot" and 90% finding "my shot". Find a way to make your images different or stand out by shooting from a different angle or by including different elements.

  • Don’t shoot for the first 5 minutes.

    • As photographers we always want to get right into it. We tend to get excited when we come across amazing scenes and dive right into it.  The problem I find is two fold:

      • 1) we tend to settle on the first composition which we think is “the one” and negate ourselves from exploring other (potentially better) angles & compositions. I always tell my students to take 5 steps to the left and right, go high, go low. In essence what I’m saying is to explore the environment because it is foreign to you, understand it and look for nuances that make it unique and give it time to speak to you.

      • 2) Once we start shooting that scene we don’t stop and before you know it the moment is lost and the only memory of it will be looking through a viewfinder. Take 5 minutes to soak it in, the visuals, scents, air, vibes,  the way it makes you feel. Take time to be in the moment because you travelled all the way there.

  • Lastly, don't forget to take a self portrait 

    • Don't forget to take a self portrait on location to remember the moment and place yourself within the environment. 

    • I'm guilty of this and as such I don't have shots of myself on location the way I see the scene. Too often I live behind the lens and I'm sure many fellow photographer do too, but it's a nice change to make yourself the subject and places yourself in perspective of the body of work you are creating.

My turn to be in-front of my lens!

That concludes my blogpost on a super spontaneous trip to Banff and I hope you liked it!

More photos of this adventure can be found on my instagram account @ricardogtaphy so don't forget to check that out! 📸

I hope this has inspired you to get out, explore and take some awesome shots! And as always, don't forget to leave a like below if you enjoyed this and share this post with family and friends!!

Thank you!