As the new year begins, I want to take this opportunity to look back on some memorable adventures, and share a few of my favourite images from the incredible places I was fortunate enough to visit recently - Iceland, the Canadian Rockies, and more.
1. Rainier in the Clouds
This first image is from a late summer trip to Washington State, where we hiked up to an old fire lookout point, one of several scattered around Mount Rainier National Park.
It was cloudy when we began our climb that warm summer afternoon. As we were going up the steep serpentine path through the evergreen forest, I had hoped the sky would eventually clear up enough for the peak of Rainier to make an appearance. It wasn't looking promising for a while but luckily, as we rested at the top, the clouds parted and I was able to capture this beautiful image. Sunset was still an hour or so away but the light was soft enough to bring out definition and texture in this gorgeous mountain peak.
2. Midnight Sun at Kirkjufell
This highlight is from a mid-summer adventure in Iceland. It was my first time here during the period of the so called "midnight sun" when the days are, literally, never ending.
We were out exploring Snaefellsnes peninsula in the northwest of Iceland and stopped by to see Kirkjufell mountain and its beautiful waterfalls. It was nearing midnight and we couldn't miss the opportunity to watch the sun set in this gorgeous part of the island, knowing that clear skies in Iceland can be few and far between. I took this photo just before midnight, as the sun was starting to dip below the horizon behind this iconic peak. As we drove back to the capital region, daylight had turned into twilight, with the sun hidden just a few degrees below the horizon. Only about two hours later, as we drove into Reykjavik, the sky was turning pink again with the rising sun. We went inside for some much needed rest.
3. Midday Bliss at Peyto Lake
This next scene is from our first stop on a fall trip to the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It was a clear and fairly warm September day when we arrived at Peyto Lake in the early afternoon. With bright blue skies above and greens around the lake, it felt more like summer than fall.
I took this photo before we started our hike around the lake through a forest high up above the shore. The midday light brought out this vibrant turquoise colour in the glacial waters, contrasting beautifully with the deep greens of the surrounding evergreen forest.
Perfectly cloudless sunny days can be a real challenge for photography, especially with intense midday light. But in this instance, with the sun behind me illuminating this incredible grand scene ahead, it all came together just right.
4. Reflection at Bow Lake
Later that same week, I had enjoyed a beautiful sunrise at the nearby Bow Lake, another popular location just off the Icefields Parkway - one of Canada's most scenic drives. I woke up early that morning to make the drive up from Canmore in time for first light.
It was pretty overcast when I arrived, and as sunrise approached I had given up hope of seeing any colour in the sky. But the clouds were moving fast and, just as the would-be golden hour was coming to an end, they lit up over Crowfoot Mountain, and the waters calmed enough to show this beautiful reflection of the peak and skies above.
5. Morning at Reynisfjara Beach
Now, back to the southern region of Iceland. This image is from Reynisfjara, the country's most famous black sand beach, known as much for its beauty as for extreme winds and dangerous sneaker waves. This part of the beach, near the Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks is only accessible at low tide, and is safest to visit during calmer weather conditions - which is exactly what we got on this summer morning.
After watching the sun set shortly before midnight that day, we set out to see it rise again here on the coast near the town of Vik. With the waves calm and tide low, we could make it over to this viewpoint at the far end of the beach to see the sea stacks up close. It was eerily quiet. There was a light breeze, and the calm but powerful ocean waves broke the silence as they rolled onto shore, crawling up the black sand towards us.
Twilight was transitioning into day as I captured this photo, just after 3 o'clock in the morning. As the sun came up, a cold wind started to pick up, and the waves started getting gradually stronger. We walked back to the car along the long stretch of black sand, keeping a safe distance from the water. I felt incredibly fortunate to have experienced this place the way we just had - so unusually calm and quiet, even if only for a few brief moments.
6. Aurora over Reykjanes
A few months earlier, in the middle of winter, we spent time on Iceland's southwestern tip - Reykjanes peninsula. It was the coldest and darkest time of the year and after several days of storms, with snowfalls of a magnitude extreme even for Iceland, the atmosphere finally calmed and the skies cleared. We knew it was our chance to finally get a glimpse of the Aurora, so late that night we drove out to the coast at Reykjanes and waited. We sat in darkness for a while, headlights off and heat running in the car, looking out for signs of green in the sky. Occasionally, we'd spot faint grey-green slivers on the horizon, which came and went, teasing us with the possibly of an Aurora sighting. Finally, we were in luck.
The patterns got greener and brighter, beginning to move around the sky, first appearing over the lighthouse behind us, then shifting towards the coast, and eventually lighting up other parts of the horizon. Standing outside now, in the freezing cold, we could hear waves splashing against the coastal rocks, and felt the icy wind blowing from the ocean.
I pointed the camera straight up. The patterns directly above us were ever-changing, slowly dancing in front of the stars. Every few seconds they materialized into a newly created image in the sky. It was a truly magical experience.
7. Jupiter over the Three Sisters
I rarely go out of my way to chase celestial events, but it so happened that the week we were in the Rockies in the fall, Jupiter was going to be extra close to Earth. I had spotted the planet in the sky on the previous night as we drove back to our place in Canmore, and had forgotten all about it until early the next morning, while out at this viewpoint of the Three Sisters peaks - one of my favourite spots in the Canadian Rockies.
For a few brief moments, the clouds parted just enough to expose the extra bright speck which was Jupiter, sitting above the three peaks to the left. It was a perfectly calm morning too. The Three Sisters reflected beautifully in the still pond, and there was not an inch of movement in the trees, some of which had taken on vibrant autumn colours.
8. Bruarfoss at Midnight
Returning again to Iceland, on another evening this past summer, this time to a favourite waterfall of mine - Bruarfoss. It's not the largest or most dramatic of the thousands of waterfalls scattered across the country, but it sure is unique. We first hiked out here in the wintertime, on a narrow path through a forest with a thick later of snow on the ground. So we decided to return to it again in the summer, and I am so glad we did. After discovering a shortcut to the falls earlier the same day, we drove out here during the twilight hours, just before midnight. The air was calm and the light was soft. We were alone, and the silence was filled only by the sounds of running water coming down the multitude of cascades ahead and swirling around as it made its way down along the rocky river bed.
I got low with my zoom lens to capture the waterfall's cascades in the distance, with its brilliant turquoise colour, before swapping to a wide angle.
9. Bruarfoss' Majestic Swirl
The wide angle lens allowed me to get the entire waterfall in frame, capturing its majestic swirl. I could stare at it for minutes at a time, mesmerized by the water flow, swirling around in beautiful patterns before continuing on down into the river.
I'll end this collection of photographs with another shot from Bow Lake. The water was less calm on this autumn morning, with no mountain reflection to be seen. There was much drama in the sky, as if cautioning of an incoming storm. I captured this image as a few rays of light broke through the heavy clouds above, illuminating the colourful foliage and giving the scene a magical glow.
10. Autumn Drama at Bow Lake
Thank you for stopping by to check out this collection of images from some of my favourite destinations. I wish you all the best in the year ahead, and hope to see you back here in the coming weeks and months as I update the site with new images and stories!