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Three Sisters peaks at blue hour in the Rocky Mountains near Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

Before Dawn 30 sec, f/10, ISO 100

It was dark and rainy out as I was packing up inside my little basement room in Calgary on the last evening of my Rocky Mountains trip. As on most other days, I had returned to the city late and was contemplating whether to get out to the mountains one last time the next morning, a few hours before my return flight. The previous several mornings had been heavily overcast, with the sun only peaking out by midday and I was hoping to finally see a sunrise and capture the mountains bathed in golden hour light. If the forecast was to be trusted, my last morning was going to be crystal clear, finally giving me that opportunity.

With my location of choice being about 100 kilometres out of Calgary, there was a slight risk of some unexpected occurrence along the way, which might delay my return to the airport in time for my flight back to Toronto. A greater concern, however, was encountering a bear somewhere along the short trail I would be taking to my photo spot. Sure, the risk was there on other days too, but somehow it seemed more likely to happen hours before I had to return home - as per Murphy's law. All things considered though, it seemed illogical to give up such an opportunity on account of relatively small risk and superstition. Plus, I had to drive out there anyway to return the bear spray I rented earlier... That settled it then.

After a short but pleasant sleep I was on the road. By 3:30am I was on the Trans-Canada Highway towards the mountains, an hour or so later exiting onto Bow Valley Trail in the town of Canmore. I parked at the now familiar spot in town, grabbed my camera gear, clipped the bear spray bottle to my belt, and took off - under the bridge and towards the forest trail.

Dawn was still an hour away. The sky was just beginning to brighten, with the full moon shining above me to the left. Unlike last time, I knew exactly where I was going now and walked at a brisk pace - down the dry rocky river bed and into the forest. I looked side to side every few steps and listened intently for any sounds of wildlife coming from the surrounding bush. It was completely silent save for the whistling and singing of birds.

Walking out of the forest and onto the shore of the little creek, I was thrilled to see clear skies over the Three Sisters, with the water calm as ever. I paused and took another look around, listening intently - a black bear had apparently been rummaging through the bushes in this area just a couple days prior. Today, I seemed to be alone. The atmosphere was most serene, with clear skies, calm water, and subtle but charming bird songs all around. I set up my tripod and walked back and forth along the shore, admiring the view and looking for compositions. I took several shots as the blue hues began to fade, giving way to incredible golden hour light. To say the least, I did not regret taking this last chance to come out here.

My favourite coffee shop opened up just as I got back into the town of Canmore, where I sat with an espresso before leaving the Rocky Mountains. What a view to finish off the trip!

Three Sisters peaks at sunrise in the Rocky Mountains near Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

First Light on the Three Sisters 1/13 sec, f/13, ISO 100


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