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Landscape of the Three Sisters mountains on a winter morning in Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

Three Sisters 6 sec, f/5.6, ISO 250

One incredibly convenient thing about winter is that the sun rises later, allowing us some extra sleep before heading out to catch the golden hour colours. This bonus snooze time was very much needed on our first day in the mountains. It was well past midnight when we settled into our apartment the night before, having flown into Calgary in the late evening and driving straight out to the town of Canmore, Alberta in the Rocky Mountains.

Since we planned to be up well before dawn, we opted to start the day with a familiar nearby spot - the shore of a little creek with a magnificent view of the Three Sisters peaks. At about 6 o'clock in the morning we made coffee, packed lunch for the day's road trip, grabbed the camera gear and loaded ourselves into the car. The initial drive across town was no more than a few minutes, followed by a short walk through the woods to get out to the creek. The place looked quite different than when I had seen it in the warmer months - the ground was covered with snow and the creek was frozen over, except for the open patch of water in the area with currents from the connecting streams. It was still dark when we arrived, with the Three Sisters peaks barely visible in the distance. The winter air was cold but calm, with the occasional light breeze interrupting the otherwise silent atmosphere. We were here alone. Another nice thing about wintertime is that the local bears, which we'd normally be on the lookout for, are in hibernation. This thought kept me calm as we were walking down here through the woods. Of course there are still elk, and the occasional wolf or cougar to be mindful of, but the latter two are rarely spotted in these parts. Or so I've been told.

It was already evident that a colourful golden hour was not in the books - a light but consistent layer of clouds obscured the sky, with a rare star occasionally peeking through. Nonetheless, I was more than happy with how the morning was shaping up - these were far from the worst possible conditions. I had set my expectations low to minimize potential disappointment, mentally preparing for miserable cold and a full whiteout. We were pleasantly surprised that on this morning the air temperature was hovering just below zero, unusually warm for wintertime in Alberta. This was quite the change from the recent weather around the province, with heavy snowfalls and temperatures down to -30 degrees Celsius.

I set up my tripod at the edge of the creek, on a thick layer of ice stretching out over the water (I do not recommend doing this unless you are well familiar with the area and can accurately gauge the ice thickness and water depth). I pressed down the shutter just as a light breeze was picking up, capturing the resulting water flow beneath the bare trees on the far shore, with the tall peaks of the Three Sisters behind them (first image, above).

I then swapped in my wide angle lens to capture more foreground, with details of the creek floor seen through the crystal clear water. As the wind settled, a brilliant reflection of the majestic snowy peaks was revealed. After admiring and capturing this beautiful winter landscape, we made our way back through the forest to get breakfast bagels and coffee in town before getting back on the road to explore more of the Canadian Rockies.

Landscape of the Three Sisters mountains on a winter morning in Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

Winter Tale 1 sec, f/8, ISO 100


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