Approaching Lake Minnewanka in the magnificent Canadian Rockies I was unsure what to expect. Although one of the largest lakes in Banff National Park it rather takes a back seat in popularity compared to its illustrious neighbours which include Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. In fact I couldn’t recall hearing anything about this lake before leaving England. And lets face it, Lake Minnewanka is not a name you would easily forget!
Due to its low profile, I decided to relegate Lake Minnewanka to a day location in order to keep the valuable sunrise and sunset slots for the better known lakes. In truth it was more of a daytime wandering than a serious photography excursion, all the more so as the afternoon was broken with occasional heavy showers. But upon arrival there was to be no cause for disappointment. As with pretty much every location within Banff National Park the scenery surrounding the glacial lake was utterly spectacular, soaring mountains in pretty much every direction.
To make matters even better I was thrilled to see that the lake was beautifully calm, reflecting sunlit mountains beyond. I felt that familiar sense of anticipation, excitement and panic, which I’m sure every photographer can relate to. In these situations, every part of my soul screams at me to get set up and capture the scene before the weather changes and the moment is gone.
I park up in a layby and rush down to the lakes edge, and start surveying the shore for foreground interest. By now I am convincing myself that the light will dip and the next rain shower will appear before I am ready, all the time piling extra pressure onto myself to get the shot. Yet I cannot compromise on the composition in order to get a photograph before the light fades; if the foreground isn’t forthcoming then I need to keep searching or walk away.
After several frantic minutes of searching, a sense of relief floods through me as I spot some attractive broken boulders in front of some crystal clear water. I instinctively know this is my shot, but I also know that I am in a race against time before the light fades. Through many years of shooting fleeting light I have learnt to set up my gear in a flash, and this was to be no exception. Tripod legs splayed, camera out and attached, then Lee Filters adapter ring, Polariser, ND grad and cable release – phew, done!
While I compose my picture I still have this adrenaline rush of anticipation and panic, as always in such moments forgetting to breath for some bizarre reason. A few seconds of tweaking my composition and I’m ready to shoot. Just as I’m about to fire the shutter I look up from my viewfinder and notice with dismay that the light has faded from the mountains. It is at these moments that I always feel cursed, Mother Nature is just toying with me, just waiting for me to get to that exact moment of readiness before it turns the lights off.
Dejected, I curse the heavens above and decide to wait for the light to return, all the while berating myself for missing that unique moment. Thirty seconds later the rain arrives, heavy and very sudden so with little alternative I pack up and retreat to the comfort of the car. With the image I almost captured playing in glorious Technicolor in my head, I console myself with some choice words as the moment slips further away. But wait, two minutes later the rain stops and beautiful sunshine returns to light the mountainside, so with renewed desperation I once again race to the shore. This now definitely IS the moment, I know my composition, so throwing my gear together I again find the composition and I’m ready to fire the shutter. Cue, downpour!
Just as suddenly as it had stopped a minute before, the heavy rain returned. At that moment I knew I had to be the world’s unluckiest photographer, but at the same time my determination levels increased ten fold. I was going to damn well get this shot, and so resisting the temptation to pack up I left the camera on the tripod, protecting it from the elements with a cheap plastic bag. Pulling my hood up I crouched resolutely in position and waited for a moment that I felt sure wasn’t going to arrive.
Only minutes later the rain once again eased, and peering up from my hood I was astounded! As well as some light illuminating the mountains there was now a gorgeous rainbow, arcing straight through my pre-arranged composition. I had never photographed a rainbow before, and here was one just waiting for me! There was literally nothing for me to do other than fire the shutter, which I gladly did.
THE moment had finally arrived and I was ready!
Article originally featured in Landscape Photography Magazine, April 2014.
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