Part 1 of my year in review can be found here. Part 2 has a lot of material from September. It was a really good month for adventures, new experiences and photography.
I successfully did not die for three consecutive decades and celebrated this milestone in September by booking myself two nights at the Assiniboine Lodge. This was probably the highlight of my year for adventures and photography. I went by myself much to the consternation of my friends and family. The nights I was to be at Assiniboine were supposed to be very dark with no moon to wash out the stars. The only concern I had was whether I would have clear skies or not. On the morning before my birthday I drove out to the Mount Shark helipad. I met Cliff and Mike, two avid hikers from the U.S. who were in the middle of a six week adventure through the Canadian Rockies. They were staying at one of the campgrounds. I also met three wonderful ladies who were a subset of a larger hiking group, the Queen Bees. Over the two days I stayed at the lodge I got to know a few of the other guests quite well and had the best time celebrating my birthday at lodge.
First Helicopter RideHelicopter trips in and out of Assiniboine are done by Alpine Helicopters. The helipad crew and the pilot were really great.
My first helicopter ride was cloudy and it rained a bit as we approached the Assiniboine Lodge helipad. It was still such a cool experience! And I got to sit in the front. After settling into my room at the lodge, I went for a rainy hike around Magog Lake with the Queen Bee’s and followed that up with delicious tea and cake during happy hour at the lodge. Mount Assiniboine, the star of the park, was obscured by clouds for the entire day and into the evening. I enjoyed dinner and wine with guests, spent some time listening to stories told by Andre - who currently runs the lodge along with his business partner Claude - and then went to bed, slightly disappointed by the fact that the clouds were blocking the stars.
Room with a View - Assiniboine LodgeMy room looked out to Mount Assiniboine.
At 2:30am on my birthday I woke up unintentionally and immediately looked outside. The stars were clearly visible over Mount Assiniboine so I gathered my gear and headed out to try and get a few photos even thought it was bit too late in the night for Milky Way (the Milky Way begins setting earlier in the fall). As I left the lodge I saw another headlamp heading in the same direction as I was. I caught up to the other person, said a cautious hello and found out they were trying for some night photos. It was quite lucky to run into Becky in the dark as I got in contact with her after my trip and we have been going on many hiking and photo adventures together (check her out on instagram: @beckylynnsim). I took a few starry photos and was even treated to a brief aurora display before going back to the lodge for a nap before sunrise.
Assiniboine StrikeA shooting star on course to strick Mount Assiniboine.
For sunrise I hiked up to the Nublet by myself. The skies were still clear and the sunrise was stunning. I took quite a few photos but I kept just stopping and looking around at the landscape. I think that was the most content I’ve felt with where I was and completely amazed by the mountain landscape around me. The entire time I was at Assiniboine I was fully immersed in every moment.
Assiniboine Sunrise PanoramaSunrise from the Nublet on my 30th Birthday. Absolutely stunning.
My birthday hike was up to the summit of Mount Cautley with a small group from the lodge. It was already a bit snowy but Andre led a small group of us up and along the ridge where we had lunch before a scree ski down the mountain. Descending from Mt. CautleySkee and snow ski down Mt. Cautley.
After some birthday wine and dinner at the lodge I shot the Milky Way over Mount Assiniboine. The aurora treated us to another show along with a proton arc which I had never seen myself before. I ended up with a pretty epic panorama from that night. The next day I shot sunrise at Lake Magog then hiked 28.5 km out of Assiniboine through Wonder Pass.
30th Birthday at Assiniboine LodgeThe Queen Bees added a lot of fun to my birthday (and maybe got me a little bit drunk). Magog Lake Night PanoramicAurora, Proton Arc, Milky Way and Mount Assiniboine. One of the most amazing nights I've ever experienced.
September kept providing me with material to check off my bucket list. I saw my first aurora corona on September 19 while shooting in Horseshoe Canyon near Drumheller with Mitch. A corona is when the aurora is directly above you and the rays appear to fall around you.
Cat CoronaMy first time seeing a corona. I thought it looked like a cat...an angry cat. At the end of September a super blood moon occurred. A super moon is when the moon is at it's closest approach to Earth in its orbit and appears very large in the sky. A blood moon is a term for a full lunar eclipse, when the moon appears to have a red colour. This is due to the same thing that gives us a blue sky and all the colours of our sunrise and sunsets, Rayleigh Scattering. I had some ideas for a foreground and composition for the moon rise shots but clouds moved in over Calgary and area too quickly. I decided to head south and see if I could get ahead of the cloud cover. I found dark skies south of Vulcan but since I didn’t know the area I didn’t end up with much of a foreground. However, lunar eclipses make for great Milky Way shooting conditions and I played around with some self portraits while a second camera took shots of the lunar eclipse.
Milky Way During Blood MoonA self portrait with the Milky Way during the super blood moon in 2015.
In October I went on a few amazing hikes. The first one was one I organized was with Becky, Llisa and Lucas. I knew of Llisa from the music community but had not met her in person before planning the hike. I connected with Lucas through social media (this is a common theme for me: find random person on the internet then meet them in a dark parking lot). He's originally from Ontario and was spending his free time in the summer exploring the Canadian Rockies and taking photos of his adventures. The plan was to go to Lake Agnes for sunrise and then hike further afterwards. The morning turned out to be very misty and visibility was poor. The conditions made for some interesting moody photos but not the colourful sunrise photos I was hoping for. After having tea and coffee at the Lake Agnes Tea House to warm up, we decided we would head down to the Plain of Six Glaciers since it didn't appear we would have any views for a while if we tried for any summits (we did have to go up the Big Beehive to make it to the Plain of Six). This ended up being a memorable adventure as we went off the usual paths and found a small ice cave under the Victoria Glacier.
Victoria Glacier Ice CaveBecky photographing some of the patterns in the ice.
Another full day adventure that really stood out was a trip to Rawson Lake for sunrise followed by a hike up to Sarrail Ridge. The lake was frozen when we went for our hike. The ice was thin and reflective which was great for photos. The view from the sub summit of Sarrail Ridge we ended up on were spectacular; 360 degrees of mountains and lakes. It was tempting to stay up much longer than we did but we made our way back down so that we would back at the parking lot before sunset.
Kananaskis Panorama from Sarrail
My last Milky Way shot of the season was taken at Dinosaur Provincial Park. It was my first time at the park and I did not have much time for scouting or exploring before dark. Since it was so late in the season for the Milky Way, the galactic center sets early. A crescent moon had not set yet and the horizon was illuminated by moonlight. Lucas has joined me to shoot the stars and I snuck a shot in on his selfie in the badlands. I also finally took a shot I liked of the moon next to the Milky Way.
Badlands StargazingLucas is pro at standing on rocks. Dinosaur Park Milky WayA bright crescent moon sets next to the Milky Way while a shooting star crosses the sky.
There is a decent shoulder season for hiking in Kananaskis and Banff and I was able to get in a few more hikes. Becky and I tried to hike Smutwood Pass. The forecast called for 6 cm of snow, but I think we ended up getting 8 inches. We turned around just before the lakes at the top of the Col because of a blizzard. Back at the bottom of the Col it was a lovely winter wonderland and once out of the blizzard conditions it was possible to get some photos of the snowy landscape and enjoy ourselves.
Smutwood Pass Meadow
I think one of the most epic sunrises I witnessed was at Vermilion Lakes in early November. The sky started with brilliant reds and oranges, then changed to rich golds and blues with a touch of pink in the clouds. I spent a good part of the morning shooting around the area with Becky and Lucas and followed that up with a 16km hike around Lake Minnewanka.
Vermilion Sunrise Pano
Before the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to Highwood House Junction part of highway 40 closed for the season on December 1, I went exploring with Lucas. The day started out quite chilly but the sun slowly warmed us up as we hiked around a couple areas. I found a tree covered in hoar frost sparkling with the sun behind it by following what were probably some hunters tracks.
Hoar Frost Tree
In the last half of the year I did not go to many shows and only photographed two concerts. This was mostly due to my work schedule and wanting to use my free time to go to the mountains. I photographed Blind Guardian and Grave Digger at MacEwan Hall and while I don't generally listen to a lot of power metal, I quite enjoyed both bands' sets. The other concert I photographed was not a metal one, but the Headstones, my favourite rock and roll band. They played at the Marquee Room which did not have the greatest stage set up - pillars obscured the view if you were standing a few meters from the stage and there were permanent bar tables around the floor breaking up the crowd. The lighting for the Headstones was pretty dark and disappointing. The show was absolutely amazing so I enjoyed myself even though I didn't get the photos I would have liked of the band.
My last hike of the year was to Johnston Canyon by myself. The frozen waterfalls were so fun to explore. At the end of December they were still not completely frozen. It was also possible to walk up to and climb around and behind some of the waterfalls.
Johnston Canyon Self PortraitThe waterfalls in Johnston Canyon freeze into beautiful formations. I had to go stand on this one.
Just before the end of the year, the news began circulating around that the heavy metal community (and music community in general really) lost a legend. Lemmy Kilmister had passed away at 70 years of age on December 28. Motörhead was so influential to me and of course to much of the heavy metal I love and listen to. I’ve attended Motörhead shows, standing up front, ribs crushed against the barrier, headbanging and I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph the band. Thanks for the music and the wise words Lemmy, cheers!
LemmyMotörhead playing the Big Four in Calgary in 2012.