Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 3: St. Mary's to Many Glacier

The gravel parking space turned out not to be as well hidden as I liked. At 3:00am, I heard an explosion and woke up. Fireworks were going off in the gravel area, and I heard shouts of "USA, USA, USA!" Sitting up from my sleeping bag, I could see that a bunch of folks were setting off bottle rockets and such in the parking lot, and they were indeed quite drunk. Rather than get out of my sleeping bag and drive off elsewhere, which might trigger an ugly reaction from these people, I decided that I could out wait them and that they would eventually run out of fireworks. That took about 90 minutes, after which they drove off and I could sleep again.

I awoke at 6:00am, and then made a phone call to Carl Strong, who had received my broken frame, and agreed to build a new one under warranty. Having settled that matter, I drove back into the park to try to find a sunrise spot. With clouds looming in the west, I decided to stay low and shoot from near the park entrance at St. Mary's Lake.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

After shooting the setting moon for a bit, another photographer drove up and started shooting the same area. After an hour or so of shooting, we met up and had a chat. He invited me over to his trailer in the campground, and I mentioned the fireworks in my parking lot the night before. He felt sorry for me, and said, "Well, I have extra room in my trailer, so if you want to join me at Many Glacier this afternoon you're welcome to sleep over." And that was how I met Mike Peterson.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

On a hunch, I decided to drive further up the road before heading over the Many Glacier. With the higher probability of rain, and the relative early time of day, I was betting that I would find a rainbow somewhere along the road. I stopped at a turnout to shoot a picture of St. Mary's Lake, and lo and behold when I turned around there was a solid rainbow across the road. I quickly ran across the road, set up my tripod, got out my polarizer, and tweaked the camera to show the rainbow off at its strongest.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

I got in about 10 shots before the rainbow faded. Noting that it was still raining, I checked the time and saw that it was 10:30am when the rainbow faded. In the hopes of getting dramatic scenery, I drove further up the road to the Goose Island overlook. The clouds there looked dramatic, but the best light was gone, so I took a few pictures and left for Many Glacier.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

I had never been to Many Glacier before, so what I saw along the way was stunning. Amongst other things, I saw a bear climbing high up in the hills, which was neat but it was too far for my 200mm lens to capture. Note to self: next time, bring a 1.4 and 2.0 TC. By the time I got to Mike's trailer in Many Glacier it was past noon, and he was making soup. We at lunch together and then tried to go for a hike up to Iceberg Lake, but didn't get even half a mile down the trail before it started raining. Not wanting to fight mother nature, we went back down the trail, got into my van, and started driving in search of better weather. We had not gotten even past the hotel at Many Glacier before we saw a herd of goats and started chasing them. Mike got out his 100-400/4-5.6L and I got out my puny 200mm/2.8L. I'm not normally a wildlife person, but the animals weren't disturbed by humans and I shot many many photos.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

After the wildlife shoot, we drove out to the main highway and got started up the Chief Mountain Highway towards Canada, and then Mike realized he had forgotten his passport! We turned around, went to his trailer for some tea, and went back to find the sunset. Chief mountain was a big block of monolith rising from the area around it, creating its own weather pattern. Looking at the photos now, I realize that it would have been a far better sunrise spot than a sunset spot, but I never did get a chance to see it in the morning due to weather conditions. Mike knew every spot in the rockies, including many obscure turnouts where a dirt road would lead to a nice photo location, so I felt very lucky to have met him. I in turn showed him how to use his newly acquired ND grad filters.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

We drove around and shot a number of pictures, with a climatic dusk shot of the sky in the area.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

By the time we got back to Mike's trailer, it was 8:30pm, and we made a quick dinner before turning in. Mike's trailer was fully equipped with a flush toilet, power, an inverter and generator so we could charge our batteries, and his laptop. This was a good thing, since after 2 nights without access to a power socket I was starting to drain my batteries. Mike also kindly copied off one of my memory cards and started making DVDs for backup.

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