Trip Recap: Canadian Rockies 2017 with PODAS
Written by: David Gaiz, October 13th, 2017

A couple weeks ago we wrapped up a fun-filled trip with Phase One and their photo loving guests. We setup and ran a trip for Phase’s PODAS program. Phase One does a fantastic job of taking care of their guests on their PODAS trips and including everything from hotels to meals to transport, they even bring some of the best photo instructors in the industry and Phase One equipment for all guests to utilize for the duration of the trip.

For our 2017 trip in the Canadian Rockies, Phase sent legendary photographers Tony Hewitt and Peter Eastway to help the guests take amazing shots of the breathtaking scenery. Peter & Tony are some of the best instructors you'll find in the industry. The value they bring to the trip and to the guests reaches far beyond their instruction on the technical and artistic aspects of taking photos. If you ever have a chance to hop on a photo trip with them, it's something we highly encourage. Phase wants to ensure their guests are well looked after and sent their Manager of Educational Services Scott Nidermaier who went out of his way to make sure all the guests were well looked after and always had the equipment they needed every step of the way.

We started off our 9 day journey in Banff with a group dinner on Banff Ave and made our way to Two Jack Lake for our first sunset shoot together. While the light didn’t explode for us on night 1, we still had a great time setting up various compositions and getting everyone familiar with the Phase One gear.

Two Jack Lake - Banff, Canada
On day 2 we remained in Banff for a full day of shooting and excursions. We started off our day with a classic sunrise shoot at Vermillion Lakes, making our way to the third lake to capture breath taking shots of Mount Rundle and the surrounding area. After a morning filled with shooting we headed back into town for brunch together before a brief morning break. We kicked off the afternoon by taking a gondola ride up to the top of Sulphur Mountain where we were treated to sun rays cascading down through the clouds onto the 360 degree view of towering peaks that surrounded us. We came across a few marmots, squirrels and chipmunks to keep us entertained while capturing the beauty of Banff.

After we finished up our excursion to the top of Sulphur Mountain, we headed down to the stables and got ready for our afternoon horseback ride out to 3 mile cabin where we had a steak fry dinner. In part, the ride took us out along the Bow River. We got hit with a cold snap and rain right as we saddled up, so the ride out left us a little soggy and happy to see a warm fire pit and warm drinks upon our arrival at our dinner site. Luckily, the rain stopped for our ride back and after drying out by the fire our ride back was spectacular as we were treated to the atmosphere of a clearing storm during our trip back to the stables. We were going to head part way up Mount Norquay for our sunset shoot but the light was so dynamic that we opted to stay and shoot from the meadow next to the stables as Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain lit up with the setting sun and clouds filled with color swirled around their peaks. Everyone walked away with a handful of stunning shots from that evening’s shoot. We were even greeted by a couple of large bull Elk wandering nearby and a coyote who darted through the horse stables.

On day 3 we got everyone up early and headed to Lake Louise for sunrise. The morning was cold, but mostly dry and we had an absolutely gorgeous setting to shoot as the sun rose. Lake Louise is always stunning, but when you have low clouds cutting through the peaks and ridgelines and light making it through to hit the peaks and Victoria Glacier you know you’re witnessing something special. We shot at the lake for a few hours before heading to our hotel for breakfast and our first classroom session together. We reserved a private meeting room with space for everyone to setup their laptop and the staff to utilize a projector to teach the ins and outs of capture one and provide instruction on how to edit some of the newly taken photos on the trip.

To round out the day we hit the road again for a short drive to neighboring BC & Yoho National Park. We first stopped at Takkakaw Falls and shot along the river’s edge before heading to the ever-gorgeous Emerald Lake to round out the shooting for the day. We wrapped up day 3 with a group dinner at the historic Lake Louise Railway Station, made complete by a train rumbling by mid meal.

Day 4 had us in the Lake Louise area again, and today we started off with a sunrise shoot at Moraine Lake. Moraine features one of the classic photography views of the Canadian Rockies whether you climb up the rock pile or walk over to the lake shore. When you take in the majestic view of the peaks towering behind the teal waters it’s hard to decide how you want to compose and what you want to shoot first – a great problem to have! It was a cold morning, but a great morning as everyone walked away with shots of the stunning scene.

We utilized the middle of the day for more classroom and editing time before heading out again in the afternoon. This time we took a journey down the 1A with our first stop being Morant’s Curve. No less than 5 minutes after getting everyone setup a train roared by giving everyone the chance to capture the classic shot of the train rounding the S curve in front of the peaks and curving river. From there we headed further down the 1A back towards Banff and stopped at Castle Mountain. The cold and dreary weather started closing in and we weren’t able to see much of the scene around us anymore so we packed up and headed to our dinner together at the Bear Creek Bistro. The Bistro has a great atmosphere and friendly staff - everyone enjoyed their meal (unless you were one of the few who ordered the chicken like me), and Tony scored some free ice cream for being forgotten about when the food came out. After a great meal with great company, we made our way back to Lake Louise on a chilly fall night in the Canadian Rockies.

When we woke up on day 5, fall had quickly turned to winter and we got hit with a nice little snowstorm! We continued with our plan of heading to Bow Lake for sunrise, and while there wasn’t much in the way of light shining through with the snow flurries, everyone was treated to a unexpected opportunity to take photos in winter conditions and we took advantage and shot for a few hours around Bow Lake. Chilled but happy, we all headed into Num Ti Jah lodge to warm up and enjoy a hearty breakfast. We were even treated to a ghost siting when Tony captured ole Jimmy Simpson spying on Bill.

We made our way back to Lake Louise and spent the afternoon taking advantage of being indoors due to bad weather to indulge in extra classroom time. Peter and Tony shared many of their post processing secrets and worked through samples images provided by the guests on the trip. They were gracious enough to bring along prints to show samples of their incredible work and show the guests the kind of results you can get when shooting with high quality cameras such as the Phase One systems everyone was carrying with them for the trip. We wrapped up a cold soggy day with a trip over to the Outpost Pub for dinner – everyone got to go to sleep a little early and get a well needed rest.

Bow Lake - Banff, Canada

Bow Lake - Banff, Canada

Bow Lake - Banff, Canada

Bow Lake - Banff, Canada
Day 6 proved to be a highlight of the trip and a really special day as we drove the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper. We started the day with snow flurries which quickly gave way to blue skies filled with clouds and amazing light. If you drive without stopping, the journey from Lake Louise to Jasper can be done in about 2.5 to 3 hours. The conditions were so stunning that day, and we took so many photos that we stretched the drive into 12 hours! Our driver Dwayne was absolutely amazing and was really patient with the group as we asked repeatedly to stop and take photos. Dwayne has been driving in the Rockies for over 30 years and wasn’t sure that he’d ever seen a day as beautiful as the one we experienced on our journey to Jasper. It was by far and away the best day I’ve ever had on the parkway.

We started off by stopping at Bow Lake as the conditions were different from the day before. We then tried to head to Peyto, but because of the morning flurries we got turned away due to the lot being closed. We instead headed to Waterfowl lake and were treated to an absolutely incredible scene with Mount Chephren shooting it’s peak out through a band of clouds into the blue sky. The ridge on the eastern side of the parkway had trees dotting the lines of the mountains covered in fresh snow. Deciding where to shoot first wasn’t easy, but we spent plenty of time at the lake so everyone could shoot in multiple directions and capture amazing images.

Continuing on, we stopped at the Crossing for a buffet lunch. We got separated from Bill for a few hours – we assumed the ghost of Jimmy came back and took him away, but we kept on shooting and later on re-united with Bill in Jasper. After lunch we started by shooting the wide open scenes of the Saskatchewan Crossing and also nabbing shots of the surrounding peaks as the light cascaded through the cloud cover. We then continued heading north and made a quick stop at the Columbia Icefields Glacier Center where people snapped shots of the Athabasca Glacier. Next up was a stop at Sunwapta Falls where some scrambled down the trail and took shots of the river as it bent around the island and cascaded down the rocks – others took a more conservative (and probably smarter approach) and shot the falls from the side – it provided a great opportunity to work on some longer exposures and capturing the movement of the water.

After Sunwapta, our goal was to head straight up to Jasper without anymore stops but the light was just too good and we made a final stop along the parkway where everyone got to shoot towering peaks with rivers running by us in the foreground. After finally getting everyone loaded back up on the bus, we made our way into Jasper and headed straight for dinner at Olive. This was by far and away the longest day of our Canadian Rockies adventure, but it was an amazing day of shooting that rewarded everyone with lots of quality photos to take home.

On Day 7, we kept the good vibes and good light going with our sunrise shoot at Patricia Lake. Pyramid mountain light up with the rising sun and fog cascaded across the lake and across the mountains and the light danced from the peaks to far away hills and back to multi-colored tree lines surrounding the lake. This ended up being one of the best sunrise shooting sessions of the entire trip. Happy with the morning effort, the group headed back to our hotel for a filling and tasty buffet breakfast.

After a mid day break the group embarked on an afternoon hike around the Valley of the Five Lakes. While the trail didn’t have much of an overall elevation gain, we gained and dropped over and over and definitely earned our dinner and got our exercise this afternoon. We didn’t have fantastic light, but we had stunning scenery on our hike as we wove our way between a series of lakes and aspen trees, snapping photos often along the way. We wrapped up the day with a dinner together in town at Downstream. The food was great and we got some unexpected entertainment when Tony helped out some younger partiers by jumping in on their shot ski after dinner.

Day 8 was our last full day together on the trip. We began the day with a sunrise shoot at Pyramid Lake. We took shots from the island and also from the shoreline. After our morning shooting session was done it was time for another buffet breakfast and a final post processing session together. In the afternoon we headed out to Maligne Lake for our private boat cruise out to Spirit Island. We setup a specialized photography cruise to allow everyone more time on the island to take photos of the epic scenery. After our cruise we spent time shooting around the shores of Medicine Lake. A fire left behind a stunning scene of dead trees covered in snow on the far side of the lake and the group took advantage of the opportunity to shoot the scene and capture the unique views, shapes and textures. At the very end, we even got to see a family of Moose before we made our way back to Jasper for our farewell dinner.

Day 9 saw our journey together come to a close. We traversed the Icefields Parkway again today on our way back to Banff. Our final shoot together was at Peyto Lake – it was really fun to see how amazed everyone was by the unreal color of Peyto even after 9 days of shooting glacially fed lakes and rivers in the Rockies. We wrapped up in Banff and said our goodbyes. We were lucky to have such a wonderful group of people to take around the Rockies and the guests were very lucky to have the likes of Tony, Peter and Scott to take care of them over the duration of the trip.

Athabasca River - Jasper, Canada
Peyto Lake - Icefields Parkway - Banff, Canada
A big thank you to Horacio, Trevor, Frank, Bill, Jennifer, John, Kevin, Lynn, & Holly for coming on the trip! We hope to travel with you again in the future! Also huge thanks are due to Peter, Tony and Scott for helping us put on such a fantastic trip for everyone. Last but not least, the trip wouldn’t have been the same without an amazing effort from our driver Dwayne, a big thank you goes out to him as well!
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