Monday, April 17, 2017

First Adventure Of The Year!

I'm not sure how long ago I stumbled across the Digital Photography School ( ), a free web site that has an amazing amount of material that covers almost any kind of photography that you might be interested in (and for every level of expertise), but it's been years, and I'm still downloading articles that keep expanding my knowledge of my relatively new passion.  I've had cameras all my Life, and for years, I carried a nice Pentax with me, camping and traveling.  Somewhere between 2003-5, I picked up my first digital camera and was happy with that until 2010, when one of my best friends, a pro photographer, sold me his Sony A100 and a kit lens, which I used for a few months, and then bought a nice lens, which completely blew me away with it's color and sharpness, and then I was truly screwed!  Man, I used to think that being involved in music was expensive, but it doesn't hold a candle to being involved in the world of photography!

So, I'm now 7 years, 2 cameras and and 4 lenses down (up?) the line from there, and looking for different scenery than we have here, in and around Tacoma.  Most, if not all of you are well aware of how much I love my place here, and how reluctant I am to leave it for other spaces, but the trip that I made down to Arizona in 2014 to visit my best friend of almost 50 years, changed all that.  We hit Zion and The Grand Canyon, and my feet seemed to have picked up a permanent "itch", so after a brief detour through the "Land of Cancer" (not much to photograph), I headed up the Al-Can Highway with my bro-in-law and sister last summer, and back for another visit to Nova Scotia in October.

Now, DPS isn't the only photography resource I use, and I noticed that the name, James Brandon, kept popping up here and there, connected to his absolutely gorgeous photos, and well written articles from Sony, and I found his web site ( ).  It had a link to his workshop lineup, and in September, with some misgivings (money, time of year, time away from The Beach, someone to watch my 4 4-legged "anchors"), I signed up for a 5 day workshop in Banff, Yoho & Jasper National Parks from April 6-11.

Decision time: fly or drive?  Well, since almost no airlines are letting you do free carry ons now, and I had 3 bags of stuff, along with the ticket, the decision was easy, so I left here in the Outback on a Tuesday morning.  Mapquest told me it was a little over an 11 hour drive; heads up: don't believe Mapquest!  Not only was their timeline a bit short, but the directions were wrong; "Adventure Time"!  Most of you are close enough friends that you know I may be one of the last remaining people on earth who doesn't have a smart phone, but stopping and talking to a couple of cops got me back on the right track, and I spent Tuesday night in Kamloops, B.C., and I got into Banff a day early, about 6:30, Wednesday evening.

Good thing, 'cause I was going to go walk around the town and shoot some photos on Thursday morning, but as I pulled on my boots and went to tie them, one of the laces broke (Quigley-luck strikes again!).  "No big deal!" you say?  Tell you what: you haven't looked for boot laces in Banff!  You'd think that in a recreational area like that, everyone would handle bootlaces, but it took me about 10 stores to find them, and when I did, the owner informed me that he has to buy them from Europe!  I couldn't resist; I asked him if he'd heard of this new thing called the internet, and he gave me the stinkeye, and then started laughing, and launched into a 5 minute story about the struggles of locating a source.  No REI up there, I guess. . .

I met James and the other 3 guys in the lobby of the Rundlestone Lodge at 5, and we headed out for dinner before going out for some evening shooting, and it may have taken about a half hour before we were all talking and laughing like old friends.  Besides photography, I had at least 2 things in common with everybody.

James is amazing; he's 31 years old (everybody else was up there in . . . ummmm. . . "middle age [?]" with me 🙄), and besides being an incredible photographer, he also plays guitar, practices jiu jitsu a few times a week, is a husband and father of 2, runs these workshops, is working on 2 instructional videos for LightRoom and PhotoShop, writes articles for a couple of companies, and, oh yeah, also has his private pilot's license.  It makes me believe that time runs much slower for the young'uns!  And on top of that, he's a nice guy, and very personable (Hey, don't let this all go to your head, James!)

So, after dinner, we headed out to Lake Minnewanka, and at around 7:30, I got this one; not much color in the sky, for which I chided James (c'mon, you all know me!), but still beautiful. 

(Don't ask; I can't, for the life of me, get the next one to "center"!)

The next morning found us at Vermillion Lakes at about 6:15 (groan) . . .

And at about 6:45 the light show started:

And an hour later, the color had gone back to a dark blue sky.  Timing is everything!

4:30 p.m. found us at Morrant's Curve, waiting for the train and I fumbled this one, and almost missed it; I asked James for an "instant replay", but he told me it wasn't available on this channel.  The next shot (not pictured here) had  only the cars of the train;  I guess I'll have to go back. . .

From here, we wandered up to Lake Louise, and for some reason, I didn't take many shots; maybe it was because the lake was covered in snow and people, but the background was pretty nice:

The third morning found us (6:40, yet again!) looking at the reflections of the 3 Sisters and Mount Lawrence Grassi, in the lake at Canmore:

That morning, I managed to sleep through 2 alarms, and woke up with about 15-20 minutes to get down to the car, and I seriously thought about going down and telling them to just go without me, but luckily I put that thought away, and hauled butt.  Anyway, when the sun broke over the mountains, a few minutes after the picture above:

This was a day packed full of beauty, and we were out most of the day.  I'm pretty sure that this was the day that James introduced me to the music of Monte Montgomery  ( ), a finger picker extraordinaire.  Here we are, driving down the road, surrounded by the majesty of the mountains, and I'm already in awe of my surroundings, and then this incredible music attacks my aural senses, and honestly, folks, I was completely overwhelmed; it literally reduced me to giggles!  Thanks, so much, James!

From here we moved onto Emerald Lake, which was completely frozen over and covered about 6" deep in snow, and we walked over to the avalanche fields (observed from a safe distance, although we were all hoping we'd witness one!) on a cleared path.  Then it was back to Lake Louise, and we wrapped up the day at Bow River, looking up at Castle Mountain, at about 7 o'clock.

The next morning found us back at Vermillion Lakes (anybody getting the idea that this was a favorite place to start our days?), which is only about 15-20 minutes outside of Banff, and made it handy to get back to town for breakfast.

After lunch, we drove out to Johnson Canyon, and about 2/3 of the way there, it started to snow hard enough that we considered heading back out, but decided to keep going, and we hiked back into the canyon, and it was one of the highlights of the workshop, at least for me!  This was at about 5 p.m.:

And as you can tell, the light wasn't so hot, because of this:

And, no, those are not spots on my camera lens!  😄 A bit closer, and through a very short tunnel through the rocks, afforded us this beautiful view:

And another orientation. . .

The last full day, at Two Jack Lake (bet you're happy to hear we're almost at the end, eh?  Oops; too much time with Canadians this last year!) blessed us with what, for me, was one of the most beautiful pictures I think that I've ever shot:

The alpinglow is hitting the back side of Mt. Rundle, and once again, you can see we were out there at the crack of 0:dark:30.  On the way back to breakfast, we pulled over at a wide spot in the road to get this:

And then we were off to Jasper National Park, where we got out and hiked back into the woods a ways,  into Mistaya Canyon.  It might have only been a quarter mile back or so, and would have been very easy to miss:

The last night, James took us up to the Norquay Overlook, for a last look at Banff; man, it got a bit nippy, and  hungry (!) and we barely made it into the restaurant before the kitchen closed at 11, but again, it was well worth it.  (I've got to work on the "night photography".)

The last morning found us back downstream from Two Jack and Minnewanka for a shot of (Doogie MacLean paraphrased) "the marching mountains' majesty":

Breakfast was the official "end" of the shoot.  We got back to the lodge at about 9, and I jumped into the shower.  I figured that I had one more night reserved, and thought that I'd get a head start on my packing, so I could get an early start the next morning and maybe make it home in 1 day.  I also wanted to go out and get some shots of the town, because no matter which direction you looked, there was a beautiful view.  At approximately 11:30, there was a knock on the door, and I opened it to find a kind of confused looking "room cleaner", who said, "Ummm. . . haven't you checked out yet?" (11 a.m. checkout!), and I answered, "Well, I think that I'm booked in for one more day."  He snagged his phone and called downstairs, and after minute, said, "The manager is going to call you in a minute or two." and left.

At this point, I'm frantically throwing my stuff in the bags, and 5 minutes later, I popped by the desk, where they told me that, indeed, my assumption of another night at the inn was wrong, and graciously offered to extend the reservation.  At this point though, half my stuff was in the car, and I opted to hit the road, and I didn't even have time to tell the "James Gang", "Adios!"  I turned left onto Highway 1, and 9 1/2 hours later, checked into an Econolodge in Bellingham.  I briefly flirted with the idea of continuing on to Salmon Beach, and decided that would be pretty foolish, considering I had been up since 5 a.m., and was running on between 4 and 5 hours of sleep since the start of the workshop.  The next morning I started out on the last leg of the trip at about 9, and was home by noon.

All of my previous "expeditions" had been, in usual Quigley-style, improvised; where ever I was, whenever I was, that's what I shot.  I have no idea of how much time James put into preparing for this workshop; I do know that he and his "partner in crime", Mike, were up there in the winter to scout things out, so as not to be wasting time looking for places to shoot.  He seamlessly transported us from one gorgeous site to another, and I simply can't imagine a more organized workshop.  I fully intend to accompany him again, and we plan on making my Iceland dream a reality in the next year or two.  And on my own shoots, I think that I've learned that preparation is probably more than half of what makes a good photographer, so researching places will be a new endeavor!  And, again, thanks, James, for yet another valuable lesson!

Thanks for hanging in here with me; I hope you enjoyed the photos, and feel free to leave comments and/or critiques.  I feel as though I'm in about the 4th grade in the School of Photography, and hope I have enough time left to make it through high school, or maybe even college, before embarking on the "final adventure"!  

Stay tuned!