On Abraham Lake it’s easy to get sucked into the details—there’s so many fascinating ice patterns, but every once in a while I’d look up and see something like this.
After being blown around on Abraham Lake, I was looking forward to getting out of the wind. I was also interested in seeing Mistaya Canyon and Panther Falls in the winter, and both are fairly close. I had a cold but filling breakfast in the car and drove to Mistaya Canyon. I was really looking forward to it, but as I drove up the snowbank blocked my view out of the passenger window. This 4 foot deep snow dampened my enthusiasm a bit, and I was really enjoying the music, so I decided to go see if Panther Falls looked more accessible.
This may have been a mistake. Panther Falls did look much more accessible, but as I walked down the hill I started to have my doubts. I sunk down to my waist at the bottom of the hill, but I was determined. I decided to press on. It was an arduous process, but I made my way to the middle of the falls with no trail to follow. In summer, this would be a 5 minute walk, but I think it took me 45 minutes. I realized once I got there that the bottom would have been more interesting, but I was already pretty tired. So I relaxed on the ice by the falls, had a couple of energy bars, and then started the trek back up to the top.
Don’t try this without crampons. I was nervous enough even with them on.
Once I finally got to the top, I was tired of deep snow. And I was still tired of being blown over. So I drove leisurely back to Abraham Lake, enjoying the mule deer, whitetail deer, and elk. The burnt area from my previous post is also in this stretch. This time, instead of going to the center of the lake, I stopped right at the west end at Preacher’s Point. This turned out to be a great decision. Lots of interesting ice here and beautiful weather. I spent the afternoon puttering about on the ice, thoroughly enjoying myself and taking lots of photos.
Late in the afternoon I returned to the car, had some scrumptious chili, and emptied my memory card to my laptop. After another few small stops here and there along the lake, I headed home through winter rain.
The ice at Preacher’s Point was full of small cracks – I’m guessing because it was melting – and these caught the light wonderfully. This is a top-down view of similar cracks to the ones you saw in an edge view a few days ago.
Tripods are extremely important for landscape photographers, and I have a couple good tripods that I’ve collected over the years – not my dream tripod yet, but close. I’ve heard of people at the camera store asking for spikes in the feet of their tripods, and always thought it might be a little perk but didn’t really matter. After all, in years of taking photos all over the place, I’ve never really missed having spikes on the feet of my tripods – rubber feet have always worked great.
Well, this week it all changed. Out on the icy surface of Abraham Lake, with the wind blowing constantly and extremely hard, my tripod was useless. In fact, it made everything less steady – it provided more surface area for the wind to catch. The rubber feet had no grip at all on the ice. If I let go of my tripod on the ice, it would start to move away from me as the wind pushed it across the ice. Luckily it never fell over. The best I could do was to hang on to it, put a bunch of my weight on it, and hope no super large gusts came up during the exposure (the gusts were blowing me around a bit too, despite my crampons).
So I now understand the desire for spiked tripod feet, although I’m still not sure how much they would have helped in this case. I think my conclusion is just that it is extremely hard to take long exposures on ice in extremely windy conditions.
I’m not finished going through my photos from Abraham Lake yet, but here’s a preview. This is from Wednesday morning.
For the next couple of days I’ll be finding some new photos in the mountains. I’m pretty excited – I got some new crampons with a MEC giftcard I got from Uncle Jack for Christmas, so I should be coming back with ice photos of one sort or another. I’ve never used crampons before, and I don’t have an ice axe, so don’t expect anything too extreme, but I’m slowly expanding the places I can get to and photograph.
I’ve scheduled this to post automatically for today, and another for tomorrow, so for those of you who look forward to your daily fix – never fear.
Frost on spruce branches by Cave and Basin in Banff.