Yesterday I found myself wide awake at 04:30. I contemplated enjoying a morning movie and cup of tea in the warmth and comfort of my bed but couldn't resist checking the sunrise predictor just in case. There was nothing definitive in the prediction but the potential was enough to pique my interest, so I packed the gear and set out to Kananaskis.
The Wedge Pond, beside highway 40, is a familiar location for me so it was an easy decision to pull into the parking area there and cut the engine. With the wonderful silence of the morning returned, I stepped out into the frosty air and pulled on the hiking boots.
It's a very short walk from the parking area to the pond but a three day winter storm had dumped plenty of snow over the weekend and night temperatures of -10 had firmed up the ground, hence the boots. I was a little concerned that the storm might have seen off the last of the birch leaves but enough remained to make the shot work well.
Much of the snow had melted and a soft mist rose from the perfectly calm water, the sunrise was indeed brief but the surrounding mountains still managed to bathe their tips in the golden light in the short time available. I made a number of shots and walked the circumference of the pond making more as time moved on.
Ultimately I chose to post this image because the vivid colours of the golden birch leaves reflected in the still waters of the pond, perfectly match the brief morning sunlight captured by the surrounding mountain peaks. It was a beautiful scene and one I would have missed had I opted for that morning movie and the comfort of a warm bed.
It was only a month ago when I made the trip out to Wedge Pond in Kananaskis to catch the sunrise. On that trip the smoke from forest fires resulted in a deep red light. After sharing the images I was quickly under pressure to make arrangements for another trip, and after some false starts, conditions this morning looked perfect.
It can be a little daunting for people taking a filter system out into the field for the first time and that was the case for my client this morning. We arrived at the lake at 07:15 with sunrise at 08:09 giving us plenty of time to deal with the new filter system. As it transpires we were ready to shoot in minutes as the Lee filter system really is very simple to use and it is the one I use, so what little instruction was needed came easily.
If ever there was a time and location that was made for an ND graduated filter, sunrise at the wedge pond is it. Very dark water sunk into the shadow of the mountains and surrounded by forest is contrasted against bright sunlit skies and mountain peaks.
I know a lot of people will say 'oh you can balance that in photoshop now' and you can, but why replicate something when a filter will give you the shot in the field and leave you with less office time, no contest for me. The image below was shot just 8 minutes after sunrise and really demonstrates the value of a graduated filter as it balances the light across the image.
I still haven't hit the image I've envisaged for this location but I have made numerous shots that I'm very happy with in the pursuit of that one. Every time I rise at 4am and load up my gear I am as excited at the prospect of my next trip to Wedge Pond as if it were my first.
A good location will almost always deliver an image, so it's worth returning again and again until you understand it fully and have seen it in various conditions. When you spend a lot of time with a location you will know what the best conditions are in which to make the very best shot you can at that location, the only real issue you have then is actually making it.
The Wedge Pond on highway 40 in Kananaskis is a great place to capture sunrise. For anyone who enjoys the early mornings it's a fantastic location to shoot a beautiful alpenglow reflection on a mirror like pond. Mt Kidd stands opposite and catches the sunrise for about 20 minutes on it's east facing flanks. Further south Mt Galatea and 'The Fortress' will also capture the light but for only a short time.
Usually I will have clients shoot the image below and then move south a little on the east side of the lake to shoot a fully centralised shot of Mt Kidd. The lake will often have a light mist providing a break in the near perfect symmetry.
When the sky has a good high cloud covering, the image is very different, without high cloud it is a clean line of colour isolating itself against an empty sky. With the cloud in place catching the sun the colour is spread widely across the frame. Either way it is a stunning location and this week the haze from forest fire smoke brought a deeper red to this beautiful shot.
The Wedge Pond is one I return too quite often both with and without clients and no doubt I will be returning again soon.
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