When your wife kicks you out to take pics or why can’t I take an iconic photo of Abraham Lake?

abraham lake, ice bubbles, nordegg, clearwater county, milky way, stars, northern lights, aurora borealis, aurora, Dan jurak, landscape,

I had an interesting 48 hours this week.

My wife is always kidding me that I always say that I am going to take pictures but never do. I am not sure if she just wants to get rid of me or if she does it to tease.

I love to get out to the mountains but at this time of year for me that means sleeping in the back of my little Toyota Rav4. At six foot one I am forced to sleep diagonally to fit in the back and with night time temperatures dipping into the mid to low teens Celsius I am getting too old to do that as frequently.

Why not stay in a motel the wife asks? Call it cheap or frugal I don’t like throwing away a couple of hundred dollars for something that I can usually do for free, ie, sleeping in my suv.

At her insistence she said, no she told me, take the money out of the house fund and long story short, I reluctantly agreed.

So with a quick phone call to the Nordegg Lodge in good old Nordegg I had a reservation for the evening. My plan was to scout out Abraham Lake before it got dark, maybe take a few pics and then return at 4:00 a.m. when the milky way would be over Mount Michener on Abraham Lake on a moonless night.

I love to drive on the highway so the almost four hours to the lake passed quickly. When I got there at four in the afternoon it was almost like summer. My vehicles thermometer read 11 Celsius. I walked around the popular Preachers Point to discover a trio with skates looking for some flat ice to glide around. Most of the ice was either covered with the recent heavy snowpack or what was exposed was rotting or going soft.

So much for that place in the morning I thought to myself and back down the David Thomson highway a few kilometres to a pull off where I could easily access the lake and have a great view of Mount Michener. Again, lots of snow covering the ice. The world famous bubbles had disappeared and what ice was exposed was also going soft and mushy.

With perfectly clear skies forecast for the evening and overnight, there probably wouldn’t be any good photos to take but I persisted and tried a bunch of things all of which I promptly deleted when I got home the next day.

Half an hour later and I was back at the Nordegg Lodge, making a quick meal, unpacking my camera gear and double checking it and then hopefully fall asleep quickly as I planned to get up at 3:10 a.m.Â

It didn’t work out that way. It was one of those weird nights where I tossed and turned, my body overheated and I felt like I was burning. My mind was racing and I was playing every mind trick that I could think of to get to sleep. No such luck and when 3:00 a.m. showed on my iPhone I decided that I could probably sleep AFTER I took photos IN THE BACK OF MY RAV. LOL the irony.

At this early hour and with temperatures now well below freezing I expected a frost covered windshield but it was clear. Yippee. One less thing to do.

As I drove westward I could see stars sparkling in the dark, dark sky. A great sign. And man was it dark. I was glad that I had scouted out the area at Michener the evening before otherwise I would be completely lost.

As I got to the east end of the lake, the side that NOBODY ever photographs I could faintly see the milky way overhead. It was so dark that I was pointing the camera, shooting and viewing the display on the back of the camera and moving it by what I saw on it.

One of the things that I had wanted to try out with the milky way was a panorama as a single shot would usually only capture a small portion of it.

I placed the camera on the tripod with the panorama head, levelled it and then proceeded to squeeze off six frames from east to south to west covering around 180 degrees. What the camera saw amazed me. There was so much detail that I couldn’t make out with the naked eye and now the wind was picking up by the minute.

I took a few more shots here by Windy Point, I wonder why they call it that? LOL and made my way or rather tried to find my next stop in the darkness.

A few minutes later I came upon another suv parked by the road and as it turned out that was the spot I had planned on stopping at. The lights on the vehicle were off so the photographer was either sleeping in it I figured or out on the lake already taking photos.

I pulled on my winter gear and made the slog over hardened and at times soft snow until I was on the lake proper. The level over the winter had drastically dropped as the power company drew water from the reservoir to generate electricity. Abraham Lake isn’t a natural lake but a dammed lake. When the lake freezes and the water drop, huge sheets of ice fracture and lay exposed on the bare bottom of the lake bed. There were some giant hollows there. I never knew the lake dropped off so quickly there.

Minutes later I could see two headlamps making their way from the truck to the lake. Ah, so someone was awake in the vehicle. Shortly the two made their way towards me and I was greeted by two young women with camera gear and what looked like arctic wear. (They were very smart it turned out.)

They went there way. I went mine and we both took photos for the next couple of hours until the eastern horizon started to light up. I mistakenly though that it was the moon. I was wrong, it was the sun although a sliver of a crescent moon rose just before the sun did.

I drove an hour to Rocky Mountain House and topped up with gas and then made the pleasant almost three hour drive back to Edmonton.

A quick bit of fiddling in my RAW converter and Photoshop and the result is at the top of this post. This is not usually the view that you see of Abraham Lake. Don’t believe me? Google it and you will see what I mean. LOL

I guess I am not supposed to get that picture, although everyone else has it. Sigh…

Happy shooting,


~ by Dan Jurak on March 13, 2018.

6 Responses to “When your wife kicks you out to take pics or why can’t I take an iconic photo of Abraham Lake?”

  1. Awesome photo and great story! What are the purple patches around the bottom?

  2. Thank you. The shadows are severely underexposed and that is an artifact from trying to get as much detail as I could.

  3. I just can’t get myself out if bed at that hour any more. Seems the older I get, the lazier I am. Beautiful photograph!

  4. Curtis I had a loud chuckle when I read your comment. I know exactly what you are saying. If I were at home I probably would have stayed in bed but since I spent money on the motel… Once I got in the vehicle and started driving it all seemed worth it. That is, when I woke up. 🙂

  5. I hope you inspire me to do more getting up early. I shoot every morning while I walk my dog. It’s getting too light now for good photography, though daylight savings has helped.

  6. It would be a dream come true if anyone was inspired by what I wrote or photographed to get out there and be creative. Those early mornings are the best for photography.


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