When Photography Becomes About More Than Taking Photos

Banff, mountains, landscape, rockys, fog, foggy, river, forest, trees, spirituality, life, death, Dan Jurak, Alberta,

I’ve been making autumn trips for pictures to Jasper and Banff for about fifteen years.

Autumn is usually a great time to get out to the mountains. The roads are less busy. The tourist spots less populated and the weather is more unpredictable.

I’ve had years where there was not a cloud to be seen and years where it rained every day. Whatever the weather it is always interesting.

When I visit the parks I usually have a rough idea of what I want to see and do but keep an open mind. The light and the weather has always been my guide.

On Instagram I’ve seen a couple of falls that I’ve never had luck with. It seemed that I was always in the wrong spot. With an idea in mind of what I wanted to do I set out to both Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta falls. Surprisingly there were summer like crowds at both falls. I had never seen so many people in Jasper in mid September.

Walking around both falls it dawned upon me. The reason that I had never gotten photos like I had seen was for a very dangerous reason. In both cases the photos were taken on the OTHER side of the protective fences.

It happens every year. People who figure that it will never happen to them ignore the danger signs, hop the fence and inadvertently slip, falling down a few dozen meters into water that can best be described as thrashing and churning, rag dolling their bodies until days later they are found at the bottom of the falls.

No picture that I will ever take is worth risking life and limb to get it. I left the falls shaking my head in disbelief because I had not seen one or two but dozens of photos taken from these spots.

My first night in the park I arrived at Bow Lake around sunset. The clouds were very low. So low and dark that not a trace of evening colour could be seen in the skies. All alone at this popular spot it started to snow and snow heavily. The snow was more like mini hail than the big fluffy flakes that are usually seen this time of the year.

The plan was to sleep in the parking lot in the back of my vehicle and catch the first rays as they hit Crowfoot Mountain. It felt like I never slept at all that night and by 6:00 a.m. I decided to get dressed and see what it was like. My vehicle was covered with frost and ice. The stars were overhead with just the beginning of light in the east.

Clear skies and one tiny cloud over the lake. I couldn’t see a picture there and decided to drive away hoping that somewhere else would be suitable before sunrise.

Forty minutes later and my heart skipped a beat as I saw a huge wall of fog ahead of me. For the next two and a half hours the only thing that existed in my world was the magic I was witness to.

Everywhere I looked I could see a photo. I shot and shot and shot some more got in my vehicle for ten minutes, got out and shot again.

While shooting nothing else exists. It is being immersed in a special place. If there is a higher power and I am certain of it, that power was smiling on me this day. At times I would look up and see fresh snow covered peaks peaking out of the fog. They would play a game of hide and seek. There was never any panic or worry about not getting my image, they kept showing themselves to me.

By the time the morning light had ended I felt like I was walking on air and not touching the earth. It’s funny about coincidences because a few days earlier I had been listening to a podcast. The guest of the show was a psychic and one of the things she had said was a sign that you know that a loved one is contacting you is when they instantly pop into your head. My father who died when I was six years old was an outdoorsman and an avid photographer and I don’t know why but he immediately came to mind. Maybe because one of his favourite places to get away was around Nordegg where I was driving. Many of my fondest outdoor memories happened under the stars watching for meteorites or satellites warmed by the campfire before falling asleep.

Real or imagined it was a comforting thought that some fifty years after his death my father might be with me on my journeys. Watching over me like a dad does for his son.

Happy shooting,



~ by Dan Jurak on September 23, 2018.

4 Responses to “When Photography Becomes About More Than Taking Photos”

  1. Crazy weather out there, beautiful fog photo and thanks for sharing that moment that you shared with your father-very special.

  2. Thank you Jane. It was a beautiful morning and thinking of dad being with me only made it better.


  3. Beautiful image but compelling read….. It’s a shame how some people think danger signs are just a little obstacle for them..
    On the other hand, I’ve always wanted go see those beautiful landscapes for myself……

  4. Thank you Pammy.
    Every year the parks rescue people pull bodies from beneath Athabasca and Sunwapta Falls.

    A sad way to end a life for something so fleeting as a photo.


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