The Icefields Parkway – Beyond the Glaciers

The Icefields Parkway, in Alberta’s Canadian Rockies, is one of Canada’s national treasures.  We spend a lot of time in the mountains every year and the 232 km road stretching through the heart of The Rockies is always one of our favourite areas. Of course, the Columbia Icefields (the largest icefield in the rocky mountains of North America) is the namesake attraction along the parkway, but beyond the glaciers and ice, this magnificent journey through Banff and Jasper has a lot to offer those in search of beautiful landscapes and wildlife.

As you start driving the Icefields Parkway from the south end near Lake Louise, within 3 km you will come across a little gem called Herbert Lake.  It’s easy to miss because there are no signs for the lake and there isn’t a proper place to pull over with  your vehicle, but it is very much worth making the effort to check out – especially when you have a picture perfect morning with fog hanging over the lake like we had on this day.

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Herbert Lake

Love bears???  The parkway contains  prime bear habitat for both black bears and the mighty grizzly bear.  If you want to see wildlife, early (very early) morning always gives you the best chance.  One morning we came across this massive male grizzly bear eating dandelions along the road.  We watched him for about 15 minutes and he made direct eye contact with us several times (which is why we always photograph from the safety of the vehicle).  Grizzly bears can reach 48 km/h from a standing start and can cover a distance of 100 m (327 feet) in 6 seconds!

This is one of our most memorable encounters because he was a BIG male, the lighting was perfect and the dandelions added a soft, dream-like component!

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Field of Dreams

On a good weather day, your neck will need a massage at day’s end from all the jaw-dropping scenery, so make sure you book yourself into a spa ahead of time!  At an altitude of 1920 metres, and at the headwaters of the Bow River, the scenery around Bow Lake is exquisite.  This particular day was so beautiful we didn’t get past Bow Lake  which is located about half way up the Parkway, as we were in search of a colony of pikas that live in the rocks nearby.

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Bow Lake

The Pika is the smallest member of the rabbit family which lives in rocky areas where the climate is cool.  These guys are really cute and they make a very high pitched “eeeep!” sound – that’s usually your first clue they are in the area.  Getting a good photograph of one of them requires a lot of patience sitting in one spot motionless, waiting for them to get comfortable enough to go about their daily business, like grabbing a mouthful of grass and taking it back to the den!

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Pika

This is merely a small taste of what the Icefields Parkway has to offer and we’ll be sharing more images from this amazing part of the world in the near future.

Thanks for reading!
Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt

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I Did, I Did Taw a Puddy Tat!

The Big Five…

Everyone who goes on safari in Africa lusts for the Big Five – Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinoceros and Cape Buffalo.  These are considered to be the most dangerous animals in Africa and safari goers are eager to check them off their list one-by-one.  Of these, the leopard is the most difficult to see.  Many people go on safari for a week and never see a leopard because of their nocturnal and secretive nature – it ends up being the one blemish on their safari card.    For a photographer, it’s even more difficult because photographing wildlife in low light conditions is very tricky.  Just seeing a leopard is a reason to cheer, just getting “a photo” is a reason to celebrate, and capturing a really good photograph is a reason to do the jiggy dance!

In September of 2015 we visited the Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa – part of the greater Kruger National Park area.  Sabi Sands is known for its higher-than-normal concentration of leopards.  To increase our chances of seeing a leopard a bit more, even if only psychologically, we stayed at a safari lodge called Leopard Hills  :).   We had the cat in the bag, right?

Well, Sabi Sands and Leopard Hills did not disappoint!  We had the most amazing leopard encounters  during our one week stay.  We did a lot of jiggy dancing!  On our very first game drive, we had two incredible leopard encounters.  The first was a mother and the cutest leopard cub you could imagine (watch for a blog post about mom and cub in the near future).

Then we had a second encounter that same evening – even our game driver, Hugo, was shaking his head in disbelief at our luck.   We got a tip about a leopard sighting in the area so we sped off in the Land Rover in search of it.  When we got to the area, the light was already starting to fade, but we scanned the surroundings and eventually spotted the leopard.  She had dragged her recent kill high up in a tree for safekeeping and she had obviously filled her belly to the point of satisfaction.  After a big meal, it’s always a good idea to take a nap, and that’s when we captured this image.  She was up in the tree, close to her kill, taking a rest on a branch.

I Did, I Did Taw a Puddy Tat!

Enjoy!

 

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 Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt

Royal Reflections

Palau, West Pacific

Marcy was in the midst of styling her hair for dinner when Ray came crashing through the door, emphatically yelling, “Marcy, you have to come NOW–this is the most amazing sunset!” Hair half pinned, Marcy threw on the first thing she could find, grabbed her camera and was out the door.

The sky was a kaleidoscope of blazing colour, so we quickly scouted the area and were drawn by the perfect palm trees and reflections in the pool. We set up and started shooting and soon after, other people started to take notice.  We were glad we were the first on the scene because soon the area was crowded with people and getting a “clean” shot without someone in the frame was impossible.

It is, without a doubt, one of the most memorable sunsets we’ve ever experienced…
We had just finished two and a half weeks of intensive diving with Adventures in Scuba (one of Calgary’s best dive shops) and decided to take a few days of R&R at the Palau Pacific Resort before continuing to Chuuk to do some wreck diving. It was a spectacular way to end the first segment of the trip.

An hour later we finally made it to dinner (which was great), but if you ask us what we ate we can’t recall the details.  The sunset was the quinissential “moment in time” we will always remember.

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Royal Reflections (Palau, November 24, 2013)


Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt