Design Your Own Photo Retreat

A couple times a year I get together with another photographer and we go on a photo retreat. We plan a few things, and make some goals, but we leave lots of room for happy accidents too.

It’s a great way to just have fun taking photos, and dare to do things a bit differently than you usually do – you know – that peer pressure thing.

Like a photo walk, a photo retreat is a great way to use photography for self-care.

During my last retreat, I started a discussion and posted photos on ImageMaven’s facebook page about my experiences and the benefits of doing a retreat. That discussion was one of the liveliest times I’ve had on my facebook page.

Two photographers, Laurie and Jackie, were inspired by that discussion and took up the challenge to plan and do their own photo retreat. They came back to the Facebook page to report their success and share their photos.

I asked them to take it a step further and write about their photo retreat for my blog, and I’m thrilled to say, they agreed!

Here is what each of them wrote

Laurie headshot

The photo retreat from Laurie’s perspective

We followed the lead of ImageMaven, and from February 4-6 went on a three day photo retreat to Canmore, Banff and Kananaskis. My goal was to give my new Panasonic FZ1000 a good work out. We stayed at a wonderful hotel in Canmore.

Our first project was to work together to get some photos of the gas bubbles at  Mt Lorette Ponds.  We crawled on our bellies, under a boardwalk, and used a flashlight and a silver and gold reflector to get some wonderfully unique images of the gas bubbles!

Lorette Ponds

Lorette Ponds, Kananaskis

Gas bubbles under the ice

Gas bubbles under the ice

Next we moved  along Hwy 40 at O’Shaughnesey Falls where we spent a good amount of time photographing the ice and water.  It was cloudy and cool but we captured some great shots.

O'Shaughnesey Falls

O’Shaughnesey Falls

From there we travelled to Banff and along the way came across a large herd of elk.  Fortunately for us, they were in a place along the highway where we could safely pull over and photograph them from behind the wildlife fence.

Elk in Banff

Elk in Banff

We continued onward and walked the boardwalk at the Cave and Basin and then we completed the day’s outings at Bow Falls before heading to our hotel where we enjoyed a very tasty dinner.

Our planned trip to Lake Louise didn’t happen due to icy road condition, so instead we walked main street in Banff and shopped before heading back to Canmore.  Despite the snow we walked along the Bow River, Policeman’s Creek and the surrounding area.  We found Mallard ducks in the creeks and enjoyed watching and photographing them.

Photo of Mallard ducks in Canmore

Mallards in Canmore

I also wanted to get a few good photos of the ravens in Canmore, which I accomplished.

Raven in Canmore

Raven in Canmore

As we made our way home to Calgary, we were treated to one of the best hoar frost scenes on Sibbald Road, which was a perfect way to end our first and fabulous Photo Retreat.  We can’t wait to do another one and are already planning for the summer.

Laurie’s website is:

jackie's headshot

Jackie’s thoughts and photos

Two friends, in love with nature and wildlife decide to take a three day winter photography retreat . . . to see what we could see!

The mountains seemed a logical place to go so we booked a lovely room in Canmore at the Quality Resort Chateau Canmore . . . it was clean, friendly, inexpensive and boasted a mountain view, a fireplace, microwave and fridge as well as a restaurant in the lobby.

Our first stop was the lovely Mount Lorette Ponds in Kananaskis where we wanted to further study the stacked, methane ice bubble formations we had seen there weeks before.  We came armed with a whisk broom, flashlight and a golden light reflector . . . time to try some new techniques!   Normally the bubbles escape and vanish in the atmosphere but in winter they become trapped under the ice and form exquisite, layered bubble formations.  The methane forming the bubbles is created when bacteria decomposes organic matter in the water.

Before leaving Kananaskis, we made a stop at O’Shaughnessy Falls,  a lovely man made falls across from Barrier Lake.  I love waterfalls in winter, water is still flowing buts there’s lots of ice cool ice formations and color contrasts with mossy rocks and boulders, it was so beautiful, it was hard to leave but Banff National Park awaited us.

Photo of waterfall

O’Shaughnessy Falls in February

We were thrilled to find a huge herd of elk resting and eating very close to the highway.  They were behind the huge fence that is erected throughout Banff National Park to keep both visitors and wildlife safe.  We were able to get very close for photographs by walking right up to the fence while barely disturbing them.  The largest buck stood guard the entire time while the winter babies lay comfortable in the sun and the females fed on winter grasses.  They seemed very content.  What an awesome sight to be so close to these grand, majestic animals!

Elk Herd in Banff

Elk Herd in Banff

Our next point of interest in Banff was The Cave and Basin where we walked the Marsh Loop.  Runoff from the sulphur hot springs makes the marshland surrounding the Cave & Basin hospitable for plants and animals to live and flourish during the cold winter months.  I loved the stark contrasts between brilliant white snow and green plants and mosses growing happily in the warm sulphury waters.  Lots of tiny little fish were swimming about, an amazing sight in February.

Banff - Cave and Basin - Marsh Loop

Banff – Cave & Basin – Marsh Loop

Banff Cave and Basin

Banff Cave and Basin

We awakened to day two of our adventure to low cloud and snow so we changed our game plan of travelling the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise instead to exploring the main streets of Downtown Banff in a light snowfall.  A little shopping and exploring new stores can be quite interesting too and it’s always nice to bring home souvenirs.

We headed back to Canmore to look for open water, hoping to find some Mallards and Dippers.  We did find some lovely Mallards all in breeding plumage and all paired up ready for spring mating rituals.  They were especially beautiful with the newly falling snow flakes landing on their backs and pond water beading on their exquisite feathers.

We got an email tip about some lovely Pine Grosbeaks that were seen in Harvey Heights just the day before so armed with our iPhone Google map we drove over and were not disappointed.  We found a lovely mixed flock of males and females happily munching at a feeding station and also a Native Red Squirrel who was determined to get his fair share!

Pine Grosbeaks - Male and Female

Pine Grosbeaks – Male and Female

If you are looking to photograph ravens, the town of Canmore is the place to be. Visit the fast food outlets and you will be sure to find them.

Our adventure ended by finding stunning hoar frost at the entrance to Sibbald Trail, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing great gusts of unpacked snow, whirling it into the air, an awesome way to finish the day and wind our way home, feeling relaxed and refreshed.

Sibbald Flats road

Hoar Frost – White tail Doe – Sibbald Trail

To see more of Jackie’s photos from this retreat, check out her Flickr page

We hope you are inspired to create and plan your own photo retreat!

If you have any questions for Laurie or Jackie about their photo retreat, please ask them below.

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