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Rolf Hicker Photography
Animal * Nature * Travel Photography

Animal Elk Hidden In Winter Mountain Scenery

Animals in their natural surroundings hidden in the beautiful winter mountain scenery landscape of Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta, Canada.

Rocky Mountains Nature Winter Scenery Reflections Waterton Lakes National Park

Check out the extra large version of this picture.

Today we received a gallery wrap print which we bought for ourselves of one of my favourite animal/scenery pictures - the hidden elk in Waterton Lakes National Park (also known as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park) in southern Alberta, Canada. I was almost speechless when we unpacked the big box - stunned by how beautiful it looks on a 20x30 inch canvas wrap.

When you mostly look at your own pictures on a computer, thousands of pictures, day after day, it often becomes very difficult to select the "right ones", right for what anyway? This is always the big question I have to ask myself. Many pictures are good for my stock library but they don't really look that great on a nice print or a canvas, then there are some pictures which stand out to me when I'm thinking about them as a wall display. But even when you can imagine how it may look like on the wall, you never know really till you actually see it.

I pre-screen most of my art which goes into galleries or exhibitions or any other fine art use. I had made up some canvases which I bet before it would be the most outstanding picture ever, but then after receiving the canvas wrap I was not really that happy with it. It doesn't happen a lot, but what I'm trying to say is that the "real thing" always looks different (...yes of course I work color calibrated...).

But with this picture now I found a new favourite for our own house (which is kind of a gallery for our guests as well) - a hiding elk in the beautiful winter mountain scenery of Waterton Lakes National Park. Honestly, the shot was not planned at all and we rather had a "very bad photo day". We came that day all the way from the Okanagan where we spend the last 10 days on assignment to photograph wineries and fall colors. The weather sucked, a lot, and after we had most of the shots we needed to get we decided to get out of the nasty weather and drove west towards the Rocky Mountains. It hadbeen a nightmare drive, with heavy rain and then major snow as soon as we hit the Rockies.

hidden elk animalFortunately we knew Waterton Lakes National Park very well so we knew pretty much where to go for our pictures. This came very handy because we got so much delayed on the road that we almost the missed light in Waterton. We rushed big time but we also had to be careful as we were not really prepared for winter yet. When we arrived at the park entrance after fighting with tons of snow on the road and high winds we were very disappointed as the weather had completely closed up. Only 60 min. left till sunset made our day not much brighter at that point.

That is by the way probably one of the biggest challenges for an outdoor, nature and travel photographer - the elements which can't be controlled (that's why I believe studio work is easier, no travelling AND controlled environment). We needed to make a decision and I figured IF the weather ever will open up then probably more on the entrance part of the park because it is a bit more open and clouds can't get stuck that easy right there - ok, it was a very long shot with a lot of wishful thinking.

But this time it "paid" off for making a decision and to stick with it. I have seen colleagues already packing up for the day, that's how dark, grey, snowy and nasty it was. We actually had lots of new, fresh snow - it was the first snow of the season so it was still a bit wet, very sticky, not as fine as you see here in the winter months.

I decided for a photo spot which I visited often before but never had a lot of luck with the weather. A spot which I always wanted to use for a

photograph of beautiful mountain reflections of the Rocky Mountains. There was hardly any wind so I said "well, not much we can loose today, lets do all or nothing, in case it opens up". So we went to the spot, set up tripods and cameras, got all ready and waited, and waited...and waited for maybe a crack in the clouds. I decided to shoot with the light in my back, in case somebody will switch on the light switch. Just before sunset time it finally opened up a bit, and a bit more and we got really excited that we may be just lucky today. The reflections on Kinght's Lake were perfect, Mount Vimy was suddenly out and the sun just started to catch the clouds from underneath. I knew we won't have a lot of time to shot so I started doing some "safety shots" better a not perfect shot then none. The light was getting quite intense and we finally got our photo rush. The scenery and mountains now are amazing - lit up and the reflections were hardly interrupted - wauhhh - we were excited after a long day driving.

And then something happened which we won't forget, right into the "perfect winter mountain scenery shot" walked an Elk, right at the spot where the lake runs into the river. Of course my first thought was "get the big telephoto out"...but I stopped getting it out almost immediately. it was very far to shot, we still had the odd snow flake in the air and I simply thought it would not work with a big telephoto, instead I made a instant decision to show the animal in its natural environment, instead of another close up of an elk. I'm very happy today that I made this decision instantly, a couple minutes later the clouds closed up again and the whole show was over...well, at least for the photographer. It started to snow a bit again and the light was gone. We were so in awe with the scene that we just hung out for a bit, something we rarely do when on shoot, we actually sat down in the snow and just enjoyed this incredible majestic mountain scenery. First time we sat down in 10 days to finally enjoy what we love most - doing our job and to be able to enjoy those amazing moments (at least once a while, most times we never would have a minute to sit down).

We were rewarded big time this evening, the one elk we photographed was just the beginning of a whole herd which crossed the lake a bit later - no light left for outstanding photos but it was still amazing to see!

elk herd crossing river

Puhhh, got quit long for a blog, but I figured I need to tell the whole story, not just a "fly by blog post". Is it too long for you? Do you like it? Please let me know so I can improve my blogging skills! Leave a comment!

Blogs in this series:
Vineyards Wineries & Pumpkins in Okanagan Valley British Columbia
Road trip from Okanagan via Monashee Provincial Park to Central Kootenay
Winter wonderland in Waterton lakes National Park, southern Alberta
Animal elk hidden in winter mountain scenery
Scenic winter landscape mountains waterfall & wildlife

Author: Rolf Hicker - 2010-07-28
last blog: Freelance animal nature and travel photographer
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