This is one of the friendliest places I have ever visited. Everyone is so nice! They smile and say hello and strike up conversations in the supermarket. It’s so laid back, I felt completely at home and happy there. I am very much a Londoner and have always maintained that I don’t think I’d want to live anywhere but here in London – but, I could definitely live in Canada (if it was closer to home – haha!) It just seems like everyone is in such a good place. And while I’m learning that the ups and downs of life are very much still the ups and downs of life even when you’re travelling and seeing the world, while I was in Canada it felt like the roller-coaster that is life, is that much more manageable. Being on sabbatical leave from work might have had something to do with it (!) but I do get the feeling that having such a strong sense of community and togetherness gives people in Canada a much happier and balanced lifestyle, and an ability to cope with the ups and downs with a greater sense of trust that if things aren’t great, they’ll get better. Everyone I met seemed so well rounded and happy go lucky, not something you encounter very often in the fast paced and hectic lifestyle in London.
I felt like I was living a childhood dream when I went for a bike ride around some residential areas in Calgary – all that was missing was a batch of newspapers that I could fling onto people’s front ‘yards’. Oh joy, joy , joy! I really was like a giddy little kid. And the houses! Man oh man! SO nice! Each and every house was unique and individual and quirky in its own little way. They had so much character, and it was amazing to see a street with so much variety, some houses that looked more like cosy little cabins and other’s that were huge, 7 or 8 bedroom houses. There were kids playing on bikes, I can’t remember the last time I saw that where I live (at least not without adult supervision!) And people just hanging around on their front porches, having a chat, enjoying the day. This is what I mean by a strong sense of community. I’ve just started to read The Little book of Lykke, I’m not far into it – but he talks a lot about togetherness being the key to happiness. I definitely felt that energy during my time in Canada. Sitting out on a front porch just invites people to say hello and gives a sense of openness. In London we don’t all have the luxury of having a front garden or porch, and those of us who do don’t tend to sit in it, but it’s such a lovely thing and it makes the each little area feel very much like a community.
One of my favourite moments from the trip was meeting a lovely Canadian man on the bus. He helped keep my luggage from rolling away and spoke with the most wonderful Canadian accent! (I hope I don’t offend any Canadians when I say…it’s a bit like the accent in Fargo, with the ‘Oh yahs’ and every sentence ending in ‘ay or ‘now’…”what’s that now?” “that’s great ‘ay” . I realise they are taking the mick a bit in Fargo, but I personally love it!). He was from a small village up in the mountains. He told the story of how he picked apples for two years to earn enough money to get to the city and that life was pretty good now. I was worried that my luggage kept knocking into his legs and he told me he moved pianos all day so I need not worry about him injuring himself, “ oh now, don’t ‘ay”. Such a lovely man, so earnest. I seldom meet people who seem so genuine, but it seemed to be part of the character of all the Canadians I had the pleasure of speaking to.
After happily spending two days wandering around Calgary I met with the Tatra Photography team to head up to Banff National Park.
We packed so much in to our week in the Rockies, it was amazing! The weather wasn’t the best for photography, but part of the fun was waiting for this cloud to shift that way and reveal the mountains or the mist to clear, or that tiny ray of sunlight to break through the clouds and produce 20 seconds of magnificent light! It felt like a real photography adventure and I felt super committed heading out at the break of dawn every day, in the freezing cold, wearing so many layers I felt like the Michelin man! We’d make our way (in the dark) out to the perfect photography locations in Banff before anyone else was awake; giving us a chance to capture these stunning locations without tourists in our shots. Getting there, picking a vantage point, setting up the tripod and then waiting. Brilliant!
Each location was different and special, I didn’t have the pleasure of going for long hikes which I would have loved and wish I’d set some time aside for, but waiting for a change in weather or for first light to appear meant we were at each location for a good 2-3 hours, so it was so nice to just soak in the atmosphere or simply revel in the majesty of these magnificent mountains (once the camera was set up of course).
Travelling with a view of taking photographs has really helped me to be in the moment and see more, REALLY take in the surroundings and breathe. If I close my eyes now, I can still remember each location, and almost feel the cold wind on my face too. This is not something I can often do, recall so distinctly the places that I’ve visited – it’s a real gem and I cherish having such a strong memory of those places.
To wake up and be somewhere amazing for every sunrise and be in a beautiful location to witness every sunset is a most wonderful thing - another other bonus of travelling with photography as a focus. Admittedly there were a number of non-sunrises and non-sunsets because the clouds just didn’t shift, but it was sheer joy when they did!
Tatra were so incredible with ‘plan b’ (and a big thank you to Justin Minns who I learnt so much from!) if it was raining in one location, or snowing too heavily en-route to where we wanted to go (!), off we went to somewhere less hazardous or where it wasn’t raining; which is something so fantastic about being in the mountains, mountain weather being so changeable ‘n’ all. A little bit of difference in altitude and you have different weather, or even if you just wait it out a little bit – chances are, that sun will break through the clouds. Patience…that’s the key to landscape photography…a little bit of patience really and truly does go a long, long way! You might wait 2 hours for 20 seconds of sun…but then it’s magic!
It’s hard to say which location I loved the most. From a photographers perspective, it probably has to be Morraine Lake – we visited twice and the second time we were given the gift of seeing first snowfall, it’s a blessing to see such a thing of beauty, one of my favourite photos from the trip, hands down. I did feel like I was losing my toes to frostbite, but gotta get that shot!
I also loved Lake Louise, we arrived in the dark and my night vision is seriously bad, so I really couldn’t see much of anything anyway. When it started to get a little lighter, the lake slowly appeared before my eyes, but it was still incredibly misty so there were no mountains to be seen. Slowly but surely the fog faded to reveal the expanse of the lake and the mountains surrounding it – magnificent! It rained for quite some time when we arrived but we were rewarded for our patience by a spot of sunshine. I liked how tranquil it felt there, in fact I put my camera away and just watched the world go by at Lake Louise. Lovely.
Peyto Lake is simply incredible for it’s unreal turquoise colour, the second time we visited we went a little higher up and it was a misty morning – I did have a moment of just …wow… look where I am, I felt very, very lucky. That early in the morning we had the place to ourselves which made it feel that much more like I was out in the wilderness doing something super adventurous!
Two Jacks Lake made me realise I’d quite like to be doing this trip with a camper van, there were a few caravans parked around the lake, people were just stepping out with their morning coffees to watch the sunrise….how delightful. And what a sunrise! The dreamy clouds and pink and blue sky were perfectly reflected in this most still lake - like a mirror, magical.
I fell in love with Canada, it’s people, the lifestyle, the mountains. I expected to love it, but it completely surpassed my expectations of how much. Can’t wait to re-visit!