We have been planning to visit Canadian Rockies for years. For some reason we had to delay it multiple times. After all the wait and frustration, we finally got our tickets.
As a photographer, I always do my best while planning. I check possible photo locations, weather conditions, accomodation etc. And I know from experince that all these efforts does not always mean everything will go smoothly or as planned.
When our trip was getting closer, wild fires in Canada was also getting worse. I was checking all news websites, Instagram and other sources for the conditions. We got desperate at some point. Air quality was pretty bad. We were feeling sad for all those beautiful forests getting burned and also a possible closure that could happen anytime at the Parks we were planning to visit. This summer was one of the worst fire seasons.
Some kind of magic happened right before we left San Francisco. Big fires were over and it rained in Banff. We were welcomed with some clear skies and some not so bad light.
Preparation and Gear
My biggest plan was to travel light this time. I was super excited to see Banff, Jasper and Yoho. I wanted to be free and not worry about gear too much. At some point, I even considered travelling with my iPhone and a compact camera. I immediately gave up on that idea of course. I had to bring at least one professional camera and a good lens to capture the beautiful landscape.
My final decision came down to one pro camera body, some light lenses and a compact backup camera. I recently bought a Sony A7iii and never had a chance to even try it out. This was the perfect oppurtunity.
The biggest question was, “which lenses should I bring with me?”
My lens options were, Sony 24-105 f4, Sony 12-24mm f4, Sony 28mm f2, Sony 50mm f1.8, Sony 28-70 f3.5-5.6 and SLR Magic 35mm f1.4.
My first choice was Sony 12-24mm f4. I directly mounted it on my camera. There was no question about if I would bring it or not. It was coming to Canada with me!
Second lens was 28mm f2 because of its lightweight and low aperture. I love using it for some dramatic video scenes.
3rd lens I was going to take with me was the hardest choice. 24-105mm is a very heavy lens. I used it only 2 times since I bought it and never felt like it was the right lens for me. While I was deciding what to bring, I put 24-105 f4 on Craigslist and sold it. Thankfully another passionate photographer got it. I am pretty sure he is having more fun than I was having.
I was in between 50mm and the kit lens for a while. I thought it would be the best to have a versatile zoom lens instead of a prime as my 3rd lens. I knew there would be many telephoto options with all the glorious peaks especially during Icefileds Parkway drive.
I also didn’t want to go with only one camera. I had some other full frame Sony bodies but It would make my bag heavier. I also have Olympus, Canon and Fuji cameras but I didn’t want to have multiple brands with me. I wanted to keep everything minimal. I decided to take Sony RX100VI. It is one of the best compact cameras out there. RX100 VI has a 200mm zoom lens! It could come in handy in some situations.
Another big decision was about video stabilization. I have the Zhiyun Crane. It makes all the difference in videos. I love using it but it is a bulky piece of gear. I really wasn’t in the mood to make a crazy video from this trip. I wanted to enjoy more and capture less this time. So I left the gimbal at home. I kind of regret this decision. I could bring it with me and use it in some scenarios.
I brought 2 tripods with me. MeFoto Backacker and a Manfrotto pixi. They are very small and lightweight tripods.
Didn’t even consider bringing a drone because they are not allowed pretty much anywhere in Canada.
So, my final kit was consisting of these items:
Main Camera: Sony A7iii
Lenses: Sony 12-24mm f4, Sony 28mm f2, Sony 28-70mm f3.5-5.6 (Kit Lens)
Backup Camera: Sony RX100VI
Tripods: MeFoto Backpacker, Manfrotto Pixi
I have to admit, I have never seen a more picturesque area than Canadian Rockies. It was an overwhelming experience from start to finish. We traveled a lot in US recently. We have had some amazing photography trips. As a photographer who is in love with California, Utah and Oregon, I can clearly say this was a different kind of experience. The density of amazing locations is too much to handle. Usually, when we get to a National Park, we have 4-5 amazing locations to shoot and most of the time we have to hike or drive for hours to get to those locations. Being able to park our car and walk couple steps to the most amazing lakes was something we didn’t expect.
One week was not enough and I think even one year wouldn’t be enough for me. At some locations we just sat down for hours speechless, staring at the beautiful colors. We discovered some shades of blue that we have never seen before. We also loved the people and food in all cities we visited. Coffee and Beer was 10/10 everywhere we tried. One week in the Rockies passed like a second and here I am checking out my photos at home drinking coffee from my cup Aybuke bought from Canada for me.
Photographing The Canadian Rockies
First of all, this was my least technical photography adventure. I was %90 a tourist and maybe %10 photographer during the trip. I used the auto mode on my camera for the first time in years! I shoot everything manual and auto mode is something very unsual for me.
Landscapes were so beaufiful that I really didn’t need to change any setting most of the time. I mean Sony A7iii is a pretty amazing camera. Auto Exporuse settings are mostly very close to how I would shoot anyways.
Another big change for me was the use of my tripods. I think I used a tripod 1 or 2 times in the whole trip! If you have been following me from Instagram or Youtube you might already know that %90 of my pictures are shot in ISO 100. I only use higher ISO’s for night time photography. This time it was different. I set my highest iso to 2000 and shot in Auto ISO for the first time ever! A7iii’s sensor is probably the best sensor I have ever used. It handles low light like a champ. I was free as a bird. No tripods, no gimbals.
I probably used Sony 12-24mm f4 more than any other lens. Rest was shot with the kit lens. I used 28mm f2 only for 5 mins for a video scene and I am really not sure if I captured anything with it. I remember putting the lens on but I might have just checked the field of view and put it back to my camera bag.
The images I am adding to this blog are only a small part of many images I shot. We almost never had perfect light at any sunrise or sunset. Still, I am pretty happy with my results. Also not bringing a heavy telephoto lens was a good idea. It wouldn’t make any difference. I didn’t see any good compositions longer than 70mm’s.
As a side note, I did not use RX100 VI even once. It was in my camera bag and never left it.
What Would I Change?
It was a brave decision to sell the 24-105mm f4 and get the kit lens instead. I can clearly see some bad results coming from the kit lens on my computer screen. There are some extreme soft corners and some weird softness in images. I am not sure if it was caused by the polarizer or maybe I got too exited and shaked the camera while shooting at lower shutter speeds or maybe it was just a bad copy. Overall, I wouldn’t go back to Canada with the kit lens. I would probably bring the Sony 50mm f1.8 instead. I love that lens and I am sure it is sharper than the kit lens at f2.8.
I made a quick recap video from some highlights of the trip. I shot everything handheld. It was very difficult to do the Ninja walk at some places but I still managed to get some smooth seconds of footage. They are a mix of 60fps and 120fps HD clips. I did not shoot anything in 4K. Also first part of the trip was shot on S-Log 3 and second part was S-Log 2. It wasn’t a planned decision. I forgot the camera on S-Log 3 which is very hard to grade in my opinion. I immediately went back to S-Log 2 as soon as I realized I was shooting S-log 3. I used Da Vinci Resolve for everything.
Song by Novo Amor, Anchor. We have been listening to him a lot on the road. Pretty inspiring and cinematic in my opinion.
It was one of the greatest trips of our life. I had the oppurtunity to have some amazing time with my girlfriend Aybuke and also capture some of these moments. I feel excited for everything ahead of us waiting to be experienced. Thank you for everything Canada! We will be back.
Thank you for reading!
MY CAMERA GEAR
You can find out more about all the gear I use on this link.