Posted by: kerryl29 | August 15, 2022

The Story Behind the Image: Sun Catcher

On my first trip to the Canadian Rockies, in the fall of 2014, I spent the second half of my time in the region on a photo tour of the eastern front range of the mountains. It was a great experience, which you can read about here, if you’re so inclined.

One chilly morning during the tour, we were photographing sunrise over Abraham Lake from a rocky outcropping, just south of Highway 11 in Alberta. There had been some light snow overnight–heavier at the higher elevations, making for a nice, fresh dusting–and I positioned myself in such a way to, with a wide-angle lens, include some lichen-covered rocks in the foreground, a splash of aspen color in the mid-ground, and the lake, mountain and a nice sunrise sky, in the background.

Abraham Lake at Sunrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

I was quite satisfied with what I was capturing, but there’s an old maxim that suggests that, when photographing in a relatively open locale, you should always look behind you, so…I did. And my jaw dropped. Behind me, to the west, the east-facing side of Elliot Peak, a 9400-plus-foot mountain, was bathed in the first golden light of the day.

I wanted a telephoto portrait, not a wide-angle, because I wanted the sun catcher to dominate the frame, something that wouldn’t happen if the peak was a tiny object in the background. What’s more, I knew I had to hustle. The sunlight was squeezing through a break in the cloud bank, so it was now or never; if I was lucky, this image would be extant for another 60 seconds. I removed the camera that was on my tripod, reached into my camera bag and pulled out my second camera, with the telephoto zoom lens mounted on it, quickly affixed the new rig to the tripod head and tightened it down. Then I swung the tripod around and quickly metered the scene (spot meter on the brightest part of the sunlit peak), adjusted aperture and shutter speed giving myself roughly a stop-and-a-half above the metered reading, fine-tuned the composition and made sure that everything was stable…then tripped the shutter.

Elliot Peak at Sunrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

This case study has come up several times in previous blog entries, discussing the advantages of carrying two cameras, with different lenses mounted on each body, in the field. Certainly, the second image wouldn’t have come to fruition without the second camera/lens immediately at hand. No more than 30 seconds after the Elliot Peak photograph was made, a cloud drifted in front of the sun and that was that.



  1. A beautiful place -great photos

  2. My favourite country, went there last year and they had forest fires earlier this year, so I don’t know how they fared. These are exquisite photos and thanks for helping me I.D. Elliot Peak.

    • Thanks, Jane.

      I wasn’t aware that there had been fires in the area; it pains me to think of that area being beset by fire.

  3. Le moment juste.

  4. Gorgeous pics and great advice.

    • Thanks very much!

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