Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, Canada, is renowned for its beautiful colour. The milky turquoise-blue tint is caused by light bouncing off silt suspended in the water – glacial milk – the result of the grinding action of the glaciers that feed it. ‘On clear days, the light in the morning and in the evening is too weak to capture its beauty,’ says Vladimir. ‘During the day, the light is too harsh.’ The solution, he decided, was to wait for a snowfall to soften the light. But that proved logistically challenging. ‘In spring, the lake vanishes beneath the ice,’ he says. ‘In autumn, it snowed only twice.’ But on one of those occasions, Vladimir was able to get there in time to catch the brief lull just after one snowstorm and before the next. The light was perfect, he says, ‘with the sun setting over the horizon and on the opposite side, a new storm front approaching’.
Moonset at sunrise
As the full moon sunk below the horizon on one side of Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Canada, the morning sun edged its way up at the other. The phenomenon occurs just once a month, and Vladimir was determined to photograph both celestial bodies simultaneously. ‘I chose a fisheye lens because its wide angle meant that I could include much of the sky as well as the dramatic landscape.’ He was lucky with the weather.
Shortly after taking the shot, the clouds thickened and hid the sun for the remainder of its dawning.
Vladimir was preoccupied with a task when the raven landed on the totem pole, and he didn’t think there was any urgency, photographically speaking. He could, of course, see the potential of the scene, in Canada’s Jasper National Park. He knew that the raven had great cultural significance. ‘According to the myths of the indigenous North Americans, the raven is the god that founded the world,’ he says. There was evidence that the totem was regularly used as a perch, and Vladimir assumed that it was one of the raven’s favourite spots. He took one shot.
The raven flew away and never came back while he was there.
The snow herd
At 1,800 metres in the mountains of Canada’s Banff National Park, bighorn sheep are forced to scrape down into the snow with their hooves to reach the grass below. Vladimir watched the hardy herd from the shelter of a clump of trees. At first, he took a series of portraits. But then he realised that the context was missing. By using a wide-angle lens he could show the whole herd in its environment. Vladimir worked out which way the herd was heading and then ‘walked up the slope and sat right in their path. They saw me, but they weren’t bothered,’ he says. ‘They simply walked around me and continued on their way uphill.’
Life in the border zone
The stillness of the red deer stag in the twilight made it almost invisible to motorists speeding down the highway through Jasper National Park, Canada. But its silhouette at the side of the road caught Vladimir’s eye. By the time he had pulled over, this image was already in his mind. ‘I wanted to show how the natural world often exists so close to us, yet is so often unseen,’ he says. Working swiftly, Vladimir positioned his tripod and set the shutter speed low, so that headlights would leave the longest light trail possible, and waited for a truck to thunder by, hoping the deer wouldn’t move. ‘The stag may have been inconspicuous, but I wasn’t. As long as I stayed there, it was no longer invisible. So I left straight away, so as not to betray its presence.’
Vladimir knew something was watching him. Dawn was still hours away, but he could make out the outline of what looked like a small spiky bush. ‘Then, as I approached, I realised that the bush was in fact a beast.’ Vladimir, who was looking for nocturnal animals in Banff National Park, Canada, lay down on the ground and waited for the porcupine to feel at ease again. ‘I had to use a slow shutter speed and maximum aperture opening, along with a narrow flash beam,’ he says. ‘I was lucky that light from the boathouse added warmth to the scene on that cold morning and illustrated just how dark it was.’ After a few minutes, the porcupine stood up on its back legs, took one last look at Vladimir and ambled off towards the wood, melting into the darkness.
Eric Hosking Portfolio Award
Vladimir Medvedev, Russia
Canon EOS 5D Mark II + 16-35mm f2.8 lens; 1/250 sec at f9; ISO 200.