Alison Lapczuk Photography
My White Whale – A Landscape Photographer’s Perspective
Some days, I swear the universe is totally on my side.
Things that you planned fall through... and an unexpected and AWESOME experience takes it’s place…
My in-laws (Nana & Papa) came from Ontario to spend Easter with us. We decided to take a day trip out to the mountains. We had just left Johnston Canyon early (too icy!) and were heading west on the 1A towards Lake Louise. This prompted my usual story of hopes dashed, as I told them about my ‘white whale’. The ‘white whale’ I am referring to is capturing a photograph of an eastbound train at Morant’s Curve.
See, there’s an iconic turn in the road along the 1A, known as Morant’s Curve. It’s named after Nicholas Morant, a prolific and famous photographer who worked for many years for the Canadian Pacific Railway. This particular curve along the tracks was a favourite spot of his. Looking westward down the tracks, you get beautiful mountain peaks in the distance and an emerald green river that flows alongside the tracks. Beautiful fir trees all around. The train also comes in on an eye-pleasing S-curve. It’s a photographer’s delight and most landscape photographers in these parts will know exactly what I’m talking about.
The simple story that I shared with my in-laws in the car that day is that I have ventured many times to this very spot in hopes of catching a train coming through. The reason this is so hard is because the trains coming through are freight trains and do not work on a schedule the same way as passenger trains. You would also have no idea whether you might catch a westbound train (which is good, but not nearly as good as an eastbound train). I have spent hours there without any luck whatsoever. I just figured it would likely be years before I got my shot.
Then, from the back of the van, Papa says, “Hey, the train’s right next to us! I think it’s your day, Allie!”.
I will admit that there was a momentary tinge of disappointment, since the train was unfortunately travelling the wrong way for the shot that I wanted. But, seriously, I still could not believe my luck! We sped up and easily arrived at Morant’s Curve before the train. I encouraged a fellow photographer to stick around for the train (he had already been waiting there for half an hour).
And so we waited. We were looking eastward for that train that we knew was down the tracks and headed our way.
Look! A Bald Eagle!
We had figured that it should take between 5 and 20 minutes for that train to reach our spot. But we had already been waiting for 30-40 minutes. It took such a long time that my husband went back down the road to see what had happened with that train.
Papa and I stayed and were speculating about what could have happened. As I gazed eastward, expectantly looking for the train, Papa shouted, “I know why it’s not coming from that way, BECAUSE IT’S COMING FROM THAT WAY!!!”.
I could hardly believe my eyes, as I looked westward to where Papa was frantically pointing. There was my train! My perfect, EASTBOUND train! I was shaking, I was so excited! I carefully composed the frame and got the shots I needed and then jumped up and down, high-fiving and laughing with Papa. What a day!
Here's the shot I wanted - and got! YAAAAS!
I had no intention of doing any landscape photography that day. I had my camera with me because I wanted to document our time with family in the mountains. You never know what life will serve up, but it’s good to be ready!
So whatever goal you set for yourself, who knows, maybe you’re closer to reaching it than you thought. With a goal in mind and people who support you, it’s entirely possible.
PS: The people who made this possible and who support me so graciously, are: Nana, Papa, Brandon, Eliott & Sam. They all patiently waited for me, so that I could get this. This rare photograph was a team effort!
A happy team!!!!
Alison Lapczuk is a Calgary-based family documentary photographer. She is accredited with the Professional Photographers of Canada in Child Study and Fine Art Photography.