Top Ten of 2016: Two Jack Lake

Number 1: Sunrise at Two Jack Lake

After sunrise on the hike back to the campsite. This is probably my favorite photo. 
The view from my tent, just a few meters away from the lake. 

By far, the most awesome campground I’ve ever stayed at is Two Jack Lakeside in Banff National Park. It was a small campground with only two sites actually on the lake that could accommodate an RV (and I use the term RV very loosely when referring to my teardrop camper!) I was able to get one of them for four nights last summer, and it was awesome. Waking up only a few feet away from a crystal clear lake and seeing the iconic Mount Rundle in the distance was just the tip of the iceberg!





On our third morning there, my dad and I woke up at about 4:30 am and hiked a couple of miles to the far side of Two Jack Lake for the perfect view of Mount Rundle. When I think of Banff, this mountain is the one that I picture. It towers over the Banff townsite, and when framed behind a pristine reflection in Two Jack Lake, it’s even more perfect.


We watched the sun rise for quite some time, seeing the pink sky overtake the top of the mountain with a soft mist on the cool water, and a dusting of clouds in the sky. I found so many great vantage points of the lake, and am really happy with the photos I took that morning.


The water isn’t turquoise, and there weren’t lightning strikes or rainbows like some of my other photographs, but it was a fantastic morning. I’ve traveled to so many incredible places, but Banff will continue to be my very favorite place on earth. I’ve visited three times, but see at least that many more visits in my future.

The color of first light is breathtaking. I love the Canadian Rockies! Photo – J. Propst

Top Ten in 2016: Mormon Row and the Grand Tetons

Number 2: Sunrise at Mormon Row

I think this is my favorite shot. But really, all of them are awesome. Photo – J. Propst

The Grand Tetons will forever be one of my favorite mountain ranges. And watching them wake up to a beautiful sunrise one September morning was pretty amazing.  My dad and I left well before sunrise and walked through a wet field of sagebrush to find the perfect spot to photograph the sunrise. I wanted to find the perfect composition and couldn’t decide between a large shot or more zoomed in image, and did a bit of both.


Not as picturesque as the barn, but fun. I’d turn the door around to the other side if it was my outhouse!


The night before sunrise, I shot a few pictures in a brief riain storm. The color wasn’t great with the misty clouds, but it was still fun to see the changing light as the sun began to set. I even got a couple of shots with less serious foregrounds, like an outhouse that if it was facing the other way, would have made my top ten of most scenic places to take a poop. (That’s a top ten list I probably won’t ever post, but I do have a pretty good one started!) On the way back to the campsite the night before, I had to stop for a herd of bison to cross the road. Man, those guys are so incredible!

A long exposure before the sun rose. Photo – J. Propst

The thing about watching the sunrise over the Tetons is every minute is different, and the process takes quite some time. First, the sky turned pink. Then the very tips of the mountains lit up, and slowly, the light moved down the face of the Tetons, finally beginning to creep across the flat sagebrush covered prairie. Finally, the face of the barn that was in the foreground of my photograph and the whole scene was brilliant with light and color.

Top Ten of 2016: Shoshone Point

Number 3: Shoshone Point sunset


I’d read mention of a place called Shoshone Point at the Grand Canyon in a photography blog online. It included super vague directions of where to park and how far to hike down an unmarked path, and that was enough to intrigue me. After probably 20-30 trips to the Canyon in my lifetime, it’s one of the only places I’ve never been before.


It was so much better than I expected.  We hiked about a mile and found a hidden away picnic pavilion, maintained pit toilets and of course, a relatively private view of the Grand Canyon.


Being virtually alone on the edge of the Grand Canyon at sunset was pretty special. No loud tourists ruining my peace and quiet. No screaming children. Just me, a friend, a couple of craft beers and the changing colors and dancing light of sunset on the walls of the Grand Canyon.


The thing about the National Parks in summer is it can be hard to find solitude, and on this night, we did, and it was wonderful.  I dream of going back there, and I’m sure I will one day.




Top 10 of 2016: Ukraine

Saint Sophia in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo – J. Propst

Number 4: Ukraine

IMG_5305.jpgI guess I’m cheating including a trip that didn’t involve my teardrop camper, but there was no way to take Louise when I was hired to travel to Ukraine with Complexions Contemporary Ballet a few weeks ago.


The job offer was quite out of the blue, but an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. I got to work in my favorite of all theatrical roles, as a lighting supervisor for a ballet company, and see a part of the world I never before would have dreamed of seeing.


Craft beer selection at Kanapa in Kyiv. It was FANTASTIC. 52 RAH = about $2 American


Nettle Beer at Kanapa. It was fantastic, and craft brewed in house.

The Ukraine was a truly incredible experience. It was the farthest east I’d ever been in Europe, and culturally different than any of my previous travels. I loved learning about the culture. I loved experiencing the craft beer and farm to table style meals I had. The work – it was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my 20 year theater career, but it was so rewarding. The work I helped facilitate was truly fantastic, and I’m proud I was a part of it…. The company of dancers, production crew, choreographers and ballet mistress are the most incredible artists I’ve ever gotten to work with. I am truly honored I got to be there.

The Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater.  Tchaikovsky performed here!!!! Total bucket list performance venue.

The second stop of our three city tour was Odessa.  We performed at the Opera and Ballet Theater, which was first built over 200 years ago. It’s burned down twice, but is rebuilt each time more impressive than the time before (though, honestly, I’m not sure it can get any better).

Everything about the theater is magical. Our crew was the best we had in all the tour stops, and the Soviet Union era lighting “technology” was fascinating to say the least!


That I got to work on the same stage as some of the greatest opera singers, dancers, and composers have performed is something I will treasure forever!

Inside the audience chamber.
The lobby and grand staircase of the Opera and Ballet Theater.



Top 10 in 2016: 5 – Moraine Lake

Number 5: Moraine Lake


I am not sure how my beloved Moraine Lake ended up as number five. It is, honestly, one of my favorite places on the planet.  She was the motivation for my first visit to the Canadian Rockies in 2010.  My friend Doug had told me about a roadtrip he took to Alaska, and how he stumbled upon the amazing site and it was so beautiful it took his breath away. Something about his description, and his passion for the beauty, made me use the old google and I became obsessed with the idea of visiting there.  It took about five years before I was able to make a trip, but since 2010, I’ve been back three times.

Moraine Lake – I have better photos, but they are from after my photo class. Stay tuned.

On my most recent trip to Banff, I went to Moraine lake four days in a row. Each day, I wanted more. Each day, I wasn’t satisfied.  I went to sunrise three days in a row (even in wretched weather and snow storms, she was beautiful!). I drove hundreds of miles round trip to see her at sunrise. Honestly, one might say I drove 8000 miles to see her, as she is the inspiration for me buying a teardrop camper in 2014 (Louise is the color of Moraine Lake) and wanting to visit the Canadian Rockies with my camper. I hired an AMAZING photography teacher to help me improve my techniques, and take me to my favorite site.

Moraine Lake from the shoreline. Photo credit – J. Propst

So while she might be number five in this year’s top ten, Moraine Lake will ALWAYS be my favorite. I feel so at peace when I sit on her shore, waiting for sunrise and hoping for magic on her peaks.


The sunrises this year weren’t perfect. But maybe that was in her plan so I’d come back and visit again.


I think I will.

A REALLY long exposure at Moraine Lake. The weather was rotten, but the view was still magical. My favorite place on earth. Photo – J. Propst





Top 10 in 2016: Spirit Island

Number 6: Spirit Island

Spirit Island! I can’t wait to visit again, next time via a canoe so I can see it at sunrise.

Spirit Island is a tiny spot only accessible by boat. It’s about 12 km down the lake, and most people visit it via one of the Maligne Lake boat cruises (like I did).  There are other ways though – namely, a canoe paddle, and I would love nothing more than to visit it this way in the future.  You can paddle the entire distance in one day (that is a LOT of paddling) or camp in one of the water-access-only backcountry campsites that’s halfway there, which is what I would prefer!


When we drove to Maligne Lake from Jasper, we didn’t think we’d have a chance to get on a boat cruise, since all were booked, but were fortunate enough to get a last minute spot, and it was worth every penny.  My geeky self wasn’t satisfied with the lighting, but it really didn’t matter.  Traveling in the middle of the Queen Elizabeth range, seeing the amazing peaks of the Canadian Rockies and then the magical Spirit Island was all I hoped for and more.


I will definitely be back some day!



Top Ten in 2016: #7 – Hidden Lake


Number 7: Hike to Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park


In my 8008 mile roadtrip last summer, my favorite activities were the hikes I took (as will be further described in some of my top ten… stay tuned!).  One of my favorite hikes ws the Hidden Lake trail my dad and I took from Logan’s Pass on the Going  to the Sun Road in Glacier.

East Tunnel of The Going to the Sun Road – Photo – J. Propst

We left our campsite before sunrise, and stopped at Swiftcurrent Lake to see the sun rise above the horizon. It was pretty amazing, and would have been a great day if that’s all we did. But there was so much more!


We headed west on the Going to the Sun Road to Logan’s Pass, arriving around 8:30 am, before the visitor’s center opened, and set off on the hike.


The Hidden Lake trail is considered to be an easy hike, and it was in the sense that much of the trail is a boardwalk, but the steps were VERY steep, and my knees and quads were feeling it by lunch time!


cropped-img_6349.jpgThe wildflowers were about a week past peak, but still incredibly beautiful. We stopped at nearly every turn, it seemed, because I saw something else to photograph. By the time we reached the peak of the hike, we were at eye level with glaciers. We saw mountain goats (a whole family, even!), and the view of Hidden Lake below us.  It was an incredible day… between spending time with my dad and getting to photograph more of God’s creation – perfect!


A mountain goat hanging out at Hidden Lake overlook. Photo – J. Propst

We headed back to the visitor center where my mom and her surgically repaired ankle were waiting.  After a short trip through the visitor’s center and gift shop (I should have gotten a t-shirt!) we drove back to the campground in Many Glacier.img_6349