Backpacking the Iceline Trail, Whaleback, and Little yoho Valley

The Iceline Trail, Whaleback, and Yoho Valley trails make for a great two-four day backpacking circuit in Yoho National Park. Beginning at Takakkaw Falls, we headed up  Yoho Valley. The first of many sights along the trail is Laughing Falls. There’s a backcountry campground here if you wish to explore the area more before you continue. Seeing as it’s only about 3.5 kilometres from the trail head, we continued on.

We trekked up towards Whaleback after stopping at a few more waterfalls. Once we gained more elevation and climbed up the Whaleback, we enjoyed the view of Yoho Valley where we came from, as well as the view to where we would be going the following day, Little Yoho Valley and the Iceline trail. The Whaleback trail descends into the neighbouring valley where we would camp until the next morning. 

With an early start, we left camp at Little Yoho Campground just before sunrise in hopes of having a nice sunrise from the top of the Iceline trail. 

The hike from Little Yoho campground ascends fairly quickly out of the trees and into the rugged alpine. The alpine reveals a number of nearby glaciers and glacial lagoons immediately next to the trail. The trail continues alongside these ancient glaciers for about 7 kilometres before descending down into the valley below. The valley eventually spits you out just east of Takakkaw falls.

Photos and words by Ryan Richardson    


Backpacking Limestone Lakes in Height of the Rockies

Limestone lakes in Height of the Rockies Provincial park is without a doubt one of the most incredible backcountry venues I have ever had the privilege of experiencing.

Limestone lakes in Height of the Rockies Provincial park is without a doubt one of the most incredible backcountry venues I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. It’s remote and difficult to get to location also keeps the flocks of tourist and backcountry users at bay. For good reason, route finding and proficient gps experience is required. Moreover, it’s prime grizzly country. I experienced my worst bear encounter on this trip.

On day one we followed a trail about 10km to our first cowboy camp. The trail runs parallel along the adjacent river most of the way up the valley. Then second day we ascended above the tree line. There’s an option to navigate around a large ridge line, but w-e opted to gain the ridge and then loose elevation on the other side. We thought the views might be worth it, and we were rewarded for our optimism.

After a full second day of bushwhacking and navigating limestone cliffs, we finally arrived at the stunning lookout above Limestone Lakes.

We spent another two nights at Limestone Lakes. The extra time and lighter packs afforded us the opportunity to explore the area a little more. We spend much of the third day swimming in the lake and enjoying the sun. We lucked out with weather, there was hardly a cloud in the sky the entire trip. The fourth day we hiked back out of the alpine lakes area and descended back into the valley below. We opted to go around the ridge climb, saving our legs for the 25km trek back to our vehicle.

Photos and words by Ryan Richardson.

Photo Guide: Saddleback Pass Larches Hike

Here’s everything you need to know about hiking and photographing Saddleback Pass for the larches in Autumn.

It’s no secret that Lake Louise is the gem of the Canadian Rockies. It’s far from hidden though, so be sure to get up early for this one. Either that, or be prepared to go late and potentially make it back down in the dark. The parking lot here has been disgracefully busy these past two seasons.

The extra distance from the city, and fighting for a parking stall is well worth it though! There’s a reason everyone wants to be around Lake Louise in the Autumn. Especially hiking up to Saddleback Pass. There is literally no more suiting name for this pass. It’s beautiful during the summer but it’s just spectacular in the autumn. The larches are abundant!

Distance from Calgary: 2 hours 2 minutes
Hiking time (roundtrip): 3-4.5 hours
Elevation gain: 660m
Trail Distance (roundtrip): 8.2

The hike up to the pass starts from the west side of Lake Louise. There’s also a lot of trail right from the parking lot that intersect with the first few hundred metres of the Saddleback Pass trail. The trail is heavily trafficked. There’s no way to lose it the entire way up to the pass.

You gain quite a bit of elevation right away. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’re ascending up into the clouds on this trail. There are a few breaks in the trees where you can look out towards the bow valley and Ski Lake Louise on the other side of the highway 1.

I found the ascent to be fairly quickly and only needed to catch my breath maybe once or twice before reach the pass. The elevation it steep but I thought it was still fairly gradual. It helps that the trail is pretty wide and even.

As you climb higher towards Saddleback Pass, the golden larches will begin become more obvious. The orange and yellow needles will are a beautiful contrast from the other trees around. There were a lot of photo opportunities along the trail right before you actually gain the pass. The last bit of elevation before the plateau has endless compositions waiting to be captured!

Once you get up into Paradise Valley pass, you can see stunning views of Mount Temple. Mount Temple is incredible from any angle, but especially the angle from Saddleback Pass. There are tons of larches in this area too. The larches here make for great foreground before Mount Temple.

Being down in the pass is spectacular, however there is a trail that continues up Mount Fairview. There’s still quite a bit of elevation to gain from the valley, but if you have the time, it’s worth it! The views ascending up Mount Fairview open up to incredible views of the entire valley with countless larches below.

It isn’t even crucial to summit Mount Fairview. Even if you ascend just part way, you will have amazing views of Paradise Valley and Saddleback Pass below.

When Firing Your Clients is a Good Idea

It costs 5x to 25x more to find a new client than to retain an existing one. So why would you ever want to fire a client? Well, buckle up.

It costs 5x to 25x more to find a new client than to retain an existing one. So why would you ever want to fire a client? Well, buckle up.

The 80/20 Rule

AKA the Pareto principle which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In the case of your clients, typically 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients. Conversely, 80% of the time you spend is catered to 20% of your clients. We all know the ones…

The ones where your contract clearly states one revision. You’re a professional, you know the pre production was extensive. Yet, the client insists on revision after revision after revision. What’s worse is they’re expecting you to do it for free even though your written agreement states only one revision is included in the price agreed upon.

They’re the client that tries tirelessly to nickel in dime every aspect of every shoot. Before, during, and after the date of the shoot. They pay late. Some clients even try to avoid signing contracts all together.

You Owe it to Your Preferred Clients

You actually have a responsibility to your other clients to fire problem clients like this so that you can better serve your best clients. They deserve it after all. The 20% of your clients paying 80% of your revenue should be royalty to you. Short of cutting off your own arm, you should be willing to do anything for them.

You should be willing to do anything for them.

They’re the clients that would never dream of asking you to do something “for exposure”. They pay you on time. They admire your professionalism when you explain the ins and outs of a contract to them. Most of all they respect you, and you respect them.

If you have trouble clients that are impeding on the quality of service you provide to the clients that you wish you had more of, then you need to fire those bad clients immediately.

What if You Don’t Have Dream Clients Yet

You’re never going to get to the place where you have outstanding clients that respect the hell out of your business if you can’t respect yourself. You’ll know… After you’ve put in the time, you’ve been in trenches, you’ve done the hard stuff and now you’re demanding a little respect. Stick to your guns. The clients you want to have will admire you for it.

It’s better to have one outstanding client than ten bad clients.

Out With the Old and In With the New

Listen, I get it. We have all been there. You have to do a lot of stuff you don’t want to do when you’re on the long road to becoming a full time photographer and filmmaker. You work jobs you don’t love, you work for less than you’re worth. It’s a reality unfortunately. However, don’t take that baggage with you.

This is what I mean.

If you were once the $500 guy. To some clients, they might always see you as the $500 guy. You’re going to evolve, you’re going to get better at your craft. You’ll continue to pick up new skills and become more sought after. When this happens it can be awkward telling old clients that your prices are going up. There’s a right way to do it. Still though, it can be awkward and doesn’t always go over well.

Thinking of your dream clients though, how do you think they would feel if they knew you were shooting a full day commercial project for $500 if you’re charging them $3000 for the exact same thing. Is that fair to the client shelling out $3000? Of course not. It’s also not fair to you.

It’s also not fair to you.

You know you’ve worked your ass off to get to the point where someone is willing to pay you what you’re worth. Don’t let clients from your past de-value that. If they don’t understand that, and if you’ve done everything in your power to communicate with them… you need to fire them!

There’s a common theme here. You need to be constantly be thinking about what’s best for your preferred clients, and also for you.

A Natural Parting of Ways

Sometimes it’s not as dramatic and black and white. Sometimes you begin working with a client in hopes of a future that you both imagine together. Maybe it’s partnering with a startup or a smaller brand. You might give them a break on some shoots, maybe they trade some of their product or services for your services.

You’re happy to do it at the time because you believe in the direction it’s going, the doors its’ opening. It may feel mutually beneficial for a while, so why not. Well, time changes things. Maybe you don’t require their services anymore and the exchange that once worked doesn’t really make sense for you now.

Sometimes you just have to go with your gut, there’s not always a perfect formula to know when it’s time to move on. Making yourself available for something new can be tough. You might even make the wrong move. Some of this is guess work, and that’s okay. The most important thing is you do what feels right for your clients, for you, and for your business.

Photographing Trail Running

The sports’ increasing popularity is also creating its’ demand for photographing trail running. This is what I’ve learned over the years.

Trail running in the mountains is getting bigger and bigger here in North America. The sports’ increasing popularity is also creating a huge demand for photographers well versed in photographing it. I’ve been photographing trail running professionally for over three years now. This is what I’ve learned.

Two trail runners in desert sand dunes.

Story > Everything Else.

This is universally true with photography. However, I find it especially applies to trail running. Why? It’s not high action like other sports. It’s not ripping on downhill bikes. It isn’t flipping off 100″ vertical jumps into pow. It’s running. So how do you make an endurance sport as compelling as a high action sport like snowboarding or mountain biking? Easy. The story.

The photo above was taken in the middle of the African summer in the oldest desert on earth during a huge expedition called Trans Namibia. The two runners in frame were running 1850 km across the Namib Desert. The runners were raising awareness and for their not for profit organization that empowers youth to explore the world by facilitating youth expeditions. The photo becomes instantly more compelling with just a touch of context.

Trail runner dumping rocks from shoe.

Flip the Script. Change the Viewers Perspective.

I was running in one of my favourite places on earth, Canmore Alberta. I was descending down the back side of a popular mountain in the area. Every few minutes I had to dump pebbles out of my shoe because their was so much loose, dry scree. I instantly recognized that so many runners could relate to this feeling. I pulled out my wide angle and snapped a photo of my pouring pebbles out of my shoe.

Photographing trail running in a way that takes the viewers on a journey and pulls them into, not just the landscape, but the actual experience of being there is the ultimate goal. Pulling them into your world for a brief moment. That’s special, that’s what outdoor photography is all about. And that’s what you should be aiming for when photographing trail running.

Trail runner freezing feet in cooler.

Photographing Trail Running and Its’ In-between Moments.

I shot this at 3 day stage race. The runner pictured here had his feet completely mangled from the 150 km he had just ran. His feet looked like ground beef. The photo manages to tell so much about his 3 day experience. Best part is, it has nothing directly to do with “running”. Images like this leave a lot to the imagination. Instantly you start to wonder how gnarly the trails were, to destroy his feet so badly he had to soak them in Ice.

Sometimes the best trail running photos are taken at camp. Maybe they’re taken pre race, post race, at a hut, the trailhead, parking lot, home. There are so many in-between moments that build a better visual story by bridging the gap with powerful suggestions rather than obviously visual descriptions.

Making Money with Photography – Read Full Article HERE.

Trail runner creating puddle splash.

Don’t Forget the Details.

I wouldn’t usually think to take a “detail” shot on a wide angle. It just happened that the detail of the water droplets were wide spread. The message remains true though. Whether your shooting your frame tight or wide, it’s important to incorporate little details, not just massive sweeping landscapes.

Honestly, big landscapes and little runners can sometimes be a little bit of a gimmick. Too many shots like that can dilute your ability to share the entire experience. Remember, immersing your viewer in the moment, and telling a story is the key here. Not just beauty shots and low hanging fruit. Include some details. Include a lot of details!

Female trail running in desert.

Put Away Your Camera on Blue Bird Days.

Stormy skies add are my secret specialty sauce when it comes to trail running. Like I said early, running isn’t high action. So you have to be creative to compel your viewers. Weather is always an interesting element to have in your photos. Landscapes are rarely photographed before or after storms. People aren’t used to seeing dramatic, sometimes melancholy photos with trail runners as the subject!

Two runners in trail running race.

Photographing Trail Running Events are Like Commercial Shoots on Speed.

It’s going to be easier to get your feet wet photographing trail running events than picking up commercial gigs right away. Shooting races is a great way to get involved with the trail running community, meet athletes, and give you more opportunities as a result. Commercial trail running gigs are a lot easier to shoot, but harder to come by.

If you can create “commercial-like” compositions for 200 real-life race participants running their guts out, you’ll be that much better at creating stronger compositions for ad companies with a controlled environment and model when the opportunity presents itself.

Man trail running on mountain ridge.

Manipulate Colours.

…And I don’t mean in Lightroom! Plan ahead. I knew what to expect on our trail running trip to the Yukon. I chose a jacket that would stand out against the often cloudy skies, and the green environment. Had I chosen a black or green jacket, I would have been completely lost in 90% of the photos I had taken during my trip.

Epic Trail Running in Yukon – Read Full Article HERE.

Are their specific hurdles you’re finding difficult to overcome when photographing trail running? I’d love to hear them! If you found this article helpful, please share and pass the knowledge around.
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Trail Tip Tuesday: Your Pace or Mine?

If you are a trail runner then you likely have already figured this out, however, if you are just starting out on the trails you will need to adjust your expectations of your pace!

Adjust Your Expectations

As a former road runner I understand how often we are concerned about our pace. Take a look at almost any training plan for running a road race (any distance) and the focus is training by running pace. The training schedule consists of tempo pace, speed workout pace, long run pace and of course your targeted race pace.


When I transitioned over to the trails, pace was the first thing I had to let go of. The terrain will truly dictate your pace! This depends of course what trails you are running but generally speaking you will have service roads, single track, roots and rocky sections, hills, etc. All of these factors will determine what your overall pace will end up being.

The goal, especially when starting out, is to focus on time on your feet instead of overall pace. A training schedule on the trails might include easy mid-week runs (30min.+), possible speed intervals on road/flat trail, plus 2hr+ training runs on the weekend. In the beginning discovering a comfortable running “pace” is about running by feel.

You will eventually begin to figure out an approximate pace for yourself, but it’s not usually the primary focus. If you train on local trails you’ll discover what distance you can cover over a specific time. On average 4-6 miles (6-10 km) can be ran within an hour. You learn that going out for a 3hr long run means you will likely run 11-18miles (18-30kms) whatever becomes the “norm” for you.


My advice is go out and enjoy the trails. Be consistent. Start out by maybe running one hour every weekend for a month and see what distance you are able to cover during that time. You’ll start to figure out what is the norm for you and that gives you a great starting place to build on for training.