The Story Behind My Oldest Portfolio Photo – Moraine Lake

I was looking through my photography portfolio the other day and noticed the image above. I realized this is the oldest photo I have in my photography portfolio (over 7 years). Now, it’s not the oldest photo I have, but it’s the oldest photo in my port that has stood this long. I always ask myself why. The photo is taken in Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. Chances are you’ve seen it before on an operating system screen saver or technology device or ad. It’s one of the prettiest places that I’ve ever seen. The water is really that color. The blue-green of the lake is due to glacial rock flour, which is what causes the water to turn that color. It was such a gorgeous place to be, and I have some emotional investment in the photo, so I wonder if that’s why it stays around in my port so long.

Photo Details
• Camera: Nikon D200
• Lens: Nikon 12-24mm
• Tripod: I have no idea
• Ballhead: I have no idea :)
• Aperture: f/16
• Shutter Speed: 1/10
• ISO: 200

The Location
My trip to Banff was in June. It’s an amazing place but it’s really hard on a photographer because of the sunrise/sunset times. I don’t mind getting up early, but sunrise is like super early there. I think the sun rose around 5:20am that morning. What’s really crazy is you’ll be driving to your sunrise location at 4am and you’ll even start seeing color in the sky so you could feasibly be shooting by 4:15-4:30am and get some great twilight shots. It was also colder than I thought. Seeing as we’re almost in full summer mode in FL in June, I’m thinking how cold can it really be. Well I found out. The morning we took this it was snowing when we got there. And we were socked in under the clouds for a while thinking we weren’t going to get a good sunrise.

Banff Moraine Lake

But then that moment every outdoor photographer loves came. The clouds opened up, the wind died down so the lake was still, and the sun came through shining that beautiful early morning color on the peaks in front of us. It was surreal. The weather was changing so quickly that part of you just wanted to stand there in awe at the light show we saw. But the photographer part pushed it’s way forward and I started clicking away.

(Click to see it larger)
Banff Moraine Lake

HDR When There Was No HDR
This is also my first HDR-like photo. Now, it’s not merged in HDR software, but it’s one of the first times I used exposure bracketing on my camera. Funny side story here… I was with a group of people and one of them was this guy Barney Streit. Now, you have to keep in mind when this was. This was WAY before the HDR craze. You NEVER walked up to an outdoor photographer and heard “click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click” (all in rapid succession over 2 seconds). Today that’s all you hear when you’re near some one taking photos on a tripod outdoors. But 6-7 years ago, that’s all you heard from Barney. He was the only one in our group doing it. We even nick-named him “9-shot-Barney” (yeah, very creative I know!) :) We made many friendly jokes at his expense and nobody could figure out what he was doing. As it turned out, Barney was a pioneer ;) He’s actually become a very good friend of mine over the years (and has always been a very good photographer), and I’ve taken several photo excursions with him since.

Anyway, I digress. The light was changing so much when I took this photo, I’m glad I did use exposure bracketing. The raw conversions in Photoshop weren’t as good back then, so you couldn’t pull as much detail out of the shadows and highlights like you can today. Luckily we had a few minutes before the good light happened, and 9-shot-Barney showed me how to bracket. So the two of us stood there firing off photos like we were shooting a football game :) I ended up with one good exposure for the sky and one good one for all of the trees and foreground area.

What I Learned?
I learned that Barney was a pioneer… a visionary… I mean he was not only bracketing at the time but he was using Photomatix to merge HDR images. It was like witchcraft to me. I chose to blend my exposures by hand with layers in Photoshop. But within a year of seeing Barney’s HDR witchcraft, I created my first HDR DVD training title. Who knew?! :)

A Question For You
So this leaves a question for you. What’s the oldest photo in your active portfolio? I don’t mean, the oldest photo you have that you still like today. I mean, you actually have an online portfolio and this photo is in it (or would be if you don’t have a port online right now).

Thanks for stopping by. Have a good one!

  • Mark Adams

    At a tangent to your point, but I prefer the cloudy photo. It looks less processed, the lower contrast is easier on the eye, it’s less saturated, the composition is less overtly Romantic. It’s not that process, contrast and Romantic are bad, but that the whole landscape-on-acid schtick has now been done to death (including by me).

  • Peter de Rooij

    My oldest one is a slide I took in 1986: A capable shot of a spectacular view on a spectacular day. Definitely one with a personal meaning for me (I climbed that ridge) but also still one of the most popular shot of mine online. These two factors together make it real easy to keep it in my portfolio:-)

    • Matt Kloskowski

      Wow! That’s a beautiful photo!

      • Peter de Rooij

        Thanks, and thanks for a great post. Thought-provoking: why are shots in your portfolio, and why do some stay there.

  • Dennis Zito

    Matt, that’s a Great capture and story. We were at that same Lake in 2011 in May. However, I really didn’t get any keepers that day. It was cloudy and the sun never broke through.

    I still have the first photo I ever posted on my NAPP portfolio. I joined NAPP in September of 2007, but never used the portfolio section because I felt I wasn’t that good to put photos up on a web site. However, in December of 2008 at Christmas I took a photo of our Boston Terrier in front of our poinsettias. She was 11 at the time. She passed away on New Years Eve 2008. So, I decided I would post that picture of her on my NAPP portfolio as a Tribute to her! I got such a reaction and posts from NAPP members about her, that I have kept that photo on my NAPP Portfolio. It will always be there!


  • Stephen DesRoches

    The oldest photo still in my portfolio was taken in 2009.

  • heli_guy

    That is a beautiful place, and it’s practically in my back yard (live in Calgary an hour away). If you want to wake up late for sunrises, come here in the winter. Sun doesn’t rise till 8 or later, and sunset is at 4:30.

  • Henry Heerschap

    When my wife and I were up that way in August, I remembered your shot of Moraine Lake and made sure we got up there as early as possible. We were about a half-hour late for the best light, but still got some nice shots. We came at it from a different angle, wanting some good foreground elements.
    This is the best of the bunch:

  • Les Howard

    Darwin Wiggett, one of Canada’s top landscape photographers, lives near Banff. He has written an ebook ( for photographers planning a visit there and it includes a section on Moraine Lake.

  • Dale Grosbach

    This is one of the first images I took with my new D90 four years ago. It has a few technical shortcomings, but it is proof that being there for extraordinary light is the key…

    • Matt Kloskowski


  • Toni

    This shot of Horseshoe Bend in 2009 is the oldest one in my port. So far it’s my most popular image so it makes since to keep it in my portfolio.

  • David Morrow

    Really well done. I like the shot:)