Explore the renowned Three Sisters mountain in Canmore, Alberta, through captivating fine art photography, accompanied by detailed location insights and a history of these legendary peaks that continue to captivate both artists and nature enthusiasts.
Three Sisters Canmore Location and History
The breathtaking trio of mountain peaks stands prominently in the foreground of the Canadian Rockies, known as Kananaskis Country. Positioned directly to the south of the charming mountain town of Canmore, these three majestic summits command attention from virtually every vantage point within the Bow Valley area. Revered with pride by the locals, the mountain holds a striking and unmistakable presence in the surrounding landscape.
The Three Sisters are also known by other names due to their increasing elevation from northeast to southwest. The shortest north peak, or 'Little Sister' stands at 2,694 metres. The middle peak, or 'Middle Sister' is 2,769 metres tall, while the southernmost and tallest peak 'Big Sister' towers at 2,936 metres. In the same order, they are also known as Charity, Hope, and Faith.
During the exploration of the Bow River valley by geologists and land surveyors in the mid to late 1800s, Albert Rogers, the nephew of Major A.B. Rogers, the discoverer of Rogers Pass in the Selkirk Mountains, was the first to bestow a name upon the distinctive mountain.
According to the tale, he awoke one morning following a substantial snowstorm, peering out of his tent to witness each of the three peaks adorned with a snowy mantle on their northern slopes. Addressing his companions, he exclaimed, "Look at the three nuns." Though the name gained momentary traction, Canadian scientist George Dawson, in his 1886 cartographic rendition of the region, officially named the peaks as the 'Three Sisters.'
Whatever you wish to call them, the peaks are adored by photographers, painters, and artists alike who come from around the world to capture their distinctive charm. Across every season and from countless viewpoints, the captivating beauty of this mountain consistently delivers an experience that never fails to impress.
Fine Art Photography
Over the past decade, I have had the privilege of frequenting Canmore to photograph the incredible mountains, lakes, valleys, and wildlife that envelop the region. While the area boasts a lifetime's worth of exploration amid its endless beauty, one of my preferred subjects lies in close proximity, easily accessible with just a glance skyward.
The Three Sisters peaks tower over the town like protective siblings, admired by all and begging to be photographed. A trip to Canmore is not complete without a walk through the town and surrounding forest trails to discover new vantage points in hopes of an extraordinary photograph.
The following fine art photographs showcase the stunning peaks, emphasizing the dramatic change in their appearance when captured from different locations and under varying weather conditions.
After heavy rain events, it is common to see thick fog and clouds enveloping the mountains, and with some patience and a lot of luck, the rising sun can break through for a dramatic portrait of the peaks.
On this particular morning, the thick clouds obscured Faith, the tallest peak, so I adjusted my composition to capture Charity and Hope in a multi-shot panoramic composition with my telephoto lens, resulting in a high resolution image that can be printed as wide as ten feet.
Void of discernable colour, the image was an excellent candidate for a black and white conversion, which perfectly compliments the breathtaking cloud formations. Above, a custom framed 'Charity Edition' print of 'The Rising' is a beautiful focal point in this master bedroom.
Although it has become a popular vantage point, Policeman's Creek is a short five minute walk down a dry creek bed to the water and is always worth a visit. The creek is a calm, meandering offshoot of the Bow River and routinely makes for perfect crystal clear reflections of the mountain.
Night turned to day on this early morning, as the sun kissed the peaks with some colourful alpenglow while the moon passed by in the distance. Nothing compares to witnessing magical scenes like this.
With the changing of the seasons, winter offers new compositional opportunities when the creek freezes, allowing further exploration of the area. An overnight snowfall hangs in the branches of the larch and spruce trees, while the tracks of critters big and small are still visible beneath the fresh snow. The intricate patterns of hoar frost form on the pebbly surface of the ice in the foreground.
Patience is a virtue in landscape photography, as I sat in a snowbank for an hour waiting for a sunrise that almost did not happen. The clouds were thick in the east, blocking the sun as it began to break the horizon. Almost ready to pack my gear, the clouds suddenly broke and lit up the sky in one one of the most beautiful sunrises I had ever seen.
The orange, pink, and purple colours reflected between sky and snow for only a few short minutes before it all disappeared as quickly as it began. Truly, a picture says a thousand words.
When special conditions present themselves on a classic scene, working quickly is important to capture different compositions that are worthy of being printed as fine art. This timeless black and white image of the Three Sisters was created on the same morning as its colourful twin, 'Sisterglow'.
A classically inspired image of the famous Three Sisters at sunrise, the first light on the snowcapped peaks in spring marks the dawn of a new season, highlighted by the glow of the passing moon.
'Three Sisters', An Original
Sometimes the search for a unique composition of an iconic location can be difficult, so it is necessary to think outside of the box.
I love waterfalls, and tried to conceptualize how amazing it would be to have a waterfall in the foreground with the peaks towering overhead at sunrise with some soft, colourful light. The problem was, to my knowledge, there were no waterfalls in the area. Or were there?
Through the optic design of camera lenses, I knew it was possible to make relatively small objects appear larger in a photograph by getting in extremely close to the subject, inches away, with a wide angle lens. Mountain slopes always have natural areas where they collect and shed water from snow and rain, so I set off on foot to see if I could find a creek anywhere with a visible line of sight to the peaks.
After many hours of trudging through the muddy terrain at the base of the mountain, I found a long, rocky creek bed with a light trickle of water. As I followed the creek, I discovered a very small section where natural erosion had created some 'steps' in the rocks, almost like a miniature multi-tiered waterfall.
Although the current flow of water was minimal, I knew that the location had potential if the volume of water were to increase. If I was to come away with a new composition of the Three Sisters, I knew it worth it to return another day.
For the next four mornings in a row, I rose early before sunrise and slogged my way over the hills, muddy from the early spring rains and snowmelt. On day one, to my surprise, the overnight drizzle of rain had made a big impact on the water flow in the creek.
The flow was perfect for the shot I had envisioned, but it was overcast, and the peaks and sky above were very dull. Although I set up my gear and tested my composition and focal length, the sky was the missing element. Even so, at least I knew the exact equipment setup positioning so that I could repeat it on the next try.
On day two, setup was much quicker, but the opposite problem occurred. It was a bluebird sky with zero clouds, and the water flow had receded slightly. Images are always more compelling with colourful clouds, so I was skunked again.
A golden rule landscape photographers understand is that often, we have to return to a location multiple times to achieve the shot we are looking for. And even then, there are no guarantees that the stars will align like we hope them to.
Day three revealed new conditions as a heavy, wet snow had fallen overnight. This made for some very interesting ice formations and snow around the rocks, which I liked. However, the sky was overcast once again. Nonetheless, I set up my equipment and worked through an alternative capture technique which seemed to be providing exceptional results. My goal is to achieve the highest quality image files in the field, and this alternate method would enable me to capture the scene in ultra high resolution to enable print making with striking detail.
Finally, on day four the conditions looked promising. Soft clouds were passing by the peaks in a light breeze which I knew could lead to some nice colour once the sun approached the horizon. Arriving once again in the same spot, I was excited to see that the previous day's snowmelt had significantly increased the flow of water in the creek.
With sunrise approaching, I captured the lower third of the vertical scene with my camera in a horizontal position, using multiple focus points to capture sharp detail and different shutter speeds to render the desired effect on the moving water. Then, tilting my camera up slightly to the middle third of the scene, I repeated the process.
And at last, a third tilt of the camera upward focused on the peaks as the rising sun created some beautiful alpenglow, while the clouds radiated gorgeous pastel shades of orange. It is hard to express the exhilaration I feel when an image that starts as a concept finally comes to fruition. My perseverance had paid off.
The final image, 'Three Sisters' is a 'vertorama', consisting of three horizontal images combined together to form a vertical image in ultra high resolution. This camera capture technique results in a photograph that can be printed under a single sheet of acrylic as big as 60x80 inches while still holding razor sharp detail when viewed only inches away.
Limited Edition Prints
I hope that you enjoyed the brief history of the famous Three Sisters Canmore, along with the stories behind my collection of images. I extend an invitation to reach out to me at any time if you are intrigued by a Limited Edition fine art photography print of these famous peaks as a showpiece for your home.
The addition of a museum quality print adds a focal point to any room, giving your home a gallery feel. Your image choice reflects the atmosphere you wish to communicate, while making your home calming to live in and inviting to your guests.
Anyone can become a nature photography print collector, and the magic starts with your first piece.