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Painting with Light: Capturing Simon Beck’s Snow Art



By Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

What happens when you combine an internationally renowned snow artist, the winter canvas of Banff National Park’s mystical landscape, and one of the world’s most innovative time-lapse video experts?

Photo: Doug Urquhart/The Upthink Lab ©

Photo: Doug Urquhart/The Upthink Lab ©

With limitless creativity and a thirst for pushing the boundaries of cinematography, Doug Urquhart is one of the most inventive time-lapse geniuses around. The co-owner of The Upthink Lab, this Atlanta resident is a true leader of his field and a self-confessed addict of the Canadian Rockies. When he received an invitation to visit his beloved Banff National Park and shoot a unique ‘snow art’ assignment, he immediately said “yes” and started to conjure up a creative and imaginative storyboard.

The snow art was to be ‘drawn’ by internationally acclaimed, British engineer-turned-snow-artist, Simon Beck, who creates his art by stomping out designs with snowshoes. Having seen photographs of his large-scale, geometric designs being created within the peaks of Europe, Banff Lake Louise Tourism took note and started to make a plan to fly Beck to the Rockies to complete what would be his first-ever snow drawings in North America.

With the assistance of Justin Majeczky, Urquhart’s task was to document Beck’s week-long artistic journey in Banff National Park through non-narrative video. The working title of this short film would be #ProjectSnow. On February 17th, 2015, Urquhart arrived on Canadian soil and headed straight to Banff. His first priorities were deciding on the prime locations for the snow designs to take place, and getting the artist in-situ to start making the magic happen.


Retracing Steps at Peyto Lake/

Peyto Lake was a firm favourite on the list of potential locations, particularly with Urquhart, who had deeply connected to this part of the park on a previous trip to the Rockies with his family.

“Arriving at the viewpoint to witness the classic view of Peyto, it was nothing short of spectacular,” said Urquhart. “It was still early in the season and the lake was not yet frozen, so we were greeted with a wintery white landscape with the turquoise hue of the lake still visible. From that moment, my family understood where my passion for the Canadian Rockies originated. If you visit Banff National Park, it’s inevitable you’ll leave inspired.”

Peyto Lake was also prominently featured in Urquhart’s short film, Mountains in Motion, a moving time-lapse production documenting the raw beauty of the Canadian Rockies in collaboration with talented Banff photographer, Paul Zizka. When the film made its Canadian premiere at the 2012 Banff Mountain Film Festival, Urquhart travelled to Banff with his family to present it.

Peyto Lake proved to be the perfect choice for yet another artist endeavour as it was chosen as a location for one of Beck’s pieces. Over a series of gruelling days, Urquhart and Majeczky spent many hours watching and capturing the artist at work as he sketched out designs carefully with only his snowshoes, a compass and a hand-drawn sketch for guidance.

The snow art creation process was fascinating in itself, a labour of love by an extremely dedicated and mathematically gifted man. Beck’s drawing on Peyto Lake took the artist over seven hours to complete. By enlisting the vision and creative talents of Urquhart, Banff Lake Louise Tourism knew that the final film would be an exceptional visual narrative of Beck’s work in motion, and that it would illuminate the natural beauty of the park.

Naturally, Urquhart couldn’t settle for anything less than spectacular through his time-lapse process, adding an innovative aspect to the footage taken at Peyto Lake: a ‘light drawing’ effect.

“I was determined to find a new technique to explore,” said Urquhart. “I settled on a visual approach that would capture the essence of Simon and his art through long exposures and light-painting. The idea was simple: Simon would retrace his steps after dark with a headlamp. While doing so, my cameras would capture a time-lapse sequence with long exposures for each frame.”


The Final Product/

Urquhart has since completed #ProjectSnow, a 2:22 time-lapse of Beck’s snow art throughout Banff National Park, including the night sequences at Peyto Lake (embedded for viewing below). Simon Beck’s designs in Banff turned out to be some of the artist’s largest and most original masterpieces to date.

This project was developed by Banff Lake Louise Tourism, in partnership with Parks Canada and The Upthink Lab.

To share your own visual discoveries, creations and adventures in Banff National Park, tag #MyBanff on your social channels.

Banff & Lake Louise Tourism is a world-class destination marketing organization (DMO) that promotes year-round visitation and enjoyment of Canada’s iconic Banff National Park. Recognized nationally for their best-in-class marketing, this member-based organization employs industry-leading strategies to reach potential visitors in five continents. Facebook I Twitter I Instagram

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