Having shot last light on the peak of Mt. Edith Cavell to end day five, I knew that I wanted to return for sunrise to begin my second full day at Jasper.   While sunset light was nice, it was readily apparent that the directional light at sunrise would be even more flattering to the scene.

The forecast for the morning of Day 6 was mostly clear, so I was extremely surprised when I went out in the pitch dark, roughly 90 minutes before sunrise, and couldn’t see a single star.  As I made the drive up the steep, winding road to Mt. Edith Cavell, I understood what was going on.  Low hanging clouds had more or less “fogged in” the entire valley containing the town of Jasper that morning.  I actually drove out of the clouds as I continued along the road.  By the time I was halfway up the 9-mile long road, the clouds were below me.  The view from Cavell Lake would be unobstructed.

It was a very cold morning–roughly 25 degrees (F)–and frost was readily apparent as I made my way from the parking lot near Cavell Lake to the lake itself.  The path along the lake’s shore had been muddy–with plenty of standing water–the previous evening, so I had put on my waterproof rubber boots before descending to the lake’s edge that morning.  Most of the puddles had frozen overnight.

It was a windless morning as I set up and tried to stay warm while waiting for the light.  There were virtually no clouds in the sky, so I waited until the peak began to catch the first rays of the sun.

Sunrise, Mt. Edith Cavell from Cavell Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sunrise, Mt. Edith Cavell from Cavell Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sunrise, Mt. Edith Cavell from Cavell Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sunrise, Mt. Edith Cavell from Cavell Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

After a few minutes, I moved to the bridge over the lake’s outlet stream to obtain a different perspective.

Sunrise, Mt. Edith Cavell from Cavell Lake Outlet, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sunrise, Mt. Edith Cavell from Cavell Lake Outlet, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sunrise, Mt. Edith Cavell from Cavell Lake Outlet, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sunrise, Mt. Edith Cavell from Cavell Lake Outlet, Jasper National Park, Alberta

When I had finished at Cavell Lake, I descended the road and quickly made my way to the Maligne Lake Road, which would lead me to a section of Jasper National Park where I would spend the remainder of the day.  It would be a long one.

I spent essentially the duration of the morning photographing at Maligne Canyon, an area where the Maligne River cuts deep into limestone rock.  Some of the canyon areas are more than 150 feet deep.  A network of trails skirts the canyon’s rim in the upper reaches and gradually descends to near river level further down canyon.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

When I first got to the canyon, the low cloud cover was still mostly intact, but it burned off as the morning progressed and eventually it was completely clear.  However, segments of the canyon remained in deep shade for some time and I ended up spending better than four hours photographing a variety of features.

Maligne Canyon Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Canyon Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Access to the upper canyon is restricted to areas behind chain link fences, which restricts viewpoints a bit, but the fences are undoubtedly necessary due to safety concerns.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Despite the limitations, there are still many, many interesting perspectives to be had in the upper reaches of the canyon as the river tumbles over waterfalls and cascades.

Maligne Canyon Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Canyon Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

As intimated above, Maligne Canyon is best photographed in even light and lends itself to both color and monochrome photography.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I easily could have spent an entire day in the canyon had overcast conditions persisted.

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

As you move down canyon, the fences eventually disappear and it’s possible to get safely down to river level.

Maligne Canyon Waterfall, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Canyon Waterfall, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

By the time I wrapped up at Maligne Canyon, it was around noon, and I continued down the Maligne Lake Road.  Before long, I saw a bit of a traffic jam.  I’ve seen this sort of thing in national parks in the United States and it almost always indicates nearby wildlife.  It was no different in Canada.  In this case, it was a moose cow and calf who were happily nibbling foliage near the side of the road, utterly oblivious to the copious human curiosity.

Mama Moose, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mama Moose, Jasper National Park, Alberta

As I’ve said many times in the past on this blog, I’m a landscape photographer; in practical terms, you could fit what I know about wildlife photography in a thimble and have plenty of room left over.  Nonetheless, occasionally wildlife will pose for me, and that’s more or less what this moose pair did.

Baby Moose, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Baby Moose, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I continued my drive, but stopped to scout Medicine Lake.  The sky was completely clear by this point, and the light was harsh, but I could see that the area was rich with potential under better conditions.  I had the chance to realize that potential later this day and again the next.

My next stop was the Beaver Creek Picnic Area.  Here, I would make the day’s hike–about seven miles round trip–past Beaver Lake all the way to the First and Second Summit Lakes.  It wasn’t a difficult hike–it was almost flat–but it did cross numerous landslide areas, which meant traversing large areas where boulders covered the trail.  I had thought that this hike would take me through areas of meadows, but I had misunderstood.  The trail crossed through dense forest almost the entire way, and given the bright sunlight, no shooting in the forest was really desirable.  I could see that Beaver Lake had a lot of potential, as I passed through the area about a mile into the hike, but decided to defer it for the return trip.

I had heard promising things about the Summit Lakes, but I was really disappointed when I got to the First Summit Lake after a hike of about three miles.  The aspen stands surrounding the lake were well past peak and the light was still pretty harsh.  Besides, the lake was badly shrunken; the water level was extremely low, this being the driest part of the year in the area.  I took a couple of shots, but mostly just to document that I had been there.

First Summit Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

First Summit Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

First Summit Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

First Summit Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Against my better judgment, I made the additional one-mile round trip to the Second Summit Lake.  I should have listened to my instincts–this was an even worse photo op than First Summit Lake.  I didn’t even bother taking a photo.

I really felt that I had wasted my time as I started to make the long slog back toward the picnic area trailhead, but I was heartened somewhat when I returned to Beaver Lake.  It was later in the afternoon by now, so the light was more flattering.

Beaver Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beaver Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

While the mostly cloudless sky was a bit of a disappointment, I found a number of interesting things to do with my telephoto lens.

Water Reeds, Beaver Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Water Reeds, Beaver Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beaver Lake Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beaver Lake Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beaver Lake Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beaver Lake Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

After returning to the car, I continued my journey down the Maligne Lake Road.  I made a stop at an unmarked turnout and found myself at a secluded spot along the Maligne River.  It was quite late in the afternoon by this time.

Maligne River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I found the abstract river reflections very interesting.

Reflections, Maligne River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Reflections, Maligne River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Ultimately, I made it all the way to the end of the road, at Maligne Lake, perhaps 30 minutes before sunset.  I wandered down to the lakeshore and took advantage of the nearly windless conditions.  Despite a lack of significant evening clouds, I found the available compositions–and the quality of light–enticing.

Maligne Lake Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Just minutes before sunset, I moved to the bridge over Maligne Lake’s outlet stream.

Maligne Lake Outlet Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Outlet Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Outlet Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Outlet Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I then turned my attention to the sky over the stream itself and found a few more image opportunities in this unexpected direction.

Pine at Dusk, Near Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pines at Dusk, Near Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Moonrise, Near Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Moonrise, Near Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It had been a long day; I packed up my things and headed back to the car for the approximately 25-mile drive back to Jasper.  As I made the return drive and circled around the back end of Medicine Lake, I glanced to my left…and immediately brought the car to a halt.  I drove back to a pullout a few hundred yards back up the road, parked the car, grabbed my backpack and tripod and ran down the shoulder of the road to a clearing that looked out over the lake’s flood plain.  I simply had to capture the graphic scene I had spotted from the car in the very last light of the day–a good 30 minutes after sunset.

Medicine Lake Flood Plain at Dusk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Medicine Lake Flood Plain at Dusk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Next:  Day 7 – Medicine Lake at Sunrise, More Wildlife, Palisades Picnic Area, Celestine Lake Road, Glory Hole and Miette Hot Springs Road

Having been completely shut out of sunrise/sunset opportunities over a period of four days and with a forecast of completely overcast skies beckoning for a fifth, I nonetheless arose early enough to make my way to Pyramid Lake Road in the hopes of getting lucky at Patricia Lake.  As I prepared to head out I glanced at the sky from the dark parking lot of the motel I was staying at–no stars were visible.  Not a promising sign.

I hadn’t had the opportunity to scout the location the day before, but the route to Patricia Lake via Pyramid Lake Road appeared to be a short and easy to follow one, and it proved to be so.  In a matter of less than 10 minutes, the narrow, winding road emerged from behind a thick grove of trees to reveal a good-sized body of water to the left.  There was some ambient light by this time and I good see that the surface was glass-like, which meant that there was no wind to speak of.  Unfortunately, it was mostly reflecting cloudy skies.

It was quite chilly–below 40 F according to the car’s outside thermometer–but the lack of wind kept it from being too unpleasant.  I pulled off on the side of the road behind a parked vehicle and climbed down a short embankment to scout the location.  There was a narrow, sandy beach and I found a few partially emergent rocks in the shallows to use as foreground objects.  There was plenty of coniferous growth lining much of the far shore and a beautiful pocket of aspens, at peak color, ahead and to my right.  The air/water temperature contrast was producing a light mist at the lake surface.  I could see part of the lower slope of Pyramid Mountain behind the forest, but the peak was entirely shrouded by low-hanging clouds.  Still, if anything happened as day break approached, this looked like a very promising spot.  I went back to the car for my gear and returned to the recently discovered shoreline spot, set up and waited to see if something would happen.

It didn’t look good.  It got brighter, of course, but that only appeared to have the effect of making it easier to see all the clouds.  A photographer, from Edmonton, set up about 40 feet to my left and, since we didn’t have anything to do but wait and hope, we chatted a bit.  We were both keeping an eye on the scene as we talked, and after some time–I’m not sure how much–passed, I noticed a small opening in the direction of Pyramid Mountain’s peak.  The opening got bigger and, for 15 minutes or so, we were treated to something pretty special.

Pyramid Mountain from Patricia Lake at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pyramid Mountain from Patricia Lake at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The clouds never completely lifted, or even appeared to have the promise to do so, but they did allow the peak, with beautiful direct light–apparently there wasn’t much opaque above the low cloud cover–to emerge.

Pyramid Mountain from Patricia Lake at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pyramid Mountain from Patricia Lake at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

While this was going on, I pulled out my second camera body, with the 80-400 telephoto lens attached, to produce a peak portrait of the scene.  (It’s remarkable how convenient it is to have a pair of identical camera bodies, with different focal length lenses attached, precisely to be able to make quick switches like this.  I did this repeatedly during the trip–which will be the subject of a subsequent “interruption” post–to great effect.)

Pyramid Mountain at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pyramid Mountain at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

After a few minutes, the clouds started to pick up color from the rising sun–you can see a hint of this in the above image–and I went back to the wider angle camera/lens.

Pyramid Mountain from Patricia Lake at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pyramid Mountain from Patricia Lake at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pyramid Mountain from Patricia Lake at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pyramid Mountain from Patricia Lake at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The show was over in a matter of minutes as the gap in the clouds closed up, hiding Pyramid Mountain and leaving the entire scene in even light.  I pulled the telephoto rig back out to do some reflection work with the trees on the other side of Patricia Lake.

Patricia Lake Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Patricia Lake Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

With the even light of overcast promising to hold for at least a while, I decided to investigate the aspen forest sitting between Patricia Lake and Pyramid Lake, a bit further down the road.  This would be perfect light for working deep forest scenes and details (fitting in perfectly with the theme that I blogged about in my last post), so I decided to take advantage of it by moving the car down to the far end of Patricia Lake and simply wading into the forest.

A trail follows the shore through the trees, but the aspen forest that abuts the lake is essentially trackless.  I simply wandered in and started looking for compositions.

Aspen Forest, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Potential shots in dense forest settings like this lurk almost everywhere, but it takes some care to tease a signal out of the considerable “noise” formed by the ubiquitous clutter.  When working with the trees themselves, I typically focus on patterns formed by the trunks and the interruption of those patterns, created in this case by the occasional small conifer.

Aspen Forest, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Between glances at the trees, I turned my attention to the forest floor–a favorite source of mine for intimate compositions.

Fallen Aspen Leaves, Near Patricia Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Fallen Aspen Leaves, Near Patricia Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It was mid-morning by the time I returned to the car, but it was still completely cloudy, so I moved another 1/2 mile or so down the road, to the southern edge of Pyramid Lake, and explored the other edge of the aspen forest via the nearly unmarked Wildland Trail.  The light remained perfect and I found myself with slightly more room to work with than had been the case in the part of the woods adjacent to Patricia Lake.

Aspens, Wildland Trail,  Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspens, Wildland Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Again, the forest floor, covered with fallen aspen leaves, held some hidden gems…

Forest Floor, Wildland Trail,  Jasper National Park, Alberta

Forest Floor, Wildland Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest Floor Wildland Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest Floor Wildland Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

…and the trail itself was a willing subject.

Wildland Trail,  Jasper National Park, Alberta

Wildland Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It was late morning by the time I wrapped up at the Wildland Trail and still cloudy, so I continued along to Pyramid Lake and did some scouting, along the east shore of the lake itself and then on Pyramid Island.  The wind had picked up by this point, killing reflections, so I didn’t do any shooting.  I ultimately drove to the end of the road and then hiked roughly a mile to the Pyramid Lake outlet stream.  A momentary break in the clouds brought the disk of the sun into view.

Sun & Fog, Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sun & Fog, Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

After returning to the car, I decided to clear out of the Pyramid Lake area and perhaps check out Maligne Canyon, in another part of Jasper National Park–the overcast conditions would be perfect for that area.  But on the way back towards the town of Jasper, while still on Pyramid Lake Road, I noticed some ducks in a boggy area called Cottonwood Slough, on the west side of the road.  The reflections of nearby aspens produced some nice color on the surface of the water so  I stopped, donned my rubber boots and waded partway into the soggy marsh.

Ducks & Reflections, Cottonwood Slough, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Ducks & Reflections, Cottonwood Slough, Jasper National Park, Alberta

After leaving the edge of the marsh I took a good look back at the slough itself, with its snags and yellow heath and decided that it made for a nice landscape image.  I was just beginning to see signs of clearing in the sky and was beginning to wonder if the overcast would soon be a thing of the past.

Cottonwood Slough,  Jasper National Park, Alberta

Cottonwood Slough, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Cottonwood Slough,  Jasper National Park, Alberta

Cottonwood Slough, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Looking to the right of Cottonwood Slough, I noticed that the clearing skies were just beginning to reveal the peak of Pyramid Mountain, as had happened at daybreak at Patricia Lake.  The wind had died back down and I wondered if there was anywhere on the watery surface of the slough that a reflection could be obtained.  I waded back into the tall grass and made my along the water’s edge until I found what I was looking for.

Pyramid Mountain from Cottonwood Sough,  Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pyramid Mountain from Cottonwood Sough, Jasper National Park, Alberta

By the time I extracted myself from the marsh for the second time, it was obvious that the overcast skies were a thing of the past.  So, I changed plans again and drove back toward Pyramid Lake in the hopes of reclaiming some of the reflections that had disappeared earlier.  I walked almost the entire length of the eastern shore of the lake and found a few good spots along the way.  (I spotted some loons, but I was unable to get a shot of them before they swam around a bend in the lake and disappeared.)

Pyramid Lake Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pyramid Lake Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pyramid Lake Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pyramid Lake Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

While I was sizing up the shot you see immediately above, I heard a sploosh noise and then the sound of someone paddling.  I was perched high up on a ridge, amidst a thick stand of trees, overlooking Pyramid Lake and after a short time, a kayaker came into view.  The light was pretty harsh, but I really liked the composition, which had a real storytelling feel to it, and nabbed the image you see below.

Kayaker on Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Kayaker on Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It was nearing mid-afternoon by the time I decided to put a wrap on the Pyramid Lake Road area; I’d been on the gr0und there for seven or eight hours–at least twice as much time as I had anticipated.  I decided to spend the duration of the afternoon checking out Highway 93A, a lightly traveled road that runs alongside the Athabasca River and several small lakes.  It’s also the access route for the road up to Mount Edith Cavell.  I planned to shoot sunrise at Mt. Edith Cavell the next day and wanted to scout the area–and perhaps do some shooting–at or near sunset so I’d know what I’d be facing.

But first I drove the length of Highway 93A, scouted several of the lakes for possible future visits and ultimately shot at several spots along the Athabasca River.  The first was at the Meeting of the Waters Picnic area, where two arms of the Athabasca River come together.  Access to the riverside is quite easy at this location, and I spent some time working several compositions.  The sky was almost completely clear at this point, but I found the scene quite enticing.

Meeting of the Waters, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Meeting of the Waters, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Meeting of the Waters, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Meeting of the Waters, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

A couple of miles back up the road I found another river view that I liked and climbed down near the river’s edge to work the scene.

Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I liked what the shadows cast by the trees along the riverbank was doing on the water and thought a black and white conversion might work. due to the natural contrast of the scene.

Athabasca River Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It was about two hours before sunset when I decided to make my way up the road to Mt. Edith Cavell.  The road is roughly nine windy miles long, and climbs up to a considerable height.  Less than a mile from the end of the road is a parking area that provides access to a trail head that leads the hiker, after a very short distance, to the outflow stream of Cavell Lake.  I took a quick look down there and was very impressed with the view of the mountain from several spots along the lake shore.  I would return there before sunset.

I got back in the car and drove the final 3/4 of a mile or so to the parking area at the end of the road.  From here, a trail allows you to approach Cavell Pond, which sits immediately below Cavell Glacier and Mt. Edith Cavell itself.

(If you’re unfamiliar with Edith Cavell, for whom the mountain was named in 1916, go here.)

I had been under the impression that a trail went right down to the edge of Cavell Pond, and at one time it did, but after one of the the three glaciers that surround Mt. Edith Cavell collapsed a few years ago, flooding the entire area all the way back to Cavell Lake, access to the pond has been restricted and the trail down to the pond–which was destroyed in the flood, hasn’t been rebuilt.  The trail now ends roughly 500 yards above the pond, and there are ropes set up and signs warning of the danger of advancing beyond the viewpoint.  This doesn’t stop everyone; when I got to the viewpoint, I could see two people down at the pond.  As badly as I wanted to go down there–the photo ops must be phenomenal–I didn’t, even when the area was entirely deserted as sunset approached, when I could have picked my way down there undetected.  I’ve been around too many photographers who incessantly complain about what “tourons” are doing to ruin their picture-taking opportunities but who show absolutely no compunction about breaking all sorts of rules when it suits them and seem oblivious to the hypocrisy of all this.  In any event, disappointing though it was, I made do with the area around the viewpoint itself.

Mt. Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mt. Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Cavell Glacier and Cavell Pond, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Cavell Glacier and Cavell Pond, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Cavell Glacier and Cavell Pond Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Cavell Glacier and Cavell Pond Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Angel Glacier Details Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Angel Glacier Details Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Along the trail on the way back to the parking area, I found another composition, using a rushing stream for foreground interest, that I found appealing.

Mt. Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mt. Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It was less than 30 minutes before sunset when I retraced my steps back to Cavell Lake.  From there, I made the day’s final images.  There were very few clouds in the sky this evening, but the light was sublime, even though the best images of Mt. Edith Cavell are made at sunrise, not sunset.

Mt. Edith Cavell from Cavell Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mt. Edith Cavell from Cavell Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mt. Edith Cavell at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mt. Edith Cavell at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Angel Glacier, Mt. Edith Cavell Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Angel Glacier, Mt. Edith Cavell Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mt. Edith Cavell at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mt. Edith Cavell at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It had taken five days, but I finally had evidence of a sunrise–and sunset–in the Canadian Rockies.  The forecast for the following morning was for clear skies.  Not ideal for sunrise, but better than socked in clouds.  My plan was to make the long trek back up to Cavell Lake in time for civil twilight.

Next:  The Canadian Rockies, Day 6 – Mt. Edith Cavell at Sunrise, Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake (and Wildlife!)

Posted by: kerryl29 | November 12, 2014

Thematic Interruption: The Elements of Style

Please forgive this brief intermission from the day-to-day reporting of my trip to the Canadian Rockies.  Every so often I have something I want to say beyond the chronological posting of images; this is one of those occasions and it will certainly happen at least one or two more times before I wrap up the trip.  The next post will be Day 5–my first full day at Jasper National Park.

In the more than five years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve discussed what it’s like to photograph landscapes in the American Midwest.  I’ll save everyone the unpleasant task of rereading the entirety of that description.  Suffice to say, the American Midwest is filled with various forms of development–commercial, residential and agricultural.  The areas of undeveloped landscape are largely flat, relatively cluttered woodlands and wetlands.  There are exceptions to this rather mundane generalization, but photographing effectively in this environment, in my view, requires particular attention to lighting conditions and the willingness to open one’s eyes to relatively narrow fields of vision.  Again, there are exceptions, but “grand landscapes” are comparatively few and far between.

Autumn Leaves, Devils Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Autumn Leaves, Devils Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Fallen Aspen Leaves, Wildland Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Fallen Aspen Leaves, Wildland Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It goes without saying, then, that the Midwestern landscape bears little resemblance to that of the Canadian Rockies.  There are no snow-capped mountain peaks reflected in alpine lakes; no glaciers; few wild rivers and massive, thundering waterfalls.  In short, photographing n the Midwest is an entirely different experience from doing so in the Canadian Rockies.

Right?

Above Upper Cataract Falls, Cataract Falls State Recreation Area, Indiana

Above Upper Cataract Falls, Cataract Falls State Recreation Area, Indiana

River Rapids, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

River Rapids, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Well, yes and no.  The “yes” part is pretty obvious.  It’s virtually impossible to ignore the aforementioned grand landscape opportunities that the Canadian Rockies present, especially for someone who’s new to the area.  I’m not sure that it’s possible to have an aesthetically sensible bone in one’s body and not gaze in wonder at those towering peaks, prodigious waterfalls and all the rest of the description presented above.  I trust that I’ve demonstrated this principle, to at least a small degree, in the posts covering the first four days of my trip.

Aspen Twins, Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Twins, Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Big Twin Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Big Twin Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

But the “no” part…that’s the counterpoint provided by the pairs of images that accompany this essay.  Despite all of the obvious differences, it is possible to present the Canadian Rockies region in a manner that is more…let’s say typical…of a style endemic to the occasionally frustrated Midwest-based landscape photographer: a bit more subtle; more detail-oriented; more intimate; more graphically oriented; more founded on patterns and forms.

These are the elements that, for better or worse, I naturally bring with me, wherever I go, it seems.  They come with years and years of cutting my teeth in locations where focusing on these principles feels somehow necessary.  It’s reached the point, clearly, where it’s not even a conscious thing for me anymore (if it ever was); how else to explain taking a trip to the Canadian Rockies and coming up with so many images that–at least superficially–are similar in style and composition to those made in the Midwest?

Fall Forest Floor, Morton Arboretum, Illinois

Fall Forest Floor, Morton Arboretum, Illinois

Aspen Forest Floor, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest Floor, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It’s not as though I was consciously looking for images like these; they just naturally caught my eye…as they do almost literally every time I’m out in the field in my home region.  It’s an arguable point, but I don’t think the tendency to indulge my apparently embedded tendency to “see” images like this cost me any great opportunities to engage in the grand landscape opportunities for which the Canadian Rockies are so well known.  While I haven’t included any such images as part of this post, you’ve seen plenty of them in the earlier installments of the series (Day 1; Day 2; Day 3; Day 4) and you’ll surely see many, many more if you continue to follow along as I present the daily posts from the remainder of the trip.

Aspen Forest, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Birch Trees in Autumn Dress, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Birch Trees in Autumn Dress, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

But you’ll also continue to see images of the sort that populate this post, because I have many, many more of them.  (In fact, I’ve posted a number of other such images during the already linked earlier posts.)  As I stated above, I seldom was specifically looking for “Midwest-like” images during my time in the Rockies.  There were one or two occasions when, during periods of overcast, I wandered into a wooded area in search of aspen intimates, for instance.  But the vast majority of the time, the types of shots you see here were obtained when I was off on a grand landscape hunt and something decidedly less grand caught my eye.

Oconaluftee River Reflections, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

Oconaluftee River Reflections, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

Reflections, Maligne River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Reflections, Maligne River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Art is an inherently personal, revealing exercise.  We’re always showing a little bit of ourselves through our aesthetic creations.  We reveal ourselves, to a greater or lesser extent, by the subjects we work with or depict; by the light we choose to use or eschew; and most intimately, I think, by the compositions we take control of and present.

Reeds & Lily Pads, Chain O'Lakes State Park, Illinois

Reeds & Lily Pads, Chain O’Lakes State Park, Illinois

Water Reeds, Beaver Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Water Reeds, Beaver Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I always like to “take what the landscape gives me,” rather than overtly imposing my personal will upon it.  And I think I’ve mostly succeeded in that endeavor over the years.  But I also like to allow a little bit of myself to permeate my imagery.  After all, it’s my view of the landscape that I’m trying to reveal through my photography.  I think that’s ultimately what’s happening here.  The grand landscape–the quintessential Canadian Rockies, if you will?  I’ve let that emerge (and I think you’ll increasingly see this as I continue to post the daily journal entries), as part of my intention to let the place reveal itself.  And the images like those accompanying this post?  That’s showing a little bit of what makes my imagery my imagery.

Next:  The Canadian Rockies, Day 5 – Patricia and Pyramid Lakes, Highway 93A and Mt. Edith Cavell

Before hitting the road for Jasper, I decided to take one more crack at sunrise from Moraine Lake.  I retraced my steps from the early morning of Day 3 and found myself back at the Moraine Lake parking lot before first light.  Unfortunately, conditions were even worse than the previous day.  There was a fog so thick that the mountain backdrop you see in the previous day’s images–some of the famous Ten Peaks–were completely invisible.

Rather than pursuing the impossible, I put on my rubber boots and made the hike along the lakeshore to the Moraine Lake inlet stream.  I’d shot at the location the previous day and decided that, if I returned, I’d try to wade into the water to obtain a different perspective.  And so I did.  The fog made for nice, even light given the subject matter–though the photographers back on the rock pile at the other end of the lake couldn’t have been very happy.  I did in fact wade out about 25 feet–as far as I could go into the stream without the water spilling into my boots.

Moraine Lake Inlet Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Inlet Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

There was no sign of the fog lifting when I finished at the inlet stream, so I headed back to the car and then drove back to and checked out of the motel and began the drive north toward Jasper.  Just a couple of miles north of Lake Louise Village, I exited the Trans Canada Highway–which continues west into British Columbia–and began my trip on the Icefields Parkway.

The Icefields Parkway runs about 150 miles from its southern terminus to the town of Jasper; The scenery along the parkway is universally spectacular.  I made a few quick stops in the first 15-20 miles of the drive, but with cloudy and occasionally rainy conditions, I found shooting opportunities to be limited.  The first lengthy stop I made was at the trailhead for the Bow River Outlet.  This was a location I learned of from Darwin Wiggett’s Icefields Parkway e-book.  The trailhead isn’t visible from the road, but I had the GPS coordinates to work with.  I parked along the west shoulder of the road, got out out and poked around.  In a minute or two, I was able to find the trailhead, down an embankment and through copious shrubbery.

The trail itself runs about 2/3 of a mile to the edge of the Bow River, through a mixture of meadows and forest.  I made mental notes of a couple of spots off the trail to look at on the return, but continued to forge my way to the riverside.  Partial clearing had taken place as I hiked the trail, and after a few minutes I found myself at a small opening on the east bank of the Bow River.  I was left with a stunningly beautiful view.

Bow River Outlet, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet, Banff National Park, Alberta

I also played with converting the above image to black and white.

Bow River Outlet Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Though there was quite a bit of growth alongside much of the riverbank, I bushwhacked my way downstream a bit, to an outlet stream, and found a perspective that offered what I thought might make for a pleasing shot.

Bow River Outlet Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

The black and white version of the above image:

Bow River Outlet Stream Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet Stream Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

On the way back to the parkway, I stopped at a meadow north of the trail that I’d noticed on the way to the river.  I was captivated by the scene and, even though the ground was a bit damp, I maneuvered around to produce the image you see below.

Bow River Meadow, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Meadow, Banff National Park, Alberta

Back on the parkway, my next stop was at Bow Summit, for views of the famous Peyto Lake.  Unfortunately it was raining steadily by the time I got there so I took a quick run up to the viewing area without my gear to scout the location with the intention of returning at some point later during my time in the Rockies.

I made a number of stops further down the road, at overlooks, for long lens views of the aspen-strewn mountainsides.

Aspen Mountainside, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Mountainside, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Mountainside, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Mountainside, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Mountainside, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Mountainside, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

The number of views was endless.  I skipped numerous overlooks, but still found my progress routinely interrupted.

Mountain Layers, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mountain Layers, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

At the northern end of Banff National Park, I made a stop at Panther Falls, a true gusher of a waterfall that spews out of a hole in a rocky cliff.  A short (approximately 1/4 mile) trail runs below a parking area alongside the parkway and down to a spot where the falls can be photographed.  It’s important to be very careful at this location as there are no guardrails, the trail is narrow and the drop is lengthy.  I moved out to the very edge of the cliff to obtain a shot of the entire waterfall.

Panther Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

Panther Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

I also played around with different shutter speeds and sectional views of the falls, including this semi-abstract that I converted to black and white.

Panther Falls Abstract Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Panther Falls Abstract Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

It was stretching into the late part of the afternoon by the time I finished up at Panther Falls, and I was still a long way from Jasper., but overlooks continued to beckon.  It was almost impossible to resist the urge to stop, pull out the camera and tripod and fire away.

Icefields Parkway Afternoon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Icefields Parkway Afternoon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Despite high winds, I felt compelled to stop again when I reached Athabasca Glacier, and walk the trail that brings you close to the ice to see what I could make of it.  Unfortunately, temporary barriers had been installed which prevented my getting any closer than a few hundred feet from the glacier’s toe.

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta

With a long lens I was able to zero in on some of the icy blue that is so characteristic of the Columbia Icefields.

Athabasca Glacier Sectional, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier Sectional, Jasper National Park, Alberta

By the time I put a wrap on things at Athabasca, it was early evening, no more than an hour before sunset.  I was now in Jasper National Park (the park boundary is a bit south of Athabasca), and the scenery was no less compelling than it had been in Banff.  I kept saying that I wouldn’t stop again–that I needed to get to the town of Jasper (my base for the next few days) to at least give myself a chance to scout a location for sunrise the following morning but it was becoming increasingly clear to me that it wouldn’t happen.

Eventually I put an end to the charade and just stopped whenever I found something compelling, which was frequently.  Tangle Falls, for instance, which was right alongside the parkway.

Tangle Falls, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I made numerous additional stops at a variety of unnamed pullouts.

Athabasca River Floodplain, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River Floodplain, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspens & Conifers, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspens & Conifers, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Icefields Parkway Evening, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Icefields Parkway Evening, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I planned to stop somewhere along the parkway when sunset came–I would still be a good hour south of Jasper when that happened–but, for the fourth straight day, sunset fizzled.  I pulled off at an overlook, but the sky was almost completely cloudy when the sun finally set, and there was no color at all.  I did get a bit of a bonus, however.  Just before dark, I had the opportunity to see–but not photograph–a large bull elk as it wandered through a meadow to the west of the parkway.  It was the first real wildlife sighting I’d had on the trip but it wouldn’t be the last.

It was dark when I arrived in Jasper, which meant that I’d have to hit a location completely cold the following morning at sunrise.  So far, in four days, I hadn’t had a single sunrise or sunset.  I was anxious to see that losing streak end on my first full day in Jasper National Park.

Next:  Day 5 – Patricia and Pyramid Lakes, Highway 93A and Mt. Edith Cavell

In the aftermath of a disappointing day at Lake O’Hara, I had hopes for better luck on Day 3.  My plan was to shoot sunrise at Moraine Lake, about a 20-25 minute drive from where I was staying at Lake Louise Village.  The forecast was for mostly cloudy conditions, but I was hoping that I’d get lucky.  As I made the drive, in the dark, down the winding Moraine Lake Road, I could see no stars when I glanced out the window.  As a result, I expected no sunrise this morning.

There was some ambient light when I reached Moraine Lake itself, and because of the time I took to scout the location on Day 1 , I immediately headed to a spot along the lake shore, rather than climbing up to the rock pile, as many photographers automatically do.  The sky was indeed mostly cloudy, but there was some definition and an occasional clear spot.  But there was too much cloud cover to generate much color in the sky or any light on the peaks as the sun rose.

Moraine Lake Morning, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Morning, Banff National Park, Alberta

I’ve been to a lot of iconic locations in North America over the years–Tunnel View at Yosemite National Park, Delicate Arch at Arches National Park, Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park, etc.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been to an iconic spot more deserving of that status than Moraine Lake; it’s an incredibly beautiful place, with some of the famous snow-capped Ten Peaks towering over a turquoise blue lake surrounded by coniferous forest.

There wasn’t a whisper of wind at dawn early that morning, which made for some picture perfect reflections.

Moraine Lake Morning Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Morning Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

After the shoreline, I moved along to the lake’s canoe dock.  The bright colors made for an interesting foreground.

Moraine Lake Boat Dock, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Boat Dock, Banff National Park, Alberta

 

Moraine Lake Canoe Dock, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Canoe Dock, Banff National Park, Alberta

There was still no light on the peaks after I was done at the canoe dock, so I took the approximately mile long trail through the woods, along the northwest shore of the lake, to the Moraine Lake inlet stream. Along the way, I found a couple of unorthodox shots that required use of a telephoto lens to execute.  The first used the lake itself as a contrasting backdrop.

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

The second shot keyed in on a runoff waterfall that descended hundreds of–if not more than 1000–feet from a snowy peak all the way down to the lake itself.  I chose to show only part of the mid-section.

Moraine Lake Runoff, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Runoff, Banff National Park, Alberta

I ultimately reached the inlet stream itself.  The even light of the morning was perfect for the setting.

Moraine Lake Inlet Stream Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Inlet Stream Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

I took a few shots, but regretted that I didn’t have my rubber boots with me.  I determined that, if I made a return visit to the stream, I’d be sure to wear my boots so I could wander out into the water to try and obtain an alternate perspective.

Moraine Lake Inlet Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Inlet Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

 

Moraine Lake Inlet Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Inlet Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

I walked back toward the rock pile after wrapping up at the inlet stream, and as I did I could see that there was some clearing taking place in the sky, so–even though it was now well past sunrise–I climbed up to the rock pile to see if I could find some pleasing compositions.

 

Moraine Lake from the Rock Pile, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake from the Rock Pile, Banff National Park, Alberta

 

Moraine Lake from the Rock Pile, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake from the Rock Pile, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake from the Rock Pile, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake from the Rock Pile, Banff National Park, Alberta

 

Moraine Lake Peak Portrait, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Peak Portrait, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake from the Rock Pile, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake from the Rock Pile, Banff National Park, Alberta

After spending much more time on the rock pile than I’d anticipated, I returned to the parking area and drove the 10-odd miles to Lake Louise to begin my planned hike up to Saddleback Pass.  The trail up to Saddleback leads to an impressive larch forest–something I was keen to photograph after the rain at Lake O’Hara essentially spoiled my plans the previous day.  The Saddleback Trail is pretty strenuous–it’s nearly three miles to the pass from the trailhead, but the distance isn’t the issue; the trail is relentless in its incline, gaining nearly 2000 feet of elevation over less than three miles.  I had reason to believe that I’d use each and every one of my lenses so, despite my misgivings, I hauled my full pack up the trail with me.  It was a bit of a slog, but I made it without incident.

The impressive views began about halfway up the trail, as the larches on the slope of Saddleback Mountain came into view.  The trees were at their golden peak and contrasted marvelously with the green pines.

 

Larches on Saddleback Mountain, Saddleback Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larches on Saddleback Mountain, Saddleback Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

 

Larches on Saddleback Mountain, Saddleback Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larches on Saddleback Mountain, Saddleback Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larches on Saddleback Mountain, Saddleback Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larches on Saddleback Mountain, Saddleback Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

I made it all the way up to the pass itself.  There’s a rocky meadow, of sorts, up there, just below the larch forest itself, which I found highly photogenic.

Saddleback Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta

Saddleback Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta

Ultimately I reached the larch forest, which was magnificent.  I spent a fair amount of time wandering around, looking for different ways to express the beauty of the setting.

Saddelback Trail at Saddleback Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta

Saddelback Trail at Saddleback Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Forest,  Saddleback Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Forest, Saddleback Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Forest,  Saddleback Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Forest, Saddleback Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Needles, Saddleback Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Needles, Saddleback Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta

It took a lot less time to descend the Saddleback Trail than it did to ascend it, partly because I’d done all the shooting I wanted to do on the way up, but mostly because…well, the way down was…down. :)

It was around 4 PM by the time I reached the trailhead and I immediately made the drive back to Castle Mountain.  I hoped that, this time–unlike Day 1–there would be some light on the mountain, and fortunately there was, despite the increasing cloudiness that had been forecast for late afternoon.

I’d scouted the Castle Mountain location on Day 1, so it didn’t take long for me to identify some compositions.

Castle Mountain from the Bow River, Banff National Park, Alberta

Castle Mountain from the Bow River, Banff National Park, Alberta

This spot on the Bow River is extremely pretty, and peaceful when no one else is around.  I was lucky enough to have the place all to myself, so I lingered a bit.

Castle Mountain from the Bow River Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Castle Mountain from the Bow River Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Castle Mountain from the Bow River, Banff National Park, Alberta

Castle Mountain from the Bow River, Banff National Park, Alberta

Despite what you see here–and this is facing more or less northeast–it was clouding up significantly to the west as I was wrapping up at Castle Mountain, exactly as the forecast had predicted.  With no sunset expected, I decided to race back up the Trans Canada Highway to Yoho National Park and the tremendous torrent of water that is Takakkaw Falls.  I had read about this waterfall, one of the tallest in Canada, prior to making the trip and determined that I needed to see it for myself.

By the time Takakkaw  came into sight, as I was approaching the end of the Yoho Valley Road, it was about an hour before official sunset and mostly cloudy.  I popped out of the car to take some long lens shots of the waterfall from the side of the road.

 

Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

I drove the final mile or so to the parking area and moved along the trail to capture some more images, using the Yoho River as my foreground subject.  I was taken by the footbridge that crosses the river and incorporated that element in my first shot.

Takakkaw Falls and the Yoho River Bridge, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Takakkaw Falls and the Yoho River Bridge, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

I crossed the bridge and wandered down to the outlet stream to see if I could find a pleasing shot.

Takakkaw Falls from the Yoho River, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Takakkaw Falls from the Yoho River, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Just as I was setting up for the above image, the wind kicked up and it started to rain.  But after a minute or two, things settled down, the rain stopped and I was able to use the final few minutes of daylight to nab a final shot.

Takakkaw Falls and the Yoho River Black & White, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Takakkaw Falls and the Yoho River Black & White, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

It had been a long day, and one without a sunrise or sunset–I was still 0-for-the-trip when it came to sunrises/sunsets–but it had been a good, productive day nonetheless.  I had one more morning to shoot in the Lake Louise area and then I’d pack up the car to take the Icefields Parkway to Jasper.  I anticipated a fair amount of shooting along the parkway, but still expected to be in Jasper by late afternoon to do some scouting for sunrise the following day and shoot sunset, assuming it materialized.

As usual, I was overly ambitious in my estimations.

Next:  Day 4 – The Icefields Parkway

Posted by: kerryl29 | October 21, 2014

The Canadian Rockies, Day Two: Lake O’Hara

Ah, Lake O’Hara…perhaps the most frustrating photographic experience of my life…

Some background information is necessary.  Back in May, when I was finalizing the timing for this trip to the Canadian Rockies, I scheduled the first eight days at Lake Louise and Jasper; the final 5-6 days were to be spent on a photo tour centered in David Thompson Country, led by Royce Howland (much more on the tour later in this series).  While I was in the process of trying to prioritize daily shooting options while staying in Lake Louise–I knew I had far more that I wanted to do than time in which to do it–I asked Royce if he had any suggestions.  He threw me a curve ball by recommending something that hadn’t been on the menu–a day trip to Lake O’Hara.

I hadn’t been familiar with Lake O’Hara–which is located just across the provincial border from Lake Louise, in Yoho National Park in British Columbia–up to that point, but Royce described it as “one of the crown jewels of the Canadian Rockies.”  When a photographer with decades of experience in the region (Royce) makes a statement like this, someone who doesn’t know his a** from his elbow with regard to the area (me) should sit up and take notice…so I did.

Royce warned me that access to the Lake O’Hara area was highly limited and that securing permission to enter was–I’ll be generous–a bit convoluted.  Lake O’Hara lies at the end of a road, roughly seven miles in length, that is closed to private vehicles.  There is no formal limit to the number of people who can hike into the area–the length of the hike (it’s all uphill–imagine doing that with a heavy pack full of gear–I figure it’s a 2-3 hour proposition) is limitation enough.  But you can gain access–for up to three days–by securing a reservation on a bus, which makes a round trip run from the parking area four times daily, for a relatively modest fee.  There is a campground up there, and a lodge–which runs its own shuttle.  (The lodge runs $500 CN per night, with a minimum two-night stay–yeah, I had the same reaction.)

So, if you want to go up there for the day, you can ride up on the bus as early as 8:30 AM and come back as late as 6:30 PM, which gives you a nice, solid 10 hours on the ground.  The only hang up?  The number of people allowed into the area is so highly restricted (to protect the fragile alpine environment) that you must call exactly three months to the day that you want to access the area in order to have a chance to secure a spot.  So, for a reservation in late September, I had to call in late June.  Oh, and the phone call?  The line doesn’t open until 9 AM (Mountain Time) and if you don’t get through to a person by 10 AM, you can basically forget it (the reservation space will be eaten up).  Oh, and there’s no sitting on hold–if you don’t get through to the sole person answering the only phone, you get a busy signal and you have to try again.  If this sounds like something from the era of Leave It To Beaver, it should.

To make a long story modestly less long, I decided that September 24–my first full day, and one of only two full days I was due to spend in the area–was the day to shoot for (if you’ll pardon the pun), so I dutifully made my call at 10 AM (Central Time) on June 24…and failed to get through…again and again and again.  I must have hit redial at least 300 times and finally, after about 50 minutes, I got something other than a busy signal.  I literally obtained the last seat on the 8:30 bus for September 24.  Hooray.

A bit of foreshadowing: at some point during the summer, when I was thinking about the then-upcoming trip, I thought to myself that the one thing that I hoped to avoid on the day of the Lake O’Hara visit was an all-day rain.

About five days before I was due to fly to Calgary–roughly one week before Lake O’Hara Day–I started checking the weather forecast for the Lake Louise area.  You know what’s coming.  At first, the forecast was calling for a chance of showers…or, at one point, a chance of morning showers.  From that point, I checked the forecast daily and every day, it seemed to get a bit worse.  By Sunday–the day before my flight, three days before Lake O’Hara–the forecast was simply “rain.”  And it stayed that way.  By the evening of Tuesday the 23rd–the day I drove from Calgary to Lake Louise Village, and the day before Lake O’Hara–the forecast was calling for a 70-80% chance of rain the next day.  Great.

I woke up well before dawn on the 24th, quickly got my things together and headed outside in the pitch dark.  To my surprise it wasn’t raining.  With my hopes up just a tad, I got in the car.  It takes about two minutes to drive from the parking lot of the motel I was staying at to the Trans Canada Highway for the 10-15 minute drive west to the Lake O’Hara parking area.  Before I reached the highway, the windshield was streaked with rain drops.  And, unfortunately, that was to be the story the rest of the day.

A light rain fell all the way during the drive to the parking area.  It continued to rain as I sat in the car, waiting for the light to come up.  It was still raining when I meandered over to the bus loading area, to hand in my reservation form.  It rained while I sat on the bus, waiting for it to depart.  It rained all the way on the ride up to Lake O’Hara.  It rained as I hit the trail.  And it never stopped all day long.  I mean that literally.  At no point during the entire day, did the rain stop.  Once or twice it was very light…but it never completely stopped and most of the time it oscillated between a light steady rain and a moderate steady rain.  On occasion, the wind picked up, just to add to the misery index.

The attraction, photographically, of a trip to Lake O’Hara isn’t necessarily the lake itself.  Don’t get me wrong, Lake O’Hara is quite pretty, but it isn’t obviously nicer than many other alpine lakes in the Canadian Rockies.  No, the appeal is the opportunity to take one of a number of trails that emanate from Lake O’Hara.  Of these trails, the one that sounded the most appealing to me when I was planning the trip was the Opabin Circuit.  This trail loops around part of Lake O’Hara and then climbs up to the Opabin Plateau, which lies to the southeast, past several small lakes to the edge of Opabin Lake which sits below several glaciers, and then loops around the same group of lakes back toward Lake O’Hara.  The Opabin Plateau sits hundreds of feet above the valley that includes Lake O’Hara, so it’s necessary to climb up, and then down.  The circuit is roughly five miles in length, but contains many side routes that the hiker can take that will lengthen the trek.

One of the appeals of the Opabin Plateau was the opportunity to traverse a series of larch groves.  The larch is the only coniferous tree species that sheds its needles each year.  In the fall, the needles turn a bright golden color before falling off.  I’d seen pictures of larches in the fall and I really wanted to see this phenomenon for myself.

And so, I dragged my sorry behind, through the constant rain, up to the Opabin Plateau.  I ended up being on the ground in the area for about 6 1/2 hours.  Even though I had dressed for the occasion, I still got drenched, as did my gear.

I know of a number of people who claim that they enjoy photographing in the rain.  Obviously these people are suffering from one of several serious mental defects, because I’m here to tell you that it’s a miserable experience.  Off-and-on rain is annoying, but workable.  Extremely light rain–drizzle, say–can be dealt with.  Steady rain, in a place utterly devoid of shelter (e.g. the Opabin Plateau) is another thing entirely.  It’s almost impossible to keep the front lens element (or filter) dry, which makes picture taking unpleasant at best.  It’s also nearly impossible to change lenses.  And, if your equipment–cameras and lenses–aren’t weather-sealed, shooting is basically a non-starter.

On this day, over 6 1/2 hours in the field, I created a grand total of 12 unique shots.  12.  Two of those 12 were basically grab shots, and a third was essentially ruined because I was evidently in such a hurry to get the camera out of the rain that I goofed up my focus settings and ended up with a soft foreground.  The other nine shots accompany this entry.

Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

What made the experience especially frustrating, however wasn’t just the weather and its implications on photography.  No, the most important factor was the fact that the Opabin Plateau may be the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life.  There were countless photo opportunities.  If the weather had just been lousy instead of something approaching a worst case scenario, I might still be up there setting up shots.  If the weather had actually been good

East Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

East Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Hopefully the images I’ve included here provide some semblance of the jaw-dropping beauty of the place.  With everything soaking wet, the colors were naturally heavily saturated.  There was a golden color to both the larch trees and the grasses (which were already in the early stages of dormancy, with winter approaching).  Even with the flat light, lousy visibility and the relative lack of reflections (a function of the wind blowing ripples on the lake surfaces), I think you can get a sense of what I was seeing with every step I took, in every direction I cast a glance.

Hungabee Lake from the East Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Hungabee Lake from the East Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Since producing images was such an unpleasant task, I only took the camera out when I told myself “I simply have to take a shot of this.”

Hungabee and Cascade Lakes from the West Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Hungabee and Cascade Lakes from the West Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

I can only imagine what the place would have looked like with anything approaching a clear vista, in any direction.

Hungabee Lake from the West Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Hungabee Lake from the West Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

My discovery of an inlet stream to Hungabee Lake and the ensuing cascades and waterfalls was one of those “I have to get a shot” (or in this case, two) situations.

Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Hungabee Lake Inlet Stream, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Hungabee Lake Inlet Stream, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Lying at the northern end of the Opabin Plateau is a rocky outcropping called the Opabin Prospect.  It overlooks the valley including Lake O’Hara and, even with the wind blowing rain in my face, I had to figure out some kind of way to get out to the edge and produce one image.

Mary Lake and Lake O'Hara from the Opabin Prospect, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Mary Lake and Lake O’Hara from the Opabin Prospect, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

On my descent back to the valley, via the West Opabin Trail, I photographed the valley lakes from a slightly different perspective.

Mary Lake and Lake O'Hara from the West Opabin Trail, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Mary Lake and Lake O’Hara from the West Opabin Trail, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

By the time I reached the valley floor–still about a mile short of the Le Relais shelter, which doubles as the Lake O’Hara bus depot, the rain had hardened.  It was now mid-afternoon, and I had decided to take the next bus out (4:30 PM–I had a good, solid hour wait); I’d abandoned any plans to photograph around Lake O’Hara, given how cold and wet it was.  It was a good call on my part, because not five minutes after I reached the shelter it started to really pour.  For the next 90-odd minutes the rain alternated between hard and steady and outright downpour.  The steady rain continued on the ride back to the parking area and all the way back to Lake Louise…and as far as I know, didn’t stop until some time well after dark.

I spent a good chunk of the evening using a hair dryer to dry out my backpack, hiking boots, and articles of clothing.

It had been an interesting day.  The conditions (as I have undoubtedly demonstrated) were awful, but the place itself had been mind-blowing.  I was left with the knowledge that I’d had my only crack at it.  (I later found out that the next day–the only other day that it had been an option to secure a reservation–was a rerun in terms of all-day rain–which shocked me because I spent the day in and around Moraine Lake and Lake Louise and it didn’t rain at all.)  I was left to ponder the means by which I could return to Lake O’Hara some day, in an attempt to give the place its photographic due through my eyes.

Next:  Day 3 – Moraine Lake, Saddleback Pass and Takakkaw Falls

Posted by: kerryl29 | October 14, 2014

The Canadian Rockies, Day 1: Bow Valley Parkway

Late afternoon on Monday, September 22 I boarded a flight at Chicago’s O’Hare airport destined for Calgary, Alberta.  The flight didn’t arrive until 8 PM local time and after going through customs, a delayed delivery of luggage and picking up a rental car, I didn’t clear the airport until well after 9 PM.  After staying overnight at an airport hotel, I hit the road shortly before sunrise the following morning (Tuesday, Sept. 23) for the 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive to Lake Louise Village.  Thus began my nearly two-week-long adventure in the Canadian Rockies.

Aspens, Fireside Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspens, Fireside Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

I’ve wanted to visit the Canadian Rockies, camera gear in tow, for as long as I can remember.  I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen, but a series of events made it possible this autumn.  I began seriously planning the trip in May–four months in advance of departure.  I timed the visit to coincide with the fall color season–essentially, aspens and golden larch–and I wanted to make the most of my time on site.  Two weeks (parts of 13 days, to be exact) sounds like a lot of time for a photographic location, and in a sense it is, but when you’re in a place as sizable and rich in photographic potential as the Canadian Rockies, it’s remarkable how brief a period it really is.

Bow River Muleshoe from the Muleshoe Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Muleshoe from the Muleshoe Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Overlook, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Overlook, Banff National Park, Alberta

It was a mostly cloudy day as I drove west from Calgary toward the town of Banff.  Just as I entered the southern perimeter of Banff National Park, it started to rain–hard.  But as I kept driving, the rain stopped in short order and the skies partially cleared.

Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Trunks Black & White, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Trunks Black & White, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Just north of Banff, the southern terminus of the Bow Valley Parkway intersects the Trans-Canada Highway.  The parkway essentially connects Banff and Lake Louise Village on a low speed (60 kmh) two-lane road that provides direct access to numerous scenic locations and trails.  My plan was to scout/shoot along the parkway, as conditions permitted, the rest of the morning and first part of the afternoon.  I couldn’t check in at my motel at Lake Louise Village until at least 3 PM, but I did want to scout Lake Louise, Morraine Lake and a few other locations before dark that day, due to my pre-planned itinerary.  I was to stay in the Lake Louise area through the morning of Friday, Sept. 26, but one of those days had already been earmarked for Lake O’Hara, at nearby Yoho National Park, across the border in British Columbia.  (Much more on Lake O’Hara in a future installment.)  So, there wasn’t a lot of time to experience all the richness of the Lake Louise area; I was determined to do as much as I could along the Bow Valley Parkway.  My main guide was Darwin Wiggett’s e-book, How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies:  Banff National Park.  (I purchased and made heavy use of four of Darwin’s destination e-books and I highly recommend them if you’re planning on photographing in the region.)

Aspen Leaves and Rocks, Fireside Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Leaves and Rocks, Fireside Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

My first stop was less than a mile down the parkway (which runs approximately 30 miles in all)–the Fireside Picnic Area.  I shot along a creek that was just steps from the picnic parking area and then wandered perhaps 1/2 mile down a trail, and photographed a bit in the forest along the path before returning to the parking area and moseyed a few miles down the parkway to the Muleshoe Picnic Area.  I spent more time here–both shooting in the forest alongside the picnic area and then on the seldom used Muleshoe Trail, which begins across the parkway from the picnic area of the same name.

Outlet Stream, Fireside Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Outlet Stream, Fireside Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

The main attraction to the picnic area itself, in my view, is the beautiful aspen forest that surrounds it. and with mostly cloudy skies still the order of the day, I had the perfect soft light with which to photograph it.

Aspen Trunks, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Trunks, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

The Muleshoe Trail runs through an old forest burn area and then up a fairly steep slope.  Eventually, it reaches the foot of an open meadow and runs straight up a very steep, uncluttered slope–and I do mean straight up; there isn’t even the hint of a switchback.  I forced myself up this extremely precarious trail because I could see that there would be some terrific views of the Bow Valley–including the muleshoe of the Bow River–below.  Despite the difficult footing and what felt like a 45-degree slope I kept pushing myself to climb higher, because it promised a better perspective with each step.  Finally, I reached a spot that allowed me to formulate the composition I wanted.  It was difficult just to put my backpack on the ground and keep it from rolling all the way down the slope.  Propping up the tripod–and myself–on the steep slope to produce the shot was even more difficult, but I managed to do it.

Bow River Muleshoe from the Muleshoe Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Muleshoe from the Muleshoe Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

When I descended to flatter ground, I found some areas where I could use a telephoto lens to produce some patterned shots of the mixed aspen-coniferous forest in the river valley below.

Aspens and Conifers from the Muleshoe Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspens and Conifers from the Muleshoe Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

After returning to the parking area I headed back down the road for the location along the parkway I had been most intrigued by after reading the e-book–Hillsdale Meadows.  This open meadow with stands of golden aspen and mountain peak backdrops with the now-partly cloudy sky accent was postcard perfect and I wandered in with my backpack and tripod and set up shop for awhile.

Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Twins, Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Twins, Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

From here, I made the trek to my last planned location along the parkway this afternoon–Castle Mountain.  I wanted to at least scout the location–along the Bow River, with the distinctive mountain peak as a backdrop–and shoot it if conditions allowed.  Unfortunately, the weather was deteriorating a bit and there was no light on the peak at all.  I did shoot, briefly, along a tributary to the Bow River, just downstream from the bridge that abuts the main shooting location for the mountain itself, but it started to rain while I was there, so I just managed a single shot and then trudged back to the car.  It was now pushing 4 PM, so I decided to check in to the motel and, if it stopped raining, do the rest of my scouting.

Bow River Tributary, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Tributary, Banff National Park, Alberta

By the time I got to the motel at Lake Louise Village it had indeed stopped raining, so after checking in I went back to the car and drove straight to Lake Louise itself, about five miles away.  This had been one of the iconic locations I had really wanted to see and, while the lake itself was quite pretty, the atmosphere there isn’t the best.  The place was just inundated with tourists, many of whom were undoubtedly staying at the Chateau Lake Louise, a huge hotel just steps away from the lake itself.  I wandered around a bit and made a few images, a couple of which I’ve included here, but on balance I was disappointed.  It was just too touristy for me, and after less than an hour I headed off to Morraine Lake for a quick scout.  I still needed to make my way over to Yoho National Park to locate the Lake O’Hara parking area, where I’d have to be early the next morning (more on this next time).

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta

I did check out Morraine Lake, but didn’t do any shooting.  It was now completely overcast and the point of my visit was to scout the location for a probable morning shoot on either Thursday or Friday (or both).  I immediately saw why the place is so widely acclaimed.  It’s difficult to describe the experience of seeing Morraine Lake for the first time and I’ll let some images in future installments do the talking for me.  Suffice to say that I was seriously impressed.

Boaters on Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Boaters on Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta

I then rushed back to the access road.  It was less than an hour until sunset (or dark–there would be no real sunset on this cloudy day) as I made my way back to the Trans-Canada and drove approximately 10 miles, across the provincial line into British Columbia to the Lake O’Hara parking area–which was easily found.  Having located the following morning’s destination, I quickly headed to the Yoho Valley Road to try to make a couple of quick images along the Kicking Horse River before I lost the light completely.  And so I did, donning my rubber boots and descending to the edge of the raging river, to produce the below shot, which I like best in black and white.  The shutter was clicked just moments before it was so dark that I could no longer see to focus.

Kicking Horse River Black & White, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Kicking Horse River Black & White, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

That brought to an end the first day I experienced in the Canadian Rockies.  Day 2 was to be spent at Lake O’Hara back in Yoho National Park.  This was something I had been looking forward to for months.  Now if only the weather would cooperate…

Day 2:  Scenic Nemesis – Lake O’Hara and the Opabin Plateau

Posted by: kerryl29 | September 17, 2014

A Pinpoint of Light

Those of you who read this blog regularly–and thank you for doing so, not incidentally–are aware of the fruits of my May trip to Hocking Hills in southeast Ohio.  What you almost certainly aren’t aware of is the fact that the trip to Hocking Hills was the last time I was out in the field with my camera…until this past weekend.  The reasons for the nearly four-month-long hiatus are manifold and, frankly, not very interesting, so I won’t bore you with the details.  Regardless, I felt a strong need to work with the camera in the field.

Why?

On Monday, September 22, I’ll board a plane for Calgary, Alberta to start a nearly two-week-long trip to the Canadian Rockies.

My parents honeymooned in Banff National Park more than 50 years ago, roughly four years before I was born, and one of the things they brought back was a painting of Lake Louise that they had purchased, on the spot.  I saw that painting countless times growing up (I saw it again, most recently, a few weeks ago), and it depicted a place I always wanted to see with my own eyes.  In fact, it’s possible that this painting had a subconscious impact on my own connection to the landscape;  I’m not certain.  But, in any event, I’m going to have the opportunity to do just that (i.e. see Lake Louise), finally, after all these years.

It seemed to me to be nothing short of absurd to head off on what will be, by leaps and bounds, the most exotic photo trip of my life to date after failing to interact with my equipment for more than four months, so early Saturday evening, when I was in Indianapolis, I headed off to Eagle Creek Park to go through the important exercise of seeing the landscape…and, not incidentally, to tangibly work with the camera.  Call it a refresher course of sorts.  My wife accompanied me, and brought Kiko, our 10 1/2 month old collie puppy, along for the ride.

We parked the car, I pulled out my backpack and tripod and we trudged off on a trail in the park that I’d never explored prior to this visit.

 

Cloud Reflections, Eagle Creek Reservoir, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

Cloud Reflections, Eagle Creek Reservoir, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

The point of this time in the field–which didn’t last more than an hour–was pragmatic, but it turned out to be much more than that.  It was a reminder of why I spend time in the field with camera gear in tow in the first place.

Eagle Creek Reservoir at Sunset, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

Eagle Creek Reservoir at Sunset, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

You might think I wouldn’t–or shouldn’t–need such a reminder, and I would agree with that assessment, particularly given that I’ve written about this very thing before…right here, on this blog.  But for some reason, it seems that I periodically do require this smack in the back of the head.  And after just a few moments on site, the purpose was effectively served.

It didn’t take very long before I was essentially lost in what I was doing, which is a major part of the exercise.

Eagle Creek Reservoir at Sunset, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

Eagle Creek Reservoir at Sunset, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

During this time, I took no more than a half a dozen unique images–most of which accompany this entry–but I still managed, I later realized, to use every lens in my bag (except the macro lens), from ultra wide angle to telephoto.  I regarded this as a good sign–it meant I was seeing the landscape this day with an open mind, free of any preconceived bias.  I was, in effect, taking what the landscape was giving me, something I regard as very important when I’m in an unfamiliar place…be it that trail at Eagle Creek or the Canadian Rockies (a place I’ve never been).

Eagle Creek Reservoir at Sunset, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

Eagle Creek Reservoir at Sunset, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

This will probably be my last blog entry prior to my trip to the Canadian Rockies.  For those of you interested I’ll be spending some time in Yoho National Park in British Columbia and Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta.  For the first week or so during my time there I’ll be shooting on my own.  The final six days I’ll be part of a small photo tour (not a workshop) led by Royce Howland, a Calgary-based landscape photographer with encyclopedic knowledge of the region.  I return to the Chicago area on October 6 and I will undoubtedly be relating my trip experiences on this blog in the ensuing weeks and months.

“See” you in October.

Posted by: kerryl29 | September 2, 2014

Hocking Hills Day 5 – The Final Morning

I had one last morning to shoot at Hocking Hills and I decided to spend that time tying up some loose ends–obtaining shots that I’d seen earlier in my stay but hadn’t been able to pull off for one reason or another.  So, I headed back to the Old Man’s Cave area one final time.  Each morning during my time in southeast Ohio it had been quite humid, but on this final morning it was really humid.  I knew that low-lying fog was a possibility and, sure enough, as I drove to the park I ran into some, in the vicinity of a farmstead that I’d admired several times while making the journey to or from Old Man’s Cave.  I stopped and took a quick shot, as a tiny bit of warmth from the rising sun penetrated the fog.

Farm in Morning Fog, Hocking County, Ohio

Farm in Morning Fog, Hocking County, Ohio

When I arrived at the Old Man’s Cave parking lot it was empty, as usual.  I quickly made my way to Middle Falls.  There was a shot that I’d found on my first day at Hocking Hills but couldn’t execute successfully that day.  I’d set up on that evening and, after waiting for nearly 30 minutes, gave up.  The shot required an ultra-wide angle lens–in my case, the 14-24/2.8–which meant an extremely broad field of view and that day, with copious activity in the area, people kept walking into the shot–through no fault of their own.  I realized, after a bit of frustration, that it simply wasn’t realistic to try to obtain the shot when the park was crowded.  The people who were getting into the shot couldn’t possibly have seen what I was doing, so they were straying into my frame without knowing it.  I decided that I’d have to return when the area was empty–as it was this morning.  So, again I placed myself in between two very large fallen logs that were pointing towards the Middle Falls, carefully adjusted my position, and produced the shot you see below.

Middle Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Middle Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

After obtaining the above shot, I made my way down to the Lower Falls area.  I’d done a bit of work there earlier, but this time I had my rubber boots on and waded well into the pool below the falls to investigate some different perspectives.

Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I wandered all the way to the right-hand side of the pool and played with several different foreground elements.

Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I then moved around toward the left-hand side to procure another shot or two.

Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

When I was finished in the Lower Falls area, it was still early enough to do a bit more exploring, so–for the first time–I made my downstream from the Lower Falls.  As I was wandering down the trail I heard the unmistakable sound of falling water.  I waded across the shallows of Old Man’s Creek and found a mostly overgrown trail heading up a steep hillside, and I saw clear signs of runoff as I climbed up the trail.  About halfway up, I noticed some interesting ferns and made a note to stop at the spot on the way back down.

The sound of the running water grew stronger as I moved up the heavily forested trail and, after a few minutes, I caught a glimpse of a waterfall.  I had to do some rock hopping to get a better look.  I was intrigued by what I saw, and poked around to gain an even better look.  What I saw, when I climbed on top of a very large boulder, was a tall, narrow rock slot, with water pouring down it.  It took some manipulating, but I was able to prop up my tripod and obtain the look I was after.

Broken Rock Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Broken Rock Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I later discovered that this waterfall had a name–Broken Rock Falls.  I hadn’t heard of this waterfall when I was doing research on Hocking Hills, but I was extremely glad that I had stumbled across it on this morning.  I converted the above shot to black and white to better emphasize the shapes and textures.

Broken Rock Falls black & white, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Broken Rock Falls black & white, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

While still atop the boulder, I turned around and looked behind me.  I saw a glen, thick with forest growth.  I also saw the fog–which hadn’t been present around Middle or Lower Falls, but seemed to stick to the trees, plants and moss-covered rocks.  It was an enchanting scene, reminiscent, at least to me, of the “magical hollow” shot I’d made on Day 3.

Misty Glen, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Misty Glen, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

As I backtracked on the trail, I first stopped to take a shot of Broken Rock Falls at the spot from which I’d first glimpsed the cataract.

Broken Rock Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Broken Rock Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Finally, I returned to the intimate scene with the ferns that I’d spotted on the way up.

Ferns and Rocks, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Ferns and Rocks, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

And with that, my photo journey at Hocking Hills came to an end.  It had been a very productive last day, with the fortunate discovery of Broken Rock Falls–and its environs–added to the shots of the features with which I was already familiar.  All in all, it had been a revealing trip to southeast Ohio and I hope to return to this area at some point in the future.

I hope you enjoyed my presentation as much as I enjoyed sharing it.  In case you missed the earlier entries in this series, the links below will take you straight there.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Posted by: kerryl29 | August 19, 2014

Hocking Hills: Day 4

I’d spent quite a bit of time in the Old Man’s Cave section of Hocking Hills during the first two days of my time in the area.  During the limited opportunities I had on the evening of Day 1, I had noted several potentially interesting shots, but was limited in my ability to get what I wanted because there were too many people milling about.  On Day 2, I had more time to scout, but by the time I wandered back down to the Middle Falls area, hotspots–created by sunlight–were beginning to creep into the environ so I limited myself to identifying additional opportunities with the intention of coming back on a later day.  This was the “later day.”

Once again I arrived at the main parking lot at daybreak and, once again, it was blissfully empty.  I quickly made my way to the Upper Falls area to nab just a few additional images that I hadn’t managed to obtain on my two previous attempts.

Upper Falls & Bridge, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Upper Falls & Bridge, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I focused most of my attention on tighter, more abstract shots, with the intention of converting to black and white when it came time to process the trip’s imagery.

Upper Falls Intimate Black & White, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Upper Falls Intimate Black & White, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

After wrapping up at the Upper Falls area, I slowly made my way downstream in the gorge, and stopped at Devil’s Bathtub again (I’d shot there previously on Day 2).  Before wading into the stream again, I decided to investigate perspectives from above the tub itself.  I was intrigued by the pattern of the water as it spiraled downward.  There was very little color of consequence in the frame, so I converted the shot to monochrome.

Devil's Bathtub, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Devil’s Bathtub, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Then I moved back into the stream itself to work on the bathtub again from below.  The resulting image, taken at greater than 200 mm, was pieced together by focus bracketing three frames for extended depth of field.  Again, there was very little color, so a conversion was natural.

Devil's Bathtub Black & White, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Devil’s Bathtub Black & White, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

On the way down canyon, in the direction of the Middle Falls section of the Old Man’s Cave area, I noticed a host of ferns, penetrating cracks in the canyon wall, at least 40 feet above where I was standing.  I couldn’t resist the temptation to capture an image of one of these “hanging gardens.”

"Hanging Gardens," Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

“Hanging Gardens,” Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Further along, I photographed a small ephemeral waterfall that I’d noticed upon each of my entries into the Old Man’s Cave area of the park.  I spent quite a bit of time checking out different perspectives; it was difficult to eliminate a number of features that I felt detracted from the ambiance of the scene and ultimately settled on the shot you see below.

Unnamed Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Unnamed Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

From this spot it was back to the area near the Middle Falls itself.  I had greatly admired an area of cascades immediately above the falls during my previous sessions in the area and I took this opportunity to capture the scene, from several spots.

Cascade, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Cascade, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

It was a bit of a dicey proposition climbing down into the stream bed itself at this point.  The rocks were exceptionally slippery and I had to be careful, not only with my own footing, but also with regard to the tripod itself.  It was quite dark down in this small hollow, so long shutter speeds–several seconds in duration–were the order of the day.

Cascade, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Cascade, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

On my scouting visit to this spot, back on Day 2, I had been intrigued by the presence of a few isolated ferns, perched on the rocky ledge above the cascades below.  I’d spent a lot of time sizing the shots up–with an attempt to incorporate the ferns in the foreground and the cascades in the background.

Ferns & Cascades, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Ferns & Cascades, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

There was absolutely no way to obtain these images with a single frame; the depth of field was simply inadequate.  I ended up taking two shots of each, one focusing on the foreground and the other on the background, and then masked the shots into one manually using Photoshop.

Ferns & Cascades, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Ferns & Cascades, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

This wrapped up the morning’s shoot.  Early that afternoon, some threatening weather blew in–a tornado watch was issued for the county–so I hunkered down at the hotel for awhile.  Early in the evening, I raced back to Old Man’s Cave, and came away with the shot below, showing the trail down to the stone bridge that crosses the creek immediately below the Middle Falls.

Old Man's Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Old Man’s Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I was literally standing below the Old Man’s Cave overhang when I captured the above image and while I was doing so, I heard several loud claps of thunder.  I hotfooted it out of there and back to my vehicle, and headed back to the hotel.

It was still about an hour before sunset when I got back to town, but the sky was awfully angry looking.  It wasn’t raining, but it appeared as though it could pour at any moment.  I kept seeing lines of storm clouds blowing in from the southwest.  As sunset approached, some incredible light began to appear in the sky.  I decided to see if I could find somewhere nearby to capture it.  There was no point in heading back to Hocking Hills–it was too far away, for one thing, and down in the gorge the sky (and great light) wouldn’t be apparent anyway.

When I headed back to town on Day 3 from the Cantwell Cliffs area of the park I had taken a detour past Lake Logan, to see if there were any intriguing sunset (or sunrise) locations to take advantage of.  I’d seen a couple of interesting spots, but I’d been frustrated in my attempts to realize any of them, by fog in the mornings and an absence of sunsets in the evening.  But here was an opportunity.

It was less than 10 minutes to one of the spots I’d found alongside Lake Logan–a small area of boat slips–and I raced over there.  It was getting quite dark, but when I arrived at the deserted parking area there was enough light, I thought, to attempt to do something with the and the interesting sky.  I had to “make do” with the composition, but in all I was relatively satisfied with what I ended up with.  I took a series of exposures and what you see below is a blend of five bracketed frames.  The “glow” you see on the boats and the docks in the foreground is a function of a street lamp immediately out of frame to the right.

Lake Logan Sunset, Lake Logan State Park, Ohio

Lake Logan Sunset, Lake Logan State Park, Ohio

With that, Day 4 was put to bed.  I had one more morning’s worth of shooting to go and it turned out to be a good one.

Next:  Hocking Hills, Day 5 – The Lower Falls Area and Rock Crack Falls

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