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.
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.
After the shoreline, I moved along to the lake’s canoe dock. The bright colors made for an interesting foreground.
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.
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.
I ultimately reached the inlet stream itself. The even light of the morning was perfect for the setting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I crossed the bridge and wandered down to the outlet stream to see if I could find a pleasing shot.
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.
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