It was my last morning at Jasper and I decided to try and capture sunrise from Glory Hole–a location I’d visited in the afternoon of Day 7 that I thought would make a fine shooting location at first light, so I got up extra early and made the approximately 15-mile drive in the gloom to the location I’d recorded on my GPS the previous day.  I hung out at the spot for some time, but–though it got brighter–it was far too cloudy for there to be any sunrise that morning, so I grudgingly gave up and made my way back to Jasper with the intention of checking out of the motel and making my way down the Icefields Parkway in the direction of Athabasca Falls.

But while I was driving back toward the town of Jasper on the Yellowhead Highway, I noticed that the sky was doing some interesting things to the northeast.  It wasn’t sunrise light per se, but as I approached one of the Yellowhead Highway bridges that crosses the Athabasca River, I pulled off the road, made my way down to the river bank and captured the image you see below.

Athabasca River Morning, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River Morning, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I made my way back to town, checked out of the hotel, filled the gas tank (very important, since the next gas station was at Lake Louise Village, more than 150 miles away) and began the trek south on the Icefields Parkway.  The first 50-odd miles covered terrain that I’d passed on the way to Jasper, back on Day 4, in the dark, so it was really my first look at this spot.  I didn’t make it all that far.

On a large bend in the road I saw a beautiful meadow to my right, and even though there wasn’t a pullout I stopped–well off the shoulder of the road.  I spent quite a bit of time at this spot, making the most of the stands of aspen mixed with pristine conifers and an attractive background of mountains and partly cloudy sky.  The light was soft and was a lovely complement to the setting.

Morning Meadow, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Morning Meadow, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Meadow, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Meadow, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

After shooting (relatively) wide I pulled out my second camera body with the 80-400 mm lens attached and spent some time working with tighter perspectives.

Aspen Trunks, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Trunks, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Monarch, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Monarch, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Once again I was left to marvel at the photographer’s paradise that is the region known as the Canadian Rockies.  Here I was at an unmarked, essentially unrecognized spot and I could have spent most of the day here making images, if I’d had the time.  All of the shots in this sequence were made without moving more than 75 feet from my parked vehicle.

Aspens, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspens, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It was mid-morning by this time and I reluctantly got back in the car and headed back down the parkway.  My next stop was Athabasca Falls–a popular location for the many tour buses that zip up and down the parkway.  The falls area wasn’t too crowded when I arrived and after walking the short distance from the parking area to the falls viewing area I sized up the location.

Athabasca Falls is a gusher of a waterfall, but it’s difficult to obtain what I’d term a clear, full view.  Ultimately, I spent most of my time working on sectional compositions, most of which I subsequently converted to black and white, as you can see below.

Athabasca Falls Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Falls Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Falls Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Falls Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Falls Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Falls Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Falls Sectional Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Falls Sectional Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Falls Abstract, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Falls Abstract, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I then focused my attention on telephoto shots of the Athabasca River above the falls.

Athabasca River Rapids, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River Rapids, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River Rapids Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River Rapids Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I gradually made my way upriver along a trail that skirts the bank, and worked my way over to a rocky shore for a wider perspective of the scene.

Athabasca River Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

As I made my way back towards the parking area, I stopped on a bridge just below the falls which looks into the slot canyon that sits downriver.  There was someone in a kayak who was serving as a model for a group–I honestly couldn’t tell if they were preparing for a photo shoot or what (there was no equipment in place, but a lot of the talk among the participants sounded photo-ish)–in the rapids of the slot canyon.  The people up on the rim were occasionally trying to communicate with the kayaker, but he obviously couldn’t understand what they were saying over the roar of the waterfall, the sound of which must have been amplified by the echo bouncing off the canyon walls.  Regardless, the kayaker must have been highly experienced because he was holding his own under some rather gnarly-looking conditions.  I took a moment to pull out my equipment and capture the scene.

Kayaker in Slot Canyon, Below Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Kayaker in Slot Canyon, Below Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I had spent nearly two hours at Athabasca Falls and it was pushing noon as I moved along.  As had been the case on my northward drive on the Icefields Parkway several days prior, I found myself stopping frequently at the many pullouts.

Mt. Edith Cavell from the Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mt. Edith Cavell from the Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Overlook, Icefields Parkway, Morning Meadown, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Overlook, Icefields Parkway, Morning Meadown, Jasper National Park, Alberta

At one of these stops, a huge glacier was the main attraction.  At this location, I worked exclusively with a telephoto lens to compress the elements of the distant scene.

Distant Glacier, Icefields Parkeway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Distant Glacier, Icefields Parkeway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Distant Glacier, Icefields Parkeway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Distant Glacier, Icefields Parkeway, Banff National Park, Alberta

The river floodplain in the valley below also made for an interesting patterned shot, I thought.

River Floodplain, Icefields Parkeway, Banff National Park, Alberta

River Floodplain, Icefields Parkeway, Banff National Park, Alberta

I took a short road off the parkway to have a look at Sunwapta Falls, another gusher of a waterfall with limited views.  I couldn’t find a way to capture the falls in full without incorporating objectionable elements, so I worked the top of the falls, and the Sunwapta River above them.

Sunwapta River and Sunwapta Falls Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sunwapta River and Sunwapta Falls Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

This was Upper Sunwapta Falls.  I wanted to hike the trail down the canyon to Lower Sunwapta Falls and photograph there as well, but it was mid-afternoon by this time and I knew that, between the round-trip hike (roughly 2 1/2 miles) and time spent shooting, I’d lose the better part of two hours and I had to be at the Aurum Lodge, for the start of the tour I was joining, before 5 PM.  From my current spot, if I drove without stopping, I’d probably arrive at the lodge after 3:30, and, really, given the scenery and my predilections, what were the odds that I wouldn’t stop again?  So I headed back to the car and resumed the drive.

Eventually I stopped at a location called Hilda Ridge, which provided interesting views of Hilda Creek on both sides of the parkway.

Hilda Creek from Hilda Ridge, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Hilda Creek from Hilda Ridge, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Hilda Creek from Hilda Ridge, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Hilda Creek from Hilda Ridge, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Finally, I stopped perhaps 15 miles north of Saskatchewan Crossing where low-hanging clouds were clinging to the mountainside, above the tapestry of aspens, east of the roadway.

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

I was still roughly an hour short of the lodge and it was approximately 3 PM.  I told myself–no more stops!–and I behaved.  I continued south on the Icefields Parkway until I reached Saskatchewan Crossing and then took a left on Highway 11, exiting Banff National Park after a couple of miles.  This was my first look at David Thompson Country and I was impressed with the scenery and the emptiness of the area as I made my way 30-odd miles east toward the lodge.  There were almost literally no services or residences of any kind for the duration of the drive.  This was a remote area.

I reached the lodge at about 4:15, met one of my Aurum Lodge hosts, Alan Ernst, who got me checked in and settled.  I joined the other tour participants at around 5.  (For a more complete overview of the tour itself, go here.)  After some brief introductions and some words from Royce Howland, the tour leader, about what to expect, we piled into a couple of vehicles and made a 15-odd minute drive to the west–the direction I’d come from–on the highway for a sunset shoot at the Kootenay Plains.

Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

This became one of my favorite locations of the entire trip–not just the tour, the whole 13-day excursion, including my time on my own.  I’ll likely have more to say about this topic in a dedicated “thematic interruption” piece at some point, but suffice to say for now that I was as taken with the various meadow locations that I experienced in the Canadian Rockies as any scenic genre it was my pleasure to witness, be it the Hillsdale Meadows, the Opabin Plateau, the Bow River Outlet Trail, the Palisades Picnic Area or the unnamed meadow that I’d spent time in that very morning along the Icefields Parkway south of the town of Jasper.  The Kootenay Plains was as breathtaking a spot as any of these, perhaps more so given the incredibly open, big sky feel of the place.  There were stands of aspen and conifers in a broad, grassy pasture ringed by snow-capped peaks with fast moving cloud formations above and, quite literally, 360 degrees worth of spectacular views.  It was almost overwhelming.  Almost.

As the sun went down the cloud formations lit up, one-by-one.  The best locations to frame the views in different locations required a fair amount of movement.  I did some of this, but as I was brand new to the location, rather than running around like the proverbial chicken (without the proverbial head), once I sized up the place I confined myself, mostly, to one comparatively small area, best to capture the effects of the rapidly changing light.

Majestic Kootenay Plains Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Majestic Kootenay Plains Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

I simply couldn’t get over how wonderfully the elements of this location naturally conformed to my compositional desires.  For someone as used to cluttered environments as I am, I was like a kid in a candy store.  It was almost as though I’d been given the opportunity to arrange the various elements of the scene in advance.

Mt. Peskett and Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Mt. Peskett and Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Mt. Peskett at Sunset, Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Mt. Peskett at Sunset, Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Before we knew it, the blue hour was upon as us.  As if on cue, the moon rose, putting a cap on yet another extremely long, almost scarily memorable day of photography in the Canadian Rockies.

Kootenay Plains Moonrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Moonrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

As the last light dropped away and we prepared to leave, I asked Royce if we’d have the opportunity to revisit this spot before the end of the tour and he assured me that we would–which I was very pleased to hear.

Next:  The Canadian Rockies, Day 9 – Reflecting Pools and Further Explorations of Highway 11

From the early evening of September 30–the eighth day of my trip to the Canadian Rockies–until the early afternoon of October 5, my final day in the region, I was one of the participants on a photo tour led by Royce Howland, a professional photographer who has lived in Alberta for decades and has been leading photo tours in the area (and elsewhere) for years.  Before I continue with my chronological detailing of my time in the Rockies (the next entry in this vein will be of Day 8, including the beginning of the tour), I want to spend a bit of time discussing the tour experience itself.

As long-time readers of this blog know, on the rare occasion when I review a product or service, you’re receiving my honest, uncompromised appraisal–for what it’s worth.  When I take the time to critique something in the photo world, you can be sure that I have no vested interest in the subject.  My reviews are based on my experience as an ordinary customer who has received no special considerations of any kind.  That’s the case in this instance as well; I paid full-price to be a participant on this fall photo tour and I’m not receiving any compensation based on anything I write.  Nor, I hasten to add, have I been asked to write this piece; what follows is entirely of my own volition.

Workshops and Tours in General

Those of you who have been reading this blog for some time already know that I don’t often attend workshops or tours.  The reasons for this are manifold, but generally center around the following factors:

  1. Cost.  Workshops/tours are generally pretty expensive.  Whether they’re “worth it” or not is very much in the eye of the beholder, but ordinarily, unless I believe that there’s going to be something about the workshop/tour that I’m not going to be able to attain on my own, I conclude that it’s not worth my while financially to sign up.
  2. Lowest Common Denominator.  For obvious reasons, workshops generally have to cater to this principle or face the prospect of financial failure.  Generally speaking, these kinds of sessions appeal more to beginning or relatively inexperienced photographers, because it’s these folks who are most interested in assistance with the technical fundamentals of the endeavor.  Whatever my photographic acumen, I’m not a newcomer to the craft so–in concert with point #1 immediately above–the last thing I want to do is spend my money for service that I don’t need.
  3. Time in the Field.  This point is essentially an addendum to #2, but most workshops don’t utilize time in the field nearly as intensely as I do.  I understand why this is so; most potential paying customers don’t want to be in the field from dawn to dusk, with little if any interruption; and they also expect to eat regular meals at relatively normal times.  While this is understandable, these aren’t my priorities when I’m on a photo trip.  As is the case with my cash, I don’t want to spend my time doing anything that isn’t directly furthering my photo opportunities when I’m on location.

With these points working against my interest in workshops/tours, why would I sign up for one?  The main attraction for me is leveraging the expertise of the person leading the enterprise.  Particularly when I’m at a location that is entirely new to me, relying  on the experience of someone who knows the location far better than I ever could is potentially of considerable value to me.

Elliot Peak at Sunrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Elliot Peak at Sunrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

In essence, if I’m convinced that the tour leader will be able to guide me to places at the best times to produce meaningful imagery that I would be unlikely to find myself  and I’m confident that points 2 and 3 above won’t be major issues (based on a discussion with the event leader regarding the proposed itinerary and modus operandi), then I can typically overcome point #1…as long as it’s not so expensive as to be a budget buster for me.

The Canadian Rockies in Autumn Photo Tour

Since I decided to attend, obviously I was able to satisfy myself that my requirements would be met.  The price of the tour–which included lodging and meals during the parts of six days that we were on site–was reasonable.  But, just as importantly, I also determined that dealing with my other concerns wouldn’t be a problem.  The tour (not a workshop, you’ll note) was billed as being appropriate for “intermediate and advanced photographers” and it was made clear that the overarching emphasis would be on image-making opportunities in the field…all day, every day.  That sounded right up my alley.

One other matter, which initially concerned me, turned out to be among the best–if not the best–reasons to join the tour:  its focus on specific locations.  The tour itself was based at a small lodge in David Thompson Country–part of the eastern front range of the Canadian Rockies.  The Aurum Lodge is located on Highway 11 in Alberta, about 30 miles west of Saskatchewan Crossing and the vast majority of the time that the tour spent in the field was within about a half an hour of the lodge itself.  I knew nothing of this region–even by reputation–prior to attendance and my initial concern was that time I was spending there could be better spent at some of the endless spots in Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Parks on my own.  But an on-line discussion with Royce effectively put that consideration to rest.  Without even really trying, he convinced me that there were more than enough marvelous locations near the lodge–and ones that weren’t particularly well-known at that–to keep us plenty busy for far longer than the duration of the tour.

With all that in mind I decided that taking a spot amongst the tour participants–and there were only three others (smaller is virtually always better when it comes to these sorts of things)–was worth the expense, and the time (since the days I devoted to the tour were days I wouldn’t be able to spend in other places photographing other things).

Storm Clouds over Lake Abraham Black & White, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Storm Clouds over Lake Abraham Black & White, David Thompson Country, Alberta

The Assessment

As I continue to post detailed chronological entries covering the remainder of the trip you may be able to draw your own conclusions, but for the time being you’re probably wondering whether, in hindsight, in making the decision to attend I made the right choice.

The answer is “yes,” and resoundingly so.

All of the images accompanying this post were made during the tour, and this is just a small taste of the photo opportunities we experienced.

David Thompson Country turned out to be every bit as breathtakingly beautiful as any of the other areas in the Canadian Rockies that I had the opportunity to visit and it had the added benefit of being almost completely empty.  We were on site for parts of six days and scarcely ever saw another soul, other than the occasional passing vehicle on Highway 11.  This made careful, considered landscape photography possible, which was an exceptionally pleasurable experience for me.  What’s more, these were locations that, almost without exception, I never would have known about, let alone photographed, had I not joined the tour.  Various spots in Banff and Jasper National Parks are the iconic locations in the Canadian Rockies; you really never hear about David Thompson Country.  I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to experience this sub-region (particularly the Kootenay Plains area, which captivated me).

Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

If there were ever any doubts at all about Royce’s encyclopedic knowledge of the area and his ability to correctly discern where to go and when, they were put to rest immediately and conclusively.  We spent the entire tour maximizing excellent opportunities and minimizing time spent traveling from place to place.  The weather wasn’t always cooperative, but it never is (I direct you to my Lake O’Hara experience), and I was impressed by just how well time was apportioned at each location.  I was every bit as productive photographically, if not more so, during the tour as I had been on my own, earlier in the trip, and that’s a rare thing in my experience.

As advertised, the emphasis was on time in the field, to the nth power.  This had been a major issue for me, as I indicated above, and I wasn’t disappointed.  More than any other workshop/tour I’ve ever attended, this one came the closest to matching my own typical in-field workflow.  We were out from before dawn until after dusk every day; the only real concession was the evening meal, which was timed so that it wouldn’t conflict with pre-sunset/sunset shooting.  Breakfast was scheduled to precede a dawn shoot every day and lunch took place in the field, with minimal loss of time.  On many days there was at least some hiking involved, but if you’ve been reading this series you know that’s right in my wheelhouse.  Over all, for me, this is as good as it gets.

As a windfall, as a result of participating in the tour I had the opportunity to do one of the Morraine Lake area hikes (Consolation Lakes) that I had to bypass when I was in the area on my own due to the bear-related multi-person hiking restrictions put in place by Parks Canada.  That was the cherry on top of the sundae.

Aspen Forest, Belly of Abraham, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Belly of Abraham, David Thompson Country, Alberta

While there was no formal instruction in field during the tour, Royce and his co-leader, Dan Wheeler, were always available for questions about technical and aesthetic matters.  To the extent that subject matter wasn’t readily apparent, Royce always provided an overview of shooting possibilities at each location.  We did have a couple of informal, optional get-togethers in the evenings back at the lodge after returning from sunset shooting on several nights.  Even though they were optional, everyone attended each session.  As much as I like to think I know about the intricacies of certain nuanced photographic subjects, such as HDR, Royce knows more and I had the opportunity to pick his brain about a few advanced topics.  At least some of these discussions have caused me to alter a few of my own practices moving forward.

(I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that Royce was extremely helpful to me in providing information that assisted me as I planned my own self-guided itinerary that you’ve already read about in my summaries of Days 1 through 7.  For instance, it was Royce who put me on to Lake O’Hara; Royce also told me about the hiking restrictions around Morraine Lake and helped me pick some alternate locations; and, as you’ll see in the final chronological installment, it was Royce who put me on to optional viewing spots at Bow Summit.)

Reflecting Pools, Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Reflecting Pools, Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Also adding to the success of the tour was the fact that the other participants were extremely friendly, open and a pleasure to be around.  I’m not aware of a single conflict that ever arose at any point–not even a small one.  At least some of that had to be a function of the easygoing, yet confident, tone that Royce set for the tour.  Additionally, while I was probably the most experienced landscape photographer among the participants, others had backgrounds in other areas (e.g. street photography, architectural photography, etc.) that made for an intriguing array of approaches to the subject matter at hand.

Finally, the accommodations at the Aurum Lodge were first rate.  The hosts–Alan and Madeleine Ernst–were always friendly, helpful and accommodating.  The lodge itself was comfortable and well-appointed, despite being in such a remote place, miles from the nearest services, and entirely off the grid.

Highway 11, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Highway 11, David Thompson Country, Alberta

I heartily recommend Royce’s Canadian Rockies photo tours.  It’s a phenomenally effective way for someone who already has the benefit of at least some photographic background to experience the beauty of a little-known, oft-overlooked area, led by someone with an intricate knowledge of the entire region.  My trip–which was already going well–was made significantly better by my decision to attend the tour.  Once you have the opportunity to see some of the places we visited as I post the remainder of the daily entries, you’ll have an even better sense of my meaning than can be gleaned from any written description.

Next:  The Canadian Rockies:  Day 8 – Athabasca Falls, Icefields Parkway Southbound, Sunwapta Falls and an Introduction to the Kootenay Plains

As documented in my account of Day 6, I scouted Medicine Lake,in Jasper National Park, at midday.  As a function of that experience, I decided to try my hand at sunrise from this location on Day 7, which was to be my last full day at Jasper.  I got a little bit of a late start that morning, with no particular expectation of a brilliant sunrise, but as I was turning onto the Maligne Lake Road–the access route to Medicine Lake–I could see that something noteworthy was underway.  I sped to the shores of Medicine Lake as quickly as possible, pulled into the empty parking area, grabbed my things and quickly raced down the stairs from the lot to the meadow that surrounds the lakeshore.

It was another very chilly morning–about 25 degrees F, at daybreak–but I hardly noticed given what was going on in the sky.  Fortunately, based on my scouting session the previous day, I knew almost exactly the spot where I wanted to set up and I was able to catch some of the best color in the sky that morning.  I deliberated wanted to include some of the rocky meadow as a foreground.  Besides, the lake itself was full of ripples–colorful ripples, admittedly, but there was no glass-like reflection to serve as a foreground.  Regardless, I was quite happy with the fruits of this day’s sunrise shoot.

Sunrise, Medicine Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sunrise, Medicine Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The light show was over quickly, and I prepared to head toward my main objective that day–a variety of sites along the Yellowhead Highway, which provides access to areas in the park east of the town of Jasper.  Before I made it off Maligne Lake Road, I stopped at a roadside pullout and spent a bit of time photographing details in the Maligne River, including those rendered in the image immediately below.

Maligne River Details, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne River Details, Jasper National Park, Alberta

After I left the riverside, I returned to the point where the Maligne Lake Road junctions with the Yellowhead Highway and almost immediately saw a “wildlife jam.”  A small herd of elk was right along the side of the road, so I joined the gapers and grabbed my camera with the long lens attached.  There was one bull elk with his “harem,” and I concentrated on him.  I was fortunate enough to benefit from some very nice angular light.

Bull Elk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The elk herd finished its collective foraging and headed the short distance south from the grazing site towards the Athabasca River.  I followed at a discrete distance, camera in tow, of course.  I didn’t want to get too close, so I spent part of my time zooming out and photographing the elk in its environment.

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I also zoomed in and got some tighter shots as the elk forded the river.

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It was still pretty cold at this point in the morning, as you can see from the frosty breath of the elk in the image below.

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

From here, I moved down the Yellowhead Highway.  I stopped and scouted the Palisades Picnic Area, with the intention of returning later in the day and doing some shooting.  I then headed down the little-traveled Celestine Lake Road, stopping first along an old burn area on the east side of the road to photograph the skeleton forest.  I saw a pleasing cloud formation on the move and simply set up and waited for it to drift into position.

Conifer Forest Remains, Celestine Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Conifer Forest Remains, Celestine Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Further along the Celestine Lake Road, I wandered into a campground that was closed for the season, and photographed the Snaring River Bridge from a spot I found alongside the Snaring River shore.

Snaring River Bridge, Celestine Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Snaring River Bridge, Celestine Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

When I returned to the Yellowhead Highway, I quickly found another wildlife traffic jam.  This time it was a herd of juvenile bighorn sheep and, again, I pulled out the long lens, working–as before–with somewhat wider, habitat shots as well as portraits.

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It was fascinating to watch the sheep as they navigated the narrow ledges along the nearby steep bluffs.

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Eventually I moved farther east along the highway, and stopped at a spot that was mentioned in the e-book I purchased for Jasper National Park–Glory Hole.  The place is unmarked, but I was able to locate it and was I ever glad I did.  Although the place is just off the highway, it’s phenomenally beautiful and, despite the fact the light wasn’t ideal, I felt the urge to photograph it.

Glory Hole, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Glory Hole, Jasper National Park, Alberta

At another spot along the highway I noticed a step-wise group of conifers, with a thickly clouded sky as a backdrop.  I converted the image to black and white.

Conifer Trio Black & White, Yellowhead Highway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Conifer Trio Black & White, Yellowhead Highway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

By early afternoon I had made my way to the Miette Hot Springs Road, which leads south from the Yellowhead Highway.  My first stop was at the Pocahontas Trail, which circumnavigates an old, long-abandoned mining site.

Mine Building, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mine Building, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Old Mine Entrance, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Old Mine Entrance, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The trail eventually meanders away from the old mining site, through a thick stand of aspens.

Aspen Forest, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

On the other side of the aspen forest lies a wide meadow, looking towards the southwest.

Meadow, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Meadow, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pocahontas Trail Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pocahontas Trail Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

After completing the Pocahontas circuit, I moved along the road to the site of Punchbowl Falls.  Because it’s so narrowly constrained by canyon walls, this waterfall is really only photographable by climbing under a fence and moving down a narrow path that runs along the rim of a fairly deep chasm.

Punchbowl Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Punchbowl Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

After Punchbowl, I continued down the road and stopped at Ashlar Ridge, to photograph the valley to the south.

Ashlar Ridge, Miette Hot Springs Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Ashlar Ridge, Miette Hot Springs Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Shortly below the pullout for the ridge, I noticed a stand of aspens along the hillside to my left.  There are very few “unofficial” pullouts along the Miette Hot Springs Road, but I found one–designed, I believe, to service the utility lines that run through the area–and utilized it to capture a couple of images.

Aspens, Miette Hot Springs Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspens, Miette Hot Springs Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspens, Miette Hot Springs Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspens, Miette Hot Springs Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I finally reached the end of the road, at Miette Hot Springs itself.  The anticipated attraction there was the opportunity to photograph Sulphur Creek, the source of the hot springs, but before I even left the parking area I had the opportunity to do some close-up work with another small herd of juvenile bighorn sheep.  These animals are extremely acclimated to people and frequently wander in and around the picnic area that abuts the parking lot.

Bighorn Sheep, Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Baby Bighorn Sheep, Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Baby Bighorn Sheep, Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Alberta

After the sheep wandered off, I made my way down the trail, approximately 1/4 mile, to the creek.  It was entirely cloudy by this time and there were an almost limitless number of compositions to be mined.

Sulphur Creek, Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sulphur Creek, Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sulphur Creek Black & White, Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sulphur Creek Black & White, Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Alberta

This is the kind of scene that conjures up some of the concepts that I mused upon a few posts back in this series.

Sulphur Creek, Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sulphur Creek, Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The scene reminded me, instantly, of many creekside shoots I’d engaged in in the Midwest and in the Smokies.

Sulphur Creek, Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sulphur Creek, Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Alberta

After a long time spent at Sulphur Creek, I got back in the car for the long drive back towards Jasper.  I planned to stop back at the Palisades Picnic Area in the hope of shooting sunset, but it was almost completely cloudy, and getting darker by the minute as I approached the turnoff.  Still, I pulled in, and decided to see if something would happen.  The scouting session that morning had yielded some marvelous stands of aspen in open meadows, and I wanted to try to make something of this lovely setting.

Approaching Storm, Palisades Picnic Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Approaching Storm, Palisades Picnic Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The wind kicked up while I was on site and I was certain that it was going to pour but, while a few drops fell, it didn’t materialize into much.  Still, I did get some storm light, as you can see.

Approaching Storm, Palisades Picnic Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Approaching Storm, Palisades Picnic Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

There was no amazing sunset, but I did get a peek at a bit of color in the clouds.

Palisades Picnic Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Palisades Picnic Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Palisades Picnic Area at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Palisades Picnic Area at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I finally packed my things up after the blue hour had peaked.

Palisades Picnic Area at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Palisades Picnic Area at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It was yet another very long–pre-sunrise to post-sunset–day of shooting, but a productive and satisfying one.  I had one more early morning in Jasper before I made my way back down the Icefields Parkway towards Saskatchewan Crossing.  The rest of my time in the Rockies would be spent as part of a small tour working (mostly) in David Thompson Country, situated in the eastern front range of the Rockies, not far from the tiny town of Nordegg.

Next:  The Canadian Rockies: Thematic Interruption – The Tour Experience

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 inclination 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

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