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.
After a few minutes, I moved to the bridge over the lake’s outlet stream to obtain a different perspective.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As intimated above, Maligne Canyon is best photographed in even light and lends itself to both color and monochrome photography.
I easily could have spent an entire day in the canyon had overcast conditions persisted.
As you move down canyon, the fences eventually disappear and it’s possible to get safely down to river level.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While the mostly cloudless sky was a bit of a disappointment, I found a number of interesting things to do with my telephoto lens.
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.
I found the abstract river reflections very interesting.
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.
Just minutes before sunset, I moved to the bridge over Maligne Lake’s outlet stream.
I then turned my attention to the sky over the stream itself and found a few more image opportunities in this unexpected direction.
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.