Posted by: kerryl29 | May 18, 2016

Chasing Waterfalls

By the time this post airs, I’ll be in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The original plan this spring was to make a photo trip to Yosemite National Park and the eastern Sierra-Nevada Mountains in California–with a return trip to the coastal redwoods tossed in for good measure.  For a number of reasons, that was mothballed back in late February (the hope is to revive it for next spring), and I had to scramble to put together a Plan B.  As it was rather late to seriously consider scheduling anything elaborate, I remembered that I’d long had an interest in visiting Ricketts Glen State Park.  I first heard about Ricketts Glen nearly 15 years ago and it’s been on my “to do” list ever since, but it had always been eclipsed by some other destination.  With the California trip postponed, it seemed like a good time to put that to rest, once and for all.

Ludlow Falls, Miami County, Ohio

Ludlow Falls, Miami County, Ohio

I was interested in coming up with some other, relatively nearby, locations to supplement the trip (Ricketts Glen is roughly a 600-mile one-way drive from my base) and ultimately settled on the western Finger Lakes region of western New York state.  The original pull was Letchworth State Park–which is actually about an hour northwest of the Finger Lakes–but I subsequently stumbled across Watkins Glen State Park and, from there, numerous spots in Schuyler and Tompkins Counties.  Eventually I put together a workable itinerary, and I’ll be in the field beginning with the outgoing drive on May 15, with a return planned for May 26.

Bow Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

The common thread to all of these locations is the presence of waterfalls–dozens of them.  It’s the first time I’ve taken a photo trip where the principal subject of interest is waterfalls.  I’ve certainly undertaken plenty of waterfall photography on previous excursions–at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon last spring, for instance–but that was a tack on to the main subjects of the trip (beaches on the Oregon Coast and the redwood forests of northern California).

North Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

North Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

But this time, waterfalls represent more than an addendum; they are the center of interest.  This means I hope for mostly cloudy weather (without too much rain–during daylight hours, at least).  Sunny days are generally undesirable for photographing waterfalls and streams, but ultimately you get what you get,  and I’m sure I’ll spend my time constructively, even if the sun is out.

St. Louis Canyon Waterfall, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

St. Louis Canyon Waterfall, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

After a much-needed respite after my return (history has proven that this is always required),  I plan to start posting images from the trip at some point in June.  I hope to update the blog before then, but if I don’t, you’ll know why.  See you soon!

Elakala Falls, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

Elakala Falls, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

 

It’s been a wet spring so far in the American Midwest.  An extremely mild March produced a spring bloom that was running two to three weeks ahead of normal, but an exceptionally cold early April–which included hard freezes for several nights in a row (from three to seven, depending on one’s specific locale)–stopped everything in its tracks.  Blooms that were already in evidence in early April died on the branch (or ground).  Those that hadn’t burst forth yet regressed into dormancy and finally emerged a bit later than would ordinarily be expected.

While the temperature ebbed and flowed throughout April, the precipitation did not; it was pretty much a constant phenomenon as the month unfolded.  As a result, streams and waterfalls, including the ephemeral form of the latter, were flowing nicely.

I managed to carve out four opportunities to make day trips in April, both in Indiana and Illinois, to explore the status of the bloom and the waterways, in the second half of the month, beginning with Turkey Run State Park in east-central Indiana.

I’d visited Turkey Run several times prior to last month’s occasion, but never during the height of the spring bloom.  I tried visiting in the spring once before, but there had been so much flooding in the region that most of the park was off limits.  Not this time.

Bluebells, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Bluebells, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

The wildflowers–particularly bluebells and phlox–were in good shape when I visited Turkey Run, on April 19.

Rocky Hollow, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Rocky Hollow, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Rocky Hollow Black & White, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Rocky Hollow Black & White, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

The water, coursing through Rocky Hollow, was just about perfect.  Since the only way to negotiate Rocky Hollow is by hiking through the water, I made use of my knee-high rubber boots, which allowed me to meander through the canyon with minimal inconvenience.

Rocky Hollow, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Rocky Hollow, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

The flow was also in evidence in the Punch Bowl.

Punch Bowl, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Punch Bowl, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Leaf out was still in the early stages when I was at Turkey Run, but that didn’t keep me from making some intimate photographs of the copious forest buttressing Sugar Creek.

 

Sycamore Isolate, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Sycamore Isolate, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Two of the 31 covered bridges that can be found throughout Parke County, Indiana are located quite close to the boundaries of Turkey Run State Park and I decided to take the time to check out both.  The conditions weren’t suitable for photographing one of them, I decided upon investigation, but I did take the time to make an image of the other.

Cox Ford Covered Bridge, Parke County, Indiana

Cox Ford Covered Bridge, Parke County, Indiana

My next excursion was at Starved Rock State Park, in north-central Illinois, where I met my friend Tom Robbins on April 27.  It was a windy, overcast day, but we found some shelter amidst the narrow canyons on the south side of the Illinois River.  We started in Illinois Canyon, probably the widest and flattest in the park where bluebells predominate in mid-spring and a shallow stream meanders between the walls before emptying into the river.

Illinois Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Illinois Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Illinois Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Illinois Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Redbud Intimate, Illinois Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Redbud Intimate, Illinois Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Our next stop was Kaskaskia Canyon, less than a mile to the west of Illinois Canyon.

Kaskaskia Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Kaskaskia Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Kaskaskia Canyon Waterfall Black & White, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Kaskaskia Canyon Waterfall Black & White, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Kaskaskia Canyon Waterfall, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Kaskaskia Canyon Waterfall, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Then we made the hike to LaSalle Canyon.

LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

While we were photographing in LaSalle, it started to rain–as it had been threatening to do all day.  We got good and soaked as we made the 1.5 mile slog back to the parking area, but it had been a good five-odd hours of shooting.

The very next day–with conditions again overcast, but less of a chance of rain and lighter winds–I made the drive to northwest Indiana.  My friend Danny Burk had made me aware of a marvelous location for large-leafed white trillium, at Bendix Woods County Park, west of South Bend.  He met me there that morning and we spent about four hours working the almost limitless compositional options amid the most prolific growth of white trillium I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Trillium Intimate, Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Trillium Intimate, Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

The wind was light enough that, when a lull set in, I was able to produce multiple images of the same scene, for the purpose of focus stacking.

Trillium Intimate, Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Trillium Intimate, Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Big Tree Trail, Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Big Tree Trail, Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

I’d been to Bendix Woods once, nearly 15 years prior, but it had been about two weeks earlier in the month of April and while there were some widlflowers in bloom on that occasion, it was too early for trillium, so I had no idea of their presence.  Many, many thanks are due Danny for letting me know about this treasure trove.

Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Trillium Intimate, Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Trillium Intimate, Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Bendix Woods County Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

Finally, on May 1  (not technically April, I concede, but so what?), I made an impromptu drive through the Morton Arboretum, not far from my base in DuPage County, Illinois, just to see what was going on.  There’s an extensive patch of Virginia Bluebells in the East Woods at the Arboretum; I first discovered these flowers–which are visible from a trail, but not the road that winds through the Arb–in 2013.  More recently, my timing hadn’t allowed me to photograph this stand of bluebells at peak.  But when I decided to check on them this year, on the morning of May 1, they took my breath away.  First, I’d clearly caught them absolutely at peak.  Secondly, they’d become so much more extensive–in density and breadth–since my last observation of them at peak bloom (three years previous) that I was truly astonished.  I hadn’t planned on photographing that day but when I saw that forest of bluebells–it looked like a sea of blue with the occasional tree trunk emerging like the mast of a sunken ship–I had to head back to base to get my gear and return.

East Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

East Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

It was an overcast day, with an annoying wind, but with patience, the breeze would stop and I was able to obtain sufficient shutter speeds to freeze the swaying blooms.

East Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

East Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

East Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

East Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

East Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

East Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

East Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

East Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

This collection of single-day photo shoots, all of which took place within a span of 12 days, served to inform me of something I probably don’t need to be reminded of at this point:  there’s plenty of beauty very close at hand here in the Midwest, and–as was the case with Brown County State Park last fall–trips to more obviously breathtaking places like the Canadian Rockies or the Oregon Coast haven’t blinded me to that fact.

Posted by: kerryl29 | May 3, 2016

Covers, and the Judging of Books Thereby

New Jersey.  Land of smokestacks and suburban sprawl.  As photogenic as a toxic waste site.

Right?

No.  Not right.  Completely wrong, in fact.

There are few things in this world that I take as much pleasure from as seeing stereotypes obliterated, so you can imagine how I felt last August when I returned from a very brief (non-photography) trip to northern New Jersey.

My wife is really into dogs–collies, especially.  Each year, there’s a gathering, of sorts, of collie enthusiasts at a park in Wayne, New Jersey that’s the site of the home of Albert Payson Terhune, who’s kind of the patron saint of collies.  His former estate, known as Sunnybank, is now the site of Terhune Memorial Park.  The aforementioned annual gathering, which takes place on a weekend in the second half of August, is something my wife has always wanted to attend so last year we made the drive there.

Though this was decidedly not a photo trip, I brought my gear with me.  I figured that, while my wife was hanging out with the rest of the collie…enthusiasts…I might spend a few hours wandering around…well, somewhere nearby.  When I found out exactly where we’d be based–in Wayne Township–I consulted a map, found a nearby state forest and figured I’d see what I could find there, as well as at the Terhune Park site, which I knew overlooked Pompton Lake.

My expectations were low, for a variety of reasons.  The timing of our visit–late summer–was hardly ideal for photography in this part of the world and given my lack of familiarity with the specific locations and the extremely limited amount of time I might have, there would be little chance of optimizing what opportunities I might stumble across.

I ended up with a few hours time to devote to photography on consecutive nights.  On the first evening, I wandered around the small Terhune Park (less than 10 acres in size) and a nearby Revolutionary War era property that has been preserved.  On the second day, I had a few hours to locate and explore Ramapo Mountain State Forest.  As I noted, the opportunities were minimal and my expectations were virtually non-existent.  And yet…

Here’s a small sampling:

Mead-Van Duyne Residence, Passaic County, New Jersey

Mead-Van Duyne Residence, Passaic County, New Jersey

Van Riper-Hopper House, Passaic County, New Jersey

Van Riper-Hopper House, Passaic County, New Jersey

Pompton Lake Intimate, Terhune Memorial Park, Passaic County, New Jersey

Pompton Lake Intimate, Terhune Memorial Park, Passaic County, New Jersey

Pompton Lake Sunset Abstract, Terhune Memorial Park, Passaic County, New Jersey

Pompton Lake Sunset Abstract, Terhune Memorial Park, Passaic County, New Jersey

Pompton Lake at Dusk, Terhune Memorial Park, Passaic County, New Jersey

Pompton Lake at Dusk, Terhune Memorial Park, Passaic County, New Jersey

Fern Forest, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Fern Forest, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Ramapo Lake at Sunset, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Ramapo Lake at Sunset, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Ramapo Lake at Sunset, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Ramapo Lake at Sunset, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Prairie Wildflowers, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Prairie Wildflowers, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Lily Pads, Ramapo Lake, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Lily Pads, Ramapo Lake, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Ramapo Lake at Sunset, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Ramapo Lake at Sunset, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Ramapo Lake at Dusk, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Ramapo Lake at Dusk, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, New Jersey

Don’t get me wrong–I’m under no illusions that this my “best work” (whatever that means) or that these are the most awe-inspiring locations that I’ve ever visited.  But I think it’s worth remembering that these outings–a total of about five hours on consecutive evenings–amounted to little more than a lark.  I wandered around a couple of places that I knew nothing of, under far less than ideal conditions, for a few hours.  I was constantly thinking about how photogenic these spots would be in the spring or the fall (like most places east of the Mississippi River).  I also wondered what I might be able to mine out of New Jersey if I had, you know, actually done some research on the best shooting spots.  All I’d done on this instance was settle for locations of convenience.

I can only imagine what I’d be able to find if I approached New Jersey in the same manner that I treat any location when I’m in the process of planning a dedicated photo trip, in terms of the time of the year, time devoted and research.  And maybe I’ll do just that at some point.  I know I won’t be disappointed by the opportunities available to me if I do; of that I’m certain.  It may not be the Canadian Rockies or Monument Valley, but New Jersey is endowed with its own photogenic secrets, simply waiting to be unearthed.

Posted by: kerryl29 | April 25, 2016

The Aesthetic Triad

Most of the photographic blog entries that I see that are ostensibly written as aids to help aspiring practitioners cover technical topics of one sort of the other.  The technical points (e.g. exposure, depth of field, etc.) are necessary and important and I’ve certainly been known to cover them from time to time myself, but photography—at least the way I think of it and try to practice it—is an artistic endeavor.  Technique is important, but it’s a means to an end.  Creativity is the itch most of us are trying to scratch, presumably, when we pull out our cameras.

So let’s talk about aesthetics a bit, and let’s do so in a way that’s as practical and applicable as possible.  (I could discuss the matter in ethereal terms, but that’s an approach that many—if not most—people find impenetrable.)

Nearly half of the time during my first trip to the Canadian Rockies (fall, 2014) was spent on a photo tour.  While this was a tour—with a particular emphasis on time in the field—and not a workshop, we did hold a few brief nighttime classroom sessions that were designed, more or less, as reminders of broad photographic principles.  I was quite pleased to see the discussion about image making center around three broad concepts that I’ve long preached as the key elements of successful photographs:  subject, light and composition.

Essentially, assuming good technique, when these three things come together in a single frame, a portfolio quality photograph ensues.  It’s not that you can’t have a “successful” shot without all three, but for something really and truly special, you need to check off all the items on the list.

Subject, of course, is the tangible object or objects that make up the elements present in the photograph.  What constitutes “interesting” subject matter can be quite subjective, of course.

Light is self-explanatory.  What isn’t quite as obvious, however, is that what constitutes good light can vary depending on the subject.  For instance, as I’ve said multiple times in this space in the past, the quality of light that is particularly flattering to a grand landscape scenic isn’t necessarily the light of choice for subjects such as waterfalls or a forests.

Composition is the most subjective element of all and the one upon which the photographer can exercise the broadest control.  The term refers to what is included in the frame and the perspective by which the subject is depicted.  This is entirely up to the photographer.

Let’s look at an example from that autumn 2014 Canadian Rockies trip, one in which I think the three broad concepts outlined above come together fairly well.

Sunrise, Medicine Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sunrise, Medicine Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

 

The subject here is pretty straight forward:  we have a lake, lined by deciduous and coniferous trees on the left.  It’s pretty clearly an autumn image, given the color of the foliage.  We have a nice sunrise sky, reflected in the lake, and a backdrop of mountain peaks.  There may be a few curmudgeons out there who would disagree, but I think it’s fair to say that most people would probably find this subject matter appealing.

The light is of the pre-sunrise variety.  The sky is lit up beautifully while everything else is softly (and evenly) lit. Harsh contrast is avoided (though it took some–ugh–technical and postprocessing skills to make it so; but that’s a topic for another day) .

The composition was carefully determined. There’s a rocky meadow, filled with tall grasses, surrounding the side of the lake from which the image was made, and it was consciously decided to include the meadow and its components as foreground elements.  The yellow aspens provide a clear sense of the season and complement the lake, rocks and mountains nicely.  The mountains, as background objects, are perhaps the ultimate example of stopping the eye from wandering off into oblivion.  The colorful sunrise sky (and its reflection in the lake) provides something of a “wow” element to an already compelling scene.

It’s a matter of opinion—it is art, after all—but I think all three of the aforementioned concepts come together quite nicely here.

Let’s take a look at one more image.

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

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

 

The subject matter is, at least superficially similar to the first image—though we have a foreground stream rather than a lake.

The light here is very different than in the first image, but the method of presentation is as well; this shot is depicted in black and white.  The light here is far more contrasty than in the first photograph, but that’s far more suitable given the choice of the much more contrast-tolerant black and white medium.

The composition is fairly dynamic—as revealed by the rushing outlet stream—which complements the boldness of the high contrast black and white treatment, particularly as it’s rendered in the sky.

Again, I think the three principles come together quite well in this shot.  It’s a very different combination than in the original image, but both photographs share a certain amount of success.  This illustrates the point that there are different ways to fit the three concepts together; there’s no single recipe to success.  (If there was, there would only be one kind of pleasing image, which is inherently absurd.)  The goal is to find different ways to make different subjects, qualities of light and compositions work together symbiotically.  That, in a nutshell, is the road map to successful image making.

Give it a try.  Consciously question yourself—what light flatters this subject?  How can I choose to frame this subject in this light to best express it?  What subjects work best in this light?  By asking—and answering—these questions and others like them to your satisfaction you can take your photography to the next level.

Posted by: kerryl29 | April 19, 2016

The Landscape Letdown Syndrome

I have an acquaintance who told me, upon return from a trip to Olympic National Park a few years ago, that he was done photographing locally.  “I just can’t get inspired by anything around here anymore,” he said.  In his case, “locally” was the greater Chicago area, but it just as easily could have applied to someone in central Indiana.

For those unfamiliar with this part of the world, “locally” does, in fact, pale in comparison with…well, Olympic National Park, among other places…like just about all other places, it seems.  I’m frequently faced with this problem, most recently when I returned from the Canadian Rockies last October.  This was pretty much the acid test, given the landscape I was leaving behind (because it doesn’t get any better than the Canadian Rockies).  The fall color season in the American Midwest was less than three weeks away when I got back and, while I wasn’t going to see anything comparable to what I’d left behind, I was determined not to fall prey to the Landscape Letdown Syndrome.

What is the Landscape Letdown Syndrome?  It’s my descriptor for the malady I outlined in the opening paragraph:  a malaise that can arise when the place you’re at doesn’t measure up to the place you’ve been.

In early October, I determined that I was going to pay a visit, hopefully during the peak of fall color, to Brown County State Park in south-central Indiana, about 75 minutes south of my Indianapolis area base.  I had visited the park before–once, more than a decade prior, on a relentlessly blue sky day.  People in the Indianapolis region absolutely rave about Brown County as a fall color destination…and, as local venues go, it’s pretty nice.  I mean, it doesn’t hold a candle, colorwise, to the North Woods (hundreds of miles to the north in Wisconsin and Michigan), and it’s hardly the treasure trove of subject matter endemic to a place like Great Smoky Mountains National Park (more than 500 miles to the southeast), but for the region, Brown County State Park has much to recommend it.

Ogle Lake Oak, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Ogle Lake Oak, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Autumn Overlook, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Autumn Overlook, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Brown County State Park is located near the northern terminus of the hilly terrain that makes up much of the southern half of the states of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.  There are a series of overlooks, providing vistas covering miles of thickly forested ground.  There are several creeks that flow through the park and they’ve been dammed, creating a pair of lakes.  The park itself is filled with trees, including oak, maple, beech and sycamore.  There’s also a coniferous stand, near Stahl Lake.

Autumn Overlook, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Autumn Overlook, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Ogle Lake, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Ogle Lake, Brown County State Park, Indiana

The truth is, I’d been aiming to get back to Brown County during peak color for years, but I kept being denied.  Sometimes I was simply out of the region when color was at its best.  Several years, the color basically never materialized, due to preceding months-long summer droughts.  In 2014, I thought I’d finally get my opportunity and headed down to Brown County one Saturday only to be hit with miles of bumper to bumper traffic.  There’s a fall festival on the weekend before Halloween every year and the tens of thousands of attendees turn the two-lane roads in Brown County into parking lots.  I’d forgotten about that and I ended up spending several hours trying to fight my way through the traffic and never so much as set foot inside the park.  (It was at that point that I resolved that I would never, ever head to Brown County on a fall weekend again.)

Ogle Lake, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Ogle Lake, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Stahl Lake Trees, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Stahl Lake Trees, Brown County State Park, Indiana

So, in 2015, I planned ahead a bit.  In the middle of the month I traveled down–clearly ahead of the best color–to scout the park…on a weekday.  The scouting session was well worthwhile.  I scoped out a series of overlooks and interesting spots around the two man made lakes in the park.  And I was able to determine that peak color was just about exactly one week away.  So, I planned to return the following week (also on a weekday) and spend the day photographing.  And so I did.

Ogle Lake Reflections, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Ogle Lake Reflections, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Ogle Lake, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Ogle Lake, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Brown County is no Canadian Rockies–there’s no point in denying it.  But, I basically concluded, so what?  It doesn’t need to be.  I avoided Landscape Letdown Syndrome by simply not making the comparison in the first place.  The trick is to view each location with fresh eyes–to, essentially, take what you’re given.  Perhaps it’s easier said than done, but over the years I’ve found that it’s possible to appreciate all forms of landscape beauty for what they are, rather than being blinded by what they aren’t.

Stahl Lake Reflections, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Stahl Lake Reflections, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Autumn Tapestry, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Autumn Tapestry, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Perhaps it also helps that the main theme of this Brown County shoot–rich, varied fall color–was effectively absent during my time in the Canadian Rockies (where fall color is largely manifested by the beautiful–but single-minded–yellow of aspen leaves).  Perhaps the change of pace made it easier to avoid the perils of Landscape Letdown Syndrome.

Autumn Overlook, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Autumn Overlook, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Ogle Lake, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Ogle Lake, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Regardless, I was rewarded with an enjoyable day and had the opportunity to spend time photographing at another Midwest state park.  That in and of itself was worth considerably more than the price of admission.

Ogle Lake Oak, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Ogle Lake Oak, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Autumn Overlook at Sunset, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Autumn Overlook at Sunset, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Hesitation Point, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Hesitation Point, Brown County State Park, Indiana

Even better, I proved to myself, conclusively, that I could overcome the pull of Landscape Letdown Syndrome.

Posted by: kerryl29 | April 11, 2016

Majesty: A Canadian Rockies Retrospective

Since I first began taking dedicated photo trips 13 years ago this coming fall, I’ve been fortunate enough to see many beautiful places in North America, frequently under the best of circumstances.  During that time, I’ve never been anywhere that I found as captivating as the Canadian Rockies.  I was so taken with the region that I did something I’ve never done anywhere before:  I spent a total of four weeks there in consecutive years.  (I didn’t go there in the fall of 2014 with any expectation of returning in 2015, or, necessarily, ever.)

Two Jack Lake Sunrise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Two Jack Lake Sunrise, Banff National Park, Alberta

I returned from the most recent trip to the Rockies at the beginning of October of last year–nearly 6 1/2 months ago–and not a day goes by where I don’t reflect on the experience at least once.  A common theme has been to consider what my time in the Canadian Rockies has taught me…or, more accurately, of what has it reminded me?  Some of the points, I’ve concluded after much consideration, are photo-centric, but others are less tangible, and more existential, in nature.

Takkakaw Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Takkakaw Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

 Time (And All Its Consequences)

From the narrow point of view of photographic success–however that’s defined–it’s important to give myself enough time to have a real chance to, in fact, succeed.  I’ve hinted at the importance of this axiom in the past, but it’s almost always easier said than done, particularly when traveling to a place as remote (at least from my home base) and as extensive as the Canadian Rockies.  There’s an inclination to try to cram in far more than is possible, let alone desirable, on such occasions and doing so does a real disservice to viable photographic opportunities.  An overwhelming percentage of the time, the best landscape photography is the product of immersion, exploration and the optimization of the best light–and other ambient conditions–for the subject matter.

Dance of the Aspens, Celestine Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Dance of the Aspens, Celestine Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

But building in large blocks of time is expensive and/or logistically difficult for those of us who aren’t independently wealthy and retired.  Furthermore, time is inherently precious and limited, wherever and however one chooses to spend it.  There’s an inherent tension between the patience necessary to nurse the art and craft of on-site photography and the nagging sense that time is being “wasted.”  It’s a kind of opportunity cost; there’s an aching feeling that just around that bend or over that hill is something else, even more spectacular, to be seen and photographed and it will be missed if I don’t wrap up here and move on.  The more amazing the area is generally, the stronger the pull of this impulse…and it doesn’t get much more amazing than the Canadian Rockies.

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

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

I realized that I’ve become pretty adept at fighting this short-term impulse.  It’s not that I don’t feel it, because I certainly do.  But I’ve developed a pretty good sense, I think, of knowing when to resist, and let things play out where I am and when to cut bait and run.  It’s a product of experience in the field, I think, nothing more.

And, while I wish I had the wherewithal to take longer, more frequent trips, I’ve learned to recognize that I have reason to be grateful for the opportunities that are afforded me.  I never would have expected to have the chance to spend the equivalent of a month in the Canadian Rockies, but I have!

Elliott Peak from White Goat Lakes at Dawn, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Elliott Peak from White Goat Lakes at Dawn, David Thompson Country, Alberta

It’s Nice to Have Options

One of the best things about the Canadian Rockies is the remarkable flexibility that the region affords to photographers.  Not only is it a region that’s perpetually dripping with photographic potential almost literally everywhere you look, those prospects are manifested in so many different forms that there are almost no conditions that aren’t conducive to top flight opportunities.

Sunny days?  Head to the wide open spaces (of which there are many), with their associated grand landscapes, just begging to be captured.

Bow River Meadow, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Meadow, Banff National Park, Alberta

Majestic Kootenay Plains Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Majestic Kootenay Plains Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Cloudy (with, perhaps a bit of light rain)?  Time to check out the creeks and waterfalls.

Beauty Creek Waterfall, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beauty Creek Waterfall, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Or perhaps intimate forest scenes are more to your liking.

Muleshoe Picnic Area, Bow Valley Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Muleshoe Picnic Area, Bow Valley Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Celestine Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Celestine Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Isolated Aspens, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Isolated Aspens, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Or you can play with abstracts.

Saskatchewan River Abstract, Whirlpool Point, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Saskatchewan River Abstract, Whirlpool Point, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier Intimate, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier Intimate, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

 

Or semi-abstracts.

Sunwapta River Rapids, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sunwapta River Rapids, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bow Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

Or take a turn with black and white renderings.

Athabasca River Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Consolation Lakes Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Consolation Lakes Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mistaya Canyon & the Mistaya River Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mistaya Canyon & the Mistaya River Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Or find those broad scenes that are appealing in color, despite the overcast skies.

Bow Lake and Crowfoot Mountain, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow Lake and Crowfoot Mountain, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Fog or mist?  Or low-hanging clouds?  The Rockies have you covered.

Rampart Ponds Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Rampart Ponds Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Ten Peaks at Sunrise, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Ten Peaks at Sunrise, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Foggy Trees, Yoho Valley Road, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Foggy Trees, Yoho Valley Road, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

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

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

Sometimes, you can break every single stinking rule…and be happy that you did.

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

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

Wapta Falls Black & White, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Wapta Falls Black & White, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

This kind of locational flexibility is a rare thing.  My time in the Canadian Rockies reminded me just how valuable it is.

Solitude

At even the very busiest locations in the Canadian Rockies, solitude is just a few minutes walk away.  From crowds to utter bliss in a matter of seconds.

Another tourist bus has disgorged its payload at the Peyto Lake overlook at Bow Summit?  Just walk a few hundred yards up the trail and soak up the silence (not to mention the view).

Peyto Lake from Bow Summit, Banff National Park, Alberta

Peyto Lake from Bow Summit, Banff National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Falls is (to paraphrase Darwin Wiggett) the rough equivalent of a crowd at a Rolling Stones concert?  Wander up the virtually unused riverside trail, above the falls for two minutes and you’ll feel as though you’re in the wilderness.

Athabasca River Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Too many people hanging around the rock pile at Moraine Lake for your tastes?  Head up the easily traversed lakeside trail, and in two minutes you’ll be all alone.

Moraine Lake Morning, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Morning, Banff National Park, Alberta

Really want to get away?  Head east for about 20 minutes from Saskatchewan Crossing on Highway 11 and find yourself in the biggest of big sky countries–the Kootenay Plains–just steps off the pavement.

Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Why I Do this in the First Place

There’s a tendency, when photographing, to get lost in the endeavor and almost forget that what you’re photographing is real–if that makes any sense.  My time in the Canadian Rockies over the past two years reminded me, frequently, to stop, pull myself away from the camera and tripod, and take a good long look around me.  I tried, in fact, to remember to do this regularly.

Whether it was in the meadows near the Banff Airstrip…

Airstrip Meadow, Banff National Park, Alberta

Airstrip Meadow, Banff National Park, Alberta

…or along the shore of Bow Lake…

Crowfoot Mountain from Bow Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Crowfoot Mountain from Bow Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

…in the aspen forest near Pyramid Lake…

Wildland Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Wildland Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

…or perched atop the edge of the incomparable Opabin Plateau…

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

…I always tried to take a moment and take a good long, look at my surroundings.  And whenever I did, I was reminded of how the images I was capturing would serve as the visual triggers to the memories that would allow me to relive these magical experiences in the days, months and years to come.

Sunrise, Waterfowl Lakes, Banff National Park, Alberta

Sunrise, Waterfowl Lakes, Banff National Park, Alberta

I previewed this about ten days ago, but the Photographing Michigan’s Upper Peninsula ebook is now available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo.

ebook cover

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula consists of more than 16,000 square miles of very lightly settled, mostly undeveloped land that is an absolute treasure trove for outdoor photographers, particularly during the fall color season (typically from the end of September through the middle of October, varying by specific location and the vagaries of each year’s timing).  Undeveloped forest lakes, gushing waterfalls, unspoiled Great Lakes coastlines, lighthouses, wetlands, rivers and seemingly infinite tracts of forest as part of a true North Woods environment; the UP holds all of this and much, much more.  For the outdoor photographer, this is about as good as it gets.

Creating a truly comprehensive guide to a place this large and this rich in photographic opportunities would be impossible, even after a full lifetime of exploring, and my co-author Andy Richards and I make no claim to have done so.   What we have done is create a guide covering dozens of our favorite spots as a means to assisting other photographers in their attempts to find locations that will get their creative juices flowing.

Included in all of our listings are comprehensive driving directions, GPS coordinates, suggestions for the best times to visit and, where appropriate, detailed individual locations notes based on our personal experiences.  Years in the making, the book runs 177 total pages and covers locations across the Upper Peninsula.

Here’s a sample of text, just to give you an idea of the contents:


Au Train Falls, Alger County, Michigan

Au Train Falls, Alger County, Michigan

Au Train Falls

The Au Train River—which feeds the falls—is dammed just above this location and the kind of experience you’ll get at the falls varies dramatically depending on the amount of water that the power company is releasing from the lake just upstream.

GPS:

N 46 20.33 W 86 51.11

Directions:

Au Train Falls is located in western Alger County, approximately 12 ½ miles from the junction of M-94 and M-28. Take M-94 west from the junction for about 11 miles to County Road 533 (Au Train Forest Lake Road) and turn right (north). In 0.2 miles, turn right on Power Dam Road and follow it—perhaps 1/2 mile—until you reach a gate. Park there and walk around the gate and down the road. A bridge crosses the river at that point.

Timing Considerations:

This waterfall area lies down river from a dam—you’ll see it on the south side of M-94 as you drive in, just prior to the turn onto County Road 533. There is an odd “timing” issue here. How much water is flowing through is entirely dependent on the power company that runs the dam. Most of the time, the flow is highly restricted and—as you might imagine—the site is entirely transformed when the floodgates are opened.

Kerry’s Notes:

Unless there’s just a trickle of water coming down river, it’s still worth paying Au Train Falls a visit. When the flow of water is limited, you have almost full access to the entire river bed as long as you’re wearing waterproof footwear. There are countless intimate cascade shots available here, and they’re all easily accessible. There are also a series of eminently workable cascades downriver from the main falls area, below the bridge, all of which can be accessed by wearing a pair of knee-length rubber boots unless the river is really flowing.

The area described above refers to what is known as “Lower Au Train Falls.” This means, of course that there’s an “upper” falls as well. That waterfall—which drops about 40 feet—can be seen from a pullout along Power Dam Road only about 500 feet above the gated area. The base of the upper falls can be accessed by descending into the ravine. It’s a bit precarious, so take care if you choose to make your way down there. It should be noted that full views of the upper falls are tarnished a bit by the presence of a huge drainage pipe that connects the dam with the power plant downriver.


The above is just one example, of many dozens, but should suffice to give you a sense of the layout.

If you have any questions about the ebook, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Posted by: kerryl29 | March 30, 2016

Missing the Trees for the Forest

I’ve discussed a focus on detail-oriented landscape photography on this blog in the past.  And I’ve hinted that my experience learning the craft (or developing the art…or both) in settings where grand landscapes are rare has surely affected my tendency to discover and capture intimates, even when photographing in locations where grand landscapes are palpable.

It would be a mistake, I think, to regard this as something natural; I believe it’s learned.  When you cut your teeth wandering through dense woodlands and tightly constricted waterways, through narrow canyons and across a landscape that is buttressed on all sides by development, you become inclined–forced, even–to look for the intimate view.  And–surprise!–that doesn’t go away, even when the scenery changes.  Even when it changes drastically.  Over time, the inclination to search for the intimate becomes almost instinctive.

That’s why, even when I’m somewhere that’s known for something like this:

Herbert Lake at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

Herbert Lake at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

I find myself invariably drawn to something like this:

Beauty Creek Intimate, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beauty Creek Intimate, Jasper National Park, Alberta

This tendency is not, by any stretch, limited to the Canadian Rockies.  I’m aware of the same inclination when I’ve photographed in the Smoky Mountains:

Sunrise, Foothills Parkway, Tennessee

Sunrise, Foothills Parkway, Tennessee

Whirlpool black & white, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Whirlpool black & white, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

And in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan:

Morning Rainbow, Council Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Morning Rainbow, Council Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Birch Tree Twins, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Birch Tree Twins, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

And at Monument Valley:

Sunrise Over East Mitten, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

Sunrise Over East Mitten, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

Juniper and Red Rock, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

Juniper and Red Rock, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

And Acadia National Park:

Otter Cliffs Sunrise, Acadia National Park, Maine

Otter Cliffs Sunrise, Acadia National Park, Maine

Lichen Wall, Acadia National Park, Maine

Lichen Wall, Acadia National Park, Maine

And White Sands National Monument:

Heart of the Dunes black & white, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Heart of the Dunes black & white, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Heart of the Dunes, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Heart of the Dunes, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

And…okay, you get the idea.

Perhaps, despite all of my bitching and moaning about how cursed I’ve been, given my love of the landscape, to have been “marooned” in some of the least inspiring locations I can imagine, I’ve actually been lucky.  How is that possible?

I remember having an e-mail conversation a couple of years ago with Royce Howland, who led the Canadian Rockies photo tour that I joined in the fall of 2014.  The discussion revolved around his hope that, by engaging tour participants in all-day field experiences, they would realize that there was more to the photographic gestalt than mere beginning and end-of-day “trophy shots.”  I recall replying that for someone like me, given the places I often photographed, the kinds of images he was referencing are trophy shots.

Bluebells Intimate, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Bluebells Intimate, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

 

The luck, then, was my being all but forced, if I was to develop as a landscape photographer, to look for intimate compositions.  I certainly wouldn’t have had to do this if I’d cut my teeth photographing in any of the areas that I mentioned earlier in this post.  For better or for worse.

A Celebration of Color, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

A Celebration of Color, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

And, honestly, I think it would have been for worse.  While I might have ultimately developed some level of acumen for recognizing the intimate landscape, it almost certainly never would have been as innate as it’s become for me.   And, not incidentally (but quite ironically), I think it really would have limited my art had I developed my eye in an environment unlike the one I actually experienced.

The interesting counterpoint is that I don’t think that my ability to “see” the grand landscape has suffered despite the fact that I only have the opportunity to photograph in places that encourage such compositions once or twice a year.  Like many photographers, apparently, these scenes seem to naturally reveal themselves, with little difficulty.  But for whatever reason, the reverse is not true.  Few if any people seem to find the revelation of intimate scenes easy.  It invariably requires a great deal of work and/or experience before such imagery begins to feel as though it’s really a part of anyone’s psyche.

Spring Reflections, Matthiessen Lake, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

Spring Reflections, Matthiessen Lake, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

I’ll try to remember how “lucky” I am the next time I feel the urge to curse the Fates that have placed me somewhere other than the planet’s landscape photography garden spots.

Clash of Seasons, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

Clash of Seasons, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

Posted by: kerryl29 | March 23, 2016

Coming Soon…

I started this blog in September, 2009.  I wasn’t entirely sure of its (then) future direction, but one thing I haven’t, at any point, done with it is use it for purposes of self-promotion.  I’m going to make an exception to that unwritten, unintended rule because, after years of work, an ebook that I’ve co-written is about to become available.

Lake Superior Sunset, Miner's Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Lake Superior Sunset, Miner’s Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Back in the late summer of 2013, as I was preparing to my make my latest foray to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for autumn photography, my friend Andy Richards sent me a working copy, in Word format, of the manuscript he had assembled for a photographer’s guide to the UP, in the hopes that I might find useful when on location.  In fact, I used his notes to good effect, checking out several spots that I hadn’t previously visited in the area.  But before I left on that trip, I read the entire text, from beginning to end.  I asked if he was interested in any help with the project moving forward, particularly since he’d told me that development had stalled as other things had cropped up that had, understandably, a higher priority.  I thought I could help because  I’d spent time at some places that Andy hadn’t visited and between the two of us, it might be possible to make the guide more thorough, I reasoned.  I’ve also done quite a bit of writing and editing over the years and thought I could be of administrative, as well as substantive, assistance.  He agreed, and we began collaborating on the project almost immediately.  As a matter of fact, I did some “research” in furtherance of the goal while on that trip in October of 2013.

Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

It’s been 2 1/2 years since we began to expand and adapt Andy’s original manuscript.  Many additional places have been added, existing places have, in some cases, been fleshed out and the format of the text has been modified.  An interactive subject and image index has been developed.  Extensive driving directions and GPS coordinates have been put in place.  The text itself has been proofed and edited countless times.

Red Jack Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Red Jack Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

The title of the ebook is “Photographing Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” and is designed to serve as photographer’s guide to as many specific places as the two of us felt comfortable recommending based on our extensive experience in the region.

Upper Tahquemenon Falls, Tahquemenon Falls State Park, Michigan

Upper Tahquemenon Falls, Tahquemenon Falls State Park, Michigan

This post will serve as an appetite whetter, of sorts; the book will be available from major booksellers such as iBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. in the next few weeks and I’ll post a more thorough announcement with more details at that time.

Lake of the Clouds Sunrise, Porcupine Mountains State Park, Michigan

Lake of the Clouds Sunrise, Porcupine Mountains State Park, Michigan

In the meantime, I thank you for your indulgence.  Andy and I have put a tremendous amount of time and effort into the publication of this ebook and we felt compelled to get the word out.

Posted by: kerryl29 | March 14, 2016

Canadian Rockies Day 14: End Notes

It was the final day of the excursion and the photographic aspect had to conclude at a reasonable hour, because the literal part of it had to come to an end at an airport hotel in Calgary.  My flight back to Chicago departed late the following morning.  I had a rental car to return, I had to clear customs (U.S. customs, I’d learned the year before, had to be cleared at the Calgary airport, not upon arrival back in the United States) and clear security, so I knew I needed to be at the airport at least two hours before the flight.  I also had a lot of repacking to do, to make sure that my bags adhered to the weight limit and that all the critical carry on items would fit in their designated places.  So, I knew I had to be back in Calgary by around sunset.

This would dictate the day’s plans, eventually, but I still hoped to photograph sunrise in Jasper.  That, of course, assumed that there would be a sunrise, which didn’t appear likely, based on the forecast.  Still, I decided to go for broke, so to speak, and hauled myself out of bed extra early to make the 45-minute drive up to Cavell Lake, to photograph Mt. Edith Cavell at first light.  It takes 10-15 minutes to get to the road to Mt. Edith Cavell.   From there, the drive to the lake is on a very windy, two-lane road, so even though it’s not a great distance–about nine miles–it takes a while to make the drive.  I’d been up at this location twice during my time in Jasper in 2014, so I knew what to expect and where to go.  Good thing, since I was heading out in the pitch dark.

It was cloudy when I hit the road, though I held out some hope that I might be able to climb above the clouds by ascending the Cavell Road, which gains quite a bit of elevation.  When I arrived at the parking area closest to the short trail down to the lake, the car thermometer read right at the freezing mark.  I knew, from experience, that it would be icy near the like, so I made a mental note to watch my step, and dug out my head lamp to help me spot any slick spots.

There were some fast moving clouds visible when I got out of the car, but I could see some clear patches of sky, which boosted my spirits a bit.  And the setting moon, with a distinctive halo, popped out from behind a cloud bank.  I decided to try to photograph it, via the assembly of a nine-exposure blend.

Halo Moonset, Cavell Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Halo Moonset, Cavell Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Then I wandered down to the deserted lakeside and waited for the light.

Gradually, it came, but there wasn’t a hint of sunrise light anywhere.  Apparently the gaps in the clouds I’d seen when photographing the moon had been fleeting.  Eventually, I could see the mountain, or at least some of it, and its reflection in the mostly still lake.  The sky was doing the scene no favors, so I omitted it from the image you see below.

Cavell Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Cavell Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I converted the above image to black and white because of how much more of the reflection I was able to pull out with a higher contrast monochrome rendering.

Cavell Lake Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Cavell Lake Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I was pondering my next move–given that there would be no sunrise–when it started to rain.  It wasn’t pouring, but it was steady.  Given how cold it was, and how essentially unflattering the light was–and given that I had a long drive and many stops I intended to make on the way (conditions permitting) I decided to call it quits.  I had to go back to Jasper and get my belongings and check out of the motel which, given the length of the drive back, would take more than an hour, so I wouldn’t have been able to stay all that long at the lake anyway.

The rain continued on and off all the way back to Jasper and was an occasional nuisance as I began my drive south on the Icefields Parkway.  Just south of Jasper, I stopped at a bridge over the Athabasca River for a parting image of the view north.

Athabasca River, Jasper National Park Alberta

Athabasca River, Jasper National Park Alberta

From there, I drove without stopping for nearly an hour, until I reached the Studfield Glacier Overlook.  The majesty of this spot captivates me; I couldn’t help stopping there in 2014 and, though I didn’t necessarily intend to stop this time, I couldn’t help myself again.

Studfield Glacier Overlook, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Studfield Glacier Overlook, Jasper National Park, Alberta

There’s something about this spot–the arching, intersecting lines of the slopes beyond the Athabasca River floodplain, the snowy peaks, the sporadic dotting of dwarf conifers on the riverbed, Studfield Glacier itself…I can’t quite put it into words, so I’ll let the images try to speak for me.

Studfield Glacier Overlook, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Studfield Glacier Overlook, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Studfield Glacier Overlook, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Studfield Glacier Overlook, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Studfield Glacier Overlook Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Studfield Glacier Overlook Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Studfield Glacier Overlook, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Studfield Glacier Overlook, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River Floodplain, Studfield Glacier Overlook, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River Floodplain, Studfield Glacier Overlook, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Conifer Patterns, Studfield Glacier Overlook, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Conifer Patterns, Studfield Glacier Overlook, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Just south of the glacier overlook lies Tangle Falls.  You may recall that I stopped at this spot on the drive up to Jasper on Day 11; I certainly had no intention of stopping again.  But as I drove by the waterfall–which is adjacent to the road–once again, I couldn’t help myself and zipped into the empty parking lot.

I’d photographed Tangle Falls from below on Day 11.  On this occasion, since there was no one around for me to obstruct, I decided to follow the footpath on the south side of Tangle Creek and climb up near the falls themselves.  The view from below is quite nice, but relatively limited from a compositional viewpoint.  Up top, there are almost countless possibilities, and I set about taking advantage of some of them.

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls Intimate Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls Intimate Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Creek Intimate Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Creek Intimate Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I might have lingered longer at Tangle Falls, but I was mindful of the time limitations and the other places that I would undoubtedly want to visit, so after a little while I moved on.

My next stop was at a parkway pullout just south of Athabasca Glacier.

Mt. Andromeda & Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mt. Andromeda & Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I then moved up the road, less than a mile, to stop at another pullout, and took out the telephoto lens for a more intimate investigation of the mountain ridge lines and glacial ice and snow.

Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier Intimate Black & White, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier Intimate Black & White, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier Intimate, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier Intimate, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier Intimate, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier Intimate, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mt. Athabasca & Athabasca Glacier Black & White, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mt. Athabasca & Athabasca Glacier Black & White, Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Darwin Wiggett’s Icefields Parkway ebook mentions a way to access an appealing part of Nigel Creek–about 12 miles south of the Athabasca Glacier pull0ut mentioned immediately above.  There’s a parking area for the Nigel Creek Trail, but the access point of interest is about 1/8 mile north of that parking area on the east side of the parkway.  I had actually scouted this spot on Day 11, when the sun was out, and made a mental note to return here on the return trip if it was cloudy.  It was, in fact, mostly cloudy so I stopped at the trailhead parking area, grabbed my gear and wandered along the shoulder of the road until I saw what I’d found three days earlier:  a very pleasing scene, incorporating the creek below me.

It was a very tight shot.  From my perch high above the creek, on the shoulder of the parkway, I framed the scene at 400 mm, which was just barely narrow enough to avoid encroaching tree branches on both sides of the frame.

Nigel Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

Nigel Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

I wanted to see if I could get a closer look, so I kind of half-slid 50-odd feet down the steep, gravelly embankment–I could tell before I went down that I’d be able to climb out of here with little difficulty by accessing a more gradual, grassy area about 500 feet farther downstream–to a mostly flat area, enshrouded by conifers.  The question was whether I could find a way, between the trees, to walk out on one of the huge boulders that fronted Nigel Creek, for a better look at this enchanting stream.  With a bit of investigation, I did indeed find a route out onto a dry, rocky ledge.

Nigel Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

Nigel Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

This was another one of those spots–as in other access points to Nigel Creek that I’d visited on Day 11, or at spots along Beauty Creek–where discretion was the better part of valor.  There were, obviously, no railings in this area.  I was perched about 15 feet above the creek, which–if not quite a raging torrent at this spot, certainly wasn’t a place anyone would want to fall in.  So I very carefully negotiated myself into shooting positions, and made certain that everything was stable before setting up my tripod and camera…not to mention myself.

Nigel Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

Nigel Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

Nigel Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

Nigel Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

After climbing back up to the parkway and returning to the car, I headed back down the road and stopped again at the access point to Panther Falls.  I had been to this location, as you may recall, both in 2014 and on Day 11.  But on the quick visit here a few days prior, it had started to snow, so–in my haste to clear the area, I’d abandoned thoughts of photographing the waterfall.  This was my opportunity to make amends.

When I’d visited Panther Falls in 2014, I’d photographed the waterfall from a ledge roughly at eye level.  But I knew that there was a spot the waterfall could be photographed from, more or less, at mid-point in the drop of the water.  I hadn’t had time to check for that spot in 2014, so I made my way there on this occasion.  It’s a short hike:  perhaps 1/3 mile to the location.  The thundering water can be heard as you approach a rocky wall that blocks your view.  And you feel the waterfall–as the moisture is blown downstream–before you see it.  I can plainly recall clearing the rocky impediment and being face to face with the waterfall, with the spray blowing in my face.  Within seconds, you’re covered with a fine mist.  There’s absolutely no avoiding it; there’s no place down there to take cover without retreating on the trail, out of site of the waterfall.  I backtracked on the trail to a spot that was dry, laid down my backpack and tripod, and returned without equipment to look at the waterfall and see if I could find the best spot to photograph Panther Falls.  I did this, and took special note of how slippery the rocky ground was.  Then I retreated to my gear.

The question was, how could I actually go through the process of photographing this waterfall and keeping the front lens element dry in the process?  Frankly, I wasn’t sure it was possible, there was so much mist, but I endeavored to try.  My plan was to head back to my prearranged spot–I’d marked it with a small branch that I’d found on the ground–and set up, with the lens cap firmly in place.  I would then make my best guess as to how to align the camera.  I’d already set the polarizing filter, and manually preset the exposure based on a test shot out of site of the falls–doable since the light was even–based on a 1/15 second shutter speed, since I wanted to showcase the waterfall’s power–before returning to the spot.  I would then remove the cap, trip the shutter with the cable release, and immediately put the lens cap back on.  The lens hood would, I hoped, mitigate any mist.  I’d then check the composition on the LCD panel and, as necessary, rinse and repeat.

That’s exactly what I did.  When I checked the exposure–which was, as expected, spot on, I was surprised at just how close the composition was to what I wanted, given that I’d established it nearly blindly.  The camera needed to be tilted down ever so slightly and I needed to zoom out just a bit.  I made the adjustments and repeated the process.  This time, I got exactly what I was looking for and didn’t need to make a third exposure.

Panther Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

Panther Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

I returned to the dry spot–where I’d left my backpack–and used a towel that I’d brought with me to dry off my camera, lens and tripod.

Panther Falls Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Panther Falls Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

While I was on the trail back to the parking area, I took the time to make an image of Bridal Veil Falls, snaking its way down the distant slope to the east, across the valley.

Bridal Veil Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bridal Veil Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

It was now approaching mid-afternoon and I still had a drive of nearly four hours to get back to Calgary, but I had one more stop I wanted to make.   Just a mile or two down the parkway the road makes a huge–roughly 270-degree–curve.  This “Big Bend” has a parking area on one side of it, and from that parking area, if you hike about 1/4 mile you enter a narrow slot canyon, from which a creek emanates.  Entering the slot, a somewhat dodgy trail will take you through trees and over and around rocks to an impressive unnamed waterfall.  The waterfall is interesting, but getting a good position to capture it photographically is a challenge.  Remember what I said about Nigel Creek above?  Well, this spot makes that seem like a proverbial walk in the park.  There’s almost no way to prop up a tripod–and a photographer behind that tripod–to produce a pleasing perspective, but I worked and worked at it and finally came up with something that I felt was passable, if not exactly phenomenal.

Unnamed Waterfall, "Big Bend," Banff National Park, Alberta

Unnamed Waterfall, “Big Bend,” Banff National Park, Alberta

And that image, the so-so shot of the unnamed waterfall, was the last photograph I made in the Canadian Rockies.  I drove straight back to Calgary from there, arriving at the hotel right at sunset.

It feels like a bit of an anticlimax to me; kind of a sour way to put a cap on such a majestic trip.  And so, I’ll probably post an epilogue, of sorts, to this series, in the next week or so.  Maybe I’ll try to capsulize what my experience in this region means to me and what, if anything, it’s helped me learn about landscape photography and my relationship to it.  I hope you’ll hang in there for that final installment.

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