Posted by: kerryl29 | November 25, 2014

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

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

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Responses

  1. Your, “Medicine Lake Flood Plain at Dusk, Jasper National Park, Alberta” shot is beautiful.

  2. Absolutely stunning landscape images…

    What more I could comment on these… I am speechless 🙂

  3. Beautiful pictures! Really just stunning.

    • Thanks very much!

  4. That last stop of the day was well worth it.Medicine Lake and all the others never disappoint but I will be sure to go to Cavell in the morning as I have never gotten a view at the lake without the top of the mountain being covered. It is a thrill to go on a winter tour of Maligne canyon when you walk on the ice on the bottom and can hear the water underneath your feet in spots and see those falls covered in ice. I see I have a lot to learn about lighting when I see how well lit the first falls is (7th photo) love the B?W and longer shutter speeds- an ND and/or a polariser? Gorgeous scenery and photos are top quality, thanks for your wonderful posts..

    • Thanks very much for the kind words.

      The best time for Cavell is definitely at sunrise, due to the directional light. It comes from the left as you face the mountain from either Cavell Lake or Cavell Pond, which means it will light up the face of the peak. At sunset, it’s mostly lighting the side of the peak that you can’t see from this perspective.

      Yeah, Darwin’s e-book talks about Maligne Canyon during the winter, when you can get down into the canyon and walk on the ice.

      I used a polarizer for each of the Maligne Canyon shots, but no ND filter–it wasn’t necessary (shutter speeds were plenty slow enough without having to add any neutral density). I did use ND filters at a number of other locations during the trip (Mistaya Canyon, for instance, and a few spots in David Thompson Country).

      • I used my polarizer at Maligne canyon at the first falls and got a nice silky effect but lots of shadow on the left.

        • Any idea what focal length you were using for that shot? And, what were the lighting conditions at the time? Was the scene in even light, or was there direct sunlight in play?

        • I was standing on the right side of the short fence it was noonish so direct sun and it was darker in the inner part of the falls and on the left side on the rocks it was just about blown out.Open on the left and a treed hill on the right. 18mm ISO 100 1/3 sec @ f/11

        • The key words are “direct sun.” At a place like that, with a deep canyon, a wide angle shot in direct sun creates what amounts to an impossible exposure situation–there’s simply too much dynamic range from shadows to highlights to retain detail in both, so you’re going to have blown out highlights or blocked up shadows (or both), unless you resort to an HDR approach. There isn’t a digital sensor in existence today that can handle the dynamic range of Maligne Canyon in direct sun. A polarizer will have no practical effect on any of this.

          Generally speaking, if you’re going to shoot a single frame in conditions like this, it’s better to let the shadows block up (pure black) than allow the highlights to blow (pure white), so you’d want to expose as far to the right (on the histogram) as possible without allowing the highlights to blow. (Essentially, this is the approach to employ for any scene when shooting digitally.)

        • Thanks, we were just talking about this( exposing for the light) recently on an outing with the photoclub there is a lesson for me here and appreciate your feedback. Will try an HDR next time I am there as well.happy Thanksgiving!

        • Just want to make sure I understand; did you mean to write exposing for the light or exposing to the right (ETTR)?

        • I was shown the histogram and and increased my exposure mean looking at the histogram and making sure you get as far to the right as possible without blowing out the white areas.I just called that exposing for the light, incorrect way of saying it?

        • I don’t know if it’s incorrect, per se, but it may be confusing to others. The typical description for what you’re talking about is “exposing to the right,” sometimes abbreviated as ETTR.

          Regardless of terminology, you’re going about determining the exposure correctly, so you’re on the right track.

        • I appreciate you pointing this out to me, may be a good idea for a workshop.I still get hung up on terminology like “go up one stop” for aperture, shutter and ISO Congratulations for being featured on “Freshly Pressed.”

        • The terminology should become easier to follow the more you hear it. (It might–emphasis on “might”–help if you think of the following terms as they pertain to the elements of the exposure triad:

          aperture: open/close
          shutter speed: faster/slower or increase/decrease
          ISO: raise/lower

          Thanks for the good wishes. The Freshly Pressed designation was entirely unexpected.

  5. I thought that the first image in this post was as close to the perfect landscape photo that I had ever seen, until I scrolled down to see the others that you shot!

    Not only are your images a feast for the eyes, but I learn a little more with each of your posts. You “stalk” great landscape images in much the same way that I stalk wildlife, something that I had never thought of doing. I suppose that knowing that moving a short distance, or waiting in one place for the light to improve comes from experience, and a lot of thought and effort on your part. Thank you!

    • Thanks!

      I’ve never really thought of myself as “stalking” the landscape, but it’s an interesting observation. Much of the minutiae of what I do when in the field comes, I suppose, from some combination of general experience and the process of trying to “tune into” a place visually and holistically. The goal is to more or less let the place reveal itself–i.e. display the essence of a location–through the images I make. It’s difficult to express in a manner that will make much sense, I think, but I may try to give it another go when I reach the point when I first saw the Kootenay Plains, in David Thompson Country.

  6. Amazing gallery of photos. I’d forgotten how lovely Jasper is. Thanks for posting.

    • Thanks!

      Jasper doesn’t seem to have quite the reputation, at least among the tourist crowd, of Banff, but my experience suggests that it’s every bit as beautiful, if not more so.

  7. These are all beautiful. My favorites are the Maligne Canyon waterfalls and the last photo of the Medicine Lake Flood Plain. Your dedication to the art as well as the craft of photography really are evident.

    • Thanks very much; that means a great deal to me.

  8. The shots are all beautiful. It’s just amazing ! Reflections on those lakes, the famous waterfalls and the landscapes images give us the opportunity, and thank you very much for all this beauty, to travel through your blog. The photography is an art that I’d really love to learn Thank you for those magnificent pictures. Have a nice day.

    Yvette

    • Thanks very much for the extremely kind words.

  9. Great images. Very beautiful, especially the waterfalls.

  10. Your photos are such wonderful memories and treasures…An amazing Thanksgiving gift.

    • Thanks very much–that’s very kind of you to say.

  11. Looks like you had a wonderful and productive day. All the shots are marvelous, but that last one has that extra touch of magic. Well done, Kerry.

    • Thanks, Gunta. Yes, it was a busy day. It would have been more productive if I’d bypassed the hike to the First and Second Summit Lakes, but in the end there was only so much to be done with given that the entire afternoon was basically blown out blue skies. Oh, well. It happens sometimes. 🙂

  12. Hey there,

    Alberta is a beautiful place, and you have done justice to the place. stunning pics.

    • Thanks very much!

  13. wooww beautiful place..

  14. […] documented in my account of Day 6, I scouted Medicine Lake,in Jasper National Park, at midday.  As a function of that experience, I […]

  15. Like, like those still, mirror-like waters on the lakes.

    • Thanks, David.

  16. […] river itself.  Here, I found myself captivated by reflected light in the river, much as I had been on Day 6 in Jasper at the Maligne River  and then again on Day 8 at the Athabasca […]

  17. […] In many respects, Mistaya reminded me of Maligne Canyon at Jasper National Park, which I visited on Day 6 of the trip.  Maligne is longer with more controlled access than Mistaya, but Mistaya is more […]

  18. […] spent an hour or so at Maligne Lake in the early evening one very pleasant day the previous year.  This time, I arrived about three hours before sunset and spent more time […]

  19. […] 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 […]

  20. […] Watkins Glen gorge is exquisite, and reminded me, at least a bit, of Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park in Alberta.  I took mental notes regarding the parts of the gorge that […]


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