Posted by: kerryl29 | December 2, 2014

The Canadian Rockies: Day 7 – Medicine Lake at Sunrise, More Wildlife, Palisades Picnic Area, Celestine Lake Road, Glory Hole and Miette Hot Springs Road

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

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

Sunrise, Medicine Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sunrise, Medicine Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

Maligne River Details, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne River Details, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

Bull Elk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bull Elk, Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bighorn Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

Glory Hole, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Glory Hole, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

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

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

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

Mine Building, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Mine Building, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

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

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

Aspen Forest, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

Meadow, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Meadow, Pocahontas Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pocahontas Trail Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Pocahontas Trail Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

Punchbowl Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Punchbowl Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palisades Picnic Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Palisades Picnic Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Palisades Picnic Area at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Palisades Picnic Area at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

Palisades Picnic Area at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Palisades Picnic Area at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

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

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

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Responses

  1. Another gem of a post…

    Your posts are like photography tutorials, and we could learn so much from them.

    Thank you so much for sharing and have a beautiful day 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Sreejith; that’s very kind of you to say.

  2. Great shots and dialogue. Jasper is my favorite National Park in Canada and I’ve been to all of them out west.

    • Thanks! Yes, Jasper is terrific.

  3. I agree with Sreejith’s comment above…your posts are great learning experiences. Somehow Jasper is just that much farther from home that I don’t seem to get there, but I am definitely going to explore the region in the near future.

    • Thanks, Ellen.

      I think you’ll find Jasper very well worth your time.

  4. What an incredible day of shooting! Gorgeous images and wonderful moments from the landscapes to the elk’s breath. A special park.

    • Thanks, Jane. I feel like a broken record, but…yes, there’s an awful, awful lot to like about Jasper NP.

  5. Stunning beauty thank you for giving me the incentive to see it for myself. As I’m not to far away from these parks. 😃

    • Thanks!

      Oh, if you’re nearby, you simply have to see it for yourself! I traveled 2000 miles and crossed an international border to do so and I can’t wait to get back. 🙂

      • Oh thats phenomenal!!! Yes I’m literally 3-5 hours away so I’ll be making this trip when weather and time permit. 😃

  6. Increadible pictures. I need to add this place to my travel list.

    • Thanks. If you do make it to the Canadian Rockies, I assure you that you won’t regret the decision.

  7. Fabulous post and images to die for. What a long and varied day but it really paid off with the quality of the shooting. I can tell you just loved it.

    • Thanks–and you’re right; it was a very satisfying day of shooting.

  8. As always, Kerry: As good as it gets!

    • Thanks very much, Andy.

  9. Phew! What a full day! I love Medicine Lake and it ‘s many moods. and changes in water level.What a great shot! I know now when I want to arrive, this is a beautiful shot. there is a resident eagle and nest in the tree on the left in the distance.Nice views of Roche Miette from Miette trail and a very different view of the “glory hole.” I am making a stop there next time I go, actually all those places.A magnificent elk- like the close-ups with the breath as well as larger environmental.I am just about drooling here as I pore over the photos..Punchbowl falls and Glory Hole are the two that I haven’t been to to-will have to remedy that..

    • Thanks, Jane!

      Yup, it’s obvious that the water level of Medicine Lake fluctuates dramatically and I’m sure that autumn is the low point. This shows up most dramatically at the southeast end, where the flood plain forms. It’s only when the water level is quite low that you can produce the conditions necessary to create the opportunity that I took advantage at the end of the previous day (see the last image in the post).

      Glory Hole is unmarked, as I noted in the text, but I believe you said that you have Darwin’s Jasper e-book; the GPS coordinates and a description of the location along the Yellowhead Highway are available there.

      As for Punchbowl Falls, to get a clear shot you’ll have to be willing to circumvent the fence at the end of the short trail from the parking area. The chain link has been massively pulled up from the bottom of the fence, so getting underneath it isn’t difficult. If you’re going to do this, I recommend taking only what you need (tripod, camera, a mid-range lens–I took the 24-70–polarizing filter (hopefully already on the lens) and a remote trigger and level), because you’re not going to have much room to set up or put anything down at your feet. Once on the other side, it’s a very short walk (probably less than 10 m, to get all metric 🙂 ) to the area where you can get a clear view, but if you have a thing about heights, you might want to skip the entire exercise, because you will be on a very, very narrow spit of a dirt ledge and it’s a pretty good drop into the chasm…and there are no railings or impediments on this side of the fence.

  10. Another delightful post, Kerry. I enjoyed the text and the photos while nursing a cup of coffee this morning. What a great way to start a day!

    • Thanks, Tom! Glad you enjoyed it.

  11. Beautiful pictures, I am so impressed! 🙂

  12. Another spectacular day of photography! Your landscapes are awesome, as always, but you captured great images of the elk and mountain sheep as well. As Sreejith said, your blog is a fantastic resource for those of us wishing to improve our skills.

    • Thanks very much!

  13. Gorgeous shots of your Alberta trip. The elk shots remind me of going into Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park – elk are all over the place, especially in Estes Park. And, the bighorn sheep – they’re just like those on steep mountainsides west of Denver, along I-70.

    • Thanks!

      Yup, I’ve seen elk (and other wildlife) in RMNP and bighorns in other parts of Colorado. I didn’t see any mountain goats on this trip, much to my disappointment, though I really didn’t make any special effort to do so. I’ve seen them in Glacier NP in the past.

  14. This was an excellent post.

    • Thanks very much.

  15. […] to try and capture sunrise from Glory Hole–a location I’d visited in the afternoon of Day 7 that I thought would make a fine shooting location at first light, so I got up extra early and made […]

  16. […] there–twice during the 2014 experience in the region.  (You can see an example of this here.)  The spot is right astride the Yellowhead Highway, about 20 miles east of the town of Jasper and […]

  17. really impressive! wildlife is great and place itself is a paradise! thanks a lot for sharing!


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