Posted by: kerryl29 | October 19, 2015

Day Two: Lighting a Candle

The plan for Day 2–Thursday, October 17–was to do the Larch Valley Trail hike.  The trail is roughly six miles (roundtrip) and gains approximately 1700 feet of elevation–the vast majority of it during the first half of the hike, which features a steep climb through a series of forested switchbacks.  During the fall, routine restrictions put in place by Parks Canada to counter substantial bear activity limit access to the trail to groups of four or more.  As I mentioned in the previous installment, steps were taken in the months preceding the trip to put together a group for the hike.  In addition to Ellen and Debbie, Alan Ernst, the proprietor of the Aurum Lodge–the host site of the photo tour I participated in last year–was our fourth.  And he brought others, including Aura, the friendly and indefatigable Burmese dog who I met for the first time last year.

The Larch Valley trailhead lies at the western edge of Moraine Lake, so Ellen, Debbie and I decided to photograph sunrise from the rock pile at Moraine; by prior arrangement we’d meet Alan and his crew there (as they had a good 90-minute drive to the lake that morning).

So, we got up early and made the 20-odd minute drive from Lake Louise Village to the Moraine Lake parking lot.  It became clear, quite early on that drive, that there had been snow overnight at even moderately high elevations.  By the time we were halfway down the 11 km road, snow was covering the ground (though not the asphalt surface of the road itself).  Evidently we were going to have the opportunity to see Moraine Lake in a snowy environment this morning.

It was still completely dark when we reached the almost entirely empty parking lot.  We then climbed the trail up to the rock pile itself, still in the dark.  There were already photographers at the popular right-hand edge of the pile, but I’ve always preferred a location near the middle of the pile anyway, and that’s where we ultimately settled.

There were plenty of low clouds in the sky and it wasn’t clear if we would get any sunrise light on any of the ten peaks that encircle the southern edge of the lake, but we would certainly have the opportunity for some interesting shots.

Sunrise Snow, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Sunrise Snow, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

As you can see, we eventually did get a bit of light in the sky–though not on the peaks themselves.  There were too many low clouds.  After securing a wide angle shot of the scene, I spent the rest of our time on the rock pile working on telephoto shots, most of which I converted to black and white to enhance the graphic nature of the scene.

Moraine Lake Shoreline Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Shoreline Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Snowy Conifers Black & White, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Snowy Conifers Black & White, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Intimate Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Intimate Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Snowy Conifers Black & White, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Snowy Conifers Black & White, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

The low clouds produced some very interesting effects.  There were several occasions–I think Debbie spotted this first–where the peaks were obscured by clouds from view, but the reflections of the peaks were visible in the waters of the lake.

Moraine Lake Abstract Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Abstract Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Alan and friends met us up on the rock pile and after a few minutes we descended to lake level.  Before we hit the trail–which we wanted to do pretty quickly because the Larch Valley Trail becomes quite crowded on autumn days, and the volume of traffic picks up as the day moves along–we stopped briefly at the Moraine Lake canoe dock for a parting shot of the snowy scene.

Moraine Lake Canoe Dock, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Canoe Dock, Banff National Park, Alberta

From here, we hit the trail, which climbs steeply through the coniferous forest west of Moraine Lake.  After about a mile and a half, the trail levels off as you reach Larch Valley itself.  The peaks in the area were still almost entirely enshrouded in clouds when we reached “larch level” and the forest began to thin out a bit.

Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

While the lowest level of clouds ultimately lifted, we were going to be plagued with fairly heavy cloud cover pretty much the entire day, which made for relatively flat lighting conditions.  Since the area around Moraine Lake was snow-covered we knew that Larch Valley–at a significantly higher elevation–would have even more of the white stuff.

Larch Valley Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Since we were stopping occasionally, at this point, for photography, other groups of hikers began catching up to us before long.  Still, things weren’t particularly crowded…yet.

Larch Valley Light, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley Light, Banff National Park, Alberta

As we continued on the trail to the foot of Sentinel Pass, we reached the Minnestimma Lakes–small bodies of water at the foot of several of the surrounding mountains.  (You can see Lower Minnestimma Lake just below Mount Temple in the image below.)

Lower Minnestimma Lake and Mt. Temple Black & White, Larch Valley Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Lower Minnestimma Lake and Mt. Temple Black & White, Larch Valley Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Upper Minnestimma Lake is just below Sentinel Pass, at the junction of Mt. Temple and Pinnacle Peak, and we stopped here for a bit.  We had already decided not to hike up to the pass itself.  The trail there is exceptionally steep and other these snowy/icy conditions was extremely slippery.  It was fairly windy at this spot, which made for limited reflections in the lakes.

Upper Minnestimma Lake and Pinnacle Mountain, Larch Valley Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Upper Minnestimma Lake and Pinnacle Mountain, Larch Valley Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

With time to fiddle around, I again pulled out my telephoto zoom, focusing on some details in the surrounding mountains.

Mt. Temple, Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mt. Temple, Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mt. Temple Black & White, Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mt. Temple Black & White, Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

While I was searching out images, I noticed that fog banks, emerging from Paradise Valley, were being illuminated by the spot lighting of the sunbeams that had found holes in the cloud layers.

Larch Valley Mist, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley Mist, Banff National Park, Alberta

The area below Sentinel Pass had become extremely crowded–even Alan, who had by far the most experience with this trail of any of us–was surprised at how much foot traffic there was–so we decided to head back.  On the way down, with the views in the general direction of Paradise Valley better than they had been on the way up, I focused on the main attraction (to my eyes anyway):  the larches themselves.  The larch is the only family of conifers that drops its needles each year.  Before the needles fall, they turn bright gold.  The larches in Larch Valley–on the day of our hike–were just a bit before peak, but were still quite attractive, particularly with the complementary accent of the snow.

Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Eiffel Peak, Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Eiffel Peak, Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta

Shortly before we reached the main descent back to Moraine Lake, Ellen and I made a quick detour to check out a small stream that we had heard–but not seen–on the way up.  I took a quick run, sans gear, down to the spot–on a relatively short spur off the main trail–to determine whether it was worth photographing.  A short glimpse convinced me that it would definitely be worth our while.  I think we both ultimately concluded that it was the right call.

Larch Valley Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley Stream and Eiffel Peak, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley Stream and Eiffel Peak, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Valley Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

Alan and his party had to return to the lodge, so we parted company.  Since it was still almost entirely cloudy, Ellen, Debbie and I decided to head to Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park in lieu of any likely sunset opportunity.  But that shooting opportunity was short-circuited by the Great Tripod Conundrum (TM).  (No details, by prior decree.)

Pretty much by default, we ended up at Lake Louise right around the time when sunset would have been.  But, as I foreshadowed, it was completely cloudy at that point.  Debbie had the foresight to consider a long exposure which produced a very, very nice “blue hour” shot of the Chateau at Lake Louise.  I did make one image, from the canoe dock area, on the northeast shore of the lake.

Lake Louise Canoe Doc, Banff National Park, Alberta

Lake Louise Canoe Doc, Banff National Park, Alberta

The next day we were planning on shooting sunrise–if there was one; the forecast was, again, not promising–at the Bow River Outlet, but that would go a bit haywire, as I’ll detail in my next installment.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Such an amazing adventure, the photos are absolutely stunning.

  2. Gorgeous photos!!

    • Thanks very much!

  3. It’s just like being there all over again! To anyone headed to Larch Valley, definitely make the short side trip to the creek as it is a lovely bonus.

    • Thanks, Ellen. And definitely agreed on the worthiness of the creek.

  4. Though I am not looking forward to snow, the first scene is lovely and I like the fourth and the ones with the most delicate lines of water in the Larch streams. Aura is just so beautiful even though she is not pictured here. And yes it is a bonus to get some snow in with those beautiful yellows, most of that was gone by the time I got to the mountains. Gorgeous scenery.

    • Thanks, Jane.

      Incidentally, I thought it was a Canadian requirement to, if not necessarily look forward to snow, at least tolerate the white stuff. 🙂

      • Sigh, it does help to jump in with both feet, or skis, or skates…always makes winter more enjoyable.

  5. You really captured allot of texture and color exchanges. Wonderful!

  6. Truly a stunning series Kerry. You’ve outdone yourself.

    • Thanks very much, Emily. That’s very kind of you to say.

  7. […] I mentioned in the previous entry, the plan for sunrise on Day 3 was to head to the Bow River Outlet–about 20 miles south of […]

  8. You do such a fine job of capturing the glory of those mountains… despite the obstacles! Good stuff!

    • Thanks very much!

  9. […] lies relatively near the depot–the base of the Yoho Valley Road, which I’d examined on Day 2.  The aspens on the mountainside there, I estimated, would probably be near peak by […]


Please feel free to comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: