Posted by: kerryl29 | January 26, 2016

Canadian Rockies Day 10: Down Time

When I’m on a photo trip, there’s invariably at least one day while I’m on site that involves a dearth of photography, for one reason or another.  On this particular trip, this was one of those days.

Day 10 was the third–and final–day that I had reserved access to the Lake O’Hara area.  Given the success I’d experienced on Days 6 and 7 on the  Opabin Plateau, I’d planned to spend Day 10 making the hike from O’Hara to Lake McArthur.  Weather permitting, that is.  And there lies the rub.  The forecast for Day 10 was for a significant chance of rain, beginning late morning.  I decided that, if it was precipitating when it was time to board the 10:30 bus, I’d pass.  (I had no interest in reliving the previous year’s experience.)  If not, I’d go.

I had a few hours between day break and the bus departure and I decided to spend sunrise at nearby Herbert Lake–just a few miles north of Lake Louise Village on the Icefields Parkway.  Herbert Lake is a very pretty setting–a small kettle lake, surrounded by conifers, with the Bow Range in the background.  I’d photographed at this location twice the previous year, but always in mostly cloudy conditions.  I hoped that this morning would be different, though the forecast wasn’t at all promising.

It was still dark–and the parking lot was deserted–when I arrived at Herbert Lake, but I could see the hint of first light to the east.  I could also see a mostly cloudy sky.  I wandered along the edge of the lake, found what I felt was a favorable spot, and waited, hoping that a break in the clouds might lead to some interesting light.  I got about 15 minutes of just that.

Herbert Lake at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

Herbert Lake at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

I started seeing some clearing even before the sun rose above the horizon and experienced some very nice color in the sky at dawn.

Herbert Lake at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

Herbert Lake at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

When the sun finally pierced the horizon, there was a few minutes of beautiful light on the Bow Range, even as thickening layers of clouds rolled in from the west.

Herbert Lake at Sunrise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Herbert Lake at Sunrise, Banff National Park, Alberta

The window that allowed direct light on the mountains remained open just long enough…

Herbert Lake at Sunrise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Herbert Lake at Sunrise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Within two or three minutes of the time the above image was made, the cloud window closed…and it never re-opened during the remainder of the day.  Moral of the story–be there.  If I’d taken the sunrise forecast as gospel, I would have missed out on this memorable early morning photo opportunity.

I still made a few images during what was left of the pre-bus departure morning.  I drove about 10 miles up the parkway to photograph a mossy waterfall at the edge of the road in the even, overcast light.

Mossy Waterfall, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mossy Waterfall, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

On the way back, toward the O’Hara departure area, I stopped along the side of the road to produce a couple of additional shots of the Bow Range.

Bow Range, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow Range, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Pines & Larches, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Pines & Larches, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

It was cloudy and breezy, but there was still no rain falling when I arrived at the O’Hara parking lot, so I reluctantly got on the bus.  The reason for my reluctance was that I couldn’t believe the rain would hold off much longer.  Unfortunately, I was right; it started raining moments after the bus reached the Le Relais shelter.  It remained fairly light for roughly 30 minutes–during which time I wandered the Lake O’Hara circuit trail.  Plans to head to Lake McArthur were tabled, as I was positive I would regret going out on the open trail, with no shelter available.  That turned out to be prescient as the rain slowly increased in intensity.  I rapidly made my way back to Le Relais and, within a minute or two of my arrival, it started to pour.  I remained almost entirely dry and simply waited for the first bus back down to the parking area.  It was a wait of a couple of hours, but at least I stayed dry (and relatively warm, as the temperature dropped).  It was disappointing to have this final day of O’Hara access ruined, but since it hadn’t come as a surprise, and since it had followed on the heels of two very good days up on the Plateau, it wasn’t devastatingly disappointing.

I was back down at the parking area at roughly 2 PM.  It was still raining, and pretty hard at that.  I did something I hadn’t done during the entire trip (and wouldn’t do again)–I retreated back to my hotel room mid-day; it was less than 15 minutes away.  After about an hour, the rain appeared to decrease, and I headed back out.  It was still completely cloudy, and damp, but the rain was light and intermittent.  I decided to return to Yoho and head up to Takkakaw Falls.  This was to be my last day in the greater Lake Louise area and would be my last chance to photograph Takkakaw, so I decided to take it.

There was a lot of wafting mist as I drove up the Yoho Valley Road (Takkakaw lies at the end of the road), so I stopped, in light rain, at a couple of spots to make a few images.

Valley Fog, Yoho Valley Road, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Valley Fog, Yoho Valley Road, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Valley Fog, Yoho Valley Road, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Valley Fog, Yoho Valley Road, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

By the time I reached the Takkakaw parking area, the rain had stopped completely, though it appeared as though it could start again at any time.  I made my way up the trail that leads to the falls and wandered down to the outlet stream to produce some images.

Takkakaw Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Takkakaw Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

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

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

After I finished at the falls, I retreated back to the car and, as I was preparing to stow my gear, discovered that the front lens cap for my 24-70 mm lens was missing.  I checked my pockets, fully expecting to find it.  Nope.  Checked my bag.  Nope.  Checked on the ground near the car.  Nothing.  I then retraced my steps all the way back to the falls, covering all of the different routes I’d taken previously–I never found it.  This was a problem.  I had several more days on the trip, and then a plane ride back to Chicago in my immediate future.  I couldn’t imagine keeping the front element of the lens clean and undamaged during that time without a front cap.  If need be, I could put a clear filter on the lens, but that would create a number of in-field workflow problems.  I needed a cap, but where was I going to get it out here?  And on a Friday night.  I was sure I could get a replacement in Calgary, but that was a 5-6 hour (minimum) round trip drive, and it was already too late in the day to make that happen.  And the next day I was scheduled to head north–away from Calgary–in the direction of Jasper.

Then it occurred to me–perhaps there was a camera store in Banff.  I’d driven through the town a couple of times earlier in the trip and it certainly looked like the kind of place that might have a real camera store.  I raced back to the hotel to access the Web and, sure enough, found a listing for a camera store.  Based on the store’s website, it appeared to be a full service facility…and it was open until 9 PM–giving me more than two hours to get there.  It meant giving up on a sunset shoot, but considering that the skies were entirely overcast, that didn’t appear to be much of a sacrifice.  I called the store, verified that they had a suitable replacement cap for sale, and high-tailed down the Trans-Canada Highway to make the purchase.  I found the store with minimal difficulty, made the purchase, and was back in my hotel room, with a capped lens, by roughly 9 PM.  Crisis averted.

Before I hit the sack that night, I moved some of my bags into the trunk of my rental car, making it easier to hit the road very early the following morning.  I had an extremely early morning planned, intent as I was to head far up the Icefields Parkway for sunrise, a prelude to my journey to Jasper on Day 11.

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Responses

  1. The sunrise at Herbert Lake was definitely worth the effort. Too bad you had to abort the day at Lake O’Hara, but, as you said, you already had 2 great days up there which is more than many people get.

    • Yup, under the circumstances it was a minor disappointment–nothing like the 2014 all-day-rain experience.

  2. Just looking at you photos, I’d have to say this trip was amazingly successful.

    • Thanks very much!

  3. Stunning photos! I love the photos with the reflections. ❤

  4. The Yoho Valley road scared the daylights out of me -I drive a standard and that’s where I learned to gear DOWN going up switchbacks. Love the foggy mists and sunrises.. Yes you had quite the trip and wouldn’t be surprised if you made a return visit yet again-hard to get it out of your system once you have been here..

    • Yeah, the switchbacks on the Yoho Valley Road are something else–tighter than the ones on the road to Mt. Edith Cavell.

      I’d love to get back to the region some day. (Heck, I’d love to spend at least a month there every year.) Maybe it will happen at some point…

  5. Another gorgeous set, Kerry….

    • Thanks very much, Scott.

      • You are most welcome.

  6. You shoot better images on a “down day” than most of us could ever hope to shoot in a lifetime!


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