Posted by: kerryl29 | February 15, 2016

Canadian Rockies Day 11: Penetrating the Parkway

Day 11 was going to begin with a departure from Lake Louise Village the better part of two hours before sunrise; it was going to end in Jasper.  That–and only that–was certain.  I really didn’t know with any certainty what else would happen on this day.  While I don’t like to overschedule, I don’t like to fly completely blind either.  I almost always have a plan for sunrise, for instance, and that really wasn’t the case on Day 11.  The early morning forecast was iffy.  I’d given some thought to stopping at the Mistaya River Oxbow for sunrise but I ultimately decided to hit the road, driving north on the Icefields Parkway, and see what developed.

And so I did.  It was cloudy when I went outside first thing, though as I drove north on the virtually deserted Parkway (I think I encountered a total of five vehicles as I drove the roughly 45 miles to Saskatchewan River Crossing), I could see occasional breaks in the clouds.  As I descended the crest at Bow Summit I started to encounter scattered fog.  By the time I reached the area near the Oxbox, the fog was thick enough that any sunrise at that area seemed unlikely, so I kept driving.  When I got close to the North Saskatchewan River Bridge–where I’d stopped on Day 9–the fog was of the pea soup variety.  Clearly, the moisture from the river was causing a dew point threshold to be reached.  I slowed down dramatically–as visibility was down to less than 100 feet in spots–and slowly made my way across the bridge.

There’s an overlook–the Saskatchewan Crossing Viewpoint (a.k.a. the Howse Valley Viewpoint)–less than a mile north of the bridge, on the west side of the Parkway.  We had shot there, briefly, one day on the photo tour the previous year.  The viewpoint provides a sweeping view of the river and the rest of the Howse Valley.  I thought that the copious elevation might allow me to rise above the fog, at least in part, and give me a shot at sunrise light, so I pulled into the deserted parking area.  It was cold, but windless, when I got out of the car, and it was still dark.  I pulled out my headlamp and made the short walk on a paved path to the overlook itself.  It was just beginning to become light and I could see plenty of fog swirling around in various spots to the southwest and due west.  I set up my tripod, pulled out the camera with the 24-70 mounted and waited.

"Foggy Mountain," Saskatchewan Crossing Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta

“Foggy Mountain,” Saskatchewan Crossing Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Saskatchewan Crossing Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Saskatchewan Crossing Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta

I also kept the camera with the telephoto lens mounted close at hand.

Howse Valley Fog, Saskatchewan Crossing Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta

Howse Valley Fog, Saskatchewan Crossing Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta

When the sun ultimately crested the horizon, mixed with some lifting of clouds and fog, some interesting things began to happen.

North Saskatchewan River from Saskatchewan Crossing Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Saskatchewan Crossing Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Saskatchewan Crossing Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Saskatchewan Crossing Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Saskatachewan Crossing Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Saskatachewan Crossing Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta

It was remarkable how quickly much of the fog lifted after the sun hit the horizon.  Sunlight wouldn’t directly strike the river valley for some time, but the amount of clearing was noteworthy.

After sunrise I continued north on the Parkway, but not very far.  Within a mile or two I was back in the fog.  I simply pulled off on the shoulder of the road and spotted a couple of compelling compositions, located to the south–the opposite direction.

Foggy Morning, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Foggy Morning, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Foggy Morning, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Foggy Morning, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Then it was back to the northward trip on the Parkway.  Before I knew it–less than 10 miles from the viewpoint–I found myself skirting the edges of Rampart Ponds, an extensive wetland/meadowy area on the west side of the road.  This low area was still filled with attractive patches of low fog, so I pulled off the road, pulled on my waterproof rubber boots, and wandered around for awhile making images.

Rampart Ponds, Banff National Park, Alberta

Rampart Ponds, Banff National Park, Alberta

Rampart Ponds, Banff National Park, Alberta

Rampart Ponds, Banff National Park, Alberta

Rampart Ponds Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Rampart Ponds Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Rampart Ponds, Banff National Park, Alberta

Rampart Ponds, Banff National Park, Alberta

Rampart Ponds Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Rampart Ponds Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

As I was walking from spot to spot along the Parkway, I noticed a couple of small, isolated clump of aspens, hard against the rocky mountainside on the side of the road opposite the ponds.  Something about the setting captivated me, so I took some time to capture it.

Isolated Aspens, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Isolated Aspens, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

When I was done at Rampart Ponds, I meandered another couple of miles up the Parkway to the Graveyard Flats area.  Darwin Wiggett, in his indispensable Icefield Parkways e-book, describes this area as follows:

“Graveyard Flats is an area of gravel and mostly devoid of vegetation.  Here, broad plains of weathered driftwood, old bones, sinuous pools of reflecting water and even some old artifacts from construction of the parkway will give photographers plenty of objects for foreground interest.”

Graveyard Flats, Banff National Park, Alberta

Graveyard Flats, Banff National Park, Alberta

Graveyard Flats, Banff National Park, Alberta

Graveyard Flats, Banff National Park, Alberta

After photographing along the edges of the North Saskatchewan River for a little while, it was time to resume the northward journey on the Icefields Parkway.  My next stop was another five miles or so up the road, alongside Mt. Coleman at the Coleman Picnic Area.  The sun was popping in and out at this point and the scenes alternated between mixed and even light as I photographed the aspen/conifer mix along the slopes of the mountain and in and around the picnic area.

Misty Mt. Coleman, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Misty Mt. Coleman, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Slopes, Mt. Coleman, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Slopes, Mt. Coleman, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

I alternated between long and short telephoto compositions, with a heavy focus on contrasting/complementary colors and layers.

Aspens & Conifers, Coleman Picnic Area, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspens & Conifers, Coleman Picnic Area, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Glory, Coleman Picnic Area, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Glory, Coleman Picnic Area, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mt. Coleman & Mt. Wilson Black & White, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mt. Coleman & Mt. Wilson Black & White, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

It was somewhere around noon when I left the picnic area and resumed my northward drive, and within a minute or two I was into the section of Banff National Park known as “waterfall alley.”  This section of the Icefields Parkway, roughly halfway between Lake Louise and Jasper and made up of a stirring series of rushing “creeks,” cascades and powerful waterfalls, is an area that I’d barely had the time to explore during my previous trip to the Rockies.  I was intent on rectifying that this time around, both today–on the drive north–and on the final day of the trip, when I’d head back to Calgary from Jasper.  Since it was mostly cloudy this day, I decided to spend as much time as I could visiting the highlighted attractions.

My first stop was Coleman Creek, just a short stroll from a parkway pullout.

Coleman Creek Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Coleman Creek Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Coleman Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

Coleman Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

Coleman Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

Coleman Creek, Banff National Park, Alberta

Next I moved a bit further up the road and then pulled off to photograph the waterfall in a chasm on Cirrus Mountain, to the east side of the parkway.   The waterfall is high up on the mountainside.  The photograph you see below was made with a 400 mm focal length; I had to wait for the sun to move behind a cloud so I  could obtain even lighting.

Cirrus Mountain Waterfall, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Cirrus Mountain Waterfall, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

My next stop wasn’t a waterfall at all; I was attracted by the mountain view from a roadside pullout.  Again, the telephoto lens was my friend.

Peak Portrait, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Peak Portrait, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Peak Portrait Black & White, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Peak Portrait Black & White, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Snowy Ledges Abstract Black & White, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Snowy Ledges Abstract Black & White, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

I continued up the parkway until I reached the high bridge over Nigel Creek Canyon.  I stopped there and descended a tall, steep embankment for access to the canyon, just above Nigel Falls.  This spot requires some care.  Where I come from, most “creeks” are meandering streams, with water levels that usually don’t reach knee level.  Not in the majestic Canadian Rockies, where waterways labeled creeks are almost invariably raging torrents, even in the driest times of year, where one false step means curtains.  That accurately describes Nigel Creek, particularly at this point of access.

Nigel Creek Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Nigel Creek Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

As long as one is careful, nothing bad will happen, though the creek itself is every bit as swift (if not more so) as it appears in the above photo.  But the really intimidating factor is what lies just 100 or so feet downstream from the bottom of the above image.  Nigel Falls lies at this spot and crashes, in a countless series of tall tiers, hundreds of feet down to the canyon bottom.

Nigel Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

Nigel Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

The above image was made atop Nigel Falls.  You can’t even see the bottom of the canyon from this spot.  (For a somewhat larger view and better perspective, go to this page on my website.  Be sure to click on the image when you get there.)  This is definitely not a spot for the faint of heart.  There are no railings or fencing, and the sound of the crashing water–it’s deafening–can be as intimidating as the view.

After climbing back up to the parkway from the gorge I continued north until I got to the parking area for Panther Falls.  I had visited this waterfall the previous year, but I wanted to see it again because I had since learned that there was a second spot from which the waterfall could be viewed and I wanted to check it out.  But as I started to begin the hike to the falls viewing area, it started to snow.  Hard.  Since good footing was, I knew, important on this trail, I decided to return to the car.  The ground was covered with snow in no time, so I decided not to hang around.  I drove on to the north into what became, almost immediately, a winter wonderland.  It was remarkable.  Almost as quickly as the snow had started, it stopped, and the sun popped out.  (Mountain weather is just nuts!)  Several inches of snow had come down, though it had never stuck to the asphalt.

I pulled off the parkway at Hilda Ridge–another place I’d stopped the previous year–to photograph a snowy Hilda Creek.

Snowy Hilda Creek from Hilda Ridge Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Snowy Hilda Creek from Hilda Ridge Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

When I reached the pass at Parker Ridge, I stopped again, twice, at pullouts because the snowy scene there was so impressive.

Snowy Slopes Black & White, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Snowy Slopes Black & White, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Snowy Slopes Black & White, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Snowy Slopes Black & White, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Snowy Slopes, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Snowy Slopes, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Back in the car, I drove north to the Columbia Icefields area.  I remembered how disappointed I’d been with what I’d seen there the previous year–a lot of dirty ice, mostly.  I wasn’t planning on stopping this time around, but I caught a glimpse of the area under a fresh coating of snow and I couldn’t help myself.  It was late afternoon by now, but…

I made the cold, windy hike to the toe of Athabasca Glacier.

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

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

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

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

I made a mental note to myself to stop at the Icefields overlooks when I made my return trip on the parkway in a few days.

Tangle Creek, even farther up the parkway, was another spot I’d visited the previous year, and again I hadn’t planned to stop, but as I drove past the waterfall it appeared to have far better flow than I’d remembered so, again, I pulled off the road to make some photos.

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta

By now it was early evening.  The heavy cloud cover had mostly lifted and I was thinking about possible sunset shooting locations.  I settled upon the reflecting pond near the Beauty Creek Hostel, only about five miles north of Tangle Falls, but still an hour or so south of Jasper.  Once again, I was going to make the final hour or so of the trip to Jasper in the dark–same as the previous year.

I hadn’t stopped at the Beauty Creek area previously, so I wanted to get there before sunset so I could get the lay of the land.  The reflecting pool is on the west side of the parkway and can be photographed from up on the bluff abutting the highway or down at water level, by following a trail.  After checking the area out, I decided to do both.

Beauty Creek Reflecting Pool at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beauty Creek Reflecting Pool at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beauty Creek Reflecting Pool at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beauty Creek Reflecting Pool at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beauty Creek Reflecting Pool at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beauty Creek Reflecting Pool at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beauty Creek Reflecting Pool at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beauty Creek Reflecting Pool at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The sunset kind of fizzled, as you can see, but the Beauty Creek Reflecting Pool is a very pretty spot.

That brought an extraordinarily long shooting day to an end, but not it wasn’t the last bit of excitement.  On the drive between the reflecting pool and Jasper, in the gathering dusk, I had the opportunity to see a huge bull moose, in full antler regalia, saunter across the parkway in front of me.  Fortunately (for both of us) I caught a glimpse of him well in advance, allowing me to slow down in plenty of time to easily avoid an accident.  I came to a stop, a couple of hundred feet away and just watched him slowly cross the road and disappear into a meadow on the east side of the road.  It was far too dark (and too dangerous) to try to procure any photograph, but it remains a very vivid picture in my mind’s eye.

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Responses

  1. Simply stunning images, my friend. Breathtaking!

    • Thanks very much!

  2. The more north I went up to Jasper, the better I liked it. That area has some of the most stupendous water and mountain scenes I’ve ever encountered. You certainly did them proud. Truly beautiful stuff there!

    • Thanks, Gunta!

  3. Despite the conditions you really got some amazing shots.

  4. Beautiful, more beautiful, and most beautiful! Every time I scroll through these images something new catches my eye. I love the shots from Rampart Ponds and Beauty Creek, and you already know that Tangle Falls is one of my all time favorite places.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

  5. You are killing me with all this beautiful terrain and the messages your work provides is incedible.

  6. Well, thank you for showing me yet another spot that I need to add to the list. 🙂 As always this is some top shelf work, Kerry. I truly enjoyed the look and read.

    • Thanks Terry. I hope all is well on your end.

  7. Wow!!! Incredible scenes and equally stunning captures. Thanks for the tour and vicarious thrill!

  8. YOWZA Great work, especially in some challenging lighting. Well done! 🙂

    • Thanks, Frank!

  9. Once again you have demonstrated how some one who is a master of his craft can really capture the essence of a beautiful scene in a photograph!

    Your trip there last year stoked the fires within me to go back again, and this years images are even better.

    I hope that these are selling well enough for you to consider returning again.

    • Thanks very much!

      I can’t imagine that I’ll ever sell enough prints to have it impact a decision to go back or not; I simply don’t deal with anything approaching that kind of volume. Doesn’t mean I’ll never go back, but if I do I’d be shocked if print sales was a factor in the decision.

  10. What a stunningly beautiful part of the world…thank you for bringing back some of it for us to admire. Excellent photography, Kerry.

  11. Thanks very much, Scott. Much appreciated.

  12. Amazing landscape photos!

  13. I like your handling of Tangle Falls and the patterns and reflections in the other images.Tangle Falls is a must- see for me when I travel to that area. Stayed at Beauty Creek hostel a couple of years ago. I guess I too will be renting since my car was broken into and is now a write-off. Sure appreciate the memories and the photos that I took during the past few years and enjoy the beauty and memories evoked by your images.

    • Thanks, Jane. I honestly hadn’t planned on stopping at Tangle Falls this time around, since I’d photographed it the previous year, but it really appeared to me as though there was more water coming through this time as I drove by…and I was sufficiently impressed by the waterfall that I stopped A second time on the way back to Calgary on Day 14. It really is an impressive spot.

      Not incidentally, sorry to hear about the break in to your car.

  14. The fifth photo from above is superb. Good composition and lights.

    • Thanks very much!

  15. […] as well, but I couldn’t spare the time.  I decided to rectify that this day.  I’d shot sunset at the Beauty Creek Reflecting Pool the previous day.  Beauty Creek itself was just up (and across) the […]

  16. […] 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 […]


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