Posted by: kerryl29 | March 8, 2016

Canadian Rockies Day 13: Plan B

Day 13 was the last full day of photography during my trip and for the first time in awhile the sunrise forecast was actually promising.  I decided to head to Glory Hole for first light.  I’d checked this wetland location–and photographed 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 very easily accessible, as long as you know where it is.  I’d marked the location on my GPS the previous year, so finding it in the pitch dark was no problem at all.

I arrived, pulled well off to the side of the highway and set up.  There was some breeze again–at least at this spot–this morning, which was unfortunate as it was causing constant ripples in the water and was making the tall grasses dance like mad.  I hoped things would calm down, but they didn’t.  Even worse, there was no color forming in the sky in the direction I was shooting (more or less northeast).  I hung around for about 10 minutes I realized that conditions weren’t improving and it was looking like a washout.  But then I remembered something I’d read in Darwin Wiggett’s ebook on photographing Jasper National Park:  there were some appealing locations across the highway, on the south bank of the Athabasca River, facing in the opposite direction.  I looked at the sky behind me; things looked a lot more appealing over there, so I made the rather rash decision to try to find something at a location I hadn’t scouted as the light was changing.

I grabbed my things and raced across the empty highway, found a gap in some shrubs, made my way down a rather steep gully and found myself on a sandy riverbank, near an oxbow of sorts.  The light was changing by the second and I really didn’t have time to do any meaningful exploring.  I was either going to find something viable here or I wasn’t going to have any sunrise photos from this day at all.

Athabasca River at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I had about 180 degrees worth of views from where I stood.  Roche De Smet, a distinctive mountain, loomed over the scene to my right–roughly to the northeast.  To the northwest, the De Smet Range arched into the distance, framed in the midground by a stand of conifers.  In the foreground, I had the calm waters of the “oxbow,” fronting the ripples of the more active part of the Athabasca River.  There were some clouds in the northern sky, so I set up and waited to see what the light would do.

Athabasca River at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I played around with both wide angle and telephoto perspectives as the light gradually came up and fell directly on the elements of the scene in front of me.

Athabasca River at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Roche de Smet, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Roche de Smet, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Roche de Smet at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Roche de Smet at Sunrise, Jasper National Park, Alberta

At one point, a layer of fog drifted up from the valley floor, in the direction of the De Smet Range, and remained present for some minutes before the sun burned it away.

 

Conifers & Fog, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Conifers & Fog, Jasper National Park, Alberta

When I felt I’d made what I could of the spot, I returned to the car and headed slowly back toward Jasper, stopping on numerous occasions to photograph at a number of the lakes that dot the landscape in that part of Jasper National Park.  These were locations that I’d viewed, but not photographed the previous year, for a variety of reasons.  On this occasion, I felt that the conditions and available time made it well worth my while to haul out the camera on this sunny, but frosty, morning.

Jasper Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Jasper Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I made a quick stop at the very broad, but shallow, Jasper Lake.  I present this image in both color and monocrhome–I was thinking black and white when I set up for this image, because of the relatively contrasty scene.  It was by no means the last time that thought would cross my mind on this day.

Jasper Lake Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Jasper Lake Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The area surrounding Edna Lake, on the south side of the road, remained entirely in the shade of the mountainsides, so contrast was a non-issue when photographing the peaceful intimates that appealed to me there.

Edna Lake Conifers, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Edna Lake Conifers, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Edna Lake Conifers, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Edna Lake Conifers, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The wind was a factor–for the second time that morning–at Talbot Lake, but I tried to make the best of it as the sun–still quite low in the sky, lit up the growth that surrounds the water’s edge.

Talbot Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Talbot Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Talbot Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Talbot Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

On my back to Jasper, I made a quick detour on the rarely used Celestine Lake Road that juts off to the north of the Yellowhead Highway.  I’d spent some time here the previous year and had noticed several interesting stands of aspens.  The color this year was running ahead of last–I was in the area over the same few days on the calendar both years.  During my time in Jasper in 2014, the Celestine Lake Road aspen groves had still been almost entirely green.  Based on what I was seeing elsewhere in the area, I hoped that I’d catch the groves at peak this year.

Boom.

On the west side of the road, no more than 1/4 of a mile in, there’s a thick aspen forest that I’d admired–even though it was green–the previous year.  This time it was at peak color and it was absolutely beautiful.  I walked up and down the length of the road several times, trying to spot an appealing telephoto intimate composition.  I found it, and waited for the sun to peak behind a cloud and for the wind to die down.  Luckily, it wasn’t a long wait.

Aspen Forest, Celestine Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Celestine Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I next turned my attention to a more disparate clump of aspens on the other side of the road.  This group didn’t have the deep woods feel of the trees across the pavement; this grove almost seemed to be dancing in the breeze.  Again, I walked around a bit, trying to spot a particularly evocative composition.  I finally felt as though I’d found it, set up my tripod, fine tuned the composition…and then waited for the sun to emerge from behind a cloud.  (Note that this was exactly the opposite of what I’d been looking for moments earlier.)  When that happened, I was ready to trip the shutter.

Dance of the Aspens, Celestine Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Dance of the Aspens, Celestine Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The shooting positions of the two images immediately above couldn’t have been more than 150 feet from one another, but what an entirely different set of emotions these two photographs evoke for me.

I decided to spend the afternoon on the Maligne Lake Road, a spot I’d visited more than once the previous year.  The road heads south from its intersection with the Yellowhead Highway, just a couple of miles east of the town of Jasper, and travels nearly 30 miles before ending at Maligne Lake itself.  It was turning into a mostly sunny day, so I decided to skip visiting Maligne Canyon.  I’d spent several hours there the previous year and knew that sunny conditions were bad for photographing this location.  I simply headed south, in the direction of Medicine Lake (about half the distance to Maligne Lake), and stopped at a few spots to make some images along the way.

Maligne Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Road, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I was looking forward to seeing Medicine Lake again.  I had photographed sunrise there the previous year and was seriously considering a return sunrise shoot the following morning.  As I continued on the final stretch of road, which bends to the left just before reaching Medicine Lake, I started seeing signs of what appeared to be burned tree trunks.  Before I knew it I’d rounded the bend and the full panorama of Medicine Lake, which lies 40 or 50 feet below the sweeping roadbed, came into view.  It was unmistakable–there had been a huge forest fire here since I’d last visited.  Most of the trees were burned skeletons, stretching for several miles down the valley.  I could just make out the spot that appeared to have been the fire line on the south of the blaze.

I pulled off at the first overlook and gaped in wonder.  It was devastating.  I got out of the car and wandered around a bit.  An information placard gave details.  The fire, believed to have been initiated by a lightning strike, started at nearby Excelsior Creek on July 9, 2015, forced the closure and evacuation of the Maligne Valley and took several days before it was contained.  I just kept looking around, remembering what this place had looked like when it was “whole” and realizing that it would almost certainly never appear that way again in my lifetime.  It was–and remains–a sobering thought.

Medicine Lake Burn Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Medicine Lake Burn Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

There can be a certain beauty to burned areas, but I simply couldn’t feel it on this day.  I couldn’t get past the notion of what Medicine Lake had been compared to what it was now.

Medicine Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Medicine Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I made some images and tried to minimize the impact of the burn areas.  You can, however, if you look closely, see the effect on the stand of aspens to the left of the frame in the mid-ground of the above image.  (The slopes of the mountains to my left and behind me, which had been covered with mature conifers, were completely burned out.)

Medicine Lake Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Medicine Lake Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Road Conifers, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Road Conifers, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Chagrined, I turned my attention to a couple of compositions that omitted any signs of the fire.

Medicine Lake Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Medicine Lake Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Road Conifers, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Road Conifers, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The shock of learning about the fire dampened my spirits quite a bit as I made my toward Maligne Lake.  I was soon out of the burn zone but, though I stopped several times, I didn’t make any more images until I reached Maligne Lake itself.

I’d 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 wandering around and checking available shooting locations.

Maligne Lake Boathouse, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Boathouse, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Boat Launch, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Boat Launch, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Boat Dock Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake Boat Dock Black & White, Jasper National Park, Alberta

At one point when I was photographing from the west side of the lake I’d noticed a persistent collection of people, far away on the east side, but gave it little thought.  As I was wandering back around to the east side a passerby asked me if I’d seen the moose.  “Moose?” I asked.  I was told there was a moose that had been near the lakeshore, grazing away on the tall grass, for more than an hour.  Then I put two and two together–that was the explanation for the “persistent collection of people” that I’d noticed.  I continued along the trail in the direction of this area and, sure enough, a moose cow was there, utterly oblivious of the gaggle of people nearby–who, to their credit, were quietly keeping a respectful distance and not stressing the moose at all.  I left my bag at a distance, grabbed my camera with the telephoto and moved into a position to snag some images, including the one you see below.  Note the Maligne Lake Boathouse in the background.

Moose Cow, Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Moose Cow, Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

After about 10 minutes, I moved on.  A number of other people were still there, but the moose couldn’t have possibly cared less and continued to munch on the grass.

I returned to my car and drove it to the bridge that marks the spot where the lake’s outlet stream drains into the Maligne River, on the northern side of the lake.  I’d photographed at this spot at sunset the previous year and decided to do so again.  This time, I had the spot all to myself, to my surprise and satisfaction.

Maligne Lake from the Maligne Lake Outlet, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake from the Maligne Lake Outlet, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I simply hung out at this spot, occasionally changing my position on the bridge and the focal length I was using, as the light continued to improve.

Maligne Lake & Samson Peak at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake & Samson Peak at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Samson Peak Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Samson Peak Reflections, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake & Samson Peak at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake & Samson Peak at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

When the sun went down, the alpenglow effect appeared on Samson Peak…

Samson Peak at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Samson Peak at Sunset, Jasper National Park, Alberta

…and eventually on the other peaks visible.

Maligne Lake at Dusk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake at Dusk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Finally, a full blown earthshadow arrived.

Maligne Lake & Samson Peak Earthshadow, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake & Samson Peak Earthshadow, Jasper National Park, Alberta

And, before it was all said and done, the blue hour made its presence felt at the far edge of dusk.

Maligne Lake & Samson Peak at Dusk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Maligne Lake & Samson Peak at Dusk, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I waited this all out from my spot on the bridge.  When the last light faded, I gathered up my things and called it a day.

In about 45 minutes I was back in Jasper, making preparations for my final day in the Canadian Rockies.

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Responses

  1. Beautiful places and beautiful images…

  2. ….you have such a fascinatingly gorgeous blog–I do so love your Canadian Rockies series.

    • Thanks very much!

  3. Absolutely amazing imagery. Thank you, as always, for sharing.

  4. Inspirational, thank you.

  5. Thank you for these – really up lifting, Pure air so crystal clear photos

    • Thanks very much!

  6. YOWZA! So many STUNNING photos, beautifully processed. I especially like the B&W versions. Well done, Kerry. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Frank!

  7. Excellent light and colours as well as chosen viewpoints. All places that I stop at when I go…and yes, always good to look behind you at the other view.

    • Thanks, Jane. It’s an especially good idea to look behind yourself when what’s in front of you isn’t particularly interesting. 🙂

  8. I love it when wildlife makes an appearance on your blog

    • It’s a rare thing, in part because I never make a point of seeking out wildlife opportunities. It either happens in serendipitous fashion or it doesn’t happen at all.

      But I saw more wildlife than I photographed during this trip (as was the case the previous year). For instance, in the early, pre-dawn darkness of Day 12, I saw a huge bull elk strolling slowly and elegantly across Connaught Drive, the main drag in the town of Jasper.

      • You are making me jealous… Natural beauty and wildlife is almost too much.

        • “Natural beauty and wildlife…”

          Honestly, there may not be a better, accessible place in the world for this combination than the Canadian Rockies.


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