Posted by: kerryl29 | May 15, 2023

The Story Behind the Image: LaSalle Canyon Spring

Apologies for the lengthy gap between posts, but I did warn readers that things might not be normal on this blog for some time and, unfortunately, that turned out to be correct. I anticipate returning to a typical (roughly once a week) posting schedule moving forward.

The story behind this particular image touches on a theme that has been a regular point of discussion here on the blog essentially since its inception: the advantages of returning to photograph at familiar places.

I’ve spent as much time at LaSalle Canyon, located in Starved Rock State Park in north-central Illinois, as I have at any location I’ve frequented over the years. It’s one of only a few places I’ve visited in all four seasons, but given the ephemeral nature of the waterfalls in the various Starved Rock Canyons, I’ve been to LaSalle more in springtime–the wettest time of year by far in this part of the world–than any other season.

As a function of my experience at this site, I’m well aware of what constitutes the best conditions and can plan my visits accordingly. But beyond easily recognizing the flattering circumstances for photography at Starved Rock generally and LaSalle Canyon in particular, familiarity also allows me to screen out the on-site distractions and home in on the compositional elements that reside in this highly photogenic place.

Always looking for a new perspective at this familiar locale, I found one a few springs ago. After several days of rain we finally had a dry–but overcast–windless day forecast, and I jumped at the chance to make the 90-minute drive from my Chicago area base to Strarved Rock. I quickly made the hike from the Owl Canyon parking area to LaSalle Canyon and long before I saw it I could hear the canyon’s eponymous waterfall. Rounding a bend of the trail, the familiar head of the canyon came into view. The falls were indeed running nicely and the fresh spring foliage was absolutely still. As I approached the main waterfall from the left-hand side of the canyon, I noted the familiar second small cascade emptying into the reflecting pool well below the main falls. Including both tiers of falls in the same frame without “forcing it” has always been a challenge, partly because of their awkward relative location and partly because of the lack of a photogenic foreground object to pull the composition together.

On the lookout, as always, I saw what I thought might actually work. For the first time in my experience, a downed tree trunk astride the trail well above the reflecting pool had been sufficiently cleared of adjacent debris that I thought I might finally be able to obtain the kind of image that I’d been unable to pull off in prior years. I pulled out my camera to check and, sure enough, I deemed that–with an appropriate three- or four-image focus stack, I could make it happen.

I set up quite close to the foreground log, established my exposure settings, did my usual fine tuning of the composition, focused on the nearest element in the season to start the focus stacking technique and…voila. I made a number of other images in LaSalle Canyon that day, but this one has always been my favorite.

LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

To view a larger rendition of this image, click here.



  1. Lovely comp, Kerry. The downed tree really does tie it together nicely. Lots of lines in the image to keep the viewer’s eyes moving around. Makes your point very well — you wouldn’t have anticipated this without learning the area thoroughly.

  2. This is such a pretty spot, and well seen with leading lines and lighting. I like to return to favourite locations, thinking about the time of day, point of view and what I want to get in an image that I missed the previous time. Happy shooting!

    • Thanks very much, Jane!

  3. Beautiful.

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