Back from Jasper and Banff…

Autumn has arrived in the Canadian rockies. Kind of.

After spending a few days in the mountains, for all who think that they might have missed out on the fall colors, it isn’t over yet. The deciduous trees along the icefields parkway have only half turned color with many trees still having green leaves. Down Lake Louise way, up high in the mountains, the larch or tamarack as some people know them have already turned golden.

When I arrived at the Columbia Icefields on Monday evening it was evident that there had been a good snowfall a few days earlier. Parts of the interpretive center parking lot still had piles of snow that had not yet melted. Alongside the highway the snow had disappeared but north and west facing mountain slopes still clung to their newly fallen snow. By the time I had left on Wednesday it had almost completely disappeared. Darn. Missed another early snowfall, again.

I was struck this year by how many people I saw taking photos. I can’t recall ever having seen so many people pulled off the highway shooting landscapes. My how photography has become so popular. Maybe it’s because digital cameras make things so affordable?

Speaking of photographers. My plan for Tuesday morning was to be up well before sunrise and head on down to Waterfowl Lakes in Banff. I got an extra early start. Highway 93 was deserted until I got to the Saskatchewan River Crossing. Ahead in the distance I saw what looked like a convoy of vehicles traveling closely together. Was this a case of a slow motorhome on the road and nobody was willing to pass? I was slowly gaining on the group by going the speed limit. It was still quite early and I was in no rush to be waiting outside for the the sun to come up.

In the early morning light I could already see a beautiful low lying fog hanging over Upper Waterfowl Lake. Perfect I thought!

Just as I was approaching the roadside turnoff by the lake I saw that my convoy had stopped there.  As I slowed down, I could see everyone getting out of their vehicles and getting their camera gear. Geez, I thought remembering what the shoreline was like at that spot. Barely enough room for one photographer let alone a half a dozen, at least!

I’m not a fan of crowds when shooting so I continued on towards Bow Lake hoping to find the same conditions that were at Upper Waterfowl. The skies were cloudless. Not good without fog. Coasting down the Bow Summit towards the lake it was obvious that there had to be a better place to shoot. No fog. No clouds.  Again! Turn around and give Peyto Lake a look see I thought. I still had lots of time before sunrise.

Once I got to the Peyto Lake parking lot, I walked to the viewpoint. Drat.  No clouds looking north. Not one. No fog either. I snapped a couple of quick shots and headed back to Waterfowl.

Rather than having than shooting shoulder to shoulder at the in a small shoreline spot at Upper Waterfowl, I pulled over early near the south end of the lake hoping for a place where I could should and not worry about being in somebody’s frame. When I got close to the lake shore it was as I thought, lots of marshy ground and no open water for quite a ways.  I shot a few frames just as the sun was starting to light the mountain tops. Not much else here for me.

 As I looked north up the shoreline I could see silhouettes of the photographers all crowded together, cameras pointing towards the lake. Too many people in such a tiny area. I was glad that I hadn’t gone there.

Into the Rav I went and over to Lower Waterfowl and the Mistaya Oxbow.  At yet another spot an hour and a half later the convoy passed by me on the highway back towards the Saskatchewan Crossing.

Seeing the vehicles closely following the leader whence they came reminded me of something that I hadn’t thought of for many years. Daycare.

When my kids were going to daycare, they would have field trips downtown. So that nobody would get lost or in trouble all the kids were tethered together to keep them safe. Nobody could stray away or step onto the street. It was obvious to me that this was a photo tour. I wondered to myself where these people were just guided to was a spot that anybody and his blind uncle could find. Why do people pay for that? I am assuming that these photo tourists are from North America.

I see tourists from all over the world with guidebooks and maps finding their way through the parks. If an elderly Japanese couple who don’t speak the language can rent a car and travel through Jasper and Banff, like the ones I met, why do people from here pay to be led around? A fool and his money the saying goes.

As it turned out, it was a blessing not being able to shoot at my planned spot. Necessity is the mother of invention. More on that later.

The photo above is from my first evening in the mountains. It wasn’t the kind of evening that I’d be out shooting if I were at home. The skies just weren’t anything special. Because my time is limited in the mountains I try to get in as much shooting as I can.

Three shot HDR, tonemapped in Photomatix. I shot five exposures but the over and under were too light and too dark to be useful so I used the middle three. No filters here as usual.

More from Jasper and Banff in the next few days.

Happy shooting,


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~ by Dan Jurak on September 22, 2011.

5 Responses to “Back from Jasper and Banff…”

  1. Jasper National Park is truly a divine place for nature watching/ photography. i agree, you don’t need a photo tour. There are shots every where you look. Such a wonderful pace to explore. Hope to someday make it back up that way (and now with some good equipment! :). Thanks so much for that photo. Very pretty. Photos like that always make my breath stop for a moment. So thank you. Can’t wait to see your other photos from the trip!

  2. @ Katie, it’s kinda sad really that people pay to be led around like children to places that are very public and accessible. It greatly diminishes the experience.

  3. I guess I’m just lucky that I know how to navigate the backroads of Eastern Oregon, or know how to use Google Maps when I’m unfamiliar with an area. I like going to places where I don’t run into another photographer…ever. :-)

    Nice image, and I especially like the water flow. I’m glad you posted again…I was starting to have withdrawal symptoms when I’d get my morning coffee and then not find a new post from you in my reader for a few days.

  4. I am just home from Waterton, a trip we normally do at this time of year. Normally we have the park practically to ourselves. Not this year though. The number of tourists, and specifically the number of photographers was….well……shocking. And the number of photographers with much deeper pockets than me made me wonder “what economic crises”. There were many people with lenses I know cost more than my annual travel budget. It was enough to almost make a person want to hang up the camera and start putting in a greater effort towards painting.

  5. @ Roberta, it never ceases to amaze me the equipment I see being hauled out of cars. I guess some people can justify an eight thousand dollar lens for a hobby. What always interests me is what these photos look like or what their intended end result is.

    It’s really funny and kinda sad reading the comments of the Flickr/Getty group where people have such high hopes of earning big money and end up with three dollars for a multinational to use one of their photos on it’s website.

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