Autumn in the Canadian Rockies

Maligne River Autumn

Autumn is in full tilt in the Canadian rockies.

The colors of fall are bursting everywhere but I was seeing in black and white. That sounds like a contradiction but it actually makes sense.

For years I would make my annual trek to Jasper and Banff to capture the  brilliant yellows and golds that splatter across the Canadian rockies. Like a lot of things in life it got old. That’s not to say that I won’t one day be interested in it again. I am sure that I will but right now my mind is visualizing black and white.

The colors of autumn actually work for black and white photography in some instances. In the photo above for example the trees that center the image are cottonwoods that have turned golden. If they were their summer green they would have blended into the background never to be seen. Here they provide an interesting place for the eye to flow.

Autumn in Jasper and Banff is a pleasant time to  visit. There is so much less traffic than during the peak summer months and so many less people on the trails. I only spoke to one other photographer during my stay one evening while I was waiting for the sun to get lower in the sky near Bow Lake. That is nice because I associate the parks with wilderness and the last thing I want to be doing is getting out of the way of tourists or photographers at my favorite spots.

The morning I took the photo of the Maligne river that sits at the top of this post, I was actually looking in another direction hoping that the skies would favor me. As I waited for my camera to finish it’s five minute long exposure I wandered around looking for anything interesting and to my left my eye was drawn into the gentle curve of the Maligne River. The yellow of the cottonwoods immediately caught my eye and when the five minutes was up I was walking camera in hand towards a better vantage point of the river.

For me black and white photography is more about visualization than color photography is. I am constantly scanning the landscape for shapes because it is the shapes that help move the eye around the image. Areas of an image can be lightened and darkened to pull the view one way or another and that is exactly what I did here.

RAW color

I am posting a copy of the RAW image that reproduces very closely how the scene looked in color. As a color image it would not have worked nearly as well as black and white. Knowing how colors convert to black and white with different filters also helps. Back in the days of film if you wanted intense blue skies a red filter was placed in front of the camera lens. It would darken blues but lighten reds. In this case using a blue filter to manipulate the sky in photoshop made the blues darker and contrast the light clouds.

BTW for those that are curious the exposure here was five minutes long. Just enough to make the clouds more fluid and give the water a metallic look.

Happy shooting,



~ by Dan Jurak on September 19, 2015.

3 Responses to “Autumn in the Canadian Rockies”

  1. You sure know your B&W
    Powerful elegance

  2. Thank you Ray. As always you are too kind.


  3. great pictures!

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