Along the way, the road conditions were fantastically smooth and not at all tricky like they were on the way north . Our travel time was therefore far shorter which allowed us a few stops at Lake Louise (to return the cards from Pyramid lodge which we accidentally hung on to) and then at Morant’s Curve before arriving in Canmore at 4pm with the girls having slept in the car. They were again very good during the travel time during the day and are fast becoming seasoned travelers in all modes of transport.
That evening, Marianne went out to Policeman’s creek where despite some nice cloud, no light occurred . The evening light gig certainly seems like mission impossible around here with the Rockies to the west. She met Stacy , the guy behind ‘sentinel photography’ and we’ve made another contact through this shoot.
Dinner was late at the ‘famous Chinese restaurant’ . Canmore is quite easy to navigate with north south avenues and east west streets. Or maybe the other way round. It was reasonable Chinese food which we always crave while we’re travelling. After a good fill, it was home for the last night of late dawns with the change back to non daylight saving time to happen in 24 hours.
Saturday November 5
Dawn at Policeman’s creek. Curiosity got the better of me as I got to the location in the still of night and wandered around looking for alternative spots but the spot people shoot from does indeed seem to be the best. That morning, I met a woman from Red Deer house sitting in Canmore, a mountaineering guy from Canmore and Stacy was again there so we all exchanged pleasantries while witnessing an absolutely amazing dawn unfold! Two in a row! What were the chances of that given our trip?? It was good to be back home not too late either given that this location was literally 1km from our accommodation.
Lodges of Canmore is very well set up and the 3BR apartment we have is the best we’ve had all trip. The price is a little higher than we would like but far better than what we have paid for similar setups elsewhere. That morning, we did as much exploring of the town streets as the girls could tolerate. They absolutely loved Café Books which is a great store on the main street (8th ave).
It was a pretty chill and relaxing day as we finished off with another attempted sunset shoot at Spray Lakes. The wind was blowing a gale and predictably, nice late afternoon light faded into nothing. A home dinner and bed time before readjusting clocks to the new time.
Sunday November 6
I had a couple of choices this morning – I could have hiked up to Grassi Knob and photographed the 3 sisters again, or I could explore Kananaskis county. I figured that the workout part of me wanted to go up the mountain, but I made up for that later in the afternoon by doing a 6.5 k run on a treadmill. Instead with rain and wind forecast, I headed down to Wedge Pond.
In the dark, it was clear that this would not be a great spot. The water was all rippled up from the wind and without any foreground matter of interest, it wasn’t that great a spot. I went briefly searching for the reflecting pools of Mount Kidd but didn’t look too hard after Dani told me that they had been washed away by floods. Instead, I just took a walk down the Galatea Lakes trail and made a random turn off the footbridge as I thought a bend in the river might give me great views of Mount Kidd. Fortunately, that hunch was proven correct even if compositions were limited. Light didn’t really happen at dawn but there was passing light over the mountain well after dawn. The sony seemed to perform very well in these green foresty conditions.
Later that morning , Marianne took a walk down the main street again while I entertained the kids at the train playground in the lovely set Three sisters village south of Canmore. As usual, it was time for Jaime’s sleep and I decided to have one as well. The lack of a sleep in was really starting to catch up on me.
Our last evening was spend attempting for sunset light again at Spray Lakes with some success as at least it fizzled out only after starting to go pink. We killed some time filling up petrol and using a car wash before heading to dinner again at the famous Chinese restaurant. Early sunsets were now at an Adelaide sunset time! That evening, we had a bit of resorting to do for the drive back out to Calgary . I offered Marianne one last chance to go out shooting at dawn to at least experience the light out in the field but she chose not to again.
Monday November 7
What a boom dawn! Even from 1 hour out you could start to see something happening and that’s the beauty of being out early. It allows for some degree of indecision before settling somewhere. I chose Two Jack Lake since the other easy access locations had already yielded some results such as Vermillion lakes and back at Policeman’s creek at Canmore. The problem with Two Jack is the distant mountain range and the relative lack of any foreground matter of interest particularly when there are no reflections to work with. For that reason, I think I was the only one out there until some late comers from Calgary arrived on the scene way after the peak light had finished.
After a quick packup routine (probably our record!) we headed out from Canmore since none of the shops were open until 11am. We ended up driving to Signal Hill in Calgary where there was an enormous Indigo bookstore. You could literally get anything book related there and we spent a good hour there exploring before having lunch at a random hillside. The girls were getting good at adapting play to whatever was around.
Thereafter, it was a final night in the downtown Best Western followed by an uneventful flight out from Calgary. There was an amusing moment going through US customs where Jaime had an adorably avoidant photo taken at the customs checkpoint but we weren’t allowed to keep it ! This was basically the end of our trip photographically and the rest of the time would be spent in California mostly attending a medical conference.
Tuesday November 1
Our packup routine had mostly been done the night before , so we headed off the Jasper shortly before 11am and spent a last few moments appreciating the magic of a winter seen from a southern hemisphere visitor’s viewpoint.
The drive to Jasper was memorable for a few reasons. The scenery in white was simply gorgeous but this also led to our downfall as we looked to pull over in the snow and nearly slid of an embankment! Fortunately, before we slid too far, we had assistance from a passer by who helped us push the car back up and out of danger. Marianne was overcome by this near need to call a tow truck in the middle of nowhere (near Bow summit) but thankfully it was all resolved very quickly. We found that in the winter season , amenities are scarce on the icefields parkway and so another drama occurred when we could not find a toilet for some time ! Luckily that sorted itself as we backtracked from the Columbia icefield centre to Winslow.
Arriving at Jasper, we settled in just after 4 and ended up photographing Pyramid mountain right outside our accommodation. Our dinner at Pizza hut /KFC hybrid was somewhat forgettable and for some reason I find myself liking the junk food back home more! Oh there was again no light booo!!!
That night, our accommodation at Pyramid Lake was a bit squishy so we had to sleep on the sofa bed while Charlotte had a beautiful loft to herself and Jaime slept in the dedicated bedroom
Wednesday November 2
A long drive for me on this morning. I headed down to Tangle mountain which was over an hour away. The drive wouldn’t feel so long if I weren’t arriving back so late due to the late sunrise times here (nearly 9am). By the time I returned home, it can be close to 11am and the kids were no longer sleeping in much past 8-830.
The road south along the icefields parkway was pretty whited out on that morning. For some sections I felt like I was making my own path but this did mean that I would have semi winter conditions for the shots that I had in mind. The compositions were all based winter shots I had seem from the area but I felt like I wanted to actually get a reflection rather than just dark water motion . I arrived there an hour before dawn to be joined by another car pulling over – I didn’t know what was up so I tapped on the occupants window. Turned out she was just snoozing on the way to Banff. Phew , no serial killer to deal with!
To put a long story short, I finally saw some semblance of light! Hooray!! Then it was home with some grocery shopping and a quick trip to Athabasca Falls with the girls. These were a nice falls but the lack of water motion meant that some of the possibilities photographically were not there. I’m not sure what we’ll do with our middle of the day shots except perhaps put them up as Stock? We stopped on the way back to shoot from a bridge overlooking Pyramid mountain but once again, not a lot on offer and the kids busied themselves throwing rocks into the water, a new pasttime for them it would seem. Back to home for bed time for Jaime before another short foray out
That evening, we headed out toward Maligne Lake. There wasn’t a lot of point heading all the way out to Maligne since the ferry to spirit island was closed, I’m no kayaker and the immediate shore did not seem that attractive. Instead, we stopped at Medicine Lake which was a bit of a mud pit given the low water levels. It did give a nice view from up above – translating this into photography was difficult especially given the yet again, grey sunset lighting on offer. Back to bed!
Thursday November 3
Dawn light at Medicine Lake! Hooray! Kind of anyway. The light was actually happening every single direction initially except for at the actual dawn in that’s the way it stayed until well after sunrise. I got thoroughly bogged down there and filthy needing a good cleaning on my return home but to see light for the first time this trip , even if the pink wasn’t in the right direction, was exhilarating .
I wasn’t back too late on that morning which gave us time for a walk around the town of Jasper. Sure it was a weekday but it seemed like everyone in town was just a little sleepy, a little oppressed, a little depressed and overall, it just didn’t seem to give off much of a happy holiday vibe at all? Strange, I had always imagined it to be this idyllic place that indeed Banff and Canmore have turned out to be. Perhaps it’s because our trip was timed to be at those places on the weekends? While Marianne attended to retail therapy, I took the girls walking down the main street visiting various bear statues, trains and other distractions along the way . The weather looked to be closing in again before we went back to our accommodation for Jaime’s nap.
The last sunset at Jasper was another fizzer . We drove all the way to Sunwapta falls for it and got a little rained on with precious little light but it still would do. The forecast was actually for clear skies which was completely incorrect since we did not see a trace of blue sky!
Friday November 4
I awoke in darkness to the view of stars through our window! The plan was to photograph something locally and so I headed out to the small boardwalked area on Pyramid Lake. There, the milky way was in the perfect location over the island so a few selfies were taken. Before long, I could see wisps of cloud gathering over pyramid mountain with a clear sky to the south east . I could sense amazing light and tried to get Marianne up and out of bed but she wanted to sleep in.
So out I raced again after having packed up to transfer the gear! It was the first pink display of light we had seen all trip and pretty nice to finally experience it in a location like this . The pack up routine was quicker than usual and we were ready for departure shortly after 10am. Headed for Canmore.
Kalamina Gorge is probably the least spectacular of the gorges in Karijini but it is still well worth a visit. It is located 15 minutes drive east of the Eco Retreat along some well maintained dirt road. The best time to visit seems to be in the early hours of the morning. If you arrive before dawn, there are some opportunities to shoot the gorge from above with dawn light however we ventured into the gorge as the day was looking crystal clear. Since most shooting is done by early morning , you can very likely make it back to the eco retreat for breakfast rather than bring it along with you!
As you make the short descent into this shallow gorge, a right turn will take you to Kalamina Waterfall. As this location looked very secluded, we ended up photographing this later in the morning once the light was reflecting from above.
The gorge descends gently to the left of the entry point and takes you past some quite densely foliage lined areas which we struggled to find compositions for. Thereafter , there are some flat areas of shallow water which are good to photograph once the light is starting to hit the tops of the gorges.
The gorge takes a natural right turn which leads to a series of small cascades that are interesting to photograph with a more abstract composition in mind. After this section of cascades, the waterway opens into a flatter area of still water with fallen rocks. We didn’t photograph this section as we were busy finding compositions of gorge detail. Beyond this section is a natural arch on the right of the canyon which could potentially be photographed with dawn but once again on our one visit we did not attempt to shoot this.
On a clear day, we found that the best way to utilise the light was to find bends where the light would be filtering in sideways after dawn. Alternatively, even once the sun is quite high (but not to the base of the gorge) , there are many opportunities to shoot reflections in the shallow waters.
To finish off with I thought I would share a few experiences I have had with regard to lightroom’s new HDR tool. With the latest update to lightroom CC, multiple RAW images can be combined within the lightroom interface to create an HDR RAW equivalent. This file can be pushed to +/- 10EV as compared to +/- 5EV on normal RAW files. During the HDR process one can choose an autotone option (lightroom does the exposure thinking for you) and various degrees of deghosting. Here’s what I’ve found :
- The deghosting has worked for me quite well in terms of moving clouds though not so well on moving water. I have yet to attempt this on a file with subjects such as moving people or wildlife.
- The autotone tends to push the HDR file to near +100 shadows and -100 highlights while keeping the exposure close to 0EV.
- Even if you have clean files exposed for shadows, I have found that on many attempts, pushing the shadows inexplicably seems to use the file information from an underexposed RAW? I am not sure why this is the case but no matter pushing exposure to +3 and above or pushing shadows close +100 , I am still seeing severe noise in shadow areas which are absent in the over-exposed individual RAWs. Strangely this does not always occur and I wonder what the reason for the inconsistency is?
Overall, it has been a little hit and miss but since you can continue to do other tasks in lightroom while compiling the HDR image, I usually give it a go to see the result is satisfactory. On most of occasions though, I have reverted to doing the manual blend with full control in photoshop. Since its deghosting works reasonably well , I have occasionally used the HDR RAW file to blend double or triple processed images from that same file. This makes the blend easier since you no longer have to contend with moving objects in the blending process.
That was our brief morning in Kalamina before an extended morning break , nap, and then more gorges in the afternoon. Stay tuned for the next section!