Landscape Photography in Jasper & Banff National Parks, Alberta, Canada

November 19, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

This post is part of a series about our trip to British Columbia & Alberta, Canada.

Low saturation version of the Maligne Lake sunset, Alberta, CanadaMaligne Lake - DesaturatedThis is a medium format 5:4 version of my popular Maligne Lake photo.
I'm reduced the saturation, to concentrate the image on the light and shade of the landscape, and simplify the view to its most basic elements. It offers an alternative option to the colourful original, for a more muted surroundings.

Landscape Photography, Maligne Lake,
Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.

I’m a pessimist, so lets start with the bad news:

There will never be a photo of the Canadian Rockies that comes close to doing the place justice.

This is just the reality of the matter. The sheer scale of the place simply can’t be contained by any lens and sensor combination. We’re talking about rocks that were formed millions of years ago, pushed up by plate tectonics, carved by rain, snow, and glaciers for millennia. Seeds blown in on the wind, planting vast forests of trees. Billions of invertebrates, birds, and small mammals, sculpting the landscape over centuries. Then leading up to your visit, maybe the rain has been good, the lakes are full, and you have lush green grasses. Maybe the snow has dusted the trees and mountains with a white polish. Maybe the lake has frozen solid, or the autumn leaves are on show. Your inability to distil this paradise into a representative photo is matched only by your insignificance in this environment.

But lets half-fill that glass! The good news is, you can’t visit the Rockies and fail to come back with good photos.

The difference is, although your photos may not capture the grandeur of the place, they can still be spectacular landscape photos.

Medicine Lake in light snow cover. Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.Medicine Lake ReflectionsThis is the spectacular Medicine Lake, in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.

We suffered a white-out on our first day in Jasper, but it was worth one cold wet day, as the sun came out the next day, lighting up the freshly fallen snow on the rocks and the pine trees.

Surely one of the finest views in the Canadian Rockies.

Landscape photography, Jasper National Park, Canada.

My best bet was to strive for something comparable to my own favourite photos. I looked at photos that inspire me, and thought about what it is that attracts me to them, and what makes them stand out from the crowd. Which styles I like, what techniques I feel are most effective, and give the kind of feel that I’d like in my own photos. Then, instead of looking at the view and trying to bottle it, I was looking at how to use it to make the kind of photos I like.

Jasper & Banff national parks are full of lakes, mountains, rivers, and waterfalls – More than you could possibly see in one go. I did a lot of research before our trip, and made good use of just a limited time there. Although the photo above was taken in bright daylight (usually a big no-no in landscapes), I managed to get away with it; bailed out by the crystal clear reflections, and frame-filling scenery. But ideally, you want to stick to the golden hours for landscapes, so plan your time wisely. Make use of tools like The Photographer’s Ephemeris for planning the light direction, sun elevation, and moon visibility…

Lake Louise MoonriseLake Louise MoonriseIn this photo, you can see the moon rising above the lake, as the first rays of sunrise light hit the mountain tops.
Peaceful looking as this scene appears, it was several degrees below zero. It took some motivation, and several thermal layers to go out before dawn, but it was totally worth it. This is one of my favourite
photos from the Canadian Rockies.

Landscape Photography, Lake Louise, Banff, Alberta, Canada.

I got up early on my last day in the Rockies in order to capture the moon over Lake Louise at sunrise. The alpenglow on the top of the mountain was the first view of sunlight of the day. Very cold, but totally worth it. Just up the road from Lake Louise is Moraine Lake, which is also worth a visit for another classic Canadian Rockies view. In fact, any landscape photographer in Jasper & Banff is spoilt for choice in terms of locations.

Below is a photo of Peyto Lake. This is a commonly photographed lake from a popular viewpoint. There wasn’t much I could do with it creatively. One of those occasions where you take the luck of the weather and conditions on the day, and let the turquoise do the rest.

Peyto LakePeyto lake - amazing colour!

But elsewhere, I was able to get creative. I took the photo below with every intention of flipping it vertically, to produce the rocky sky effect. In reality, it’s just the reflection of the mountains in the mirror-finish Lake Louise.

Rocky Skies at Lake Louise (B&W)Rocky Skies at Lake Louise (B&W)

I’m really pleased with the landscape photos I achieved in Jasper & Banff. They’re a step-up on my previous attempts, and although I’m learning from others in the field, I think I’m finding my own style.

I wanted to come back from Canada with some photos to hang on our walls at home, and I have two or three here to choose from.

Post by George Wheelhouse, 2012.


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