Get your shut­ter ready for Jasper

Lo­ca­tion is a pho­tog­ra­pher’s par­adise

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Week­end Life - AN­DREW PENNER

Here’s the bad news: many of my Jasper pic­tures were not post­card wor­thy. Some of the most painfully ob­vi­ous “trash bin” shots fea­tured dra­matic un­der­ex­po­sure, wonky hori­zon lines, and, of course, blown-out skies. But now the good news: of the four hun­dred pho­tos, or so, I took on my photo sa­fari, a hand­ful turned out just fine. And I feel good about that. Af­ter all, some peo­ple say that a mon­key could take a nice photo in Jasper.

With­out a doubt, Jasper is one of the most pho­to­genic places in North Amer­ica. Here soar­ing, shark-tooth peaks ex­plode into pure blue skies and a string of turquoise lakes shim­mer in the pine-coated val­leys. The area is pep­pered with post­card-pretty scenes and is, un­ques­tion­ably, a bucket-list lo­cale for land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers.

I’ve had a photo-fo­cused jour­ney to Jasper on my radar for years. Fi­nally, the tim­ing was right and the plan came to­gether. I felt like a kid in a candy store putting all my gear to­gether and plan­ning the itin­er­ary.

Some of the most strik­ing “shots” — images I’ve eye­balled for years — are taken at idyl­lic lo­ca­tions such as Maligne Lake, Pyra­mid Lake, the Jasper Sky­tram, and, of course, Spirit Is­land. Chances are, if you’ve seen a great im­age of Jasper, it was taken at one of these spots.

Un­ques­tion­ably, the trump card, the crème de la crème, of all these lo­ca­tions is the worl­drenowned photo op at Spirit Is­land. The scene here — a small lone is­land cov­ered with a clus­ter of pines and back-dropped by ser­rated peaks that hang into the glacier-fed lake be­hind — is leg­endary. The shot — first made fa­mous in the early 1960s when Ko­dak plas­tered the im­age on the east wall of Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion — re­quires a half-hour boat ride to reach.

On my first morn­ing, af­ter hit­ting snooze 17 times, I grabbed a cof­fee and made my way to the rocky shores of Pyra­mid Lake. With misty fog and ethe­real light paint­ing the peaks, it was time well spent. A smat­ter­ing of colour­ful ca­noes made for an in­ter­est­ing fore­ground and I shut­tered a few shots that man­aged to do some jus­tice (let’s be hon­est, it’s al­ways bet­ter with the naked eye!) to the beauty.

One of the tough­est things about be­ing a “se­ri­ous” land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher is get­ting one­self up­right be­fore the roost­ers start crow­ing. How­ever, to get a win­ning shot, you’ve sim­ply got to pay the price and take ad­van­tage of that spe­cial golden light of dawn. While even­ings can also be spec­tac­u­lar, the early morn­ings — when many of the lo­ca­tions are quiet and void of peo­ple — are al­most al­ways bet­ter.

The next day, with low hang­ing cloud and in­ter­mit­tent show­ers dous­ing the valley, things didn’t look nearly as good. But, hop­ing for the best, I took the last car up on the Jasper Sky­tram and took my chances. The gam­ble paid off. At the sum­mit, shortly be­fore sun­set, the clouds parted and warm, pink light washed over the town­site and the tow­er­ing ram­parts be­yond.

The Jasper Sky­tram ($35 for adults) is Canada’s high­est and long­est aerial tramway. It whisks you up near the top of Whistlers Moun­tain, 2,300 me­tres, and an alpine set­ting un­like any­thing else in Canada. The panoramic views and photo ops, in­clud­ing Mount Rob­son, which is the high­est peak in the Cana­dian Rock­ies, are sim­ply gor­geous.

On the docket for Day 3 was the boat ride to Spirit Is­land. Af­ter shelling over the $40 fee I hopped on-board and was happy to watch the valley fog melt away to re­veal a bril­liant blue sky splat­tered with a few high, cot­ton-ball clouds. Things were look­ing good! And, when I got there, Spirit Is­land did not dis­ap­point.

Al­though the 30-minute ride down Maligne Lake felt short, the mere 10-min­utes we had on shore was even shorter. Ask any pho­tog­ra­pher, that’s not a lot of time to paint your mas­ter­piece.

How­ever, ask any pho­tog­ra­pher, re­gard­less of how much time you have at a lo­ca­tion, be­ing pre­pared is al­ways half the bat­tle. Car­ry­ing mul­ti­ple lenses (in­clud­ing a wide-an­gle lens as well as a longer tele­photo for wildlife en­coun­ters) is crit­i­cal. Also, po­lar­iz­ing fil­ters (to deepen blue skies and cut through haze) and neu­tral den­sity fil­ters (to tone down bright skies and even out the ex­po­sure in a scene) are key ac­ces­sories to pack. Mi­cro-fi­bre clean­ing cloths, ex­tra bat­ter­ies, ex­tra mem­ory cards, and a light­weight tri­pod for low­light situa- tions are also es­sen­tials.

On the gor­geous drive back to Cal­gary on the Ice­fields Park­way — one of the most scenic high­ways in the world — I couldn’t re­sist a few more photo stops. Sun­wapta Falls, the Athabasca Glacier, and Peyto Lake, even though they’re typ­i­cally teem­ing with trig­ger-happy tourists, are must stops for shut­ter­bugs.

For­tu­nately, at Peyto Lake, a lo­ca­tion that of­ten works well with mid-day light, I was able to fire off a few more frames I could work with. Were they post­card wor­thy? Prob­a­bly not. But when I boosted the colours and tweaked the hori­zon line, I def­i­nitely had some­thing a cam­era-wield­ing mon­key would be quite pleased with.



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