Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Deja vu?

Each time I return to a particular spot to take (or make?) a photograph, the result is completely different. The time of year, the time of day, and the weather can all make the scene look very different. And on top of that is the processing. I don't just let the camera make the decisions for me--I shoot in RAW and do all the processing myself back on the computer. And the decisions I make in doing that can have a significant effect on the results. (This can even happen when I process two shots taken at the same time!)

I'll come back to this idea a few times over the next while, but I'll start with an illustration using one of my favourite spots--the upper end of Medicine Lake, in Jasper National Park. I call it the upper end, rather than using a compass direction, since I find compass directions are not intuitive in Jasper. The main highway through the park does not run N-S or E-W, so it gets confusing. The upper end of Medicine Lake is the end further from the town of Jasper, and closer to Maligne Lake.

While I had driven past this spot many times before, it was only after seeing some shots taken by Steve Mason and E.J. Peiker in the fall of 2002 (I think) that I decided I needed to visit this spot for photography. I've been back countless times since--usually in the early morning. This place is special to me for more than just the photographs. I've seen, and heard, wolves here on several occasions. Many years ago, as white water kayaker, I emerged from the Maligne River into Medicine Lake at this spot. (This is now illegal, but I did it at the end of the last summer in which it was legal, 1999 IIRC. I had paddled the upper part of the river, from Maligne Lake to the rafter's take-out many times over the previous three or four summers, but I only did the bottom section the one time, and I haven't been on the Malgine River since.) It was on reaching the lake on that trip that my group leader pointed out a rock arch towering above the river on one of the mountains. That arch is not visible from most of the road (I think there are one or two spots where it can be seen, though) and I suspect the vast majority of tourists have never seen it. I've also watched my favourite passerine (song bird), the American Dipper, diving in the waters of the lake, even in the dead of winter. I saw my first caribou at this spot, too, being chased by a wolf--that was certainly memorable!

This spot is accessed from a pullout off the Maligne Lake Road, just up from the end of the lake. I park there (not blocking the gate, of course), and walk in to the lake, near the spot where the Maligne River flows into the lake. In much of the year, the lake is more river than lake--the level drops so low that the river just runs across the lake-bed to the holes where it disappears, only to reappear miles away. No surface water flows out of Medicine Lake most of the time--I've never seen it happen, but I've seen pictures taken in the early '90s. I usually get right down to the shore at this spot, and point my camera at the Colin Range--that's the mountain ridge that towers above the road along entire length of the lake. I hope for some good sunrise light kissing the peaks with some nice clouds above it. Sometimes I get lucky, sometimes not.

Enough blather. Now for some pictures. Click on them to see them bigger.

The footprints in this one were from wolves.

The light may not be spectacular in this one, but this morning has special memories for me, as I passed a wolf pack (twice) on the road--the alpha letting me take as many pictures as I wanted of him from maybe 50 ft away--and then saw another couple of wolves further up the road, too!

This one's an HDR treatment that I've never been totally happy with--I really should go back and reprocess it. But it's so different from those above, that I thought I should include it. This was taken from within a few feet of all the ones above (except the one with the wolf prints--that one was taken from further up the bank), and yet the lake level is vastly different. This one is, of course in summer, while the rest are in the other three seasons. (I learned the hard way that summer is not the best time to come here for sunrise--the sun rises at the wrong place at that time of year. This was mid-day on a family trip.)

Those were all shot from the same spot (with the one exception I mentioned), pointing in the same direction, with similar focal lengths. And yet none look the same.

Perhaps another time, I'll post some other shots from this spot (or nearby), but looking at other things...


At July 12, 2010 at 1:51 PM , OpenID sggphoto said...

Hi Paul

Glad to see you blogging and I'll be looking forward to future images and thoughts.
I can appreciate your repeated visits to a singular destination...something I try to do with a few places.
You've done a really nice job of showing how varying light, seasons or perspectives can alter a view. As well, how one processes an image can have such a huge impact as you describe.


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