Sometime back in early May, a friend posted an article on Facebook which listed the “Top 25 Campsites in Canada”. One of the campgrounds listed was Berg Lake which I wrote about last summer. It truly is spectacular.
Another one was The Point Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park which is located in the Kananaskis area of Alberta. For a number of years I have participated in the Kananaskis 100-mile Relay. The route goes through Peter Lougheed Park so I was somewhat familiar with some of the scenery. The campground is a short 3 km hike from the parking area. The article described it as having “all the peak attributes of nearby Banff, but without the crowds”. (http://www.explore-mag.com/the-top-25-campsites-in-canada)
I was intrigued. With only a 3 km hike I figured I could haul in some extra camera equipment along with my camping gear and have a nice couple of days relaxing and taking photos.
So earlier this month I went online, reserved for 2 nights and received my back country pass, loaded up my gear (including bear spray and bear bangers as this is grizzly country) and set off for Kananaskis Country.
The trailhead is found by turning off of Highway 40 into Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and following Kananaskis Lakes Road, pretty much to the end, to the parking area for the North Interlakes Day Use area. From there I embarked on the short hike to the campground.
Arriving late afternoon, I had time to set up camp, have dinner, and capture a sunset. (Note: click on any photo to enlarge.)
My initial impression of the campground was that it bore little resemblance to what I expected. Firstly, the water level of Upper Kananaskis Lake (which is really a reservoir) was way down. The 200 meter rocky shoreline definitely did not appear in the photo I saw in the article. Secondly, it was anything but quiet. There were kids, presumably from one or more school groups, running and shouting all over the campground – and this was mid-week! In fairness, they were quiet by about 10 pm. In walking around the area I discovered that “the point” is in fact not really a point any more. What I expected to be a promontory jutting out into the lake with water on 3 sides only had water on one side. The “back side” of the point was in fact a dried up lake bed with the Kananaskis river running through the middle of it, emptying into the lake itself at about the tip of the point.
I was up before dawn for a sunrise shoot. Two techniques for dealing with the huge dynamic range from bright to shadow characteristic of a sunrise or sunset is to shoot using HDR or to use a graduated neutral density filter. With HDR you take 3 (or more) shots with one exposing for the shadows (which means the sky is blown out), one for the sky (which makes the shadows extremely dark) and one somewhere in between. In post processing these three are merged together to produce a final photo in which the darker areas are visible but the sky is not overblown.
A graduated ND filter is darker on one end and gradually becomes clear on the other end. The rectangular-shaped filter is inserted into a holder in front of the lens and can be slid up and down. It can be used to darken the sky by sliding it in front of your lens until the transition zone from dark to clear is somewhere around the horizon line. By adjusting your exposure for the shadows the filter ensures that the sky is not blown out.
On this first morning I decided to shoot HDR and to use my graduated ND filter on the second morning. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method but basically both are tools that can be used to accomplish the same outcome – a balance between the bright sky and the darker foreground.
Following breakfast I set of for a short walk to the Lower Kananaskis Falls. Here I spent acouple of hours shooting the falls and the valley from various vantage points, using different shutter speeds and trying several different graduated filters.
Prior to leaving for Point Campground I had received an email advising that there would likely be no firewood available and that campers should be sure to bring stoves. When I had arrived the evening before, the woodpiles had in fact been depleted. As I made my way back to the campground after my visit to the falls I could hear a helicopter. On my arrival back at the camping area I discovered that the helicopter was hauling in firewood. After multiple trips back and forth the wood boxes were full so I decided to treat myself to a campfire that evening.
I spent the rest of the day practising with taking panoramic photos, photographing some flowers and a couple of animals, and relaxing (even had a bit of a nap in my tent before the arrival of a new batch of noisy school children hit the campground).
Dinner was another gourmet freeze-dried dish. A short time after dinner it was time to set up for another sunset shoot. It turned out to be totally uninspiring – no clouds, no color, nothing of interest. But the day ended on a perfect note with hot chocolate, a shot of Fireball, and a campfire.
Up before dawn the next morning I set up for a sunrise shoot this time using a graduated ND filter. While it did give me a chance to play with the filter, sunrise was totally blah. No clouds and the sky basically just got lighter with no color at all (other than of course blue).
Back at the campsite it was time for breakfast, packing up and hiking back to the car. Overall, while I would say the Point Campground was nice enough, there are lots of campgrounds around as nice or better. While I enjoyed my visit I doubt that I would return and I certainly don’t think it rates being on the list of top 25 in Canada.