Photographing in Autumn at Lake O'hara

by Dr. Robert Berdan
October 18, 2016

Opapin Plateau and Larches Lake Ohara by Dr. Robert Berdan ©

Larches on the Opapin Plateau Lake O'hara - Velvia Slide Film from 2011

On September 17 and 18, 2016 I assisted Brian Merry on a Photography workshop at Lake O'hara. We brought a cook, two parks mountain guides and stayed at the Elizabeth Parker hut. The cabins at Lake O'hara run over $900 per night with a two day minimum. The number of people allowed up to Lake O'hara is closely controlled by parks and our bus guide told us that less than 1% of the people that apply to visit Lake O'hara get the opportunity. Controlling the numbers is a good thing and is required to preserve the sensitive environment.

Seven sisters waterfalls Lake O'hara by Dr. Robert Berdan ©

Lake O'hara with the seven sisters waterfalls on the far side of the lake - 70-200 mm lens.

Lake O'hara provides a bus from the parking lot up a 12 km road to the Lake and you must make reservations at least several weeks in advance. No bikes are allowed up the road, but you can walk if you like - it will take you about 3 hours and you will have to walk out. Lake O'hara is one of the most beautiful places in the Rockies and is generally open from end of June to end of September. The third week in September the larches turn yellow as shown in the top photo and can provide some spectacular landscapes. But what do you do if its raining or snowing? Let me show you.

Lake O'hara in snow sqaually by Dr. Robert Berdan ©

Snow squall at Lake O'hara - the weather changed about every 30 minutes

During our workshop Brian Merry and the mountain guides took folks up onto the plateau and over to Lake Macarthur in the rain. It rained for most of the weekend but we had a few breaks. I took folks around Lake O'hara and focused on intimate landscapes and macro-photography. The Lake O'hara area receives a significant amount of rainfall resulting in moss, lichens and numerous mushrooms. Below are some of my macro photographs.

Lichen by Robert Berdan ©

Lichen photographed with a 60 mm macro lens and tripod

Map Lichen by Robert Berdan ©

Map Lichens were common on rocks around the lake - 60 mm macro lens

Lichen by Robert Berdan ©


Lichen on tree stump by Robert Berdan ©

Tree stump with various lichen species

Lichen and moss on tree stump by Robert Berdan ©

Tree stump with lichen and moss growing

Dog tongue lichen and moss by Robert Berdan ©

Dog tongue Lichen and moss

mushrooms Lake O'hara by Robert Berdan ©


Groundscape Lake O'hara by Robert Berdan ©

Lichen, moss and mushroom

Mushrooms and moss Lake O'hara by Robert Berdan ©

Mushrooms and moss

The point of the above images, is that if the weather is not cooperating for those spectacular landscapes, look elsewhere. On the tundra in the summer it can be sunny for 18 hours of the day. The lighting is often harsh so I started to look at the ground, at rocks and in crevices and discovered and incredible world of lichens. Mushrooms and lichens aren't everyone's cup of tea, but you may be amazed but what you see and discover. So I pointed my camera at fungi around Lake 0'hara during the trip.

Throughout the day the weather changed rapidly and I also took some photos trying to capture the snow fall and changes in the light. I also photographed a few birds like the Gray jay, American dipper and some common Mergansers on the lake.

Lake O'hara by Robert Berdan ©

Island in heavy snow fall resulting in almost surreal image - Lake O'hara 70-200 mm lens

American Dipper by Robert Berdan ©

American Dipper - these birds swim underwater and catch small fish

Gray Jay by Robert Berdan ©

Gray Jay that came to watch me as I took photographs

Canoes and Lake O'hara by Robert Berdan ©

Lake O'hara - canoes and a few larches are visible on the top right.

Photographers Lake 0'hara by Robert Berdan ©

Some workshop participants engaged in some macro-photography while hiking around the lake

Stream Lake O'hara Yoho National Park by Robert Berdan ©

Moss covered rocks in stream near the Elizabeth Parker Hut

Group Photo of the workshop participants in front of the Elizabeth Parker Hut - Lake O'hara, Brian Merry and I are on the right side of the photo.

The point I would like to make is that if "Life serves you lemons - make Lemonade". If the weather isn't what you hoped for look for something else to shoot. No matter where you go there will always be macro opportunities which is why I enjoy macro-photography so much. If you want to learn more about macro-photography - you can buy my ebook. RB

Related Links

Brian Merry workshops and tours - Banff
Photographing Lake Ohara in Yoho National Park, BC by Robert Berdan - 2011
Google map of Lake O'hara
Lake O'hara trail map PDF
Eizabeth Parker Hut - Alpine club of Canada

Authors Biography & Contact Information

Portrait of Robert Berdan

Robert Berdan is a professional nature photographer living in Calgary, AB specializing in nature, wildlife and science photography. Robert offers photo guiding and private instruction in all aspects of nature photography and Adobe Photoshop training.






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Phone: MST 9am -7 pm (403) 247-2457.


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