Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario is debatably one of the most picturesque places to see fall foliage in Canada. Despite having already been three times during the autumn months, I am repeatedly blown away. Here is a collection of some of my favourite photos from fall in the park:
The first time I visited Algonquin Provincial Park was in the fall of 2003. Back then, I was armed with a Canon Powershot G3 digital camera, bearing a mere 4M pixel sensor. Cameras have since come a long way, but the photos I captured from the Lookout Trail do the view justice.
Ten years later, in summer of 2013 when hiking the Centennial Ridges Trail, a very demanding 10.4 km loop that offers spectacular view along the ridges, I figured this would be a fantastic place for shooting fall colours.
The Lookout trail and the Centennial Ridges trail are perfect for a short solo camping trip during the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, where I was able to fit in two shooting sessions, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The Rock Lake campground was idyllic in both proximity to trails and it turns out, campsite views.
On Sunday morning of Thanksgiving weekend, I was packed and out the door by 10:00am, carrying only the essentials: a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, headlight, food and some other necessities. Planning on only staying for a single night, I went without cooking ware, as I planned on eating prepared foods.
I arrived at the entrance of Rock Lake campground around 1:30pm and went directly to the park office. There was a group of 8 people from Germany in the line looking for campsites, and I got mine afterwards, site 120. Park officers were directing traffic at the campground entrance. Apparently, Rock Lake road is on a list of suggested locations for viewing fall colours in the park. There were lots of visitors on the way to my campsite, which also meant a lot of parking tickets that were issued.
To my surprise, my campsite was situated right beside the lake. Lucky me!
After setting up the tent, I drove to the trailhead of Centennial Ridges Trail located at the entrance of the Coon Lake campground.
The Friends of Algonquin Park website reported foliage 100% peaking over the long weekend. With this in mind, it was a bit surprising and disappointing to find out (after hiking vigorously for 45 minutes) that this was not the case for at least this section of the park. It was also mostly cloudy, which meant that the scenery looked a bit flat. Below is a view from the ridge between points 10 and 11 on the map above. Still beautiful, despite non-optimal shooting conditions and colours.
When the sun occasionally broke through the clouds, the view instantly became more vivid.
I shot two frames with my 17mm tilt shift lens, knowing it would make an excellent panoramic photo. The first shot has the lens shifted to the left by 6mm, then I shifted the lens 6mm to the right for the second shot.
I decided to leave without waiting for sunset after taking the last shot at 6:00pm as staying safe was top priority on my first solo trip.
The next day, I woke up at 5:30am to a cold morning temperature of -3°C. The MEC Nomad sleeping bag was not warm enough for sub-zero overnight temperatures. Since it was still too dark to go anywhere, I stayed huddled in the tent until 6:00am, when I jumped right into the car headed for Lake of Two Rivers.
The Lake of Two Rivers campground used to be our favourite when the kids were young. The beach beside the campground is an exciting place in early morning for photographers. Here are some of the photos I have captured of the lake in the past:
For me, the most exciting part of shooting early morning occurs when the sun starts to rise over the horizon. In this instance, the sun rose so quickly, my knee-jerk reaction was to repeatedly press the shutter. I initially included the whole kayak within the frame, but then thought there was too much beach in the foreground. Following this, I captured a few more photos containing only part of the kayak.
Here is another one without the Kayak. Which one is better? I cannot decide.
After Lake of Two Rivers, I headed to my final stop, the Lookout Trail.
The Lookout Trail is a 2.1km loop, where a short ascent of less than a kilometre provides you with a reward that is an awe-inspiring view. I took the photo below in 2003, which is what Algonquin Provincial Park resembles in the fall, in my memory.
Fast forward 13 years to Thanksgiving weekend, because of the warmer temperatures this fall, the trees still bore traces of green; however, the fog was still lingering around, just as I had expected.
The Lookout Trail really is a lovely place, but I think the best shooting times for foliage arise late afternoon near sunset. Knowing that the self-imposed criterion (at least one good photo for each shooting day) had been met, it was time for me to head home.