By Michael Bednar
September has arrived, Labour Day has passed, summer is waning and I am excited because it means autumn is arriving in the Cariboo! As a photographer, it is my favourite time of year to explore the region.
There is something special about this time of year. The warm days and cool, crisp nights, along with the sounds of birds gathering in preparation for their journey south and the smells of fallen leaves and ripe fruit fill up the senses.
As a photographer, there is something extra special, almost magical about the sights of autumn. The colours and quality of light on the landscape make it a photographer’s dream, particularly in the Cariboo, where the autumn sun’s rich glow illuminates a golden landscape.
The Cariboo is incredibly diverse in its variety of landscapes and ecosystems, which makes it a joy to photograph. The region is framed by the Fraser River on its western border, a semi-arid desert of sagebrush, grasslands, bighorn sheep and dramatic canyons. The Cariboo’s eastern border is guarded by the Columbia Mountains with large lakes and spectacular waterfalls that are lined with dense, moist forests of spruce, fir and cedar where moose and grizzly bears dwell. In between are rolling hills strewn with ranches, meadows and lakes amongst Douglas fir forests that are home to mule deer and black bears. Throughout these unique areas are large groves of trembling aspen, which transform to yellow and, along with the grasslands, turn the landscape golden.
At higher elevations in autumn, the nighttime temperature drops suddenly and the rivers and lakes remain warmer than the ambient temperature, creating a thick fog on waterways overnight and for excellent photography in the mornings. As the sun rises, the fog burns off to make for dramatic and interesting fall photography.
Wildlife is on the move during this season. Bears feed on the remaining berries and salmon before their winter slumber. Deer and moose congregate to prepare to mate and travel to winter feeding grounds. Smaller mammals cache their food stores for the months ahead, and migratory birds gather to journey south. Incorporating wildlife into your autumn photography (when able) adds another layer of interest to your fall photography.
If you are interested in a fall photography road trip, I highly recommend the Cariboo. The region has a diversity of unique landscapes, an abundance of lakes and rivers, wide-open spaces and is rich with a variety of wildlife.
Explore the unique areas within the region with a few of the best places for fall photography. Start in the arid grasslands and canyons along the Fraser River which extend from Lillooet to Williams Lake. Head west from Clinton through beautiful Cutoff Valley, and along the High Bar Road – which is absolutely spectacular. It is all gravel and there are some steep, winding sections so take an appropriate vehicle. If you want to stay for a few days and explore further, there are accommodations in Clinton or at the Big Bar Guest Ranch if you enjoy horseback riding and other activities.
Just north of Clinton is Chasm Provincial Park. The short trip off the highway is highly recommended for unique geological features and gorgeous views and might provide the opportunity to photograph resident bighorn sheep.
Heading north, the landscape transforms into rolling hills, with meadows and lakes scattered across the plateau. There are plenty of places to stay throughout the area to serve as a home base as you explore, photograph, and enjoy a myriad of activities including canoeing, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and more.
North of 100 Mile House, heading east on Canim-Hendrix Lake Road you’ll discover larger lakes and rivers at the western base of the Columbia Mountains, along with dramatic waterfalls, dense forests and raw wilderness. Visit Canim and Mahood Falls and continue to loop along the gravel roads through to Horsefly and then on to 150 Mile House where you can complete the loop or continue your exploration. There are plentiful resorts and guest ranches for accommodations, including Crooked Lake Resort which offers a beautiful area to explore along with excellent autumn hiking and photography opportunities.
Another popular autumn photography road trip route leaving from 100 Mile House is Highway 24 (the “Fishing Highway”) through the Land of Hidden Waters, where you’ll discover hundreds of crystal clear lakes, exceptional freshwater fishing and plenty of stunning scenery for avid photographers.
Whether a seasoned landscape photographer, amateur or new enthusiast, a few fall photography tips can help make the most out of your trip to photograph the Cariboo:
- Incorporate people to provide a sense of scale and create a connection with the viewer.
- Photograph activities for a sense of place (i.e. biking, hiking, paddling, horseback riding, etc.) rather than static portrait-style images.
- Use complementary or contrasting colours in people’s clothing or other items to stand out against the autumn colours.
- If you are taking wildlife photos, try to get your subject amongst some autumn foliage (and be safe and respectful of their territory).
- A polarizing filter is very useful for photographing fall foliage as it intensifies and saturates the colours while reducing glare on wet leaves.
- Get up early even if it is foggy or cloudy and be patient! Use it to your advantage for moody shots while you wait. The sun will burn it off quickly and you will be rewarded with dramatic scenes.
- The changing of the seasons brings changing weather patterns and can create some dramatic light on the landscape, so be prepared.
- Make use of backlight and sidelight for drama.
- Try to get a range of photos styles from wide landscapes to medium shots and up close for details.
Wherever your fall photography road trip takes you, keep your camera ready as there is a bounty of autumn beauty to capture, experience and enjoy.
About Michael Bednar
Michael Bednar is an award-winning travel and documentary photographer whose work has been recognized and published worldwide. His roots have always been in the outdoors, having studied and worked in forestry, fisheries and wildlife prior to turning to professional photography. Michael currently lives in the Cariboo. Visit his website to learn more.