Photographing the Canadian Rockies

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Interview with John Marriot – The Rockies Photographer

Banff National Park, Alberta

How long have you been photographing the Canadian Rockies?

Since 1993, my first year working for Parks Canada.  How does it compare now to how it was ten years back?  – it’s actually pretty similar now, it may have actually been even busier back then.  The only big difference now is that there are a lot more amateur photographers with nice cameras walking around.

The slightly more sellable image of an alive elk!

The slightly more sellable image of an alive elk!

What qualities do you think you need most to be a photographer up here?

Good business skills and some marketing know-how.  It also helps to have a niche or something that you’re particularly good at in photography.

How did you get started into wild life photography?

My old boss with Parks Canada handed me a camera when I first worked there and it rekindled memories of walking around with my little Kodak Instamatic when I was a kid in BC.

Is field craft and knowing the animal’s behavior more important than the technical side of the photography in your opinion?

The technical side is important, but you never get an opportunity if you don’t know the animal’s behaviour…so it’s a bit of both…the more knowledge of behaviour that you have, the more chances that you’ll get, but you do still need to be technically sound.

Do you have a favourite shot or place to shoot?

My favourite shot is of a dead elk frozen in the ice in a grimace of death…not exactly the most saleable of images, ha-ha!  Favourite place to shoot in the Rockies is probably Lake O’Hara…just gorgeous up there, regardless of the time of year.

Is there any animal that is particularly elusive to photograph?

Mountain lion…super hard to find, super hard to get close to.

Have you ever had a close call with one of the more dangerous animals you have been tracking?

Not really.  All of my close calls have been with animals most tourists don’t associate with being all that dangerous, like cow elk.  I once got chased into Lac Beauvert in Jasper by an extremely aggressive cow elk.

How do you find the animals you want to photograph?

Part luck, part skill, part eagle eye.  And lots of times you DON’T find them!!

The dramatic backdrop of the stunning Rockies makes a good home for a budding photographer.

The dramatic backdrop of the stunning Rockies makes a good home for a budding photographer.

What has been the most frustrating experience you have had?

One of my recent new camera bodies did not work and the company that makes it (Canon) would not admit there was something wrong with it for ages until finally they admitted that they’d made a mistake.  I lost thousands of shots because of their faulty cameras.

What has been the most rewarding experience you have had?

Seeing little kids’ eyes light up when they see my pictures. I also just generally get a kick out of meeting people that have bought my books or cards and come up to me and say, “Are you John Marriott?”  Seems very surreal!

How has the new digital age of cameras affected business?

It’s now much harder to make it as a full-time pro, in part because there are so many photographers that are out there now, and so many that can learn quickly just by looking at the back of the camera.

What is next for you?

Working on two new books and on a wildlife photography tour company, and just launched a new nature photography seminars website with two other photographers called SNAP! Photography Seminars.

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