Hi everyone! It’s been a great last few days in Banff, with a nice mix of warm weather and sunny skies with a bit of cloud cover. Today is cloudy, but still has some pretty decent light hitting the mountains in the mornings and evenings.
With spring comes the first itchings to get out and get some non-snowy images in the mountain parks and photographers hitting up the Banff area and Banff National Park in the next few weeks have a few great spots they can check out as the ice and snow melts. One of my personal favourites is the Vermilion Lakes area near the Town of Banff. There are a host of things you can photograph along here, with nature photography hotspots all over the place, including some stunning mountain views at First, Second, and Third Vermilion Lakes, as well as the area between the Second and Third lake.
Mt Rundle and Sulphur Mountain from Third Vermilion Lake in Banff National Park
Early mornings and late evenings are best, which at this time of year, means being there from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., then again from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.
The Vermilion Lakes area is one of the first in the Banff area to start greening up, too, so photographers in early May should start seeing some greenery.
Nature photographers can drive along the length of Vermilion Lakes Drive to access any of the photo hotspots.
It’s sunny and warm in Banff and the Canadian Rockies this afternoon; a balmy 11 degrees Celsius (52 F). For those of you visiting Banff in the coming weeks, it’s a perfect time of year to go for a drive in search of wildlife photography opportunities in the national park. One of my favourite drives in April and May is along the Lake Minnewanka Loop Road, where lucky park visitors and wildlife photographers may get to see and photograph elk, bighorn sheep, mule and white-tailed deer, wild wolves (the Fairholme wolf pack uses this road regularly early in the day and in the evening), and even bears.
Bighorn sheep are plentiful along the Lake Minnewanka Drive for wildlife photographers looking for good spring photo opps in Banff National Park
The road is particularly well known for the large herds of bighorn sheep that hang out near Lake Minnewanka. Several big rams also frequent the area, though I often go up there to get shots of the female ewes (pictured above) and their young.
The Lake Minnewanka scenic loop is about ten kilometers (seven miles) long and takes about a half hour to complete at a nice, slow pace while you’re looking for wildlife. Wildlife photographers should be sure to check out the areas surrounding the Upper Bankhead parking lot for the multitudes of Columbian ground squirrels there. Lucky visitors may also spot resident foxes or coyotes in this area, too.
The Lake Minnewanka Loop Road is a great early morning or late evening Banff drive. I’ll often loop around it four or five times in a morning, beginning just before sunrise, to up my chances for running into a wolf or a grizzly.
For tips on where to find wildlife along the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper, check out John’s popular eBook, How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies: The Icefields Parkway Wildlife Edition.
For all you wildlife photographers and photographer wannabes out there, we’re getting closer and closer to the start of ‘bear season’, the gorgeous spring season where both black and grizzly bears can be found and photographing regularly throughout Banff and Jasper National Parks. In fact, last week the first grizzly tracks of the season were spotted in Jasper National Park near Highway 16 west of town.
A large male black bear along Highway 16 in Jasper National Park
Black bears start becoming quite common sightings in Jasper in mid to late April, while grizzlies start to pop out regularly along the Icefields Parkway and throughout most of Banff and Kootenay National Parks a bit later in June. You can expect to see bears along the sides of roads like the Maligne Lake Road in Jasper beginning in mid to late May, while the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff is usually a bit later into May or even June. An excellent early season are to look for bears in early May is along Highway 16 west of Jasper towards Mt Robson Provincial Park. Some of the roadside areas green up quite early and it can be a great place to get a bear to yourself for photo purposes.
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I thought I’d step away from the location advice for a second and offer up a suggestion on what lenses to bring to the Canadian Rockies and why. Obviously, most of you will be bringing your biggest, baddest 400mm or 500mm telephoto lenses if it’s wildlife you’re interested in, but I wanted to point out the benefits of using a 70-200mm lens more than your big gun.
Bull elk in a meadow in Banff National Park on a beautiful winter day
The first key advantage to having a 70-200mm lens (or a similar zoom) ready to go in the mountain parks is that it allows you to snap quick shots much more easily than a big lens does. It can be sitting on your front seat right beside you, always ready for whatever opportunity may pop up in front of you.
Secondly, it’s an easy lens to handhold and if you’re jumping out of the car for a quick shot of the giant bull elk, it’s far easier to do so with a smaller zoom than it is with a big telephoto.
And finally, the key reason for using a 70-200mm in the Rockies is that it allows you to get a lot more of the Rocky Mountain habitat into your shots with your wild subjects, making it much more likely that you’ll get home and see some pictures that definitely remind you of Banff and Jasper, and most importantly, don’t look as if they could be from your local zoo.
Check out my John E. Marriott Wildlife and Nature Photography Facebook fan page for more great tips and lots of new images!
Hi everyone, for those of you hoping to get up to Jasper this winter, now is as good a time as any. I just returned from a week in the park and had a load of glorious wildlife sightings, including a pack of ten wolves on Talbot Lake east of town, a group of three wolves on Pyramid Lake, and sightings of four different wolves in neighbouring Mt Robson Provincial Park.
I also spotted several moose and a red fox along the Maligne Lake Road, as well as a lot of bighorn sheep, elk, and deer throughout the park.
I know, I know, it’s the middle of winter and already I’m here to talk about summer. But the fact is that a lot of you photographers out there are already planning your summer vacations and many of you want to know when the best times to be here in the Canadian Rockies are if your primary goal is to photograph wildflowers in the landscape.
Wildflowers at Sunshine Meadows, Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park, BC
Given the snowpack this year, which is not particularly deep compared to last year, I’d put our best guess for the peak of wildflower photography to be sometime between July 25th and August 5th this summer. The peak tends to be pretty uniform across the parks, from Jasper to Banff and even south into Kananaskis Country and Kootenay National Park. You can expect roadside flowers to start peaking in mid to late July, with the true carpets of alpine flowers beginning in that last week of July in places like Sunshine Meadows, the Tonquin Valley (Jasper National Park) and the Rockwall (Kootenay National Park).
PS – interested in joining me for an incredible wildflower photography workshop experience? Consider my heli-hiking flower photography workshop in August in the BC Rockies.
Just a quick note for all of you wildlife photographers out there that I have an opening in my Jasper winter wildlife photography workshop next week from February 7th-12th.
Come and join me for five days of photographing bighorn sheep, elk, moose, deer, coyote, and even wild wolves and lynx.
Bighorn sheep rams photographed during the 2011 Jasper winter wildlife photography workshop
Banff National Park is one of the premier places in the world in which to photograph elk. From big bulls in the fall to cows and calves in the spring, Banff offers up a tremendous variety of elk photography opportunities in all seasons. One of my own personal favourite times of year to find and photograph elk in the park is during the cold, short days of winter, when the big bulls congregrate along the Lake Minnewanka Road and the start of the Bow Valley Parkway, as well as along Vermilion Lakes Drive.
Two bull elk fighting along the Lake Minnewanka Road in Banff National Park
Winter elk are often a bit more docile, too, so while you don’t want to walk right up to them, it is often possible to safely photograph them from 50-75 metres (yards) away with a lens in the range of 200-400mm. Mid to late morning often provides the best light, as does early to mid afternoon (when it’s a bit warmer). Adventurous souls can also try the Kananaskis Lakes Road down in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park for more elk and fewer people.
PS – want to learn more about how to photograph wildlife in winter in Banff and Jasper? Then check out my Jasper Winter Wildlife Photography Workshop.
It’s that time of year where wolf photography is at a peak, and there’s no better place in the Canadian Rockies to find wolves than in Jasper National Park, where more than five different packs can be found near roads that traverse the park.
Wild wolf photographed in Jasper National Park
My favourite areas to look for wolves in Jasper include the Maligne Lake Road and Highway 16 west of town into Mt Robson Provincial Park. If it’s solitude and wolves that you desire, then try the Snaring River Road first thing in the morning.
And if you want to try the Icefields Parkway, check out my $10 e-guide to finding and photographing wildlife along this famous roadway: How to Photograph Wildlife in the Canadian Rockies.
Keep in mind that Jasper wolves are wild animals and that you often get better images of them using long lenses and remaining in your vehicle.
It’s been snowing for three days straight here in Banff, so for photographers (or skiers) looking for some of the fresh white stuff, the next few weeks should be a fantastic time to visit the Rockies for some wildlife or landscape photography.
Banff East Park Gate this week in Banff National Park
February is looking promising for photographers, as trees from Kananaskis Country and Kootenay National Park in the south to Jasper National Park in the north are now all fully snow-covered.