Taking photos in the autumn when the leaves change colour means richer hues, deeper contrasts and softer lighting. Alberta’s diverse scenery and abundance of wildlife – 587 species in total – is a dream for professional photographers and aspiring ones like myself. Over the years I’ve shot in many spectacular settings and garnered some helpful advice along the way.
The Waterton Wildlife Festival is a great time for autumn photography, especially as it’s mating season for elk. But stay a good distance away from these large animals, as they can be fiercely territorial. Keep your long lenses handy for black bears, as well. If you’re eager to photograph a grizzly, I recommend taking a ride up the Lake Louise Gondola in Banff National Park – it’s one of the best – and safest – places on the planet to see them.
You’re almost guaranteed to see bighorn sheep along the shores of Lake Minnewanka near the town of Banff. And it’s highly likely you’ll spot elk near the Fairmont golf courses in Banff and Jasper. If you’re lucky you may also see mountain goats along the Icefields Parkway.
Shoot to Thrill
In Banff National Park, the best places to photograph autumn’s golden larch trees are on the hiking trails between Egypt Lake near the town of Banff or the Storm Mountain paths that shoot off to Shadow Lake and Twin Lakes. The multi-day trek along the Rockwall Trail is also a autumn stunner, as is the wildly popular climb up Larch Valley to Sentinel Pass near Lake Louise.
For perfect reflections, the classic Canadian Rockies shot of Rundle Mountain with Vermilion Lakes near Banff is always a keeper. Another one of my favourite scenes is Bow Lake, along the Icefields Parkway, where the water is often as calm and clear as a sheet of glass.
A Professional Perspective
To improve my photography, I enlisted some help from a professional who offered some helpful tips:
- For softer and more natural light, shoot at dawn and dusk – you’ll win twice with this tip, as early morning and evening are when the animals are most active.
- Using a tripod will better your chances of a perfectly focused shot, especially in low-light conditions when you don’t want to use your flash – like when you spot a deer drinking from a crystal clear lake at dusk.
- When using a manual camera, try taking multiple shots of the same scene at a range of exposures – doing this will help to get at least one well-exposed shot.
- Experiment with angles when the opportunity presents itself – one scene can look drastically different when taken from another viewpoint.
I plan to take my skills to the next level this autumn with Canadian Photo Adventures’ six-day photography tour in Jasper National Park. Our lessons will take place in breathtaking locations – like Maligne Lake and Sunwapta Falls – and cover a variety of topics, including composition, exposure, depth of field and post-production techniques.