So, you are headed into the wooly wilderness either by boat or train. It is time to plan out some of those fabulous excursions. One of the favorite destinations on the Rocky Mountaineer schedule is Banff.
Thanks to the writers at Banff & Beyond, we have a few pointers on where to get those perfect shots.
Banff Area Top Photography Spots
1. Vermillion Lakes
Vermillion Lakes is one of the most diversified areas; it’s a great place for photography in every season including winter. The lighting is good at sunrise and sunset and this is when the water is calmest allowing for reflection shots of the mountains. Vermillion Lakes is one of the first areas to green up in the spring and this attracts wildlife such as elk and deer. The shallow lakes also provide a wetland for a variety of waterfowl and birds. You can easily spend hours to the better part of a day here taking photos along the shoreline. A pair of wading boots allows you to get right into the water and capture unique shots. Be prepared for mosquitoes in the summer. From Banff town follow Mount Norquay road and turn left just before reaching the Trans Canada Hwy. (51.183996, -115.594364)
2. Sulphur Mountain Gondola
From the top of Sulphur Mountain Gondola there are views overlooking the town of Banff, the Bow Valley, several mountain ranges and Lake Minnewanka. The first gondola car of the morning is best or the light from early evening to sunset. (51.147667, -115.555165)
3. Photo Opportunities In The Town Of Banff
Stroll through Cascade Gardens for flower photography in the late spring and summer or take the classic shot overlooking the gardens and pools of water with Banff Avenue and Cascade Mountain in the background. (51.171379, -115.571838)
From Banff Avenue there is another classic shot looking down the street with Cascade Mountain towering at the end. It’s usually taken close to where it intersects with Buffalo Street. (51.174379, -115.571129)
The Bow River has a walkway and trail that runs along it in the town of Banff. There’s many scenic shots to be taken along it. Head towards Bow Avenue from Wolf, Caribou or Buffalo Street in town. The walkway continues towards the bridge crossing the river and into the forest. (51.173828, -115.574144)
4. Tunnel Mountain Road
From Surprise Corner you can see the Banff Springs Hotel perched above the Bow River and backdropped by the mountains. (51.167369, -115.559274)
Further along Tunnel Mountain Road, there is the Hoodoos viewpoint. There is a parking area a short paved trail leads to three wooden platforms. The hoodoos themselves are not that spectacular but, the views of the Bow Valley, Spray Valley, and Mount Rundle are. (51.189189, -115.522444)
On Mount Norquay road as you head up towards the ski hill there is a pullout area that provides a view overlooking the town of Banff and Mount Rundle. In the late spring, summer and fall there is the grassy area below the cement barrier is known by locals as the “green spot.” Bighorn sheep often hang out here. The light is best from afternoon to sunset. (51.197074, -115.588624)
6. The Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway is an alternate route between Banff and Lake Louise that runs parallel to the Trans Canada highway on the other side of the Bow River. The slower speed limit of 60km/hr is strictly enforced. There are several points of interest along the way. At Hillsdale Meadows, there are stands Aspen trees that display orange and yellow colors in September and in late spring and early summer there are wildflowers. Moose Meadows is another area that has good photo opportunities with views of Pilot and Copper Mountain. It’s the best light is in mid-morning and at sunset in the summer.
Johnston Canyon is one of the main attractions along the Bow Valley Parkway. In the summer months, you need to arrive very early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the crowds that get brought in on tour buses. In late spring and early fall the weekends are busy, but during the week it’s quieter. Through the canyon, you reach the lower and upper falls on a series of trails and catwalks suspended from the rock walls. In winter you can get some interesting shots of the frozen falls. (51.245081, -115.840577)
At the halfway point between Banff and Lake Louise just off the Trans Canada Hwy at the intersection of Hwy 93, South is Castle Junction. At this spot on the Bow River, there is the Castle Junction Bridge, an old iron structure that offers some of the best views of Castle Mountain. Sunrise and sunset are when the mountain is nicely lit. Get down to the banks of the river for the best shots. Starting in spring there is often a pair of nesting Osprey on the bridge. You can access the bridge from the Trans Canada Hwy or from the Bow Valley Parkway. (51.266560, -115.926661)
Closer to the Lake Louise end of the Bow Valley Parkway is a spot called Morant’s Curve. It’s a beautiful scene all on its own but getting a shot of an eastbound train as it passes through the S-curve of the railway tracks makes it more interesting. You could be waiting for a while for a train and hopefully, the light will be right if one comes by. It’s a pretty scene all year round, including the winter months.(51.399644, -116.128724)
7. Lake Minnewanka Loop Drive
The Lake Minnewanka Loop is one of Banff’s many scenic drives, however, only part of the loop is accessible from mid-November to mid-April.
The Cascade Ponds offer some nice reflection shots during the summer months from sunrise to mid-morning. Lower And Upper Bankhead are areas that have some interesting remnants from the old abandoned mining operation and town. (51.211496, -115.537382)
Johnson Lake has good light at sunset. There’s a trail that goes around the lake offering views of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain (51.199424, -115.490136
Nearby Two Jack Lake has nice light at sunrise or sunset. The calm water allows for beautiful reflective shots of the mountains.(51.230541, -115.498174)
Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park. Take some time to explore along the shoreline, the light is nice at sunrise. Occasionally on clear nights in the winter months, some incredible displays of the northern lights (Aurora Borealis) can be spotted in the sky above the frozen lake. 51.2581° N, 115.3731° W
8. Lake Louise Area Top Photography Spots
The best time for photography at Lake Louise is during the sunrise to mid-morning. The popular areas to take photos from are around the canoe boat dock, the outlet stream and at the front of the lake for reflections of Mount Victoria. In the early summer, you need to be there by 5 am to catch the soft sunrise light.(51.417660, -116.216929)
The lake starts to freeze up by December and doesn’t completely thaw again until the end of May or early June. About once every decade an early snowfall occurs before the lake freezes over and creates a beautiful scene of snow on the mountains and surrounding ground around the lake.
Lake Louise can be a difficult subject to shoot with the stark contrast between the shadowed lake and highlighted mountain peaks and sky. A graduated filter can be helpful or shoot multiple images to merge into post-processing. If you are set on photographing the turquoise color lake water you are pretty much limited to the months of July and August.
Late June through July is the peak time for photography at Moraine lake when the water level is high and showing it’s beautiful turquoise color. Any earlier and the water level is either very low or still frozen. The road to Moraine Lake is only open seasonally. Depending on conditions it’s open from early June through the Canada Thanksgiving holiday weekend in October.
Lots of interesting shots can be taken from along the shore. At the canoe dock, you can get some interesting photos of the bright boat colors contrasted against the blue water and the backdrop of the mountains.
The most popular shot is from the top of the rock pile overlooking the lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks as seen on the back of past Canadian $20 bills issued between 1969 and 79. Mid to late morning is when the mountains and the water are both lit up. As it gets later the mountains are in shadow. At sunrise, you can capture a beautiful warm light in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. A wide angle lens is a must to get all of the scenes in the frame. (51.321742, -116.186005)
The lake gets so busy during the summer months and during the Larch festival in September that you may find yourself having to park a kilometer or more down the road and walking in. Arrive very early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the crowds.