Inspirational travel photography from Canada

Stuart Forster discusses a memorable a series of moments with a camera that resulted in creating inspirational travel photography from Canada.

Canada is a country that I love visiting for its landscapes, wildlife and people. I’ve been fortunate enough to capture some beautiful photographs while on the road.

Disclosure: This post has been paid for by Destination Canada.

Heart-shaped cloud in blue sky above stratified rock in the Badlands of Alberta near Drumheller, Canada
A heart-shaped cloud in blue sky above stratified rock in the Alberta Badlands, near Drumheller, was an unexpected romantic sight while photographing in western Canada.

Had anyone said to me a few years ago that I’d come within a matter of metres of a wild polar bear in its natural habitat, of course, I simply wouldn’t have believed them. That happened while I was staying at Seal River Heritage Lodge in Manitoba and, undoubtedly, counts among my favourite moments while photographing.

Before I went to bed that day, feeling incredibly blessed, I also saw the Northern Lights flickering in the night sky for the very first time. As a result, it’s not surprising that I have fond memories of the place.

Polar bear on the shoreline of the near the Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada
A tele-zoom can come in handy when photographing wildlife. I photographed this polar bear in Manitoba, Canada.

Travel photography in Canada

The sheer vastness of the nation means Canada offers an array of opportunities for travellers who enjoy photography.

Reflections of snowy mountains in Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies at Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada
Into landscape photography? I enjoy photographing in the diverse and rugged landscapes of Canada. Here reflections of the Canadian Rockies are seen in Moraine Lake at Banff National Park, Alberta.

It wasn’t until I travelled out west to Vancouver that I truly understood what it meant to cross the country, and the marked differences in landscape and climate between British Columbia and the Maritime provinces.

Sunset at Otter Lake near Missinipe, a popular destination for fishing trips in Saskatchewan, Canada.
My first lengthy Canada trip was to Saskatchewan, a province which is often overlooked by travellers. After a successful fishing trip on Otter Lake, near Missinipe, I ‘caught’ this sunset photo, which for me is a memory of a beautiful day.

On one level, good photography is all about taking time to observe and capture details. I appreciate the approachability of so many Canadians and have often benefitted from people’s willingness to share tips and insights. Those include suggestions relating to the best vantage points for photographing landscapes and landmarks.

A horse feed from a trough by cowboy-hat wearing George Gaber the owner of La Reata, a working ranch in Saskatchewan.
People photography is something I enjoy when I spend time with individuals while underway. A horse feeds from a trough by George Gaber, the owner of La Reata, a working ranch in Saskatchewan.

Local knowledge can make such a difference and raise a good photograph into a great picture. There’s much to be said for spending a few days based in a single place and exploring with a camera.

Colourfully painted huts by the shore of the Atlantic Ocean reflect in a pond at Heart's Delight-Islington in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Thank goodness we’ve moved on from black and white photography. This scene would have been wasted! The light was just right when I first drove by these colourfully painted huts by the shore of the Atlantic Ocean reflect in a pond at Heart’s Delight-Islington in Newfoundland and Labrador. Sometimes it’s good to hang out in a place to get multiple opportunities to return to capture a scene when it looks ideal. 

The one that got away

Photography also requires being ready to capture a scene when something dramatic unfolds.

Grizzly bear in snow seen from the Rocky Mountaineer luxury train near Banff, Alberta
Canada has some cracking possibilities to photograph wildlife. From the Rocky Mountaineer I spotted a grizzly bear crossing a frozen lake near Banff, Alberta. I sprinted to the viewing platform at the back of the moving train to capture this photo of the magnificent creature.

On a whale watching tour in the Bay of Fundy I saw a humpback breach the surface, twist dramatically while glinting in the sun then splash back into the sea. People aboard the boat chorused wows and talked about the magic of the moment.

A humpback whale in the Bay of Fundy, Canada.
A humpback whale swimming in the Bay of Fundy, Canada.

It was indeed magical yet for me, also a missed opportunity. I’d been photographing seabirds on the other side of the boat and didn’t manage to swing my camera round in time. I laugh about it now but for a while I rued ‘the one that got away’. Next time!

Bald eagle gliding above the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada
I observed this bald eagle before it took off and glided along the Fraser River in British Columbia. It felt like the bird was showing off its plumage and majesty, willing me to capture it with my camera.

My favourite photographs from Canada

Asking a photographer to pick their favourite photo is akin to asking a parent to name their dearest child — it’s nigh on impossible.

Polar bear, back lit by the afternoon sun sitting by the shoreline of the Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada
Polar bear back lit by the afternoon sun sitting by the shoreline of the Hudson Bay near the border of Manitoba and Nunavut. Being in that remote part of Canada gave me time to think and the quietude to focus only on wildlife and nature photography.

Knowing the story behind the creation of each image makes selecting a shortlist of my favourite photos from across Canada tricky. I hope sharing the images that illustrate this post inspires people to explore Canada beyond its well-known cities and sights.

A Canadian maple leaf flag flutters in front of the CN Tower on a sunny day in Toronto, Ontario
A Canadian maple leaf flag flutters from a boat on a sunny day in Toronto, Ontario.

As you can see from the photos I’ve chosen, it’s a land with a variety of terrains.

Float plane under a golden sky at daybreak on Egenolf Lake in northern Manitoba
I like to make the most of my time in Canada. When travelling I like to rise early to capture sunrises and morning landscapes.

Even the Niagara Falls, one of the country’s best-known natural landmarks, had the power to awe and intrigue me. With a camera in my hand it was easy to spend a full day seeking the ideal perspective to capture its beauty.

Niagara Hornblower Cruises ship under spray on a summer's day by the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada
One of Canada’s best-known landmarks. A Niagara Hornblower Cruises ship under spray by the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls in Ontario.

I think it’s a fairly widespread misconception that Canada is a nation that only rewards summertime visits. I’d love to spend more time in autumn photographing fall colours in the eastern provinces.

Fall colours of autumnal woodland on Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula reflects in still water
Canada is a year-round travel destination. The seasons bring rewards for travel photographers. Here the fall colours of woodland reflects in water on the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec.

Photographing at night in Canada

The northern lights are seen at their best from autumn into springtime.

Northern Lights in the night sky above a camp fire at Gangler's North Seal Wilderness Adventure Lodge in northern Manitoba, Canada
Travel photography in Canada doesn’t have to end when the sun sets. Remember to carry a tripod to capture the aurora borealis in the night sky. The Northern Lights dancing above a camp fire in northern Manitoba, Canada.

Low levels of light pollution plus dark skies in the likes of the Yukon and northern Manitoba mean outstanding opportunities to photograph aurora borealis flickering and dancing. (Check out my tips on how to photograph the northern lights.)

St Elias Ice Field in Kluane National Park in the Yukon
Ever tried aerial photography? It’s possible in sightseeing flights. I photographed in the Yukon above the St Elias Ice Field, the world’s largest non-polar ice-field, in Kluane National Park and Reserve. 

Carrying a tripod sometimes seems a little excessive to anyone who isn’t a keen photographer. It would be difficult to successfully capture images of northern lights or natural landmarks in low light without one.

Hopewell Rocks photographed at night by the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada
The Hopewell Rocks seen at night by the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. To make the most of opportunities to photograph the coastal landscape around the Bay of Fundy I joined a tour organised by a local professional photographer, Kevin Snair.

Without a tripod I would have struggled to successfully capture a series of images of the Hopewell Rocks at night.

Hopewell Rocks seen at night against a blue sky by the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada
Local photographer Kevin Snair guides visitors during night photography sessions at the Hopewell Rocks, sharing technical information and background about the formation of the rocks.

I thoroughly look forward to my next opportunity to photograph in Canada.

Canada’s Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

Most United Kingdom passport holders flying to Canada for leisure or business require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter the country. Some people need visas.

Apply for your eTA via the official Government of Canada website before booking travel. Don’t leave it until you’re at the airport, just prior to travel, as the approval process sometimes requires supporting documentation and takes several days. Once approved, eTAs are valid for up to five years.

Be aware that any site charging more than CAD$7 to process an ETA application is not the official Government of Canada website.

Gray jay, the whiskey jack or Canada jay, is the Canadian national bird
If you are a wildlife- or bird-photographer you’re likely to enjoy the photography opportunities in Canada’s wide-open spaces. This is a gray jay, the Canadian national bird, in Gaspésie National Park in Quebec.

Further information

For ideas about things to do and see in Canada check the #Forglowinghearts hashtag on social media. Additionally, visit the www.explore-canada.co.uk website to see inspirational content from across Canada.

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14 Comments

  • Kacie Morgan

    February 8, 2020 at 15:53 Reply

    I am hoping to visit Canada for the first time this year (Saskatchewan and maybe Toronto too). I’m feeling so inspired by your photos now.

    • Stuart Forster

      February 8, 2020 at 16:21 Reply

      As a foodie there’s every likelihood you’ll love the culinary culture and diversity of Saskatoon.

  • Emily / The Grown Up Gap Year

    February 10, 2020 at 11:34 Reply

    Wow, this looks like an amazing trip. Your wildlife photos are fantastic!

    • Stuart Forster

      February 10, 2020 at 11:56 Reply

      Thanks, Emily. I travel fairly light but use good quality lenses, which is a big help when it comes to taking wildlife photos.

  • Kathryn Burrington

    February 10, 2020 at 13:17 Reply

    Fabulous images. I didn’t get the chance to see the Hopewell Rocks when I visited the area but it’s a good excuse to go back. Would love to join that night photography session there.

    • Stuart Forster

      February 10, 2020 at 13:30 Reply

      He’s a very good photography coach and incredibly knowledgeable about the rocks and surround region. It really was a very good experience.

  • Dylan Jones

    February 13, 2020 at 19:47 Reply

    Canada is such a lovely country and I haven’t even explored outside of the cities yet. The photos are fantastic, and I really hope to get to some of these destinations one day.

    • Stuart Forster

      February 15, 2020 at 15:58 Reply

      Thanks, Dylan. I really do love spending time in Canada and I’m sure you’ll love a road trip that gives you a chance to see some of the countryside and shoot landscape photos.

  • Lucy

    February 14, 2020 at 18:08 Reply

    Such a gorgeous country – and such diverse landscapes. I would love to see polar bears there one day and have hardly scratched the surface of the east of the country, always more to see!

    • Stuart Forster

      February 15, 2020 at 16:00 Reply

      Agreed. Every time I go I see and experience more. Heading north to Churchill, which is known as the ‘polar bear capital of the world’, is something I’m sure you’d love.

  • Stuart Fahy

    February 15, 2020 at 12:11 Reply

    Some incredible photos here! I’ve only been to Canada once and have been hoping to return for a longer trip at some point so I can explore further north than just the big cities near the border. The scenery looks stunning and such great wildlife shots.

    • Stuart Forster

      February 15, 2020 at 16:03 Reply

      The sheer size of Canada means it is incredibly varied. I’ve had some memorable times in Canadian cities but its wildlife and dramatic yet accessible landscapes are probably what sets it apart as a travel destination.

  • amit

    February 15, 2020 at 18:47 Reply

    Canada is one of those countries I’ve always wanted to travel through but for some reason just keep putting it off. I need to get myself out there, the pictures and landscape i always see never cease to amaze me.

    • Stuart Forster

      February 18, 2020 at 11:35 Reply

      I hope the pictures on this page help prompt you to get yourself a ticket to see Canada for yourself.

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