Jasper National Park Photography

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(Above photographer Tom Gross at Maligne Lake)

Jasper National  Park Photography

The Canadian Rockies mountain system comprises the southeastern part of this system, laying between the Interior Plains of Alberta and Northeastern British Columbia on the east to the Rocky Mountain Trench of BC on the west. The southern end borders Idaho and Montana of the USA.

The Canadian Rockies have numerous high peaks and ranges, such as Mount Robson (Sometimes called Mount Bella) (3,954 m (12,972 ft)) and Mount Columbia (3,747 m (12,293 ft)).  Much of the range is protected by national and provincial parks, several of which collectively comprise a World Heritage Site.

Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, spanning 10,878 km2 (4,200 sq mi). It is located in the province of Alberta, north of Banff National Park and west of the City of Edmonton. The park includes the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls, and mountains. Wildlife in the park includes elk, caribou, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, black bears, coyotes, beavers, Rocky Mountain pikas, hoary marmots, gray wolves, mountain lions, and wolverines.

It takes about 1-2 days to photograph the main areas of the park depending on how you cover it.  If you are a photographer, who wants to spend time getting every angle and cover every square inch plan two days.  The Columbia Icefields Parkway is one of the world’s most scenic drives that stretches 232km’s (144miles) between Lake Louise and Jasper. There are many great things you will be able to stop and photograph along the drive up icefield parkway to get to Jasper: Peyto Lake, The Columbia Icefields, The glacier walk and Bow Lake (one of our favorite spots on the planet earth.)  Start your journey early up the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper.  To see Bow Lake and Peyto Lake information in detail go to our Canada Hot Spot Page.

There are several lakes in Jasper National Park and the main tourist attraction is Maligne Lake, hours drive from the center of town. The lake is covered with tourist if you go in the summer and parking can be a hassle.  We went there for this article, but we probably will not go back.   Jasper is a 4-hour drive up the icefield parkway to get there from Banff.  There isn’t as much incredible dynamic scenery compared to the southern Canadian Rockies.  The drive up Icefield Parkway has some stops that make this trip worthwhile, but we were not all that impresses with Jasper overall. Maybe we have just been too many incredible places in Banff, Yoho, and Revelstoke.  The most amazing spots on this journey are the waterfalls. Athabasca and Sunwapta are the two best places not to miss. Lake Maligne although beautiful, was covered in tourists in the summer. There are a few other lakes: Patricia and Pyramid that are good. The other lakes did not give us any dynamic photos.  There is also Maligne Canyon to hike and photograph which gives the opportunity for some compelling images. The Maligne lookout is just a lookout.  We call these pictures tourist shots from these type of locations. You can stop there, but you won’t be putting the images in your portfolio.

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(Above – Ahtabasca Falls, Jasper National Park photograph by Pamela Goodyer)

To see full details go to our Canada  Photography Hot Spot Page.

To get the deep blue sky, white puffy clouds or the milky water effect you will need a circular polarizing filter and or a neutral density filter. You can find them For Sale here. – Learn how to shoot waterfalls here.

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Patricia Lake just a very short drive outside of the center of town is a beautiful photography spot. This image is one of our favorites from the trip. We did some excellent night photography at this location.  We ventured out for sunrise photography at Annette Lake, and the road was closed off. The park opens after sunrise. We did not locate a good sunrise location.

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Sunwapta Falls – (Image to the right)  It is accessible via a short drive off the Icefields Parkway that connects Jasper and Banff National Parks. The falls have a drop of about 18.5 meters. Sunwapta is a Stoney (Assiniboine) word that means turbulent water. It is most spectacular in the late spring when the spring melt is at its peak.  This is the first stop when heading into the park.

There are actually two falls, a lower and an upper one. The one most people see is the upper falls as access is easy. The lower falls are a short distance away.

The water originates from the Athabasca Glacier, and volumes are higher in early summer, caused by a glacial meltdown.

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Tangle Falls – You will pass this going up the Icefiled Parkway before you get to the town of Jasper. This was a quick stop for some photos.

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Circular Polarizing Filters and ND filters for sale CLICK HERE.

Photography Information for Jasper National Park

When to Go: Avoid the summer months and the bus people if you can. September and October are excellent times to go. Fall foliage can be unbelievably gorgeous in October. In November it starts to get cold, and ice and snow may arrive. After that, it’s  a whole lot of cold. In March the thaw will start and after the first week of June the tourist start to arrive. I would pick October fall foliage as the best time to go.

Lens: This area is a wide angle lens location and a zoom lens spot because you will see some wildlife.

Gear:  To get started bring your tripod and your circular polarizing filter. The CPL will make your white puffy clouds burst and deepen the blue sky color around them.  It will also take the glare off the water and replace it with the reflection. Bring your tripod too.  If there is not enough light when you are shooting, you will want to use it to get the depth of field, (higher F-stop). Don’t forget your ND filter in case of you want to shoot moving waters.  Lots of wildlife here so be prepared.

Gear List at a Glance: Circular polarizing filter, neutral density filter, tripod, shutter release, wide angle and zoom lens.

Camera Settings:  You can shoot in Aperture Priority to get the depth of field(control how much is in focus) or shutter priority for your moving subjects (wildlife). You will want to do some landscape shots at a hyperfocal distance. That means your subject to infinity is in focus. Most formulas of hyperfocal distance, which are very complicated, lead you back to  f11 or f13. When we are not in the mood for a long calculation, We shoot in aperture priority (A on your camera dial) at f11 when I want everything in focus. This is good when you want your foreground and background in focus. Shoot in aperture priority and set the aperture for your landscape shots. If you are not below 1/40th of a second, which in sunshine doesn’t usually happen, you do not need to use the tripod. Your shutter speed will drop below 1/30th of a second when you lack light, you must pull out your tripod to avoid a blurry picture. At 1/40th of a sec. Stand completely still and turn yourself into a human tripod. 1/30 sec. is the lowest to ever go without your tripod but be very still.

When doing certain shots such as flowers, you might want the opposite effect. That is when your subject is in complete focus, and the background is blurred called the bokeh effect. You will use your lowest F-number such as 2.8, or 3.5 . Go as small as your particular lens will allow. This allows for a lot of light to come in since your aperture is wide open at this setting so you are less likely to need a tripod and it gives a great blur effect.

Shutter Priority – If you have moving subjects such as the birds flying, black bear or moose you want to shoot in shutter priority to be sure they come out clear. When people are walking through shoot at 1/250th sec. and adjust your ISO accordingly. If people or animals are running by increase your shutter speed to about 1/500th sec and if it’s a bright sunny day we go as high as 1/1000th sec to get the birds crystal clear as they fly by here.

To do your long exposure running, milky water shots you will have to use a tripod.  There are a lot of moving water areas in Jasper National Park.  All of your settings will vary depending on the lighting and what neutral density filter you have. You will shoot in Manual Mode for the milky waters. ISO is always 100 or as low as your camera will allow. Aperture is always f22. Your shutter speed will vary depending on the light. Take some test shots to decide on your shutter speed after you put your neutral density filter on. (It’s like sunglasses for your camera to stop light from coming in). Use your live view mode to focus to lock the mirror up and avoid any camera movement. Use your shutter release or your 2-second timer also to prevent camera movement. Voila. You now have your milky water exposure. You want at least a 2-second exposure for running water. If you don’t have a neutral density filter, you may not get more than 1/15th of a second in the sun. Go to our store to buy your ND filter. I have a 3.0 for super long exposure in sunshine – You can go as long as 30 seconds. We have an ND 1.2 and an ND8 for shorter exposures.

From a boat, you have to remember you are moving and have to account for the movement just as if your subject was moving. You’re moving instead, so it’s the same thing. I never say any boat rentals so unless you find a local that wants to hang out I highly doubt you will out on a boat here. Shoot in shutter priority at least 1/200th of a second, depending on how fast you are moving and how fast your subjects are moving. Up the shutter speed if you have enough light. We don’t go over ISO 800 to avoid noise at any given time.


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Canadian Rockies National Parks and Area Information:

Passes – You must have a pass to visit the parks. You can purchase when you get there or before you go.  Here is the link to the different types of passes.

Seasonal Closures and Restrictions – Be sure to read this before you go.

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Mount Robson Inn

When Photography Magazine Extra and Extra Eyes Photo Tours are in Jasper National Park we stay at The Mount Robson Inn.

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Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – our favorite place to stay when in Banff.

Hotel Information:

Mount Robson Inn Jasper – A hotel catering to year round vacations

The Mount Robson Inn team takes pride in being a clean, comfortable and affordable Jasper hotel accommodation. Thier services go beyond just clean and comfortable hotel accommodations. Guests of the Mount Robson Inn enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast buffet, use of hot tubs, a guest laundry facility, and secure ski storage. They are also are pleased to offer family-friendly amenities and room types for your Jasper family vacation.  As a motorcycle-friendly hotel in Jasper, the Mt Robson Inn also offers riders special bike-friendly amenities too.  Go to their website

Our Favorite Canadian Rockies Resort when in Banff National Park – Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – 1029 Banff Avenue, Banff –  (800) 563-8764 in Canada/USA | +1(403)762-5531 Local  –  The Banff Rocky Mountain Resort is the perfect rocky mountain getaway for any traveler. They feature suites and condo style accommodation in Banff National Park. Stay with them and enjoy the comforts of home and more. This picturesque location has a dining room, a deli, tennis courts, health facilities, swimming pool, squash courts, and conference facilities. Take your vacation at Banff and live the mountain lifestyle.

Click here to go to their website.

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Jasper is a year-round camping destination and can accommodate anything from a one-person bivy tent to a 39 foot motorhome, and everything in between.

At all campgrounds, firewood is included with the purchase of a fire permit, bear proof lockers are offered for safe food storage, and log cookhouses are available in case the weather isn’t cooperating.

To maintain the family-friendly atmosphere that attracts millions here every year, quiet hours, including a liquor and fire curfew, are enforced by park wardens between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

2015 Parks Canada Reservation Service

Reserve your campsite!
1-877-RESERVE (737-3783)

You can reserve Whistlers, Wapiti, Wabasso and Pocahontas campgrounds on-line at www.reservation.parkscanada.gc.ca or by telephone at 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783). All other roadside campgrounds operate on a first-come, first-served basis.

For backcountry campsites, please check
the campsite availability report and call the Trail Office
at 780-852-6177 to make a booking. Visit pc.gc.ca/jasperbackcountry for further information on backcountry camping.

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