Top 5 Reasons To Love Winter Photography In Banff National Park

I admit I used to hate winter.

As a photographer, I am already loaded down with gear and time-consuming preparations before going out on a shoot. The last thing I want to do is worry about surviving a winter gale with temperatures making a head-dive to subarctic, turning your breath to icicles. Also, since I don't ski, many people have asked me;

"Mark, why do you live in Banff if you don't ski or like the cold?"

Well, this is one question I have no trouble answering. Here are the top 5 reasons why I love winter photography in Banff National Park:

1. The sun is at a low angle throughout the day 

Mount Chephren in Winter

As photographers know, when that sun in the summertime hangs in the middle of the sky, it creates harsh shadows and destroys colour saturation. As beautiful as Banff is in any light, often by noon I have put my camera down and will wait until later in the evening for the light to improve.

In the winter the sun in Banff stays at a fairly low angle for the entire day; making for great shooting conditions with light all day long so there is no downtime and no waiting around until sunset to pick up my camera again.

2. The air is crystal clear 

Mt Rundle from Two Jack Lake in Early Winter

The winter air in Banff makes for very clear skies right from sunrise to sunset showing even distant mountains in full detail. You rarely see any blue haze that diminishes detail in the distance requiring a polarizing filter to try and cut through it.

Summer in Banff is our forest fire season. From the end of July to the end of August fires are often ablaze in the Rocky Mountains filling the atmosphere with smoke, making for hazy days.

3.Late sunrises and early sunsets 

Lake Louise Sunrise in Winter

I love shooting sunrises and sunsets. In the summer this would mean sometimes getting up at 4:00 am for sunrises and waiting as late as 10:00 pm for sunsets. I am at least lucky to live in the town of Banff, so no matter where I go, it is a shorter distance than most who want to capture this incredible scenery.

Not a fan of early mornings? Winter to the rescue! Sunrise is as late as 8:45 AM, so no pounding back that litre and a half of coffee to get the brain kickstarted at 4:00 AM.

4. Snow is a wonderful white canvas for light 

Banff landscape photography workshops and tours

Snow is a beautiful white canvas taking on any colour the sun throws at it. From mountaintops to wide open fields, if you are out taking pictures at sunrise and sunset, glorious colour awaits your camera sensor!

5. Spruce trees become interesting

Fenlands Trail in Winter Banff Rocky Mountain Photo Adventures

Banff and the Canadian Rockies are full of spruce trees. These trees grow densely and are officially black holes for light; they are dark (around -3EV) and offer up minimal formations to include in a composition.

In winter, snow changes everything. The darkness is broken up with fresh dumps of snow that cling to their branches creating beautiful contrasts, details and shape!

Ready for a winter landscape photography adventure in Banff?

Abraham Lake & Banff 

Winter landscape photography Workshop

Join National Geographic Traveler award winning photographer, Mark Unrau on this full day winter landscape photography tour. We bring you to the best locations to photograph Banff National Park and Abraham Lakes methane bubbles. 

  • Full day tour
  • landscape photography instruction
  • hot lunch provided
  • Max group size of 8 people

Privately Guided

landscape photography workshop

Get the focus you want with this personalized one on one landscape photography workshop.

  • One on One instruction 
  • Fully customized workshop to suit your interests
  • Offered in 3, 5 and 8 hour session lengths
About the author

Mark Unrau is an award-winning professional photographer and owner of Rocky Mountain Photo Adventures based in the small mountain town of Banff, Canada. Mark's extensive travel photography has earned him international acclaim with accolades such as the Grand Prize from National Geographic Traveler's "World in Focus" competition and awards from the Prix de Paris. While he appreciates the recognition, it’s his desire to interact with the people and landscapes of our diverse world that motivates him to create images. When he’s not busy teaching landscape photography in the Canadian Rockies, he can be found wandering a mountainside or drinking chai with the locals somewhere he hasn’t been before.
  • What incredible photos Mark! You sure have me convinced Banff looks and sounds like one of the most amazing places to be in winter! Mind you, Muskoka isn’t so bad either….some days are postcard beautiful when the pines and deciduous are snowkissed right down to the small needles or twigs and right at this moment the sky ( at almost 6 pm ) has taken on colours of baby blue, pink and gray….. No mountains though….love those mountains!!

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