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The Real Banff Blog / Published: Wed, 05/06/2015 - 02:58

Q & A With Photographer John E Marriott Tips And Wildlife Stories

Add to my moments

Wild lynx in Banff National Park

A wild lynx kitten and mom. Photo - John E Marriott.

May 7, 2015

This May and June, every Wednesday (starting May 13th) we will be featuring a John E Marriott wildlife photo on the Banff Lake Louise Tourism Instagram account. The award winning photographer is celebrated in the Bow Valley and beyond for capturing some incredible moments in nature, is also an influential supporter of wildlife conservation and safety, and we are thrilled to be sharing some of his amazing Banff National Park moments this summer. We asked John a few questions about his craft:

1) What are a few nuggets of advice would you have for someone who is visiting the park and would like to photograph wildlife?

The easiest advice to give park visitors that want to photograph wildlife is three-fold: one, get up early and stay out late, because that's when our animals are the most active. Two, visit Banff in a shoulder season like spring or fall, when the roads and trails aren't quite as busy and you'll increase your chances or having wildlife encounters. And three, bring a big lens with you -- make sure have at least a 6x zoom (a 300mm equivalent on a dSLR) so that you don't have to try to get too close to the animals and can abide by the park guidelines for wildlife viewing and photography.

2) What is it about the nature in Canadian Rockies that distinguishes it from other parts of the world?

The Canadian Rockies combines the spectacular scenery of the Swiss Alps with the safari-like atmosphere of the African plains, providing wildife viewers with incredible opportunities in a beautiful setting. Drive the Icefields Parkway at dawn in October and you'll feel like the wilderness is all to yourself, each new bend in the road alive with the possibility of an encounter with an incredible range of mega fauna that includes wild wolves, grizzly bears, moose, and mountain goats.

Big grizzly bear, Canadian Rockies

Barry the Bear, one big bruin. Photo - John E Marriott.

3) What are the most elusive animals to find in the wild? Do you have a favourite animal?

The most elusive Rockies' animals to find are mountain lions and wolverines. I've only seen 3 cougars in the Rockies in 20 years of wildlife photography and still haven't seen my first Rockies' wolverine! As for a favourite animal, I'd have to say that grizzly bears remain near the top of my list because of their status as the primary apex predator of the parks. They're the king of the castle and they know it, so you can get all sorts of different personalities with grizzlies, ranging from the big old boys that just don't care about anything other than where their next girlfriend is, all the way down to the feisty little females with cubs that are trying to eke out a living in marginal bear terrain close to the roads and valleys.

4) Have there been any moments with your animal subjects that really stand out to you? Tender/scary/unbelievable scenes in the wilderness?

Honestly, I've had too many amazing moments with wildlife in Banff to single out just one or two. There's the first time I ever saw and photographed Delinda the wolf, the time I watched a mother lynx catch a snowshoe hare and share it with her kitten, and the seven years I followed Barry the Bear as he ranged the Icefields Parkway looking for ladies -- they all stand out and could go on for days about all of my incredible experiences.  Fortunately, I haven't had any scary situations in the wild, I'm careful to not put myself into scenarios where there could be a dangerous outcome. The most unbelievable thing I've ever seen in the Rockies? A grizzly bear chasing and attacking a moose along the Bow River one April!

Wild black gray wolf in a meadow in autumn

Delinda the wolf. Photo - John E Marriott.

5) Do’s and Don’ts of photographing wildlife? What do you pack with you when you venture out?

Do pay close attention to the wildlife you're photographing and if they appear to be annoyed with your presence (you'll be able to tell, wild animals act just like a neighbour's dog would), then back off or leave them alone. Do use a big lens so you don't have to get too close. Do use your vehicle to help you get more natural-looking shots. Animals like bears act more naturally when you stay in your vehicle than if you're out walking around making them nervous. Do pull your vehicle over completely and safely if you spot wildlife near the road. I always pack bear spray and a communication device (cell phone or satellite texter) with me everywhere I go, even in winter. (Editor: Parks Canada also has an informative website with rules and regulations on photographing wildlife and other best practices.)

Pileated woodpecker chicks

Pileated woodpecker chicks, on the edge of the Town of Banff. Photo - John E Marriott.

For more information about John E Marriott, and to see more phenomenal nature images, please click here. John E Marriott Instagram  John E Mariott Facebook John E Marriott, professional wildlife photographer, Tonquin Valley, Jasper                   For the reader-we'd love to see your Banff moments as well. Please tag your photos with #mybanff to share them.