Once a month, we’ll feature a landscape photography hotspot. We want to aid you with getting ‘the shot’ in order to help rekindle your love for nature, to enable you to become inspired by nature and to equip you to become an advocate for a wilder world at home.
This month’s focus:
The Prince of Wales Hotel has become the most recognizable landmark in Waterton Lakes National Park.
Its location, on top of a hill overlooking the park’s namesake lake, can be seen from almost the moment you enter the park and from many of the hikes. But what makes the grand old hotel iconic is also what makes it a landscape hotspot: a view nearly unmatched.
Built in 1926 by the Great Northern Railway, the hotel has become a popular location for visiting tourists. So, yes, landscape photography from this location is not uncommon. However, while many people seek to place the national historic site in the foreground for images of the surrounding mountains, what is often over looked is the view not only down valley toward Waterton Lake, but eastward toward Vimy Ridge.
The large mountain is a presence, but without a truly wide angle lens, it’s hard to put it into perspective. Yet success in doing so demonstrates why Waterton National Park is so truly unique: A mountain refuge that immediately drops into the prairie floor.
From the backside of Prince of Wales hotel, the view down the lake toward Glacier’s Goat Haunt is an appealing scene for sunset photography, but in our opinion, it only becomes spectacular with unique clouds or a full moon. But it is a location that is second to none for sunrise images.
In the summer, the sun appears on the horizon to the northeast of Vimy Peak.
With Middle and Lower Waterton Lakes visible from behind the hotel, the foreground is as good as the background. If you plan around the forecast, you might even be lucky enough to capture receding morning fog.
The famous winds of Waterton are best felt from the Prince of Wales hotel. (The wind is made famous, interestingly enough, because the common hurricane force winds blew the hotel off of its foundation by 7.5 metres during construction. Twice. The second time the hotel was moved by the wind, the hotel was built where it came to a rest.) As a result, the hotel often offers up compelling storm photography and even the occasional rainbow.
But what the wind giveth, it also taketh. Landscape photography during a wind storm becomes next to impossible from atop the hill where Prince of Wales Hotel is built. In these situations, tripods are of no use and hand-holding the camera at fast speeds, and ideally with the help of another photographer (to hold filters, etc), is critical to a successful image.
And this hotspot is not only limited to the top of the hill. Below the hotel is a rocky beach that surrounds three quarters of the land mass, providing endless opportunities for landscape exploration. Just be sure to bring your bear spray: black bears are commonly found near the Prince of Wales.
Location: Waterton National Park, Alberta
Accessibility: Just off the main parkway, between the townsite and the entrance
Best Time: Sunrise and sunset
Season: Year Round