Wapiti around Minnewanka





A bull elk smells the air, alert for danger, in the Banff National Park

I went up to Banff National Park with my friend and fellow photographer Jeff Rhude on the weekend.  The clouds were hanging low all the way from Bragg Creek, through Canmore and into the park so we were unsure what opportunities we would find in the mountains on the day.  As the sky brightened a little we could find no breaks in the clouds so we left the sunrise plans on the shelf for another day.  Focusing our attention on wildlife, we headed up to the ring road which leads up to Lake Minnewanka.  With bears trying to fatten up for hibernation, sheep starting into the rut and moose and elk following suit, we hoped there may be a few animals out in the rain.

Elk bull stares at the photographer

It was the wapiti, the word for elk in the Cree language, that seemed least put off by the weather and we found a small group of calves and cows led by one majestic bull on the meadow approaching the turnoff to Johnson Lake.

A bull elk sticks his tongue out in a meadow in the Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada



It was still very dark so high ISOs and long shutter speeds were required which resulted in a few blurs when an ear twitched or one of the creatures stepped forward.  Still, the family were cooperative and with the benefit of long lenses I was able to stay a good distance away while making some nice images.

Two elk, a mother cow and a calf, stand gazing in a meadow in the Banff National Park

Driving on towards the lake, we did not see any other animals.  At Minnewanka aside from a couple of mergansers on the water there were two large flotillas of black birds, each probably with over a hundred members, but they were too far out for me to identify.  We turned around and retraced our steps.  Passing the meadow, we could see the bull on the edge of the trees alongside one calf.  A couple of miles down the road, we caught sight of one elk in the trees.  Stopping and looking more intently, we soon saw about ten more cows and calves moving through the shadows and the gloom.  I will put together a post with a few of those images soon.

An image of a bull elk in the Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

6 responses

  1. i just fell in love with all of these pictures. what gorgeous animals they are. i cannot understand how people can hunt and shoot them. every time i come across beautiful deer pictures on the web i find all these weird people posing with dead deer they just shot. heartbreaking to end the life of such an amazing creature just for a ridicolous foto and a trophy on the wall…….but back to your pictures. i love them all. and i imagine you are having a great time looking for those special moments 🙂

    June 1, 2013 at 5:12 pm

  2. Sid Dunnebacke

    How close to those beautiful creatures are you for these shots?

    October 14, 2012 at 7:25 am

    • Christopher Martin

      Hi Sid,

      The tight shots were all taken with a 500mm telephoto lens so I’m 50+ yards away. I’ve come closer when hiking but I like to be more than 30 yards away when I’m photographing elk. Particularly bulls during the rut.



      October 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm

  3. Nice shots. Made me wish I could be back there again this year.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm

  4. Fantastic photos of these magnificent animals!

    October 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm

  5. Wow – amazing shots! I wish I was in Banff right now.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm

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