Emerald Lake

How to Photograph Emerald Lake in Winter

Emerald Lake is the star of many Canadian Rockies photographs, especially in winter, and there is a good reason why it’s so popular with photographers. The lake is located in Yoho National Park, very close to the small town of Field, Brtish Columbia. It’s a short drive off the #1 highway, to find a perfect log cabin perched on a frozen lake, surrounded by snow-dusted mountains and dense frozen forest. It’s a classic Canadian scene, that can’t be missed.

Here are some tips for those wanting to photograph at Emerald Lake in winter.

I’ve wanted to explore this area for a long time and chose to take a day trip from Calgary, to explore the area and capture the perfect winter sunset. The journey starts with a drive west from Calgary, past Lake Louise on the #1 highway. There is a marked exist for Emerald Lake on the north (right side) of the highway just past Field. Take the road for about 15 minutes until you arrive at the main parking lot.

From the parking lot, you can see the main attraction – the Emerald Lake Lodge, which is the resorts main restaurant, but don’t miss out on exploring the surrounding area as well. There are numerous snowshoe trails and a path that loops the lake. The snow can get very deep in these parts, so make sure to dress properly for your adventure.

There are a number of vantage points to get the classic photo of the lodge, so make sure to try a few spots on the opposite bank. If the water is calm you will be able to get some nice reflections here without having to go too far.

One of the best times to photograph the lodge is at dusk, right when the cabin lights come on and dusk settles over the lake, casting a beautiful blue light that contrasts with the golden light from the cabin. Its a truly exquisite time to photograph here, so make sure to dress warm so you can really spend the time perfecting your shot.

To make the host of a budget, overnight trip out here – make a stop in Canmore, Banff or Lake Louise en route to Emerald Lake. Then drive onward to Golden after you take your photos. There are some inexpensive hotels and lots of great restaurants and bars in Golden for a night away.

Have fun and take lots of photos!

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your Emerald Lake photo adventure:

Plan Getting There

  • Book a hotel right on Emerald Lake for a more luxurious experience. For those on a budget book in Field or Golden, or take the 2+ hour drive to and from Calgary.
  • Plan to be there at least 45 mins before sunset, taking into account driving time.
  • Pre-pack your camera gear and bring a thermos of hot chocolate or tea!

Cold-Weather Gear You Need

  • Snow Pants and Jacket
  • Thermal Base Layers
  • Fleece or other warm layers (depending on weather)
  • Winter Boots
  • Warm Socks
  • Gloves (‘touch’ under gloves help too)
  • Toque and Neck Warmer (better than a scarf)
  • Crampons
  • Headlamp

Camera Gear You Need

  • Camera body – weather sealed is best (I used a Canon 5D mark 3)
  • Tripod
  • Ultra wide lens (I used a Canon 16-35mm f4)
  • Shutter release cable

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