As the world’s second largest country, Canada’s geography changes significantly depending on which part you are in. And with the differences in each region, there is a very different accompanying landscape and climate.
In almost every part of Canada there are lakes and rivers. Canada has over 2 million lakes covering 7% of the land mass. The largest lake is the Northwest Territories’ Great Bear Lake. It is estimated that Canada is home to one-seventh of the world’s fresh water.
Canada has a land mass of 9,970,610 square kilometers and occupies the northern half of North America. From east to west, Canada encompasses six time zones. Canada has coastlines on the Atlantic and Pacific and the Arctic Ocean, giving it the longest coastline of any country. Canada’s southern boundary is an 8,892 kilometer border with the United States. Northern Canada’s Arctic islands come within 800 kilometers of the North Pole.
In northernmost Canada only 12 per cent of the land is suitable for agriculture because of the harsh climate. As a result, most of the population of Canada live within a few hundred kilometers of the southern border, where the climate is milder.
The following are the regions of Canada that offer the photographer some fantastic locations and wildlife.
The Pacific Coast
The British Columbia coast is indented by coves and protected from storms by Vancouver Island. It has the most even, comfortable climate of any Canadian region. Vancouver Island’s west coast is rained on frequently as a result of the coastal layout, which gives it a temperate rain forest climate. Because of this, the island’s west coast has the oldest and tallest trees in Canada: Douglas firs 90 meters high and Western Red Cedars 1,300 years old.
The wildlife opportunities here are endless… from grizzly bear and black bear to the coveted spirit bear in the Rain Forest of coastal BC, these large predators offer you exciting photography opportunities from the summer to the early fall when the salmon run.
But the coastal waters also offer the photographer some great opportunities. There are resident and transient orca pods off the coast of British Columbia and Humpback whales that show up in April and remain late into the fall. In recent years, Humpbacks have started to remain in the coastal waters all year.
From British Columbia to the Alberta border the land is rugged, aggressively styled with mountains and plateaus. Here the Rocky Mountains, the Coastal Mountains and other ranges run north to south. Canada’s highest peaks are in the St. Elias Mountains, an extension of the Cordillera that reaches north into the Yukon and Alaska. The British Columbia interior is topographically convoluted, it varies from alpine snowfields to massive valleys where hot and dry conditions are typical.
The Rocky Mountains are a wildlife photographers mecca. Here you can see mountain goats, moose, deer, elk, black bear and grizzly bear wandering the pastures and mountains around every corner. Heck, its nothing to see these animals in any one of the towns that you visit through the Rockies.
The Prairies are often described as endless fields of wheat under a never-ending sky. The plains areas of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are some of the richest grain-producing regions in the world. On a clear day you can see for miles in the prairies.
A little known area for wildlife, but the Prairies is a great location for wildlife. From some amazing opportunities for owls, birds of prey to migratory waterfowl and pelicans returning from the arctic every fall, the prairies can be a great location to photograph birds.
But it is also home to one of the largest free ranging herds of Woodland Bison in North America. This easily accessible herd is found in Saskatchewan in and near Prince Rupert National park in Northern Saskatchewan.
The Canadian Shield
A huge inland sea marks the birthplace of a huge part of Canadian heritage. This sea, the Hudson Bay, extends into the heart of Canada. Surrounding this bay is a rocky region called the Canadian Shield. It stretches east to Labrador, south to Kingston on Lake Ontario and northwest as far as the Arctic Ocean. The Canadian Shield is Canada’s largest geographical feature in addition to being a storehouse of minerals, including gold, silver, zinc, copper and uranium.
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Lowlands
Southern Québec and Ontario are home to Canada’s two largest cities, Montreal and Toronto. This region is the industrial centre of Canada. 50 per cent of Canadians live here and produce 70 percent of Canada’s manufactured goods. A prime agricultural land, many foodstuffs are grown here such as grapes, peaches, pears and other fruits. The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region is sugar maple country. The sugar maple leaves, Canada’s national symbol, are resplendent in red, orange and gold. During spring the sap is harvested to make maple syrup and sugar.
The Atlantic Provinces-Appalachian Region
New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland are the smallest Canadian provinces. The most well known part of this region is the Grand Banks, which extends 400 kilometers off the east coast, where the mixing of ocean currents has created one of the richest fishing grounds in the world. Geographically, the Atlantic provinces are part of the Appalachian mountain range. This area is characterized by low, rugged hills and plateaus and deeply indented coastline.
Few would think of wildlife and birds when you think of the Atlantic region of Canada. But, Newfoundland and areas of Eastern Quebec have some of the largest and most accessible colonies of Atlantic Puffins and Northern Gannets in the world.
Newfoundland also has a very large moose population and its own caribou herds that can be seen on the west and south east areas of the province.
Then there are the bald eagles, some of my best bald eagle photos have been taken along the coastal waters of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
The Arctic is a fierce and majestic place. Advances in transportation and communications technology have made the Arctic accessible where it was formerly very difficult to travel. Nowadays every community is served by air, and the majority of isolated communities have electricity, stores and health services. The seemingly endless miles of ice and snow make this a land of incredible solemn beauty. The glacial formations you can see in Canada’s arctic predate humanity.
Ahhhh, the home of the arctic fox, winter breeding grounds of the snowy owl and home to the bell of the ball, the polar bear…
I hope to see you in Canada in the coming years. I have been leading workshops and tours in my home country for many years, and would love the opportunity to guide you to some of the locations I know. http://www.kevinpepperphotography.com/workshops