Don’t even think about visiting Edmonton without your camera. This dynamic and expanding metropolis is home to quirky murals, innovative architecture, and old-world charm. Weave your way through its streets and alleyways, and take time to explore its River Valley. Whether you prefer photographing urban or natural landscapes, Edmonton has a little something for everyone.
Art Gallery of Alberta
Undoubtedly Edmonton’s most unusual building, the Art Gallery of Alberta is as interesting on the inside as it is from the street. Huge steel ribbons ripple against a glass exterior wall, referencing distinctly Canadian elements — architect Randall Stout drew his creative inspiration from the North Saskatchewan River and the Northern Lights, which are both visible from Edmonton proper.
Photograph the enormity of the structure with a wide-angle lens and a bit of patience (you’ll want to make sure the light is just right), and retreat from the building to incorporate its width into a single shot. Take some time to walk beneath the its famous curves and train your lens to the sky, alternating between zoomed-in shots and wide-angle snaps. Once inside, consider staying for a few hours. Not only is there enough art to entertain (including a photography collection from Hubert Hohn and work by Alberta’s indigenous artists), but there’s also a superb variability in the light of the museum’s main room. Once you’ve photographed that, work your way up! The main stairwell offers myriad lines and angles as you ascend to the top floors. And as a bonus, if you visit on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening between 5 and 8 p.m., you’ll get in for free!
One glance at the Muttart Conservatory and you might think that you’re in Paris. The iconic glass pyramids that grace the Louvre are replicated, times four, in Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River Valley to house the conservatory’s exotic plants.
Each pyramid embodies a different theme — the larger three house tropical, temperate, and arid plants, while the smallest pyramid features rotating exhibits that change from season to season. The conservatory is a striking component of Edmonton’s cityscape, and both its interior and exterior make for eye-catching photographs. If you’d like to capture the locale from afar, select a long lens and head to the funicular across the river for the chance at the perfect shot. Once you make it to the conservatory itself, be sure to photograph the architecture within as well as the exhibitions themselves.
That said, remember to shoot when the light is less harsh and be sure to capture the dizzying reflections off of the pyramid walls, the striking display of plants, and the general atmosphere of this Edmonton favorite.
Though Canadian cities aren’t typically known for their colorful nature, Edmonton may well be an exception. The city is covered in creative murals that attract visitors and photographers alike and reflect the story of Edmonton’s artistic community.
For the highest density of wall art, head to Old Strathcona, which hosts many of the city’s beloved paintings. For a more in-depth rundown of mural locations throughout the city, check out this map, compiled by local street artists Rust Magic. Other notable sites include Jasper Avenue, 124th Street, and Black Rainbow Lake, a six-story mural by Okuda San Miguel that is sure to take your breath away.
To photograph these murals, use a wide-angle lens to capture their enormity and experiment with different angles and orientations to photograph the hidden details that makes each one unique. (Fun fact: if you walk around Old Strathcona, you might even catch an artist in the act!) Utilize long exposure photography to take a compelling shot — the mural will be in focus, but any foot traffic will be beautifully blurred.
The River Valley
Visit Edmonton and you’ll find no more beautiful view than that of the River Valley. Grab your camera and make your way to Frederick G. Todd Lookout, located directly below the funicular. From there, you’ll have an incredible view of the river bank below and the bridge that connects the two flanks of Edmonton.
Use a wide-angle lens to capture the breadth of the landscape, and schedule your visit during the early morning or late afternoon, when the light is most picturesque. If you’re looking for more unique shots of Canada’s largest urban park, wander its many trails and winding pathways to capture Edmontonians in their natural habitat, along with the striking colors of the season.
The park is a hub for runners, cyclists, picnickers, and all those who enjoy a good stroll, so utilize long exposure photography to add visual interest to the piece.
This bright-white suspension bridge elegantly — and almost impossibly — links the two sides of Edmonton’s shoreline. If you want to photograph the delicate silver structure from afar, be sure to bring along a wide-angle lens, which will enable you to capture its swell above the North Saskatchewan River.
For an up-close-and-personal shot, head to the mouth of the bridge and utilize a wide-angle or fisheye lens to capture the structural elements, as well as the moving cars. If you dare, bring along a tripod and try your hand at a long exposure, which will give your photos a unique and kinetic look. To spice things up a bit, return to the site after dark and capture the bridge by the glow of its own light — a long-exposure shot that captures tail lights would be dynamic in its own right.
Given its impressive past, Edmonton’s heart lies in its historic districts. One of its most beautiful is Old Strathcona, located in south-central Edmonton. Old Strathcona is a former commercial core, but it now houses a large portion of the city’s arts and entertainment industries. That said, its old-world architecture and charming features make it both a destination for history buffs and a fantastic photography site.
Take your time photographing the quaint streets lined with brick and wood-framed buildings, and then stroll on over to Whyte Avenue, home to a host of uniquely Canadian boutiques and galleries. Be sure to capture the one-of-a-kind antique storefronts, and consider breaking out your portraiture lens and asking residents and shop owners if you can take their photo.
While these are just a few of our favorite photo ops around town, Edmonton is packed with photographic opportunities. For more inspiration, visit exploreedmonton.com.