Grizzly bears. Moose. Bighorn sheep. The icons of Canada’s Rocky Mountains are on the wish list of most visitors, but few walk away with the images that paint a picture of their encounter with absolute wildness or stories that can help us rethink the importance of these creatures to our world. We want to make you the exception and equip you with the tools to tell powerful visual tales of your moment of a lifetime.
Into the Wild
In partnership with Rocky Mountain Photo Adventures, we want you to join Ghost Bear’s Jill Cooper and Simon Jackson for a one-of-a-kind, upbeat and fun, private excursion into the heart of Canada’s mountain parks – Banff and Jasper. Intimate and tailored workshops built around your experience, interests and time will give you the best chance of finding and documenting the animals that call this landscape home.
Simon has worked with, and on behalf of, wildlife for more than 25 years and, together with his wife, Jill, they have been immersed in the Rocky Mountain wilderness for eight seasons, working to help connect the world to the animals they have been fortunate to encounter.
Bridging their skills as naturalists, advocates, educators and photographers, Simon and Jill don’t offer just another guide service, but rather a trip into the place of their hearts and an experience that seeks to inspire, educate and active you as a storyteller.
Simon and Jill believe that photography is the most powerful lens through which to reconnect with nature. When done responsibly and with purpose, it slows time and allows us to better appreciate the complex social structures, unique behaviour and even the joy expressed by wild animals.
Together, you will not only seek to find and photograph wildlife, but also learn about the ecology of the region, the stories of its inhabitants and the issues that impact their future. And by learning or renewing strategies for successful, ethical wildlife photography, it’s hoped you leave inspired and better equipped to be a voice for wild creatures and the places they call home.
Half Day Session
A great introduction to wildlife ecology, a half-day session is perfect for someone on a tight timeline while visiting the mountain parks. Together, we’ll cover core techniques used to document wildlife behaviour while we search two or three hotspots that will give you the best odds of coming away with a great animal story to share visually. By the end of the session, the goal will be to equip you with a better understanding of the Rocky Mountain ecosystem and how best to observe wildlife in the region.
Full Day Session
From dawn to dusk, we’ll extensively cover the Rocky Mountain landscape in search of wildlife – focusing on a specific species or taking a more general approach, based on your interests. And with our local knowledge, we’ll work to provide you with the best odds of having a quality animal encounter during our limited time together, while exploring different eco-regions within the mountain parks. We hope to leave you with a better understanding of this wilderness and the stories of the animals that call it home, while also equipping you with new skills and techniques to enable you to better capture responsible wildlife stories.
With more time, we can provide you with the best possible experience in the mountain parks – increasing your odds of having your dream wildlife encounter. We’ll search extensively for the species of most interest to you and provide a detailed understanding of their ecology, behaviour and movements on the landscapes. And by covering multiple eco-regions, you’ll have a strong sense of where to find wildlife and how to capture the most compelling stories in the field. While in the field, we’ll also spend time (if of interest) discussing techniques to better enable you to share your story – from image post-processing to social media strategies to effective advocacy.
Seasons in the Wild
Spring (late April – early June): The birth of a new season brings renewal to the Rockies. Spring is the best season for grizzly bears, as snow at higher elevations brings the bears down into the lower valleys and offers observers the chance to document unique behaviour. It’s also a time when many animals are giving birth, making spring also the best time to photograph ungulate young and predators and prey at work.
Summer (late June – August): The warmth of summer also brings wildflowers, cloudscapes and magic light that make it an ideal time to document animals in the landscape. During berry season, bears are omnipresent and throughout the summer, ungulates frequently linger near water.
Fall (September – early November): As the colours of fall take hold of the landscape, ungulates take centre stage. Moose and deer are common sights and the elk rut transports you, seemingly, into a land before time. Dramatic behaviour, beautiful coats and large antlers make this one of the best seasons of the year.
Winter (December – mid March): With few people and no bugs, it’s hard to beat winter – even with the potential for arctic-like temperatures. The snowy season transforms the mountains and brings wildlife into the lower valleys in search of food, offering the best chance at finding the more elusive creatures: wolves, martens and otters.
1. Wildlife is unpredictable. There are no guarantees. That said, based on your interests, we will work as hard as we can to help you meet your objective, drawing from our knowledge of the region, our understanding of wildlife behaviour, and our research of all information available. You can always dictate the pace, but we won’t shy away from the challenge or the workload.
2. We will not be able to provide you with a specific itinerary for our time together in the field, beyond when you wish to start and finish. Weather, animal movements and other factors that influence wildlife patterns will determine where we go on a given day. The more time (and days) you’re willing to commit, the better the chances of having success.
3. In order to find wildlife, we recommend long days in the field, inclusive of pre-dawn start times that will vary based on the distance of your accommodation to the wildlife hotspots. Depending on your focus, our trips might include extensive driving or prolonged waiting, with few breaks. Though you will always have the ability to make the final decision, we do ask that you trust our wildlife knowledge and appreciate the search isn’t always glamorous.
4. Given the size of the mountain parks and the unpredictable nature of wildlife, we promise to clearly communicate the odds of each possible strategy we can deploy at various junctures while in the field together. We will give you our recommendations, but by giving you odds, we also hope to help you decide your level of comfort with the risk versus reward.
5. We will never take any risks that might endanger you, despite the photo-op potential. As such, changing mountain weather might limit some driving or walking options in the field and if we are out of the car, we will carry bear spray at all times. If you wish to go for a walk on your own, we will provide you with bear spray and an understanding of how to use it. Declining bear spay is not an option.
6. The majority of wildlife photography encounters in the mountain parks will be from the vehicle as animals are frequently closer than 100 metres to the road. This means shooting from the window with the doors closed (even if others are out of their cars). Vehicles are often the best wildlife blinds and help prevent scaring the animal away. We will provide you with a beanbag to help stabilize your camera and will help you with any gear switching needs.
7. We will always endeavour to help you capture the best story of your encounter, but equally we will always follow park rules and regulations. If a warden tells us to move on, we will move on; if a no-stopping zone is in place, we won’t stop for an animal within it. The parks put their rules in place to keep both visitors and animals safe.
8. We will not endanger wildlife at any time, for any reason. We have been mentored by wildlife behavioural specialists and will use this knowledge to assess the subtle signs an animal offers to understand its comfort with the encounter. If we feel an animal is stressed or is failing to act naturally, we will move on. Animal safety comes first; viewing animals comes second.
9. Wildlife encounters are often quick and sometimes it’s only possible to capture a few images. We will work to help you maximize your camera gear and establish the best settings for a chance encounter. But we encourage you to always be ready for your dream photo opportunity and to not hesitate when we tell you to start shooting.
10. Though our primary focus will be to help you observe and document the wildlife you seek to find, we promise to help you better understand wildlife ecology and behaviour. Our hope is that by the end of our time together you will be better able to find wildlife on your own and understand how best to capture your subject responsibly and artistically, in order to tell their story.
All proceeds from Ghost Bear field trips support the development of Nature Labs.