The Top 10 Places to Photograph in Vancouver

From Stanley Park’s best spots to Kits Beach and Gastown’s Flatiron Building, photographer Julia Pelish lists her favourite locales in and around the city.

What makes a location a good place to photograph? It could be many factors, Julia Pelish says. Unique views or a mix of land and cityscapes or the amount and angle of the light.

“When I was in New York, I loved to photograph in Times Square. It’s the activity and the way it teems with life,” she says. "In Vancouver, the scenery is what's the big draw for photographers, and for good reason."

Here are the 10 best places to photograph Vancouver, according to a pro.

1. Stanley Park —
It’s more than 1,000 acres and its individual landmarks could easily fill half this list. Collectively, the park is a wonder and a delight for any photographer.

The Rose Garden bursts with florals for the lens, while Malkin Bowl and Prospect Point offer plenty of opportunity for crowd shots of Vancouver residents and tourists. The trails and tall trees feature sublime light that makes for outstanding nature photos. With the occasional eagle and the dozens of blue heron nests in the park, wildlife photographs can be taken a few yards from a city street. Plus there are beaches, outstretched lawns, mountain views and all kinds of activities taking place. Stanley Park is an example of the joy a city can offer residents when it keeps prime real estate public and pure.

2. Gastown —
It’s beautiful, it’s edgy, it’s touristy, it’s hip, it’s artsy, it’s commercial, it’s changing, it’s timeless. Gastown is complex and complicated.
While it remains a head scratcher how such prime real estate in a jewel of a city could be so underutilized and poorly taken care of, it’s also clear gentrification nears. In 10 years, Gastown will look much different than it does now. With large residential projects under way and plenty of money pouring in to clean up an area damaged by decades of a dominant drug culture, it’s not a leap to think Gastown will shed the uncomplimentary adjectives that taint its image. As it goes about this metamorphosis, it’s up to photographers to document life. There’s plenty to start with, from the architecture of the Flatiron Building to the cobblestone streets, and the many faces and states of mind of the denizens of the city. Gastown is key to Vancouver’s history and pictures will always tell people why.

Photograph All There is to Discover in Vancouver!!

3. From above —
Take a seaplane ride and after you get over the buzzing of the engine and the queasiness in your stomach from the takeoff, you’ll see why so many people believe Vancouver will be the next great boom city on the planet. Who wouldn’t want to live here, amid the mountains and the sea? Make sure you keep your camera on the lookout for: the Lions Gate bridge, the top of Grouse Mountain, B.C. Place and False Creek. Oh, and make sure you don’t lean over too far.

4. Spanish Banks —
As stated elsewhere, this is one of Julia Pelish’s favourite places to take portraits in Vancouver, particularly of families. The sunsets are breathtaking and lend themselves to beautiful photographs regardless of who is in the lens. Spanish Banks is also generally calm, so the chances of sand kicking up and damaging your lens is not nearly the hazard it is on other beaches.

5. Queen Elizabeth Park —
It may be the second-most beautiful garden in all of western British Columbia, but when Victoria’s Butchart Gardens are first being runner-up isn’t a poor showing at all.

Queen Elizabeth Park is as suitable for taking intimate engagement portraits with a close-up lens as it is for panoramic scenery shots with a mountain view. “This may not be the place where you get married and it may not be the place where you bring your kids all the time, but Queen Elizabeth Park should definitely be a place everyone in Vancouver thinks about when they want to get their portrait professionally taken,” says Julia Pelish, who is based in Yaletown and often makes the short trek with her camera gear to Queen Elizabeth Park.

6. Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens — Vancouver has always been a bastion for immigrants and its largest neighbourhood for new Canadians is historic Chinatown. Named after a warrior and philosopher, the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens sit within walls off East Pender Street, the main thoroughfare of Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Despite the location in the middle of traffic, the gardens are surprisingly tranquil. With small trees, elegantly pruned and trimmed, quaint water features, and elegant architecture, the gardens are a treat to photograph.

7. Granville Island — With all the activity taking place during the summer, you're sure to capture a musical performer or clown or packs of shoppers and tourists. Granville Island bustles when it's warm and that kind of activity makes for fantastic street scenes.

8. Sunset Beach —
Overlooking English Bay, the beach abounds with beautiful people and gorgeous views of the water. And, of course, it's name isn't a misnomer: The sunsets are spectacular.

9. On a boat —
Because of the mountains, Vancouver's skyline is often underestimated. On the water, though, the glass towers absorb the eye. The architecture, particularly on the north side of False Creek, is so luxurious you would think these buildings belong in Miami, not the northwest.

10. Yaletown — “It’s my home, of course I love taking pictures here,” Julia Pelish says.

Having been in Vancouver for a little more than a year, Ms. Pelish feels grateful for having the opportunity to photograph as much of the city as she has, but she also knows there’s plenty more yet to discover and she looks forward to updating and adding to her list of favourites in the weeks to come.
Adrian Brijbassi has won multiple awards for his writing - which has been published in literary journals, newspapers and anthologies - and was named one of the “35 Greatest Rock Writers of Generation X” in 2004. He writes books, too.

Julia Pelish Photography, based in Vancouver, specializes in portrait, wedding, commercial and fine art photography. Digital imaging and web-site services - including content building - are also offered.

Copyright Julia Pelish Photography of Vancouver, 2006. close window