Holy Beavers of Elk Island National Park | Alberta Wildlife Photography

by on April 5, 2013

I’m finding myself kind of obsessed with Canada’s National emblem, and thankfully the beavers of Elk Island National Park are easily found. Most know me to be obsessed with grizzlies, bison and other larger Alberta species and this will never change, but there is something about these incredibly hardworking large rodents which I find ridiculously fascinating, and even more so in the past few years. In my quest to photograph a beaver in its natural habitat, I’ve discovered like with any other wildlife, it takes many hours of observation. I cannot tell you how many hours I have sat and watched and waited and observed these little guys. In doing so, like many other photographers I’m sure, I’ve been stared at for partially sitting in the swamp without waders; I’ve been disturbed when I’m trying to be as silent as can be; I’ve been covered in gravel and dust when a vehicle sped by me, unaware I was settled in the brush below. I’ve also lost my footing and tumbled towards a lodge because I’m a klutz. I’ve been approached by people and carried out conservations with a GoPro recording everything, strapped to my head, because I have forgotten it is there.


North American beaver (Castor canadensis) rests on a log as he constructs its lodge during an early autumn morning at Elk Island National Park, Alberta wildlife.

All of this and I have yet to capture the perfect beaver image. One of the challenges is the fact I only shoot with a 300mm ƒ2.8 lens. It’s a beauty, but it’s less than desirable for all kinds of wildlife photography, but I appreciate the fact I at least have decent gear and I carry on and make the best of it. Having gear limitations to some degree has caused me to switch my focus on wildlife photography quite a bit and I will explain more in a later post about the shift and what it means to me. So until I am able to acquire or rent a longer lens (not a fan of my 1.4x converter), I have to try to move in as close as possible. Sometimes it’s easy and others, not so much. This leave me having to not only stretch my creative mind some, but also improve on my patience in the field.

Tip: any nature or wildlife photographer should take 6 minutes and watch this great video by wildlife photographer, Michael Mauro. He really hits the message of patience in the field home!


Alberta wildlife, North American beaver swims with a log to construct its lodge during an early autumn morning at Elk Island.


Eventually, patience and skill does pay off. It just takes that time, effort, dedication, talent and most of all, passion …. undeniable passion for what you are shooting. I wouldn’t be able to handle the struggles of wildlife photography if I weren’t so deeply attached to our wild world and having fun along the way.

So what does one do when waiting for these lil’ buggers to appear, when the light is right or for that perfect moment when it all comes together and you have nailed that capture? You sing, change the batteries on your GoPro, and take photos of anything else in the immediate area, of course …


Cattail cotton plant standing tall in the wetlands at Elk Island National Park during an autumn sunrise, Alberta landscape.


This blog is not only a reminder to myself to keep on shooting, enjoy what I’m doing, don’t give up and keep having fun, even when immersed in water and gunk (gross, right?). I pass on the same to anyone reading this blog. We’ve all started at the same spot in our photography careers and there’s only one direction for us to head …


North American beaver (Castor canadensis) swims towards its lodge during an early autumn morning at Elk Island National Park, Alberta wildlife.

If you have any stories, trials and tribulations of wildlife, nature or any kind of photography, please share them with me! I’d love to hear how and why you keep chasing after your target species / subjects. You can find me here or on Twitter!

Oh, and those waders? They are next on my to-buy list. Probably. haha


See you in the field!




Photographer. Podcaster on hiatus. Edmonton Oilers lovah. Cinematic Star Wars fan. Fond of wildlife conservation, animal rescue orgs, and all things Johnny Cash. Gen X. 

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