50 ways to celebrate Canada

The aurora borealis, or northern lights,  Canada's 50 Places of a Lifetime

The aurora borealis, or northern lights, above a houseboat frozen in the ice of Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photograph by Jason Pineau from Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime

Learning about Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime

Recently, National Geographic Travel published Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime. It was an ambitious project to choose 50 special places in Canada, and then one photograph to represent each spot. If you click the link to the site, you will see the entire collection of 50 photos, thumbnail size. Seen together like this, one thing becomes more than evident: Canada is stunning. Canada is gorgeous.

Canada positively drips with natural beauty from coast to coast to coast.

Pristine icebergs. Turquoise mountain lakes. Mauve soaked sunsets. You will come away from viewing this photographic feature with dazzled eyes. I learned a lot about this project, and about photography in general, when I met Director of Photography for National Geographic Travel, Dan Westergren

iceberg in Nunavut, Canada in the Canadian Arctic

A pristine iceberg stands out starkly against Nunavut’s blue skies. Photograph by John E. Marriott, Corbis. For Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime

Behind the lens in Toronto

I had the chance to meet Dan Westergren when he was in Toronto in October 2013 to promote Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime by hosting a couple of Google Hangouts in partnership with 500px. Dan very generously shared his knowledge of photography in several ways: one, by explaining how they narrowed down and chose some of the spectacular shots for Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime; and two, by leading a live photo walk through Toronto’s historic Distillery District.

In Dan’s words they had, “two simple goals in mind: to show how different photographic personalities capture the essence of a place in pictures — and to share the experience with the world in real time. A live broadcasted photo essay, if you will.” You can watch these Google Hangouts below.

I am always curious about how professional photographers work in urban environments, and how they get photos of people that look natural, not posed. If you watch the Google Hangouts, you will see Dan in action, engaging with people on the street, and inspiring them to become part of what he’s doing. He says, “Explain to them what you’re doing and why you think it’s important.” Good advice, which I will try out next time I am shooting on the street.

Walk through Toronto’s Distillery District, Part 1

Walk through Toronto’s Distillery District, Part 2

Growing up in one of the ‘Canada’s 50 Places’ Photos

Growing up, we had a family cottage on a Lake Simcoe, about halfway between Toronto and Algonquin Park, pictured below. This iconic scene of a canoe hauled up on the rocks of a fresh water lake, ringed with pine trees, is deeply etched into my psyche. I grew up canoeing on an Ontario Lake, listening to the cry of loons, feeling the fresh breezes, seeing the sun sparkle or the white caps froth on the lake, watching the stars come out as the sky darkened each night. It was idyllic to spend the entire summer, year in and year out, at a cottage on an Ontario Lake. It was simply the best time of my life. I wrote about it longingly in this essay, Twilight at the Cottage.

Algonquin Provincial Park's Canoe Lake is a paddler's paradise.

Algonquin Provincial Park’s Canoe Lake is a paddler’s paradise. Photograph by Chris Rainier for Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime

As a world traveller, Canada has tended to be my base, rather than my focus. But I want to change all of that now, and I have a new dream.

My dream is to get to as many places on this list of 50 places in Canada as possible.

Please check out Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime and let me know in the comments below which one of the 50 places you think I should go to.

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23 Responses to 50 ways to celebrate Canada

  1. Caro November 14, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    It’s so true, many of us are guilty of ignoring our own country for ‘wilder’ adventures abroad but really, Canada doesn’t get any more wild! I can’t deal (well yes, I can, but you know me, I have a flair for the dramatic) with how beautiful our country and yet how much I have yet to see. Though I hate the cold, the north really captivates me!

  2. Wandering Educators November 14, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    Canada is such an incredibly beautiful place – and one could spend several lifetimes exploring it! I’d choose somewhere by water- maybe PEI. My cousin and her husband honeymooned there!
    Wandering Educators recently posted..Catacombs to Die For!My Profile

  3. A Cook Not Mad (Nat) November 14, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Haida Gwaii, Great Bear Rainforest, Gulf and Bowen Islands, you can’t go wrong with any of the places on the list, our country is vast and amazing!
    A Cook Not Mad (Nat) recently posted..365 Project – week 45My Profile

  4. Candice November 14, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Love it. Still have to hit up the territories!

  5. A Montrealer Abroad November 14, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    As a Montrealer, I am quite ashamed to say I have seen more of other countries than I have seen my own. But now that I am a seasoned traveller, I see this as opportunities waiting to be seized rather than failures; Canada is so vast in terms of both culture and size, I don’t think a lifetime will be enough to actually get to see everything. But if I had to start somewhere, I would pick the wineries of the west coast, the Rockies, Yukon, the French heritage sites of Manitoba, the fjords of Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean and the quaint sights of PEI.

    When do we leave? 🙂
    A Montrealer Abroad recently posted..Instagram Postcards from German Christmas MarketsMy Profile

  6. Lisa Goodmurphy November 14, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    I love this list that National Geographic has put together! I have a tendency to choose overseas destinations when I’m traveling with my kids and a list like this reminds me that I have to show them our own beautiful country as well. I counted and I’ve been to 15 of the places with them and a couple more on my own. Not a bad start but now I want to hit them all! I think you should plan a trip to Churchill to see the polar bears – that’s a dream trip of mine!
    Lisa Goodmurphy recently posted..Family Fun at the Royal Agricultural Winter FairMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward November 14, 2013 at 11:47 am #

      Oh, I haven’t counted yet as to how many I’ve been to … I only looked at the ones I haven’t been to yet, but really want to go. Polar Bears in Churchill is a definite!
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Seafood tour of the gentle islandMy Profile

  7. Gillian @OneGiantStep November 14, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    Having lived in a few different areas, and having driven across, Canada I agree that this is one LARGE, diverse land! I am a bit of an enigma in that I love outdoor spaces and wild country but am also an urbanite at heart and adore being in the middle of the city. I find that the more I travel the more I realize just how amazing our own country is. And YES, we should all get to the north…it’s on my list!
    Gillian @OneGiantStep recently posted..Go Deeper! 5 History Books To Dive IntoMy Profile

  8. Matthew Karsten November 14, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Canada is such a giant country with so much to see. You could spend a lifetime exploring it.
    Matthew Karsten recently posted..My 30 Best Travel Tips After 3 Years Traveling the WorldMy Profile

  9. Andrea November 14, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    I’m a huge lover of my home country! Been to every province except Newfoundland and have yet to visit the territories. Both are pretty high on my list!

  10. Cristina November 14, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    I love it when Canada is highlighted so positively. So glad to see NG’s list! I would love to explore Northern Canada. I’d definitely start with the aurora borealis.
    Cristina recently posted..The Cheesiest Place on EarthMy Profile

  11. Claudia Laroye November 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    What a fantastic list of places! Where to begin? As a west coaster, I’d have to say you must visit Vancouver, Victoria, Haida Gwaii, and the Gulf Islands (though not in that order!). Also, the Alberta Badlands are amazing, and then there’s the north, and Montreal, and Newfoundland… So much to see, such a big country! Spin the wheel and follow your sense of adventure. 😉

  12. Ayngelina November 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    I know we have different styles of travel but I’d love to explore the food of Charlevoix, meet the urban farmers in Victoria and check out the food scene in the Yukon.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Rimini at NightMy Profile

  13. rohan jha November 17, 2013 at 4:21 am #

    Canada is an incredibly beautiful destination – one must visit Canada once in his/her life. i did not know much about these beautiful places. But now i will research for Canada trip. Many of my blog fans asked about Canada tourism.
    P.S one visit must 🙂
    rohan jha recently posted..DEORIA TALMy Profile

    • admin November 17, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      Thanks Rohan, I have a theory that Canada and India are exactly opposite countries — which is why we love visiting your country, and you would love to visit ours!

  14. Henry | @fotoeins November 17, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    It’s startling sometimes to talk with well-traveled Canadian friends, and we all discover we haven’t seen as much of our country as we’d like. There are interesting collaboration opportunities for Canadian travelers and bloggers to work together and promote all of the regions across all of the ocean watersheds, from the Pacific to the Arctic to the Atlantic; I also think there’s an “appetite” for many Canadians to (re)discover their country. Thanks for writing about this, Mariellen!
    Henry | @fotoeins recently posted..Vancouver Honours: Chinese-Canadian CommunityMy Profile

  15. Adam Burton November 19, 2013 at 4:58 am #

    So many places to see and so many attractions to choose from. I had a hard time picking the best one for me. “Heli-Hiking in the Canadian Rockies” – this seems to be interesting for me, have you tried this before?

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