A Photographer's Paradise: A First Timer's Trip to Churchill

Posted October 26, 2023 | Author Desiree Rantala

A picture-perfect photographer's paradise lies in the far stretches of one of Canada's most unique provinces. Here's a heartfelt recap of a first-time experience in Churchill, showcasing the allure of this remarkable destination. It's a place where the beauty of nature, wildlife, and photography come together to create lasting memories and a deep appreciation for the wonders of Manitoba.

The Final Frontier

As a born and raised Manitoban, a trip to Churchill is likely to hold a special place in your heart. It's an opportunity to connect with the natural beauty of your home province and appreciate the wonders it has to offer. The rich and diverse wildlife, as well as the scenic landscapes of Churchill, can truly inspire and rekindle one's love for photography. There's something magical about capturing moments in such a unique and remote location.

Frontiers North Adventures
is a well-known tour operator in the Churchill area. They offer various guided tours and wildlife experiences, such as the "Bears, Belugas, and Blooms" tour. These tours provide an excellent platform for visitors to witness and photograph the natural wonders of the region.

Churchill is often referred to as Manitoba's "final frontier" due to its unique and remote location. It's located at the northernmost tip of the province and is as far north as the train can take you. A summer trip to Churchill offers mystique and adventure for any traveler. It has a way of captivating visitors, leaving them eager to return even before they've left. The unique experiences, stunning landscapes, and the chance to encounter extraordinary wildlife make it a destination that many people find themselves planning to revisit.

It's easy to describe the vivid picture that is Churchill's allure, and the range of experiences Frontiers North Adventures offers, making it an excellent choice for travellers looking to explore this remarkable corner of Manitoba.

Gradients of Green

As you fly over Manitoba making your way to Churchill, the sky begins to clear and as the clouds lift, you begin to descend to a landscape that looks like lily pads or a patchwork quilt. The cracking of the landscape with gradients of green as far as the eye can see. I began to see the turtle shell emerge.

Welcome to Churchill

It's All in the Click

As a photographer, there will forever be those 'wow shots' that stick with you for a lifetime. With them come stories and soon-to-be memories of how they came to be. Images can draw you back to a time when you held your breath as you pressed the shutter button, to when you heard the sound of the aperture closing during sunset, or when you followed through your viewfinder as a caribou disappeared into the brush, and to when you paused for a moment to take in the view, before drawing up your lens. Churchill draws no shortage of stunning scenery, heartfelt history, loving locals, and wondrous wildlife. There's a reason it's stayed on the map and more recently, was named one of the best places in the world for 2023, according to Time Magazine.

Wallow in Wonder with
Wapusk Adventures

Dave and His Dogs

It's off to the races when you're in Churchill and the fast-paced adrenaline of your trip isn't complete without dog carting at Wapusk Adventures. An award-winning and busy tourist hot spot year-round, it's a must to stop in to get to know Dave Daley, owner and lead dog musher at Wapusk, along with his dogs. Learn about the Daley's family Indigenous culture on Treaty 5 Territory, how their family business came to be, and go for a ride in a wooden cart with these fast and furry friends.

Photo Tip: The cart ride will go by in a flash, don't forget to capture an epic selfie!

Take a Trip on a
Tundra Buggy®

Lucky Number 13

We had the privilege of roaming the Churchill Wildlife Management Area in Tundra Buggy® number 13. Our driver Jim was a gracious host, offering entertainment the entire way with jokes, historical facts, and enough information about the area to make our heads spin. Stopping for the most beautiful picnic setting, soup and sandwiches with a view were on the menu. I'd be lying if I said this wasn't one of the coolest ways to see Churchill. You gotta eat here!

Luxury in Length

As long as a school bus and almost as tall as a miniature monster truck, a Tundra Buggy® is an all-equipped vehicle made for withstanding rugged northern terrain in Churchill, and it's your new ride. Easy to say, it's the most unique ride you'll ever take. Equipped with panoramic views, spacious seating, and even a washroom on board, these vehicles were designed with guest comfort in mind while in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. After a day out on the tundra, with cameras clicking, we rode home into the sunset.

Photographer's Tip: Bring extra batteries and memory cards.

Colours of the Coast

This day trip on the Churchill Wildlife Management Area was one for the books. The varying colour and texture of the landscape, the variety of animals such as caribou, swans, ptarmigans, and Bonaparte's gull. The yellow of a bald eagle's beak, the bright green of beach sand wort, and the rays of orange as the sun set. Colours of the coast are plenty with Mother Nature's own color palette. And how could I forget my new adornment for krummholz trees?

Marvel at Murals

Creativity Knows No Bounds

Artistry, creativity, and connectivity blossom in Churchill. In 2017, Manitoba artist Kal Barteski organized the Sea Walls Mural Festival, which invited 18 artists from around the globe to beautify and exude expression in this northern town. Taking to many canvases from buildings and sea containers to an airplane and a helicopter. The many murals have become a marvel in themselves and there's no mural that isn't more than a turn around a corner in the town of Churchill.

Photographer's Tip: A wide-angle lens will allow you to fully capture the size of larger murals.

Welcome to the
Prince of Wales Fort

Remnants of History

Built over 250 years ago, over the course of 40 years, by 40 men. This historical spot in Churchill is a notable mark in Manitoba's history. The fog lay heavy in the distance as we trudged wooden boardwalks amongst fireweed and northern flora, towards the stone and barred doors of this historical fur trading fort. Inside the fortress lies remnants of the past with crumbled stone, cannons pointed into the distance, and postcard views looking out into the Hudson Bay.

Photo tip: Use different elements within the fort to help frame your image.

Meet Miss Piggy

Aviation and Art

Miss Piggy is her name and being a tourist hot spot is the game. A downed airplane, laying solitary since 1979 after a flight's crash landing while on course to deliver goods to northern communities. Miss Piggy coined the name over the years after a historical rumor spread about the theory of there being pigs on board the aircraft. Since that time, the plane has taken part in the SeaWalls Mural Festival and the mural Final Transmission has found home amidst this aircraft.

Photographer's Tip: Try shooting from unique angles, such as the end of the wing, or offset the foreground with foliage.

The Most Beautiful
Sparkling Water

Smoke and Mirrors

Churchill can commonly be known for its fluctuating temperature and weather. The sun is out and you're applying sunscreen one day, and the next day you've donned your hat and gloves. The day we ventured out onto the water, Mother Nature had her very own smoke and mirror effects for us. Early in the morning, a beautiful blanket of fog draped over the port, offering a gorgeous layer of depth for photographing. The fog evoked a sense of mystery, eluding to a past time. With the clouds moving overhead, the sun came out.

Photo Tip: Don't feel intimidated by changing weather, use this as an opportunity to try new camera settings.

Hello Baby Beluga

Water World

Today was water day with two separate excursions taking us out onto the Churchill River Estuary, thanks to our friends at Sea North Tours. The first excursion was paired with a visit to the Prince of Wales Fort, taking a ride on the Sea North Two jet boat with Captain Remy. This boat ride was a great opportunity to see the river from unique vantage points. Able to set your lens on varying points of interest from the shore and rock features to buoy's and birds. Since you're higher up on the water, you're able to see beluga whales from looking down! The most memorable moment was when the hydrophone went into the water. A hydrophone is an aquatic microphone that allowed us to hear the beluga whales singing and communicating with one another. It was like listening to a live sports game being played on the radio. I wonder what they were talking about...

Photo Tip: Make sure you're wearing a camera strap. If you're using your phone, pick up a case that allows you to have a wrist attachment. You'll thank yourself later!

Beautiful Blue

Photographing beluga whales is not easy, there's no doubt about that. There are multiple factors to deal with! Changing weather, reflection on the water, boat motion as you sway in the waves, and the ability to capture little blips that randomly surface in the water. Your eyes will constantly search the horizon and the endless body of blue for these canaries of the sea, and once you spot them, they're gone.

Photo tip: Try out the continuous shoot mode on your camera if you have one.

Hello Sleepy Bear

Spot the Polar Bear

If you brought your binoculars...keep your eyes peeled on the shoreline! You may see a furry white friend out and about. Polar bears love to settle down shoreside for a nap, to bask in the sun, or go swimming!

Photo Tip: Forget your binoculars? A telephoto lens works great!

Fuel Up with Fabulous Food

Far Away Flavour

Although some items may come in short supply in Manitoba's most northern community... the flavour is not, and it comes in abundance. We were treated to attending Churchill's newest restaurant, The Ptarmigan. Enjoying breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert, full of flavour with beautiful presentation. Modern cuisine meets local cultural flare. The Tundra Pub across the street also serves delicious fare. Have a free night? Head over for their homemade pizza and an ice cold lager.

Photo Tip: Capture your favourite flavours and feel inspired to re-create them when you return home.

Falling in Love with Fireweed

Fondness of Flora

It was love at first sight the first time I seen fireweed. Unbeknownst to me, this beautiful botanical would become a new obsession of mine. Just when I thought I had seen it all, this gorgeous pop of purple thrives in our northern climate, amongst harsh terrain and desolate spaces of land.

Beauty and the Beach

Pastel Paradise

The equivalent of a cherry on top of the cake on this trip is beach sunsets on the coast of Hudson Bay. Sometimes you're in the right place at the right time and in this instance, we were. A pretty pastel paradise is not an uncommon site in Churchill.

Human Nature

A Little Goes a Long Way

Your time in Churchill will go by fast, to say the least. With everything I've shared here, there were still more activities we enjoyed. Such as learning about Inuit art at the Itsanitaq Museum, visiting the Churchill Rocket Research Range, enjoying shopping for souvenirs galore at Fifty Eight North and stopping by to learn about conservation and climate change at Polar Bears International. The hospitality, knowledgeable guidance and customer service from drivers to serving staff are commendable. Frontier's North offers polished and personal tours that will leave you wanting more.

It's human nature to want to see the big and beautiful parts of life. Easy to say that my first time trip to Churchill was a picture perfect photographer's paradise and was just as big and beautiful as I had hoped.

About The Author

Hey there, I'm Desiree! I've lived in Manitoba my whole life. I love a great slice of pizza, photography and exploring our beautiful province. I'm passionate about storytelling. Have an idea for adventure? Let me know! drantala@travelmanitoba.com

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