An interview with photoED Magazine
We spoke to Banff-based landscape photographer Dani Lefrancois
about her incredible Rocky Mountain adventures.
Dani Lefrancois is a full-time landscape photographer and photography guide. She spends over 200 days a year leading visitors through Banff National Park, helping them bring home amazing photographs through her company, Banff Photo Workshops. Her work is focused on capturing the emotion of the mountain terrain experience and on exploring how light interacts with the landscape.
photoED: What is it about creating stories through photography that you love most?
I love the ability to capture moments in time that savour unrepeatable emotions and experiences. Photography allows me to freeze a moment and share it with others to evoke feelings, memories, and connections.
photoED: Whose work has influenced yours?
My inspiration and influence comes from nature and the landscapes around me.
I let the landscape guide my photography, directing me toward what I capture.
In the early stages of my photography journey, I was inspired by Marc Adamus, who chases extreme weather. This mirrored my own passion for capturing vanishing scenes and moments.
My creative influences are artists such as Viktoria Haack and Jaclyn Tanemura, whose work demonstrates a consistent commitment to following their hearts and capturing whatever inspires them. It’s truly remarkable to witness how their interests evolve over time, and it’s a testament to the ever-changing and evolving nature of artistic inspiration.
photoED: What makes a good photograph?
A good photograph is something I find hard to explain. You can have an image that has all the essential elements that it needs to be “good” but it can also be lacking.
A good photograph has a reason for being taken.
“Why?” is one of the most frequent questions I ask the photographers I teach. Why did you choose that composition, why are you using that aperture, why is your tripod at that height? Everything we choose to capture an image needs to have a purpose and a reason.
In this photograph, I chose to shoot super low to the ground to minimize the clutter of stones so that the mountain and the reflection would be the main subjects of the image. I also chose to shoot with a shallow depth of field so that I could minimize the rocks even more and use their colours as framing elements.
photoED: What advice would you give an aspiring Canadian photographer?
Shoot as much as possible! It is really the only way. Experience. By shooting more, you are training your eyes to see. Capture subjects that truly pique your interest. My journey into photography began in my teenage years, shooting bands in small local clubs in Southern Ontario. The experience honed my ability to use my camera fast and confidently. I ventured into wedding photography as I searched for my true calling. This phase taught me not to underestimate the value of my work.
Eventually, I became stubborn and committed solely to nature and landscape photography, as it resonated with my soul like nothing else. Nature is where I felt the strongest connection. Without the countless shots I took along the way, I wouldn’t have the confidence and skills to shoot the way I do today.
photoED: How has working in photography influenced you personally?
I think being a photographer has allowed me to embrace all of my strengths. As a person with Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), I have the benefit of hyper-focus and attention to details that help me significantly in my work. It has allowed me to think outside the box, going to places photographically I hadn’t imagined before.
It is a great reminder that diversity, both neurologically and experientially in photography, can be a powerful tool in such a creative and technical field. I’m grateful that photography has given me the opportunity to express my world through such a personal lens. It has helped me to embrace my ADHD as an additional benefit, instead of a weakness. It’s been really empowering.
photoED: What has been your favourite or most personally impactful photography adventure?
With landscape photography, every day is an adventure, but there are a few instances that stand out. The biggest one for me was my first trip to Lake O’Hara, British Columbia, in 2010. That trip started me down the path that I am on now.
Based in Ontario at the time, I was planning my second-ever trip to the Canadian Rockies. I was visiting to test run the idea of moving west. I was probably on page 100 in Google images just looking at photos of the area and researching locations. On one of those Google images pages, I found a photo of a lake I had not seen before. I had never heard of Lake Oesa so I started researching it and discovered that it was in the Lake O’Hara region.
Lake O’Hara is an area that can be accessed only by shuttle bus. I managed to get camping reservations for the area; but, when the time came, there was a grizzly bear warning in the campground. That seemed scary, so I cancelled the reservation without realizing that by doing that I’d also cancelled the bus tickets.
When I arrived, I was told my spot on the bus was no longer available, but there was the possibility of standby spots if people didn’t show up. Lucky for me, I was able to get on the bus that day. I had planned to hike to Lake Oesa, the lake that started it all, but the elevation in the Canadian Rockies was significantly different than the Niagara Region in Ontario I was used to.
I took so many photos that day that it didn’t even matter that I didn’t make it to Lake Oesa. I remember walking along the lakeshore and seeing all the different trails leading up the mountains and thinking, “I want to be able to do all those trails.”
Fast-forward 10 months: I found a job in Lake Louise and I moved West to follow my dream of living in the mountains. Every year for 5 years I was able to get a spot on the bus to Lake O’Hara and I was finally able to see Lake Oesa. I have now climbed all the trails up the mountains that I saw on my first trip to the area.
photoED: What photography projects are you now most excited about?
For the last decade I have been revisiting the Columbia Icefields area and taking photos of the fall landscape and the mountains, specifically the Athabasca Glacier. These photos are all traditionally art pieces taken in the same area; but, looking through the images over time, you can see the changes year after year on this commercialized glacier.
Another ongoing personal photography project is capturing all the lakes in the area in their “winter jacket.” Photographing lakes during a snowfall where there is snow on the trees and the lakes are still unfrozen creates white snow and blue lake images, my favourite colour palette.
A project that I recently started is my Life at 600mm project. This started when I received my Tamron 150-600mm lens. It’s opened a new world of mountain details for me. I am looking at things really differently now. It is contradictory to what you’d expect from the Canadian Rockies, being a place where the grand landscapes are so stunning. However, the long lens scenes are new, fresh, and ever-changing.
photoED: What does your dream project entail?
I have always been inspired by the Canadian landscape and I feel like it is often overlooked. So many people travel to other parts of the world before they discover what we Canadians have here. I believe we have many natural wonders here that are similar to the other places in the world.
This idea is probably fuelled by my grandmother. Whenever I would talk about wanting to visit places such as Scotland, Grandma who was a proud Cape Bretoner said, “Just go to the Highlands. It’s the same thing.” That prompted me to research places around Canada that have a similar look to other locations around the world.
The mountains in Tombstone Territorial Park in the Yukon are dramatic and sharp looking, and have a similar drama to the mountain images I have seen of Patagonia. I would love to travel around Canada to capture these look-a-like locations.
What camera and equipment do you most use now? What’s your favourite lens? Can you tell us about your experience using Tamron lenses?
As a landscape shooter, I have a hard time picking a favourite lens. The camera I use most is my Canon 5D Mark IV.
The Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens has quickly become my new favourite because of the 600mm opportunity. With this lens, I can finally push in far enough that I can compose my shot without having to crop afterwards. I can now capture details in nature I’ve been wanting to photograph for the last decade. It has really opened a new world of possibilities.
My experience with Tamron has been incredible.
The 24-70mm f2.8 and 150-600mm f5-6.3 are amazing lenses. The push/pull focal length lock is a wonderful feature but my biggest obsession with the 150-600mm zoom lens is the integrated ARCA-Swiss foot that mounts the lens on a tripod.
I didn’t have to install one of my own and it makes it significantly more stable. The lens has some weight to it, but it’s very hand-holdable. It is also a great conversation starter for those with lens envy when zoomed in all the way to 600mm.
I was also very impressed with the 24-70mm f2.8 zoom. It was nice to be able to shoot at any focal length at f2.8. I fell in love with this lens and it surprised me how many uses I found for it.
See more of Dani Lefrancois' work - HERE.