Shooting Canada’s wildlife on photo expeditions

Paul Stone of Canada Photo Safaris wants to provide each guest with an unforgettable outdoor experience

by Shella Gardezi

When asked what he likes about the outdoors, Paul Stone, nature photographer and guide, is at a loss for words.

“I couldn’t imagine not working outdoors,” said the owner of Canada Photo Safaris, a tour company that provides small-group wildlife photography trips in Alberta's and B.C.’s most spectacular wilderness areas. “It’s the fresh air, the exercise, being in beautiful country.”

Stone, 44, was born on a farm in England, and his family moved to a northern Okanagan ranch when he was 12. For a boy who grew up reading the adventure novels of Jack London, it was a dream come true.

Since then, he’s lived his life in the outdoors working in areas such as wildlife management, guiding and documentary wildlife film shooting. Along the way he acquired his photography skills through practice. With the advent of digital cameras, he saw the possibility of creating a business to cater to the now technologically-advanced tourist.

“Anyone can buy a half-decent camera and equipment now,” he said. “It’s not restricted to the elite. Anyone can do good wildlife photography.”

Stone makes his home in Grand Forks, where he enjoys the opportunity for wildlife photography and outdoor recreation. However, his tours take him to areas such as the Rocky Mountains and the Great Bear Rainforest.

He spends an intensive six days with his guests. While the tours were originally about adventure for Stone, he now realizes that they’re also about people.

“I’ve had an opportunity to bond and build relationships with people, many who have become very successful individuals and built successful businesses,” he said.

Whether they’re affluent executives or middle-class people who scrimped and saved to afford their vacation, Stone said he would love to give every guest the most spectacular experience possible. He describes having a cougar stop right in front of a tour and stare, watching two grizzly bears mate for up to 20 minutes, and the time when his group came across two bull elk locked in fierce battle. When those moments happen it’s amazing, but Stone realizes he can’t control everything.

While there is pressure on a guide when guests pay money to see wildlife, Stone said he is confident he can ensure guests will be able to view the large mammals the west is famous for with a few techniques he’s acquired as a guide. These techniques include knowing the right locations and approaching an area at the right time and in the right way. The last thing a photographer wants to do is place stress on the subject, he said.

Being his own boss also gives Stone the opportunity to live out his dreams of adventure. While he used to offer winter tours in Canada, he found the weather was making the experience unpredictable. However, that doesn’t mean he’ll be sitting around the fire for five months each year. He’s developing plans to take his tours to New Zealand and Australia, possibly by next winter.

“It’s my company, so I’m in the driver’s seat,” he said. “It just so happens that I have a hankering for New Zealand and Australia.”

Canada Photo Safaris packages

  • Rocky Mountain Wildlife: Canada Photo Safaris’ most popular package, the tour leaves from Cranbrook and takes photographers on a tour of some of Canada’s most spectacular mountain scenery, where the large mammals–bears, big-horn sheep, elk, etc.–roam.
  • Ultimate Grizzly: Get up close to the great Canadian grizzly bear. The tour leaves from Vancouver and takes visitors straight to where grizzlies can be found in their natural habitat in the Coast Mountain range and in the interior.
  • Great Bear Rainforest: The Great Bear Rainforest combines exceptional grizzly bear viewing and photography with aboriginal culture, pioneer heritage and spectacular coastal mountain scenery. The tour leaves from Smithers.
  • Coming soon… New Zealand and Australia.

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