Imagine a city out here on the literal edge of North America—the far east of the western world! Dramatic weather patterns, cultural attractions, historic sites and rugged coastline. St. John’s really does have the photographic wow factor!
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting photographers from all corners of the globe over the years. We all see the world a little differently, regardless of our favourite lens. Wide angle, telephoto or macro, you’ll want a variety of lenses to capture all that St. John’s has to offer. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a pro photographer or weekend hobbyist, when visiting St. John’s don’t forget extra batteries and memory cards—you’ll need them.
From sunrise to sunset, this is the best of St. John’s through the lens.
Standing atop the cliffs of Cape Spear, high above the ocean photographing sunrise at the most easterly point of land, is a bucket list moment for many.
A sturdy tripod and wide angle lens will come in handy if you hope to capture the sunrise and lighthouse in the same image. Using a Grad ND filter would help tone down the brighter sky, and setting white balance to cloudy or shade will help warm the sunrise colours.
There’s still plenty to photograph at Cape Spear during the golden hour of light. One of my favourite areas to capture the warm reflected sunlight is next to the original lighthouse. Using a wide angle lens allows you to use the white picket fence as a leading line to help direct the viewer’s eye to the modern day lighthouse.
Of course, the stormy days at Cape Spear are equally impressive. Grab your wet weather gear and camera protection and get ready for incredible ocean action.
Insider tip: It can be crowded at Cape Spear for sunrise during summer months. Photograph during the shoulder seasons of early spring or late fall to avoid the crowds.
It’s been said that if the end of a rainbow had a street address, you’d find it at Jelly Bean Row.
With so many quirky colour combinations and being just as colourful as the characters that live in them, Jelly Bean Row in downtown St. John’s offers endless photo opportunities. I often challenge my guests to focus on the architectural shapes and colours instead of the wider street views.
Another favourite challenge is to select your favourite colour or colour combination and more than likely you’ll find it. My favourite time to photograph Jelly Bean Row is after a fresh snowfall, the perfect time to try a winter panorama.
Insider Tips: Jelly Bean Row is more of a description than an actual street address. These colourful homes are located throughout the downtown area. I find wide angle and telephoto zoom lens to be more convenient than prime lenses when photographing Jelly Bean Row. Circular Polarizer will help reduce reflections in windows.
Next up is picturesque Quidi Vidi, a historic fishing village within a city! It’s small and easy to explore on foot with a wide variety of photo subjects. Some of the most popular include the fishing stages that huddle the rocky cliffs on the north side of the harbour—or “The Gut” as the locals say.
Stroll over to the slipway next to the Quidi Vidi Plantation to get up close with small fishing boats. Hard sunlight is a perfect time to photograph some abstract images that focus on shapes and colours.
Insider Tip: Parking is limited inside the village. For the more adventurous, the East Coast Trail on the north side of the harbour offers unique views of the village. A polarizing filter will help saturate the colours of the harbour and fishing stages. Wide angle and telephoto lens recommended.
The Outer Battery and Fort Amherst are among the oldest ‘neighbourhoods’ in town and essentially frame the entrance to St. John’s harbour known as “The Narrows.”
The Outer Battery is located at the base of Signal Hill and features tiny colourful homes that cling valiantly to the cliffs, while Fort Amherst, located on the south side of the narrows, is home to the site of the oldest lighthouse in the province.
If you’re feeling adventurous, hike the North Head Trail to capture panoramic views of Fort Amherst, the city, and Cabot Tower.
Insider Tip: It’s best to explore The Outer Battery on foot as parking is restricted to residents only. Ironically, some of the best views of Outer Battery are captured from Fort Amherst and the iconic views of Fort Amherst Lighthouse are captured from The Outer Battery side. Yes, the entrance to North Head Trail starts on the deck of a homeowner.
No photographic trip would be complete without a stop to the most iconic location in all of St. John’s. In addition to its significant military and communications history, Signal Hill offers some of the best panoramic views of the city.
One of my favourite areas on Signal Hill would be the Queen’s Battery, located just below Cabot Tower. The barracks date back to the 1800s and offer endless photographic possibilities, no matter where you look. The Queen’s Battery offers commanding views of the narrows, Cabot Tower, Cape Spear, Fort Amherst and St. John’s harbour, all from one location.
Feeling creative? The rock wall ruins at The Queen’s Battery inspire the use of leading lines and is the perfect location to experiment with light painting. As the sun slips towards the horizon, it’s time to move back up to Cabot Tower to capture the last light of day.
At the end of the day it’s time to finish on top. The very top of Signal Hill, an area known as “Ladies Lookout”, is a great spot to capture Cabot Tower and the city skyline at dusk.
Insider Tip: At 500 feet above sea level, it can be very windy at Cabot Tower. A sturdy tripod will be necessary for long exposure photos. In strong winds, it can be helpful to lower the height and attach a heavy camera bag from centre column of your tripod to help keep it steady.
Among TripAdvisor’s top 10 Things to Do in St. John’s. Experience our rugged coastline and capture striking images under the guidance of pro-photographer, Maurice Fitzgerald. Improve your creative and technical skills and learn more about the features of your camera (DSLR, point-and-shoot, smart phone). Tours are customized, based on where you want to go, what you want to photograph, and what you want to learn. Many prefer off-the-beaten-path locations they’d likely not find on their own. You can continue to follow Maurice at Far East Photography here: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter
Published: November 17, 2020