Travel With Photographers: Justine Russo

We travelled to Moraine Lake in Banff National Park for 5 days over Canada Day and saw the annual parade in the Banff Village. We drove with our two kids for 10 hours, which as you can imagine was LOUD, chaotic but so much fun! It was their first time to Banff so I was so excited to show them one of my favourite places. We stayed at an Airbnb in Cochrane which is about a 45 minute drive from Banff. It was amazing! I highly recommend using Airbnb. It's a bit cheaper than staying right in Banff if you don't mind the drive and we saved by making our own meals. (With picky kids, this helped a lot.)
The first day we explored Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake. We had a picnic lunch on the beach at Minnewanka before heading into Lake Louise. We went to the Banff Village to celebrate in the Canada Day festivities in a sea of red and white decorations. We enjoyed so much good food, activities and a market. We tried our first BeaverTails and enjoyed ice cream waiting for the parade to start. The parade was one of the best we've ever seen! It was so patriotic and the floats were amazing.
The second day we took a bit slower. We took the Bow Valley Parkway which is much more scenic and not as busy as the main highway through Banff. Usually there's a higher chance of wildlife sightings as well, but we didn't see any this trip! We stopped at a few scenic pullouts along the way....Castle Mountain, and a few Bow River Lookouts. We arrived at Lake Louise around 4pm. It is so busy in the summertime, but the later afternoon it starts to die down so we had no issues finding parking and getting a good spot to view the lake!
 From there we headed to Moraine Lake, where I was meeting a couple to photograph a surprise proposal! We explored around the lake for a bit and stopped to have some snacks while we waited for the couple to arrive. They arrived just before sunset and I captured their romantic proposal looking over Moraine Lake!
Stop everywhere that looks interesting! Almost every exit off the highway in Banff has beautiful scenic spots. Don't just stop at the more well known areas. There are so many hidden gems that can be found by taking it slow and exploring. Plan for crowds, especially if you go during the summer and on a weekend. Early morning or late afternoon/dinner time is the best time to visit and it's much easier to find parking.
The best time to go to Moraine Lake in my experience is when the highway first opens in late May, early June. The mountains are still heavily snowy and if you go later in the day you can have the entire lake to yourself. The one time I visited around that time there was only two cars in the parking lot, compared to the overflowing parking lot and closed road in, we experienced this July!
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Specialize and put it out there. When I first started photography, I always dreamed of being able to travel with it, but it seemed like something that was so out of reach and I had no idea how to get there. I took a leap of faith and signed up for business coaching a few years ago and redid my branding to focus more on my ideal clients. I dreamed of shooting all across BC and Canada and maybe even one day Europe.  
The coaching taught me to build a brand that focused on what made me happy. That publicly put out my beliefs, and how I viewed life. The goal was to attract like minded clients. Since then I have booked weddings, engagements and couples sessions across Canada and I booked my first Italy wedding this September and I have never been happier! I market to adventurous and vibrant couples who believe in pushing the boundaries of their lives while at the same time slowing down to take it all in and really be in the moment. I believe our most sentimental moments happen then, the ones we remember for years and hold close to our hearts.
I have met so many like minded couples and I love that they trust me and bring me to their favourite places to explore and be fully invested in their relationship and to document who they are together at that moment. It's the most amazing thing to be a part of!
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3 Day Itinerary
Day 1 -
Stay at an Airbnb in Calgary or Cochrane. Get up early have breakfast and head to Banff!

It's about a 45 minute drive in. If you are feeling up for a hike stop at the Grassi Lakes hike just outside Canmore. It’s stunning and not too long, about 45 minutes up.The colours of the two lakes are phenomenal! It looks like someone dumped in a huge container of blue kool aid mix.
From there head to Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake. Perfect for a picnic or a quick swim. There's boat tours of Minnewanka as well if you wanted to explore it from a different vantage point.  
From Lake Minnwanka, take the Bow Valley Parkway off the main highway as it's much more scenic and there's a higher chance of seeing wildlife, especially in the spring.
Be sure to pull over and take in Castle Mountain. If you're feeling up to another hike, check out Johnston Canyon.
End the day in Banff Village. There's a HUGE selection of restaurants and hotels, although my pick would be the Banff Springs.   
Day 2 -

Wake up and enjoy breakfast in Banff. There are too many selections to list, but a Beaver Tail makes the best vacation breakfast in my opinion.
Head up to Lake Louise and rent a canoe. Enjoy the sites and canoe out to the glacier to see it up close!
Then head to Moraine Lake. It's just down the road from Louise and it amazes me how many people drive right by without taking the short 12-15 minute drive up. To me the views are even more stunning and the lake is an equally gorgeous, although entirely different shade of blue. You can also rent canoes here, and if you're in for a slower day and a fancier dinner the restaurant and lodge at Moraine Lake are incredible!
If you chose to continue on and have a longer day, head up to Peyto and Bow Lake. Their views are stunning and are favorite stops for many Banff explorers!
From there I would book into the Glacier View Inn up in the Columbia IceFields to be nice and close the next morning for a full days exploration there. 
Day 3 -

Enjoy breakfast right at the Glacier View Inn with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
From there I would get tickets for the Columbia Ice fields Glacier Adventure. It takes you out on an ice explorer right out to the Athabasca Glacier and you can fill up your water bottles with fresh glacier water! The finale of the tour is a walk on the cliff walk which is a glass walk way over a 918 foot drop and stunning views.
From there the rest of Jasper National Park is yours to explore. There are so many sites to chose from and many I have yet to explore myself. Maligne Canyon, Miette Hot springs, Sunwapta Falls, Pyramid Lake and many more!



migrated_Desktop0013_medium.jpgv1479933429I am Justine! A sentimental wedding photographer for adventurous and vibrant couples. I believe when we push the boundaries of our lives and dare to slow down and take it all in, we experience our most sentimental moments. I photograph couples all across BC and Canada and specialize in anything mountain related! I believe being festive is a lifestyle choice and one we must fully commit to, and that hugs should never be half-assed. I believe there's always an excuse for wine, and if you take the time to bake cookies you get to eat the first dozen as a reward, no questions asked!

 To view more of Justine's work, visit her here.

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