Our Visitor’s Guide contributing professional photographers share their top picks and tips to help you capture memorable images during your visit to the Acadian region of Chéticamp.
Prepared by Michel Soucy et Roman Buchhofer.
For landscape and scenery, a wide angle zoom is essential to get as much into the viewfinder as possible. Taken from aboard a whale touring boat as we were returning. The end of September at 6:30 pm, the sun was low in the sky and I grabbed one of the two setups I had with me, a Canon 6D with a 70-200L 2.8 IS 2. ISO was at 400 which allowed a shutter speed of 1/320sec at 2.8 from a moving boat. A little tweaking in post (Lightroom and PSCS6). White balance is AWB to be ready for the quickly changing conditions. – M. Soucy
Winter is beautiful here in Chéticamp. If you happen to be close to Cape Breton Island, take a drive around the Cabot Trail if the conditions are good and you will be in for a surprise. – R. Buchhofer
The south end of Cheticamp Island offers good sighting opportunities for bald eagles and sea birds. Canon 6D, 600mm (300+2xTC), ISO 400, 1/500sec, f5.6. You can walk up the road that leads to and around the communication tower (if your vehicle allows). You can also walk around the southern tip, a longer walk but some great landscape pix can also be had. Be extremely careful at the edges due to the erosion. – M. Soucy
Sunsets are pretty amazing on this side of the island. But don’t miss out on watching the sun come up over the mountains! – R. Buchhofer
Best times to capture moose are two hours before sunset between the Skyline Trail and MacKenzie Mountain. Drive carefully examining each side of the road and keep a safe distance. Shot handheld despite the slow shutter speed, taken with a Canon 70-200L 208 IS 2 mounted on a 6D at about 7:30pm in early September, ISO is 800, 1/25sec at f2.8 and is cropped. Distance is apprx 50ft. Trout Brook has been great for moose during the last 2 hours of daylight. This is West facing, shot from the shoulder of the road, again, care must be taken for vehicular traffic. – M. Soucy
Bring a sturdy tripod so you can use slower shutter speeds. Use a lens hood to avoid lens flare and also ocean spray hitting the glass of your lens on a windy day. – R. Buchhofer
White Point - It is off the Cabot Trail so most people never get to see it, easily found and does not take that much extra time when you’re driving the trail. Walking to the tip of this little outcrop is highly recommended. It’s a beautiful view. The scenery is unique to Cape Breton. Try to watch the sunset if you can. Bring a wide angle lens, your tripod and enjoy the view. – R. Buchhofer
Cape Clear - This is for the more adventurous people. But it is truly one of the nicest views on Cape Breton Island. It’s a very high look off point. To get to this place it’s best to have a 4x4 drive but you can take a car. The last section of it would be best to be avoided by car, because you can scrape some big rocks. It’s dirt and gravel road for about 45 min. each way for this drive. Total driving time – 3 hours from Cheticamp. Make sure you have a full tank of gas and a spare tire and let someone know where you are going, this area has almost no cell coverage. Keep your pets on a leash because of the cliffs. The view is absolutely breathtaking. Bring a tripod, a wide-angle lens and if you can try to catch the sunset. – R. Buchhofer
The two following images were captured in the swamp area at the South end of Cheticamp Harbour. On sunny days, early in the morning provides the best light from the dirt road that runs from the bridge to Cheticamp Island Road. – M. Soucy
Cape Breton Weather and Lighting Conditions
The weather on Cape Breton Island is very dramatic. It often changes very quickly and creates a lot of interesting lighting conditions. When you look at the forecast and they are predicting strong southeast winds, it often means a beautiful sunset the day before and/or a gorgeous sunrise the day of. It also tends to create a very clear night. So if you want to capture some images of the stars, these are often the days to look for. – RB
Sunrises and Sunsets
We have the sun setting over the gulf on this side of the island. But if you’re up for seeing a beautiful sunrise over the ocean you should drive over to the Ingonish area early in the morning. If you leave Cheticamp early enough you can catch an impressive scene. Meat Cove is also a beautiful place to see the sun rise and take in distant Saint Paul’s island on a clear day. – RB
For capturing sunrises and sunsets, be at your destination about 1.5 hours before the time of sunrise/sunset. This way you have enough time to really figure out your composition and getting the best light. – RB
Seasonal and Shorelines
You need to be very careful when getting close to the ocean and stand on rocks. It’s easy to misjudge waves on a windy day and slip on wet rocks. There have been a lot of injuries in Nova Scotia with people trying to take photographs of crashing waves. So be very careful. – RB
If you are here during the fall when the colours are at their peak, you are in for a real treat. To really capture the vivid colours of the leaves it’s often best to photograph in strong sunlight to make the colours pop. Sunset and sunrise are also going to give you some of the best results. – RB
If you happen to be on the Skyline Trail on a day with very good visibility you might be lucky enough to see the Madalen Islands in the distance. Sometimes you can even see whales from the Skyline so take a good look at the ocean. – RB
Safety and Precautions
Do not feed or try to approach the wildlife!! They are just that, WILD-life. – MS
Do not leave/park your vehicle on the roadway, and please don’t block driveways. – MS
When looking for photo opportunities and need to pull over, always throw your hazards lights on, make sure you're not blocking traffic and you are off the road. If there’s not enough room on the shoulder, don’t stop. Always pay special attention to the wildlife. Keep close to your vehicle, if you feel some uneasiness, back away. If you get too close, one of two things will happen, the animal will run off or will charge at you. The latter is more likely what will happen if there’s a calf near mama moose!! – MS
If it rains, bring rain gear for you and your equipment, or go with architectural church interior shots. – MS
Keep an ultra-fine micro-fibre cloth handy, found at most camera shops, I use it to clean lenses, filters, wipe moisture or salt-spray off equipment. Be gentle on the lenses. – MS
Do not forget: Batteries, charger, laptop/notebook for back ups with an external drive. There are also a number of Memory Card Backup devices available, do a bit of research and find something that suits your needs. – MS
If you need directions to reach your destination, visit a local visitor information centre before leaving on your excursion.
There are a lot of great photo opportunities in Cheticamp and within a short drive as well, here are some favourites:
The best time to photograph moose is 2 hours before sunset between the Skyline Trail, French Lake, The Bog, Benjies Lake up to MacKenzie Mountain. Drive carefully watching the ditches on each side of the road; they will dart out quickly! A 70-200 2.8 and a 300 2.8 lens allows great pix from a safe distance. A tripod/monopod will help with low light situations. – MS
The stretch between the park entrance (Cheticamp side) and La Grand Falaise will sometimes have black bears foraging for berries. A lens longer than 200mm is needed for safe photo ops. – MS
The South end of Cheticamp Island offers good opportunity for Bald Eagles and sea birds. Lots of erosion in the area, care must be taken. – MS
Any of the Whale Watching tours. Pleasant Bay tends to be more productive for the larger species. Cheticamp tours have fantastic sunsets on the return trips. – MS
Enragee Point Lighthouse on the north side of Cheticamp Island, watch for the cows as you drive out. – MS
The harbour area during sunset with the boats tied at the wharf, La Bloc in the park or from any one of the look offs after entering the Cheticamp side of the park. – MS
Some animals/birds are more skittish than others. If possible, stand downwind to avoid your scent being picked up and move slowly. “Be respectful”, wildlife do get scared/intimidated and know when to back away, even if it means not getting that perfect shot. – MS
Belle Cote & Margaree Harbour - Beautiful scenery. Margaree Harbour Beach & Belle Cote Beach are great spots to watch the sun set. – RB
Now retired, I live in Cheticamp year-round with my wife. Pursuing nature, seascapes, & wildlife photography is a passion. My work sells on the web internationally, as well as in local shops & a gallery. The wildlife is abundant & the sunsets spectacular. See more of my work at www.michelsoucy.com
I’m a wedding and landscape photographer living in Cheticamp. This passion started out with just landscape photography and it’s because of this beautiful place I am lucky enough to call home. My work is featured in several galleries across Nova Scotia. You can see my photography at www.romanbuchhofer.com
Enjoy your visit, have a great time and keep it safe!
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