Vantage Point: Calgary Tower

While pondering how to interpret the Point of View theme for PJ’s monthly photo blogging challenge, I thought of a way to extend a helping hand to shutterbugs visiting Calgary. The idea? An informal guide to some of the best vantage points for photographing iconic landmarks in Calgary. Assuming this post goes over well, future similar posts could cover the Centre Street Bridge, the Bow Building/Wonderland, the Peace Bridge, the metal tree sculptures on Stephen Avenue, etc.

Why kick things off with the Calgary Tower? A few reasons:

  • It was constructed as part of Canada’s centennial celebrations in 1967 and since we’re celebrating Canada’s sesquicentennial this year, it’s top of mind.
  • According to TripAdvisor, it’s the 2nd highest rated sight/attraction in Calgary (for curious minds, Heritage Park gets the highest rating).
  • Despite never heading out to photograph the Calgary Tower in particular, I have photographed it from many different standpoints over the past several years, so a minimal investment of time and energy rounded out an already fairly diverse set of photos.

Nearby Vantage Points

Observation Deck

Paid admission grants access to the Calgary Tower’s observation deck, including a section of glass floor, so you can frame the tower looking straight down. The glass floor section is on the north elevation, the shaded side of the tower at midday. If you’re up there when vehicle lights are clearly visible and it isn’t too busy, it might be interesting to try a long exposure showing light trails from the vehicles down below on 9th Avenue. I timed this camera phone shot for when most traffic was stopped at nearby lights and got lucky with the taxi queue and school bus adding a splash of bright colour at street level.

Calgary Tower

The observation deck also grants a bit of a different perspective of Calgary’s downtown and beltline neighbourhoods; this post will give you a good idea of the view. By the way, if you order an entree at the Sky360 Restaurant, your ride up the elevator and admission to the observation deck are covered. I opted for the fixed price, 3-course lunch menu the last time I visited.

Street Level

Standing on 9th Avenue and shooting waaaay up is definitely an option, especially if there’s an interesting sky at the time. The LED lighting on the exterior is switched on from dusk to midnight and 5 am until sunrise; check the lighting schedule so you’ll have some sense of what colours to expect. It’s hard to come away with a sharp night photo unless you bring a tripod or find a utility box, fence, bench or something similar to hold your camera steady while the shutter’s open.


Other nearby street level locations for photographing the Calgary Tower include a few blocks in either direction along Centre Street, Olympic Plaza and Central Memorial Park. The reflection is in a puddle on the sidewalk along Centre Street between 6th and 7th Avenues and the one with the Red Ball Project is from Canada Day 2017 at Olympic Plaza.


Centre Street Bridge

The sidewalks on either side of the Centre Street Bridge over the Bow River have a couple of wide spots. Whether originally intended for use by photographers, they’re a good option if you want to shoot “the lion, the bridge and the tower”. Both wide and telephoto can work here.

Walk far enough across the bridge to access the stairs down to the Bow River Pathway adds the potential for reflections off the water.


More Distant Perspectives

East of Downtown

Head to Fort Calgary to include some nature in your foreground. Depending on the time of year, your composition might include a snow-covered field, green grass, Canada geese or a strange and wonderful creature like the Saturnian. This is also a great spot to play with forced perspectives.


Those willing to walk another 20 or 30 minutes should plan to reach to Scotsman’s Hill or the overlook a little further south along 6th Street SE in Ramsay in time to catch the sun going down behind the city skyline. Daytime shots from this area during the Calgary Stampede can also be interesting, while large crowds and busy streets/parking add to the challenge of night photography from these vantage points during Stampede.


West of Downtown

One walking distance options is the top of the stairs at the east end of the Sunalta LRT station and the attached pedestrian overpass across to the Greyhound bus depot. This also a spot to try if you want to include a CP Rail train in your composition.

A second option is to head west along the Bow River Pathway on the south bank of the Bow River and ascend the path that connects to the end of 24th Street SW. There’s a little overlook that has just enough room for a couple of photographers to set up tripods and capture long exposure light trails and – if you’re lucky – the Olympic flame atop the Calgary Tower!


Final Thoughts

Other vantage points for photographing the Calgary Tower can be found south of downtown and in the suburbs. For example, Calgary Tower is visible from pathways in South Glenmore Park. A telephoto lens to compress distances is interesting to work with from vantage points in west Calgary; consider using The Photographer’s Ephemeris to assess whether sunrise/moonrise elements make a trip to the ‘burbs worthwhile. Someday I would also like to photograph inside the guts of Calgary Tower – the basement and the stairwell.

Do you know another great location or have some other suggestion for how to make a great photograph of the Calgary Tower? If so, please share by leaving a comment. Recommendations for future Vantage Point subjects are also welcome. Thanks! 

2 thoughts on “Vantage Point: Calgary Tower

  1. Mandy

    Wow…. awesome post! Love the photos. I have a spot for you… It is beside the Repsol Centre. I will email it to you. Cheers!

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