“When you’re worried about taking a perfect photo, you can’t really be in the moment,” says Alahn Gacitua, Photo Experience Manager at the Banff Gondola. “That’s where we come in.”
Alahn and his team are the resident photographers at the Banff Gondola. They have grown what was once a single souvenir photo retail opportunity into a unique business that helps guests capture the magic of their visit to the summit of Sulphur Mountain.
“The photo experience team really started to grow when we came up with the concept of a ‘roaming photographer,’” Alahn says. On any given day, the roaming photographers can be found setting up guest photos on the observation deck, guiding a photographic journey through the night sky during Stargazing, or snapping shots of seasonal events like hay bale bowling at Harvest Festival or visits with Santa Claus at Mountaintop Christmas.
For Alahn, the answer is a definite "yes". Originally from Chile, he worked in videography and photography before joining the Banff Gondola photo team almost two years ago. The diverse background of the photo team is one of the elements that gives them something special to offer to guests.
“We don’t just hire professional photographers” he says, noting that prior knowledge is no match for interest and enthusiasm. “We hire photo enthusiasts. They have a different kind of energy—they are excited to be learning alongside our guests, to be part of their memories and create a true experience.”
In these ongoing connections with guests, the photo team found that many people were interested in what else the photo team was capturing on their adventures in the area. Alahn and his team decided to launch a totally new initiative which has come to be known as the “Banff Gondola Photo Gallery.”
“Every three months, our photographers submit iconic images from around the Rockies,” explains Alahn. The leadership team gets to vote on their top choices, and those images are displayed for sale at two gallery locations in the Gondola’s upper terminal. These photos, of local places taken by local photographers, are being snapped up by guests. Just last month, the photo team sold close to 100 images from their gallery.
In an era of selfies and social media madness, it’s almost surprising that the roaming photographers and photo gallery have been so successful. This has been one of the most intriguing parts of the journey for Alahn.
“It can be difficult to do what we do when so many people have high quality cameras,” he says. “So it’s been really interesting to see how we can still offer something they don’t have.”
For the roaming photographers, this unique offering is group photos. “It’s not easy to take a selfie with your entire family,” says Alahn. When large families make the trip up the Gondola, it might be an experience they only have once. The photo team helps them to create a tangible memory of their loved ones, with the splendour of the Rocky Mountains surrounding them.
The team also thrives on sharing photography tips with guests who do come equipped with their own cameras, but perhaps not with the knowledge to make the most of them. For Alahn, the most rewarding moments are when a guest leaves having learned how to capture something they couldn’t before.
“It’s really nice for us, having a guest come to stargazing that doesn’t know how to take a manual photograph, and by the end of the night they can,” he says.
“That’s the service we provide,” he says. “You know, some people who come to the Rockies, they never even see the landscape through their own eyes. If we can help them to worry less about taking good photos…then they can really be here.”
Visit the Gondola's Photo Team on your next trip up the Gondola.