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Award-winning photographer’s top 5 destinations you must see

Roland Bastarache is a guy on the move. One week, he’s in Ireland shooting iconic Harry Potter locations. Another week, he’s traipsing around France, lunching in cute bistros.

When CAA Magazine caught up with him at his Ottawa home, the noted travel photographer had just returned from one trip and was packing for another. It’s a hectic life that started several years ago when he transitioned from working in child protection services – and he’s never looked back.

“I started taking photos ten years ago on a break caused by burnout at work. I had a point-and-shoot camera, but people started making comments and I found a mentor who helped me develop,” he says.

“Along the way, I started picking up clients, fell in love with travel and realized it was my next career. It’s not what people think – there are 14-hour days, sleeping in airports, food on the run – but there are perks.”

Roland Bastarche
Roland Bastarche

Known in travel photography for using long exposures to create unique images, Roland recently won the Travel Media Association of Canada’s Gold Medal prize for a stunning image of Mont-Saint-Michel in the Normandy region of France. He also took second place for a series of comedic images of puffins in Newfoundland.

And while Roland admits that he still has many places he has yet to visit on his bucket list, like South America and Africa, there are a few favourites he loves to return to as often as possible.

Rural France

Roland Bastarche
Roland Bastarche

Despite doing shoots in romantic Paris and ancient Lyon, Roland’s heart belongs to rural France. Dotted with centuries-old farmhouses hewn from local stone, rural France’s slower pace of life and the sense of bucolic peace deeply appeal to him.  

Most recently, he and his daughter trekked up the Normandy coast to Mont-Saint-Michel, a tidal island which has been occupied since prehistoric times but is best known for Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey. Started in the 10th-century and completed in 1523, the monastery was always inaccessible at high tide, although there is now a bridge between it and the mainland. For his Gold Medal shot, Roland positioned himself far enough away from the island to capture it all with a long, 3-minute exposure.  

“It was a bucket list item. I wanted the higher tides but didn’t get them. So that just means I’ll have to go back again!” 

Roland’s travel tip: Get an inexpensive hotel inside the gated area on the mainland to capture the sunrise and sunset.  

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Roland Bastarche
Roland Bastarche

Roland first visited the majestic Cliffs of Moher in Ireland’s County Clare a decade ago but returned recently to get a different view. The first time, he photographed the location from atop the shale and sandstone promontory, which is accessible by the 18-kilometre Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk. On his second visit, he boarded a boat with 200 sightseers eager to see where Dumbledore and Harry Potter faced peril in the film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Although there were no wizards around, Roland says the coast of Ireland is magical in itself.  

“I wanted to make memories this time, so we went to a pub in Dublin, sat down and enjoyed the quality of life. The Irish way of life is about food, music and having a good time.” 

Roland’s travel tip: “I encourage everyone to go to Ireland. Just please go. I spent the night in a small cottage on the Aran Islands, visited a goat farm, tried the local cheeses and felt at home.” 

County Cork, Ireland

Roland Bastarche
Roland Bastarche

Although he’s always wanted to photograph the northern lights, Roland has ironically never witnessed them in Canada. During Mother Nature’s massive, international northern lights display in 2024, Roland headed to County Cork, where he set up his camera on his hotel patio.  

“During the northern lights event, friends of mine were posting in Canada, getting ready for it, but in Ireland, the show had already started. There was no sound, it was very quiet…and it made the dancing of the lights even more impressive. I kept thinking, ‘how luck am I to have this moment’, it was like sitting in a movie theatre.” 

Roland’s travel tip: While in the county, visit the Jamieson Midleton Distillery in Midelton for an exceptional education in whiskey and history. Although Roland isn’t a whiskey drinker, he said the company’s story was entrancing – as was the small bottle of $50,000, 30-year-old whiskey he spotted in their rare bottles vault.  

Lake Louise, Alberta

Roland Bastarche
Roland Bastarche

Easily the most recognisable and visually arresting lake in Canada, if not the world, Lake Louise has been photographed by millions of people eager to capture its unique beauty. It’s one of the most visited destinations in the country and offers extensive hiking trails around the mountain water lake.  

Thousands of tourists aside, Roland also had to battle a steady drizzle on his visit, which frustrated his attempts to capture the renowned blue waters. Instead, he sat in the rain to capture his image.  

“What makes it so iconic is the view. It’s so peaceful. When I go to the mountains, to Lake Louise, to Moraine Lake or Jasper, I come out feeling very Zen,” he says.  

Roland’s travel tip: Dress in layers. Even in the summer, mountain weather can be capricious and deliver heat, rain, sleet and snow in a single day.  

Elliston, Newfoundland and Labrador

Roland Bastarche

Three hours from St. John’s at the tip of the Bonavista Peninsula, Elliston is home to a beautiful sandy beach and 20,000 Atlantic puffins. Nesting pairs dot the rocky outcrops and hide in the long grass, making them amongst the most comical birds to photograph.  

For his submission to the travel media awards, Roland sent in a series of photographs that seemed to capture a dynamic conversation amongst the birds. Beyond the rugged and wild landscape and the puffins, which approach visitors without fear, Roland says Newfoundland is all about the human locals.  

“What is it about Newfoundland? The people, the people and the people. They accept anyone who comes into their lives. I don’t know if the salt air does something to you, but when I’m there, I’m on a happy nature pill. I have been four times and I’m already planning my next visit.” 

Roland’s travel tip: If birds and whales aren’t on your agenda, Newfoundland’s capital city and the Avalon Peninsula are worth exploring at leisure. Not only is it the oldest English-founded city in North America, but it is home to George Street, a bustling restaurant and bar district usually reserved for pedestrians on busy nights.  

Interested in visiting Roland’s top picks? Visit a CAA Store and get one of our experienced CAA Travel Consultants to plan your trip, call 1-800-705-1803 or book an appointment online 

And while you’re there, don’t forget travel insurance. CAA Members save up to 20%* on policies. Not a Member? Join now, starting from just $30 a year plus tax.  

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