"Where In Ottawa" is a blog series featuring the best locations to have for your wedding or engagement photo sessions. For each post of this series, we will pick a spot, outline some of the highlights and challenges using the location, and show some photos we have shot for inspiration!
When couples think of a location for their engagement session in Ottawa, the Canada War Museum is not always the most obvious choice. Afterall, it is tough to imagine getting photos taken - which are meant to show off your love and commitment - in a backdrop of war. But the Museum offers many fantastic photo opportunities, primarily because of its unique architecture, which includes straight and symmetrical lines and a green roof spanning 10,684 square metres (the largest of its kind in North America). It also houses warplanes, which can definitely add a cool factor to your wedding reception.
BUT FIRST, its history: The Canadian War Museum has had various iterations since its establishment in 1880. Before its move to its current location at the LeBreton Flats, the Musem's collection of military artefacts were housed in the Cartier Square and later the Public Archives of Canada. Due to the increasing size of its collections, the Museum was moved to its current spot in May 2005. The Museum's goal is to "promote understanding of Canada's military history in its personal, national and international dimension. The Museum's collections include rare vehicles, artillery, uniforms, medals, works of art, and visual and audio recordings.
1. Free lobby shots!
We've noted in past blogs that most museums in Ottawa charge a fee to take engagement or wedding photos inside. The Canadian Nature Museum, for instance, charges $100; the Civilization Museum charges $80; National Art Gallery charges a little more than $300 (last time I checked). While we strongly encourage you to pay and visit the Museum on your free time (and as many would point out, a donation is highly encouraged) there are parts of the War Museum that are accessible to the public free of charge. Most of the really interesting architectural features of the building you can access without necessarily seeing the exhibits. The lobby, for example, can be used by the public for free as well as the Museum grounds. In the lobby, where we took many of the photos shown below, you can literally spend an entire hour there with your photographer. The lobby also has a sunroof, which adds a bit of moody lighting against the concrete walls. Outside, you can use the exterior of the building as your textured background; and if it open, you and your photographer can access the green-roof to gain some height and take photos overlooking Parliament Hill.
2. Cool Factor
If you want access to the warplanes, or incorporate some of the exhibits in your engagement photos, you will definitely have to pay the entrance fee for all the people involved in the shoot - usually the couple and the photographer; more if you include the wedding party! Of course, paying also means you'll have the opportunity to have your photos taken with rare war vehicles inside, including tanks to warplanes. It is best to evaluate what you want from your engagement or wedding photos before deciding that you need to have the planes in the backdrop! For the engagement photos shown below, we mainly stayed in the lobby area as we wanted to showcase less of the war aspect of the Museum and more of the architecture. The fantastic thing about the Museum is that you can go minimal with no visually distracting elements or go all out with incorporating the museum's exhibits! Note, the War Museum is not the same as the Aviation Museum.
3. Not busy at all
For whatever reason, the War Museum is not often very busy. There are times, usually early and late afternoon, where students on field trips would crowd the lobby area as they enter or leave in groups, but for the most part, the Museum is super quiet. This is definitely a plus for relatively shy couples who want to have their engagement photos taken in public, but are a bit nervous with all the bystanders watching them - a perfect training space for introverted couples. The quietness of the museum is also great for having really moody or minimalist types of engagement photos, not just for the visual component, but for setting the mood, too!
The Not so Good
1. Not for the light and airy
If you want light and airly engagement photos, the War Museum is likely not for you, and this not necessarily a bad thing! As mentioned above, the textures of the concrete walls, the deep shadows of the lobby, and the dark colours of the roof lend to a moodier style of photos. This is perfect for us at Mocha Tree Studios because that is our style, but it is definitely not for everyone. Even producing fun or light-hearted looks in your photos might be a bit challenging here given the context of the Museum, but also the minimalist visual elements does not really lend to that type of scene. Though, I would say that if I can take photos with warplanes or tank, I would probably have a massive smile on my face!!
2. It can definitely get dull
Having concrete walls as your backdrop for all your engagement photos can definitely get dull. Make sure that your photographer plan on having different types of scenes for you and your fiance. For Nataly and Olivier's pictures shown below, we made sure that they get a variety of scenes to mix it up a bit. For instance, we found a bit of greenery around the corner of the museum entrance to add a bit of nature in their photos. We also utilised the glass panels of the museum, which contrasts the concrete walls but still in keeping with the theme or mood of the engagement photos.