Photo Notes: Fairy Lake Bonsai Tree on Vancouver Island

Learn how to locate and photograph the Fairy Lake Bonsai Tree on Vancouver Island like a professional photographer.

Some might say this is the most photographed tree in the world, and it’s easy to see why it draws so much attention from photographers. Located in Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, this “Bonsai Tree” is actually a tiny Douglas Fir attached to a bigger, submerged Douglas Fir that’s dead. It’s quite a relaxing environment, and easily accessed from the road that passes right by.

GPS Coordinates

48.588914, -124.348457

I’d recommend bringing a super-telephoto lens to capture the exact shot above. A lens between 250mm to 400mm will allow you to isolate the tree from the background, and here I used 280mm. Going wider, you’ll be able to capture more of the surrounding landscape. However the tree is pretty small, so it will certainly look much smaller in the frame.

Time To Shoot

This location is best at sunrise. As the sunlight spills over the peaks of the surrounding trees, it illuminates the Fairy Tree’s leaves and branches.


This is quite an easy location to access by car and is only 5 miles from the nearest town of Port Renfrew. There is a two lane road that passes by the lake, with enough room for a couple of vehicles to pull off on the side. From the road, you’ll want to walk around the lake to find your composition spot.


Composing this image works well for landscape or portrait orientation. The biggest thing to keep in mind when framing up the shot, is the reflection of the tree in the water. When finding where to set up your tripod, most will choose to stand close to the road and shoot downwards on the tree. This helps provide more lake above the tree in the shot, rather than capturing the bank and forest in the background.

If you’re looking to capture the tree in its surrounding environment, then I’d encourage you to bring your waterproof boots and waders. This is because you’ll want to stand just a few feet in the lake. You’ll be more parallel to the tree, compared to shooting from the road, and the tree-line in the background will be nicely positioned in your frame.

Nearby Camping

The nearby town of Port Renfrew has a number of places to stay:

There is also a campground on Fairy Lake. It’s best to check British Columbia’s recreation site for more information.

Things to Keep in Mind

In the mornings there are birds that swim on the lake. If you’re lucky, you just might capture one swimming by the tree.

This tree is fantastic to shoot in most seasons, especially in the colder months where you can capture steam coming off the lake and being backlit by the morning sun.

You’ll need to rent a car to be able to get to this location. In Port Renfrew there is only one gas station, and you can only get gas when the store is open so plan accordingly!