Author Archive

Stand off with a squirrel

Deck squirrel stand off - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5D III + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/200 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

This squirrel has been a resident in the trees behind our house for five years.  He’s feisty and acts like the backyard, our deck and everywhere else he travels is under his dominion.  In this encounter I had my feet up on the railing and he squared off staring at me.  It became pretty clear that he was impatiently waiting for me to put my feet down so he could pass.  I obliged, but snapped off a couple of frames before removing the barricade.  He chirped as he ran by and kept up the chatter as he climbed up a tree.  I thought a simple thank you would have sufficed!


Dark snow

Night snow - 2014 © Christopher Martin

A blizzard swept out of the mountains on the weekend.  The ground had been almost bare but winter felt everyone’s enthusiasm for spring was premature.  The snow fell through the night and in the morning there was almost a foot blanketing the grass, the trees and almost anything else that doesn’t move.  In the middle of the storm, I went outside to watch the snow and enjoy the sound of the huge flakes touching down and watching them tumble through the darkness.


Nesting owls near High River

Great Horned Owl - 2014 © Christopher Martin

A nest east of High River that I have watched for a few years is home to a new brood of Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) owlets again this spring.  I went on a backroad tour last weekend and when I saw the nest occupied I set up the long lens and watched the owl as it dozed.  I watched her shift her weight around a few times and hoped that there were nestlings who might want to peek out from under their feathery blanket.  It didn’t take too long for one and then two of these babies to have a look around.

2014 © Christopher Martin

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Owl and owlets - 2014 © Christopher Martin

On this latest visit, a fellow admirer told me that the nest has been used to raise owlets annually for over forty years.  I love that and it makes sense as the nest is in a great location with access to fields, shade, protection and seemingly all of the things that make for a good home.

Owl on guard - 2014 © Christopher Martin
A couple more photographs from the visit.

Fluffing up - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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A little peckish are we? - 2014 © Christopher Martin
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Aware of what's around - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Flight of a Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

There are large gatherings of swans on the prairie around Frank Lake  right now.  This area is on the migration path and I really enjoy getting to see these birds when they pass through.  This Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) was sharing a small flat of ice apart from a small group.  I watched them, and they watched me for a few minutes.

A curious pair - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Then they took their running launch to get into the sky.  Heading into a steady headwind, they seemed to gain altitude very quickly once they were airborne.

Running to take flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin-

Into the air - 2014 © Christopher Martin-

Tundra Swan flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin


A pigeon on the prairie

High River Pigeon - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/3200 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

I spent an afternoon on the prairie east of High River, birds are stocking up in the fields as they head north.  Swans, Pintails, Geese and a number of Bald Eagles were active in the sky.  At one grain bin where I saw a Kestrel streaking by, this pigeon proved less elusive.  Curiosity drew it out for a couple of quick looks.  In the direct sunlight I liked the iridescent purple on the throat.

Peeking Pigeon - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800


A blizzard at Elbow Falls

Elbow Falls - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 24-105mm lens at 65mm: 2.5 seconds at f/16 on ISO 200

I went back to Elbow Falls for the third time in the last couple of weeks.  With the snowstorm that blew in on the weekend, I was drawn back to see another face to the area.  Heavy snowflakes had piled up in the trees and across the rocks with more falling rapidly when I was up there.  A slip on the ice was my payment for passage but I liked the scene I slid into.  The falling snow gave the trees a charcoal sketched look while the rocks and water in the river had texture and character that seemed to suit black and white processing.


Raven flight

Raven flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 70-200mm lens at 200mm: 1/6400th of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I went out for a long walk in Kananaskis this morning.  Along an old road I hadn’t traveled on before, I was kept company by the heavy snow falling and a lone raven that croaked as I was returning to the trailhead.  I stopped for a few minutes and heard another raven further down the valley that was talking with “my” raven.  This one flew off in that direction and I carried on.


Elbow Falls in winter’s clothing again

Elbow Falls in winter's clothing - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 17-40mm lens at 17mm: 1/3rd of a second at f/16 on ISO 200

With fresh snow on the ground, I went back up to Elbow Falls to see how the valley would look in a return to winter clothing.  I was there only a week ago and the change, beyond the cold, was significant.  I love snow-covered landscapes so I found this visit to Kananaskis to be a very beautiful one.  I think spring is coming soon but when winter is this pretty, I don’t mind a little delay.

Early morning blues - 2014 © Christopher MartinThe blues before dawn…
Canon 5DIII + 17-40mm lens at 26mm: 3.2 seconds at f/11 on ISO 200
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2014 © Christopher MartinFirst light in the mountains
Canon 5DIII + 17-40mm lens at 25mm: 1.3 seconds at f/11 on ISO 50
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2014 © Christopher MartinSunshine into the mist
Canon 5DIII + 17-40mm lens at 17mm: 1/8th of a second at f/16 on ISO 50

 


Covering Shwe Dagon in gold

Gilding Shwe Dagon - © Christopher Martin-2895

The Shwedagon Zedi Daw is a nexus point for Myanmar’s Buddhists.  It’s history goes back more than 2600 years and it is an amazing place of humanity, faith and spirituality.  The main stupa is sheathed in gold foil as are many of the parapets and other buildings on the grounds.  I went there twice when I visited Myanmar in 2010 and think I could return many more times and always find new things catching my eye.  On my second visit, I watched these workers gilding a new, or maybe restored, tower.  It was a hot day and while one gentleman found a ball cap to be sufficient protection, the other preferred a more encompassing head cover.  This was detailed work and they were attentive to the task at hand.  I had to wait a little while until one of them looked up from the tower and glanced out over the crowds walking around Shew Dagon.


A Gila Woodpecker in Los Cabos

2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 70-200 lens and 1.4x extender at 280mm: 1/5000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 800

When my wife and I went to Cabo San Lucas last December I was lucky to find this Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) in a stand of cacti during a morning walk.  I had noticed the hole in this cactus and was looking on when this one flew in.  It poked its head out a couple of times before heading off again.  I carried on and saw it flying around a couple more times when I came back that way near the end of my stroll.


Elbow Falls Dipper

American Dipper - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I went up to Elbow Falls last weekend for the sunrise but I stayed for the American Dippers (Cinclus mexicanus).

Winter Dipper - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII + 70-200mm lens: 1/1000 of a second at f/8 on ISO 1000

I love watching these aquatically adept birds stalking, diving and swimming in the middle of the rapids.  On the last visit to the waterfall, there were three Dippers flitting about moving between the bottom of the waterfall and the rocks at the top.

Patience - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 4000

An uphill battle - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/1000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Splashing around - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/1250 of a second at f/4 on ISO 2500

They chased each other down river a couple of times but spent most of their time fishing alone.  On a quiet morning in Kananaskis, it was nice to spend my time watching them.

Dipper Portraiture - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Let's have a look - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600


A calm morning at Elbow Falls

First light above Elbow Falls - 2014 © Christopher Martin

I went up to Elbow Falls last weekend and ice-covered all but a sliver of the river and most of the waterfall too.  With the warm days since then, I wanted to see how this beautiful spot looked now.  Much of the snow and ice has melted, opening the waterway and showing another side of Kananaskis.  Spring may be around the corner.


Wind in the mountains

 Wind in the mountains - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/4000th of a second at f/11 on ISO 400

The winds that came with the weather change last weekend were heavy when I left my home in Bragg Creek for the Banff National Park in the morning.  When I got into the mountains, the Bow Valley was pretty calm but higher up on the slopes, the snow was blowing around in opaque sheets while the clouds raced by above.  Watching from the Vermillion Lakes shoreline, I was mesmerized by the view of Mount Rundle.  The sun catching the wispy snow drawn out over the slopes before fraying into the shadow as it flew over the cliffs was beautiful to watch.


A Winter Weasel

Stoat Alert - 2014 © Christopher Martin

This Ermine, a short-tailed weasel in its winter coat, was bounding in the snow hunting.  They are so quick that a sharp image can be a challenge.  The bright day and relatively uncluttered scene helped the auto focus and I nabbed a couple of shots before it skipped into deeper brush and out of sight.

Winter Weasel - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Three years ago, we had a weasel that set up for a couple of months in a woodpile in our backyard.  I haven’t seen one since then so it was great fun to have a short encounter again.

Snow bound - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Just pecking away

Picoides villosus - 2014 © Christopher Martin

One of our resident woodpeckers was drumming away for a good part of the afternoon a few days ago.  Several Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers have wintered near our home this year.

2014 © Christopher Martin

The long bill of the Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) was put to good use by this fellow.  He used it to his advantage pecking away at the bark.  I’m not sure if it was idle practice or if, despite the cool temperatures, there were insects to be had.

2014 © Christopher Martin

With warmer temperatures coming back this weekend, I hope to see them out pecking again.


Ice and Snow: lines and shadows

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The waves of mild temperatures then bitter cold that have been winter’s pattern this year have played havoc with the ice.

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Along the Elbow River the once smooth sheets of water frozen layer on layer, have buckled and split along the channel.

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The temperature went into free fall yesterday but the blue skies pulled me outside this morning. Near the edge of the ice down the Elbow I spent some time photographing the forms created by the blanket of snow, broken ice cover, and the long shadows of winter.

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Aurora Borealis over the Elbow River

Aurora over the Elbow - 2014 © Christopher MartinAurora over the Elbow
Canon 5DIII + 24mm f/1.4 lens: 2.5 seconds at f/1.6 on ISO 1600

The Northern Lights came to life over my home in Redwood Meadows a couple of nights ago.  I threw on some winter gear and walked down to the Elbow River with my camera and tripod.  The moon was waning but was close to full and lit up the snow and ice so my headlamp wasn’t needed.  I went out on the ice and watched the Aurora ripple across the northern quarter of the sky.  It was a cold and very late show.  And I loved it.

Note: Click on any photograph to open a higher resolution version of the image.

Aurora fire - 2014 © Christopher MartinNorthern Lights on ice
Canon 5DIII + 24mm f/1.4 lens: 1.6 seconds at f/2.5 on ISO 1600

 

Aurora Flare - 2014 © Christopher MartinAurora Flare
Canon 5DIII + 24mm f/1.4 lens: 4 seconds at f/2.5 on ISO 1600

The colors dimmed after an hour or so and I could barely make out the lights.  The camera could still resolve them and I liked the subtle color in one of the last images from the evening.

Fading Aurora - 2014 © Christopher MartinFading lights
Canon 5DIII + 24mm f/1.4 lens: 3.2 seconds at f/2 on ISO 1600

 

Searching for the Northern Lights - 2014 © Christopher MartinSearching for the Northern Lights
Canon 5DIII + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 24mm: 8 seconds at f/8 on ISO 1600


Great Blue Heron at Red Rock Crossing

Great Blue Heron in the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) I see are usually wading in the water or flying above it. When I was in Sedona I went down to Red Rock Crossing and was surprised to catch sight of one not by Oak Creek but in a field of tall grass a couple of hundred meters away from the water.

Heron under the red rocks - 2014 © Christopher Martin
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Down in the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The bird was walking on a path leading up towards a ridge but lingered fairly close which allowed me to change lenses for a couple of different looks.  I really love these birds and it was a treat to see one in an unusual environment.

Walking away - 2014 © Christopher Martin
I noticed some crimson flecks on its bill and when I left the bird and went back towards Oak Creek, I figured out why the Heron stayed nearby.  I realized I had interrupted its dinner.  I left the area and returned to the edge of the clearing an hour later to find it had left but not before returning to finish the meal.


Night Herons in Arizona

Out of the shadows - 2014 © Christopher Martin
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Among the tangles - 2014 © Christopher Martin

When we were in Sedona a couple of weeks ago, I drove to the Page Springs Sanctuary in search of birds to photograph.  Arizona is the winter home to many species that summer in Canada and I enjoyed seeing a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) during my visit to the river near the springs.

Heron's yawn - 2014 © Christopher Martin
It was mid-morning and they were not active.  They were perched over the river deep in the tangled branches of the huge trees.  This yawn was the most action that I saw while I watched them.  Didn’t bother me, they were great to see resting in this quiet forest.

Perched in shadow - 2014 © Christopher Martin
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A red eye in the trees - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Storms and light trails over Sedona

Storm over Sedona - 2014 © Christopher MartinStorm over Sedona
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 105mm: 1/13th of a second at f/11 on ISO 100

Rain has been a rare commodity in northern Arizona for the last couple of months.  When clouds started to roll in from the north while we were down there people were hopeful that they would drop some of their precipitation before moving on.  The rain did come eventually and the evening before I hiked along the airport trail to watch the storm’s approach.

Winter storm - 2014 © Christopher MartinWinter storm in Northern Arizona
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 65mm: 1/10th of a second at f/11 on ISO 100

I was content to watch the blues and greys in the sky deepen with night coming.  However, a break in the clouds to the west allowed for some color to break through and I turned my attention out over West Sedona’s forested cityscape.

West Sedona at night - 2014 © Christopher MartinWest Sedona at night
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 58mm: 2.5 seconds at f/11 on ISO 200

There was an uneven stream of traffic passing below me towards the airport and the lookouts around the mesa.  Long exposures of cars driving up and down the road to the airport seemed to work well with this sunset.

Sunset and car lights in Sedona - 2014 © Christopher MartinSunset and car lights in Sedona
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 50mm: 128 seconds at f/16 on ISO 1600

Light trails up to sunset - 2014 © Christopher MartinLight trails up to sunset
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 24mm: 30 seconds at f/16 on ISO 800


Evening at Cathedral Rock

Alpen light on the Cathedral - 2014 © Christopher MartinAlpen glow over Red Rock Crossing
Canon 5D Mark III + 70-200mm f/4 lens at 140mm: 2 seconds at f/11 on ISO 200

The afternoon I spent at Red Rock Crossing was a fun trek along Oak Creek but when the shadows lengthened, I trotted back to where I could have a view of Cathedral Rock.  It’s an iconic location and with the evening light moving into deep reds I was enthralled by her beautiful cliffs and spires.

Nighttime at the Cathedral - 2014 © Christopher MartinNighttime at the Cathedral
Canon 5D Mark III + 70-200mm f/4 lens at 184mm: 5 seconds at f/4 on ISO 2500

After a couple minutes of splashing around, the red color disappeared quickly, leaving pink clouds above and darkening rock below.  It did not take very long for the stars to start standing out against evening’s blanket.  A beautiful evening in Sedona, Arizona.

Sedona into sleep - 2014 © Christopher MartinSedona to sleep
Canon 5D Mark III + 70-200mm f/4 lens at 140mm: 5 seconds at f/4 on ISO 3200


Winter Hummingbirds

Anna's Hummingbird - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/800th of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

… Not in Alberta though.  Bobbi and I were in Sedona, Arizona last week and we learned that there was one species of Hummingbird that stays in the area through the winter.  In the spring and summer, there can be up to 14 different types of Hummingbirds there but only the Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) will spend the full year.

Touchdown - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/800th of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I went to the Red Rock State Park where I had been told a couple of these birds had staked out the feeder put out by the park staff as their territory.  Tucked off to the side of the visitor center, they have a sheltered garden with native trees surrounding a few benches and various bird feeders catering to those who overwinter nearby.  The Hummingbird feeder is in a slightly unusual position beside an exit door and close to the large bay windows of smoked glass.  I suppose it allows people to stand close to the window on the inside and watch these speedy fellows at close range.  I liked the clean background afforded by the opaque window so it suited my purposes.

Hovering around - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/800th of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I believe there were two individuals that I saw but they never appeared at the same time so it could have been one, two or more as I’m not familiar with this species and could easily mistake the unique number observed.  Regardless, I was entranced by their iridescent feathers, the speed and precision of these birds as I always am with Hummingbirds.  It will be several months until they return to my home so it was a treat to spend some time with them last week.

Incoming - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender: 1/3200th of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200


Winter at Red Rock Crossing

Winter under the Cathedral - 2014 © Christopher MartinWinter at Red Rock Crossing
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 24mm: 1/8th of a second at f/16 on ISO 200

Winter in Sedona is a relative term.  I spent the morning scrambling over the odd icy patch but was in shorts for most of the day.  It can snow here but only a few times a year.  Coming from Canada’s frozen lands, I find this part of Arizona’s version of this season very appealing.  I hiked around for much of the day and ended up at Red Rock Crossing in the afternoon.  Cathedral Rock is a siren’s call for artists and I spent hours enjoying the views across Oak Creek and up to the red rocks.  I love the colour palette with the gray branches of the dormant trees, the colourful rocks above and below with the yellow grasses providing a nice bridge to tie them together.  A beautiful place to spend time.


De-icing at YYC

De-icing at YYC - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/6400 seconds at f/4 on ISO 320

A member of the ground crew at the Calgary International Airport does the critical work of de-icing the airplane during a cold sunrise well below freezing in Alberta, Canada.


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