I woke to a grey morning on the Pacific earlier this week. As the sun rose, its light diffused across the dull silver clouds and carried on to the waves rolling in. In these images I stretched some of these waves out with longer exposures (1/30 to 1/2 seconds) and swung the camera around a bit just to play with the idea a bit more.
Amid the abstract work, a few seals skimmed by. One of these glided inside a wave as it rolled into shore – which was fantastic to watch. I hope to share images from those encounters as well as a few with Brown pelicans from the same morning soon.
We are on the coast of Southern California for a short vacation. Legoland is the destination today for the family and my building-obsessed son. Last night, I was out exploring the beach cities north of San Diego and we photographed the sunset on the coastline in La Jolla. The light was beautiful and the rocky coastline provided a wonderful landscape to work with. There are surfers, pelicans and seals all waiting to be photographed, I’m excited to find a few more opportunities.
I have always loved the crazy colours and patterns displayed by the male Wood duck (Aix sponsa). They have been somewhat elusive in the areas I am typically out photographing wildlife. When I was at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary a couple of weeks ago, I came across a raft of them paddling around a chain of small ponds sheltered by overhanging branches above and reeds behind.
The ripples in the water and the distorted reflections served as a chaotic yet still suitable background to photograph these beautiful birds. I stopped and enjoyed almost an hour of watching these fellows swim, waddle and chase one another as well as their better halves. The weather picked a great time to cloud over and the diffused, even light allowed those colours and the textures in the feathers to own the stage in several of the images.
One of the last ones I photographed before moving on caught my eye as it hopped out of the water onto a log jutting out of the water. After shaking himself off, he cocked his head and fixed me with this one-eyed stare. The stare, his body posture along with the tail feathers slightly askew suggested a bit of a character and he was a fitting model to finish this duck encounter with.
There were a trio of Sandhill cranes along the trail north of the main gate of the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. They were jostling with mallards and pigeons for the bird seed that is available at the entrance and purchased by some visitors. This seems to be a good spot for them and it was a great place to photograph these cranes. The Sandhill crane has an interesting story in Western Canada, it was really wonderful to see them up close.
Boundary Bay is lovely throughout the year. Early spring along the levee that runs parallel to the tidal flats, driftwood piles and grassy fields is not an exception. When we were there last weekend, the rain rolled in as we were watching Snowy owls scattered across the grassland which did contribute to a beautiful scene a couple of hours later. At the time, it set the owls in their poses as they hunkered down through the showers.
Jack and I waited for the weather to change so that the owls may take to the air. Dusk was quickly approaching and we had hopes that these raptors would start hunting. The rain increased and we walked back along the dyke towards the parking lot a couple of kilometers away. As the car came into view, the rain lessened and when I was at the trailhead, the sun had even hazarded a couple looks under the clouds. The evening light was beautiful though very soft as it was filtered by the clouds and water vapour in the sky. A rainbow over the water drew my attention out over the flats and that’s where I first saw a distant bird flying low over the marshes.
I followed it through the gloom and as it moved closer and into the sunlight, I was able to identify it as a Barn owl (Tyto alba). This was my first sight of one of these owls in the wild and I fell in love immediately.
They have a chaotic flight pattern where they swoop along and then dive with great conviction downwards at crazy angles when they find a target. It crisscrossed a large area for about half an hour and all I could have wished for was a bit more light.
Dusk was well entrenched by this time and I was pushing the camera’s ISO and autofocus hard. The owl was curious too and swooped by on two separate occasions. The whole time spent watching this bird was a great experience and I’m looking forward to my next encounter with one of these beautiful owls.
I could still make out the silhouette as it flew further away but my attention was pulled in a new direction by a Short-eared owl that circled by for a couple of minutes and then a Snowy which, freed from its perch by the calm weather, landed on a pile of waterlogged wood less than a stone’s throw away. I hope to share some of those photographs soon.
Over the weekend I was in Vancouver for some photography work. With my friend Jack we visited the wonderful birds preparing for spring in the Lower Mainland. We spent time in the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary with Wood ducks and Sandhill cranes, the owls along Boundary Bay, Great blue herons (Ardea herodias) around the marinas and waterways in Ladner, and a few other great spots. Although I lived in Vancouver for university, I had not visited any of these locations for wildlife before. I was amazed by the birds and their numbers at almost every location. I am looking forward to sharing some of the images soon.
This Great blue heron was a highly proficient hunter and it collected fish steadily for the hour that we watched it from a bank in Ladner off of River Road. The heron moved along the shoreline as the tide was going out and kept up its hunting pace the whole time. Great opportunities to watch the heron’s behaviour and its technique. I learned a few tells of when it is readying to strike that yielded some really nice images. I’m having fun working through the collection.
I was looking through my image library for abstracts that I could use for a print series I’m working on and found the image above. I had photographed a reflection pool from the fourth story of a hotel in Mandalay, Myanmar. Leaning out of the window and using a longer lens, I was first drawn to the koi swimming in the shallow water. However, the trees on edge of the courtyard were casting energetic shadows across the gently rippled surface. I photographed the fish with the shadows for a little while and then dropped the fish altogether. The patterns of the distorted tree shapes in the water mesmerized me. I think of dance in the one above.
This coyote found Jack and I as we wound upwards along the road up towards Lake Minnewanka. It trotted along in the trees and then cut down into the ditch and then took a few steps towards up the hill again before it stopped. It stared our way for a few seconds before backtracking a little bit and then crossing the road and going over the edge. Beautiful animals who are among nature’s most adaptable. I see them alone or in small packs in the mountains, on the prairie and throughout the Foothills and enjoy photographing them immensely.
A few echos of the blizzard from last week blew through since then. More opportunities to photograph winter storms and with the image above I wanted to show the chaotic aspect often seen when the wind blows and the snow flies. Click on the image to open a page with a higher resolution version.
(as always, please click on any image to open a webpage with a higher resolution version)
The party for my son’s sixth birthday was scheduled for last Sunday but a heavy blizzard blew in the night before and travel on the roads was treacherous. We postponed the party to save family from driving in the storm which left Kian quite sad for a little bit. Fortunately his friends who live nearby bundled up, came over and we all headed outside for some tobogganing on the little hill behind our house. Not much sledding happened as the gang decided a snowball fight was a better use of their energy and time.
With smile restored and spirits high, Kian had a great time playing and the rest of us followed his lead. Kezia helped me to return fire after the attack above but then turned her sights my way a few minutes later.
Her brother liked Kezia’s idea and joined in the attack too – Traitors! I was worried about a full mutiny but their attentions soon turned to other targets.
With a small crisis (though rather big to a young boy) averted, we ended up having a great day and Bobbi even arranged to have some cupcakes to finish off the birthday celebrations. Which Kian enjoyed blowing out a solitary candle on (three times as I had a couple of different images that I wanted to make in mind).
A heavy blizzard blew through southern Alberta on Sunday. The snow fell throughout the day with the wind keeping pace alongside. The trees on the edge of Kananaskis Country caught pieces of the storm and twirled the snow around the branches in the evergreens.
Following a beautiful sunrise down on the Vermilion Lakes, my friend and I drove up towards Lake Minnewanka to see if there was any wildlife that wanted to be seen.
We spied this bull elk along the edge of the canal where the lake drains out grazing on the patches of snow-free grass.
He spent a little time in the water and the climbed out and moved towards us along the tree line. I loved the way the reflection cast by the elk and the trees onto the water shimmered and blurred.
Just after walking behind the stand of trees that hung over the water, the elk walked into the trees to graze. Returning to the car, we found the elk had moved to the edge of the trees by the road and that allowed us to watch him stripping bark of fallen tree branches.
As the moon waxed towards full this weekend, I spent an evening at Elbow Falls to photograph the landscape at night. The clear air allowed stars to shine even with a relatively short exposure and small aperture (10 seconds and f/8.0, respectively). Always a bit lonely sitting out there for a couple of hours but the stars are really good company.
The 6400 ISO and the bright moonlight allowed for some of the great details at this magical place in Kananaskis Country to show in the image. I am impressed with the improvements in the dSLR’s low-light capabilities over the last couple of years. A couple of years ago I spent another evening up at these falls. At that time I was using a Canon 1D Mark III and when compared with the image above and others where I used a 5D Mark III, the detail, structure of the noise and the color are all vastly improved. The technology is less and less of an obstacle to realizing the images I want to make. I like that a lot.
Our family went for a drive along the Grand Valley Road northwest of Cochrane a few days ago in search of raptors of any description. This road is nice drive that is rarely busy and can often yield sightings of owls, hawks or eagles. In a hilly farmland area we noticed a number of ravens circling around a stand of trees in a field a couple of hundred metres off the road. When we pulled over to see what the focus of their attention was two coyotes bolted out from under a large cedar and sprinted across the open into the thicker forest on the far side of the field. Looking back to the spot where they started running we could see a carcass that had been mostly picked clean of what, judging by one of the horns that was sticking up, appeared to be a bison. As it was on farm land it seems likely there were bison being raised here but there were no other farm animals within sight to confirm that theory. With coyotes, ravens, magpies and probably a number of other predators drawn to this unfortunate beast, its herd was likely as far away from this spot as the fences would allow. So, we were watching the ravens which were squawking and pestering the smaller birds picking at the scraps when Bobbi noticed a Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) approaching from down the valley.
We already had the long lenses out so we were able to photograph the bird as it flew overhead towards the other birds. Two ravens also saw the eagle inbound and flew up to harass this new attendee. The three looped around the trees for a minute before the eagle landed in one of the high branches and the black birds returned to ground.
During this chase, the overcast skies took on a more threatening tone and soon a soft snowfall turned into a blizzard. I thought the Golden eagle would wait out the height of the storm from the perch so I kept looking around to see if the coyotes, or anything else, came back.
Out of the sheets of snow a Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) swooped in and took up a spot on a tree near to the Golden. This had turned out to be a great encounter and when a couple more Bald eagles flew in and around over the next half an hour, it continued to get better and better. The snow did finally ease up and there were opportunities for nice flight images.
The lighter skies appeared to spur one of the Bald eagles to say goodbye to a raven it had been sharing a tree with across the field and glide over to the bison skeleton.
This eagle brought a good amount of conviction to its scavenging intent and it chased off all of the passerine that had been crowding on the ground.
When we moved on, this eagle was alone on the ground having successfully landed and taken ownership of what remained.
The Golden eagle had disappeared and two Bald eagles were perched where they could keep an eye on the bones. The collection of black birds were scattered in singles and small groups around the scene though none strayed close to the eagle holding dominion on the ground. The last wildlife we saw as we drove away were the coyotes trotting along the hill towards the farm-house keeping their distance while still keeping an eye on the bison.
We stayed at Lake Louise a couple of weeks ago and I set up to take some photographs from my room of the ice sculptures lit up around the front lawn of the Chateau. It was then I noticed the stars and how wonderfully bright they were. With the reflection of lights from below there was a lot of distortion, refraction and general murk to wrestle with. The hazy arcs above the mountain are one of the interesting effects from the lamps around the pathways. I worked away for a little while and liked this somewhat abstract image of Mount Whyte under the night sky.
I’ve spent a lot of time this winter driving the township and range roads which divide the prairie up into a grid work of crisscrossing dirt roads. The primary goal has been to photograph Snowy owls during their winter stay here but I’m always happy to see bald eagles when I happen across them. These were two separate encounters. Above, the eagle was flying low over the fields west of Calgary and I parked at a driveway in time to photograph the bird flying past. In the photograph below, the eagle was perched in this tall tree near Gleichen east of Calgary for ten minutes while I watched before it launched and headed out over the fields.
The second sunrise at Vermilion Lake this weekend produced some wonderful images this weekend. There was a break between clouds and mountain peaks farther east so the clouds above Mount Rundle and the lake were painted with this amazing light. One of the best mornings that I have had in the Banff National Park.
The hot springs that seep into the water along the chain of lakes allow for a few pools without ice to remain open through the winter. These pools pull many photographers to their shores and this morning was no exception. It’s always interesting how quiet these moments become even with five other photographers nearby. The better the light gets, the quieter it usually becomes. It was silent at the peak of this morning’s sunrise.
Dawn at the second Vermilion Lake was beautiful with some lovely colour in the sky around Mount Rundle early in the sunrise. As the sun climbed, I moved into the contrasts and this one worked well in black and white.
Lake Louise is a favourite place for my wife and I to visit in the Banff National Park. This weekend, with my parents taking care of the kids for a night, we went up and stayed on the lake’s eastern shore at the Chateau. The view across the ice up to the Victoria Glacier and the surrounding peaks was hidden by nightfall by the time we arrived so I was anxious for the morning to come. As it turned out, I may have slept right through sunrise, if Bobbi hadn’t looked outside just after 7 and woken me up. The black of night had given way to the dark shades of blue ahead of the dawn. I looked outside and then raced out of the door a few minutes later.
Winter at Lake Louise is magical. The Fairmont had an ice carving competition earlier this year and the sculptures fanned out between the hotel and the lake. At night, they are lit up as is the patriotic castle that is in the middle of the skating rink cleared out on the lake ice.
An ice castle is made every winter by the Chateau’s chefs from large blocks of ice. Nearby is a hockey rink and the trailhead for ski trails along the northern shoreline. Through the evening and again during the day, as it turned out, these drew many visitors who walked, skated and skied around. However at the time I went down to the lake, in the early but quickly brightening morning, there were only a few other people around.
Two people were playing around with hockey sticks and a puck while a couple of other photographers were roaming across the ice. And there was one gentleman out skating laps around the castle – I was glad he wore a red coat.
Once the sunlight hit the peaks, the dark sky disappeared and the cold, clear dawn of a beautiful morning took hold. It was wonderful to be out on the lake and I had a lot of fun working with the details in the castle and the spectacular landscape surrounding it.
When the sun was rising out of the forest east of the lake, the warm light on the ice blocks provided another opportunity to play a bit longer before I headed in for breakfast with my dear, and patient, wife.
The sunset in West Bragg Creek was beautiful last night. The warm sunlight alternating with the long shadows striped the land and looked great in every direction. However it was the same light caught in the clouds above that stole the show.