Author Archive

A morning of fog and mist in the Khutzeymateen

Morning in the Khutzeymateen - 2014 © Christopher Martin

One evening we watched a crab boat come down the Khutzeymateen Inlet and weigh anchor for the night.  The next day there were some opportunities to photograph the vessel shrouded in mist.  Against the massive trees of the rainforest and the steep valley walls, it looked almost like a toy.

(As always, please click on any image to open a higher resolution version on its own page)

Fog and mist - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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A morning full of weather - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Mornings in the Khutzeymateen often find the coastline wrapped in blankets of fog while low flying clouds cling to the steep hills of the rainforest and the snow-covered peaks.  The Grizzly Bears are the obvious draw but the landscape of this northern part of the Great Bear Rainforest is hauntingly beautiful.

Morning in the mountains of the Khutzeymateen Inlet - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Later in the day much of the fog burned off and when we sailed by the boat I was able to have a closer look.

Crabbing in the Khutzeymateen - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 

 


Wildlife Portraits

A stern taskmaster - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/125oth of a second on f/5.6 and ISO 1600

A prospective client asked for a selection of wild animal portraits recently.  I put together a gallery and really enjoyed revisiting a number of encounters from the past couple of years.  It was great to see these personalities again.  If you would like to have a look at these furry, bristled and feathered faces, please click the image above or this link.

 


A Banff Grizzly on the move

A summer's walk - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

I spent one morning in Banff on the weekend and came across a male Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) along the Bow Valley Parkway.  He spent some time in one roadside meadow chewing on a everything green he could see.

Stepping across the line - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DII and 70-200mm lens at 122mm: 1/250 second at f/4 on ISO 800

Before long, he crossed the road and then headed into the trees leaving a group of vehicles and their occupants behind.  I hoped he was heading towards a larger meadow about a mile east and drove there to wait and see.

2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 70-200mm lens at 149mm: 1/1000 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

Apparently the dandelions and lush vegetation were calling him and after not too long a wait he strode out of the forest and continued chowing down.  He stayed there for more than an hour, disappearing briefly a couple of times before finally heading deeper into the shadows.

Meadow lunch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/500 second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Although winter felt slow to leave, the greenery now seems abundant and makes me hopeful this bear and the other animals in the park will enjoy a long summer feast.

In the garden patch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 1000


Hunting for breakfast

 A morning flight - © Christopher Martin-8614

Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1250 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

I left the sun to climb over the horizon on its own this morning and slept in.  The days start early in the summer so when I left my house at 6am, we were well into daylight.  I drove into Bragg Creek looking for wildlife and almost immediately found an owl.  She was perched on a fence post and looked a little sleepy.

Sleep owl - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1000 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

I stayed back a good distance and watched her lazily swivel her head a few times but she largely just hunched up and gazed out over the field.  After 15 minutes or so she perked up a bit seeming to pick out something in the tall grass.  She launched (as seen in the first image) then dipped but did not dive into the grass.  Carrying on, she crossed the field and found a higher vantage point in a large evergreen tree in the field near the forest’s edge.

Evergreen perch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 4000

Some noises in the trees, unheard by me, drew her attention for the better part of a half an hour.  Her head turned away from me and the field, I waited for her to either head towards the trees or redirect her attention to hunting in the grass.  Lucky for me, she chose the latter and I was able to photograph a few nice flight shots when she flew from the first tree to another.

Green flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 1250

The second perch was a higher spot and she only stayed there for a couple of minutes before picking out a target.  When she flew, it was a masterful attack.  She glided down, hovered for a couple of beats above the area of her attention and  then dove headfirst into the green.

Dive attack - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1250 second at f/4 on ISO 3200

After a few seconds, she climbed out of the grass with a field mouse clutched in her beak.  She stayed on the far side of the field and disappeared with her breakfast into the trees.

Breakfast of champions - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 2500


Side Sedging Grizzly

 

Side sedging Grizzly - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 200-400mm f/4 IS EXT at 526mm: 1/320oth of a second on f/5.6 and ISO 2500

A Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) mows down sedge grass grown tall in the estuary of the Khutzeymateen Inlet.  This boar was pretty nonchalant when we came upon him as we rounded one of the river channels that divides up the grassland at low tide.  He was sauntering along and sat down across from us to settle down for a snack.  When he turned his head sideways to chew away, it created an unusual look at this handsome fellow and his impressive chompers.


Spirits in the Khutzeymateen

The Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos) rule the Khutzeymateen Inlet without challenge.  In June, the boars roam the fields of sedge grass and the creeks that drain out of the mountains looking for females to court.  The males are the kings but the mothers are the not only the queens, they are the heart and spirit of this land.  With their cubs there is a tenderness and caring that is plain to see and wonderful to watch.

Bear spirits - © Christopher Martin

This mother and cub spent a couple of days along the beach near where we moored the sailboat and we were able to watch them for many hours.  Here, they both looked up when a noise behind us drew their attention.  A great mother raising a beautiful cub.


A K’tzim-a-deen cub at rest

Bobbi and I just returned from the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary where Dan and Sandy hosted us aboard the Sun Chaser sailboat and we spent many hours looking for, finding, photographing, discussing and dreaming about Grizzlies.  It was a magical experience and I have had little time to look at any images so far.

K'tzim-a-Deen Cub - 2014 © Christopher Martin

That said, this image of a cub resting on a rock is already a favorite of mine.  Mom brought this two-year old down to the beach in the bay where Dan enjoys anchoring several times.  They were both very relaxed about our presence, with the elder concerned only about Grizzly boars coming out of the forest edge.  Her back was often to our little raft scanning the tree line as she ate the sedge grass.  Meanwhile the cub, free from much – though not all – of this worry, watched us in-between explorations nearby, feasting on vegetation and mewling for milk.


An eagle’s easy snack

Eagle on the move in Cow Bay - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 99mm: 1/100oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 400

We had a great afternoon in Prince Rupert today.  The marina in Cow Bay was busy with boats of many different stripes coming and going throughout the day.  Seals popped up amongst the boats looking for scraps from the fishermen – a quick snack between meals.  While several Bald Eagles flew by overhead looking for a similar handout.  One group cleaned and divided up several large Halibut on one of the tables on the dock.  This drew in the seals and one eagle.  The seals made out quite well and at the end, a chunk of fish was left beside the table for the eagle.

Those are my scraps! 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 105mm: 1/250oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1000

It swooped down from its piling, grabbed the fish and then flew off to eat.  I was watching from across the marina on a wharf.  When the eagle left the dock, it flew towards the wharf and flew right under me as it headed away.  A good start to the weekend.

Over - under - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 70mm: 1/40oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1000


Waiting for the loons…

Loon in repose - 2014 © Christopher Martin

The loons have been back for a few weeks, their distinctive calls echoing across many of the lakes and ponds around Bragg Creek and the neighbouring Kananaskis Country.  I have had a couple of nice morning and evening encounters with them and am now looking forward to photographing the chicks.

Female loon - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Bobbi and I are off to the Khutzeymateen to catch up with the bears that I met last fall.  They are up from their hibernation and the cubs will be out to play while the mothers stay wary of the boars who are looking to couple up.  It will be an exciting trip and I’m so happy Bobbi is able to join me this time around.  When we get back, I will be out looking for the loons and their babies.

Navigating late spring ice - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 

 


Turner Valley Hawk

Red-tailed in Turner Valley

A Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) launches over the fields near the town of Turner Valley in Alberta, Canada.


Owl Flight

Great Gray Owl on the hunt - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/3200 second at f/4 on ISO 1600

This owl caught sight of something from a branch above the grass and silently launched.  It glided past me and then dropped into the tall grass – flying away with a mouse in its beak shortly thereafter.


Swainson’s Hawk in Springbank

Swainson's launch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Driving with the kids along Lower Springbank Road, I was hoping there would be some hawks hunting along the freshly tilled fields out that way.  On the second or third field my son spied a light morph Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) standing on a fence post.

Field hunting - 2014 © Christopher Martin

We watched it make a few short flights over the soil before heading continuing on.  Spring is a great time for driving, and photographing, on the prairies.

Swainson's Hawk extended - 2014 © Christopher Martin


The Prairies in Chief Mountain Country

Morning on Chief Mountain - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/6400 second at f/4 on ISO 400

We stayed near Cardston in southern Alberta a couple of weeks ago visiting family who have a cabin there.  I went out for a morning on the prairie to see what would catch my eye.  I was looking for wildlife initially but the prairie landscape became the focus.

A farm on the foothills - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 32mm: 1/2500 second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Forgotten on the prairie - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2500 second at f/4 on ISO 800

Tractor on the prairies - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1000 second at f/8 on ISO 400

I photographed some farm scenes, abandoned buildings and foothill landscapes.  Chief Mountain stands out from the line of peaks that are the Rocky Mountains where they cross Canada into the United States.  The mountain is close to Cardston on the edge of Waterton National Park and holds dominion over the rolling hills east of the mountains.  I have not photographed this mountain before and I liked working with the contrast of the surrounding farmland.

Barn and Chief - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/160 second at f/16 on ISO 400

 


Spring with a Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl Launch - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 2500

I had not seen a Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) since last fall and I was deeply missing them.  Usually by the end of April, there are two owls in West Bragg Creek that I start seeing regularly.  They are always there, just not for me with any consistency until spring.  So, it was with great happiness that one was waiting for me on the weekend when I was out early in the morning.

Owl portrait - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

This owl hunted along the forest edge, gliding past me several times, for over an hour.  I had great opportunities to photograph her in flight and while perched.  These owls mesmerize me and I feel enormous gratitude that she chose to not fly away to one of the other productive hunting fields nearby.

 

Post launch - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

At one point she flew deeper into the woods where I think her nest is.  I headed off but came back a half an hour later and she was out on the field.  She flew directly towards me and perched in a tree not far away before hunting along the grass a couple more times.  Then she flew silently back into the forest.   I will head back soon and am excited to spend some more time with this owl.

 


Full extension

A Red-tailed Hawk launches off a post on the prairie west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 800

When this Red-tailed hawk launched off the post I had been watching him on for a few minutes, I was really impressed by the power and balance displayed.   He flew closer and then went to the ground after circling back towards the fenceline.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t an attacking dive only an uninspired landing in the tall grass.

ed-tailed flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 800

 

 


Stormin’ Coyote

Coyote in the storm - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/800 second at f/5.6 on ISO 1000

An early spring blizzard spilled across the prairies a couple of weeks ago.  Cold wind and heavy snow were this Coyote’s main companions as it crossed the fields looking for rodents to eat.  Sometimes the Coyotes that I cross paths with are curious and trot close to check me out.  This is more frequent in the hills and up in the mountains.  On the prairies, where they are often considered to be pests, they are usually more wary and run away when anyone shows any interest in them.  This one was kind of in the middle, running across the road away from me and then slowing to a jog and watching me for a few minutes.


Relaxing in the sunshine

Canada Goose on Wild Rose Lake - 2014 © Christopher Martin

A Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) surveys the lake from a one-legged position on the water of Wild Rose in Bragg Creek, Alberta, Canada.  Before taking up this spot, I watched it walk out on the patch of dirt towards the water – it looked like it was checking out its own reflection when it got to the lake’s slightly abstract mirror.

Canada Goose reflected - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 


Water skimming Tree Swallow

Water skimming Tree Swallow - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/2000 second at f/6.3 on ISO 1600

I was on the edge of the lake at Wild Rose a week ago watching the three loons who were diving in and swimming on the water.  A few different times a small flight of swallows deftly skimmed the water nearby while searching for low flying and water-walking insects to pick off.  These Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are swift, acrobatic fliers so trying to catch a sharp image is a fun challenge.  This little one had just hit the water but missed the little creature and was just pulling up when I caught up to him.


Wild Rose Beaver

Beaver on the lake at Wild Rose - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/160 second at f/8 on ISO 1600

The beavers that live beside the lake at Wild Rose are back to their busy ways now that the water is ice-free.  The other night I watched one swimming along the shoreline and around its lodge.  It was a beautiful evening with warm sunshine and clear skies.

 


Minnewanka sheep in the snow

Bighorn kid at Minnewanka - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Just off Lake Minnewanka there was a small herd of Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) grazing along the side of the road.  They were a mix of mothers, kids and young rams.  All told there were less than fifteen animals stretched over a hundred or so meters.  With the worsening weather, they looked to be a somber group and showed little interest beyond a few glances at much beyond the grass underfoot.

Calm in the storm - 2014 © Christopher MartinThe rain had just turned to snow which bothered me more than these animals it seemed.  I was hoping the storm might not be too heavy but this front edge had made me think that unlikely.  For this encounter, I was happy to have the snow in the air to provide a bit of interest to the area around the sheep in some of the shots.

Ram's stare - 2014 © Christopher MartinWe watched one another for a few minutes before I headed off.  The snow continued to pick up and almost a foot of snow (30cm) fell that night.  This herd was smart to dine on the soon to be covered up grass along the road before the weather hit.

A pair of sheep - 2014 © Christopher Martin-

Doubling back - 2014 © Christopher Martin


One more return to winter in Banff

Snowstorm on Banff Avenue 2014 © Christopher Martin

The snow returned for a weekend long storm.  I was in Banff for a night and this was the town on Saturday morning.  Heavy snow then and more since then.

Waiting at the bus stop - 2014 © Christopher Martin

The night before I was out for a walk and a friend at the bus stop suggested a photo of the storm.  The flash lit up the flakes of snow between me and them and illustrate this spring storm’s intensity.

Elk on the edge of Vermilion Lake - 2014 © Christopher Martin

A herd of elk fanned out on the edge of the first Vermilion Lake and, with a slight break in the low cloud, one flank of Mount Rundle came into view to make for a nice scene.


Canada Geese in Flight

Canada goose in flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/1250 second at f/5.6 on ISO 1250

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are busy looking for good nesting spots in the Elk Valley and I enjoyed watching them flying along the river when I was in Fernie during Easter.  In urban areas, they border on being a nuisance in many people’s mind, I don’t see them that way.

In the mist - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1000 second at f/5.6 on ISO 3200

Particularly when they are in flight in a wilderness setting, I find them to be a wonderful animal to watch.  The variation in the weather on the morning I spent photographing along the Elk River didn’t hurt the imagery at all.

Up high - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/4000 second at f/6.3 on ISO 500

Air traffic - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/4000 second at f/6.3 on ISO 500

There was fog and light rain in the morning which burned off early leaving sharp light and blue skies.  The forest along the river provided a beautiful backdrop as well.  I had fun with all of it.

Forest flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/1600 second at f/5.6 on ISO 1250

2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/1250 second at f/5.6 on ISO 1250


Red-tailed Hawks in flight

Above and below - 2014 © Christopher Martin

With Red-tailed Hawks back in our area, I’m still enjoying the novelty of their return.  I went out on the weekend and found a few more who I had the opportunity to photograph in flight.  The snow stole a couple of shots by throwing the auto focus off but it added character that more than made up for those.

Fence launch - 2014 © Christopher Martin-

Field flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin-

Extension - 2014 © Christopher Martin-

Snow flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 


Red-tailed Hawks have returned to the prairies

Red-tailed flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) have the good sense to avoid winter on the prairies and they head south in late fall each year.  It’s always exciting when they start to return and I have been seeing them more and more over the last couple of weeks.  A little while ago, I found this one perched in a great, wild-looking tree along Highway 8, west of Calgary.

Perched but ready to fly - 2014 © Christopher Martin

I could see the hawk was getting ready to fly so I watched from the ditch for a minute until it launched.  There was a second hawk, presumably its mate, in a tight stand of trees so I figured that would be the direction it flew.

Flying through the trees - 2014 © Christopher Martin

It landed beside its partner and when I drove past them I could see a nest buried in the far side of the trees.  Photographs of the nest would not be in their best interest but I hope to see chicks fledge later in the spring.

Perched together - 2014 © Christopher Martin


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