Posts tagged “Canada

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!


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.


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

 


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.


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


An abandoned barn for owls

Reserved observation - 2014 © Christopher Martin

I went out on the prairie a couple of times on the weekend.  I was looking for owls.  On the “hope to see” list were Great Horned, Snowy and Short-eared.  I went to the back roads around Frank Lake.  I encountered a couple of Snowies but it was too dark to photograph them.  I returned to both locations in better light a couple of times but unsurprisingly they had both moved on.  Nice to know they were around though.  Short-eared proved elusive and I did not see any ears, short or otherwise.

Barn sentinel - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender: 1/640 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 1600

I did find a great old barn set off in a remote spot with a couple of grain silos on the first evening.  That scene was great on its own but the Great Horned Owl I saw perched in a window.  The window frame was weathered with peeling red paint so character was not in short supply.  The owl was shy once I stopped my car and it hopped inside the barn to perch on a beam.   I set up a ways back from a west-facing window at the other end of the barn in the hopes that the owl might fly through it as dusk approached and it went out to start hunting.

Framed - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender: 1/320 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

A chilly wait through the golden light had no results and when the owl did head out, it flew through the eastern window.  While I waited, a long lens and high ISO allowed for a couple of nice shadow dominated images.  I left the owl the first night with it perched on a fencepost near the barn.  When I returned home and looked at the images, I was surprised to see a second owl buried in the shadows inside the barn.  It had been invisible to my eyes but had just barely resolved on the highest ISO images.

I returned two days later before dawn and saw the pair of owls working out of the same eastern window.  I set up on the same western window and could see them through main entrance as the sun rose.  Their activity wound down as the day wrestled with the night and soon they were perched on the same beams as before.

In shadows - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/80 of a second at f/4 on ISO 2000

This time, I took a wide path around the side of the barn and was able to photograph each owl on their respective beams through the eastern window (per the image at the top of this post and directly below).

In the barn - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4 extender: 1/100 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

I returned to my original spot and as I came around the barn saw that one of the owls had flown up to the top of a silo.  It was perched there scanning the fields.  I guess it wanted one last snack before its nap.

Up on a grain silo - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4 extender: 1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 1600

It stayed up there for ten minutes and then flew along the fence-line, dropped on a fence post for a minute and then glided over the patchwork of snow and grass to a mound of earth a few hundred meters away.

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

I waited a while longer to see if the owl would come back or its mate would head out.  Neither happened and I packed up as the owl inside the barn dropped off to sleep.

I’ll head back to see about that window again in a couple of weeks.  Maybe they’ll give me an opportunity then.  It was great to see these beautiful birds either way.  They have amazing faces and I really enjoyed studying them for a couple of hours.


Enjoying winter with the chickadees

Black-capped Chickadee in sunlight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

After a nice break over Christmas where I was outside playing with my kids and walking along the river, I’m enjoying winter now.  Following one of the cold snaps, the chickadees that visit our backyard seemed happy to be flying around in the -5°C weather after -30°C the day before.  They were flitting back and forth between the feeder and the tree beside our second floor deck which allowed me to practice capturing their launches off of the evergreen branches.

Chickadee flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin
The mid-flight images were not successful in the least (not shown – nothing worthwhile…) but I’m trying different strategies as me and auto focus are not quick enough to track their small bodies in their darting, quick flight movements.  For now, I was happy to spend some time with these little birds in my backyard while the sun drifted in and out of the clouds.

Wings up - 2013 © Christopher Martin-

One-eyed Chickadee - 2013 © Christopher Martin-

Flight preparation - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Eagle Skirmishes

Eagle Skirmish - 2013 © Christopher Martin

An eagle enjoying a feast is not often left alone for too long in Brackendale.  Finished spawning, the salmon drift downriver listlessly and eventually die naturally or with the assistance of the scavengers along the rivers.  The effort is in pulling the fish out of the water.  When that is done, competition often arrives to stake a claim.  Skirmishes, jousting and all out fights can breakout before one eagle is chased off.

Lox for breakfast - 2013 © Christopher MartinThis eagle was unchallenged as we floated past but it kept its head on a swivel wary of potential thieves.

Guarding breakfast - 2013 © Christopher MartinIn another spot, there were a lot of fish along the rocks and a lot of eagles vying for them.

Salmon wars - offense and defense _2013 © Christopher Martin-

Eagle ballet - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Occasionally, as in the photograph below, an equilibrium of sorts will be found where a few eagles will take turns on a fish with little aggression.

Salmon Potluck - 2013 © Christopher MartinHowever, one eagle soon came screaming in and upset the delicate balance.

The disruptor arrives - 2013 © Christopher MartinThere are many gulls that wait for opportunities to grab bits out of the water.  When eagles aren’t around, they have similar battles over prime spots.

Seagull skirmishes - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Bald Eagles in Brackendale

Immature in flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

I was in Brackendale, just north of Squamish, for a couple of days in December.  Every year thousands of Bald Eagles congregate in this area along the banks of the Squamish River.  There are three separate salmon spawning runs that overlap between November and February that result in dead and dying salmon littering the rocky shoreline.  The easy dining is a draw for eagles, seagulls as well as the occasional otter and seal (which in turn are quite the draw for photographers as it turns out!)  I was there for the Bald Eagles and was not disappointed in any way.  The first day was spent along the berm, that serves as a main viewing point, a bit further upriver in an eddy where a particularly cool eagle was hanging out.

Walking this way - 2013 © Christopher Martin-33612Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

I will do a separate post from the second day when the snow fell and I was out on a birdwatching float down the river.  For now, these images are from the first day where the overcast skies allowed for open shadows and allowed the texture and detail in the eagle plumage to be seen.   It was pretty dark at times as you can tell by the ISO settings I was using but it was a great day filled with eagles coming and going.

River Flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin-31222Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/5.6 on ISO 4000

There are so many fish that serious fights appear to be rare but eagles are opportunistic so there are still skirmishes where one will try to chase off another who has already gone through the effort of retrieving a salmon out of the water.

Eagle Battle - 2013 © Christopher Martin-31552

Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 4000

Others preferred a little more distance from their brethren.  This eagle hung out on a perch in the middle of a pond-like eddy off the river. At one point it called out but it didn’t fly over to the scattered groups of eagles in the trees across the water nor did any of them come over to visit.

Eagle eye - 2013 © Christopher Martin-34812Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/800 of a second at f/4.5 on ISO 1600

2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 2000

It splashed around in the shallow water for a while, stopping to snack for a minute, but seemed to return to this stick as its preferred resting spot.

Fish hunting - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Brackendale Buffet - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1000

Direct stare - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/2000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 800

Eagle Portrait - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/2000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I never tired of watching these eagles flying.  I think they are one of the most beautiful birds to watch in flight.  It was a great day on BC’s west coast.

Low Altitude - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

Flying downriver - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/1000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 3200


Birds from a visit to the George C. Reifel Sanctuary

Heron at Reifel - 2013 © Christopher Martin - 68547I went to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Sunday.  I was hoping to see Saw-Whet Owls but with the cold snap that hit Vancouver and the Lower Mainland a few days before, I was told they had disappeared.  Hardier birds were hanging around the snowy pathways so I wasn’t disappointed with the visit.   This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was hunting in the shallows near a blind and wandered very close.
Sandhill Squawk - © Christopher Martin-71887A Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) squawks to its family nearby.
Sandhill Exhalation - 2013 © Christopher MartinThe same bird exhales a puff of warm air.

Pileated Woodpecker - © Christopher Martin-70987A Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) drums on an old tree for insects.A male Mallard's iridescent cap - 2013 © Christopher MartinA Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) swims between the ice chunks in a brackish pond.
Trouble doubled - 2013 © Christopher MartinTwo female Mallards waddle down the pathway.
Wood duck perch - 2013 © Christopher MartinA pair of Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) share a perch over the water.
Crane Flight - 2013 © Christopher MartinA small flight of Sandhill Cranes transit between ponds at the sanctuary.


A Christmas moose… or two

Bull moose grazing - 2013 © Christopher Martin
My parents and I went out for our fairly annual moose run this morning.  The kids give the drive to look for wildlife a pass as they were busy assembling new toys and reading new books.  We found two bull moose in a line of aspen along a ridge and watched them walking for a few minutes.  They dropped down through the deep snow into a meadow of scrubby willows nearby and set about grazing on the slender branches.

Antler free - 2013 © Christopher Martin
One of the moose had shed its antlers while the other still carried a beautiful rack.  Both were big, strong boys and it was great to see them in such good health here in the middle of winter.

Reaching up - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Aside from that, it was nice to share an encounter with these wonderful animals with my parents on Christmas morning.

A little shy - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Winter’s raptor

Prairie hunter - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The Rough-legged hawks (Buteo lagopus) have arrived along the prairies with winter back.  Along with Snowy owls, they will dominate the skies until well into spring.

Launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin
I was excited to see Snowies a couple of times in the morning last weekend but they were less enthused to see me and flew away before I could stop.  This hawk was much more tolerant, I was able to photograph it for half an hour as it perched and flew along the fence line.

Rough command - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Cotton Candy

Cotton candy above - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Fuji X100S: 1/30 of a second at f/8 on ISO 800

I couldn’t help but think of the carnival ground food staple when I was photographing at dawn a couple of days ago.


A new portfolio of landscape images

Fire in the clouds - Mount Rundle, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

This is a collection of a my favourite landscape photographs from the past couple of years.  Locations include North America’s Rocky Mountains, the Prairies, and the island of Kaua’i.  If you are interested in having a look, please click on this link or on the image above.


It is too cold!

We are just coming out of a long cold snap here on the eastern flanks of the Rockies.  Temperatures started out around -10°C (14°F) last week and then dropped to -25°C (-13°F) a couple of days ago and have stayed there.  This image is from a stretch of the Elbow River just a couple hundred meters from my home in Redwood Meadows (west of Calgary).  Most of the river there is now iced over but I haven’t been back at dawn to photograph the difference.

Winter along the Elbow River - 2013 © Christopher Martin
Apparently we start climbing upwards later today and should be just below freezing by the weekend.  That will feel balmy – I hope the forecasts hold!  I love the winter landscapes but this year when the temperature fell below about -15 my enthusiasm for the season fell too.  Maybe some powder skiing on the weekend will remind me of the upside of winter.


Migrating through the Rockies

Rocky migration - 2013 © Christopher Martin

A skein of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) broke from the standard V formation as they navigated through the Bow Valley corridor.  It may have been wind shear out of the mountains that pushed the birds around but as I watched them rise over a forested hill and bank around a massive peak, I had a notion they were playing as they flew along.  Very likely just my imagination having a bit of a run but I enjoyed watching the constantly changing pattern created by their silhouettes against the Banff National Park’s early winter landscape.


We Remember

 

Thank you to those who have served and those who continue to serve.  May you enjoy every day afterward, they are well-earned.

Honouring those who died or may die for their country - © Christopher Martin-17

On a personal note, to those in my family that served and who I never had the chance to know, I remember everyday.


Grizzly Bear Travels

Cub on patrol - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The four days I spent in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in August were incredible.  I’ve posted a number of images, bears and other wildlife, frequently over the two and half months since returning.  From a productive photography perspective, the trip was a success by any measure.  Alongside the images I came back with are the memories of individual encounters, the surprise of a seal popping up beside the boat as well of a pod of orcas transiting by at a distance and good deal more.  I’ve saved my favourite bear encounter for the last.

Coastal traveler - 2013 © Christopher Martin

After a couple of days of heavy rain, the third day in the inlet was cold but clear.  Not long after dawn broke we were in the zodiac floating at the mouth of a creek where the salmon were running up.  Along with a mixed flock of gulls, we were waiting in the hopes that a bear would materialize out of the rainforest and start fishing.  A bit restless, I let my eyes wander along the shoreline across the water.  On one sweep of the kelp covered rocks exposed during the low tide, I caught a bit of movement.  Through a lens, I could make out an adult padding along eastwards towards the estuary.  Drawing closer, we saw a second bear skip out of the dark shadows the forest still held on to.

Furry and Feisty - 2013 © Christopher Martin

This ball of fur was a cub, a first year, and for the next hour we paralleled their passage over rock, under tree and across stony beaches.

The mother was cautious when she heard the boat but Dan Wakeman, the captain of the Sun Chaser and our guide, has been in the inlet for the past thirty-five summers and as we pulled within twenty-five yards of the shoreline, she recognized her fellow resident and carried on with few second glances thereafter.

2013 © Christopher Martin

The cub was far more curious about us than its parent was.  A few times it pulled up, stared in the zodiac’s direction and huffed.  Mom’s only notice of the behaviour came the times when there was too much huffing and not enough walking.  At those times, she would huff and the little one would scurry back in step.

Berry hunters in the forest - 2013 © Christopher Martin

They weren’t racing along the shore but it did seem that she had a place she wanted to be.  Presumably it was the easy fishing grounds of the estuary at low tide.   There was still time to stop and snack on berries in a heavily wooded chute.

Listening for trouble - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Mom may not have been worried about us but she was on alert for other bears.  The boars can attack a mother and her cubs at any time so she would stop and have a listen, a sniff and a look now and again.

Slippery rocks - 2013 © Christopher Martin

There was no trail that they were following as this shoreline spends half the time underwater.  The wet kelp, rocks and edge grass would have seen me sliding all over the place if I was covering the same ground.  With their padded feet and surprising agility, these Grizzlies had few slips and little trouble navigating the terrain.

Beach walk - 2013 © Christopher Martin

They reached the estuary and moved down onto the beach above.  From there they strode away towards the channels where the river was channeled with the tide out.  Salmon were surely on the menu.  We crossed the inlet and there was already an understanding that this had been a very special encounter.  This is a small glimpse into the magic and majesty of the Khutzeymateen Inlet.  I will be returning in June to see the bears as they’ve emerged from hibernation and are busy eating the sedge grass, raising cubs and coupling up – I honestly can’t wait.


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