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Three Snowy owls on the 30th

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Just before New Year’s Eve, I headed east and ended up spending all of the daylight hours on the prairies.  During the day I came across three Snowy owls in separate locations.  The first was perched on a telephone pole keeping an eye on the coming dawn and the snow below.  She flew in front of me when a loud truck passed by which afforded me a great angle to photograph her.

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She glided to a fence post in the middle of a nearby field. On her way she crossed the eastern sky which framed her wonderfully.

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With a great start now in hand, I carried on and ended up returning to the field where I have been fortunate to photograph one Snowy a few times (one, two, three and four) already this winter.  I found that owl about an hour after sunrise.  She was comfortably resting on another telephone pole.  I say comfortably because she stayed in the same spot for the next 85 minutes.

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Happily for me, it was not the deep freeze we have had regularly so far this winter so I was relatively comfortable while I waited.

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A couple more hours went by after that, punctuated by three flights between high points around the field.  That’s a lot of waiting for a little action but I don’t mind.  I certainly have a lot of time to let my mind wander and to think about things at length – a luxury these days.  And, when the launch occurs, I love watching Snowy owls in flight.  Especially when they are framed against a clear blue sky.

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I hope for a look from the owl during these flights – eye contact makes for more compelling images but often that doesn’t happen as they fly in the wrong direction or have their eyes focused on something else.   Look or no look, I enjoy watching and click when I see an interesting wing angle, body position or something else that seems interesting to me.

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The days are short at this time of the year so it felt like late afternoon came quickly.  Along with it came some wonderful light and I found the third owl perched on a fence post a mile or so from the other Snowy.

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I do not think I have seen this one before and she stared intently at me for a minute like I was a stranger.  Then she went back to scanning the field behind her in the image above.  Soon after she flew, glided across the field, caught something in the snow and flew up to tree to dine.  That all happened far away from me so I carried on to try to take advantage of the warm sunlight.  I didn’t find anything else before the sun went down but enjoyed watching the color rise up into the sky.

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Eventually I returned past the last owl’s field and now she was perched in a tree closer to the road.  I got out hoping to photograph her silhouette against the sunset.  Her profile in the tree was not great from my position so I waited to see if something would fall into place.  After a little bit she leaned forward and then dropped off her perch to fly over the field.  That was my last photograph of the owls and tied off a pretty good day on the prairies.

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A landscape image gallery worth visiting

Paul Zizka’s Top 16 of 2016 is a beautiful gallery of wild, natural landscape imagery.  His images are creative in their composition, surprising in their subjects and timing and technically precise.  He lives in Banff and is a mountain landscape and adventure photographer.  I have enjoyed Paul’s work for a few years, his 2016 top 16 set are among his best.  You can find this gallery at this link.

 


A beautiful afternoon with a Snowy

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After a blustery start to the day on December 27th, by 2pm the wind had settled down and the sun then came out making for a much more comfortable time while I watched this Snowy owl.  She seemed to enjoy the change in the weather too as she was very active.  Her hunting ability is exceptional and she caught a mouse on almost every glide low over the snow.

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The two series, above and below, were both successful hunting runs where she caught a field mouse or something similar.

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I have become a regular observer of this bird in particular as she has a large farm field staked as her territory and I’ve been lucky to find her there consistently.   In previous years, I have occasionally been able to repeat time with the same owl but this regularity is really special to me.

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Earlier she flew to a few different parts of the field before settling on the area where she flew over in the photographs above.

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A Snowy in another snowstorm

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A couple of weeks ago I went out on the prairie looking for Snowy owls.  North of Langdon, I found this owl in a familiar locale.  It was a cold, blustery wind that accompanied the sunrise.  The snow blew into the air throughout the morning and made it feel like we were much closer to the Arctic Circle.  It was pretty dark with a bluish cast in the morning which only added to the wintry feel. At one point, the owl flew directly overhead and then around me which was a highlight for sure.

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The rest of the morning was spent watching the owl sitting with making the odd hop/flight around the field.  Another good morning with this Snowy owl.

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Winter prairie landscapes

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I spent a lot of time on the prairies in December.  These days started early in the morning so I was able to enjoy watching night give way to day.  And several hours later, watch the principles switch as the short daylight hours ran out.

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Happy New Year!

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I hope you have a lot of good moments doing what you love with those who mean the most to you in this new year.  My own goal is to make those happen whenever I can for myself and those people important to me.   We had a fun night doing crafts, playing games and taking in the Redwood Meadows fireworks.

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We walked up to the Redwood Meadows sports field for the display where neighbours had gathered for skating and a bonfire earlier.  The snow was falling hard and that seemed to suit everyone just fine.  It was a great vibe to welcome 2017 with.

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The fireworks were beautiful.  I haven’t seen them during a snowstorm before and that was cool.  The explosions were cheered by the crowd so it was an unqualified success.  And definitely a good start to the year.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and yours!


Happy New Year’s Eve Deer

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This White-tailed stag was found during a short drive into Bragg Creek on Christmas day this year.

We are slowly warming up to New Year’s Eve and looking forward to the fireworks that our local community of Redwood Meadows puts on.  Always a great show – and they go early so the children get to enjoy them too!

I hope everyone has enjoyed, or is enjoying the last day of 2016.  It has been a winding year for our family, as it often goes, but still filled with a lot of laughs and the continued wonders of rearing my two children.


Kreuzberg: living graffiti

 Kreuzberg - living graffiti - © Christopher Martin-8836.jpg ATTACHMENT DETAILS kreuzberg - living graffiti - © Christopher Martin-8836

When I visited Berlin last summer, I spent an early morning and, a couple of days later, a late afternoon touring around Kreuzberg.  This borough is divided into two major districts, 36 and 61.  I didn’t know enough about them to distinguish them – everywhere I went was heavily covered in graffiti.  This street art was an integrated part of Kreuzberg and often reflected the lives passing in front of it.

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Cosmonaut and Mercedes - © Christopher Martin-8742

It was an immersive experience to photograph surrounded by this art.  And one which was a great challenge to show that integration of the art with the people.  That is what drew me back a second time on a visit where I only had five days in Berlin.  I’m glad I did, it was a really interesting place to visit.

Kreuzberg - living graffiti - © Christopher Martin-8683

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Merry Christmas… with a Dancing Elk

We enjoyed a great Christmas day around our home today.  Outside, the sun was bright, the sky was blue and the snow draped everything in a blanket of white.   Inside, we played games, built toys, laughed a lot and had a really good time.

I showed my family this video embedded above of a dancing elk that I had taken a couple of winters ago up in Jasper.  My mom thought that would be a good one to share online today – the kids agreed so I worked on that this evening (and here is the Youtube link as well).  It was a fun encounter with a young female elk who separated from her herd for a few minutes.  At several points, she broke into a dance, or rodeo bull impersonation, while I watched.

I hope you and yours have enjoyed a merry Christmas and I wish you all the best throughout the holidays.


Holiday sledding at night

Holiday sledding at night © Christopher Martin-7072

With the Christmas holiday in full swing around our house now, the kids and I went out night sledding on the 23rd.  The snow had started falling early that morning and kept going all day.  We went out earlier but had the most fun in the evening.

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Kian had the idea to take some photos and I was onboard.  A drag of the shutter (1/10th – 1/6th of a second) with a flash of 1/200th of a second to create some motion blur while freezing the kids in action.

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I played around as they sped down the great little hill just off our back yard.  They eagerly collaborated with the images – looking at the screen after each run to see what worked and what didn’t.

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We had a blast – a great way for a daddy to spend Christmas Eve’s eve with his daughter and son 🙂


A Snowy owl hunting on a rise

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The Snowy owl that I had photographed the previous week, I found again last Sunday.  This time she was on a snow-covered rise ~50 metres from the fence line.  It was much warmer than the week before and the sun was out so it was quite a pleasant visit.

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-6232

The owl perched taking in a complete view of her surroundings – me included.  The wind was gusting ahead of a chinook that was arching across the prairies so she crouched low whenever it picked up.

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In between one of the wind blasts, she caught sight or sound of something to her left and glided towards a broken post.  She hovered for a moment and then dropped to the ground.

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-6315

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-6320

She grabbed something and quickly swallowed it.  She landed a little further behind the rise and in line with the post so I missed a clear line on the hunt’s conclusion.

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She soon returned to scanning the field.

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And I found another sight line.

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First Snowy owl of the season!

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-5839

For the past couple of years, every November I start getting excited to see Snowy owls. That is the time that they start to return to southern Alberta after their summer nesting season in the Arctic.  This year, Great gray owls and mountain landscapes kept me away from the Prairies until December.  When I head out to the open fields east of Calgary, I crossed paths with three separate Snowies and a Red fox – truly a windfall of good fortune!

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The first Snowy owl was perched on a telephone pole overlooking a farm field where the fox was hunting.  She was content to swivel her head around to keep eyes on everything around but not very excited by me, the traffic passing by, the farm dog that barked now and again at the fox nor the fox herself.  So relaxed, that she stayed put for almost two hours.  It was -22°C and the wind made it feel cooler than that.  I couldn’t blame her for not moving around too much but it was quite a while to wait.  I maneuvered my car to the far side of the road so that I could keep a lens on her from my seat and waited.  The light flattened out and the clouds formed a white sheet behind her but I didn’t mind too much – I was happy to spend time with my first Snowy this winter!

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When she did launch off the pole, it was to glide down to the field.  She skimmed low over the snow and grass before disappearing behind a small rise.  I hopped out and walked along the fence to a vantage point where I could see the owl again.  She looked like she was preening after eating a mouse but I didn’t see the attack if it did happen.  She sat and watched some more, staring at me lazily a couple of times – and once with the focused laser beams as seen above!  After a few minutes, she stood up and quickly took flight again.

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I love watching owls take off – they have strong wingbeats that have a clipped range of motion which seems effective to get them into the air fast.  The Snowy owls, along with the Great horned owls, are enormous as far as North American owls go so it is impressive how much power they generate.  She flapped hard and then levelled off about 2-3 metres off the ground as she retraced her flight plan back towards the road.

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Near the fence line she climbed up to perch on a new telephone pole’s insulator.  Once settled, she puffed up her feathers – the one acknowledgement to the cold I saw from her this time out.

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-5856