A quiet moment watching a lone loon between his dives under the water.
I love Canada jays. They go by a couple of names (well I guess we like to call them by a few names) – I like Whiskey Jack and Canada jay more than gray jay but those are just my own preferences. Some people see them as mischievous camp robbers. I don’t. For me, they exemplify companionship as I always flitting around in pairs. I found this one in a tree and waited until it flew off towards the call of its partner.
On a solo outing to some remote roads, I found a gorgeous great gray owl perched on a telephone pole in warm afternoon sunshine.
A short wait ended with the bird gliding into the forest. It found a perch there and moved to two other ones before flying to a knot of trees close by.
She scanned the sky occasionally, watched the ground steadily but did not find a target on or under the snow. One launch had the owl drop onto a pile of deadfall. I caught a nice launch off of a tree trunk and followed the bird up to her next perch.
Soon she flew across the nearby meadow and landed in a lone evergreen. She flew along a frozen creek to a slender tee – a winter’s skeleton – that bowed under her weight.
And then she flew west, further afield, and well beyond my shooting range with the gear I have.
A small slough west of Calgary is a little gem for birds from spring until fall and one I like to visit now and then. Last August I was surprised to find a few night herons perched among the long grass surrounding the water. I had not seen them frequent this location previously so it was a pleasure to watch them for about a half an hour.
It was early evening, around 6pm, warm with only a rustle of wind – just enough to keep the mosquitoes away. One heron found the conditions favorable and flew overhead at one point.
The herons were more active on the far side of pond. However one bird was stationed closer to me and I kept my long lens trained on that one for the most part. Eventually that paid off when a farm truck rumbled by on the gravel road behind me and set the heron to flight. The launch yielded my favourite photographs – I am a sucker for images that capture motion and power – but I was spoiled across the whole time I was there.
Last June I traveled to Radium with my children. On our travels there we passed through the Kootenay National Park during an early summer snow storm. We stopped along the Kootenay River to photograph the icy blue water and bright green of the young forest being met by the white blizzard.
As cool as that visual could have been, self isolation would frown on people congregating in our backyard. Instead, a flock of 60 or more Bohemian waxwings flew into the trees behind our home in the morning. They nibbled at the trees, and the odd chunk of snow hanging in the branches. Flitting around the forest edge, I enjoyed their industry for half an hour as the morning sun shone over the hills. These are a favourite backyard bird for me. They don’t come around my home often but it is magic when they do.
Last summer we went to Whitehorse to visit my girlfriend’s family. One of the nights, we noticed a few lines of color waving in the sky above our patio. We hopped in the car and drove out of town. Whitehorse is a pretty small city but the urban lights were too bright for the display to stand out. We followed a gravel road up a forested hill to a stony field that opened up.
The moon had not quite set when we set up so the first half an hour had the bright moonlight, illuminated clouds and muted northern lights blending across the night sky’s canvas.
The moon set and the aurora display intensified as well so that the greens, blues and traces of purple rippling above were mesmerizing. We stayed there for a couple of hours. That was my first time to the Yukon and it was wonderful to be able to enjoy the Northern Lights that far north. I hope for the same kind of luck when we visit there next.
We found this red fox near our B&B when we were there in August last summer. The foxes in Whitehorse are not too hard to find but at 10:30pm, we weren’t expecting to see one in the gloom. But this one stood out against the bright green lawn of a home that edged on to the forest.
I found this great horned owl on December 20th. She was perched a couple of meters off the ground in a stand of trees along the edge of a farm east of Langdon on Alberta’s prairie. It was just before noon and the day was cool but not frigid. The warm sun was lovely as I walked from the range road to a position with a better view of the owl. I was excited to photograph the bird – especially once I had the sunlight at my back and I could catch the glow of the golden eyes.
She watched the ground intently at times and tracked any ravens that flew overhead. I settled in on a mound and waited for the bird to launch. Despite a couple of shakes and repositions early on, the bird didn’t fly then and soon the eyes were shutting for increasingly long intervals.
For four hours I waited before the owl jumped into the air. I was in a great position but was chagrined when she flew away from me. Hope returned when she alighted on a branch 20 meters away and turned back towards me. A few minutes along and the excitement returned. This time the flight path was towards me and she flew beside me on her way to another line of trees towering over a snow-covered field. This time afforded me a great angle on the owl.
January 1st has been a good, and wonderfully relaxed, start to 2020 for us. The fireworks at the Redwood Meadows community sports field last night did a great job of ushering in the new year. All the best to you and yours in this new year.
The fireworks were great. Thank you to the people involved in the evening’s light show.
I spend a lot of time photographing on the edges of the day. On this morning, as the winter sun cleared the horizon, I found my shadow watching me from the side of a hay bale.
It has come too soon but I am enjoying the beautiful colors that fall has brought. Snow is falling this weekend so autumn may be cut short this year – we’ll see.
I’ve had fun playing with longer shutter speeds and moving through the focal length during some of those. Some of the images have an abstract, painterly quality which I love. I still like photographing the changing landscape in more straightforward ways too. Most scenes I end up shooting in a few different ways to see which works in that moment. Here are a few from the past couple of weeks in and around Bragg Creek.
On a side note, it has been a long time since my last post. I have kept shooting but haven’t made time to publish anything for a little over two months. A lot went on through the summer. The biggest change has been falling in love with a wonderful woman. Aside from my children and how they continually amaze me, that has been the highlight of a summer that has absolutely flown by.
It was a great spring to spend lot of time with these majestic owls. For many years there have been several pairs of great gray owls that I’ve been able to photograph hunting and resting on perches in and around forests near my home. I’ve never taken it for granted. Happily the great spring has continued into summer. Here are a few of my favorites from July so far.
I went to Frank Lake in early May. A short drive east of High River, this is a wetland controlled by Ducks Unlimited Canada and is designated as an Important Bird Area. The migratory and summer populations both have a large variety of bird species. I enjoy photographing there – it’s a beautiful location on the prairies, has abundant wildlife and offers a wide area across three basins to explore.
American avocets are one of my favorite shorebirds. On my last visit, I had great opportunities to photograph them from mid-afternoon through dusk. These are a few of those images. Thank you for having a look.
A good friend and I went up to Moraine Lake at the beginning of June. We photographed from dusk into dark, crashed out for a couple of hours and then shot the sunrise. These are a few of the photographs as the time rolled by.
Into the night…
Rising with the sun…
(Please click on any image to open a separate window to see these panoramas in a larger version)
I have been enjoying creating panoramas by merging a number of shots into one wide image. The workshop that I went to on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington recently brought that approach back in to my plans. It’s been a while since I shot them with any regularity. The rainforests there are well into spring and were amazing to photograph for panoramic concepts. Forests have incredible depth, details and patterns and that was a focus while I was in the Pacific Northwest.
When I returned home, a cold weather pattern was knocking around Alberta. When a snowstorm blew in, I headed out to photograph the forest and see if any pano opportunities jumped out. The storm grew into a blizzard. It was cool to have the increasing density of snow as a variable to the images. We’ve had a few really good days in the week afterwards. Before the next one comes in this weekend.
Greedily, Old Man Winter has snuck past Spring once more and released another day-long blizzard across southern Alberta. The snow fell in thick flakes, speckling the sky then blurring the forest as it neared the ground. I’m looking forward to greenery, especially given how lovely Seattle was when I was there last week, but this was a storm which cast a beautiful spell over the landscape west of Bragg Creek.
This moose was grazing in a marsh west of Bragg Creek when I drove by. She stared at me for a minute, trotted through brambles a bit and then stared back to me again.
April 24th update: Thank you to The Mysterious Blogger for suggesting the title of this post – now updated. And, to P.grover for improving my/our understanding of moose and threats to their health.
My family spent a few days in Radium at the end of March. I had not been that way since last fall. Driving through the Sinclair Canyon’s narrow opening into the Columbia Valley this time, the steep rock walls grabbed my attention.
I went there early on three of the four mornings to play with those solid forms. Lights from passing traffic traced bright lines through the long exposures.
The last morning was the earliest I arrived – a little after 4am. I had some ideas for images with star trails through the gap in the canyon. The clouds were not supportive of those ideas. I watched them knit together and block the night sky as I was setting up. Those ideas will get another chance later this spring I think.
Watching from the branches, the owl dove after the sunlight had slipped away. It had already been a great day of owls (long-eared, short-eared, snowy and great grays). There was enough light for one more encounter.
The bird missed on the first plunge into the snow. Then heard or saw something and shot upwards. He flew away from me and quickly dove back to the ground.
With the second strike successful, he swallowed the prey and then returned to the trees.
Flying to a new perch after several minutes. From there it alternated between watching the field across the road and the fence line directly below.
The light faded quickly and my fingers were happy when I returned to the vehicle.
Flying on from the beam, this great gray owl continued moving from one perch to the next. Eventually it flew over my head and landed on the top of a tree still in the sunshine.
A couple of minutes, the portrait below and then it flew to a higher point overlooking another field. That seemed a good point to leave her to her own purposes.
Almost immediately afterwards, we saw a second owl. This one gliding between branches. These trees were still in the sunlight and its warm tone wrapped around the bird as it flew.
The sun fell quickly. The light and shadow drawing lines and space across the forest’s west-facing edge. The owl weaved between those and the tree branches a couple of times before the daylight slipped away. His eyes catching the light at some angles and hiding in the shadow at others.
There was a third owl that made a couple of sorties into a nearby field. That was too far away to photograph. And I was happy to stay with the owl in front of me. That led soon to a pair of dives into the snow.
By the time we found this great gray owl in the late afternoon, it had already been a wonderful day of owls. This grey was the first of three that flew and hunted on the edge of the forest through into night. The waning sunshine offered a little warmth against cold and perhaps encouraged the owls to come out of the trees to hunt. Sometimes an owl is found only by slowly studying woods or fields. This one was much easier – perched on a sign post.
A truck drove by and the owl took flight. The bird crossed over a fence and drifted over the field beyond. Angling up on an instant, she quickly down towards the snow.
I missed catching a sharp shot of her crashing into the field. She, however, did not miss. He talons pinned a field mouse of some type under the snow. She transferred that to her beak after a few shuffles and disturbances. And then flew up to finish off the meal on a fence post.
From there the owl flew over the field again. This time alighting on the metal beam of a piece of farm machinery. From sign to beam was only six minutes. Luckily there was a bit more with this owl and then more through sunset with two other owls.