Posts tagged “wildlife photography

My favourite wildlife photographs from 2017

It took a little longer to find time to complete my review of my wildlife images this year.  Due largely to general busyness and some measure of procrastination.  So I appreciated the irony that one of the areas I have put a lot of thought into, and work to improve, is patience.  Looking back, this focus on waiting is helping me to get closer to the wildlife imagery that I want to be creating.  Waiting for the animals, waiting on their schedule for something to happen, can be a challenge – sometimes, like in the cold, a significant one.  I’m happy that I laid down on the snow, crouched in marshes, hiked into valleys and froze my fingers to find those opportunities and try to do something with them.

The 2017 gallery can be viewed at this link or by clicking on any of the pictures in this post.

A comparison with my 2016 wildlife gallery suggests some subtle changes.  I see exploration into some ideas, blurs for one, that is interesting.  I’ve been trying to bring more imagination into my wildlife images.  Lot’s more to work on there.

Comparing years past with the last one, I like the direction and that stirs up the motivation coals.  The latter always being a good thing, I think.


Flashback Friday: Pelicans flying over the Sea of Cortez

It has been a couple of years since I went to Cabo San Lucas.  Thinking about an image for Flashback Friday, one from a spectacular sunrise there came to mind.  The fiery sky had me thinking about where to set up for a landscape shot when I saw a brief of brown pelicans flying low over the water.  I switched to my camera with a telephoto lens attached and watched as they rose off the water.  This let their silhouettes contrast sharply from the background.  That got me excited and I squeezed off a couple of photos before they dropped down again and continued southwards.

If you are interested in seeing a few more images like this one, here is another photo from the same flight which I posted that morning in December 2014.  And, another post where one pelican flew very close to me a couple of days later and I isolated the lone bird against the sky and the rising sun.

A few minutes later, I returned to landscape hunting and was not disappointed in any way with what nature laid out before me.

 


Snowy flight over the Prairie

I found this snowy owl perched along a forgotten fence line north of Lyalta (which is east of Calgary).  After a trek across the field to get to about 60 meters away, I leaned against a post and waited.  I set my exposure so that I would have a slower shutter speed at the start.  I wanted to show some motion in the wings and estimated that 1/200th of a second would allow for that.  Fifteen minutes later something drew his attention and he launched perpendicular to me and the fence.

 

I had two nice images of him flying towards the sun before he was past me.  The first had a soft blur in the wings as they were near level.  The other caught the wings at their full extension upwards.  Both images kept the head sharp so luck played to my hand when I was panning with the bird.  The shutter speed worked out well.  I continue to try slower speeds but have yet to nail one of those with a sharp face.  I will share those when I do.


A snowy owl flight

The deep freeze across southern Alberta has curtailed some of our outside activities over the holidays – but I’ve still managed to head out photographing a few times. I have been longing to see snowy owls again so on the 28th, I drove to the prairies east of Calgary in pursuit of these beautiful birds.  I left the house at 6am and it was -29°C.  That kind of chill saw me bundled up in heavy winter gear from top to bottom.  I drove the back roads between Delacour and Lyalta scanning telephone poles, fence posts and any other high points for the owls.  The heavy snowfall that has accompanied the cold made for a true winter wonderland so I enjoyed the drive immensely.  A short time later, I found a snowy perched on a telephone pole.

I parked and stepped out with my camera and then waited.  After 40 minutes the owl found something that was worth checking out and he flew across a field landing on a fence post a couple hundred meters away.

I trudged that way and waited to see what happened.  Five minutes later he flew back to the line of telephone poles.  I had a great view from the launch and until he flew past me.

With a great flight under the belt, and some very cold extremities, I returned to my car.  I watched the owl from its new perch on another pole while I warmed up.  The owl was alert, looking around steadily, but did not fly and I left a short while later.


Flashback Friday – owl to perch flight

A couple of years ago I watched this owl hunting in the snow west of Bragg Creek.  It was a relatively warm day for March and this great gray was active for a long while before launching off of a fence post and flying upwards to this skeletal tree.  I liked how the eyes are locked on the landing spot in this image.  The overcast sky and bare branches suited the gray feathers backlit against the clouds.


Flashback Friday – squabbling geese on Two Jack

The ice started to recede on Two Jack Lake in late April this year.  Waterfowl was drawn to the open water as they migrated back to Banff National Park.  Some birds were resting briefly before continuing further north.  For a small gaggle of Canada geese, they seemed to be planning for a longer stay.

At one point, one goose decided to chase another.  The target flew off and was joined by his mate and they landed at another opening.  Perhaps this was a territorial “discussion”.  For me, it yielded a series of images with the aggressor splashing, flying and skimming across the water.  The bird banked around the small cove towards me so I was in a great position to photograph him.




The remaining couple settled down quickly and returned to paddling on the water.  A little while later one laid don near a stand of trees while the other went to the edge of the ice that still covered most of the lake.


A chickadee surrounded by autumn

 

This black-capped chickadee chirped and sang from the woods beside a small peninsula on Upper Kananaskis Lake.  I sat down and waited for a little while to see if it would come into view.  They are curious little birds and it didn’t take long for this one to perch among the golden leaves nearby.  With a quick check done, it soon flitted off and I continued on towards the windswept side of the lake across the peninsula.

 


Flashback Friday – a loon shakin’ on the Vermilion Lakes

This past summer I spent a lot of time at the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park.  I was drawn there by a pair of common loons who nested on the third lake this year.  This photograph was from May 27th at 5:41 am on a morning when I was alone with the loons and their beautiful, haunting calls to one another.  After diving, they preen their feathers and eventually lean back, unfold their wings and vigorously flap them to shed water.  This process always fascinates me and I love the way the still images look.   It starts slowly, with the bird shifting their weight and then stretching out the wings while raising their bodies off the water.  The flapping then starts and builds to a crescendo with the loon’s head pointing straight up, wings blurring furiously and water drops spraying off in all directions.  And then it ends with the bird dropping back into the water and carrying on preening, diving or paddling along.  The whole cycle lasting roughly 3-5 seconds.  The image below is that peak in the cycle where it seems the bird itself might fly apart.

 


A family of moose in Kananaskis Country

This was easily one of the sweetest moments I’ve seen when this bull moose nuzzled with his calf.

The bull is likely mating with the cow again this year which brings him into the same area as the calf. I didn’t expect them to have a bond but when this tender moment happened on the weekend, I was obviously wrong.

 

This calf was born in 2016 and still stays close to his mother. The three moose have been hanging around each other again during this year’s rut. I don’t know how long they will stay together as a little family before the bull returns to the solitary life.

When I started watching them, the calf was laying down while the parents grazed separately nearby.  Over the next hour they all moved slowly around the small meadow and the edge of the forest.  It was a relaxed atmosphere which I think is reflected in the photographs.

Eventually the big fellow laid down and was soon napping.  The cow and calf continued grazing.  And I headed home.


Flashback Friday – baby bear bites

Forgive the double alliterations in the title!  I recently came across one of these pictures in my image library.  That recalled the encounter with this grizzly bear and her three cubs in 2012.  It was wet morning in June and my friend Jeff and I were out photographing near the Vermilion Lakes.  We found the bears under the trees.  While mom was sleeping, these two year olds were rough housing with abandon.

Though the bared teeth look fierce no true biting happened.  Even the play lost their interest before long and they alternated sprawling across mom and nursing.  We left then and it seemed they were close to a nap themselves – although they may have powered up again instead.

When they separated, I was able to grab a couple of individual shots.  Truly beautiful animals.  Five years on, I wonder how they have made out.  Their mother, 64, was well known in the Banff area but disappeared at the age of 25 and was assumed to have died in late 2013.  I believe one of these cubs was 148 who was relocated out of Banff earlier this year.  That move was due to her increasing encounters with humans but, tragically, she was shot and killed last Sunday in British Columbia.  A death, legal though it was, which I am having great difficulty accepting.  Particularly when that province will outlaw trophy hunting of grizzly bears starting on November 30th.    I’m a bit teary now so I’ll finish here.

Here is one of the last photographs I took of 64.


Stags in the hazy morning sunshine

There were two mule deer bucks nibbling on roadside grass that I came across last weekend.  They were between the two Kananaskis Lakes and they ran up the hillside to the forest edge when another car passed by.  This brought them into the morning sunshine which illuminated them wonderfully.

One of the stags paused at the top of the hill before disappearing behind the trees.  The other walked along the ridge above the road for a few minutes.

He was enjoying the buffalo berries which are ripe throughout the valleys in Kananaskis now.  I always think of these berries as being food for the bears but this fellow reminded me that they are a delicious snack for many of the animals in the Rockies.

The smoke from the wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta continues to roll across the west.  That morning the resulting haze was quite heavy which warmed and softened the sunlight.  Beautiful light to work with – a very small and personal silver lining to a massive issue impacting millions of people.  This photo of peaks in the Kananaskis valley gives some indication of the atmosphere on that morning.

The stag kept an eye on me but with little traffic and me staying in my car had little provocation to join his partner in the woods.  I left him still grazing and continued my travels around K-Country.

 


Around the edge with a red-winged blackbird

I took advantage of a Red-winged blackbird’s interest in me and photographed it among the reeds on the edge of the third of the Vermilion Lakes.  There were several blackbirds calling one another and flying between perches.  They would flit between the little islands of long grass on the lake, the trees hanging over the water and the bushes that filled in the shoreline.

This one came closer and stayed longer than the others which gave me a few good moments to photograph.