Thursday, August 18, 2016

2016 NLWS Fundraiser and Great Prizes!

It's that time of year again...fundraiser time for the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter! And our prizes this year for donors are amazing: they include a bear viewing trip for two to the Great Bear Rainforest, 8 photo prints from a variety of amazing wildlife photographers, a Day in the Field with me, and a private, exclusive day at the shelter helping out with the baby bears!

You can watch the video here: www.exposedwithjohnemarriott.com and you can check out all of the fundraiser details, including how to Donate, here: www.exposedwithjohnemarriott.com/NLWS

Our latest EXPOSED special episode is aiming to raise $35K for a new black bear cub enclosure


Donations will be open until midnight on Monday, August 22nd.

Thanks everyone, please donate now!

John

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Banff Wolf Killed (same story every two weeks)

 At 8 p.m. last night, Parks Canada killed a yearling female wolf near Lake Minnewanka for what was described as “bold behaviour,” after the wolf repeatedly got into garbage left out by campers at the Two Jack Lake campsites and overflow campsite.

It was just the latest in a ridiculously long list of incidents and deaths in Banff at the hands of man for the latest Bow Valley wolf family, the wolves known as the Banff Town pack:

January 21st: Wildlife experts worry about habituation after Banff wolves spotted eating garbage (pathetically, the two construction companies that started this whole thing were only fined $1,000 each)

June 2nd: 'Things are looking bleak' for the Bow Valley wolf pack in Banff National Park

June 7th: Female wolf killed in Banff National Park after aggressive behaviour

June 16th: Applying fear so Banff wolves steer clear

June 18th: Wolf pup killed by train in Banff National Park

July 4th: Three more wolf pack pups killed

July 20th: 'Problematic' wolf gets into campsite garbage

July 21st: Alpha male, pack, limping through 2016

August 3rd: National Park bans tents at Two Jack Lake campgrounds due to wolf

And, finally, today's news that came as a shock to no one that has been following the demise of this wolf family closely: Banff National Park kills wolf involved in campground incidents

The Banff Town pack in happier times -- November 2015

So to be blunt: WTF is going on in Banff?

Twenty years ago, in 1996, the Bow Valley Study was commissioned to look at the effects humans were having on Banff and the Bow Valley. Their summary report was titled 'Banff-Bow Valley: At the Crossroads.'

Today, we can look back and clearly see which direction the Parks Canada Agency has taken from that crossroads with our beloved Bow Valley. Few recommendations from that report have ever been implemented and there is hardly a piece of the Bow Valley that is now not much worse off than it was twenty years ago in terms of ecological integrity and protection. Rather than ramp up protection for the habitat and the wildlife in the valley, Parks Canada has instead ambitiously and blindly pursued an increase in tourism and visitation while simultaneously decreasing funding and staffing.

In short, Banff National Park, the crown jewel of the Canadian national parks system, is now critically underfunded, understaffed, under protected and over visited.

The staff on the ground are being worked to the bone, bleeding their souls back into the park; but at this point, they're fighting a losing battle. Every action they take is reactionary, not precautionary, because they simply don't have the manpower or the will from Ottawa to truly take charge of the situation and right the ship.

Peter Dettling warned of the pending storm in his book, The Will of the Land. So too did Gunther Bloch in my book with him this past July, The Pipestones: The Rise and Fall of a Wolf Family. But frankly, so too did the Bow Valley Study twenty years ago.

Perhaps it's finally time to start to question whether Banff National Park is still our crown jewel. Is it even still worthy of being included in UNESCO's world heritage sites?

How has our national park failed so miserably? In recent weeks, the Banff Town wolf family has been “accidentally” and intentionally fed, trapped, collared, killed by Parks Canada staff, and killed by CPR trains. What started as two wolves meeting in the valley for the first time in the winter of 2015 -- having three pups in 2015, then having six more pups in 2016 -- and heading into this spring as a family of 11, has completely disintegrated into a limping male, two yearlings (including one that's also on a death watch for getting into garbage) and maybe, if we're lucky, one or two surviving pups, though no one really knows at this point.

Yes, Parks Canada has increased information patrols, public outreach, and citations. But it's yet another case of way too little, way too late.

I'll leave the final word on this devastating day for Canada's most prominent national park to the Alberta organization, Wolf Matters, who says that for now Parks needs to step up the plate and close all of the campgrounds that have been affected before more wolves die:

Our species has proven that we cannot be trusted, whether through true ignorance, laziness, or disrespect, it doesn't matter, we cannot be trusted and so the privilege [of camping in Banff] should be removed. There is nowhere else for these animals to go, this is their home. Outside the park they can be poisoned, snared, hunted 10 months of the year, shot from the air, and trapped -- and inside the park....well, it seems they cannot live safely there either.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

EXPOSED Ep. 6: Photographing Spirit Bears

We’re back with a brand new episode! Join me for Episode 6 on the adventure of a lifetime to photograph spirit bears (white kermode bears) in the heart of the spectacular Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada. Watch it below and let me know what you think in the Comments!

Episode 6 takes you along with me into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest in BC in search of spirit bears!

And don’t forget that you can view all of our episodes, including our Extras, on our YouTube channel  or on our website at www.exposedwithjohnemarriott.com

Stay tuned next month for our seventh episode as we journey with John to the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter and raise money to support their efforts releasing black and grizzly bear cubs back into the wild!

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Killing Grizzlies - The Truth Behind the B.C. Trophy Hunt

EXPOSED is back for an in-depth second look examining the truths behind the trophy grizzly bear hunt in British Columbia, Canada. Why is there still a hunt? Is it the sport, the public demand, the politics, the science, or the economics?

Over 90% of British Columbians oppose the grizzly bear trophy hunt, yet, it continues...WHY?

Episode 5: Killing Grizzlies - The Truth Behind the B.C. Trophy Hunt delves into the issue with some hard-hitting facts that will make you want to get involved in the fight against the grizzly bear hunt by visiting our Take Action page at http://www.exposedwithjohnemarriott.com/take-action/

Let me know what you think after watching the episode.

Thanks everyone,

John

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Wolf Cover for Canadian Geographic Wins National Award

I just learned yesterday that for the second time in the last seven years, one of my covers with Canadian Geographic has won the Gold Award for Canadian magazine covers in 2015 as meted out by the Canadian Cover Awards.


A few of you may recall that my last wolf cover with Canadian Geographic, back in December 2009, also won several magazine awards and was the best-selling issue/cover in the history of Canadian Geographic magazine.

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EXPOSED Ep. 4: Searching for Caribou

EXPOSED with John E. Marriott, Episode 4: Searching for Caribou in the Arctic Barren Lands is now online!


Episode 4 is now online at www.exposedwithjohnemarriott.com! Join John for a week-long adventure into the heart of Canada's barren-land Arctic searching for caribou and northern lights. You'll discover first-hand what it's like to be along on one of John's photo trips 'North of 60' into the vast Arctic wilderness and you'll meet the infamous Alfred along the way. Enjoy!

Don't forget that you can catch all of our episodes, including the Meet John E. Marriott introduction, online on the website, www.exposedwithjohnemarriott.com or on our YouTube channel, EXPOSED with John E. Marriott  You can also follow along with updates on our Facebook page.

Stay tuned for our fifth episode next month, as we take you on a magical journey into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest in search of the elusive white spirit bear.

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EXPOSED Ep. 3: Canada's War on Wolves, the Alberta Wolf Cull

EXPOSED with John E. Marriott, Episode 3: Canada's War on Wolves, the Alberta Wolf Cull is now online!


Join John for an in-depth look at Alberta's controversial wolf cull in Episode 3 online at www.exposedwithjohnemarriott.com  For eleven years the Alberta government has murdered thousands of wolves in the Little Smoky region east of Grande Cache by every means possible, all in the name of conserving caribou. John takes you along with him into the heart of the Little Smoky and uncovers the grisly truths behind Alberta's wolf cull and suggests what really needs to be done to save the woodland caribou in Alberta and beyond.

And thank you everyone for the incredible support for Episode 1: Stop the BC Grizzly Trophy Hunt and Episode 2: Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen, we've had over 50,000 people watch each of them already! You can view all of the episodes, including the Meet John E. Marriott introduction, online on the website, www.exposedwithjohnemarriott.com or on our new YouTube channel, EXPOSED with John E. Marriott. You can also follow along with our new Facebook page dedicated to the show.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

EXPOSED Ep. 2: Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen

EXPOSED with John E. Marriott, Episode 2: Grizzly Bears of the Khutzeymateen is now live!


Episode 2 is now online at www.exposedwithjohnemarriott.com! Join John for a week-long adventure into the heart of Canada's first and only grizzly bear sanctuary, the magical Khutzeymateen. You'll discover first-hand what it's like to be along on one of John's photo trips in the Great Bear Rainforest and you'll meet the Lady of Larch, Koda and the legendary Frank the Tank along the way. Enjoy!

And thank you everyone for the incredible support for Episode 1: Stop the BC Grizzly Trophy Hunt, we've had almost 50,000 people watch it already. You can view all of the episodes, including the Meet John E. Marriott introduction, online on the website, www.exposedwithjohnemarriott.com or on our new YouTube channel, EXPOSED with John E. Marriott. You can also follow along with our new Facebook page dedicated to the show.

Stay tuned in three weeks time for our third episode, a hard-hitting affair in which John pulls no punches in uncovering the dirty secrets behind the Alberta wolf cull.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

EXPOSED Ep. 1: Stop the BC Grizzly Trophy Hunt

I am thrilled to announce that my new web series, EXPOSED with John E. Marriott is now live!


Here's a brief synopsis of the first episode: Stop the BC Grizzly Trophy Hunt -- Join me on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway in northern British Columbia, home to the densest concentration of grizzly bear hunting mortality in the entire province. Like many roads in BC, hunters are allowed to shoot a bear just 15 meters from the center of the highway. John takes issue with this roadside hunting and with the grizzly bear trophy hunt in general, pointing out that hunters rarely eat grizzly meat and that most of these dead bears end up as a head mounted on a wall.

If you’d like to get involved and take action against the grizzly trophy hunt, visit http://www.exposedwithjohnemarriott.com/take-action/

You can also visit the new series on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/expsedjem/ or on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSN6XzS07gO8xNxLWFGJY5Q.

And note that you can subscribe to the show on our website so that you never miss a thing.

Thank you everyone for your support in this project, it's been an exciting start to 2016!

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Second Teaser for EXPOSED!

I’m incredibly excited to announce that 'EXPOSED with John E. Marriott' will debut in one week’s time, on January 21st! I’ll be profiling my favourite locations and subjects, sharing tips and how-tos for aspiring photographers, and speaking from the heart about preserving our magnificent wildlife. Check out this week’s preview and watch for the first episode next week!


You can catch all of the new episodes and extras by watching or subscribing to our Youtube Channel or by following our Facebook Page, EXPOSED with John E. Marriott. Next week we will also be launching the official Exposed with John E. Marriott website.

Thanks for your support everyone, hope you enjoy the latest preview!

Happy Shooting.

John

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Canadian Geographic Cover

I'm not a fan of Canadian Geographic doing votes for their covers, but since I keep losing the cover shot because I don't promote the vote on social media (I've lost three in a row and the last one I won was because I had ALL of the choices, so the vote didn't matter!), I thought I'd at least put this one out there and see if you guys agree: this time around I think my photo is indeed the best choice for the cover (it's the one on the left of Athabasca Falls in Jasper at sunrise), so if you agree feel free to vote for it (and if you don't agree, feel free to vote for the other images!): http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/contests/coverVotes/mar16/

My shot is the one on the left? Is it the best cover choice this time around? I think so...do you?

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

EXPOSED - First Teaser!

I am thrilled to show off the first teaser for 'EXPOSED with John E. Marriott' - a documentary-style, no-holds-barred web series that will bring you deeper into my world, from the euphoric highs to the crushing lows! Stay tuned for the first episode coming later this month - and let me know what you think of the teaser!!



Here's the link to the full screen version in Youtube, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB5vAEfycxE

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Canadian Creatives: Our Favourite Images

Almost a year ago I teamed up two of my buddies, fellow Canadian photographers Dave Brosha and Paul Zizka, to launch Canadian Creatives, an image collective we hoped would celebrate creativity in Canadian photography and showcase the best images from across the country regardless of which photo genre they came from. We started the initiative on Instagram and have been thrilled to watch it grow to over 14,000 followers and over 500 image posts to date. In the past few months we decided to expand the creative and added a few more brilliantly-talented Canadian photographers from several different genres: Joel Robison, Viktoria Haack, Wayne Simpson and Lanny & Erika Mann (Two Mann Studios).

So for a fresh start to 2016, we thought we would create a joint blog post showcasing a "best of" image from each of our fellow Canadian Creative curators. We were randomly assigned a name and told to choose just one image that we felt best represented the 2015 work of that person. So here they are, the best of the best (in the eyes of the other curators) from 2015 along with a description as to why that curator assigned to each of us chose our image.

And if you haven't already, please take a moment to check out the Instagram and Canadian Creatives portfolio of each of my colleagues and don’t forget to tag your Instagram images with #CanadianCreatives for an opportunity to have us share your work with our growing community.

Note that you can click on any of these images below to see them full screen in all their glory!

Joel Robison

Image by Joel Robison @joelrobison
Text by Erika Jensen-Mann of Two Mann Studios:

Lately, I’ve been spending a huge portion of my life researching creativity and the creative process. As a wedding photojournalist, I don’t feel like I “create” images. I photograph moments, as they unfold before my eyes. The only thing I have to “create” is the composition, and in some cases the lighting. Joel Robinson, on the other hand, is a true creative. He creates an image from start to finish, in every sense of the word. He creates the concept, the story, the props, the lighting, the execution, and something undefinable that I can’t quite put into words. Joel’s images have a dream-like quality that completely draws me in. In the image I selected he is sitting on top of the world (literally) casting a paper boat into the ocean. The interpretation of this image can go in so many different directions, depending on where you are with life. In my opinion, a true piece of art is defined by how it engages the viewer. A piece of art draws people in to think, not just about what they’re looking at, but about what it means. All of Joel’s images draw me in, in this manner. I have no idea why I selected this image as my favourite, probably because I’ve spent the year travelling the world with my family. Under different circumstances, I may have chosen a completely different image. That’s the beauty of Joel’s work.

Wayne Simpson

Image by Wayne Simpson @waynesimpsonphoto
Text by Paul Zizka:

For my part, I was tasked to choose one of Wayne Simpson’s images from 2015. What a ridiculous assignment. Not only does the guy do phenomenal landscape work, he also keeps coming up with incredible portraits! I really had my work cut out for me. It took a good deal of browsing through a lot of compelling images, but, in the end, this is the one that stuck with me the most: a portrait of a man named Brian Newman. I find it haunting, mysterious, and mesmerizing. Wayne has a knack for finding incredible subjects for his portraits and then has a way of capturing people’s spirit and making us want to know them. Even if I never get to meet Brian, I feel like I’ve come pretty close looking at this image of Wayne’s. I love the subtle lighting and inclusion of the environment as well. Well done, Wayne! As a side note, I got to meet Wayne in person this past Fall. Not only is he one of the most versatile and creative photographers I know, but he’s just such a great all-around guy. Most of all, he’s as humble as they come. As an example, he gave some credit to Lee Jeffries when he posted this image on social media. I think it’s classy of him to acknowledge where part of his inspiration came from. I very much look forward to working with Wayne again in 2016!

John E. Marriott

Image by John E. Marriott @johnemarriott
Text by Lanny Mann of Two Mann Studios:

I am not a wildlife photographer. Although, some of my subjects could be described as “wild animals” on the dance floors of the weddings I shoot. As a wedding photographer, however, I have an incredible appreciation for wildlife photography. I’m drawn into it, not only by the beautiful images of creatures that I adore, but also by my curiosity about, and respect for the stories that are behind the images… the struggle and adventure required to capture such images. And when it comes to any genre of photography, I’m always most impressed by those who are pushing things… taking it to the next level. And I am not alone in recognizing that, when it comes to wildlife photography today, there’s one guy doing just that. John Marriott’s work continually stops me in my tracks. Choosing just one of his incredible images was pretty much impossible. Alas, I decided to settle upon this one… for a few reasons. Firstly, obviously… it’s a masterfully timed and executed photograph of not one, but two beautiful creatures in the wild. Secondly, as with so many of John’s photographs, it’s compelling for reasons far beyond the inherent beauty of the subject matter. In my mind, John is more than a wildlife photographer… he’s a wildlife storyteller. This single image captures, so much more than the wonder and beauty of a young grizzly bear and a vibrant red salmon. The moment and movement tells a beautiful story of survival, struggle, and connection. That can not be easy to do, which is my ultimate reason for choosing this image. Understanding the struggle, patience, commitment, and persistence required to capture a moment like this, is what earns John the utmost respect in my book.

Dave Brosha

Image by Dave Brosha @davebrosha
Text by John E. Marriott:

How do you choose just one image to represent a year in the life of an iconic Canadian photographer like Dave Brosha? I hummed and hawwed over hundreds of shots on his Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds, yet in the end was drawn to the photograph that I most remembered of his from his many, many, MANY (seriously, Dave, do you sleep?!) posts over the course of the year. It’s a simple, elegant, lovely, vibrant shot that sums up everything about Dave’s photography in general. It’s not a signature portrait or a dazzling landscape, both of which he’s got more than a few of in his 2015 portfolio, but rather a mundane, bluish ‘black-and-white’ landscape that has been transformed by the simple addition of a bride (Dave’s wife!) in a stark white dress below a subtle yet shimmering starry, aurora-filled sky. The blue tones framing the bright colours in the interior of the photo, the silhouette, the central positioning of the human figure…all translate into what I picked as Dave’s most memorable image from 2015.

Paul Zizka

Image by Paul Zizka @paulzizkaphoto
Text by Viktoria Haack:

I really enjoyed going through Paul’s portfolio from the last year but what a choice to have to make….so many awesome images!!! It was really hard to narrow it down to just one but here it is: Boreal Joy! I love this image on so many levels: The curve of the water as it snakes through the photograph and leads the eye through the frame, the fan of cloud that completes the circle in the upper part of the picture and contains the main elements of the image. The sun star gives it that beautiful spark of light and of course the tiny figure: Paul is a master at placing the human form in the landscape and this joyous self portrait is in my opinion one of his best! Add the complimentary colours of blue and orange, and the purple tint on the right of the frame and this image is definitely a favourite of mine.

Lanny Mann

Image by Lanny Mann @twomannstudios
Text by Wayne Simpson:

How do you pick your favourite image from a photographer you greatly admire when pretty much every single image that they post blows you away! Lanny and Erika Mann of Two Mann Studios are a hugely talented duo in the wedding photography industry. While I’m a huge fan of their collective work, I’d like to give a shout out to Lanny and share one of my favourite images of the year from him.

As a photographer who has shot his fair share of weddings, I’m well aware of the pressures on a wedding day and how difficult it is to be creative without being cheesy but still get the “must have” shots. Lanny has an amazing ability to capture fleeting moments, emotion and mood in a dramatic and artistic way while under pressure – be it within a landscape, hidden in a reflection or framed within other artistic elements.

There are so many amazing shots from the last year, but I’ve finally settled on this beautiful image! This is one of those shots that make you stop and pick your jaw back up off the floor! I just love the mood, grandeur and romanticism captured here! Many people think of heaven as a place with angels, clouds and golden gates… I picture heaven to look like this! Amazing work Lanny!

Erika Jensen-Mann

Image by Erika Mann @twomannstudios
Text by Dave Brosha:

It’s no secret that Erika – along with her husband Lanny – are talented photographers. If you know wedding photography you know that they collectively make up the Two Mann Studios brand, who are not only recognized in Canada for their talents, but they are recognized around the globe as two of the most innovative and creative wedding photographers out there. So I’ll be honest when I say I was surprised to say that despite Erika’s obvious incredible skill at wedding photography, I don’t think it’s her best work…but rather her humanitarian work. Erika Jensen-Mann is a master at composition and that even-harder, ever-elusive skill of capturing genuine human emotion. And this image, which she photographed as part of a team who went and worked in Ghana, leaves me breathless. That an image can speak to the bonds between human beings and be somehow filled with both tension and tenderness, grit and beauty…is a powerful feat. This image is pure storytelling, and that’s the component that most photographers – even immensely talented photographers – often fall flat on: not Erika, however. Whether it’s her wedding work, her images of her family, or important documentary work as shown here, Erika is a story-teller. Her work makes you feel. And we’re all the better for it.

Viktoria Haack

Image by Viktoria Haack @viktoriahaack
Text by Joel Robison:

Having a browse through Viktoria’s photo stream is like taking a much needed relaxation break through the mountains. Having spent the majority of my life in the shadow of the Rockies myself, I know the power they have to bring peace to the body and the mind and her images evoke this sense of calm. From perfectly framed portraits of children and their pets enjoying the winter wonderland to stunning landscapes of mountains and lakes, her images could easily sell me a one way ticket back to the mountains. Finding just one image was tough because each time I had a look through, I found myself drawn to a new one. I eventually chose one of a lone figure, stretching out over the water, a feeling of strength that makes me feel at home. Have a tour through Viktoria’s work and you’re sure to feel both calm and invigorated!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Owl Rescue

Sunday, November 29th, 2016 - 2:16 p.m.

As many of you that follow me on Instagram or Facebook already know, I had quite the day on Saturday. It began as most winter days begin, with me driving down a quiet road in the mountains looking for wildlife to photograph.

As it happened, I had a small film crew (more about that in a few paragraphs) with me and as we drove by what looked like an odd-shaped lump in a snowbank on the side of the road, the cameraman sitting in my front seat stared hard at it and said, "What's that? It looked like an owl!"

I had already had my eye on the lump from a distance and had written it off as a bit of tree that had been deposited there by a snowplow, but indeed, as we drove by it and the cameraman made his remark, I clearly saw what appeared to be some type of owl sitting on the bank covered in frost.

I slammed on the brakes and did a quick u-turn to have a better look. Sure enough, it was a frost-enveloped great horned owl just sitting there on the bank at the edge of the road! Excitedly, I grabbed my 500mm lens and trained it on the frosty owl and started to fire off pictures. But right away, something seemed "off" about the situation. I stopped shooting and said to the cameraman, "Something's wrong, it looks like it might be injured."

The owl was covered in ice and frost -- right away, I knew something was wrong


I got out of the car and slowly approached the owl. It didn't even blink an eye until I got within five feet of it, at which point it suddenly opened its eyes wide and began to try to get away from me. It took a few staggered steps in the deep snow and then fell over onto its back and lay splayed upside down on the snow with its wings wide open. Instantly, I knew that it was seriously injured and that I had to do something to try to help it.

For those of you that have seen great horned owls before, they are not small birds. An adult great horned owl can be up to two feet tall and is equipped with massive, sharp talons and a ridiculously strong beak that can tear flesh off of bone. I raced back to my Pathfinder and started clearing space for the owl in the back. I then grabbed the only blanket I had and slowly approached the owl again. This time it managed to right itself for a second and hobble off a few feet in the snow, at which point I got a good look at what appeared to be a cut on its back. I eased in and slowly placed the blanket over the owl, then wrapped my arms around it tightly enough to know that it couldn't pierce me with its talons. Then I carried it like a child to my car with only its face sticking out of the blanket.

It is an odd thing to hold a wild owl in your arms. I had never done it before, but it was a strange mix of euphoria and concern that swept over me as I placed it gently into the back of my vehicle on top of a bed of camouflage netting that I had laid down. I made sure the owl was still wrapped up safely, then closed the hatch.

The camera crew and I had to decide immediately what to do, and within seconds I made the call to get back into cell range as quickly as we could so that we could figure out who/where to take the owl to.

We jumped into our vehicles and started winding down the curvy gravel road towards civilization. After about ten minutes, I stopped for a quick check on the owl (we couldn't see it from the front because it was tucked in behind my back seat). I popped open the hatch and was shocked to see the owl just sitting there on top of everything, completely unwrapped and out of the blankets, calming looking over at me as if it was totally normal for a great horned owl to cruise around in the back of an SUV. "Uh, OOOO-kay..." I quickly closed the hatch.

For the next half hour, we drove carefully along a few mountain roads, hit pavement, and finally, hit cell range. Two calls later, we were headed to the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society to drop off our owl.

We still had an hour to drive, so we started doing interviews (the small two-person camera crew with me has been following me around for a year making a web series that we will be releasing in January 2016 -- stay tuned for all kinds of details I'll be "exposing" about the show in the coming month!) about the adventure that had just fallen into our laps. We had started the morning hoping for a moose or big mule buck; we were ending it with an owl and a rescue mission!


As we turned on to the busy Trans-Canada Highway, we wrapped up the in-car interviews and almost immediately started hearing 'sounds' coming from the back. What kind of sounds? Well, the sort of sounds that might indicate that a great horned owl was feeling like it might start moving around, perhaps even flying around. Of course, as I had mentioned earlier, we couldn't actually see what the owl was doing back there, so we just had to hope that we weren't going to suddenly have an owl with a four-foot wingspan attempting to fly around in my Pathfinder while we were driving on a four-lane highway.

By the time we arrived at the rehab society, I was completely emotionally-invested in our 'no-so-little' owl. And when I opened my hatch to see it sitting there nonchalantly, I couldn't help but think that he (she?) was going to make it. As a kid, I used to dream of saving wildlife and having my own pet [insert anything cool here]. Now here I was with an owl in the back of my vehicle about to deliver it to a wildlife rehabilitation center. The little kid in me couldn't help but dream ahead to the day I would get to release the owl back to the wild and watch it fly away into the forest.


The wildlife tech at the rehab society graciously took the owl from me at the front door and listened to our two-minute account of finding the owl and thinking that it may have been hit by a car. She popped into the back with it and emerged a few minutes later to tell us that it did indeed have some lacerations on its left shoulder and that they would have an on-call veterinarian come in to take a look at the owl in the next day or two. She said she would let us know as soon as they knew what was going on.

And so now we wait. It's been twenty-seven hours since we dropped her off (the tech confirmed that the owl is a female!) and the vet still has not had a chance to get by and examine her, though the person I just spoke to indicated that they expect the vet to be in later today. 

In the meantime, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a happy ending to all of this! 

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Monday, November 30th, 4:15 p.m.

I just got an email from the Executive Director of the society with an update on our beautiful owl. The veterinarian assessed her last night and she had severe lacerations and puncture wounds on her back consistent with an attack from a larger bird, likely an eagle. They put her under anaesthetic for surgery to repair the damage, but unfortunately she didn't make it.

I don't really have anything else to write at this point. I guess I'm just glad that we at least tried and that she died with people trying to help her, rather than freezing to death on the side of a road.

I wish this story had a happier ending. Sorry everyone.

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Tuesday, December 1st, 11:35 a.m.

I've now had a day to digest the news and I wanted to thank the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society for doing everything they could to help our owl and for helping wildlife in the Calgary/Canmore/Banff area, in general. I think most of us take organizations like this for granted; so, if you're feeling sad after reading this story, maybe you'll consider looking up a wildlife rehabilitation society or center in your own area and making a holiday donation or volunteering your time (I donated $100 to the Calgary society on the spot on Saturday, so match me if you will!).

I'm also excited to announce that I have been invited back to the Calgary society with my small film crew to follow up on our story with some of the owls and hawks that they have there that are on the road to recovery. Stay tuned for a full episode (including footage that will melt your heart from this Saturday's attempted rescue) in early 2016.

And finally, thank you to all of you for your comments of support on Facebook and Instagram during the rescue as I live-updated along the way. They were very much appreciated.

John

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Gear Review: Sigma 24-35 f2 Art Lens

First, full disclosure: I'm sponsored by Sigma Canada. They give me free lenses (like my Sigma 120-300mm f2.8) and let me test out new lenses when they come out on the market.

Second, a disclaimer for the disclosure: I only review lenses I like. So if you see a review for a lens (or anything) on here, it means I like it...usually a lot.

So that brings me to my quick-and-dirty review of the Sigma 24-35mm f2.0 Art Lens, which I took for a test drive in southern Nunavut with me last week to test out on the northern lights, as well as into Kananaskis Country to test on some Rocky Mountain scenery.

As many of you already know, my reviews do not get overly technical. All I care about when I test a new lens is whether or not it's a) sharp, b) produces accurate colours and good bokeh, and c) performs well (good AF, easy-to-use, etc.).

And for a-c, the Sigma 24-35 is a stunning entry into the wide angle lens market for the price (it's $1199 Cdn). In fact, it's a stunning entry regardless of the price, as it produces equivalent sharpness to my Zeiss 21mm f2.8 at f2.8, which up until now was my sharpest wide angle lens. That the Sigma 24-35 is even in this ballpark for sharpness wide open is truly remarkable for a zoom lens.

Buller Pond in Kananaskis Country with the Sigma 24-35mm set at 32mm, f5.6 -- razor sharp from corner to corner

At f5.6-f8, where one would expect the Sigma to be at its sharpest, it's spectacularly sharp. But where it really shines in my opinion is in astrophotography at apertures from f2.0 to f2.8. I was really pleasantly surprised to see how sharp it was in the corners at f2.0 in the dark, and by the time I opened up the lens to f2.8, the lens was almost as sharp as it was at f8 in full daylight (click on the following photos to see them at a slightly larger size)!

5 sec exposure at 24mm, f2.0, ISO 2500 (see following two photos for 100% views at full resolution)

100% view of the center of the frame at full resolution, noise reduction and jpg sharpening applied

100% view of the top right corner of the frame at full resolution, noise reduction and jpg sharpening applied

Northern lights over Ennadai Lake, Nunavut -- Canon 5DIII, Sigma 24-35 at 24mm, 5 sec, f2.0, ISO 2500

Northern lights over Ennadai Lake, Nunavut -- Canon 5DIII, Sigma 24-35 at 24mm, 2.5 sec, f2.5, ISO 2500

My only issue with the lens for astrophotography is that, like many of its competitors, it doesn't include an easy way to dial in/set the focus to infinity. So I had to spend a bit of time figuring exactly where the sharpest infinity mark was on the lens during daylight hours, and then dial that in manually each night and do several back-of-camera checks to ensure I truly was on the infinity mark.

Buller Pond, Kananaskis Country -- Sigma 24-35 at 35mm, f8

For general daytime scenics, the lens is wonderfully sharp and produces excellent colours. While it's not as wide as some of the zoom entries from Nikon or Canon, it's considerably sharper than both the Nikon 14-24 f2.8 and the Canon 16-35 f4 (which I consider to be quite a bit sharper than the 16-35 f2.8) when wide open.

Spillway Lake and the Opal Range, Kananaskis Country -- Sigma 24-35 at 24mm, f8

The Sigma 24-35mm f2.0 Art Lens is small and compact; similar in size to the Canon 16-35 f4 lens. This was the first of the new Art Lens line that I've gotten my hands on, and I came away extremely impressed with both the build quality and the sharpness.

I would highly recommend this lens as a regular wide angle lens, and I would recommend it even more highly to anyone looking for an excellent wide angle astrophotography zoom lens.

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