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.


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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! 


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.


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.


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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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Monday, August 24, 2015

And the Winners Are...

Well, we did it! You did it!!

Not only did we raise the $13,000 I set out as our goal for the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter fundraiser for a new truck, but we actually raised a staggering $23,757.60 in the final five days!! As our totals climbed dramatically throughout the week, I was privy to some truly wonderful text messages and emails from the Shelter's founders, Peter and Angelika Langen:

3 hours into the fundraiser:
Angelika: "$2600 so far, I am speechless!!"

5 hours into the fundraiser, when we hit $3,000, meaning that Hauser Bears would automatically contribute an extra $15,000:
Angelika: "We did it!! We matched the challenge. Now we have $30,000+ towards a new truck, I am so excited if my leg didn't hurt so bad I'd be dancing! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

The first night, after we'd raised almost $5,000:
Angelika: "I am crying tears of joy, this is so exciting! Exciting may be a huge understatement!"

The second night, after another $2,000 in donations:
Angelika: "WOW, we are SO happy!!"

The third night, after yet another $2,000 in donations:
Angelika: "This is so amazing! We just can't believe it!"

On the final night:
Angelika: "We are over the goal! SO, SO awesome!! We did it!!"

So yes indeed, we ALL did it! The truck fundraiser as a whole, including the incredible matching contribution of $15,000 from the UK charity Hauser Bears, raised a whopping $54,254.14 (you can check out the entire breakdown here on the Shelter's website). This means that Angelika and Peter and their gang of incredible volunteers at the Shelter are going to have a new ride soon (they're currently in negotiations with a truck dealership in Prince George, British Columbia) and that the Shelter will continue to be able to save bears and other orphaned wildlife from across the province long into the future!

Your incredible support means that little guys like this will continue to receive help from the NLWS in the years to come!

Congratulations to everyone involved, especially to those of you that donated directly or were able to share the fundraiser contest on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

Here is a comprehensive list of all of the winners of the various prizes we had up for grabs in the fundraiser. If you see your name on this list, please contact me directly via email so that we can arrange your prize details.

Grand Prize Winner -- A Trip for Two for the Great Bear Chalet in Bella Coola, BC
(thank you once again to Jefferson Bray and the Great Bear Chalet for this incredible prize!)
Marcella Kyrein - Prince George, BC

A Day in the Field Photographing with John E. Marriott (to the highest donation):
Esther Snow - Cranbrook, BC

A Day's Private Visit at NLWS (a prize we added for the second highest donation):
Daniella Kohl - Miami, Florida

30"x45" Glossy Acrylic Print of 'All in the Family' by John E. Marriott
Gregory Heath - Calgary, AB

One Full Set of signed and personalized Coffee Table Books by John E. Marriott
Lorelei Stevenson - Cranbrook, BC

12"x18" Glossy Print of 'Grizz Family Bums' by Cai Priestley
Susan Macdonald - Livingston, West Lothian, UK

12"x18" Glossy Print of 'Startled Cub' by Cai Priestley
Jane Potter - Calgary, AB

12"x18" Stretched Canvas of 'Tuxedo Cubs' by Brandon T. Brown
Margaret Johnson - Maple Ridge, BC

12"x18" Stretched Canvas of 'Mister Mud' by Brandon T. Brown
Rosa Jongsma - High Level, AB

16"x24" Glossy Print of any of John E. Marriott's grizzly bear images -- your choice!
Dawn Minerick - Republic, Michigan

16"x24" Glossy Print of any of John E. Marriott's grizzly bear images -- your choice!
Loretta Stadler Franklin Lakes, NJ

24"x36" Glossy Print of any of John E. Marriott's grizzly bear images -- your choice!
Marlie Kelsey - Chemainus, BC

24"x36" Glossy Print of any of John E. Marriott's grizzly bear images -- your choice!
Heather Sapergia - Prince George, BC

Angelika at the NLWS also had this to add to the prize pile:
"We had many donations that did not meet the $50 mark, nevertheless your support is very important and much appreciated. To show our gratitude for all of these smaller donations that added up to a very large amount, we decided to have a special draw for a 16"x24" glossy print of any of John Marriott's grizzly bear images (your choice) out of all of the donations we received of less than $50!"

Special Draw Winner, 16"x24" Glossy Print by John E. Marriott
Tammy Vanderwijk - Grande Prairie, AB

Thank you once again, everyone, I don't think any of us could have imagined that the fundraiser would be so successful!

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Win Big Prizes and Get NLWS a New Truck!

How would a gorgeous, gigantic acrylic print of one of my grizzly bear photographs look hanging in your house or office? Or perhaps you'd rather win a trip for two to a grizzly bear viewing lodge in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada?

Raise your paw if you'd like to help rehab orphaned grizzly bear cubs AND win some amazing prizes!

That's right, everyone, it's FUNDRAISER time! And once again we're giving away a pile of prizes for donations to my beloved Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter (NLWS) in Smithers, British Columbia (the only grizzly bear rehabilitation facility on the planet -- they have successfully rehabbed and released 18 grizzly cubs to date, along with more than 350 black bears!), so that they can continue saving bears from around the province (and beyond, if officials in Alberta, Montana, and Wyoming start cooperating as public pressure mounts to save orphaned grizzly bear cubs).

This time around, the NLWS is in desperate need of a new truck for transporting bear cubs to and from their rescue locations. The old truck is on its final legs (actually, it's more like it's on life support at this point) and for the past month, the NLWS has been running an indiegogo campaign to raise $40,000 Canadian dollars for the purchase of a new truck capable of driving long distances and towing bear trailers. While the campaign has been successful to a degree (it has raised $12,050 to this point on August 17th), it remains far short of its ultimate goal.

However, it's not quite as bleak as it may seem, because rather than having to raise $28,000 more in the final week of the campaign, we only have to raise $13,000 ($10,000 less than what our original NLWS fundraiser raised back in April 2014!). The other $15,000 is going to come courtesy of the amazing British animal charity, Hauser Bears, which has agreed to match the first $15,000 in the campaign dollar-for-dollar, meaning if we can raise another $3,000 in the next five days, Hauser Bears will instantly chip in $15,000 Canadian towards the end goal of raising $40,000!

But we're not setting our sights on just raising that extra $3,000; rather, we're aiming for the full $40K, which means we need to raise $13,000 in five days.

And this is where we step in with a slew of prizes so amazing that it will make it even more worth your while to donate to this incredible cause.

How to Donate to Help Orphaned Grizzly Cubs

Here's how it's going to work for the donations (and note that because the NLWS is a non-profit charitable organization, ALL Canadian donators will be provided with a tax receipt for their donation):

[Note: All donations will be through Canada Helps rather than via the indiegogo campaign, as the NLWS has to pay 9% on all indiegogo donations and we'd much rather they keep that 9% for the new truck! You can donate to the General campaign for NLWS, or directly to the Going the Extra Mile for Wildlife campaign from the drop-down menu -- both will be used for the prize draws]

Donate $50 -- automatic entry to win any of prizes below (including any of the Grand Prizes) in a random draw administered by NLWS staff on Monday, August 24th.

Donate $50-$499 -- one entry for every $50 you donate  for the Grand Prizes listed below (for instance, donate $250 and get 5 entries into the draw for any of the Grand Prizes listed below), and one entry to win any of the other prizes below.

Donate $500 or more -- two entries for every $50 you donate for the Grand Prizes listed below (for instance, donate $750 and get 15 entries into the draw for any of the Grand Prizes listed below), and one entry to win any of the other prizes below.

Highest Donation -- win a Day in the Field with me, photographing grizzlies or wolves, or whatever you want to try to find, from dawn till dusk in the Canadian Rockies in 2016 (dates and locations to be arranged between myself and the highest donator). This prize will also be transferrable, if you choose.

So the bottom line is, if you want to win ANY of these amazing prizes, then donating a mere $50 gets you into the game for the Grand Prizes and gets you equal odds for any of the other prizes. And the more you donate, the better your chances are for the Grand Prizes or for the Day in the Field with me.

The Prizes

[Note: these prizes are available to all donators, including those outside the US and Canada]

Grand Prize #1 - a 2-night/3-day All-inclusive Bear Viewing Trip for Two to the Great Bear Chalet in Bella Coola, British Columbia in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. I've personally photographed grizzlies in the Bella Coola area five times in the past decade and have to say that this is one of the premier grizzly bear photography and viewing locations in the world. Thanks to the generosity of owner Jefferson Bray, this trip will include airport shuttle to and from the Bella Coola Airport (if required), transportation/fuel costs for all excursions, accommodation (private suite with 3-piece bath), gourmet meals prepared with local, fresh ingredients, and professionally guided bear tours (all Guides are accredited members of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of B.C.).
Value: $2400 Cdn.

The Grand Prize: an all-inclusive Trip for Two to the Great Bear Chalet in Bella Coola, British Columbia

Grand Prize #2 - a 30"x45" glossy acrylic print of 'All in the Family', one of my most popular grizzly bear prints. Ready to hang and shipped right to your door anywhere in Canada or the U.S. (and for those of you outside of Canada or the U.S., we'll figure out a way to get the print to you, too, though it may be a regular non-acrylic print to make shipping easier).
Value: $1095 Cdn.

Win a 30"x45" glossy acrylic print of All in the Family by John E. Marriott

Highest Donation: Day in the Field with me, photographing grizzlies or wolves, or whatever you want to try to find, from dawn till dusk in the Canadian Rockies in 2016 (dates and locations to be arranged between myself and the highest donator). This prize will also be transferrable, if you choose.

The Highest Donation wins a Day in the Field with me chasing grizzlies and wolves and whatever else we can find!

All Other Prizes:

One full set of signed and personalized John E. Marriott coffee table books, including Banff & Lake Louise: Images of Banff National Park, Wildlife of the Canadian Rockies: A Glimpse at Life on the Wild Side, and The Canadian Rockies: Banff, Jasper & Beyond. Value: $100 Cdn.

A full set of coffee table books by John E. Marriott

12"x18" glossy print of Grizz Family Bums by Banff/UK wildlife photographer Cai Priestley (visit Cai's website or follow him on Facebook or Instagram). Value: $150 Cdn.

12"x18" Glossy Print of Grizz Family Bums by Cai Priestley

12"x18" glossy print of Startled Cub by Banff/UK wildlife photographer Cai Priestley (visit Cai's website or follow him on Facebook or Instagram). Value: $150 Cdn.

12"x18" Glossy Print of Startled Cub by Cai Priestley

12"x18" stretched canvas of Tuxedo Cubs by Canmore wildlife photographer Brandon T. Brown (visit Brandon's website or follow him on Facebook or Instagram). Value: $200 Cdn.

12"x18" Stretched Canvas of Tuxedo Cubs by Brandon T. Brown

12"x18" stretched canvas of Mister Mud by Canmore wildlife photographer Brandon T. Brown (visit Brandon's website or follow him on Facebook or Instagram). Value: $200 Cdn.

12"x18" Stretched Canvas of Mister Mud by Brandon T. Brown

16"x24" glossy print of any of my grizzly bear images, your choice! Value: $225 Cdn.

16"x24" glossy print of any of my grizzly bear images, your choice! Value: $225 Cdn.

24"x36" glossy print of any of my grizzly bear images, your choice! Value: $450 Cdn.

24"x36" glossy print of any of my grizzly bear images, your choice! Value: $450 Cdn.

The Thinker by John E. Marriott -- 16"x24" and 24"x36" prints available to be won

Please consider donating today: the fundraiser ends at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, August 21st, 2015. All draws will be made by NLWS staff on Monday, August 24th, with winners announced on this blog at that time.

Thank you to everyone involved, particularly to those of who have donated items or money to this worthy cause. And a very special thank you to the wonderful and amazing staff at the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter, we can't wait to see you riding around in your new truck soon (though we hope it's not because more cubs have to be rescued)!

[UPDATE on Day 3 -- we're now halfway through the fundraiser and we've raised just over half of our goal of $13,000. Please keep those donations coming in, we need another $6,500 in the final two and a half days!]

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Two Yellowstone Cubs in need of Help

The internet furor over Cecil the Lion and his killer, Walter Palmer, has subsided a bit this week, only to be replaced by a tragic wildlife situation south of the border in Yellowstone National Park. On Friday, August 7th (one week ago), 63 year-old Montana hiker, Lance Crosby, was attacked, killed, and partially consumed by a female grizzly bear known locally as Blaze.

Yesterday, after six days of deliberation, Yellowstone officials decided to "euthanize" (aka KILL) Blaze, and send her two young cubs off to a zoo in the eastern United States, essentially doubling down on the tragedy of Crosby's death by not only killing Blaze, but also sentencing her two cubs to a life behind bars.

As a result, a number of prominent nature photographers in Canada and the U.S. have begun an overnight online campaign calling for the cubs to be rehabilitated in the world's only grizzly bear rehabilitation facility, the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers, British Columbia, Canada -- the very same rehab facility that I have been working with closely since May 2013.

Following is an impassioned plea from wildlife photographer Simon Jackson (follow him on Facebook at Ghost Bear Photography), along with images provided courtesy of Sandy Sisti with Wild at Heart Images. A huge thank you to both of them for their actions in this fight.


Simon Jackson, Ghost Bear Photography:

This morning, it was announced that both of the grizzly cubs involved in last Friday's fatal attack in Yellowstone will be sent to the Toledo Zoo. Not a rehabilitation facility - not even a sanctuary for orphaned cubs - but a zoo.

In a tragedy that is continually being compounded by decisions that make this entire mess worse, it is confounding as to why Yellowstone refused to do their due diligence and at least explore rehabilitating and re-releasing these cubs-of-the-year into the wild.


Blaze with a young cub - Photography by Sandy Sisti, Wild at Heart Images

Yesterday morning, Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in BC offered to rehabilitate the cubs. Though there were hurdles to clear with moving the bears across the border, their track record of successfully releasing 18 grizzly cubs back into the wild spoke for itself. People of all walks of life offered to help and make the crossing possible, all it required was for Yellowstone to reach out to Angelika from Northern Lights.

Angelika waited all day for a phone call that never came.

Then Yellowstone announced the cubs would never return to the wild, but be placed in a zoo for life.

According to media reports, the cubs won't be on "display" for at least another month, but in the meantime will be gradually introduced to humans and feeding times. This means the window to reverse the decision is closing rapidly as soon these bears might be too habituated to rehabilitate.

It's unclear how involved the Toledo Zoo was in discussions with Yellowstone on the fate of these cubs, but it is critical they realize that they didn't save these cubs from death. Their only act - even if their hearts are in the right place (and I'm sure they are) - has been to deprive these animals of the right to full lives as wild bears. Not to mention, they are depriving a genetically isolated population of grizzly bears two reproducing females, critical to advancing the overall health of the ecosystem.

It must be said, that if the Toledo Zoo does not rescind their offer to take these cubs and encourage Yellowstone and the National Park Service to embrace the proven track record of rehabilitation, they are complicit in this disastrous series of poor decisions. Their reputation - which is already very poor after a sloth bear they had on loan died of dehydration while under Toledo's care - will be forever tarnished by preventing these grizzly cubs from living in the wild.

We urge you to contact the Toledo Zoo (Email: toledozooinfo@toledozoo.org and Phone: 1-419-385-5721) and ask they change their minds. We ask that you contact Yellowstone and the Secretary of the Interior (as well as your representatives) and urge them to re-think this well intended, yet awful decision.

And, of course, this issue is really just starting. The elephants in the room are the questions that linger.

Why won't Yellowstone embrace the proven concept of rehabilitation, given their mandate to protect and enhance the grizzly population?

Simon Jackson asks, "Why won't Yellowstone embrace the proven concept of rehabilitation?" - Photo by Sandy Sisti

Why aren't new protocols for handling bear cubs involved in attacks being put in place?

Why haven't new rules been drawn up to make bear spray mandatory, potentially saving the lives of people and bears?

Why was Elephant Back trail re-opened immediately, even with new grizzly sightings being reported? Has no one learned anything from this tragedy?

Ultimately, we're not the best suited to lead this fight and are working to find the right voices who have the expertise to lead the campaign. But we will continue to do everything within our power to ask the questions, get the answers, and advocate for positive change to ensure this grizzly sow did not die in vain.

Thank you for your ongoing support. 

Simon Jackson


Blaze with her two young cubs in 2015 - Photograph by Sandy Sisti, Wild at Heart Images

For more information and the full story behind Blaze's death and how you can help contact officials involved in the decision-making on this, please read Simon's blog post, Outrage in Yellowstone, here: http://bit.ly/1PacigQ

Do: Sign the petition to rehabilitate the cubs: http://bit.ly/1h79hUb

Do: Call US Senator Danes office in Bozeman 1-406-587-3446 and ask him to help get these cubs relocated into a rehabilitation center.

Do: Contact the Toledo Zoo (Email: toledozooinfo@toledozoo.org and Phone: 1-419-385-5721) and ask CEO and Executive Director Jeff Sailer and the Board of Directors to change their minds.

Read: Article from Animal Justice: http://animaljustice.ca/media-releases/animal-justice-calls-for-release-of-grizzly-cubs-to-rehab-not-zoo/

Read: Article from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201508/yellowstone-kills-blaze-bear-who-attacked-trail-hiker

Photos: Sandy Sisti - Wild at Heart Images-Wildlife and Nature Photography

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Cecil and Brutus: The Legacy of Cecil the Lion

For any of you that have been living under a rock for the past few days, it may come as a surprise to learn that the internet's latest sensation is not a Beiber or a Kardashian, but rather a Palmer. It seems while most of us were going on living normal lives and perhaps even doing good for our planet, an American dentist named Walter Palmer was off doing idiotic things in Africa, bribing local guides with $55,000 Ben Franklins for the chance to bow-hunt a protected male lion named Cecil.

Screenshot from www.cbc.ca

As it turned out, Cecil was probably the last lion on earth that Mr. Palmer should have pointed his moral-less compass at, as Cecil was one of the world's most famous, most photographed, and most known lions.

The uproar has been fast and furious, as well it should be when an animal of Cecil's stature is murdered. Palmer now finds himself at the center of one of the internet's greatest shaming campaigns of all time. His business is in trouble, his life is in tatters, he's in hiding, and he's sorry. Oh my, is he ever sorry. Mind you, he's not sorry that he killed a lion in the most gruesome of ways, he's just sorry that he killed a famous lion. And he's particularly sorry that his grievous actions have brought more attention on him than any of his previous egocentric activities ever had in the past.

And Cecil? Well, Cecil is dead. Killed to be a trophy hanging off this f**king you-know-what's wall to go along with an assortment of other heads of animals he's murdered around the world.

There has long been an argument in the guide-outfitting community internationally that the hard-earned dollars these great white hunters spend on trophy hunts of lions, leopards, elephants, and rhinos helps the local villages to survive, providing them with food and jobs and money for development projects, while at the same time furnishing conservation initiatives. The truth behind these arguments is startling: just three percent of those trophy hunting revenues ever reach the communities located near the hunting grounds.

The real value, it turns out, is in having these great animals like Cecil alive and part of a thriving ecosystem, so that they can truly bring in revenue to a local community, dollars that arrive over the lifetime of the animal in the form of tourist dollars. So while there is no shower of $55K at a time, there are thousands of dollars that flow in each year, adding up to far more than $55K and leaving the animal alive and well to foster new families, leaving a legacy behind in the wild for our children..

Which brings me to Brutus the Bear. Brutus lived for almost thirty years in the protected Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in British Columbia, Canada. What would the outcry have been if someone had discovered Brutus' mangled corpse with a bullet-hole in it? With an arrow sticking out of his shoulder?

Brutus the Bear lived for almost thirty years in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in British Columbia

There are 40-50 grizzlies in the Khutzeymateen. Approximately 400 bear viewers a year pay an average of $750 a day (for an average stay of three days) to get the chance to view Brutus and his brethren up close in the protected estuary, while another 5,000 a year pay $200 a day to view grizzlies in the greater inlet, which is also protected. So while a guide-outfitter like Prince Rupert's own Milligan's Outfitting might charge $15-20,000 for the rights for a dentist like Palmer to come shoot one of our bears like Brutus, the bears of the Khutzeymateen bring in direct ecotourism revenues of $1.9 million dollars annually, most of which goes right back into Prince Rupert and the surrounding communities. Guide-outfitters in the area would need to kill 95 grizzlies a year (comically impossible in a population of 40-50) to keep up revenue-wise, essentially cleaning out the Khutzeymateen and all the neighbouring inlets within a few years.

Yet the Khutzeymateen remains Canada's sole grizzly bear sanctuary. Outside of Alberta (which has a grizzly hunting ban in effect), fewer than 10% of Canada's grizzly bears live in protected areas. And even of the ones that do, like Brutus, most of them stray outside the protected areas during their lifetimes because our protected areas simply aren't big enough.

For the rest of those grizzlies that do not have the luxury of living in a protected area, they're at the mercy of sociopaths like Walter Palmer who pay to come up and assassinate our bears. And we continue to let our own resident hunters go out and slaughter our grizzlies, too.

Let's be clear about this: this is not hunting for food, it is hunting to kill for the sake of killing. These so-called hunters do it so they can go home and brag about how they stalked and killed a great bear (using a high-powered rifle from 400 meters away) and display its head up on their wall like some great trophy. Do it with a bowie knife and maybe then you're some kind of great hero, though even that would still beg the question, "Why do you need to kill a grizzly bear?"

Some of you may scoff at all of this and think that what happened to Cecil surely couldn't happen here in Canada. We've got a great conservation officer service throughout the provinces that keeps a handle on poachers, right? Think again. British Columbia's top hunting guide in the Guide-Outfitter's Association for 2015 was just found guilty of hunting a grizzly using bait. That's illegal. That's poaching. That's the guy who just won the most prestigious award as the top guide in the province.

It's time for more grizzly bear sanctuaries like the Khutzeymateen

The hunting community is running out of excuses standing up for this senseless slaughter. The grizzly bear hunt does not have a leg to stand on scientifically, economically, or ethically. It is time for it to come to an end, just as it is time for all trophy hunting of all species to come to an end.

We are better than this. We are better than Walter Palmer. It's time we started voting this way in our elections and getting governments in that will listen to the majority of us that want an end to trophy hunting forever.

It's time for more Khutzeymateens and more support for ecotourism worldwide. It's time for Cecil the Lion to leave a legacy that we can no longer ignore.

Fired up and want to do something tangible to help put an end to the grizzly bear hunt in British Columbia once and for all? Then please Share this post across your network of friends on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and Twitter to help get the word out.  Donate to organizations fighting the hunt like Pacific Wild, Raincoast, or Bears Forever. Or Email our Canadian politicians: British Columbia Premier Christy Clark (premier@gov.bc.ca) and Steve Thomson, the Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (steve.thomson.mla@leg.bc.ca) and send them this link along with your views on the trophy hunt. 

#CeciltheLion #bantrophyhunting

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