Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Photos from the Vault - Prairie Fence

I took this image several years ago in southern Alberta near Del Bonita.  It remains one of my all-time favourite prairie images.

Sunrise on the Canadian Prairies

The prairie scene was photographed with a Canon EOS 5D, 17-40mm lens set at 20 mm, f16, with a warming polarizer and 3-stop split neutral density filter.  All of my digital files are processed with Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP).

Happy shooting!


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Monday, September 27, 2010

Photos from the Vault - Arctic Fox

Today's image is from a trip I lead a few years ago to Churchill, Manitoba to photograph polar bears.  Along the way, we found some incredible other wildlife, too, like this arctic fox.

An arctic fox surveys its frosty terrain east of Churchill, Manitoba in the Canadian Subarctic

Stay tuned on my Canadian Wildlife Photography Tours website for trip details on another Arctic adventure next year.

Happy shooting!


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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Photo of the Day - Prairie Sunrise

There is something about the glorious wide open spaces of the Canadian Prairies, particularly the area just north of the U.S. border, that gets my photo engine revved up and ready to go.

Sunrise on the Canadian Prairies, July 2010, near Val Marie, Saskatchewan

I shot this image at 5:23 a.m. in early July, using my Canon 5D Mk II and a 17-40mm lens set at 20mm to allow me to put Cokin filters on it without vignetting.  I then put on a 3-stop split-neutral density filter to hold back the sun and sky, and put on a warming polarizer to warm the backlit grasses and sage.

Happy shooting!


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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Photos from the Vault - Grizzly Bear & Salmon

Few things in this world excite me more than photographing grizzly bears.  And as you read this, I am hopefully far from a computer sitting on a river in the middle of the Chilcotin mountains getting shots just like this one!

A grizzly bear with a freshly caught pink salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada



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Friday, September 24, 2010

Photo of the Day - Black-Footed Ferret

Time to change pace a bit from all these fall colours I've been showing lately.  This is an image from an absolutely remarkable encounter I had this past summer with a wild black-footed ferret on the Canadian Prairies.

A wild black-footed ferret in southern Saskatchewan, Canada

Ferrets are usually nocturnal, and they were only reintroduced back into Canada in September 2009 after an 80-year absence.  So needless to say, I was stunned to see one wandering around one morning in a prairie dog town on private property near Grasslands National Park.

For three hours I got to photograph this amazing creature, one of just 14 or 15 in existence in Canada.  It was easily one of the most memorable wildlife photography encounters I have ever had, and will likely be a big part of a few of my upcoming books and speaker series talks.



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Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Dempster - A Second Look

This is my first crack at showing off a few more Dempster (and other northern) images. I sat down this morning with the grand intention of showing the best of the best, but only made it through 2 of my 24 Dempster and Yukon/NWT folders before I figured I better stop and just throw a post up. So needless to say, there will be a lot more images from the north to come in future weeks!

A rainbow over the Richardson Mountains in the Yukon

And as an overall summary of the trip, here are some numbers for you. Enjoy!

17,331 - kilometres driven from August 9th to September 15th

3 - number of wolverines seen (my first ones ever!)

4 - provinces and territories covered (BC, Alberta, the Yukon and the NWT)

4 - number of wolf sightings, including the adorable little pup below

1,631 - cost of my brake repair

2 - number of lynx sightings

1 - number of lynx and kitten sightings (!!), photos to come

0 - number of on-the-road disagreements between my wife and I **

27 - number of nights spent sleeping in the car

1 - number of sunny days

A short-eared owl on the tundra. I shot this at 6:01 a.m with my ISO cranked to 4000.

A herd of young bull caribou on the tundra in the Northwest Territories

"Owning the Road" - a grizzly walks down the dead middle of a road near Kluane National Park

A lone wild wolf pup in the boreal forest

Another rainbow along the Dempster

It may never win any awards, but it is one my first ever wild wolverine pictures!!

Fog in the Richardson Mountains, Northwest Territories

A beautiful griz in beautiful fall colours

Hope you enjoyed this second glimpse at some of my shots from the adventure up north.

Happy shooting!


** - may not be entirely true ;-)

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Photo of the Day - Bull Moose in Kananaskis

I've been on the hunt for big bull moose the past week and overall have had very little luck in my usual spots down in Kananaskis Country. But this big bull poked his head out of the bush in the rain on Saturday long enough for me to get a few nice photos of him staring me down.

A big bull moose on a rainy morning in beautiful fall colours in Kananaskis Country

Unfortunately, I won't be out searching for moose anymore as I'm off tomorrow to photograph grizzlies in B.C. (I know, I lead a terrible life). Wish me luck!

PS - Gavin, this shot's for you!

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Outdoor Photography Canada magazine article

The Fall/Winter 2010 issue of Outdoor Photography Canada magazine features a full article by me: "The Best Wildlife Locations in Canada - That Nobody Knows About."

The Best Wildlife Locations in Canada - that nobody knows about -- OPC Fall/Winter 2010

I know a few people have already been getting the new issue in their mailboxes, and it should be available on newsstands later this week or early next week. There's also a great profile on my friend Wayne Simpson, who will be the photographer covered in my next Remember this Name feature in October.

And if you've never heard of Outdoor Photography Canada magazine before, definitely check it out. There's some fantastic columns by friends of mine, including Darwin Wiggett and Mike Grandmaison, as well as a host of great new articles each issue. And the best part? It's less than $20 a year for a subscription in Canada, and still pretty reasonable for US ($30) and international subscriptions ($36).



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Monday, September 20, 2010

Photos from the Vault - The Yukon

I thought I'd start a new section on the blog today -- Photos from the Vault. A look back at some of my favourite images that you may not have seen before.

The Blackstone Uplands along the Dempster Highway in the Yukon

This is an old slide image of mine from one of my first trips up the Dempster back in 2003. Last year it graced the 2010 cover of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee's (WCWC) Endangered Spaces calendar.

I shot this with a Canon EOS 3 body and my trusty old 20mm f2.8 lens. I used a warming polarizer to bring out the fall colours a bit more, and a 2-stop split neutral density filter to hold back the sunset and bring out more detail in the foreground leaves.

Hope you enjoy it!


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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Photo of the Weekend - Bow Lake

Saturday morning I got up at 6 am and drove off into the dark to see what I could find. And while the wildlife was scarce, I did find some gorgeous colours in the subalpine at Bow Lake in Banff National Park.

Bow Lake in Banff National Park at 10:15 a.m. after the fog finally lifted

Unfortunately for me, the fog was so thick at the lake that it didn't burn off until after 10 a.m., so the light wasn't quite as perfect as I had hoped for, but it still made for some interesting images.

Bright yellow willows on the shore of Bow Lake

My favourite shot of the day was probably this final one, which I took while I was wandering around the shore of the lake looking for wildlife tracks.

The fog lifts for a brief few minutes to show a glistening snow-capped peak

Because of the sunlit fog that continued to hover in the air in all three of these shots creating very bright sections that were overexposed, I used my favourite tool in Photoshop to even the exposures out a bit and bring a bit of detail back into the highlights: the Highlight-Shadow adjustment tool. Try it out if you don't already use it!

Happy shooting!


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Friday, September 17, 2010

Photo of the Day - Grizzly in Fall Colours

I photographed this beautiful grizzly bear along the Icefields Parkway Wednesday night (two nights ago) on my way back from the Yukon.

A grizzly bear peers out at me from fall foliage along the Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park

The shot was taken at 6:45 pm with my Canon 1D Mk IV and 500 mm lens at ISO 3200, 1/320th of a second at f4. Because the bear was moving in and out of the brush, I took a test exposure at 1/320th and f4 and when I determined that it was the correct exposure, I then set my camera to Manual mode and locked in at that exposure so the meter wouldn't get fooled if too much bear got in a shot, or vice versa, if too much foliage got in a shot.

I'm looking forward to seeing a LOT more bears in fall colours next week when the first of my sold-out grizzly bear photography tours takes place. Word on the street (aka, an email from the lodge owner) is that it's a record sockeye salmon run and that the wilderness lodge we'll be operating out of saw 29 different grizzlies last week and 11 different black bears!! If you're interested in attending next year, let me know asap as there has already been a tremendous amount of interest in the 2011 tours.

Happy shooting!


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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Photo of the Day - Kluane Ram

Today's shot of the day comes from two weeks ago in Kluane National Park in the Yukon. Enjoy!

A big dall sheep ram in fall colours high on Sheep Mountain, Kluane National Park, Yukon

I hiked 23.5 kilometres with a whopping altitude gain of 1500 metres (!!) with my big lens to get shots of this ram and the group he was with. And yes, that is sunshine, one of my few sunny afternoons in the Yukon on the epic Dempster trip (there are even heat waves in the background in the photo).

Happy shooting!


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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Photo of the Day - Owl

I had to take a quick look through some owl shots from the Dempster today for a magazine submission and thought I'd share one of my favourite northern hawk owl images from last month.

A northern hawk owl at the Arctic Circle, Yukon, Canada

I'm off to the Yukon again tomorrow to pick up my car and drive it home from Whitehorse. Wish me luck!


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Monday, September 6, 2010

And the 'Dempster Duel' Winner is...

Mud, rain, snow, fog, and sleet faced off for a conclusive three days this week against me and my battered Subaru Forester for a final duel to the dea...ok, for a final duel to determine an ultimate winner in this three week saga in the Great Canadian North.

So the question is, was the final battle all worth it? Was the five hour drive to and from Whitehorse on Wednesday and Saturday, sandwiched over a ridiculous 2,320 more kilometres on the evil Dempster with another 37 kilometres on foot thrown in for good measure, worth it? Did the bears dance, the caribou waltz, and the woolly mammoths rumble across the tundra?

Let me answer the question with this:

A large female grizzly bear walks across arctic tundra lit up in fall colours

And this:

Members of the Porcupine caribou herd migrate up and over a hill in early morning fog

Or even this, this, this and this!!

Bearberry forms a dazzling foreground for a rainbow and stormy skies over the Ogilvie Mountains

Fall colours on the tundra in the Richardson Mountains, Northwest Territories
A black-phase red fox in spectacular sunset light on the arctic tundra
A grizzly bear chases a herd of caribou across the tundra

In just three short days, I saw the most amazing thing: the sun. That's right, that big yellow thing in the sky, that long-forgotten alien object that once graced our summer skies frequently, decided to make an appearance on Friday afternoon and stayed through all of Saturday, turning a mundane final few days into a show-stopper that had me scrambling trying to take advantage of every last tiny drop of light from dawn to dusk.

And while the caribou were scarce, I did make a few distant sightings, including a rare sequence of shots of a grizzly chasing a small herd across the tundra.

I even saw my old nemesis, the car-jumping rascal griz that had scared me half to death a week earlier by pouncing on the hood of my car. This time around she was out to thwart my best attempts at landscape photography -- each time the sun came out and I went off to do some scenics, she would appear like a ghost out of the fog and force me to photograph her in fall colours in sunlight. I know, I know, terrible stuff to have a grizzly bear get in the way of scenic photos, but such is life.

She even got a name, finally. No, not Rascal or Pouncer, but rather Stripe, for her prominent dark stripe running down her back between her beautiful blonde shoulders. And for pictures of her, you'll need to wait for the full Dempster update in a week or two when I actually have time to look at the 23 folders of photos now residing on my computer, 10,380 photos in total.

So all in all, even though I once again battled rain, mud, and even snow, I came out a winner. My car did not break down. My tires held up. Even my spirits were buoyed, particularly when I witnessed a squirrel race across the road in front of me with a mushroom twice its size in its mouth early one morning! It was enough to make me gasp in amazement, then laugh uproariously out loud!

So what was the total trip yield over the three weeks? How many wolves, lynx and wolverine? How many nights of dancing northern lights? And how many kilometres did my silver Subaru choke back under her tires? For that, you'll also need to wait for the full update in a week or two.

Until then, I'm off to Bugaboo Lodge in the Purcell Mountains to do a little heli-hiking!

Happy shooting, and thanks to all of you for the many, many comments on Facebook, Twitter, and here on my blog, along with all of the emails. It was fantastic to read all of the responses on my trip!


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SNAP! Harvest Moon Workshop Prizes Announced

My upcoming instructional field photo workshop in the Canadian Rockies with Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou from October 21st-24th is nearing our final registration date of September 15th.

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada - SNAP! October Nature Photography Workshop

We may have more availability after that date, but for now we can only guarantee you a spot in the workshop if you sign up by the 15th. And to celebrate our second big event with SNAP!, we're offering some fantastic prizes to those of you that do sign up, including two great prizes from The Camera Store, Western Canada's biggest and best camera store (and the one I swear by religiously). Check out Darwin's blog entry on the other prizes available, to which I am officially adding a full set of my coffee table books (signed, sealed and delivered) for the 20th registrant!

Note that we are almost half sold out for this event already, so if it is of interest to you, contact Baker Creek Chalets right away and put down your deposit.

Hope to see you there!


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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Glutton for Punishment

Hi everyone, this is John’s wife Jenn, John is dictating to me from a payphone just south of the Arctic Circle on the Dempster Highway:

From 1:00am last night
“Well, apparently I am either an idiot or a glutton for punishment. Maybe both. Just twelve short hours ago I was remortgaging my house to pay for my brand new set of back brakes, the previous ones destroyed by the mud bog once known as the Dempster Highway.

So how did I handle the depressed state of mind brought on by the giant bill? I could have done something sane, like, say, drive home, but instead I chose to get back in the car and drive a thousand kilometres north, back to the scene of the ’Dempster Disaster’.

Why on earth would I return to the place that killed my brakes and destroyed my morale? Because I had to. I simply couldn’t let the Dempster win, at least not without a bigger fight. But more importantly, I’m back because I like to gamble. As my friend Roberta recently put it in an email, wildlife photography in places like the Dempster is a lot like playing the slots. You play and play and get nothing, getting more and more demoralized, but then suddenly you hit a glorious JACKPOT – a grizzly on the tundra in fall colours – so you get all excited and decide you will play a few more slots, errr, visit the Dempster for a few more days.

It’s that lure of the wildlife photography version of the slots that has brought me back here for three final days at the peak of the fall colours. The potential is here for something truly spectacular…maybe it’ll be a wolverine stopping and staring at me from fifty metres away, or maybe I’ll finally see a giant bull caribou posing in a ruby red meadow.

If I had driven home today and accepted defeat at the hands of the Dempster, the trip would have felt like a failure. But here I am instead, giving it one last glorious shot. So what’ll it be? A broken timing belt or a dancing bear? I’m here now and I’m willing to find out…”

11:00am update
John reports that the caribou were no where to be found this morning, but that he saw a whopping six grizzlies (unfortunately, none of them were close)!

Stay tuned for John’s next update on Saturday or Sunday!