I don’t often call myself a wildlife photographer. Of course there’s wildlife all around when I’m outdoors. I love identifying the birds I see and trying to learn the birdcalls. I enjoy the few times I notice the white-tail deer before they notice me and start bounding away. I’ve appreciated the blasé indifference of all the bears I’ve run into while hiking. And I get really excited when I see a pine marten, otter, or mink—which is infrequent enough!
I think the main reason I’ve never considered myself a wildlife photographer is the gear. It sounds ridiculous now that I say it, but it feels like it’s hard to compete with photographers who have the multi-thousand dollar lenses and who take regular month-long trips to famous wildlife destinations. It can seem like wildlife photography is a hobby for the wealthy (although I don’t mean to dismiss the extremely hard working and definitely not-rich wildlife photographers out there—I know you exist too).
Yet somehow over the years I’ve managed to take quite a few pictures of animals. Some of them I even like quite a lot. It’s rewarding to think that I can rely on thoughtful composition and patience to get beautiful photos instead of relying on expensive gear. If I was outdoors purely for the wildlife photos I’m sure I’d be disappointed, but because I thoroughly enjoy the whole experience, I find that the wildlife experiences I do have are that much more special.
The photo above is a baby bighorn sheep in Kananaskis.
270mm, f5.6, 1/800 of a second
It’s been ages since I’ve been backpacking and this fall I went up to Aster Lake in Kananaskis Country and stayed for a couple nights. It was very quiet and beautiful. I didn’t see any other creatures the whole time I was there, human or animal.
Apparently I need to go backpacking a whole lot more because I found out how out of shape I am. And as I was setting up camp after a gruelling day getting up the mountain, I found out I packed two extra sleeping mats (in addition to my kind of heavy comfy mat) up inside my tent bag without realizing it (they were still packed in there from camping with Anna a few weeks back). Obviously I need to get my act together.
One thing I loved were the replaceable batteries in my phone. Of course there’s no signal up there, but I got to read a few books this way without any extra weight. I’m thoroughly enjoying a Kurt Vonnegut reading spree at the moment.
This photo is one of the many waterfalls on the outlet of Aster Lake, not far from the campsite. The moon was incredibly bright (you can see the shadows cast by the moon, especially on the waterfall).
7mm, f4, 25 seconds
Everyone has a drive to do something, but this drive is so easily overwhelmed. Depression makes you question it. Other projects distract you from it. The stresses of making a living crush it down. In this light, it sound fragile, but in my experience it’s anything but. It never goes away — it’s always there waiting to be acted on. And life becomes so much more fulfilling once you start to push some of the distractions off to the side and make room for the things you love.
This is just a long way of saying, “If there’s something out there you love doing, go do it.” Lately I’ve been cutting out some things I enjoy that were distracting me from the things I REALLY enjoy. And this has made a big difference.
7mm, f5, 13 seconds
Why have the updates been so slow this summer and fall? There are many reasons, but one of the main ones is that I’ve taken on a large graphic design project with Alieo Games, an Edmonton startup working on educational games. Specifically (at the moment), an online creative writing game for kids. And it’s been a lot of fun. I’m really happy with how it’s shaping up, and I’m working with great people!
But even an exciting project like this can not stop my photography. It has, however, cut down on my computer time for processing pictures and blogging, and I’m not planning on doing any shows this Christmas. If you’re looking for prints, you’ll have to email me, talk to Tix on the Square, or the Daffodil Gallery. So the backlog of pictures is growing on my computer, and I’m excited to share them with you as I get to them.
I’ll try to post when I can, and I expect things will pick up around here again next year.
12mm, f5, 1/500 of a second
This fall I have a NAIT student doing work experience with me, and on our outing this week we ran into this friendly fellow. In fact, he was a little too friendly for his own good, and I worry about him, but I still really enjoyed hanging out for a while.
f5.6, 1/1000 of a second
I got back from my first ever trip to the east coast a few days ago! I already want to go back, but catching up on real life is important too. I’m not finished going through the photos yet, but this one stood out to me. I’ve always loved the fairy-tale richness of mosses, mushrooms, and small streams. They’re the backdrop for a thousand story lines, and at the same time a peaceful place where nothing needs to happen.
Mossy stream early in the morning in Fundy National Park.
f11, 6 seconds
Taken at Skookumchuck Narrows, BC.
300mm, f22, 1/8 of a second
In a lot of ways these photos could not be more different. The top one was taken at Beaverhill Lake, which at this point is a big marshy field in the prairies. The bottom was taken near the Saskatchewan Glacier in the mountains. The top was taken in spring, the bottom one in fall. The top is macro, the bottom is a landscape.
But when I was developing the top one today, my mind immediately went to this bottom photo that I took four years ago. The tones of the images help to group them, but what really strikes me is the similarity of composition. Both are triangles with the base at the bottom of the photo. They both have interesting lines thrusting up at angles through the frame.
When I’m composing an image, I don’t often consciously think about what to call a composition or what photo it will be like. I’m usually trying to balance the elements in the frame once an interesting line catches my eye. After the fact, when I’m looking through my images though, I start to notice themes. In some ways I like this — consistency is good. But I also don’t want to overuse themes and become boring. It’s a constant struggle of evaluation, and I probably overthink it. But it’s something I’ve noticed and thought was kind of interesting.
On a warm idyllic autumn afternoon in a provincial park on the BC coast, I was exploring and taking photos, as I do. The warmth from the sun and the contrasting coolness of the forest was so peaceful. In photographic terms though (as is often the case in life), the details were a problem. There was really high-contrast harsh lighting and because it was pretty late fall, there were brown spots in a lot of the leaves. In this case I made that all go away to communicate a peaceful feeling. By using a wide aperture and purposely mis-focusing, I could communicate what I was actually feeling, instead of focusing on the exact details of the scene.
Below is what the shot would have been if I wanted things in focus – in this case a much worse photo.
An Ochre Sea Star and Anemones
When I was in BC I found tidepools pretty difficult to shoot. There’s such a variety of colors and textures that it’s easy for everything to look messy. The way I tend to deal with scenes like this is to get closer and crop out distracting elements until the subject is where I want it, and it stands out against whatever background I’ve chosen. Sometimes shallow depth of field can help too, although this was occasionally tricky to use because as soon as I wasn’t shooting straight down I had to deal with reflections on the surface of the water as well.