This last month has been full of trips for me – a couple weeks of backpacking near Abraham Lake and a canoe trip down the North Saskatchewan. They’ve been unusual trips for me though. Instead of the normal peaceful quiet of nature I was in the middle of roaring stoves, surrounded by laughing, yelling, talking, and singing students.
Despite the dramatic departure from my usual outdoor experiences, I really enjoyed these trips and the people who made them what they were. The few nights where I had the energy left to stay up into the night were my little oasis of quiet in these busy and fun-filled trips. Thanks to all my fellow leaders and travelers who made these trips memorable!
A wolf is one of those reclusive and rare animals that is not often seen around here. So when I got a chance to spend a few minutes with this wolf in Jasper, I was very excited. It was watchful and curious, but most of all it was very purposeful – it had somewhere to be.
I’ve debated posting this picture for a while. I think I’m a fairly tough critic of my own photos, and I don’t think this is an amazing photo. I think it’s okay. And I don’t like posting okay photos. I’d like to be known as a really good photographer, not an okay photographer. But the kid in me says “IT’S A WOLF!!! I SAW A WOLF!!!!” And that’s hard to discount.
While an interesting subject helps a photo, I don’t think it can make a photo on its own. I still think it has to have some appealing aesthetic value beyond an interesting subject to be a good photo. This creates a bit of a conundrum for the wildlife photographer in me. While I have taken thousands of wildlife photos, I generally have very little control over the backgrounds, the lighting, and the locations of the animals. And I don’t want that control. I want the animals to go about their lives undisturbed by me. I don’t want to force them into new places and to do things that are uncomfortable for them. That kind of behaviour can threaten their lives and make them less likely to reproduce.
Every once in a while, circumstances will align just right (and knowledge of animal behaviour can make this more likely), and I’ll be able to get a good wildlife photo. The more I’m out in the woods, the more this will happen. But for me there is beauty all around – both flora and fauna, and I’m content being a photographer of opportunity. I get to share incredible landscapes with these amazing animals, and I’m thankful for the odd encounter, whether or not I get an good photo.
Thanks to everyone who made it out on Wednesday night to the St. Albert Photo Club! We had a packed room — I got to meet lots of photographers, and see some familiar faces. I had a great time and appreciated all your comments and questions! Best of luck to all of you in your photography adventures!
Bighorn Sheep in Jasper National Park
210mm, f4, 1/640 of a second
Being Canadian, this was a strange winter. Going to Cuba was an interesting adventure and I could spend years exploring this mountainous rainforest, but when the cold air hit me at the Edmonton airport I knew I was home and everything felt right again!
On this tropical hike it was sometimes raining on us, sometimes sunny, and sometimes a bit of both. Either way it was warm and misty and incredibly beautiful. This pool was deep with a waterfall feeding it – the perfect spot for a swim.
Taken in Parque Guanayara, Cuba
18mm, f8, 1/100 of a second
During the Royal Alberta Museum project, I got to spend a lot of time in southern Alberta. St Mary Reservoir was pretty low when I visited, and there were many kilometers of mudflats. There is very little change as you wander in such an empty space, but the little changes become more apparent. Every pebble, every crack in the mud becomes obvious because there’s nothing to distract. The one tree on the horizon is a constant companion no matter how far you walk. Thoughts become more solid. There are no interruptions here, and being comfortable with yourself becomes important.
The one challenge for me during the day was the constant wind – there is no escape. Early in the morning when it was still, it was absolutely stunning. And then, when the wind started, it was just a few playful wisps. But as the sun rose, the constant wind rose with it and it becomes like sandpaper – slowly wearing you down. Sometimes it would literally sandblast me as it picked up particles from the dry parts of the mudflats.
St. Mary Reservoir, Alberta
24mm, f16, 1/80 of a second
When you’re doing interesting things, you should share them with the world. The problem is you’re too busy doing things. This has been a wonderful problem for me this year, and I feel very fortunate.
San Luis Reservoir, California
56mm, f10, 1/250 of a second
I’ve completely overhauled my online galleries, and there are a lot of new photos there. Hopefully they’re a lot easier to browse, it’s easier to buy prints, and somewhat useable on a phone or tablet. I’ve been working on this on and off for many months, so it’s exciting to finally have it done and be able to show you all! Of course, nothing is ever really done, but I’m happy with the update.
To take a look, just click on “Photos” in the grey bar on the left.
Taken in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
16mm, f7.1, 1/40 of a second
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
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