Wildlife Photography

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

Enjoying Winter Again

Last weekend Anna and I finally got a chance to get out to the mountains, and it was a trip for trying new things. For the first time ever we tried snowshoeing together, cross-country skiing together, and winter camping. I was also giving my Olympus OM-D a torture test to see how much it could replace my Canon 5D kit for hiking.

Snowshoeing works great and is my new favorite way of getting around in winter. It lets me get wherever I want in any conditions with my hands free for photography, which is perfect for me. Skiing was a lot more fun as an activity, but I found it quite hard to mix with photography. Winter camping actually worked a lot better than expected and we slept cosily through the whole night!

I’ll post a review of my little OM-D in a bit, for now I’ll just start posting pictures from it. This photo is from Panther Falls — icicles forming against an overcast sky. I’m looking forward to printing this pretty large — the details in the ice are fantastic!

f7.1, 1/1600 of a second, 100mm
(I’ll be stating actual focal length here, not equivalent – more on this in my OM-D review)

After a Long and Barren Break

I’m finally back! With pictures! Happy New Year!

December was (as always) too busy, with far too little time for hiking and shooting. Thankfully I’m starting to recover, and last week I was able to go out to Jasper for a couple days, camp in the freezing weather, and completely enjoy it.

I also have some pendants back in stock after almost completely selling out at Christmas. I have many plans of updating websites and galleries, of taking lots of photos, of enabling online stores, and far too many more ideas to list here or ever complete. But I’ll work on stuff, and try to keep everyone updated.

Here’s a photo of a dry and dusty Jasper Lake from last week just after sunrise. I was getting blasted with a super cold wind, and even bundled up I had to run back to the shelter of the van after a few minutes.


Canon 5d with 17-40 lens.
Taken at 24mm, f8, 1/200 of a second

I’m planning to start adding these technical details below my photos. I know people are interested, and I’ve resisted for a long time because I believe they’re not really important. I think people place way too much emphasis on what the right settings are and way too little on getting a good composition. But to do photography well, you do have to at least know what all the settings do, and which are important in any particular instance. So for those learning, I hope this extra information helps, but know that the photo is the important part — the settings just help you get there. For example, I took this photo at f8. Would f5.6 have worked? Pretty well. Would f11 have worked. Yup, even a little better than f8. Did it ruin the photo that the aperture wasn’t as high as ideal to get everything perfectly in focus? Not at all, this will print beautifully at 20×30, and I’m really happy with it. Photography is about creating a feeling, not about an aperture. It would have mattered far more if I had angled my camera up or down a degree or two, or if I’d taken the photo from a foot lower or higher — those things could have easily turned it into something I wouldn’t look at twice.

At this point I think I’m rambling, and I’m impressed if anyone actually read this far. Cheers.

Stand of Aspen on an Elk Filled Fall Evening

This photo was taken in Cooking Lake Provincial Rec Area. Actually the name is “Cooking Lake – Blackfoot Grazing, Wildlife Provincial Recreation Area”, but that’s a ridiculously long name, and I don’t intend on typing it out every time I mention it. Anyway, this is the area just south of Elk Island National Park. It’s almost exactly the same, except it has a few fields and no bison. And you don’t have to pay to get in. All in all, a great area to go hiking.

This was an overcast day, and a little misty. There were water droplets on the grass and a bit of a breeze rustling the leaves too. It was in this muffled darkening atmosphere that I first noticed the elk. The bull was watching me, with his herd off to the side, behind a copse of apsen.


I crouched down and watched them for a while. A calf was still nursing, and many of the elk were grazing, but the bull kept watching me. As the light faded along with my vision, the herd moved off into the trees. That first photo was taken in the trees where the elk disappeared into, after it had become quite dark.

Moose Encounters

While hiking in Elk Island this week, I happened across this suspicious fellow. There were actually a pair of them, and of course the trail went right in between them. Between two moose didn’t seem like the safest place to be, so I stopped before I got too close. The one on the right ran off out of view, but I could still see the one on the left. It stopped, sniffed, eyed me, and the stalemate began. I stayed completely still, waiting for the moose to make its move. On the right, I saw some ears appear over the alders, and then disappear just as silently. I had no idea moose could be so sneaky in thick brush.

After about five minutes, the moose on the left started to move—tentatively at first, and then more confidently, chewing on a few available twigs. As it stepped out on the trail it looked me over and then moved off to do moose-type things. I was very happy with this development. Although moose are not generally agressive, the moose was very close, and I was very alone. And though I like to think that if I don’t bother animals, they won’t bother me, this only holds true until the first time it doesn’t. And that’s a little scary.

Astotin Cattails

I went for a hike on Astotin Lake yesterday. I’ve been to the shore often enough looking out at all those islands, but I’ve never been on the lake. I decided, before it all melts, to walk out and see some islands up close.

I headed out, wondering how far I’d get. The crust on the snow wasn’t thick enough to support me and made it even harder to walk through the thigh-deep snow. I found a few old snowshoe tracks which usually held me up, and got out onto the lake. It turns out that further out onto the lake, it is easy walking. Once away from the shore I was only sinking down a few inches. This was a pleasant treat, and I got to three islands before heading back.

Here are some cattails (Typha latifolia) from the shore of an island in Astotin Lake.

In the Caverns of the Deep

After a long and occasionally scary drive to Banff (after 10 I stopped counting cars in the ditch on highway 2), we’re here safely, I’ve now finished my design work for the day, and I’m finally ready to go out hiking! Hello -20 weather!

Here’s one from last summer.

Harebells and Forest Lanscapes

In the interests of geographical diversity, today’s photo is from Morden, MB. I went for a great hike with my family around Lake Minnewasta this past summer. For those who have not been here, the park is very nice for people who like the resorty villages, but the trail is absolutely beautiful. These are harebells (Campanula rotundifolia — as opposed to the hairy flowers like this which are bluebells) against a lichen covered tree trunk.

As I was getting this photo ready for the post today I kept having problems. I like the photo – the complimentary purple and orange, the contrasting textures, the brightness of the flowers. But something didn’t feel quite right. I kept on going back and trying to edit it differently. I think I finally figured out my problem with it, which can’t be fixed with processing – there’s no clear focal point. The eye has so many places to go, but there’s no clear line to follow, no one point to rest at. I was going to scrap the whole post and start again, but I thought you might be interested in my thoughts and processes on how I reject photos I’ve taken.

And now, in the interests of posting a photo I’m actually happy with, here’s one from the same hike.