Sunday, November 01, 2015

Photographing Spirit Bears in the Great Bear Rainforest of B.C.

Spirit Bear, Great Bear Rainforest.
Canon 1D mk IV & EF 500mm f/4 IS II
When John Marriott called and asked if I could fill in for him to lead a Spirit Bear photo tour in British Columbia during September, it was an easy decision.  I mean, how can you turn down a chance to photograph bears at close range, especially Spirit Bears!

If you're wondering what a Spirit Bear is, they're a Black Bear that is white (actually cream-coloured) as a result of a double recessive gene. A small percentage of the black bear population is white in a concentrated region of the central British Columbia coast, now called the Great Bear Rainforest.

Our week was based from a live-aboard 71 ft sailboat called the Ocean Light II, which specializes in coastal adventures and wildlife tours. There were 6 photographers, plus myself and the crew of 3. We sailed out of Kitimat ready for an adventure!

There were two primary benefits about being based on a sailboat (aside from the fact that's it's just a cool experience: 1) we saw/photographed all kinds of marine life and great scenery right from the boat and 2) we were able to stay very close to the areas where the Spirit Bears were, which greatly minimized our travel each morning. 

During autumn, the bears spend most of their time feeding on salmon which are spawning on small creeks. The bears walk up and down the creeks looking for fish, or will stake out a productive set of rapids. Our guides worked cooperatively with bear guides from the Git'gat First Nation (stewards of the bears) to find out where the bears were most reliable. Each day we'd boat to shore, walk to the best locations and spend the day waiting along the creek - with cameras ready - to capture the moments when the bears would come by.

And come by they did! We had many opportunities to photograph Spirit Bears and black bears, sometimes at very close range as the bears fed on salmon and paid little attention to us. Absolutely amazing photo opportunities!

As if the bear photography wasn't incredible enough, we also had extraordinary experiences with Humpback Whales. Between them spy-hopping near our boat, or breaching, we all captured some incredible images.

To say it was an epic trip seems to barely do it justice. Being surrounded by coastal rainforest was awe-inspiring. Each of us left with great memories, new friendships and superb photos. 

Please scroll down to see some of my photos from the trip. Thanks for looking!

Spirit Bear, Great Bear Rainforest.
Canon 1D mk IV & EF 24-105mm
Spirit Bear, Great Bear Rainforest.
Canon 5D mk III & EF 500mm f/4 IS II
Spirit Bear, Great Bear Rainforest.
Canon 1D mk IV & EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
Spirit Bear, Great Bear Rainforest.
Canon 5D mk III & EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
Spirit Bear, Great Bear Rainforest.
Canon 5D mk III & EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
Spirit Bear, Great Bear Rainforest.
Canon 5D mk III & EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
Spirit Bear, Great Bear Rainforest.
Canon 5D mk III & EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
Black Bear in old growth forest, Great Bear Rainforest.
Canon 5D mk III & EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
Black Bear charging salmon, Great Bear Rainforest.
Canon 5D mk III & EF 500mm f/4 IS II
Humpback Whale breaching, central coast of British Columbia
Canon 5D mk III & EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
Ocean Light II sailboat, our base for the Spirit Bear photo tour.
Canon 5D mk III & EF 16-35mm f/2.8L IS II

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Snapping Turtle stare down!

Snapping Turtle, Tiny Marsh, Ontario. Canon 1D4, 500/4 IS II & 1.4x

I stumbled across this female Snapping Turtle laying eggs at Tiny Marsh (Ontario) and clicked a few eye-to-eye photos from a distance with my super-telephoto lens. She won the stare down!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Prairie Warbler, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Ontario

Prairie Warbler, Georgian Bay Islands National Park. The park is one of the best places to see this species on its breeding habitat in Ontario. I had an awesome morning yesterday photographing out there. The boat ride out to Beausoleil Island adds to the adventure!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Piping Plover chick - eye to eye

Piping Plover chicks are ridiculously cute! This is an endangered species and they face many challenges in the areas they nest in Ontario (popular tourist beaches), so I stayed far back, used plenty of magnification (equivalent of 1400 mm) and cropped the image about 20%. Canon 1D4, 500/4 IS II + 2x.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bird to Blooms - the manic month of June!

June is a manic month for me - nature explodes with photo opportunities and I can hardly keep up with all the things I want to point my camera at. Breeding birds and wildflowers are at peak and I keep a running list of target species - ones I haven't photographed before, haven't photographed well, or those I just want to freshen up with new images. Living in central Ontario is idyllic since the biodiversity located within a couple hours drive of my house is enough to keep me busy shooting for a lifetime! 

Here are some photos I've shot in the past few weeks. So many species, so little time!    

Golden-winged Warbler, Muskoka, Ontario.
Canon 1D4 & 500/4 IS + 1.4x.
Lawrence's Warbler, Ontario.
Canon 1D4 & 500/4 IS + 1.4x.

Mourning Warbler, Muskoka, Ontario.
Canon 1D4 & 500/4 IS + 1.4x.

Yellow Lady Slipper, Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario.
Canon 5D3 & Sigma 120-300/2.8 Sport + 25mm extension tube.

Ram's Head Lady Slipper, Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario.
Canon 5D3 & 100mm f/2.8 macro. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala - a photographer's dream location!

Flowers frame the view of the Atitlan and Toliman volcanoes (stacked) from the village of Santa Cruz.
I'm staring out at the crystalline water of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, rimmed by verdantly forested volcanoes, thinking that I may have found paradise. It's a bit more than halfway through my trip and I'm already dreading the thought of leaving here[-15C back home in Ontario - oh shit!]. I stumbled across Guatemala while researching central American destinations for a photo trip/winter getaway. My criteria was that it was a country I hadn't visited before, an affordable rental I could use as a base for day tripping and plenty of great subjects to point my camera at. After seeing a few photos of the stunningly scenic Lake Atitlan, the decision was easy!

Dusk falls over Lake Atitlan and the town dock in Santa Cruz la Laguna. 
Lake Atitlan is in a volcanic caldera (basin) and is approximately 130kmand 300m deep. There are three inactive volcanoes (Atitlan, Toliman and San Pedro) on the southern shore of the lake which create an incredibly scenic backdrop for the deep blue water!

Small to medium sized communities surround the lake, each with their own distinct character. Mayan culture dominates the area, but there are plenty of quirky expat 'gringos' living here and some of the towns are full of international travelers. The quaint village of San Marcos is particularly entertaining - it's full of spiritual seeking, crystal wearing new agers selling beads and smoking pot. Some locals refer to them as 'Trustifarians' (disenfranchised trust fund kids) - that made me chuckle!

Sunset on the shore of Lake Atitlan at Santa Cruz la Laguna with the San Pedro volcano in the back. 
Getting around the lake is easy on the public boats that inexpensively ferry people and cargo between the communities. It's a great way to explore the villages, many of which sell hand-woven textiles and other goods. Market days are especially colorful and vibrant!

Mayan girls in the Solola market, Guatemala.
Local grown veggies for sale at the small Saturday market in Santa Cruz la Laguna. 
The small, flat-bottomed dugout canoes (called cayucos) used by local fisherman are synonymous with Lake Atitlan.

A fisherman paddles his cayuco (dugout canoe) at sunrise on Lake Atitlan.
The plume of steam and ash is from an eruption of the distant Fuego Volcano. 
A fisherman's dugout canoe (cayuco) on the shore of Lake Atitlan. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wilson's Warbler in winter - great way to end the year!

Wilson's Warbler, Oakville, Ontario - Dec. 30, 2014.
Gear: Canon 1D4, 500/4IS II and 1.4x III.

I've been following the bird reports about the ''famous five" lingering warbler species hanging out near a sewage treatment facility in Oakville, Ontario this winter.  After visiting my family down near Point Pelee for the holidays, I thought I'd swing by on the way back home to try my luck. I left Leamington at 5am and made it to Oakville shortly after 8am. It was cold (around -7C) - not exactly the kind of conditions you expect to look for warblers in! I bundled up and hit the trails with my camera.

I spent a few hours wandering around the small area and was able to easily find five warbler species: Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, Nashville, Tennessee and Wilson's. Although I manged to get photos of all of them, the densely tangled thickets made for busy backgrounds - not ideal for photos. Except for the Wilson's Warbler, which landed on a completely unobstructed open perch right in front of me. It posed for about 30 seconds, long enough to capture some great photos. I never expected to get my best ever Wilson's Warbler photos in Ontario on December 30. What a great way to end the year! 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Black Bears and the Barron Canyon - a great day in Algonquin Provincial Park

Black Bear cub, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario.
Canon EOS 1D mk IV, 500/4 IS + 1.4x 
My plan was simple: go to bed early, wake up at 2:30am, have a shower, fill a travel mug with coffee and drive to Algonquin Park in time for sunrise. The plan fell apart at the going to bed early stage. I finally dozed off after midnight and the 2:30am alarm rang far too soon. I debated skipping the photo shoot and staying in bed, but my conscious wouldn't allow it.... so I battled with the snooze button for an hour before mustering the willpower to get moving. And I am sure glad that I did!  

Miraculously (ok, it was a lack of traffic and some speeding) I made it to the park in time for dawn. Sunrise was a bust due to a heavy morning mist, but no worries... that wasn't what I was after. My morning target was a blueberry patch that I'd heard was attracting bears. Sure enough, the bears were there and very cooperative. Photographing the sows and cubs was a great way to start the day. I hardly noticed how tired I was!

Black Bear sow (ear tagged), Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario.
Canon EOS 1D mk IV, 500/4 IS + 1.4x 

Once the light started to get harsh (bear fur does not photograph well in bright light), I left the bears, had breakfast with a friend and then started driving east. I'd always wanted to explore the Barron Canyon on the east side of the park, so I fought through my lack of sleep and made it into Pembroke by mid afternoon, checked into a hotel and immediately fell into a coma-like nap for a few hours.  

I woke up refreshed and ready to explore, but not before a nutritious dinner (a hot dog and a cookie) from the gas station. The drive from Pembroke to the Barron Canyon hiking trail lot was only 45 minutes, and the hike up to the canyon overlooks was surprisingly short. I spent the next couple of hours in awe of the striking scenery of the Barron Canyon, shooting photos until the sun went down behind the hills, and then hiked down at dusk, elated after a great evening. 

Happy shooting!

Selfie at the Barron Canyon, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario.
Canon EOS 5D III, Sigma 24-70/2.8, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer and 3 stop hard edge ND grad

Barron Canyon, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario.
Canon EOS 5D III, 16-35mm, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer and 2 stop hard edge ND grad

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Canon EF 24mm L f/1.4 II lens for sale

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM lens
Serial # 2072544

Price: $1150 US or $1225CAD
Price includes insured shipping within the ConUS or Canada and PayPal fees. 

Comes with (all original Canon):
-lens cap
-body cap
-cloth pouch

Item condition: 9 (shows some signs of use, but very clean).
The condition is excellent - it looks new with the exception of some minor scuffing on the lens barrel that doesn't show in the photos. Sorry, the photos don't do it justice because of the glare from the pot lights in my house (I'm an outdoor photographer, not so good at artificially lit photos inside)!

I'm selling the lens because I barely use it and have other similar lenses covering the range. 

If you've read the reviews of this lens, you know it is very sharp with a fast aperture that is great for shooting in low light, and has shallow depth of field for artistic effects. 

Sorry, not interested in trades.

Please contact me if interested: 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A wicked week for warblers!

I've been busy photographing warblers this past week... and feeding the mosquitoes! Here are a few results from Awenda Provincial Park and Georgian Bay Islands National Park.

All the birds were taken with a Canon 1D mk IV, 500/4 IS II lens + 1.4x and fill flash using a Better Beamer. The wildflower at the bottom was taken with a Canon 5d mk III and Sigma 120-300/2.8 with a 25mm extension tube.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Canada Warbler

Canada Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Prairie Warbler
And for the wildflower enthusiasts, here's a Showy Lady Slipper:

Showy Lady Slipper

Thursday, June 19, 2014

So many species, so little time!

It's peak season in Ontario for breeding birds, wildflowers, lush green vegetation, reptiles and amphibians. There's never enough time to sleep at this time of year for a nature photographer!

Here are a few photos from the past week. 

Blanding's Turtle, a threatened species in Ontario. Muskoka area.
Gear: Canon 5d3 & Sigma 120-300/2.8 with 25mm extension tube. 

Brewster's Warbler (Blue-winged x Golden-winged hybrid),  Muskoka area.
Gear: Canon 1d4 with 500/4 IS II & 1.4x. 

Prairie Warbler, Georgian Bay Islands National Park
Gear: Canon 1d4 with 500/4 IS II & 1.4x. 

Upland Sandpiper, Carden Alvar
Gear: Canon 1d4 with 500/4 IS II