Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's Eve!

It's New Year's Eve.... so let me start by saying Happy New Years! I'm hanging out with my best friends... we're drinking unbelievably great wine and eating spectacular food. Bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin lusciously cooked via fondue. Life is good!

Today I bought a new camera, which doesn't happen very often. (about once every 3 years). I don't tend to get excited about gear, I'm the guy who preaches "It's not about the gear...". However, after my trip to Kenya, where my buddy Craig ( dusted me with his 1D4 body, I have had a new camera on my mind ever since.

So I stolled down to Downtown Camera in Toronto today and picked up a brand-spanking new Canon EOS 1D mark IV. First off, let me give a kudos to that store.... co-owner Harry dealt with me personally and gave me a very good deal. I like smaller indie stores with personal service.

I'm sitting here on New Year's eve, several glasses of good wine down the hatch, playing with the 1D4. It's a wild camera with a frame rate that puts machine guns to shame. The next few days I'll be chasing birds to work out the AF.... more to follow!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Use your Mom as a model

I'm catching up on editing photos from the past year and stumbled across a folder from a photo shoot with my mom last fall. Let me start by saying that my mom is a hell-of-a-good sport. Whenever I visit her, she agrees to go out for jaunts in the woods, where I "happen" to carry a camera with me. Often there are props such as binoculars or bicycles along. And these mother-and-son bonding excursions tend to occur when the light is good. I think she may be catching on that these are photo shoots and she's the model!

What's the point of this? Time is precious, so I try to make the most of every situation... essentially to kill many birds with one stone. Hanging out with my mom or my friends also presents a great photo opportunity. Friends and family are some of your best models!

Photo 1 (above): Birdwatcher (my mom) at Wheatley Provincial Park, Ontario. Canon EOS 5D mark II, Canon EF 70-200/4 IS lens (handheld), Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer. Exposure: 1/160s @ f/5.6, ISO 400.

Photo 2 (above): Bicyclist (my mom) at Wheatley Provincial Park, Ontario. Canon EOS 1Ds mark III, Canon EF 24-70/2.8 lens, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer. Exposure: 1/10s @ f/10, ISO 400.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays! Wishing everyone a stocking full of camera gear and great photos!
I'm finally caught up on the jetlag from my recent Kenya trip, so you can expect to see some new photos coming soon to this blog.
And here's a tip.... after recent storms, the Georgian Bay shoreline of Bruce Peninsula National Park is coated with ice.... the best I've seen in many years. I'll be going out there shooting as soon as I'm back from visiting family for the holidays. If you can get up there to shoot, the photo opportunity is amazing!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Kenya various

I'm sitting on the shore of Lake Baringo, a world famous birding location. It's my last night in Kenya, so I'm bracing myself for the return to cold and snow! I've been having trouble posting to the blog during the trip due to poor cellular internet connections. It's been easier to post to facebook, so click on the link to the right to check out a few more updates from the past couple of weeks. 

Here's a few random shots for the trip....

Photo 1 is a Hamerkop attempting to choke back a large toad in Lake Nakuru National Park.
Photo 2 is a Giraffe feeding on acacia trees on Crescent Island.
Photo 3 is a Hippo with flamingos in the background, Lake Nakuru National Park.
More details and photos once I get back home to my desktop computer and speedy internet!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Photo 1 (above): Lions playing before the evening hunt, Masai Mara, Kenya. Canon EOS 1Ds mark III, EF 500mm f/4 lens & 1.4x teleconvertor

We departed from Masai Mara National Reserve this morning after several days of shooting in the park. To say that it was awesome is an understatement. There were lions and giraffes and hippos and wildebeast and so much more!! If you dream of photographing wildlife in plentiful quantities, of many species, and very close, then book yourself a trip to Kenya right now and go to the Mara.

There are three of us photographing together - myself, Craig Blair aka "the Canon Rumors guy" and friend Mike Gaudaur who lives in Kenya and is most generously hosting us. In the Mara you have to stay in your vehicle (there are lions to eat you and cape buffalo to charge you), so we had Mike's Toyota Prado SUV jam packed with camera gear.... there were big lenses bouncing all over on the bumpy roads.

Photo 2 (above): Lions relaxing before the evening hunt, Masai Mara, Kenya. Canon EOS 1Ds mark III, EF 500mm f/4 lens & 2x teleconvertor. We saw lions every day in the Mara; I likely have hundreds of photos of them to edit.

Photo 3 (above): Vervet Monkey, Masai Mara, Kenya. Canon EOS 1Ds mark III, EF 500mm f/4 lens & 1.4x teleconvertor. We ate a boxed lunch at the Mara River after photographing hippos for a couple of hours. A group of Vervet Monkeys quickly swarmed us and picked through the remains of our lunch boxes.

Photo 4 (above): Caracal, Masai Mara, Kenya. Canon EOS 1Ds mark III, EF 500mm f/4 lens & 1.4x teleconvertor. We lucked into this cat, an elusive and rarely seen species. We each managed to fire a handful of photos before it took off to start hunting for the evening.

Photo 5 (above): Giraffe and Zebra, Masai Mara, Kenya. Canon EOS 1Ds mark III, EF 500mm f/4 lens & 1.4x teleconvertor. The Mara has magnificent vistas of the African savannah ecosystem, all the better when there are animals posing in the frame!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Masai Mara: zebra and lion

Hi all, cellular internet connection is very slow here in Masai Mara, so this is a quick post of a couple of shots from our first day in the reserve. The wildlife photography is incredible here, best I've ever experienced. We can barely keep up with the downloading and backing up each day. Will post more once I get a decent internet connection. Shot about a thousand images of lions yesterday.... yawns, cubs playing... and an adult male only 2m away from me.... wow!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Amboseli National Park, Kenya - part 1

I just spent two awesome days shooting in Amboseli National Park. There were so many different species of mammals and birds that it was completely overwhelming, especially since it's my first trip to Africa. I probably shot a hundred gigabytes of photos and video and I've barely had a chance to review the images, let alone edit any. I'm completely exhausted but couldn't resist posting a couple early favorites. Tomorrow we're off to Masai Mara National Park for four days... really looking forward to it!

Photo 1 (above): Yellow (Chacma) Baboon, Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Canon EOS 1Ds mark III; EF 500/4 lens. This baboon sat next to our van for about a half hour and stared at me (apparently wanting a handout of food). I nicknamed it "Bob-boon" and came to the realisation that I'm a baboonatic. Sorry, the lack of sleep causes me to make bad puns.

Photo 2 (above): Crowned Cranes, Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Canon EOS 1Ds mark III; EF 500/4 lens. Crowned Cranes were all over Amboseli and we had great chances to shoot a range of photos of them, but my favorites were of pairs together.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Kenya bound...

My bags are packed and off to the airport in a half hour en route to Kenya for a couple weeks of photography. Here's what I travel with (above).... 

Bag 1 (left) Carry-on is a Gura Kiboko bag with all the really expensive, fragile stuff (bodies, lenses, filters). Gura is the best bag for traveling with a ton of gear! I've got a 500/4, 300/2.8, 70-200/4, 24-70/2.8, 24TSE, 17-40/4, 1DS mark III and 5D mark II in there... amazing that it all fits! 

2) Personal item (second carry-on) has laptop, documents, point and shoot, etc.

3) Checked bag is a large MEC duffle bag (very little weight in the bag iteself) with tripods, heads, reflectors, chargers all padded with underwear, t-shirts, pants, etc!

Dust is always a problem for me on photo shoots and I expect it to be bad in the dry African savannah ecosystems. Dust is especially problematic for shooting video with tee 5D mark II.... it's a serious pain to remove dust spots from HD video! To save me the agony, I'm now using a product called Dust-Shield, which is an optical quality thin plastic film that seals the camera chamber and prevents dust from getting on the sensor. I just had my camera cleaned and put a fresh dust shield on... see next two photos. It works great and makes life so much easier! 

The next photo is the most important item I'll be traveling... Imodium! In foreign countries, you're exposed to a range of 'bugs' that will inevitably result in gastro-intestinal distress. Imodium has saved me on many trips, so I could keep photographing and spent less time in agony in third-world washrooms! 

Be sure to follow the blog and my facebook page over the next couple weeks to see the photos and hear the stories from the trip!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Backroads near Thornbury, Ontario - subtle morning landscape

November is a drab time of year for photographing landscapes in this part of the world (central Ontario). The leaves are off the trees and everything is more-or-less a shade of brown. I find it difficult to be inspired to get out and shoot. On the plus side however, sunrise happens fairly late, so it's easy to get up and catch  morning light.

Last week I was cruising around the backrounds near my place when I stumbled across this scene. The  dawn colors were subtle so I used a Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo polarizer to enhance the scene. And of course, I used an ND grad (Singh-Ray 2 stop hard edge, 4"x6" size) to balance the exposure and add drama to the sky while properly exposing the foreground. Without filters there wouldn't have been much of a photo here.... the sky would have washed out to dull.

On a lacklustre morning I pulled off a decent shot.... I'm glad that I didn't sleep in!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Must read book: VisionMongers by David duChemin

Every now and then I stumble across a book that truly inspires me. "VisionMongers: Making a Life and Living in Photography" by David duChemin is one such book! I'm about half way through it and has inspired me enough to plug it here on the blog. 
The book is full of practical advice about how and why to pursue a living in photography. All aspiring pros should consider this the definitive must-read (in addition to John Shaw's Business of Nature Photography). Seasoned pros will enjoy the philosophy behind the book and pick up plenty of tips to sharpen their business skills.

Here's a link to David's blog, from which you'll find Amazon links to purchase the book.

If you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think.
Happy shooting!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Moved to Owen Sound & great luck with Coyotes this morning

Coyote photographed near Owen Sound this morning.

I've been incredibly busy lately which accounts for the lack of blog posts over the past couple of weeks. First and foremost, I've moved to the town of Owen Sound in a great apartment close to downtown. I'm finally settled in but it was no small task moving my stuff (second floor apartment). I have way too much photography gear; one room is completely jammed with everything from blinds and waders to camera packs and tripods.

My trip to Kenya is coming up in a few weeks so I'm starting to get organized for that. Traveling by plane with tons of camera gear is always a pain in the ass. I'll be fine-tuning the packing of camera gear right up until the last minute.

This morning I went out for a quick photo shoot on the outskits of Owen Sound with my buddy Craig (the guy behind In early morning light, we stumbled across a pair of coyotes in a farm field close to the road. One of the animals was very pale/tawny in appearance and obliging for the camera. We shot from the van and it was certainly the best opportunity I've had photographing wild coyotes. Immediately afterwards, I locked the keys in the vehicle. The excitement of the coyotes helped to offset the wait for a tow truck driver who was able to unlock the van in a couple of seconds.

Both of these photos were shot with a Canon EOS 1Ds mark III and 500mm/4 lens at ISO 400 from a tripod set up in my van.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hazardous Road - sign graffiti & Skinner's Bluff photo shoot

I'm always on the watch for funny signs or interesting graffiti to shoot a quick photo of (it's one of the reasons I carry a point & shoot). I found this one the other day near the parking lot for the very scenic Skinner's Bluff overlook near Wiarton, Ontario. Read the message written on the bottom with marker. And for what it's worth, the sign is correct... the road past here is bad!

Photographed with a Canon G11.

And here's a behind-the-scenes photo of the actual photo shoot I was doing for a tourism client that morning at Skinner's Bluff... a great lookout on the Niagara Escarpment.  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Great video shot with Canon's new 8-15mm f/4L fisheye

Check out this aweseome video shot with the new Canon EF8-15mm f/4L fisheye, a 5D mark II and a 7D. I want one of those remote control helicpoters!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Great sunset over Lake Huron tonight!

The skies were shaping up nicely so I raced down to the beach for an hour of magical light. The location is Dorcas Bay in Bruce Peninsula National Park on the Lake Huron shoreline. Both photos were taken with an EOS 1Ds mark III, 24-70mm f/2,8 lens, Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo polarizer and 3 stop hard edge ND grad. ISO 200, f/22, 0.8 and 1.3 seconds respectively.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Backyard bird photography setup & surprise

Photo 1 (above): Swainson's Thrush in my backyard, Tobermory, Ontario. EOS 1Ds mark III, Sigma 300/2.8 lens & Canon 2x teleconverter; ISO 800, 1/80s @ f/5.6

I was sitting out in my blind the other day photographing White-crowned Sparrows, when I was pleasantly surprised to have a Swainson's Thrush drop in on my perch settup for a few moments.

Photo 2 (above): Here's the view of my blind (with me in it) from the old stump that I have scattered seed  around to attract sparrows. I triggered this photo remotely from inside the blind using Pocket Wizard radio remotes. I wanted to get a photo with a bird on the perch, but they wouldn't come in with the remote camera setup so close to the stump.

Photo 3 (above): White-crowned Sparrow (immature) in my backyard, Tobermory, Ontario. EOS 1Ds mark III, Sigma 300/2.8 lens & Canon 2x teleconverter; ISO 640, 1/80s @ f/5.6

White-crowned Sparrows have been migration through the Bruce Peninsula by the thousands over the past two weeks!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall colors, Sigma Canada, chipmunks and dropping lenses into rivers....

Photo 1 (above): Algonquin Park fall colors detail. Canon EOS 5D mark II, Sigma 300/2.8 lens & drop-in polarizer, ISO 200, 1/80s @ f/8; mirror lock-up and cable release.

Sorry for the delay in posting, I've been on the road visiting family for Canadian Thanksgiving and had some internet issues... the server would not let me upload photos to blogger. All better now that I am back home and I can share more photos from my recent shoot in Algonquin Park.

Sigma Canada (distributed by Gentec International) has recently added me as one of their pro shooters and hooked me up with some great lenses. Check out their brand new website and be sure to click on the Pro Gallery to see me along with fellow Canadian photographers Darwin Wiggett and Crombie McNeil.

So far, I've got two Sigma lenses in my bag: the 12-24mm wide-angle zoom and the 300mm f/2.8 telephoto. Actually, let me clarify that.... I accidentally dropped the 12-24mm into Oxtongue River Rapids during my recent fall colors shoot. It completedly submerged for a few minutes before I perilously fished it out and sent it back to see if it can be salvaged... cross your fingers for me! In case you're counting (I am), that's two lenses I've dropped this summer/fall..... damn!

A 300/2.8 lens has been on my must-get list for some time, so this is a welcome addition to my system (in good time for my upcoming Africa trip). The Sigma 300/2.8 is razor sharp and has very fast autofocus. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it comes standard with a drop-in polarizer (and the design is better than Canon's drop in filter system). I'll be calling Singh-Ray soon to see if they have an LB warming polarizer that will fit!

And now to some photos.....

Photo 2 (above): Algonquin Park fall colors forest edge. Canon EOS 5D mark II, Sigma 300/2.8 lens & drop-in polarizer, ISO 200, 1/15s @ f/11; mirror lock-up and cable release. I like compressed landscapes with telephoto lenses. This is a classic situation to use a polarizer... to help improve contrast and saturation in the misty conditions. 

Photo 3: Algonquin Park fall colors. Canon EOS 5D mark II, Sigma 300/2.8 lens & drop-in polarizer, ISO 400, 1/640s @ f/7.1; mirror lock-up and cable release. Even in very dull, overcast light I was pleased with the rich contrast of this lens.

While I was in the Algonquin area, I dropped in to visit my friend Gary Schultz, owner of the Algonquin Lakeside Inn (just west of the park). The feeders at the Inn were busy with activity so Gary and I caught up while shooting. I highly recommend a trip to stay at the Inn and enjoy the great shooting at the blind/feeders!

Photo 4 (above): The photo blind at Algonquin Lakeside Inn, with ower Gary Schultz on the right.

Photo 5 (above): Rusty Blackbird. Canon EOS 1Ds mark III, EF 500mm f/4 lens & 1.4x teleconvertor. ISO 640, 1/125s @ f/5.6. Rusty Blackbird is an elusive and rarely photographed species... this was only my second time photographing them.

Photo 6 (above): Eastern Chipmunk with cheeks full of seeds.Canon EOS 1Ds mark III, EF 500mm f/4 lens & 1.4x teleconvertor. ISO 640, 1/400s @ f/5.6.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Algonquin Park fall colors

I'm way behind in editing photos at the moment but couldn't resist processing a few from last week in the Algonquin Provincial Park area. I've been given some Sigma lenses to test out from Gentec International (Canadian distributor for Sigma) and I'm having a blast with them... especially the 300/2.8, which I took the bottom photo with. This is my first 300/2.8 and it is so amazingly sharp... expect to see me shooting a ton more photos with it!

Photo 1 (above): Maple leaves along Oxtongue River Rapids. Canon EOS 5D mark II, 17-40mm lens, Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer. ISO 100, 0.6s at f/22. [By the way, the leaves were placed there by an oreo-eating mammal.]

Photo 2 (above): Autumn colors in mist along Opeongo Lake Road, Algonquin Provincial Park. EOS 1Ds mark III, Canon EF 500mm f/4 lens. ISO 400, 1/50s at f/8.

Photo 3 (above): Autumn colors along Highway 60 in Algonquin Provincial Park. EOS 1Ds mark III, Sigma 300/2.8 lens. ISO 200, 1/160s at f/8.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Best of the Bruce - photo workshop results

I am procrastinating right now. Though I should be writing my next column for Outdoor Photography Canada magazine (it's due Oct 1), I find myself nearing the bottom of a great bottle of Spanish red wine and surfing YouTube for live music (it has been a crazy busy couple of weeks, this is my first night off). I am also playing catch up on my blog, hence this post. I've just returned from the peak of fall colors in Algonquin Park... shot some great photos which you'll see in a couple of days. But first, here are photos from a workshop "Best of the Bruce" that I hosted last weekend in partnership with the amazing E'Terra ecolodge.

First, a huge thanks to participants Trina, Tom, Rick, Bruce, Gary and Anne. Thanks also to the sponsors who joined together to make a great contest (that Trina won) for a spot on the tour and an awesome prize package: Canadian Geographic, Ontario Tourism, E'Terra, Sigma, Lens Rentals Canada, Blue Heron Cruises, Bruce Peninsula Helicopters, Lowepro, Coleman and Velbon. [original contest page with links to sponsors here: ]. And lastly a really huge thanks to my friend Canon Rumors Craig, who was supposed to co-lead the workshop and got married instead... but generously promoted the workshop to his audience and instantly filled the remaining spots. Thanks Craig, I owe you a very good bottle of wine in Africa!

Of all the workshops I've ever hosted, we had the best photography weather on this one (so far)! A brief but dramatic sunrise started us off at Halfway Log Dump on Saturday morning, followed by a mind-blowing sunset on Cove Island. Sunday was sunny skies for sunrise at Flowerpot Island and sunset at the Grotto and Indian Head Cove in Bruce Peninsula National Park.

I don't shoot much on my workshops, but couldn't resist a few here and there....

Photo 1 (above): Moon next to Cove Island Lighthouse at sunset. Canon EOS 1Ds mark III, 70-200/4 lens, Singh-Ray LB polarizer ISO 400; 1/400s @ f/8; mirror lock-up & cable release

Photo 2 (above): Pink afterglow behind the Cove Island Lighthouse. Canon EOS 5D mark II, 24-70/2.8lens, Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo polarizer; ISO 200; 0.8s @ f/16; mirror lock-up & cable release

Photo 3 (above): Self-portrait, Flowerpot Island sunrise. Canon EOS 5D mark II, 17-40mm lens, Singh-Ray Gold-n-Blue polarizer; ISO 200; 2s @ f/16; mirror lock-up & cable release

Photo 4 (above): Georgian Bay lapping at the shoreline of Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park. Canon EOS 5D mark II, 24-70/2.8 lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer; ISO 50; 1/3s @ f/22
More and more I find myself chosing slight water blurs that evoke water movement, using shutter speeds just less than a second.

Photo 5 (above): Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park. Canon EOS 5D mark II, 24-70/2.8 lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer; ISO 200; 1/10s @ f/22; mirror lock-up & cable release

Photo 5 (above): Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park plus a bit of Ethan for tourist effect. Canon EOS 5D mark II, 24-70/2.8 lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer; ISO 200; 1/13s @ f/22; mirror lock-up & cablerelease

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Georgian Bay shoreline - Niagara Escarpment

After many wavy days, calm conditions yesterday afternoon motivated me to get out for a great photo shoot along the Georgian Bay shoreline near where I live. In about 2 hours I shot 1200 photos..... there's no reason to shoot conservatively when you're bouncing around in a boat!

Note that I am now testing out some Sigma lenses, which they have generously provided. A couple of the below photos were taken with their 12-24mm, which is an awesome focal length for mega-wide angle shots.

Photo 1(above): The clear blue waters of Indian Head Cove in Bruce Peninsula National Park. EOS 5D mark II; Sigma 12-24mm lens (at 12mm); ISO 400; 1/400s @ f/8; handheld from the front of my boat

Photo 2(above): Trees and boulders on the Georgian Bay shoreline of Bruce Peninsula National Park. EOS 1Ds mark III; Canon 70-200mm/4 lens (at 155mm); ISO 640; 1/125s @ f/4; handheld from boat

Photo 3(above): Boulders fron the Niagara Escarpment cliffs on the Georgian Bay shoreline of Bruce Peninsula National Park. EOS 5D mark II; Sigma 12-24mm lens (at 19mm); ISO 400; 1/100s @ f/5.6; handheld from the front of my boat