Not far from my home it can be easy to find good photo opportunities and this time of year with all the nesting birds to hunt it gets pretty intense. Intense and enjoyable. I do know how lucky I am to live where I do, ( the Canadian Rockies) and get the pictures I get. Thank you to all those great people involved deeper than I with all the great conservation efforts. Good to know that when I bring my grandchildren to these same spots the wildlife will be there. Words are not enough to properly thank Art Grunig for the many thousands of nest boxes he has built in his life time. Without Art’s efforts these photos would not be possible.
I recently entered a photo contest in my home province of British Columbia calling for photos that would present my photographic abilities. The contest boosts that it will unveil the “Best amateur photographer of B.C.” or something like that. For once I took the submission call pretty seriously. I do enter a few contests from time to time. Most often to compare my stuff to others. Nice to know how you measure up sometimes. I get surprised and once in a while get pretty close to winning or a least the top two or three. Because this contest is based in my home province I thought I would send the full list of allowed submissions. I was able to send a total of five photos. After several hours of short listing from as many as 300 I was able to reduce the first list of a couple dozen to only the five I was allowed to submit. It was sure hard to cut the list down. I wanted to show a good cross section of the photos I like best so these are the five I picked. As it turned out I was selected as a finalist and I am off to shoot with about twenty other finalists representing their regions of the province. I should know how it all turns out by Sunday night. I’ll let you good or bad…..
I had a good spring finding and staking out productive nesting sites. In the Canadian Rockies we are lucky to have an abundant wild bird population. Humans have taken up the responsibility of helping out the western blue birds by placing thousands of nest boxes on fence posts everywhere you look. I am lucky to call the main man involved a good friend of mine. With all those nest boxes it can be tough actually being in position to photograph the parents tending the nest. Most of the time I find myself 200 meters and five nest boxes too far away.
The same can be said for the northern flicker nests. There are hundreds of trees with holes in them but which one has a woodpecker nest in it and will I get the photo I’m looking for. I can tell you that it takes a lot of time and when you get the shot you want all the time and effort is worth it.
After hundreds of hours of simple observation I think I can narrow it down to just a few; The birds. Not all birds but a few varities of water birds. I’m not a wildlife bioligists and I don’t even know the correct names in some cases. Paying attention to what I’m looking at out on the water I can clearly see who is doing what with thier clildren. In my opinion the Grebes, Loons and Coots are the best parents. They spend the majority of the day light hours feeding their brood. Showing them how to do it and both parents caring for them equally, with very litle break in the activity. I know that other nesting birds do the same. But not all birds get the undivided attention of both parents. And when the nesting time is over they get at best a few days then they are on thier own. This is my basic observation and I’m sure it could be added to by a professional. I see Ospry teaching their babies how to fish with a determined amount of detication. As I say I can only talk about what I see and what I learn by hours of just looking out onto the lake. It also becomes clear that these parents that I think are the best at parenting also create very spoiled off spring. Their babies place high demands on them and they rarely say no. Grebes and Loons will pack their babies on their back for as long as they can before they become just too big to fit. They keep them away from preditors (and photographers) all the while watching to skies for Eagles and Ospry. I watched a Coot chase off a Muscrat with the deterimination of a bouncer. Loons are even more aggresive than that. All in all The spoiled babies of the Grebes, Loons and Coots seam to get the best attention from both their parents, I wonder if they will grow up to be good birds or just spoiled birds that think the world owes them a living.
Over the weekend Susan and I made an effort to get some photos of Western Blue birds. Our good friend Art Gruenig is responsable for producing and placing thousands of nest boxes. They can be found all over western Canada on fence posts along countless road ways. The Blue Birds and the world will never be able to thank Art enough for his work. A wonderful man and a life long naturalist. The strong presence of the western Blue bird can be atrubuted to his efforts alone.
It didn’t take long to find a mating pair working their magic outside one of these mounted boxes. After looking a bit further we found about a dozen more going through their spring ritual. They were so busy paying attention to each other they didn’t care that we were standing only meters away.
Finally the local wildlife sanctuary is starting to stir. The lake has been clear of ice for more than a week now. Some days the temperature is over 15 c (60 f). The birds are busy securing mates and nesting sites. Some mornings the battles appear to be pretty intense but the outcomes produce few loss of feathers. The photos can be a little bland with all the vegetation still dry and colourless. But never the less the water fowl are as busy as they can be. Only a couple of weeks ago I watched the same birds sitting quietly waiting on small patches of open water. Now they are chasing each other all over the lake with what looks like endless energy.
We are still waiting for the majority of the population to return and by then Elizabeth Lake will be a hot bed of breeding activity. All the conditions appear to be in their favor and it’s only a few short weeks before we can expect to see small goslings swimming behind their parents in parade. This year should be a great year for Liz lake photogs.
When you live in the heart of the Rocky Mountains winter can hold on for a long time. If you have lived here long enough you know that winter will hold on as long as it can. The wildlife knows this too. Never the less when your following the animals with your camera you can only feel their pain and frustration while they wait too. Watching the Geese circle around looking for open water and the ducks waiting out yet another heavy snow fall or the swans resting on a raft of ice, they all just look so damn tired of winter. All they want is some peace so they can hook up with their mates and get the real spring activities started. The female mallard I photographed today just looked so piss off through the view finder. She was sharing a very small patch of open water with twenty others birds. One I assume was her hubby but all the others were just in her way and the heavy snow was just one more thing to nag at her frustration. First day of spring my ass….
A frozen landscape can be wonderful to look at with all the snow and ice creating artistic interpretations everywhere you look. It seems to get even more intense when the snow is still falling. Like photography, the snow is just a snap shot of the moment. Changing with every snow flake or ice droplet. As great as this can be to witness through the viewfinder it can be rather blah. Little contrast and very few highlights. This is when the true artistic eye inside has to take over. It is sure to be different for everyone. For me it’s a momentary thing. I either like what I see or I don’t. Panning with camera to face is the only way for me to tell if I like or I don’t. Kinda like I don’t trust my eyes with out a camera lens to filter what is really out there. Saturday was one of those days. No sun to help me just fresh snow and lots more coming down. Thanks to the woodpecker for saving my trek through the snow looking for a photo-op.
Winter alters the photo opportunies here where the weather can be a big problem for outdoor photographers. I still make several trips each week to favorite spots but often find the snow too deep or the ice too thin to get the shot I want. This last few weeks it has been mud and wind. Just weather, just winter. Not enough cold to get the ice and snow I’m looking for and shorter days cutting into the general time available. I guess because it is such a addiction of mine I still make every effort to photograph something.
Like many people I was off enjoying the holidays with family. While I was the fella with the camera throughout all the family activities I was able to find some time to wonder around with my camera in hand. I took the opportunity to get some different photos that are not available to me near home. Generally I was just doing what photogs do and that is find a shot worth taking, what ever it may be. My interest still falls close to outdoor and nature photography and that’s where I centered my focus. While I was trying to find a good vantage point for the tug boat shot I noticed through the view finder a Heron off to the left of the frame. A lucky find for me, herons in the wild near where I live are very shy and hard to get close to. The Heron I did manage to photograph wasn’t worried about me and stood quite long enough to get his picture taken. My only issue was the hard wind that wiggled and shook my large lens enough to blur the image. I am posting it anyway. It is my latest desktop photo. Please enjoy.