Spent the weekend camping in Jasper National Park. Saw lots of Black Bears, but no grizzlies. The cubs in the tree would have been a definite highlight, if it wasn’t a total shooting gallery with about a dozen other photographers lined up there in the middle of the road. Weather was really good, which was somewhat unfortunate because it made for a lot of situations with really bad light, ie. the cubs in the tree, and the mother and cub down on the lakeshore. There was a bunch of elk in and around our campsite, and I saw my first baby Elk that still had spots, but wasn’t able to get a shot of it. Overall it was a pretty typical trip to Jasper with lots of driving and a bunch of bears and other wildlife to photograph.
What a great weekend… Karl and I headed out to Jasper on Friday morning making quick time (especially for us) up Highway 93. We stopped briefly for a Mountain Goat on the side of a cliff overlooking the highway, but other than that it was a pretty uneventful drive with cloudy overcast skies not worth photographing.
We made it to the campground relatively early, we had reserved a spot at Whistlers Campground, and on the way in we passed a bunch of Elk with cute little spotted fawns, but were too lazy to change lenses and decided to come back after setting up camp. Big big mistake, we never saw them again.
Later on we had some great success on the Malign Lake Road spotting a bunch of Black Bears, although with overcast skies the light was lacking and faded quickly, but the road was quite and we were able to spend some time photographing them.
The next morning we drove west to Mount Robson and encountered a grizzly on the side of Highway 16, but couldn’t really get into a decent position, until it crossed over the road in front of us. I managed to grab a couple of shots as we passed by on the busy highway, but it was so deep in the ditch that the angle made it almost impossible.
Back at the campground we met up with the Derkowski’s for lunch while they set up camp. After a bit more evening exploring and a ridiculously close encounter on foot with a black bear, we had spotted it from across the lake then parked and walked down to were it was heading and it popped up right in front of us, closer than we had expected.
After that it was dinner time and we feasted on some of the best ever Campfire Chili, and relaxed around the fire enjoying the all you can burn firewood that the campground offers.
The way back was slow with traffic. A washroom break was made amusing by the Parkway’s resident Ravens, and we spotted a beautiful bull Elk with velvet antlers on the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff.
I started out in the prairies, watching swallows (which are almost impossible to photography) working on their nest at one of the roadside birdhouses. After that I headed up through Jumpingpound spotting Buffleheads and Goldeneyes in one of the ponds along the way. Next it was a White-Crowned Sparrow (my first), when I stopped to use the washroom at Mount Lorette Ponds.
When I left town the weather was pretty crappy, windy and cloudy, and not very nice, but the further I got into mountains the nicer it got. By the time I made it to the Shark Mountain turn-off on Spray-Lakes trail it was a beautiful spring evening. While there was still snow higher-up, it was great to see the rivers and streams had already thawed and were flowing high with spring melt.
On the return trip I spotted a pair of Grizzlies (mother and cub), walking down highway 40 from what must have been at least a kilometre or two in the distance. Cutting the engine I coasted down the hill doing my best not to spook them, but a winters worth of gravel on the roadway grinding under my tires was enough to scare them off the road before I could get very close. Thankfully I had my long lens and 1.4X on and was able to get some great shots of them crossing the road and climbing over the guard rail.
After leaving the road they climbed down the embankment, and I spent a half hour or so before it got too dark watching them (from a really bad angle) while they fed on new spring growth.
There was an Elk on the hillside about 20 metres behind them, and neither the bear nor the Elk even blinked at the others presence, they just kept on grazing. I found this very interesting, because everyone knows bears are blood thirsty carnivorous that kill everything they see…
After a mostly uneventful day in Jasper I thought that rather than trying to shoot ugly scenery under grey overcast skies I would spend the day exploring the unknown stretch of Highway 40 between Hinton and Rocky Mountain House (I’ve previously driven the stretch from Highway 1, to Rocky Mountain House, and from Highway 1 all the way south to Highway 3 in the Crowsnest Pass and the US border).
As expected it was a long day of driving, with more than a few rather sketchy sections with the highway winding around and in a few cases making use of what must have been little more than forestry logging roads.
The weather was such that there was very little opportunity for any kind of landscape photography, and for most of the day you could hardly see the mountains at all.
I did have a couple of run-ins with some large groups of both Big-Horned Sheep and Elk, which is always fun.
What I found really interesting was how much industry is going on up there, with coal mines and logging operations all over the place.
Overall it was another pretty uneventful day, but I could imagine the drive being a lot more interesting and enjoyable on a sunny summer day.
One of the main reasons that I wanted to go down to Waterton National Park was for the wildlife.
I found the first bear of the day a short ways up the canyon parkway across a ravine eating berries on the hillside that sloped down from the golf course. Although I had a nice clear view of it, it was a long way off and there wasn’t enough light to get a decent shutter speed with my 2X-TC. I shot a few photos, and watched for a while before it disappeared into the bushes.
Further down the parkway I passed a car pulled over on the side of the road, the people in it were looking at something in the trees and I caught a glimpse of movement, but didn’t stop (the road is really narrow).
Just after I passed by, the car pulled away, and I couldn’t resist the urge to go back for a second look. On my second pass I saw nothing, and another car came rushing up behind me, so I passed by again and turned around to head back towards the canyon. On the third pass I again saw some movement, and was finally able to stop for a closer look.
At first glance I thought it was a coyote, but then It walked out of the trees and right up beside my car. It was coloured like a coyote, and about the size of a coyote, but it was obviously still a puppy (most noticeable by it’s massive paws). Suddenly it occurred to me that it was actually a wolf pup.
Then I got really excited, and started shooting away, completely forgetting to check my camera settings and ended up with a lot of motion blurred photos shot at f6.3 (idiot)!!!
Anyway, the wolf pup walked right passed my car and onto the road (there’s nothing more frustrating than watching an animal especially a wolf walk around ten feet in front of the car with all possible shots blocked by a bug splattered wind-shield). It was walking down the middle of the road up a blind hill, I was further back, and could just barely see a car speeding towards us before it went out of view behind the hill, and had to make a really quick decision. I revved the engine, and laid on the horn (foregoing all chance at taking more photos), chasing the wolf off the road just in time for the car to crest the hill and speed by (I’m sure they were doing at lease 30km over the 50km speed limit), completely clueless of how close it came to hitting the puppy.
After the wolf I didn’t really have much other luck with any wildlife. I spotted another (it may have been the same one from earlier) black bear, but it was far back in the trees eating berries, and on the main road just outside of town so I only had time to snap a couple of shots while traffic piled up behind me.
Later on a huge brown grizzly bear crossed the road in front of my car a few kilometres from the US border, but it was way too fast to get any photos.
I tried photographing some Herons in the lake, but they were too far out in the water for a decent shot.
I drove around the flats looking for rutting elk (this was one of the main reasons that I had decided to come down), but I never even caught a glimpse of one.
I ended the day at the Buffalo paddocks (the other main reason for my visit), this was also a pretty big disappointment as they were a long way off the road, and the light was absolutely horrible, so I finally gave up and headed home.
So, the clock on my dresser says its 5:30 in the morning, and I’m staring at the ceiling wondering why I’m wide awake on a Thursday morning after only sleeping like 4 hours. And then I start thinking about a Sausage and Egg Mcmuffin from McDonalds, and next thing I know I’m showered and loading gear into the car. I don’t have to be at work for like 6 hours so I figure I’ll take the long way there……
When I say long way there, I mean the three hundred and some kilometre loop through Canmore up Spray Lakes Trail to Hwy. #40 over the Highwood Pass to Longview and Hwy. #22.
Eating my breakfast while cruising down Hwy. #1, the clouds rolling over the mountains were phenomenal (as they frequently are at sunrise), but like always I can’t find a decent place to stop for a photo on the highway. After getting stuck in Canmore (long story) for awhile I finally make it up to spray lakes, and everything is completely fogged in, so there’s really no photo opportunities until I’m almost all the way back to Highway 40.
I did eventually spot a moose on the side of the road, which livened things up a little, but it was a ugly young male with little pathetic stunted looking velvet antlers. Which was a little bit disappointing.
After that things started to clear up, and I had a incredible run-in with the most beautiful healthy looking female moose I’ve ever seen. What was really great was how little she actually cared that I was there. It always amazes me how you can tell when an animal is uncomfortable, and you can really tell when it’s just going about its business, and completely apathetic to your presence. By the end of it I was literally driving circles around her to get into position for a shot, (and trying to get a rise out of her, (which I never managed to do)).
Other than the moose, the photography wasn’t really working, at least until I got back down out of the mountains and into the prairies (I love the depth created by the clouds and shadows in the last photo), but by then I was late for work and in a rush.
Needless to say it turned into a really, really, long day at work, but was well worth it in the end.
While camping at Cataract Creek there was a deer that liked to hang out in the meadow behind our site and kept popping up every now and then. There was also no shortage of insects, so I got out my macro lens and played around a little bit.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I had a great trip out to Kananaskis. What I didn’t really mention is the dozens of Big Horned Sheep, the multiple Snowshoe Hares, the two absolutely beautiful Brown Bears, or the amazing encounter with a mother Grizzly and her little cub.
The drive home was for the most part uneventful, we got into Kelowna late, and didn’t have time for anything but a bite to eat and a much needed soak in the hot tub (and it was Monday night of a long weekend so there wasn’t much to do anyway).
The next morning we took our time and got up nice and slow and off to a late start (for the first time of the entire trip). We stopped in Golden for lunch, where we happened to run into a couple of friends who had been out by Kamloops for the weekend (what are the odds).
Shortly after leaving Golden I spotted something on the side of the road, at first glance I thought it might be a bear, but as we got closer I dismised it as the back of some sort of sign. But then just as we passed by it lifted its head and looked right at me. We were on the Trans Canada doing about a 120 km an hours with traffic in front and behind us, so I couldn’t exactly just stop in the middle of the road. After a couple of minutes we finally found a turn off, and I decided I had to go back and see to be sure I wasn’t just seeing things (I had done a lot of driving over the past few days)!
Sure enough when we finally got back there it was, wandering the ditch eating grass and dandelions. As luck would have it, it was actually on the edge of a roadside pull-out, so we were even able to stop and take pictures while it made its way along the ditch.
What really got me, is that between the time I spotted it and the time it disappeared into the forest there was probably 100 cars that drove by and nobody else noticed it, which is somewhat scary considering it was probably only 15 feet from the side of the busy highway.
The highlight of the entire trip was without a doubt the bear watching tour that we took on our first morning in Tofino.
After (trying to get) a few hours sleep, we were up early the next morning and walked a couple of blocks to the Whale Centre, (http://www.tofinowhalecentre.com/) a fantastic outfit that we booked both our whale watching and bear watching tours through. After suiting up in big read survival suits we headed down to the docks on to the boat and out into the water. The idea of the bear watching tour is to head up river (or inlet or whatever it’s called I’m still not sure), during low tide when the bears come down to scour the shoreline for fish and crabs that are trapped in the rocks by the retreating tide.
I doubt we were out more than a kilometre or two when the guide pulled the boat off to the side laughing (he said he really didn’t expect to see a bear so soon), and pointed out a single black bear standing on the shore. We watched and took photos while it ate sea grass and the guide explained that they eat the grass, not for the nurishment, but because its so acidic that it raises the stomach ph. and enables them to be able to eat and digest whole crabs, shell and all. Another larger tour boat joined us after a while and frightened the bear into the trees, so we headed back out onto the water.
Following the channel upstream we eventually passed a large pen in the water (the first of many), which he told us was a Salmon farm, that particular one housing about 400,000 fish.
It was pretty appearent that the guide knew exactly where he was headed when we pulled into a little cove, and there on the shore was a mother Black Bear and a three really little cubs (he said he had spotted them there the day before).
We watched for a long while while the mother sifted through the rocks looking for food, and the cubs ran around playing amongst the rocks and whining at there mother (at one point she took them all up into the trees to nurse the cubs).
The boat we were on was really small, with seating for probably only 6 people, and other than the guide it was just me and Karl, and a young Asian woman who didn’t say a single word the entire trip but let out a giggle while watching the cubs wrestling on the shore. We watched for quite a while, the bears perfectly comfortable with out presence, going about their natural business, until again, another larger boat came by and scared them off.
After loosing the other boat, we headed back out watching the shorelines until we spotted another pair of bears, this time a mother and her yearling cub. We pulled right up onto the shore and watched as they worked their way efficiently down the shoreline turning over massive rocks one after another in the search for food.
The girl with us let out a gasp as the mother bear crossed in front of us, ducking under and rubbing against the bow of the boat, less than a metre and a half from where Karl and I sat at the front of the boat (we could easily have leaned forward, reached out, and touched her without leaving our seats). Eventually we moved on from there, leaving the bears to themselves.
While we were cruising the shoreline I asked the guide about eagles, because I was surprised we hadn’t seen any yet. I was just curious as to whether they were only there at certain times of the year, but he asured me that wasn’t the case, and about 30 seconds later one passed overhead.
Before we were done we saw another group of three bears (a mother and two yearlings, I think), as well as a couple of Bald Eagles perched up in the tree tops.
The outfit (http://www.tofinowhalecentre.com/) I would highly recomend to anybody, the small quiet boat let us get up nice and close without stressing out the bears, and the local native guide was particularily great, he was friendly and knowledgable, and you could tell he had a deep respect for the animals, and was enjoying himself almost as much as us, (his native chanting to himself while he drove the boat really helped set the mood).
The final count at the end of the morning was 10 bears, and a couple of Bald Eagles, even the guide was really impressed with our success and kept us out a bit longer than he should have.
Unfortunately we never saw any wolves or sea otters which I was really hoping to see, but overall the trip was absolutely amazing. And had we not been booked up for the next morning we both easily would have signed up for another tour.
Although I got some good pictures, the quality could have been better, it was still early morning, and pretty cloudy, so there wasn’t a whole lot of light. Between the 1.4 teleconverter I was using and the movement of the boat, even at 1000 ISO I still couldn’t get the high shutter speeds necessary, and so they didn’t turn out as sharp as I would have liked.
View Tofino Tours 2012-05-19 07:34 in a larger map
Map shows the track of both Bear and Whale watching tours, the bear trip is the inland portion.
I heard from a fellow photographer that there was a Great Horned Owl that had nested and in Fish Creek Park, and had recently had a couple chicks. So I went down to see if I could find them. It didn’t take very long to figure out where they were, as there was already a bunch of photographers down there watching them. It was pretty neat to see them, but with the nest facing east, and the sun setting directly behind it, shooting pictures was a bit of a waste of time. I think that Owl chicks might possible be one of the ugliest creatures on the planet.
I took a nice long walk through the park, and saw a lot of other birds. The highlight (apart form the owls) was a pair of American Kestrels, but they were way to fast to get a decent photo.
I don’t do a lot of people photography. But its not because I don’t know how, or because I don’t enjoy it. The truth is, it’s mostly just a big pain, finding a location to shoot at, and a model (who actually shows up), and all the other planning and such that goes into doing a model shoot.
In my experience people shots (at least the ones I’ve done), don’t sell very well as stock photos so its not really worth all the hassle.
On the other hand, if someone else is willing to do all the leg work and book all the models I’m more than happy to take advantage of it.
These were all taken on a couple occasions with a meetup photography group I’m a part of, some at one of the members house, the others in a room we booked at Hotel Arts, in downtown Calgary.
The shoots are always a little bit crazy, with a bunch of photographers fighting to get a few minutes with the models, but if nothing else it’s usually a good learning experience.
It was a particularly warm January afternoon, so I thought I’d take a walk and maybe do some fishing at Carburn Park. The fishing wasn’t really happening, but I did get up close with some of the resident White-tailed Deer, and of course the ducks!
In case you haven’t notice already, I really like driving the Highway #40 – Spray Lakes Trail loop. On this particular occasion I started out in the evening, heading in through Canmore. My first encounter was a very large moose in the middle of the road drinking water from a puddle. It was rather entertaining to see how awkward it is for such a large animal to kneel down, and even more amusing to watch the water leaking out of it’s mouth. I’m pretty sure about 80% of the water it sucked up from the puddle came streaming out of the sides of its mouth before it could actually swallow any.
Shortly after that I spotted a mother and baby moose off the side of the road, and pulled into the ditch to wait for them to move into a better position. After about half an hour they finally moved out of the forest and into view. It was right about then that some moron pulled up in his car, parked right in my field of view, got out of his car and scared them all away (thanks a lot douche-bag)!
After that the weather turned nasty and I white knuckled it through a pretty wild lightning storm. It did clear up a little bit at one point and I spotted a Snowshoe Hare hanging out on the side of the road. Although rabbits aren’t very exciting animals, you would be surprise at how hard they are to find (I’ve probably seen a half dozen bears for every wild Hare I’ve seen (the city ones don’t really count)). This was the first one I had ever managed to photograph, and it just sat there on the side of the road a few feet from my car posing for me. Of course the light was mostly gone at this point, so the pictures didn’t turn out great, but at least I was able to get some shots.
We spotted this one hiding behind some bushes on the side of the road eating grass, and had just enough time to snap a couple of photos.
We had an amazing experience with this mother and her three cubs on the side of the road to Maligne Lake. It was just about sunset when we spotted her and started shooting pictures. But then after a few minutes we noticed something moving around in the tree tops and one after another the cubs slowly came down the tree to join her in the grass on the side of the road. It was really amazing how comfortable she was with us being there. At least until a couple of red-necked idiots in a pickup truck stopped by and taunted her untill the hair on the back of her neck was raised, and she took a protective position in front of her cubs. But thankfully they didn’t stay long. Other than that we were alone with them until it got too dark to see.
The next morning we went back to the same spot, and they were still there. Although this time there was people all over the place.causing a traffic jam in the middle of the road with a bunch of idiots getting out of their vehicles to take pictures with cell phones. These bears must have been really comfortable with people (they got within 5 metres of my car window), because they never ran away, but you could tell the obvious distress in the mother compared to the night before.
Watching the bears climb around in the branches of a pine tree, and run around wrestling with each other in the grass was pretty amazing to see, especially at such a close distance.
**I’m posting a gallery of photos because there’s too many to post individually, so you need to click on the images to see the full picture.
(June 01/11 – Highway 40)
Young Rocky Mountain Big Horned Sheep enjoying the long awaited spring weather on the side of the highway.