QR Code Business Card

Owl hunting

A Great Grey Owl listens for rodents under the snow while hunting from a thin aspen sapling

Great grey owl hunt­ing from thin aspen sapling

I’ve writ­ten about this image before, and I wanted to print it today, as it’s got a very dis­tinct sep­a­ra­tion between the sharp, in-focus owl and the com­pletely blank sky where any grain or tex­ture is purely an arti­fact of sen­sor noise and sharp­en­ing in post-processing. As I men­tioned yes­ter­day I tried the strat­egy of push­ing the clar­ity and sharp­en­ing as far as I think looked good on my mon­i­tor, before back­ing off a bit. Yes­ter­day the print came out look­ing really good (although it had a slight green­ish cast that I hadn’t noticed on-screen), so I fig­ured I’d try it on a much less for­giv­ing photo today. We’ll see how it turns out…

A folio print of this image is for sale for whatever price you think is fair. Enter amount: $

Warbler along mountain creek

A male Audubons Warbler watches for flying insects from his perch on a freshly budding willow sapling overhanging a small creek in Banff National Park, Alberta

Yellow-rumped War­bler on bud­ding willow

I’ve always liked this pho­to­graph, and the mem­ory of the day that I took it (which often con­founds a photographer’s abil­ity to tell if a photo’s any good or not). I’ve even writ­ten a post about this image before (which you can read here). Even so, I’ve never printed it, so I fig­ured this Daily Print project was just the excuse I needed.

Bonus ques­tions for this post: +1 point if you can tell me the sex of the bird, +5 points for the sub­species, and +50 points if you can tell me the age (hint: click the image to view it full size, and remem­ber that this photo was taken in May…)

A folio print of this image is for sale for whatever price you think is fair. Enter amount: $

Great Gray Owl hunting from thin aspen

A Great Grey Owl listens for rodents under the snow while hunting from a thin aspen sapling

Great grey owl hunt­ing from thin aspen sapling

The pho­tographs from my two pre­vi­ous posts were both taken while I was doing owl sur­veys and wait­ing for the sun to set (with cam­era at the ready, of course). So I thought I’d post an image of what we were out there look­ing for.

I don’t shoot a lot of wildlife, but I sim­ply could not resist fill­ing up a mem­ory card while watch­ing this owl hunt for rodents under the thick, spring snow. It was amaz­ing to watch him (or her, I’m not sure) lis­ten­ing from the tops of these small aspen trees before swoop­ing down and div­ing feet-first into the snow after his prey. I had the plea­sure of watch­ing from a dis­tance for over an hour before he finally gave up, or got full, and slowly moved off.

A folio print of this image is for sale for whatever price you think is fair. Enter amount: $

Red-winged Blackbird flock

Red-winged blackbirds perch in the bare branches of early spring near Beaverhill Lake in Alberta

Black­bird flock in bare trees

I recently received a request from a woman to use this pho­to­graph in a blog post she’s writ­ing, which gave me the great excuse to re-visit this image and to share it here (it hasn’t made it into the new web­site yet, but watch for it in the Birds sec­tion of my cat­a­logue, hope­fully in the next few months).

I took this photo near the Beaver­hill Bird Obser­va­tory near Tofield, AB in the spring of 2007. At the time, I was exper­i­ment­ing with defo­cus­ing images, or por­tions thereof, for cre­ative effect. In this case, the orig­i­nal image was mostly sharp, and I “painted in” the blurred effect in post-processing. I was inspired to try this tech­nique by another pho­tog­ra­pher who would cre­ate the same effect in the dark­room by spilling chem­i­cals over the dry­ing print and using a brush or sponge to blur the image.

It’s always fun to try new tech­niques, and although I haven’t taken many defo­cused pho­tographs lately, you can view a selec­tion of these images in my “Boreal Impres­sions” port­fo­lio. I’d also rec­om­mend hav­ing a look at William Neill’s “Impres­sions of Light” port­fo­lio for more great blurry images that were an inspi­ra­tion to me (although he achieves the effect mostly through long shut­ter speeds and cam­era move­ment, rather than man­u­ally defo­cus­ing the lens).

A folio print of this image is for sale for whatever price you think is fair. Enter amount: $

Winter bison at Elk Island Park

Two bison brace against the cold on a winter day at Elk Island National Park

Rest­ing win­ter bison

It’s been a win­try cou­ple of days in the Edmon­ton area, but these bison don’t seem to mind it. I took this pho­to­graph out at Elk Island Park recently, and I love how the fresh snow is just lying on top of the large bison. I had the good for­tune of being able to watch a small herd slowly mov­ing along and graz­ing through the snow for about an hour before they moved fur­ther off into the trees.

I made a lot of images of the herd, but I was sur­prised when I got home and could look at the pho­tos large on my com­puter, how many times there were stray pieces of grass in front their faces — not nec­es­sar­ily ruin­ing the shot, but def­i­nitely dis­tract­ing. I guess it makes sense — the bison spent almost the entire time graz­ing with their heads just above the ground, and the dried grass was often over half a meter high. It’s just inter­est­ing how, while I was there, my brain could ignore the visual dis­trac­tions, but at home, the light yellow-brown slashes against the deep, dark brown really stood out. Some­thing to watch for next time…

P.S. I hope you like the “new and improved” larger in-post images start­ing with this entry. As always, you can click an image to view it full-screen. Enjoy!

A folio print of this image is for sale for whatever price you think is fair. Enter amount: $

Trumpeter Swans at Ministik Lake

A Trumpeter Swan floats with a raft of ducks on Bray at the Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary

Trum­peter Swan at Min­is­tik Lake

A pair of Trumpeter Swans float with a raft of ducks on Bray Lake at the Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary

Trum­peter Swan Pair at Min­is­tik Lake

I was walk­ing the Waska­he­gan Trail though the Min­is­tik Lake Game Bird Sanc­tu­ary a cou­ple days ago (Oct 5th, to be pre­cise), and came across this pair of swans. While it’s fairly com­mon to see migrat­ing Tun­dra Swans fly­ing (and honk­ing) over­head in flocks this time of year, I am pretty sure these are the much less com­mon Trum­peter Swan — but I would really appre­ci­ate if some­one more famil­iar with Trum­peters could con­firm (or con­test) my ID. These two birds were on Bray Lake, right in the mid­dle of the sanc­tu­ary, and were there when I first passed the lake, and still there later in the after­noon on my way back. This is what I love about Min­is­tik — there’s always some­thing new to see, you just have to get out there and look for it.

Yellow-rumped Warbler in Banff

A male Audubons Warbler watches for flying insects from his perch on a freshly budding willow sapling overhanging a small creek in Banff National Park, Alberta.

Yellow-rumped War­bler on bud­ding willow

I don’t nor­mally pho­to­graph much wildlife (I don’t have the long lenses and patience usu­ally required), but I couldn’t resist this lit­tle bird (a Yellow-rumped (or Audubon’s) War­bler) that I watched feed­ing along a small moun­tain stream for nearly a half hour. It was very early in the sea­son and there had been a lit­tle snow overnight so the air was cool and damp, and the insects this bird was after were mov­ing really slowly. He would perch on these wil­low saplings over the creek, turn­ing his head to watch and then dart out to grab his meal from the air or the under­side of a new leaf. It was a lot of fun to watch, and — employ­ing the time hon­oured, fine-art, “shot­gun” approach to com­po­si­tion — I filled up a good por­tion of my mem­ory card try­ing to get just the right shot.

I know this pho­to­graph breaks a cou­ple “golden rules” of com­po­si­tion — you’re not sup­posed to cen­tre your sub­ject (rule of thirds) or have the sub­ject look­ing out of (rather than into) the frame. But I think it works this way (I even cropped in a lit­tle from a more “tra­di­tion­ally” framed shot). I think the shad­owed area in the top-left bal­ances the light, empty area at the bot­tom, and for me, the bird’s out-of-frame gaze gives a bit of the feel­ing that he’s just about to leave the frame him­self (which in fact he did). Let me know what you think — just click below to add your thoughts. Thanks!

A folio print of this image is for sale for whatever price you think is fair. Enter amount: $