Category Archives: Animals & People

Japan Wildlife Two Ways

If you’ve followed my blog (please do!) you will know I photograph animals. A lot of animals. So when I got this chance to get close up to a beautiful wild heron (using my standard zoom – not even telephoto!) I took it. This first photo shows the detail of the plumage and subtle shades of colours.

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The second shot is the one I’d hang on the wall though. Waiting with just a little patience, the bird moved very, very slowly underneath a tree. Because the crane was hunting, there were no ripples in the water. This was the last in a series of shots where the bird’s shadow was fully immersed in the trees shadow.

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How to take really cute photos of a dog

Step 1: Start with a really cute dog. (This isn’t rocket science after all)

Step 2: Add a neutral to nice background. (Hint: check weather forecasts)

Step 3: Get the dog to do really cute stuff. (Helps if the dog will actual do what his/her pets (humans) say)

Step 4: Have impeccable timing. (This step is all on you.)

Really, I’m not actually kidding about step 1, 2 and 4.  Step 3 is optional depending on how cute the dog is.  My friend’s dog is really cute (see evidence below).

Adorable just standing there

Adorable just standing there

Adorable even when sitting

Adorable even when sitting

So, Step 1 is covered.  We chose a nice off leash park and this was our 3rd attempt at the weather. It was the tail end of winter, so lots of browns and greys – pretty neutral. But even then, it can work against you:

Watch out for the Tree!

Watch out for the Tree!

At first glance, Chubby looks great – wonderful shot in mid lunge. But there’s the tree. So, Step 2 was partially covered.

However, Chubby was aces at Step 3:

Shake, Chubby, Shake!

Shake, Chubby, Shake!

There was a reason we chose to do this photo shoot BEFORE Chubby got his hair trimmed.

However, I didn’t forget Step 4. You can get some great action shots if you are in the right place, at the right time, and the dog listens to his owner.

Action Shot

Action Shot

And, the piece de resistance:

Bet I can make you smile!

Bet I can make you smile!


My favourite photos from Spirit Bear Lodge – part 1

This post is going to be about the bears because when you call yourself Spirit BEAR Lodge, you pretty much make the point that the bears are the highlight. There are grizzly bears, black bears and the spirit bear. On the trip I took, we mostly saw grizzlies and we, unfortunately, missed the spirit bear 😦  I can’t say I was disappointed with what we did see though! People tell me that if I want to see bears, just come out to the town dump and see the poor bears that have been hooked on junk food just like us.  I say that seeing bears in their own habitat on their own terms is as different to the “town” bear as astro turf is to a meadow.  The fake stuff will do and is less expensive, but you know it ain’t real.

Black bear mother

Black bear mother

Young juvenile grizz - pretty thin, but eating

Young juvenile grizz – pretty thin, but eating

Approximately 5 year old Grizzly looking for salmon on the shore

Approximately 5 year old Grizzly looking for salmon on the shore

Very large male a very long way away

Very large male a very long way away

Sunning bear not sun bear

Sunning bear not sun bear

Is that a salmon I see?

Is that a salmon I see?

dum, de, dum, de, dum

dum, de, dum, de, dum

Salmon!

Salmon!


Spirit Bear Lodge – An overview, a teaser and what you need to know

I shared my photos with a number of friends (partially cuz I like to share, partially to reassure them that I don’t just work and ride my horse and that’s it) and the most common question I got back was “where was this?”.  Us poor Canadians really don’t know what’s in our backyard. So, first, it is here www.spiritbear.com and second, that is located here.  And the second most common question was about how I did this. I like to call it a Canadian safari.  You go to some place that you wouldn’t normally go to, people organize you into groups, they take you out to see wild animals and scenary, make sure you stay safe and are well-fed and you take photographs.  Of course, that description takes all the romance and adventure out of it.  An alternate description would be: you embark on a journey on little planes and boats to access a remote corner of the world that only a David Suzuki or a Richard Attenborough have gone before, put your life into the hands of experienced and well-trained guides, trek out into wild habitats to see large, potentially dangerous animals on their home turf, endure sometimes harsh conditions to get that perfect shot to bring home to show your friends. And, depending on your previous life experiences, it could be either the former or latter!

As you can see from my other posts on this subject here and here, what you see and the photos you get are truly magnificent.  Here’s another one for your teaser:

 

umpf! Got one!

umpf! Got one!

 

What You Need To Know:

The staff at the lodge are great. They know your name. They are friendly and professional and personable. They are also sneaky when planning a birthday surprise.

The food is very good, indeed! You don’t have a lot of choices – this is one place Starbucks has NOT found (although they do have locally roasted coffee up there), but the chef does not give you any cause for complaints. Plenty of food at all meals and I dare you to find a meal where you can’t find something you like. Breakfast is both continental and hot, cooked food. (mmm, bacon!) Lunch is a plethora of sandwiches (apparently the egg salad goes fast), snacks, fruit, veges, juices, pop and water. And Dinner always has a fish and meat option with plenty of sides a vege main. No choice in desserts but I’m not complaining at the carrot cake, strawberry shortcake, etc, etc.

The guides and boat captains are all extremely competent, friendly, professional and approachable. It must be tough to be all of that, all the time and watch out for wildlife at the same time – so hats off to them. Those that are First Nations are very willing to answer your questions and share stories with you.

Photo gear – see separate post coming up 🙂

Gear – their packing list has been well thought out and you won’t go wrong to follow it. The only alteration I’d make is that if you have your own waterproof boots that you are comfortable walking in on uneven, rocky shorelines, bring your own. There was only a couple of places that I preferred the lodge’s rubber boots over my own gear (if I had brought it!).  One strong suggestion if you have any type of walking issues (stability and balance) is to bring a walking stick.  Even one is helpful in a couple of areas we went.

Misc – you are on the boats a lot. If you are at all prone to seasicknesses, bring your own stuff for that. I was lucky and had perfectly calm seas the entire time I was there.

Lastly, I will say that they take care of you once you are there, so once you’ve packed and started your trip, don’t worry about anything else!


Spirit Bear Lodge – the last photo

I recently posted a blog that had me wondering if I was physically up for this trip (more details of the trip to come – stay tuned!).  But for this shot, I would have crawled through the forest, sedge and dead salmon. As it turned out, this was my last shot before I got on the boat to take me home.

"Friendly Bear" at 12 feet away. Young, 5 year old sub-adult Grizzly. Approximately a ton or so. Seeking salmon, dead or alive.

“Friendly Bear” at 12 feet away.
Young, 5 year old sub-adult Grizzly. Approximately a ton or so. Seeking salmon, dead or alive.

 


Other amazing things from the Vancouver Aquarium

Pink Anemones – really, do I need to say anything more? Strawberry pink living animals, people!!

Pink Anenomes

I’ve loved rays ever since I went nighttime snorkelling to see the giant kona rays, but never expected to see one looking so swanky!

Polka dot rays

 

I always knew sturgeon could be really big, but this guy was longer than my dad was tall!  And he just hung there in the gloom – really spooky.  And this is why I only snorkel close to shore.

Really big fish

See the yellow fish in the photo below?  See the rest of his friends hanging motionless in the reeds?  I’m not even sure how they breathe because you coldn’t even really see their gills move.  They did a convincing job of playing possum (almost like the goldfish in my Dad’s fish tank that I swear is dead half the time)

Possum fish

And if you thought the strawberry pink anemones were out of this world….here are the lime green ones 🙂  It’s a good thing they weren’t in the same tank – can you imagine the colour clash???

Black, Orange and Green


What the jellyfish taught me

I love aquariums. When last I visited Vancouver, my old stomping grounds, I made sure I squeezed a trip into the aquarium. At the time, they had a huge jellyfish exhibit going on. This is a great opportunity to practice some niche photography.

First, jellyfish don’t really have an “up” and a “down” – so capture them when they are in the frame. This guy below was perfectly framed (who cared if he’s “upside down” – could just rotate the photo!)  The photo shows him in mid “swim” with all his tentacles.

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Second, they move deceptively fast, so don’t hunt them, pick a spot and wait. These little guys were so cute – but so fast.  You’re already dealing with low light conditions and because of the water flow and zippiness of these guys, lots of bubbles in the water AND the glass of the tank.  So, I focussed in on one spot and waited for someone to glide across and got him that way.

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Third, it isn’t always about the big picture – go ahead, cut off a tentacle. These guys were huge!  They didn’t move as fast overall, but different parts of them moved fast.  I wanted to show the beauty of their colouring so I zoomed in to get the underside.  They also twisted a lot in their movement (unlike the previous white and purple guy) so it made for some interesting compositions.

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A Travel blog hidden as a Camera review

The nice thing about a camera that you can lose in most women’s purses is that you can carry it everywhere! Not only did I go snorkelling with it, I just went photo happy.

The zoom is really quite serviceable for a pocket camera. 5x zoom gets you just that bit closer.

Far away

The zoom is not bad for such a small camera

The zoom is not bad for such a small camera

 

However, I don’t JUST take photos of animals.  Tried some photography in more of a dusk setting:

A hibiscus of a different colour

And then went really macro, but this colour was so technicolour that I’m not sure if the camera could handle it:

Technicolour hibiscus

 

And also tried it out on landscapes. Colour rendering is good here in mixed light and the bright sunshine of the beach without being contrasty. (Does it sound like I know what I’m doing when I use words like “contrasty”?)

Buildings at an abandoned sheep shearing station

Buildings at an abandoned sheep shearing station

Bright, sunshiny day

 

Lastly, one of the only “action” shots I took in Hawaii and it held up pretty decently:

Along with the butt shots of animals, the requisite "photo from a moving car"

Along with the butt shots of animals, the requisite “photo from a moving car”

 

So, in conclusion, the Sony DSC-TX30 is a very versatile camera for a wide range of shots.  A lot of what I took is certainly suitable to frame and put on your wall, to gain some “oohs” and “aahs” as a computer wallpaper and to vividly bring your vacation back to life!

 

 

 


Adventures with my new camera (2)

So the true test of my sony DSC-TX30 was to stick it underwater (that is, after all, the second main reason I bought it!).  Took it to Hawaii and went out into the ocean with it and promptly forgot how to turn off the touch screen! Because it is a touch screen, it becomes a little difficult to change the settings when your fingers are wet. The screen is definitely not as responsive with wet fingers and when you want to take a photo underwater one minute and then above water the next, well…..Just leave it on underwater setting and live with it – it’s not bad.

Okaaay, underwater – here are things you need to know. It doesn’t matter about the screen – it’s not like you can see anything in it. This was a true “point and shoot” exercise. Between my snorkelling mask, refraction of the bright (bright!!!) sunshine and less than pristine water and composition went out the window. LUCKILY, the fish didn’t move AS fast as you think.

In this first photo, you can see how cloudy the water is especially close to the surface, yet the camera was still good enough to pick up the fish.

Even in cloudy water

 

Just to be sure, took some shots of the bottom to make sure the camera was working.

The bottom of the sea

 

And in the very shallow water (as I was being pushed around by all the waves), you get a decent vacation shot.

Really hoped the fish was in that general direction

Really hoped the fish was in that general direction

 

Really pleased in quieter waters that it also picked up paler fish

 

 

Anonymous White Fish

 

And lastly, setting it to the underwater mode, and taking the photo in bright sunshine above the water, you still get a reminder of your exotic holiday.

Just as good above water

Just as good above water

 


Adventures with my new camera (1)

I bought a new camera! I love my huge SLRs, but I wanted one that I could slip into my pocket and not worry about it at the barn or when I go snorkeling. So I bought the sony DSC-TX30 in blue!!! (check out specs here) I haven’t had a chance to test it at the beach, but I did take it to the barn, where, as the cats were about to lick it and I pulled it back in horror, someone reminded it was waterproof and really, if Carson wanted to lick it, it would be allright (something to consider).  So, this time around, I wanted to test the “pet mode”.  As you can see, it works pretty darn well even on my horse who is technically “livestock”, not “pets”. All photos below were taken without flash. The first one was taken under fluorescent lights and the rest outside.

The camera has a good macro mode, but it doesn’t work that well with furry things that move. Carson was just waking up as a prelude to licking the camera.

Carson before he wakes up

 

Simon on the other hand, was nice and still except for the yawn and a moderately close range, the camera does produce nice results. Simon was in the shade and I still got a nice colour on his fur.

Simon Close Up

 

Larry on the other hand is “livestock” not “pet”, but the camera doesn’t care.  In the full sun with quite a breeze blowing, it renders the blues, greens and browns nicely while still compensating for the movement of horse and my hand.

Larry's Ears

On a pretty good close up/zoom, it handled BT’s ever moving body and total furriness.  It still captures his buff colour as well as really green grass.

BT in the Grass

On moderate close up (why do animals always want to come towards the camera????), it does do well even if Simon’s head comes out as a bobble head.

Simon Really Close Up