Wildlife Viewing Tips »» Alberta Wildlife Photography

Posted in: National Parks of Canada, Resources, Wildlife on April 25th, 2014

Wildlife viewing can be one of the most spectacular adventures you can participate in outdoors. There is much to learn and enjoy from wildlife observations, and it’s important to know some of the things we should and should not do before heading outdoors.

Large bull elk (wapiti, Cervus elaphus) quietly eats food during the strong, early autumn morning light in Jasper National Park. Sidney Blake Photography.

While there are hundreds of tips for wildlife viewing and hiking in the great outdoors, I thought I’d share a handful of basic tips off the top of my head. Hopefully these will be of use to you.

  • Learn your target species. Even knowing the basic biology of a wild animal can help you safely view wildlife while causing no stress to the animal or yourself.
  • Bring your binoculars. Having these with you can help you accomplish a couple of important things:
    • alert you to animals lurking in the same vicinity as you, but you may not be able to spot on your own
    • allow you to safely observe and enjoy wildlife behaviour from a distance; this is especially useful for viewing larger predators such as bears or small alpine animals such as pikas.
  • Be prepared at the probability of crossing paths with a wild animal as you shuffle along the trails. This will probably be one of the highlights of your trek, but it’s important to know what to do when you encounter a wild animal. Whatever you do – do NOT run away. This goes hand-in-hand with learning about wildlife in the area and how to react should you encounter these animals on or off trails.
  • Give the wild animal some space. They are always aware when we are in their hood, so it’s up to us to respect them and their territory and learn to happily co-exist. No amount of stress to a wild animal is worth any photograph, video or viewing. If they are disturbed by your behaviour, you are too close and you need to move back or in some cases, move on.
  • Educate yourself on any local regulations and rules and obey posted signs with respect to wildlife distances you should keep, staying on designated trails and away from any protected and restricted areas. Respect these signs and closures. Ecosystems are often fragile and even footprints can damage an ecosystem. Know where you are walking and the impact each step you take can have.
  • Never feed a wild animal. Ever. Not even one you see as possibly being in distress or starving. The damage can be irreversible in a number of aspects.

Richardsons Ground Squirrel, Alberta wildlife, is standing guard at Elk Island National Park mid-morning during summer. Sidney Blake Photography.

Read on..

Trials & Tribulations of Wildlife Photography

Posted in: Elk Island National Park, In the Field!, Living, Wildlife on April 22nd, 2014

I finally headed to Elk Island after being away far too long, hoping to come across some moose or elk. My goal was to shoot wildlife as the sun rose, but after a couple minutes, the sun escaped behind the clouds and it stayed tucked away until I left about 2.5hrs later. This is the tricky part of photography this time of year — once the snow melts away, we are left with an ugly brown ground, littered with clutter. It can actually make for an interesting and moody landscape when all the elements of ugly come together, but it’s not easy to pull off.

My quest for wildlife was pretty much a bust, as I arrived about 15 minutes too late if I had to guess how far I saw moose and bison spread out by the time I entered park boundaries. I came close to bison a few times, but I chose to leave the lone stragglers be and I carried on. The light was not good, the wildlife were largely in hiding and because I faced gear, light and time limitations, I decided to really soak up the fact I was pretty much alone in the park, with the exception of park employees and the wildlife and I explored. And scouted. No matter how many times I’ve been to the park, I always find something else I need to add to my large EINP inventory, so it was a successful wildlife-turned-scouting trip.

Canadian geese,  Branta canadensis, survey the area after a change in weather, at Elk Island National Park.

I did however, come across one herd of bison and since it’s been a really long time I’ve been able to make my way to the park, I walked around a bit and just watched the bison. It was my first time using a larger lens in almost a year, and while I love the lens, I was reminded again of the limitations of a shorter focal length of 300mm. I usually carry my 1.4x converter with me, but I left it behind in a different camera bag. Oops. With it, I could have possibly focused on shooting just the bison up close without including their habitat this time, as let me tell you folks, it was a scene no one wants to see. Well, maybe a biologist doing a study, but that’s about it! The field was littered with bison pies! This is nothing new in bison country, but in this bland stage of the season where everything is so blah, bison pies really stand out. Haha!

I don’t like cropping wildlife images too much if at all, but this time I sliced the bottom right off as no one needs to see all the bison pies. What you see below is more than enough! This is the kind of photo I would never include in my gallery, but it’s a great example of when wildlife photography doesn’t work out as planned. So what is a photographer supposed to do?

Small herd of Plains bison grazing on nutrient-deficient vegetation at Elk Island National Park.

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Shutter Time Podcast Flashback »» Moose Peterson, Y’all!

Posted in: Podcast, Resources, Wildlife Conservation on April 15th, 2014

I received a lecture from my mum a few weeks ago about photography and blogging. We were chatting about a recent blog post where I wrote about episode 78 with Jake Peterson. She mentioned he seems to be a “nice, young man” and thought it was kind of him to blog about the show. I mentioned the only other guest we’ve had on the show who I believe did that was his dad back in 2012. Then she started talking about my interest in wildlife conservation and well, this happened:

After she corrected me with the number of extinct wild species he has in his files, she asked why I never blogged about the show. So I updated her as to why. My response to you all? Hmmm .. 2 seconds into the show and you’ll figure it out.

Since moms know best, here we go! Flashback to July 17th, 2012, when we recorded episode 35, folks:

Moose Peterson-Screen Capture-Shutter Time

I remain in awe of his presence on not only our photography world, but our wild wild. There are many things I learned from the chat with him, but I think I’ll just sum it up by saying he wants us to keep photographing our wildlife and sharing those images. Please have a listen to the show, feel free to laugh at all my stumbles, but more importantly, soak up all the wisdom and knowledge the legend behind the lens has to share with us …

Thanks again, Moose!

See you in the field. Probably stumbling over something else … heh.