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Archive for January, 2012

Winter river details

Today was a rare day for the current winter season. We had snow! While we only received about 3 inches after a long period of freezing rain, it was nice to see the landscape cloaked in fresh snow. Once the driving conditions improved, I ventured down a few of the small gravel roads around my home to some nearby, smaller tributaries of the Nottawasaga River (a large river that empties into Georgian Bay) to photograph some winter river details. Winter often presents us with challenges when we are out photographing and one such challenge is finding away to incorporate some colour into the scene. In the above image, while standing at the side of the road, my eye was drawn to the golden-toned grasses that were submerged in the river. In the image below I walked down beside the river to change my perspective for an alternate look. The blue colouration in this photograph was achieved by capturing the scene after the sun had dipped below the horizon on a relatively clear evening.

Intimate winter river

Below is one of the first images I photographed at this location. While driving down the road, the jagged river ice here grabbed my attention and I decided to stop and explore the potential possibilities at this scene. I used my Nikon 80-400mm lens to reach out across the fragile snow and ice-scape to photograph this interesting river ice. The river is about a foot and a half below the ice formations in this photo and appears very dark as a result. It has a black and white sort of feel to it that I like.

All images in this post were photographed with my Nikon 80-400mm lens, which is my favorite lens for intimate landscape work.

River ice

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Winter tree at dusk, Thornton, Ontario

The above photograph was taken on Saturday evening as the sun dipped below the horizon. The day before this image was captured we received about 3 or 4 inches of fresh snow, and it was rather windy also. The outside temperature for the Saturday evening shoot was roughly -25 degrees Celsius – refreshing indeed. I have been enjoying using my latest piece of photo gear, which is a pair of Aqua Tech Sensory Gloves, for winter photography. I quite like how these gloves fit, and best of all they allow the photographer to expose just the tip of the thumb and index finger, on both hands, while the remainder of the hands and fingers stay warm inside a waterproof, breathable, insulated glove. The silicon palm allows for maximum grip of camera and lenses. In the past I would always take my gloves off to operate the camera controls because I never really found a pair of gloves that were user friendly towards camera controls and such, but the Aqua Tech Sensory Gloves so far, seem to solve that issue. If you are interested in these gloves you can check them out here or any other camera dealer that sells Aqua Tech products. Below you will see a photo of my left hand inside an Aqua Tech Sensory Glove with the thumb and index finger exposed. Follow this link to Outdoor Photography Canada to read Editor Roy Ramsay`s editorial on yours truly in the Winter 2012 issue of Outdoor Photography Canada. I am quite honored to have been selected by Mr. Ramsay for his editorial.

Aqua Tech Sensory Glove

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Opossum

Today, while driving home from spending some time trying to create some new images of the male Snowy Owl an Opossum waddled across the farm road slowly and began climbing up the steep embankment beside the road. Naturally, I hit the breaks grabbed my camera and quickly walked up the hill for a few images.

Opossums are generally nocturnal and are the only marsupials found in North America. Over the years they have steadily been moving further and further north and now are frequently sighted near my home in south-central Ontario. Our bitter cold winters tend to be hard on their naked ears and rat-like tails which are prone to frostbite. They do not hibernate, however, during extremely cold weather they will usually hole up somewhere until some warmer weather arrives. This winter has been exceptionally warm with only a few bitter cold nights and very little snow fall. Below you will see two artistic renditions of the above photograph. Please take a moment to let me know which version you like best and why?

Opossum – Fractalius

Opossum – Topaz BW Effects

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A Snowy Day

Snowy Owl – male

Today I had the pleasure of spending some time with a beautiful Snowy Owl in an agricultural area near my home. The problem with this area is that they are often perched on farm equipment, roof tops, or other hand-of-man elements. I plan to return to photograph this owl frequently in hopes of finding him sitting in a pine tree or even on the snow covered fields, but for now I thought I would share these images from this afternoon. As the owl took flight I was able to grab a few frames, but did clip the wing in the best flight capture…ooops!

Hope you like the images.

Snowy Owl – male in flight

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Jardines del rey, Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

The image for this post is one that I photographed last February while on the Cuban island of Cayo Santa Maria in the Jardines del rey archipelago, a UNESCO World Biosphere. To accurately record the wonderful pink hue that was present above this large mangrove island, in pre-dawn light, I used my Singh Ray 3-stop reverse graduated neutral density filter. My Singh Ray filters are an essential part of my photo gear. I never head out the door with taking them along. To see how they have helped me capture some of my favorite landscape photos head over to Focus On Singh Ray Filters to see their blog post today that features the work of yours truly.

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Black-capped Chickadee

A Black-capped Chickadee recently photographed from inside my photo blind that is set up in the backyard for winter songbird photography. Below you will see an assortment of photo blind images. Please note while looking at the images of my photo blind that I do lack many architectural and interior design skills, but it seems to do the trick. On the inside of the blind you will notice a pail full of potential perches that I collect regularly. Since it is winter, I cannot use leafy or flowery perches, so I look for fallen branches that may have lots of lichen on them, mullein seed pods, sumac seed heads, or small sections of pine branches for some additional interest. The second pail contains some seeds for the feeder. You will also notice the small space heater on the floor of the blind that I use to stay warm and toasty while inside, and the walls have been insulated with 2 inches of styrofoam that was glued to the inside of the blind with sprayfoam insulation. This spray foam insulation was also used to fill in all the seams in the styrofoam. The framework for this blind was built using 2 X 2’s screwed into pre-made, galvanized corner pieces that I purchased from Home Depot. You will also see that the blind is sitting on a plastic skid to keep my feet about 6 inches above the frozen ground, and the old wooden chair has some foam duct taped to it for added comfort and warmth as well. The roof is covered with a piece of vapor barrier plastic to protect it from the elements. As I said, “it ain’t much to look at, but…”

Inside view of blind

Inside view of blind

The photos below show the outside of the blind and the feeder set-up. An old sweatshirt works perfect for the camera lens and a small hole above and off center holds a small Nikon SB400 flash for the days when I want to add a touch of fill flash. The long slit in the blind wall above the lens is for me to watch the action at the feeders. In the feeder image I have several perches, an old stump with suet cakes on the backside, and do note the burlap that I have fastened to the inside branches of the cedar tree background. This burlap is absolutely necessary to eliminate unwanted light from the field behind my home, to ensure a clean background to the resulting bird images. I have also included a photo that illustrates the surrounding are where I have set-up this blind. There is lots of cover nearby, which will help the success rate of the resulting images. The more cover that is present will often result in more activity at the feeding station. This cover is also helpful to the songbirds when they need to hide from our resident Sharp-shinned Hawks. Without this surrounding cover they are easy prey for such skilled birds of prey. I do make it a habit to only fill the feeder once or twice a week so that the birds are forced to forage for additional foods, however, when their is no snow present the birds are seldom seen at the feeder, as they are out foraging for other food sources.

These blind images were photographed yesterday. Note how little snow is on the ground. Normally, by this time we have a least two feet of snow on the ground.

Front view of blind

Feeder set-up with burlap draped inside the cedar trees

The backyard set-up

And the reason I am always on the lookout for new perches, is because some of them fall victim to my dog Koko. Koko is a five year old, female, black lab mix and she regularly mulches the branches that fall off the silver maple and ash trees on my property.

Koko mulching an old perch

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Northern Pintail drake

Yesterday I had a few spares hours while I was down in the big city of Toronto, Ontario. During the winter months, I love to spend as much time as possible over at Humber Bay Park along the Lake Ontario shoreline to photograph wintering ducks. It can be a great place to see Long-tailed , Scaup, Redhead, Wood, Black, and of course Mallard ducks. On some occasions it is possible to see Harlequin Ducks and other varieties as they pass through during the migration periods. With this winter being a little odd weather wise I was pleased to see a rather cooperative Pintail Drake hanging out with the resident Mallards. Whenever I plan to photograph at Humber Bay I always take along a pail of premium duck feed. Since the seeds and kernels of corn in this premium duck feed sink, the ducks must tip-up or dive down for the food. After they do this a few times they will always do several wing flaps. Although it is good practice to have a few documentary-type images, I much prefer to capture the waterfowl doing something other than floating on the water – behavior shots if you will. I also find the feeding frenzy created by the resident Mallards is a good way to bring in the duck species that are a little more timid.

This was a dark dreary kind of day and i would have much preferred some sun to make the duck’s colours really pop, but nonetheless it felt good to finally get out and create some fresh waterfowl images for my collection. Because of the dark weather conditions I decided to play around with some fill flash to try and gain a little pop to the resulting images.

Hope you like them.

Northern Pintail drake wing flap

Black Duck drake

Mallard hen wing flap

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