Tag Archives: snow

Winter in Lanark County

Tomorrow is the Spring Equinox – the official first day of spring. Yay! But it sure doesn’t look very spring-like outside right now! Overnight and through today we’ve had about 10 cm of snow dumped at our front doors and apparently more is on the way. Most people I talk to have had enough of winter now and find this pretty discouraging. True – I’d be happy for some warmth, sunshine and birds singing.

This is probably our last blast of winter for this season. So to celebrate the end of winter, I thought I’d post some images from winter around Lanark County, Ontario. Enjoy!

Beaver ponds are plentiful around Lanark County.

Beaver ponds are plentiful around Lanark County.

Cattail marshes with old dead trees can be picturesque, especially on days with moody skies.

Cattail marshes with old dead trees can be picturesque, especially on days with moody skies.

I love isolating just a few cattails and some snow.

I love isolating just a few cattails and some snow.

The Tay River from the Christie Lake Road bridge.

The Tay River from the Christie Lake Road bridge.

Trees reflecting in the Tay River.

Trees reflecting in the Tay River.

A few rustic highlights along the Tay.

A few rustic highlights along the Tay.

Along Althorpe Road after a blizzard.

Along Althorpe Road after a blizzard.

Dead milkweed pods in the snow. The late day sun casts lovely shadows.

Dead milkweed pods in the snow. The late day sun casts lovely shadows.

I love the blue shadows the late day sun creates on the white snow.

I love the blue shadows the late day sun creates on the white snow.

Tree branches casting a shadow on the snow.

Tree branches casting a shadow on the snow.

Mounds of snow sculpted by the wind.

Mounds of snow sculpted by the wind.

Beautiful snowscapes....

Beautiful snowscapes….

Sun shining through the forest trees.

Sun shining through the forest trees.

Late in the day on the far side of our pond.

Late in the day on the far side of our pond.

Fresh snow creates a winter wonderland.

Fresh snow creates a winter wonderland.

Tea coloured ice from the tannins leached from the fall leaves.

Tea coloured ice from the tannins leached from the fall leaves.

Some of winter's visitors to the area - a Common Redpoll.

Some of winter’s visitors to the area – a Common Redpoll.

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Winter On The River – Photo of the Week

This week’s Photo of the Week is of some of the elegant landscape Mother Nature creates with a snowstorm. Last week she walloped us with another blizzard – more of the wet, sticky snow we had at Christmas time. This sticky snow coats the tree branches, creating beautiful nearly-monochrome landscapes.

Click on the thumbnail below to read more about 44th Parallel Photography’s Photo of the Week.

 

2 March 2013

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Adventures in captive wildlife photography

Tomorrow, I’m giving a talk for our Digital Directions group of our local camera club, the Lanark County Camera Club, on the captive wildlife photography shoot I did at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre in December. You can read more about the photo-shoot by clicking HERE.

To prepare for the talk, I went back to process a few more images. Here’s one of a Canada Lynx from that shoot. I love that iconic lynx pose, those black ear tufts, and piercing eyes.

Captive lynx at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre.

Captive lynx at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre.

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Beyond fair weather photography

This week’s Photo of the Week is of a distant island on a frozen lake, in the middle of a raging blizzard. I think the conditions made for a great photo. Composition is simple, there’s no distracting colour, and the ripples of the snow on the windswept lake offer some texture. The image IS in colour, not black and white. It’s just that there wasn’t any colour – not in the white out conditions I was in.

It’s not the first time I’ve been out in a raging blizzard making images. I don’t always get the opportunity to head out in those conditions. But when I do, I enjoy it. It allows for a whole suite of completely different creative opportunities than on most of my photo outings.

A cattail marsh in the midst of a raging blizzard. The only colour was from the dead cattails in the foreground. The conditions allow for simple compositions.

A cattail marsh in the midst of a raging blizzard. The only colour was from the dead cattails in the foreground. The conditions allow for simple compositions.

The image above is memorable as I stopped at the side of a quiet rural road, about 5 km from my house. It was just a really quick stop to grab an image that caught my eye and so I left the car running, the windshield wipers on the car were on full because the snowflakes were coming down big and heavy, the heat was on full blast and I had Christmas songs blasting on the CD player. My big 600 mm lens was in the back seat…. I pulled over to the side of the road so I could safely make my image. When I do this, I usually leave the car window open or the door ajar because I don’t trust self-locking vehicles. But the snow was coming down so heavy, I couldn’t leave the window open. And hey, I was only stopping for a minute to make a photo….

I got back to the car and the doors were locked. All of them! Even though the self-locking mechanism isn’t supposed to engage while the car is running, but is not in gear, well, my car didn’t read the manual. It was locked up tighter than a drum! So here I am, a few hours before dark, on a pretty isolated road, in the middle of nowhere, in a raging blizzard. Oh, and my cell phone was sitting on the front seat, along with my jacket and mitts. Luckily I was wearing a heavy sweater, skidoo boots and the temperatures were only just below freezing. But still…..

I had a choice – break one of the windows so I could get back in my car, or start walking toward home and hope like heck someone came by so I could flag them down. I wasn’t actually worried so much about the car, even though it was running, lights were on, etc. I was more worried about my 600 mm lens, sitting in the back seat and visible. Usually I have the seat belt on her and she’s covered. But today I was in a hurry. Taking shortcuts is always a bad idea…

So, I chose to walk. Fortunately, it was only about 10 minutes when ¬†car came by. They had a cell phone. So I called my husband and had him bring the spare keys. So, a note to those with a self-locking vehicle. Don’t trust it! I now drive a car with manual only locks. I like that much better.

The view on my walk to get help.

The view on my walk to get help.

So, the moral of my story is definitely go out in this crazy weather and make images. Just do it safely. Driving conditions can be hairy and well, there are crazy things like auto-locks. But those aside, have fun with the creative conditions at hand.

The colours in this birch thicket caught my eye. I liked how the blowing snow muted those colours but also created a diagonal texture to the image.

The colours in this birch thicket caught my eye. I liked how the blowing snow muted those colours but also created a diagonal texture to the image.

An old barn off the road. The fence and dead grasses in the foreground contrast with the hazy view of the barn. The blowing snow gave the image some texture.

An old barn off the road. The fence and dead grasses in the foreground contrast with the hazy view of the barn. The blowing snow gave the image some texture.

Next blizzard or foggy day, I hope you get out with your camera. Most ‘normal’ people choose to stay inside when the weather is foul. But us photographers see the creative potential and so, instead of curling by the fire, we grab our gear and hit the road.

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Photo of the Week – White Out

Ah, it’s good to be back and working on the Photo of the Week after a brief trip out west for work. When we flew out to Edmonton it took us nearly an extra hour (of an already nearly 4 hour flight) just because the headwinds were so extraordinarily strong! Nothing like battling the jet stream….

I think those winds landed here. Today, I’m sitting at the computer wondering if the roof will lift off or that I’ll feel like I was teleported into a colourized version of the Wizard of Oz as the house gets sucked off its foundation. Sheesh!

Our noisy, windy day today compelled me to post a photo taken last year at Sharbot Lake, but it actually looked pretty similar here an hour ago.

For me, this Photo of the Week illustrates that you can make some great images in the worst of weather. Being out in 70 km per hour winds and driving snow doesn’t feel good. But it can offer some pretty impressive and interesting photographic opportunities.

Click on the thumbnail below to have a look at this week’s Photo of the Week from 44th Parallel Photography.

20 January 2013

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Photo of the Week – Ice and Fog

Happy New Year, everyone! The 44th Parallel Photography Photo of the Week is back, after a brief holiday hiatus. This week’s image reflects our current weather conditions – distinctly un-winter-like (and a new record for the region). I much prefer ‘real’ winter and will be glad when we’re back to it, but I must say that the fog does create some great photographic opportunities. So while the weather is lousy, get out there with your camera. ūüôā

Click on the thumbnail below to view 44th Parallel Photography’s Photo of the Week.

13 January 2013

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Spectacular! My captive wildlife photo-shoot

I received my Christmas present a bit early this year. A few days before Christmas I headed up to Muskoka Wildlife Centre near Orillia, Ontario, Canada. For me, about a four and a half hour drive away. I’d been eyeing Ontario photographer, Raymond Barlow’s captive wildlife shoot at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre for ¬†several months. And well, since my hubby was going to be in New Zealand for Christmas, I figured it was time to treat myself and to get out and do something really fun for the holidays. Oh man, I was not disappointed….. (but I’m getting ahead of myself here).

RayBarlow_blogspot

Ray has an arrangement with the wildlife centre where he brings in small groups (max 6) of photographers for a special photo-shoot of some of the centre’s captive wildlife. It brings in revenue for the centre, promotes the centre, and provides (in my opinion) one of the BEST opportunities for photographing captive wildlife that we have around here.

So, I signed up, but tried not to get toooo excited about it because I didn’t want to have a preconceived notion of what it would be like, only to be disappointed by the photo opportunities. For me, this was basically an experiment. An adventure. I’d never photographed captive wildlife before. Initially I had mixed feelings about it. But hey, I’m a biologist. I know that unless I quit my day job and live like Grizzly Adams in the Canadian Rockies, that my likelihood of ever seeing a cougar in the wild, let alone photographing one, is about the same as the likelihood that I’ll win $50million in LottoMax. Actually, I think the probability of me winning the $50million is higher….

So, when you know that it might take 10 consecutive lifetimes to ever see an animal like that in the wild let alone capture it in pixels, you concede that photographing captive wildlife isn’t such a bad idea. And so, I signed up for Ray’s workshop.

Muskoka Wildlife Centre

We met at the wildlife centre at 9 am and Ray prepped us for the shoot by describing what the setting was like and what the best strategy was for getting good images. In retrospect, all excellent advice. We were then introduced to Dale Gienow, a co-founder of the wildlife centre, expert animal handler and just one heck of a nice guy (and also has the distinction of being the top jouster in Canada – go figure…). Dale gave us an introduction to the wildlife centre, why it exists and how it exists. I was surprised to learn that many of its resident animals are super-stars and that they should be signing autographed photos…. Dale routinely works as¬†Scientific Advisor for wildlife documentary films produced by BBC, National Geographic and aired on the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. I was surprised to hear of their international reputation, but once we were in the enclosures and working with the animals, it was abundantly clear that this was a top-notch facility, where the animals are treated like royalty and their health, happiness and safety is an absolute first priority. All I can say is…. IMPRESSIVE!

Dale described how we would be photographing each of the animals for that days photo-shoot: Timber Wolves, Cougar, Silver Fox, Canada Lynx and a Saw whet Owl. All of the larger mammals live in huge, outdoor fence enclosures that contain native vegetation. For all but the cougar, we were in the enclosures with the animals. At no point was I ever concerned about my safety. It was abundantly clear that Dale and his assistant were expert animal handlers and also knew each of these animals personalities like the back of their hands. This meant that we could relax, enjoy the experience, and make the most of our photographic opportunities.

Just as we set out, it started to snow. And snow. And snow. I mean, holy cow, it snowed! Heavy, wet snow. And lighting conditions were challenging – very dark. But hey, you make the most of your situation, whatever it is. I ended up shooting primarily with my Nikon 18-200 mm lens because we were so close to most of the animals. I lugged my Nikon 600 mm bazooka with me, but only used it for photographing Lulu, the super-star Saw whet Owl. We entered the huge, fenced enclosure and when ready, Dale let out two gorgeous Timber Wolves. A male and female pair. Stunningly beautiful animals! At first I cursed the heavy snow and low light conditions. I’d forgotten my lens hood and so snowflakes kept glomming to my lens. I’d quickly try to wipe them off, but instead, smeared water all over my lens. Arrggghhh! ¬†But I quickly adapted, got into a rhythm of shooting and made the most of it.

It’s funny how snowy, dull conditions that you first think are miserable shooting conditions and that you curse, quickly become some of the BEST shooting conditions you could ever imagine! Seriously! The photography was challenging. No, actually, that’s a gross understatement. This was some of the most challenging photography I’d EVER done. But oh, it was sooo much fun. I was on a high. The wolves would trot towards us in a relaxed way, pause for a few seconds, sniff around, and then trot off in another direction. All you could hear was the buzz of continuous shutter releases as we all went mad to make images. It was hard. And with the low light conditions, my shutter speed was too slow for a lot of the images and so a lot were blurry. But I was shooting with my Nikon D200 (my trusty, but way too old steed. It’s sooo time to upgrade). The only thing I don’t like about the D200 is that it’s old technology and so shooting at high ISO is not wonderful. Images can be pretty noisy, unlike the new Nikon sensors that let you shoot at high ISO and you don’t even notice a difference. Sigh…

But, you make the most of your situation and I did. When the wolves paused, I made the most of those opportunities and rattled off a lot of frames, careful to compose as best I could and ensure that the fencing was not visible in the background. Dale and his assistant were great at getting the wolves to move around so that there was lots of opportunity to photograph them with only a forest environment visible and no fence in the background. These guys were good, I mean, really good. They worked hard to help us get the good shots, but what I loved was that the animal’s welfare was always their top priority. Just the way it should be….

Female Timber Wolf at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Female Timber Wolf at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

It wasn’t till I got home and looked at my images that I saw how the slow shutter speed along with the heavy snowfall and dull light conditions made for magical shooting conditions. Have a look at my image of the female Timber Wolf, above. See how the falling snow and slow shutter speed create soft, white, vertical lines? And the dull light conditions actually created a soft feel to the images. Had I had a better camera for the shoot, I would have had a ton more images that were keepers. But I’m still happy with what I did get. And most of all, it was the experience of being in the pen with those wolves that was the real high.

Male Timber Wolf at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre.

Male Timber Wolf at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre.

Next on the photo-menu was the cougar. It’s a no-brainer to understand why we were not allowed inside the enclosure with it. Most of these animals have been hand-raised from a young age and so they are used to people. But still. This is a 150 lb cat with millions of years of evolution that have shaped its behaviour and instincts. ¬†So we went inside the outer fenced enclosure, but stayed outside the inner enclosure. This meant shooting through the chain-link fence. Another challenge. But to be honest, not that big of a problem. The cougar came so close to us that my 18-200 mm zoom was all that was necessary to capture some beautiful face shots. Dale and his assistant were there to keep things safe. When the cougar walked by us on the other side of the fence, we quietly took a step back just in case. But let me tell you, to be a foot away from a cougar and to have your eyes meet his…. it’s an experience that stirs your soul. I once had a mind-meld with a wild Beluga Whale in Churchill, Manitoba. Looking into the eyes of this cougar was on the same order as that. Indescribable….

Cougar at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Cougar at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Cougar at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Cougar at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Next on our photo safari was a Canada Lynx. For this one, we were in the enclosure with the cat. And what a cat it was. Wow…. Such a beautiful animal. Dale and his assistant kept the cat at a reasonable distance from us, maybe 6 feet away. It was perfect for making some amazing images. At one point I stopped shooting just so I could admire this beautiful cat – it’s huge, snowshoe paws, those dapper, black ear tufts, and the luxurious fur. Ya, I’m a biologist and so for me, it wasn’t entirely about the photography. It was about seeing these animals up close. Animals that even the most active outdoors person is so unlikely to ever encounter.

Canada Lynx at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Canada Lynx at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Next on our safari was a Silver Fox. We photographed him in the same enclosure as the Lynx (after the Lynx had been moved to another pen) and so were able to make images of it from 6 feet away. What a gorgeous animal. And those penetrating copper eyes against the black and smokey grey of its fur….

Silver Fox at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Silver Fox at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Our final photographic subject was a beautiful little Saw whet Owl, named Lulu. Lulu is a super-star! She’s the same individual animal that was used to make the Telus Mobility TV ads. So she’s a TV star. I know I should have asked for her autograph…. Dale placed her on several different branches to provide a variety of backgrounds and perches. This is where I hauled out my 600 mm bazooka, took several steps back and began shooting. Wow! The outstanding glass on that lens sure captures the fine details of feathers.

Lulu, the Saw whet Owl at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Lulu, the Saw whet Owl at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

After we’d finished our official photo-shoot, Dale invited us to wander around the centre on our own, to photograph other animals in the outdoor pens or to come back inside to meet the skunks, opossum, Northern Bobwhite, Blanding’s Turtle, and the variety of other interesting critters housed inside.

Saw whet Owl at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Saw whet Owl at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

All I can say is that photo-shoot was one of the BEST experiences I’d ever had. It was some of the most challenging shooting I’d ever done. But also the most satisfying. And to be honest, if I’d come away without any nice images, the entire experience still would have been worth every penny. Would I go back and do it again? You bet! In a heartbeat.

Silver Fox at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Silver Fox at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

A footnote: I was trolling through the Fine Art America website since I’m working on uploading some images to it for selling. Out of curiosity, I searched for images of wolves, cougars, foxes and the like. I have to say that I was appalled to see that only a few photographers actually listed their images as being those of CAPTIVE wildlife. In fact, the only ones who specified that theirs were images of captive wildlife were the professionals – people who are internationally renowned. The rest didn’t give it a mention. And I swear that one person had images that were also made at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre. Maybe I’m wrong, but the backgrounds looked awfully familiar….. My point here is that as photographers, I think we MUST be honest. I’m a biologist and so I know that most images of wolves, cougars and similar wildlife are of captive animals. Frankly, you can pretty much tell by the kind of image. Anything close up is captive. There were images by Paul Nicklen – images of Lynx and other wildlife that you know are authentic, that you know are of wild animals. But the rest….. come on guys… come clean. There’s an ethical issue here. If it’s an image of a captive animal, say so. Don’t try to pull the wool over the eyes of someone who doesn’t have the knowledge to know that the chances of photographing a cougar, close-up, in the wild are next to nil. ¬†And I don’t buy the excuse that they didn’t say they were wild. The omission of the word captive still makes you guilty in my mind. Let’s call a spade a spade….

Saw whet Owl at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Saw whet Owl at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Bottom line – this was an absolutely fantastic photographic experience on all fronts and I wouldn’t hesitant a second to recommend it. In fact, I hope I’m going back. Maybe in the fall, at the height of the fall colours and hopefully by then, with a better camera for the job….

Saw whet Owl at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Saw whet Owl at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Saw whet Owl at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Saw whet Owl at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre

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