Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bald Eagles

It is actually quite shameful that I live so close to the largest congregation of bald eagles in the world and I have never attempted to photograph them. I finally booked our tickets and this past weekend Gaye and I checked them out.
Apparently they are having a mild winter in Alaska this year, so rather than seeing 5,000 eagles plus, we kind of saw hundreds sporadically here and there. There would be ten eagles in a tree here and five eagles there, then 30-40 on the flats. If you added them up, there were likely a thousand or so over the span of a couple miles, but it certainly wasn't as spectacular a sighting as I thought it would be. Still, considering that the most eagles I have ever seen in the past was one here and there if I was lucky while photographing bears, it was quite impressive all the same.

In the Fraser Valley, they are trying to protect the eagles' habitat by discouraging people from invading the area (the flats) where the eagles congregate in the greatest numbers. Eagles come to this area from all over the north (Mainly Alaska and Northern Canada) to feed on the carcasses of hundreds of thousands of salmon that have returned to the river, spawned and died.

Unfortunately many outdoor enthusiasts don't know or don't care that the eagles need to feed undisturbed. They may not realize that they are interrupting a critical time in the year where the eagles need to feed, much like the bears need to eat vast amounts before they hibernate. On the bright side, since man stopped using DDT's the eagles' numbers have been on the rise and I don't think we need to be nearly as concerned about their extinction as a species anymore, but just like all other animals we do need to respect their habitats so they can continue to thrive.

I am working on my eagle portfolio and will continue to add to it over the coming weeks.

I am already working on my next safari. It is my favourite trip of the year when I go up to Wapusk National Park to photograph the polar bear moms and cubs. We had our best year in 2013 and I'm hoping that trend continues. I will be blogging as often as possible in March during my ten day polar bear safari.

In the meantime, I have a wildlife photography exhibit up in Scotia Place (10060 Jasper Avenue) until January 17th, 2014. I also have a polar bear exhibit running at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital  (10230 111 Avenue, NW) until the end of January, 2014. Both exhibits are free to the public, so come on down and check them out. If you know any wildlife enthusiasts, my prints and cards make great Christmas presents. :) Hint, hint...

Also my new additions to my Harvey Wildlife Photography greeting card line are doing quite well. To see the cards, click on the link above and you can see the front, inside and back of the cards. Or you can visit the following Retail Stores:

In Edmonton:
Wildbird General Store- 4712- 99 street
Jake's Framing
The Art Company Ltd- 8730-51 ave.
Wild Earth Bakery- 8902-99street.
Glenrose Corner Store in the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital
McKinney's Convenience Store in Scotia Place
Made In Canada

In Churchill:
Eskimo Museum
Wapusk General Store
Churchill Northern Studies Centre

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Red Foxes and Washington DC

Yes, it's kind of a weird title I realize, but I don't blog very often, so I thought I would combine a couple posts in one.

First, the red fox den where I photographed the sub adult red fox last year is home to four adorable red fox kits this year. 
I have been out to photograph them about 15 times now and have been successful in photographing them on about 7 or 8 of those visits. You can see them on my wildlife photography website. The start of the gallery is from the first time that I saw them and each time I saw them I added on to the gallery so you can watch them get older and bigger. If you click on the "info" tab on the image thumbnail in my nature photography website, some information will come up about that picture.

Second, I was delighted and honored to discover that one of my prints was to be included in an exhibit in a Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice International Awards chose one of my brown bear images for their photography exhibit in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

This gave me an excuse to fly out east to see my image and check out Washington DC. What an amazing city! 

Nature's Best Photography put on an amazing exhibit opening gala as they presented awards and opened the doors to the wildlife photography exhibit. You can see my image and the rest of the exhibit images here.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Polar Bears- Days Eight, Nine and Ten

Days 8-10
Day Eight:
The forecast lied. It was supposed to be sunny and warm up. Instead it got windy and really cold!

 A video team from CBC showed up a couple days ago. They are filming a program called 'Wild Canada' that should broadcast sometime in 2014. They gathered some great polar bear footage in the few days up at Wapusk National Park. They also did some amazing Northern lights time lapse videos. Today the winds picked up and the snow was blowing hard across the tundra in  the morning so our images were a little soft. They died down in the afternoon and we had a good evening of shooting as the cubs played on the bank. After supper the northern lights were pretty impressive so a few of us had fun with them as well.

Day Nine:
The winds continued and didn’t die down and was brutally cold out. The bears were smarter than we were and didn’t leave the earth den all day. Day nine was the first and only day that we didn't at least get a glimpse of the bears.

Day Ten:
The family hunkered down and slept for most of the day. Again it was really cold today! Mom got up for a little stretch in the early afternoon, looked around then cuddled up in the snow bank again and went back to sleep. Finally at around 5:30p.m. mom got up and went for a walk. We had our best active series with great light during this walk about. Her walk probably lasted for about 20 minutes. One of the photographers who had come in from China must have been careless with his gloves because by the time the shoot was over, he had a thumb that was so badly frostbitten that it had turned black. One of the doctors in the group was pretty certain that he would lose at least part of his thumb.
In the past three days the weather has been in the neighbourhood of -50 degrees with the wind chill making changing batteries and memory cards really painful. Anytime we touched the metal cameras the cold metal burned our fingers through our gloves. I had to take off my glove to change my memory card during the last series of photographing the bears walking. My timing couldn’t have been worse and just from the couple minutes that it took to change the card, my hands turned bright red and are still red two days later. Our hands got so cold that our dexterity became very limited making it difficult to even change a card. In fact my thumbs and first two digits are still quite tender to touch as I type this. A minute or two of changing memory cards, then a minute or two of handling the camera and changing camera settings and my hands were really burning. As usual, this has been a learning experience and I will go back next year with more ideas on how to keep warm while handling the cameras.

Although we only saw the one family this year. In previous years we would have decent photography opportunities on average about 30% of the days out. This year we saw this family on nine out of our ten photo days. The mom liked to take her cubs for walks and the cubs were really active. They loved to spar, chase one another and climb trees making for some pretty great photography opportunities. This family was rare in a lot of ways. Normally the families will only stay around for a few hours or a day or two once they leave the den, but the trackers and photographers have been watching this family since February 20th. Most bears also like to keep their distance from us, where this bear liked to come to check us out and the guides would have to discourage them by driving a van or ski-doo between them and the photographers if they came too close.

I hope they make their journey out to Hudson Bay soon as I can't imagine how long momma bear can live off a few bites of tundra moss daily.

This year would have been a great year for videographers. The cubs loved to climb trees, but their methods for getting down were less than graceful. They would climb up about 6 or 7 feet, then climb down a couple feet and just drop the remaining four feet. Tuck and roll. That is pretty much how they jumped off snow banks too. The antics were somewhat lost in still footage, but would be really entertaining in video.

This year was my best polar bear year yet by a long shot. I may be spoiled for next year now, but after a slow year last year, I will take what nature gives us and hope for the best.

Visit my wildlife photography website for more images of polar bears from previous years.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day Seven, great light, active bears.

Day Seven…
Another absolutely stellar day! The light was perfect and seeing as we have been with this family for the past seven days, we now know her behaviours and habits. She nurses, sleeps with the cubs curled up on her, then the cubs get up and play hard for several hours. Later she yawns, has a snow bath and goes for a walk towards us. After the guides direct away from us, dejected, she heads back to her day den, curls up and has a sleep. At some point she will look around to see where her kids are, yawn, have another snow bath, go for a walk etc. On nice days she will do this two to three times per day. The action all starts around 2 or 3p.m.  On day’s five and seven, the light and weather has been very similar and so have been her behaviours. 

We have three more shooting days left and the forecast is supposed to be mostly sunny so we may just have three more great photography days, or she may head for the bay. Either way we have had some amazing photo opportunities this year!

To see more of my nature images from this trip see my adult polar bear pictures, or my polar bear mom and cubs, 2013 gallery  and my aurora borealis pictures.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Polar Bears; Days Five and Six

Five for Five…
When we got to the den today the bears were already sleeping in a day den. We had blue sky, but a very cold wind. In the last couple years in -40 C my camera stayed out in the cold for 8 hours straight without draining so much as a battery. Today they went dead three times. I have no idea how cold it was, but this morning was definitely the coldest that I have ever experienced it here. In fact my hands are still burning and we've been back at the lodge in the warmth for the past six hours.

In the afternoon the mom and cubs came to check us out a few times again. The guides had to chase them off because they were getting too close to us, but in the meantime we got some absolutely amazing shots of them as they came towards us. In the past four years of my polar bear safaris up here, this was by far the best nature photography day that I’vehad!

Day Six…
Today was windy and snowy. The bears only came out of their den briefly, but we were fine with that. Shooting through that much snow doesn’t do much for your images anyway. I just stayed in the van and slept.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Day Four Hide and Go Seek...

Day Four:
She still didn’t let us down. We showed up at her den and a couple hours later she and the twins emerged once again. The bears have built a day den in the snow near their earth den and they have several holes with connecting tunnels coming out of the snow. When the mood strikes her, mom will chase a cub into one hole and the agile cub will quickly escape out another. It was really cute to watch.
Hide and Go Seek Countdown. 1, 2, 3, ...

Today was snowy so at over 100 yards away there was a lot of snow in the air making the images soft. It was fun watching the cubs climbing trees and playing even if the images weren't very good today. You can see more of my images are on my nature photography website.