Wildlife Photography – Getting that Unique Shot

Sat and watched two Canada Geese families for about 2 hours

I have so many photos, thousands literally. I go through them over and over again, keeping what I think are my best or unique shots. Sometimes I will have 20 or more shots of the same animal, (usually a lot more,) and quite often they are all in the same pose. My goal is to get shots of the animal or bird doing something different, you know? But it’s not easy.

In my opinion, because I am not an expert, in order to get a different/unique type of wildlife shot, two things determine how you can do that, well maybe three. You don’t need all necessarily but you do need at least one.

1. Right place, right time (that is almost always my mantra);

2. Patience; watching and studying your subject and wait for them to react in a different way, and/or;

3. Money; and by this I mean, for example, going on a Safari for a week or two or heading into the heart of British Columbia to visit Grizzly bears for a few days. You know the kind of trip whereby you and/or the guide you hire, basically know where the wildlife is going to be and you have ample time to photograph your subjects. An environment structured to see wildlife, which we haven’t done yet.

So the first option, right place, right time (or the luck of the draw) is a crap shoot basically, you are gonna be lucky or you aren’t.

The second option is not always possible, quite often we don’t have enough time to sit and focus on a subject for any length of time. Plus wildlife is so unpredictable. Bears for example typically take off upon seeing you and Moose tend to wander off after a few minutes. Believe me when a moose wanders off it’s like they literally disappear into thin air! Or you startle a duck and they are gone in a heartbeat.

The third option would be terrific but how many of those can you afford and how often could you go?

I have quite a few (hundreds) of Right Place, Right Time photos. One day we were driving through a campground and heading back to our campsite and we spotted a Mom Black Bear and 4 Cubs. That was definitely right place, right time.

The littlest bear

Another example – We had both been trying for years to get a half decent shot of a Kingfisher. They are such unique birds but they are skittish and VERY fast. So we never really had much luck but last summer as we were paddling along the shore of the Moira River, we spotted this little guy sitting in a tree. I reached for my camera and I’m sure Clint, in the back of the canoe, was reaching for his but I thought why bother? He’s gonna take off any second, but he didn’t. It was the best time and we sat there for probably 1/2 hour photographing him. Now he didn’t really do anything unique, he just sat there but still….! So I guess that was Rule #1 followed by Rule #2 Patience.

Kingfisher on the Moira River

Or we will drive past a spot in Algonquin Park and see nothing yet 5 minutes later drive back past the same location and there you have it….a moose just walked into the water.

Where did she come from ?

One day we had stopped our truck on the side of a road where we knew foxes hung out and out of the blue, the old fox and one of his kits walked down to the water for a drink. What are the odds?

Dad Fox and one of his kits

We were in Newfoundland a few years and camped in Gros Morne National Park. One day we were heading out in our truck to go someplace, I forget where, and just as we got to our truck we heard a commotion in the tree beside our trailer. There were two squirrels on their first date! Maybe third…… How often does anyone see this? I have not before, nor since.

Third Date……

We were sitting by Lake of Two Rivers one day just enjoying the weather and across the river we saw a chipmunk jump into the water and head to our side! It’s amazing how many chipmunks and squirrels will swim quite a distance to get to the other side. Why did the chipmunk cross the river? I have no idea…..

When wildlife cooperates and we do have time to sit and watch and wait, it can be rewarding. I remember one day my husband and I went to Algonquin Park for the day. We did our usual driving around, hiking some trails but didn’t see too much. We decided to drive down to one one of the lakes and just sit and relax and enjoy the water view. Well there happened to be a couple of families of Canada Geese there hanging out. We sat there for probably 1 1/2 to 2 hours watching them and photographing them and I feel like we were able to get different types of shots than just clicking and leaving.

Dancing Queen
Goslings are so cute.

When we are in our canoe, we can sit and watch mergansers, herons whatever for a very long time and we just sit and wait and you can get some really unique shots. So patience in these types of situations helps to improve your odds of getting a unique image of your subject. We sat in our canoe for a very long time observing and photographing this Merganser family.

Merganser Family

A heron we spotted while in our canoe on Restoule River was incredible to watch. We sat in our canoe for a couple of hours, or close to that. And in fact, he was in the same area for a couple of days so we saw him more than once. Lots of patience involved here, waiting and watching until he did some unique poses.

Crazy Tongued Heron
Maestro Heron

Sometimes the “being somewhere at the right moment” is combined with patience. We were walking an area where there had been moose sightings and indeed one morning they were there. We spent a few hours photographing them and were fortunate enough to see them mating and just being themselves.

I didn’t want to put too much Moose Porn in the post so above photo is what you are getting 🙂

As for the third option, I have not been to an environment structured for wildlife like an African Safari or to British Columbia to see the Spirit Bears or to Churchill Manitoba to see the Polar Bears but believe me, I would love to do all three.

I wish I had more opportunities for the shots taken by being patient but wildlife is quite unpredictable so typically you have to be where they are at the exact moment they are there without you knowing they are going to be there. I don’t really know what I just said lol.

This post shows a few of my photos that I think are a bit different and/or unique. I hope you enjoyed them. If you have any stories to tell or any other opinions on getting “That” shot, let me know.

Hope you enjoyed my stories.

Stay Safe.

Wildlife Photography – Do you have a Code of Ethics?

I had posted this quite some time ago but with spring here and all the wildlife young ‘uns about to come forth, I thought I would share it again. My friend Bill let me use his Code of Ethics but I have also included in this post some photos of wildlife that I have personally photographed and I tell their stories.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is algonquin-2015-june-and-march-exported-lr-116-studio-1.jpg
A young fox kit who is likely no longer with us

I have been meaning to write about this topic for quite some time but haven’t had the time. However, the other day, a friend of mine posted his own personal “Photography Code of Ethics”. His list is everything I believe in and so I asked his permission to use his list; plus it saves me time from making one, which I appreciate. Bill is a wonderful wildlife photographer having been featured in National Geographic magazine and other media outlets as well as winning several photography awards. His photos are terrific, please take a look at his website – Bill Bickle Photography

Ontario Provincial Parks also has an article on Ethics if you would like to read it. Here is the link Ontario Parks Ethics.

You see people all the time who go to great lengths to get “that” photo. I’m surprised at times who I see doing questionable acts by putting either themselves or the animal at risk. Quite often I am shocked that I know some of these people. I think they get caught up in the moment or their adrenalin gets them going, I don’t know.

We have all seen and/or heard the stories about people trying to get too close to bison at Yellowstone National Park or standing 10 feet from a grizzly in Banff, Alberta to get a photo. The stories go on and on.

My husband and I have seen many situations where some of these codes are not followed and believe me, it does not turn out well for the animals. Humans seem to get away with whatever they want to do with no regard to the animals involved. We have so many stories of wildlife being put down because they are a “nuisance” when in actual fact the people breaking the rules are the true nuisances as their actions resulted in the animal becoming habituated.

I am not going to get on my high horse but I will share some situations that we have personally experienced. These experiences have certainly shaped the way I think and how I do my photography. I’m going to provide some examples of what we have encountered during our travels.

Years ago there was a family of foxes living in a particular area of Algonquin Park. There was the Old Fox, his mate and a passel of young ones (kits). They were almost always in the same large area and one day we were by the road photographing them as they played. I knew approximately where the dens were but I had never, and would never, go to either of them but this lady who joined us did. She asked me if I wanted to go with her and I said “No, I’m good, I don’t believe in bothering them at their homes”. That, to me, is their safe spot. So people might say, well they are just animals but would you want people walking into your home to stare?

People were also feeding/baiting these animals for photos. One day we stopped to photograph the Old Fox and he was trying to climb this small tree. Another couple were at this spot photographing him; they had hung bacon over the branches of the tree to encourage a “better” photo. People were feeding the foxes so much that it got to the point that if they heard a car/truck door slam, they would run towards the vehicle.

Stand Off . the turtle won’t leave her nest and the fox won’t leave the turtle

Long story short, the foxes became habituated which is not a good thing. Eventually the Parks Staff took the Old Fox to a sanctuary as he was not in good health, having been hit by a car among other things…….and the rest of the family was also taken away. Below is a short Blog post I wrote on the Old Fox as he died earlier this year.

https://trumstravels.com/2020/03/10/the-old-fox-dies/

Below is the old guy and one of his kits having a drink.

Pretty sad story.

In 2016 there was a young Black bear cub hanging around the campgrounds in Algonquin Park. He may have been about 2 years old. One day we had been out canoeing all day and came back to our site to sit and have a beer. I felt someone watching me and I looked up and he was about 20 feet away by our firepit. He wandered up and down the rows of campsites 2 or 3 times a day looking for food. He was not scared of humans at all. I felt bad for him, in fact, my husband said that little bear had the saddest eyes he had ever seen.

He would drop by at our campsite almost every day we were there and then move on to walk through other campsites. Now some of these photos seem very close but keeping in mind my husband and I have very long (big) lenses. We do not have to be close. Although when he came into our site, we were kind of close, through no fault of ours. This occurred in the month of June.

Waiting for dinner
Here’s looking at you kid

During our June trip, this same little guy also followed us on the bike trail. We had started biking towards Rock Lake and we encountered an older couple walking along the trail towards us; the bear was following behind them. We didn’t want to go past him so we got off our bikes and walked back the way we came along with the couple, bear in tow. After a few minutes we stopped and made all kinds of noise and he took off. Sadly, this same year we went back in the autumn to camp for 3 weeks and one of the Park Wardens told us that he had been put down.

Stay Away!

I was told that if bears are sighted near humans, or people complain about them, they have a tag put in their ear. If they are tagged 3 times, that’s it for them. I don’t know for sure if this is true but if anyone knows it to be a fact, I would appreciate the information. So long story short, don’t go tattling on the bears.

In 2018 we were camping in Algonquin Park and there was a Mom Black Bear and her four cubs, yes four, we couldn’t believe it. Anyways, she was hanging around Lake of Two Rivers campground and Mew Lake campground. One of the cubs (below) was so cute and tiny. We were driving into the campground and they were crossing the road.

In the case of this particular family, I was told that the Mom Bear was put down, one of the cubs was run over by a car and the other three were taken away.

Four little cubs all trying to climb the tree

But you know it’s not just photographers that can be the problem; some campers have dirty campsites and by that I mean they leave their food and garbage out, etc which is an attractant for wildlife. The adult bears become habituated and teach their cubs and then they are all running around the campgrounds looking for Pringles and wieners. In our opinion, Park Wardens could do a far better job of enforcing the cleanliness of campsites. And people in general could use a little more common sense and consideration.

In Algonquin Park there are a couple of spots where Pine Martens regularly hang out. They are super cute but again, people are feeding them. A friend of ours told us that one guy was caught feeding the Pine Marten and was fined by a Warden (this year). We were at this same location the next day and we spotted a woman feeding him. My husband told her about the guy that was fined for feeding him, the outcome, she was not very nice to us after that and kept feeding the pine martin anyway.

So as I mentioned, it’s not just some photographers that show no respect for wildlife, it can be campers, hikers, canoeists, tourists and the list goes on.

We have been to Alberta a couple of times in the last few years and things are no different there. We were driving somewhere around the Banff area and there was a bear feeding on the side of the road. You would not believe the number of people who stopped to get a photo, which is understandable. Getting a photo is one thing but did they have to get in the ditch with the bear? Standing so close that some of the people could have touched him. These are wild animals regardless of their “tame” behaviour. They like to have their personal space, just like we do. And in fact they NEED their personal space.

Another time we were photographing a moose; he was standing by the side of a road, another gentleman was with us. We were quite a ways back from the moose and all of a sudden a car came from the other direction. They spotted the moose and stepped on the gas coming to a screeching halt just short of the moose. The moose took off into the forest and these people piled out of their car and chased him into the woods. If they had shown some respect, they would not have upset the moose, or us, and we all could have enjoyed the moment. I don’t know what happened to them or the moose; the other gentleman and Clint and I got into our cars and left. But you would be surprised, or maybe not, how many times we have watched people literally chase after the animal or try to “sneak” up on them to get a photo. Seriously Dude, that bear or moose or whoever, know you are there. You aren’t fooling them. And they are wild animals, they don’t know your intentions.

Now some might say we aren’t exactly following the rules by taking photos of these animals when we have a good idea of where they hang out. There may be some truth to that, however, we drive down roads and hike trails and hope to see wildlife but we don’t encourage them by baiting or invading their nests/dens. If you get familiar with an area you can have a good idea of where they might hang out. My husband and I do our best to stay back and as mentioned, we both have long lenses. I know the trips we have taken to Alberta and British Columbia, we have quite often sat in our truck and taken photos from the windows. You see lots of bears out there on the side of the road but a shot from a truck/car window can be just as good. You can also book a tour and go with guides who know where to go and how close to get.

The lady who was feeding the pine marten told us she would keep feeding him and the birds. Now, in my opinion, feeding birds is not a horrible idea. We have several bird feeders in our backyard. I don’t think feeding the chickadees, grey jays, blue jays is wrong. I look at it this way, these birds are not going to be hit by a car when they run out on the road looking for food, they aren’t going to be put down because they are a nuisance and they do not pose a threat to anyone.

I also want to mention, it’s not just wildlife we should have respect for. We have seen some crazy things when people are trying to get photos of landscapes, buildings, whatever. We were in Victoria, British Columbia last year. We went down to the Fishermen’s Wharf where they have the floating homes. This is a beautiful spot. Fishermen’s Wharf

We stayed on the dock to get a photo or two of these really cool homes. Some tourists however were walking up to peoples homes, standing on their decks, sitting in their chairs, climbing over railings, etc… to get a picture. Just crazy and disrespectful behaviour.

We have seen people go onto private property to get a photo of a dam or cascades or some other point of interest. Some properties have signs so when Clint and I see signs “No Trespassing”, “Private Property”, “Keep Out” etc, we pay attention and we respect the signs. Should I assume for those that don’t respect the personal space/property of others that it is ok for me to wander through their yard, stand on their deck and do as I wish in the pursuit of a photograph. Just something else to think about.

At the end of the day, everyone loves to see wildlife. It’s a thrill for me to call out “There’s a moose!” and grab our cameras but it is our responsibility to take care of our wildlife, respect them and allow them room to live in their own environment without being hassled. Same goes for people’s property.

It appears that in todays digital social media world it is more important to get those likes and immediate recognition for your picture than to be respectful of our precious wildlife and fellow humans.

I would love to hear comments or stories of any situations you have encountered.

Photography and Perspective

I always think about perspective and/or perception when taking photos.

Perception is what or how you interpret situations, people, objects.

Perspective is your point of view.

This whole topic kinda gives me a headache!

Perspective in photography has been described as the change in depth in a photo, spatial dimensions, blah blah blah. That is what I got from a lot of articles that I read. But I see it as – perception is your understanding of how you see things or interpret things by your attitude or outlook and that can lead to a change in your perspective which is your opinion or point of view. Confused yet? I certainly am…….

This whole thing started in my brain this past fall. Clint and I were hiking a trail at Bon Echo Provincial Park and a young guy came up behind us. He was so close to me and it startled me. You know how you can sense someone behind you? I said to him you are very close, you should have said Excuse me, or whistled or something. He marched past us muttering “Well you people are so slow” I said to him” well we’re 3 times your age, plus we are enjoying our hike!” No answer. But it got me thinking about him and I started wondering, has he noticed all the cool mushrooms on the side of the trail? Has he seen the animal tracks that we see? Did he notice the beautiful wildflowers hidden behind a large Maple tree? Probably not, he was in a hurry to get back to his car and cell service…..

I feel HIS perception of the whole hike was to get it over, his outlook was “let’s be done with this hike”. When my husband and I hike, we perceive things differently. For example, we look at mushrooms and see the colour or texture and want to capture it. Or we see the flowers and try a macro shot or a distance shot or we wonder how to edit a photo into something else perhaps. This attitude can change our perception of what the hike should be.

So, in my opinion, in regards to photography, basically looking at things in a new perspective can change your perception. So if you look at your subject in a different angle or location or how you process it, then your perspective changes which is basically the composition of your work.

We have been fortunate enough to see a number of bears to photograph and this one particular year, we saw a family of a mom and 4 cubs. The one cub was so tiny that to tell people how tiny he/she was would have been hard to describe. When I did a Blog post up on this experience, I left a woman’s feet in one photo to show how little the bear was in comparison. Normally I would not leave the person in the photo but it gives a better perspective on the size of this little one.

As I mentioned, we normally walk trails at a somewhat slow pace as we are always stopping and looking around. And as photographers, we look up, we look down and we stop and look behind us on the trails. Your perspective can be quite different if you do this. Sometimes we take our photos by being down on our knees (that one is getting more difficult), laying down on the ground, being up high…..these can all change your perspective and your perception of a particular landscape, animal, etc. in how you see something and how you choose to photograph it.

I know people that have to have their wildlife shots face on. And yes normally I do too. I took a bunch of photos of a raven last year and my favourite one is of his back. In the photo below, he is more or less face on.

Below is a view of his back, which I prefer. I just think it gives more mystery or something. And by doing this, your whole perspective can be changed. What’s he looking at? Why is he ignoring me? Does he not want his photo taken?

I took this photo of a garter snake by standing over him. I could have gotten down close to the ground and got a face to face but I wanted something different. Plus I don’t like snakes.

Trails can be the same, your view in front of you can be completely different if you turn around on the trail and take a photo in the direction from which you came.

I find if I do a photo in B&W, it can also change the perception of an image. This photo is of an old mill and I did it both ways. In my opinion, the B&W gives it a timeless quality and it looks aged, more so than the colour version. These are all my own opinions so if you have a different opinion, comment…..please feel free to share. I like hearing other people’s opinions or choices.

When you take a photo, you can edit it to change the perspective entirely. Crop something out, stick something in, change the colour, age it, all kinds of different ways can be used to change the look.

I put a photo in a presentation once and it was trees, in the fall, reflecting into the lake. I chose to take a photo of the reflection in the lake which made the trees look upside down. I remember a woman saying “Look they are upside down” because she thought I put the photo in upside down, not realizing I was trying to be artistic lol

So below is the original photo….

But I decided to crop it and make the reflections the focus. I don’t like it but I wanted to try something different. But it did change my perspective of both photos and so now I don’t like either photo lol

Reflections of the trees in the water

The point being is that there is so much more to photography than pointing and shooting. You want people to really feel your photo and see it as you saw it in the moment you took it or do editing to make it artistic, like a painting or B&W or add/remove items, change the colours etc.

Changing your perception on anything, not just photography, can change your whole perspective.

Like living with Covid, we all have had to change our perceptions on the way we live our lives. My perspective on my life has changed a lot in how I view the world now. I appreciate all the little things, and big things, we used to be able to do which has certainly changed my viewpoint or perspective.

Stay safe and enjoy the nice cold weather.