Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Grizzly Tale.....

A Grizzly Tale.....



For the last couple of weeks I've seen lots of photographers posting some great shots of Grizzlies from the Kananaskis area....I figured it should be my turn and decided to take a trip down "The 40" and back up....

The day started off with me not being able to sleep so I was on the road by 7am...with the crv fueled up heading west it started to rain a bit (as they had predicted), but soon it suddenly cleared up and had nice blue skies filled with fluffy white clouds. Being that it was so early still, I stopped for some longer than normal exposure shots of my favorite roadside waterfall, O'Shaughnessy Falls. I got a small scare when I turned the camera on to find out I had forgotten my 16GB memory card at home....luckily I have another 24GB of cards on me all times!!

The lower part of the falls are large rock steps (placed by man....from natural rocks from the area...) and the water flows quite quickly. After a few shots of the lower area, I made my way up the creek ignoring the cold water that was pouring into my supposed waterproof hiking boots. They were waterproof when I got them a few years ago, but the last couple of outings I've noticed some leaks....might be time for a new pair....
Higher up the creek, the rock turns to vibrant green moss with the crystal clear water flowing around and past rocks, logs, and moss piles. I love the summer in this area as the vibrant moss adds so much to the photos.

After taking quite a few photos I decided to continue heading South. I came to the "Kananaskis Village" turnoff and decided to keep going...I shouldn't have. As I drove by I noticed a Grizzly crossing the road. I quickly (and I mean quickly....) stopped and turned around and drove up the road. The last of the 3 crossing the road was collard and tagged with 151. Looking at the photos after I got home, I noticed that they were all tagged and collard and the other one I can see the number on is 150, so obviously a family. I met a nice young lady there taking photos and video on her phone and she works at the lodge. She told me that they have been in that area for a few weeks now and they're trying to "shoo" them away from the area so that nobody gets hurt....She told me that all 3 roamed through the front driveway parking area of the lodge the other night. I can see why they're trying to get them to move to a different location....some visitors could have been hurt if they spooked the bears when they were walking by the hotel....After spending about half an hour photographing the family, they moved up the river to the point I couldn't see them anymore.

After my awesome Grizzly encounter, I kept on going to the lower and upper lakes to see if any more bears were out and about for breakfast....but unfortunately, none were seen. Then I continued up the Highwood Pass and still didn't see any more bears.

I decided that I'd go back the same way and then home and when I got back to the Village area again, I decided to go and see if the bears were still around. I noticed a warden truck parked on the shoulder of Hwy 40 in that exact area so no doubt they were still in that immediate area. That's why they put the radio collars on, of course, so that they can track their location. Since I figured that either the warden had scared them off with a banger, or they were just sleeping and grazing and not coming out again, I decided to head home.

All in all, another fantastic drive for photos!! First Grizzly photos of 2014 (the other Grizzly near Radium I couldn't stop and photograph due to the no stopping zone), and some longer than normal exposures of the falls. A great morning!!!


Cheers!!

Fotoman


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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Calgary Flood - 1 Year Later!


Calgary Flood One Year Later



June 21st, 2013 is a weekend that will never be forgotten for a lot of people. Many people in communities in Calgary, cities like High River and Canmore, and even as far South and East as Medicine Hat are still trying to recover from complete losses of houses and possessions from last years Alberta flood. Some of the Reserves East of Calgary got hit hard as well, but this is what happens when you build along the banks of a river.

It started last year with about 3 weeks of solid rain, although it felt more like months... It hadn't been warm enough for the ground to thaw and there was a ton of snow left on the mountains. With all of the rain, plus the ice and snow from the mountains, obviously that had to go downstream.

I'm going to be uploading some of my flood photos from last year onto my website this weekend so that you can see the damage that mother nature did in a matter of 24 hours....it truly was amazing.

The Elbow River, pictured above, was so high that the water was above the road level in this photo. Last week Alberta had a forecast for a lot of rain so they let a lot of water out from dammed reservoirs upstream, and that is why the water level looks like it's high right now. They were preparing for a similar downpour but so far we have been lucky in central and northern Alberta. Southern Alberta last week weren't so lucky and even the southern town of Claresholm was flooded. This flood there though, wasn't due to water levels in the rivers (there is no river in that area...) but the fact that it is an older town, the sewer system simply just couldn't handle the amount of rainfall.

Around Calgary there are still a lot of the bike paths that haven't been rebuilt, and lots of back roads and trails in the mountains still closed. Around SE Alberta and around Calgary, there are a lot of bridges washed out and repair hasn't even begun to start on repairing these.

Let's just hope that rebuilding the infrastructure starts soon, but more importantly, the people that still are living in temporary housing in High River, can get back into their houses soon....another year without a home can only be more demoralizing for these people.

I was hoping to produce a photo book to release today, but I couldn't find a local printer that was affected by the flood, to help out....but 50% of all photo sales will be donated to families affected by the flood in High River as there are a large amount still in temporary housing facilities (aka: atco trailers).

Here's to more sunshine than rain all over the world....2013 was a horrible year worldwide for flooding.


Cheers!

Fotoman




Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bearing it all!


Bearing It All!!


It has been about 3 years since I traveled Highway 93 South to Radium Hot Springs, so I decided to go down there today. And I was treated to some fantastic sights!!! Ever since I started concentrating on wildlife photography, bears have always been my favorite subject. I have been fairly close to bears, and have spent a lot of time studying about them, and studying their behavior, and around them in the wild.

The morning started off at 7am with the sun shining and the skies blue. Filled up the CRV and headed west. Went down the 1a (aka: Bow Valley Parkway) between Banff and Castle Junction which is where Highway 93 South starts. Didn't see a thing along the 1a, so I was starting to think I might get skunked again for the second weekend in a row. However, a quick stop at the Osprey nest at Castle Junction just proved that a stop is always recommended no matter what. I could hear the Osprey talking back and forth and could tell one was in the trees near the gate that we normally stand by for the photos of them bringing fish back to the nest. So I slowly, and quietly, sneaked forward and in the gorgeous morning light the adult stood on a branch for a good 60 seconds before flying off. They are gorgeous birds and this is probably the best light I've ever had for an Osprey shot! So happy with the results!

Then, it was off down the 93 to Radium. Over the last couple of weeks I've heard that there has been LOTS of bear activity and today was no exception. There is an 11km area of the Southern part of the 93 that they are patroling, as they are not letting anyone pull over because of all of the bear activity. The first bear encounter was a lone male. When I pulled up it was strolling up a hill beside a waterfall, but didn't look back...would have made a fantastic shot with the water, but he wasn't interested in posing lol!
The car that was already pulled over took off and as a good wildlife photographer does, I waited...he went through the trees and came out roadside a little further down, to eat some of the dandylions. I took photos and watched this guy for a good 10 minutes before he took off deep into the woods and out of sight.

A little further down the road there was a Mom and 2 cubs. These cubs were a fair bit larger than the ones in the photo above, so obviously she had them a bit earlier than the 2nd Mom. Took photos of this Mom and 2 cubs for a good 20 minutes as people stopped and left...what a gorgeous sight to see the little ones playing and running around in between snacks on dandylions. Further down the hwy, on the same corner that I took a photo of a black bear that is on CanStock, there was another mom and 2 cubs (picture above). They were just inside the 11km stretch where we couldn't pull over, so I kept going.....didn't want to, but I did.

I carried on to Radium and didn't see anything other than a couple of deer. I stopped for a bit of fuel, but at $1.44.9/Litre, I only put a splash of $10 in as I had only used half a tank to get to Radium from Calgary. On the way back, about 20 minutes North of Radium, 2 park wardens had their lights on and were slowing traffic due to an absolutely GORGEOUS Grizzly that was eating dandylions roadside. This was in the 11km no pulling over zone, and obviously with the wardens there, I couldn't pull over. It killed me to not get a photo of this Grizzly because it had the most gorgeous coat of fur I've ever seen on a Grizzly to this day. An absolutely gorgeous specamin of a bear!!!

Back at the corner where the other Mom and 2 cubs were, they were now just out of the 11km no stopping zone, so I stopped for a very short time as this area only has a concrete barrier and no real pull off area. But able to get some snaps from my car of these 2 really young cubs, was just awesome!!!


Now back home...but it was a FANTASTIC day for bears!!!

Cheers!

Fotoman

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Friday, May 23, 2014

It's Eagle Time Again!!

Eagle Time Again!




Wow! It sure has been a while since I posted a trip on here....I've been on quite a few lately around Alberta, and with work being as busy as it has been, I honestly kept forgetting to post!! For that, I apologize as I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures.
Now that I'm working in Airdrie (about 15 minutes North of Calgary) I decided to head North West to Grand Valley Road in hopes of seeing a Great Grey Owl. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, but did get a couple of other surprises!

First was a HUGE Bald Eagle nest near Cremona. The picture above isn't of that Eagle unfortunately, as the photos from today are still uploading and wanted to post this before I forgot again lol The above photo is of one of the local Inglewood Baldies which return every year. After seeing the HUGE nest and Mrs. Baldie sitting in the large nest, I went over to Grand Valley Road. Driving that dusty road was nice and peaceful, however no GGO's :(

Coming towards the south part of the usual GGO area, I got my heart attack of the day. It is a beautiful day so my windows were open, music off (so that the wildlife don't run away right away when I stop the car) and driving quite slowly. Saw lots of deer so I was in hopes that I would see something else. That I did! Driving along suddenly I heard a large rustling noise, and out of the corner of my left eye saw a huge moose that almost ran into the side of my car!!! I quickly stopped and turned around. I think we were both scared because I've never seen a moose run in a circle and not know where to run after he almost ran into my car. As I turned around it trotted across the road and as soon as I grabbed my camera it eloquently leaped over the barbed wire fence and went into the trees slightly. It turned and I could see some small horns...definitely not a full grown spade, but it definitely wasn't a baby. Medium size moose are still bloody large animals lol
Unfortunately it ran off further into the woods right away so I couldn't get a photo.

Decided that from there, I would head back towards Airdrie and go down 84st NE which is a common "birding" road as there are lots of ponds which are roadside, which allow for some great photos fairly close up. My big surprise on this road was on the very north part, where a Swainson's Hawk was perched in a roadside tree. I stopped and started snapping away. Even walked right in front of the tree to get a better shot. It let out it's cry a few times (I love the sound of Raptors!) and suddenly a second hawk flew over. It initially flew onto it's back for about 8 seconds (like it was in a rodeo lol) then the second hawk moved onto the main branch. I love watching the actions and interactions of wildlife. Not sure if it was a male and female, but I'm assuming so, since it is "family" season where they have young ones or are mating....

Hoping to get more photos of the local Eagles tomorrow....and also hoping in a few weeks to go out far East Alberta, almost to the Saskatchewan border, to find some Bull snakes and Prairie Rattlers!!! Can't wait to photograph those!! It'll take a night's stay though as it's a bit too long for a day trip as I've been advised that the best times are early morning and late afternoon when it's a bit cooler, to see the snakes.

Hope you enjoyed hearing this adventure!

Cheers!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Wildlife! May Long Weekend!

Wildlife! I love it!


As many of you know, I love wildlife. I love being outdoors, and photographing animals of all kinds. May long weekend presented itself with the normal outrageous fuel prices, but I never have let that stop me from venturing out into the mountains.

May 18 - I was up early and on the road at 6:30am. The goal was to hopefully see some Great Grey Owls on the Grand Valley Road NW of Cochrane, then to head down highway 11 (The David Thompson Highway) to Highway 93 and hopefully see my first bear(s) of 2013!

Well, on the way along the 1A west of Cochrane, there were quite a few hawks sitting on the top of the telegraph poles...a promising sign for wildlife for the day...hopefully lol! There were tons of hawks up GVR too! and I drove up, and down, and back up, Grand Valley Road, but unfortunately, no owls...at about 9am I gave up and started to head on the way to the Icefields Parkway. Heading north on hwy 22, North of Cochrane, there were hawks all over the place...about every mile there was one or two sitting on fence posts and such. Through Sundre, on the way to Caroline (luckily I beat their parade start so I was able to quickly get through town...), and onto a fuel stop at Rocky Mountain house. I was getting close to Nordegg where they recently had a very large, out of control, wildfire. Amazingly though, when passing Nordegg, I couldn't smell any smoke or see any burnt trees like a wildfire normally leaves. Although Nordegg was evacuated, it obviously didn't get "that" close, which is good.
Just west of Nordegg, there was a large lake and I could see about 5 helicopters flying around with buckets under them. One filled up the bucket so I got some great shots of that. Obviously there are still some hot spots so they're dousing those.

About 10 minutes East of the Banff National Park boundary, I saw a black bear at the side of the road. It was a big one, so the first thing I did was look for any young in case I was in between them...but there wasn't any around that I could see. I stopped and started taking photos. About 4 other vehicles briefly stopped, and over the 15-20 minutes I was there, I got some fantastic shots. The photo above is one of those.

I took off down the road, and about 1km down the road, there was another one. This one looked a little smaller, but just like the other one, just was content at eating dandylions. After about another 20 minutes of shooting away, I decided to keep going. When I got towards the Bow Summit on Highway 93, south of Saskatchewan crossing, I understood why I saw the bears where I saw them. There is a LOT of snow still south of Saskatchewan Crossing, so the bears are sticking to wear the food is, obviously.

What a great trip!!


May 19th - Sunday.

My photography friend Robin has wanted to come with me on a trip for quite some time. Unfortunately, she gave me heck for not telling her about my bear hunting trip yesterday.....so, I said let's go out and about today. So, since she knew an area where she had seen a Bald Eagle, and I want some good shots of a Baldie, finally, that was our main objective.

So, we headed to where she had seen it yesterday, and Friday, but on initial findings, we didn't see anything. A couple of hawks and such, but nothing "big". We headed down a bank into this gulley near the river, and we heard a rustle to our right. We both turned, and I instinctively looked through my lens...it was a Porcupine!!!! The first one I'd seen in the wild, in Calgary. I had seen a HUGE one when I was young, up near Redwater when I lived in Fort Saskatchewan, but wasn't a photographer at that time. This one was quite small...so maybe not so old. I'll have to do some research as to their average size and age...just to get a bit more information on it. By the time we got back onto the area we saw it, it was climbing a tree...what an amazing sight!! It was scratching itself on the hind area every now and then, and it was just a really cute animal....obviously can be quite painful with it's barbs, but cute all the same. :)

I took just over 400 photos of "Spike" (that's our name for it...) and we decided to head up the river bank to see if we could run into the Bald Eagle (or Baldie, as we call him/her...). Unfortunately, no Eagle...we headed back to see if Spike was still there, and he was...so Robin filled her card, and I took a bunch more. Still had a couple hundred shots left on the card as I headed out of the trees from where Spike was in his tree.

I looked up and the Bald Eagle was flying right over us, but I couldn't get my camera raised in time before it was gone...then, to my luck, it came back with something (what looked like a Rabbit or Gopher...) in it's talons. I watched to see where it sort of landed, and we went back down into the gulley to see if we could see anything, but no luck. On the path, I saw an object a ways away that just didn't "look" like it fit as part of a tree. Looking through my 500mm lens, I could see it was a Bald Eagle standing at it's nest!! We had found it!! I showed Robin where it was and we both snapped away....this is where an 800mm with a 2x converter would be just the perfect thing to have!! But, you have to work with what you have. :)

A fantastic afternoon....and so far, an amazing weekend!!

Now to post some photos of Spike and Baldie!! :)

Cheers!

Fotoman




Monday, March 18, 2013

Cabo San Lucas - Day 7 - I'M ON A BOAT!!

Cabo San Lucas - Mexico
Day 7
I'M ON A BOAT!!

Early rise today as we're going on the Amazing Day tour. Had breakfast and waited for our bus to come. It arrived and we couldn't sit next to each other due to seating, but I sat next to a decent young guy and found out he was in Cabo for a wedding, but him and his buddies and their girlfriends were from my old stomping grounds of Fort Saskatchew, Gibbons, Redwater, Sherwood Park, Leduc, and Edmonton. It sure is a small world!!! Nobody I knew though....

Our first stop was the Cabo San Lucas glass blowing factory. These guys have amazing skill!! Took lots of photos of them and their creations.

*this information added 3.18.13*
On our way to our next stop, the "flea market" at the Marina, we learned from our guide that there were no roads or the freeway we were currently on, until 1987. Before that, where we were driving, small planes would land to deliver goods to shops, and residents, by air. It really is amazing that since then, this small city of Cabo San Lucas, has just exploded with money, and celebrities vacationing and/or living in Cabo.
We also learned that the one highway, which looks like a regular small, thin, road in town, is "Calle Cabo San Lucas", which turns into the freeway of "Todos Santos Cabo San Lucas", which goes all the way up through the USA, and eventually up to Canada.


We were then dropped off by the Navy Station at the Marina which was awesome because I love the military stuff :)  Took a shot of a Navy Guard at the base and he saw me and didn't look too happy...pretended I was taking shots of the boats..which I was...ish...lol
Went around some of the shops there and even a sea lion came into the harbor and was hanging out near where we were. Got LOTS of photos of him lol

Went to Diamonds International as part of the tour...not sure why, but obviously it's to time it so that the boat is ready as even after we got to the dock where the gorgeous "Ecocat" Catamaran was, we had to wait a few minutes before boarding. 

The boat was fantastic! We headed up the West side of the Los Cabo Bay towards the arch. Apparently there's a hole in the ocean floor near lovers beach and Jacques Cousteau proved that it goes down 300feet!!  There are quite a few amazing dives in Cabo like Sand Falls and alike.

Took a ton more photos of the arch and a few of the sea lion colony. Then, it seemed like full steam ahead as the Catamaran was going at a good clip down the coast to the East towards Santa Fe. Here we stopped at Santa Maria Bay to do some snorkling. Now we had both had a few drinks...although I stopped about half hour before we got to the bay as I didn't want to be really buzzing when I was snorkling. So, the majority of the boat either went snorkling or dove off into the ocean for a swim.
It was really cool to be snorkling in the ocean....first time snorkling for both of us. Didn't see any fish, but we heard afterwards that we should have snorkled over by the rocks. On our way to the airport on Day 8, we found that some of the best snorkling is found at Chileno Bay which is further towards Santa Fe from where we stopped.

On our way back to the Marina, we saw a ton of boats, Sammy Hagar's house (apparently), and even saw the patrol boat speeding out to look for any cartel action along the shores.

After getting back to the Riu, we had a couple of cervezas at the "Bravo" bar then got ready for dinner...I couldn't help but think this would be our last dinner at the resort, and I felt a bit sad that we had to leave.
I was peeling from the sunburn, but I'll take that over -10 and snow which was facing us back in YYC!

Cheers!

Fotoman

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cabo San Lucas - Day 8

Cabo San Lucas - Mexico
Day 8....The Finale

Thursday, March 7th, the final day has arrived. The day where I dream of having enough money to make something like this a permanent fixture...but we all have those dreams.
I really don't want to leave..we really did have an "Amazing Day" yesterday, so there was no better way to end our vacation....except unless it wasn't ending. :)

Breakfast was good, but I was still a bit sad that it was ending. We checked out and like many others, waited in the large lobby for the departure time. Our Sunwing rep put us on a smaller van with some others and it was a good thing as we beat the larger bus to the airport. We checked our luggage, then headed up through security. I left my Cabo San Lucas hat at the security area, but it was still there when we went back for it so that was good...
We had a look around some shops, T got some playing cards, and we had a bite to eat (the food on the plane wasn't very good on our way to Cabo, so we figured it wouldn't be very good on the way back lol) and a couple of Corona. They changed our gate a total of 3 times, and we boarded the same way as we arrived - using the stairs on the tarmac.

On takeoff the plane banked and we could see lands end and the bay. Lucky for us we were leaving that day, as there was a cruise ship that had arrived that morning, in the bay. Prices would have gone up for sure, in the shopping areas, as that's normal practice for when cruise ships arrive.
It was quite cloudy about 20 minutes North of Cabo, so pictures on the way back were pretty much null and void. 

We were both quite tired, as I hadn't slept much at all that last night. I sat listening to my iRiver looking out of the window every now and then. T was asleep near the Grand Canyon (I got some great photos of it on the way down) on the way back, but she woke up in time to just see it again as the cloud cleared right over the top of it.
About 45 minutes out of Kelowna my butt was a bit sore from sitting for so long, and I was fidgety. I really didn't want to head back to -10 and snow....
One thing I was able to get photos of, was the setting sun, from 36,000 feet. We had both never seen the setting sun like that before, and it was a gorgeous sight with the different colors.

We landed in Kelowna to let off the passengers we picked up on the way down to Cabo, and after another 40 minute stay at the gate, we departed to Calgary. As we departed Kelowna the wing lights were on and we could see snow as we were hitting the clouds. Coming into Calgary we could see just how much snow they had gotten. When we left the ground was brown with small patches of snow, and now, just one week later, it was completely white again.

We got our luggage and my mate Tim was there to pick us up (Cheers mate!). Got to his place, where my car was, and I warmed up my car while we told him a bit about our trip. I had to get T home as she worked the next morning, and it was already almost 11:30pm. After dropping her off at home I had to get back to downtown and I think I got home at about 12:45...exhausted, yet completely happy with the way life has been going for me.

I have T in my life which I am totally grateful for, and got to spend a week together in an amazing place, with gorgeous weather. It took me 17 years to go on a vacation, and I'm going to put a large effort into going on a REAL vacation once a year. I got to experience things that I only dreamed about, and I got to document it not only here, in this blog (thanks so much for reading this by the way!!!), but in the hundreds (and yes..literally HUNDREDS) of photos that I took (hope you're enjoying the photos!!)

Cheers everyone! Until next time....

Fotoman