Black Bear in EC Manning Provincial Park

A Black Bear (Ursus americanus) eating dandelion flowers in EC Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.

a black bear - ursus americanus - eating dandelion flowers in ec manning provincial park - british columbia - canada

A Black Bear (Ursus americanus) eating Dandelions in Manning Provincial Park

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   I have not really had much opportunity to photograph Black Bears (Ursus americanus) before – last year was the first time I’d seen one. Since then I’ve seen maybe a dozen, and this one was certainly the largest. I do not know if this is a “large” black bear, but it certainly was not skinny like some of the ones I came across last year. This one was wolfing down dandelion flowers along the side of the Crowsnest Highway in Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada. I was well across a 4 lane highway with a longer lens (53 feet away for this shot). This felt sufficiently distant enough to get a decent photo and to not disturb the bear. Unfortunately, not everyone there took the same precautions.

   When I spotted this bear on the side of the road it was next to my lane. I stopped maybe 200 feet back from where the bear was, switched to a longer lens (Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Zoom Lens + Canon EF 1.4x Extender II), and the appropriate camera settings (higher ISO, IS on, etc). I then passed the bear and did a u-turn when it was safe to do so… and settled into a spot on the shoulder, across the 4 lane highway. I figured this was close enough for a decent photograph, and I probably wouldn’t be disturbing the bear at all. Soon others had pulled over ahead of me on my side of the road, and a few on the shoulder near the bear, but most stayed 50-60 feet back from its location. Most…

a black bear - ursus americanus - eating dandelion flowers in ec manning provincial park - british columbia - canada

Black Bear (Ursus americanus) in Manning Provincial Park

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   After I had photographed the bear for several minutes a woman pulled up beside the bear on the shoulder. No safe distance, no apparent thought to anything but photos with her iPhone. The guy behind her tried to get her attention and waved, yelled a bit, then honked his truck horn. It seems he thought she was too close as well. She ignored this. When the bear walked about 10 feet forward, she rolled her car right along side… probably 8 feet away. Before this happened, her child started hanging out the backseat passenger window, on the same side of the car as the bear. I then honked my horn once, and she got angry this time and yelled back that I could get my photos later. I guess she thought my concerns were that she was now blocking my photography, which she was, but I had not really considered this yet. She eventually left after a few minutes of what I am sure were “high quality” iPhone snapshots, never did get her kid back into a seatbelt, and sped away, but not before giving me the finger of course.

   Through all of this the bear never stopped eating his dandelions and seemed to only give the humans around it an occasional glance, and usually only when a very large truck flew by. The sad part about this is that this bear is most likely used to such behaviour, and idiots on the side of the road dangling fresh meat their children out the window don’t even get its notice. I guess that last item was a good thing. I have a bit more understanding now when I read stories by frustrated photographers in popular parks like Yellowstone where this kind of thing probably goes on every day.

See more of my Wildlife Photography.

Manning Provincial Park Wildlife

A Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus) watching from a burrow at Lightning Lakes in Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada.

columbian ground squirrel watching from a burrow in manning provincial park

A Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus)
in Manning Provincial Park

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   I always tend to stop at the day use area of Lightning Lake in Manning Provincial Park when driving to the Okanagan. Not only is it just off the Crowsnest Highway (map) it provides a nice view of the lake and is a good place to pause for a pit stop. The field and lake by the parking lot boat launch are home to many species including the Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus), Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis), Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica), Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and the occasional Common Loon (Gavia immer). I am sure there are a number of other species around, but these are the ones I’ve seen myself. So far.

a pair of barrows goldeneye swimming in lightning lake in manning provincial park

Barrow’s Goldeneye Pair
(Bucephala islandica)

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   In a post last year I shared a few of my photographs of the Columbian Ground Squirrels. Though all the ice was off the lake last week and the grass in the field was greening up quite well, their behaviour was no different this time around. I had thought that with more plentiful natural food sources they would be a bit less audacious in their approach to my backpack and other equipment, but they were just as bold. I put my backpack down and it wasn’t too many minutes before two of them had clambered up onto it. I was thinking of photographing this but chewing had started, and I chose the bag over a photo opportunity.

   Near the shore of Lightning Lake there were a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneye swimming and diving for food. Not nearly as tame as the Ground Squirrels, I had to sit and wait for them to swim back past me in order to make this photograph. This also makes photographs of them more satisfying than those of the “tame” Ground Squirrels. The female Goldeneye kept diving while the male watched me so it was a bit tough to get a good photo of the both of them on the surface at the same time. They were certainly more interesting than the ubiquitous Mallard ducks I see around Vancouver.

a common loon swimming in lightning lake in manning provincial park

Common Loon (Gavia immer)

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   Many years ago I camped with my parents at the Lightning Lakes Campground and heard the Loons on the lake but never saw one. This Common Loon was swimming past the shore just beyond the Goldeneyes and was the first one I’d ever seen. Much more wary of me than the Goldeneye pair, however, and chose to return to the other end of the lake via the opposite shore.

Spring Tulips at Queen Elizabeth Park

sunshine backlight on a tulip flower at queen elizabeth park in vancouver

Tulip Flower

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   Last week I headed into Vancouver to photograph some of the spring flowers at Queen Elizabeth Park. The flowering Cherry Trees were out in full force, but they are so popular each of them had a crowd of tourists, locals, and photographers around them. I chose instead to concentrate on some of the other flowers in the park.

   Sometimes direct sunlight can be a tough condition to photograph wider landscape scenes. These tulip flowers, however, were nicely lit in the bright sunshine. I like how the cup like flowers appear to be lit from the inside when the sun shines on them from this angle.

The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival

bald eagle halieaeetus leucocephalus with mount woodside in the background near the harrison river in british columbia, canada

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

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   Last weekend I headed out to the Harrison and Chehalis River area to photograph Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) with Seattle area photographer Steve Cole. This was the last weekend of this year’s Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival. There were not that many tourists or photographers around, though I tend to avoid photographing areas that might contain crowds of onlookers. I was pleased to be able to view some very nice looking adult Bald Eagles from a vantage point closer than I usually find them. Views of large trees full of Eagles are easy to come by in the Fraser Valley this time of year, ones that are in good range of my 70-200mm lens (even with the 1.4x extender attached) are few and far between. So I am happier with my results this year compared to previous attempts.

bald eagle halieaeetus leucocephalus at the harrison river in british columbia, canada

Bald Eagle
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

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   The first photo above of an Eagle sitting in a snag works quite well for me because of the snowy backdrop. A Bald Eagle photograph with a snowy mountain behind it just seems more authentic than the backgrounds I am usually able to find. The mountain here is Mount Woodside which sits between Harrison Mills, Aggasiz and Harrison Hot Springs. The Eagle was photographed along Morris Valley Road in Harrison Mills.

   The second Bald Eagle photo here was made along side the Harrison River near Highway 7. A stop at Kilby Provincial Park had not yielded any eagles that were close, so we backtracked to this spot as Steve’s girlfriend had noticed some Eagles feeding near the Harrison River Bridge. It is always good to bring a spotter! Luckily this one adult was still sitting on the pilings and hung out long enough for us to make some photographs before flying away.

bald eagle halieaeetus leucocephalus in harrison mills british columbia, canada

Bald Eagle
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

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   The third and last Bald Eagle featured here is perhaps not quite as photogenic as the first two, but I always appreciate it when wildlife is perfectly happy being near me when I have my camera ready. This eagle sat up on these rocks above the road for quite some time, then flew away, circled back and selected a new spot – and repeated this a few times. Maybe he/she was just too full of salmon and was looking for a better vantage point over the valley while digesting the last meal.

   Steve has also posted an account of this trip on his blog including a bit of uncomfortableness with another photographer who thought he was just too special to be friendly to others.

Lupines and other Wildflowers at Mount Rainier

Lupines, Paintbrush and other wildflowers around Tipsoo Lake at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State, USA

wildflowers around tipsoo lake at mount rainier national park in washington state usa

Wildflowers at Mount Rainier (Purchase)

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   Broadleaf Lupines (Lupinus latifolus), Western Anenome seedheads (Anenome occidentalis) and Common Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State, USA.

   Earlier I made a few posts showing various wildflower scenes from Mount Rainier National Park. Having edited most of my wildflower images from that trip at this point, I have to say that so far this image is my favourite. It doesn’t show a field filled with wildflowers, but more of an up close perspective. The Broadleaf Lupines (Lupinus latifolus) are certainly the highlight but I like the single Common Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) flower and the Western Anenome seedheads (Anenome occidentalis) on the side. The yellow flowers which are most likely Broadleaf Arnica (Arnica latifolia, while not in focus – do help add some color to the scene overall.

   Perhaps another reason I like this image is that it was rather difficult to actually make happen. It was windy at Tipsoo Lake that day, and the stems of these flowers aren’t rigid enough to resist swaying in the breeze. So I required a lot of patience to make this particular photograph, but I liked the composition a lot so I stuck with it!

Columbian Ground Squirrels (U. columbianus)

a columbian ground squirrel - urocitellus columbianus - posing for a portrait by its burrow at manning provincial park in british columbia, canada

Columbian Ground Squirrel
(Urocitellus columbianus)

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   A Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus) posing for a portrait at Lightning Lakes in Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada.

    I had initially figured these to be fairly wild, but unfortunately they seemed pretty unafraid of me. This was near a campground so it seems that some people have been misbehaving and feeding the wildlife. Not surprising, but disappointing. I didn’t really realize how “tame” they were until I was crouched down photographing something else and one jumped into my open camera bag likely to try to raid it for snacks. They came up empty but I suppose it pays to be bold, especially when you are literally about 1 foot away from the safety of your burrow!

   I had considered posting the photo below with only frame 2 or 4 showing the ground squirrel on its back… but that could be misconstrued as a dead squirrel. This guy scratched his back like this many times, and while I had the presence of mind to photograph it, I again forgot about the video capabilities of my Canon 7D. Ooops!

a columbian ground squirrel - urocitellus columbianus - scratching its back at manning provincial park in british columbia, canada

Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus)
doing a rolling backscratch

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This image sequence does show what he was doing though – and he’d kick his back legs like I’ve seen dogs do while scratching their backs in the same manner. It is a technique that must work!

a columbian ground squirrel - urocitellus columbianus - posing for a portrait by its burrow at manning provincial park in british columbia, canada

Columbian Ground Squirrel
(Urocitellus columbianus)

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   The fervent back scratching was soon followed by the collection of some mouthfuls of grass presumably for nesting materials. I’d woken up to the video potential at that point, and managed to record this video. I really would like to get better at recording video but usually these things come up so quickly I’m not fully prepared – and have to shoot handheld. A frequent issue is that if I am using my Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Zoom Lens with the image stabilization turned on, the sound it makes to steady the image is evident in the audio track (as is the case here). Also, if there is any breeze at all it sounds like I am blowing directly on the mic at all times. I guess this is why there is a jack for an external microphone on the 7D. Someday I may pick up one of these, but I’ll have to practice making video for a while before that is something I consider. As I shoot still photography exclusively in RAW format, I’m used to being able to tweak whatever I like after the fact. I find the video straight from the 7D to show somewhat flat colour and lack a bit of contrast. This would be easily remedied in a basic video editor I presume, but I’ve not had much luck with Quicktime Pro which about the only software I own for such purposes. The color edits don’t seem to stick with the exported movies.

   Do you record video with your DLSR? What do you use to edit the results?

Lights on the 5 Sails of Canada Place

Canada Place in Vancouver is now a trade and convention center, as well as a cruise ship port, but during Expo ’86 it was the Canadian Pavilion.

lights on the sails of canada place in vancouver, british columbia

Lights of Canada Place in Vancouver (Purchase)

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   I’ve always enjoyed the shape of the Canada Place building in downtown Vancouver. I remember it being one of the few distinctly shaped buildings in the 80’s (in addition to Harbour Center, Science World and BC Place). While Vancouver’s skyline has many new additions – Canada Place is still one of my favourites. Recently they replaced the covering on the 5 sails and projected images on them during the Olympics. Photographing them from Stanley Park I recently made this image of one of the various projected images currently on the sails. These change every few minutes or so – and sometimes this can cause some unwanted effects in a 30 second exposure! I was careful to make this image within just one variation in the lights. I like the various colour versions but this one is probably my favourite – the lights are relatively subtle.

   This is just one image from many I’ve recently added to my Vancouver Coast & Mountains Gallery.

Canon EF 1.4x Extender II Review

A review of the Canon EF 1.4x Extender II

canon ef 1.4x extender II review

The Canon EF 1.4x Extender II

a snowy owl - bubo scandiacus - hops to a different piece of driftwood at boundary bay - british columbia - canada

Snowy Owl
(Bubo scandiacus)

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   Late last summer I decided I wanted a bit more focal length than my Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Zoom Lens could offer. Not being able to afford a really long telephoto lens, I looked into the Canon Extenders. Having eliminated the 2x version, I had a choice between the Canon 1.4x EF Extender II ($350) or the newer model the Canon 1.4x EF Extender II ($499). I read many reviews of the new extender over the old one, and it just didn’t seem to be worth the extra $150, at least for me so I went with the mark II version.

pasture on vernon mountain in coldstream, british columbia

Vernon Mountain Pasture
(Bubo scandiacus)

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   An extender attaches between a compatible lens and the camera body to give some added magnification with that lens. So the Canon 1.4x EF Extender would make a 200mm focal length more like 280mm. While there can be some image degradation, this does allow for a relatively cheap way to achieve the magnification found in longer focal lengths. An extender is also lighter and smaller than a lens, coming in at only 2.9″ x 1.1″, 7.8 oz. (72.8 x 27.2mm, 220g). An extender doesn’t take up much room in your bag or add much weight during a long hike. Using the 1.4x extender your lens operates 1 stop slower than it otherwise would. So my Canon 70-200mm f/4 L IS can only open up to f/5.6, not f/4. This is something to consider, depending on the camera you are using. I’ve been happy with the results from my Canon 7D with higher ISO performance, so if I am shooting wildlife with this combination, I will bump the ISO up a bit to compensate for what would otherwise be slower shutter speeds at f/5.6.

   Of course, an extender is only as good as the lens it is sitting behind. All of the sample photos you see here were shot with the extender and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM lens. I love this lens for both wildlife and landscape shooting – and I wrote a separate review of the 70-200 here: Review of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Lens

northern pygmy-owl (glaucidium gnoma)

Northern Pygmy-Owl
(Glaucidium gnoma)
(Bubo scandiacus)

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   I asked my contacts on social media and in a few photography forums if anyone had used both the II and III versions of this extender and what they found to be improved in verion III over II. The apparent differences were not worth $150 in my opinion – especially behind the 70-200 lens I would be using it with. Many mentioned there was less Chromatic Abberation (CA) in the newest version. I decided to buy the less expensive version but to keep an eye open during post processing for CA. At this point I have only seen this in one photo, and it was a poorly exposed throwaway that was of no consequence. There still may be situations where this becomes an issue, but as I am aware of it and what shots I’ve made with the extender, I do not foresee this being an issue in the long run.

   The 1.4 extender III also has improvements in the coating on the outer pieces of glass – and it is said to not pick up fingerprints like the version II. There are also improvements to better match improvements in some of Canon’s super telephoto lenses that were released at about the same time. I am not worried about fingerprints, and I am unlikely to own some of the really long telephotos anytime soon. I can currently think of better ways to spend $8000. If I come into a landslide of money I will be able to upgrade my extender in addition to purchasing really long glass.

a flock of canada geese - branta canadensis - flying over the harrison river after feeding in the fields by kilby historic site
Canada Geese
(Branta canadensis)
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   Another issue with extenders can be image degradation. As you are placing more and more pieces of glass between your sensor and subject, image quality is likely to decrease slightly. I have not really noticed this in any of my images taken with the EF Extender II – though I am not one to do too much “pixel peeping” at 100% looking for flaws either.

   If you are on a budget and looking to get a bit more reach out of a lens like the 70-200, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender II (or a current version) might be the perfect way to do it. Using the version II for almost 8 months I’ve had no issues and am happy with the photographs I have been able to make with it. Glad to say buying this accomplished exactly the purpose for which I purchased it!