Choosing a top 10 list of photos at the end of every year never seems to be easy for me. It might be better categorized as a list of favourites as my choices do not always remain the same over time. I’ve made many photos this year I am proud of, and I think illustrate improvements over my photography from previous years (always a good thing). The exercise of choosing a list of only 10 photos is difficult, but I think it is a task that is well worthwhile – and I always enjoy being a part of Jim Goldstein’s annual Your Best Photos project. I have to ask myself what I like about my images, what I don’t, and which is a stronger representation of certain categories or locations I photographed during the year. Choosing images for my yearly Calendar is the start of this task, but at the very least I still have to weed out two images from that pile.
So in no specific order: My top 10 Photographs of 2013!
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 my 70-200 + 1.4x Extender (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 70-200 f/4 IS + 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…
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.
A Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus) watching from a burrow at Lightning Lakes in Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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/4 L IS 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?
Soon after a heavy rainstorm in Manning Provincial Park I shot these photos of the clouds swirling around the mountains and ridges just off the Crowsnest Highway (Hwy 3). In the shot above Mt. McConnell emerges from the clouds. Below, the clouds swirl around a ridge on Silverdaisy Mountain. I would have loved to be able to do a time lapse at this point – the clouds were moving really fast.