Four thousand words was the initial length of this blog post. 4000 words! I could not subject my blog readers to such a long read, hence my 2018 reflections and twelve lessons have been chopped into three parts. I hope you enjoy part 1 or 3!
1. Combined energy is greater than the power of one
I was ecstatic to capture my first ever bobcat images in January 2018. From a visual perspective, many of the images I captured met the various criteria for ‘good’ wildlife photography: good exposure, eye contact, texture and detail, full-body view with little/no distractions, a clean back-ground. It was one of those amazing scenarios where we were blessed with decent light, a patient subject and good visibility – all elements that greatly enhance a photographer’s ability to capture great images.
Yet photographing from a vehicle meant there was little room to shift positions and perspectives, look for uniqueness and creatively evaluate how best to place the animal in the environment. This is not uncommon in the world of wildlife photography.
Some might assume it was all about luck, being at the right place at the right time, but there is soooo much more involved than simply finding an animal and taking a photo. The journey that led myself and three friends to this beautiful cat is as intricate and detailed as the softly-striped textures woven into the bobcat’s fur. I have come to realize that the time, energy and effort it takes to manifest a wildlife-related desire is often a long and complex process – part analytical, part creative, part intuitive and part unknown.
For this image, I wanted to acknowledge the power of combined energy among a group of passionate co-conjurers. Me and my good friends Jill Cooper, Simon Jackson and Jamie Pentney all played a part in allowing this bobcat to reveal herself to us on a frosty January morning. Simon, unfortunately, was across the country and not physically present (click below to read the full story), but he was there in spirit and integral to the manifestation.
Read more here:
2. Never dwell on the ‘if onlys‘
That sinking feeling of ‘if only I did x’ is akin to a haunting from an evil spirit. During my trip to Delta (Vancouver) BC in early February, I made the wrong decision, resulting in me missing the chance to photograph a long-sought-after photo subject – the Barn Owl, a beautiful owl with a heart-shaped face.
I was in an area where barn owls are known to appear around sunset, and I lost patience. I left the scene too early. I had been waiting for a couple of hours with a group of fellow photographers and was getting cold, tired, hungry and anxious to check out one more potential owl spot before the day was done.
Just after I left, I learned from another photographer, the sun broke through the ominous clouds, bathing the coastline in golden magnificence. As if summoned by the light, two barn owls appeared and proceeded to dance eloquently through the sky, their wings tinged yellow by the light of the setting sun. Dolphins could be seen in the distant ocean diving under a vibrant rainbow. An angelic presence descended from above, deeming the scene to be the most beautiful spectacle ever to be seen by humans in the history of the world.
Okay, I’m exaggerating, but only a bit 😉
‘Well crap,’ I thought, ‘what was I thinking leaving before sunset!?’
Salt in the wound was the fact that I did not see the other potential owl I left to find. However, I was treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen:
And was presented with the magnificence of Dunlin murmurations, a phenomenon I had never seen before.
While difficult to come to terms with missing the barn owls, I realized Mother Nature always provides the opportunity to observe miraculous beauty – we just need to make sure we don’t allow ourselves to get too stuck in the dreaded ‘if onlys.’
3. When physical clues disappear, follow your gut (or your friend’s gut)
The beckoning call of ‘who-cooks-for-you‘ faded to an unbearable nothing, leaving three weary photographers disappointed and silent. My friends Jamie, Stacey Sartoretto and myself were standing on the edge of a narrow path in the mountains, peering down a snowy slope where the sound disappeared. We were all hoping to find the source of the call – a large bird with dark, expressive eyes and downy streaked feathers, the Barred Owl
Time passed – minutes? hours? – I’m not sure, but the call did not resume, leaving us with no further clues as to the specific location. A determined Stacey was not willing to give up. Still being silent as to not disturb a potentially close owl, he signaled his plan to Jamie and I with a few hand gestures. He was heading down the slope for a closer look. Jamie and I watched as he carefully navigated downwards. After retreating about 30 meters or so, we saw him stop, look up, raise his hand and summon us to join.
Excitement surged through my body as I struggled to work my way down the slope in silence. The excitement was replaced with awe when my eyes landed on this stunningly beautiful owl.
Cautious of the impact of our presence, we observed and photographed the owl from a safe distance for only a few minutes before heading back up to the path.
Even though we had followed obvious audible clues to the owl’s general location, finding him 30 meters from where we were standing in a network of dense trees was still a remarkable feat. Who knows specifically what drew Stacey to that very spot? I believe intuition/gut were at least partially responsible.
Thanks to Stacey for his persistence 🙂 I can’t describe how much I love these amazing owls.
4. In order to out-smart a river otter, you have to think like a river otter
For this lesson, the title says it all. Well the title, along with the full story of Jamie and I going head to head with a clever weasel, found here:
And just for fun, here is a previously unpublished image from my trip to Prince Albert National Park.