Squamish Bald Eagles (Again) Jan13

Squamish Bald Eagles (Again)

This was my third time in Squamish to shoot Bald Eagles, and it will likely become an annual excursion.  Not only do I love Squamish and Brackendale, it is a great opportunity to practice wildlife photography with a photogenic subject.  Unlike my previous trip to the area when I visited in January, this time I came when the eagle concentrations were much higher.   There were several occasions when I saw up to eight eagles all trying to get one or two dead salmon, unsurprisingly some fights broke out.   As I was heading to a new location to begin my search for eagles, I saw an interesting log pincer thingy (correct name) and had to stop.  I managed to get a shot with my wide angle that included the Stawamus Chief in the background.   (As always, click to view larger.  You can also just scroll through all of the photos in a slideshow) Getting to the beach at the south end of Squamish was more fun than expected due to deep snow.  Once I arrived, there were no eagles to be seen but I did brave the elements to get this long exposure shot before I packed up and went searching for the elusive birds. First stop was near the SPCA.  Mount Garibaldi was looking majestic as usual so a quick shot was necessary. I did find a single juvenile bald eagle  Pretty sure he saw me. Also came across a Great Blue Heron Plenty of crows, which I used to practice my focus tracking for flying birds. A gang of seagulls. A few shy ducks. This is the reason the eagles are here in high concentrations, plenty of dead or dying salmon to eat.  Other bird species also enjoy the annual feast. Finally, in the most popular spot there were plenty of eagles.  These were all found off Government Road near the Watershed Grill restaurant. This one looking like he has found something interesting. As I said previously, fights were not uncommon though rarely seemed to result in any real damage.   I shot a LOT of photos to only get  a few worth keeping.  Not an easy subject to photograph. The seagulls don’t stick around to ask questions when they see the eagles coming in. Another fight sequence.   This guy wanted to make sure the young eagle knew who the boss was. And a few more shots.  It certainly won’t be my last time visiting the area.          ...

Squamish Bald Eagles Jan13

Squamish Bald Eagles

I was eager to try out my new Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 VR lens that I received for Christmas from my lovely wife.  I knew that Bald Eagles were likely still in Squamish as I had been there previously.  I ventured out one very old morning to see what I could capture. The sun was rising as I pulled into Squamish and I noticed it was illuminating Mount Garibaldi.  I decided to see how the lens performs for a long distance landscape shot.  Nice detail despite the distance. The rig The shot I then walked around one of my favorite spots in south Squamish and did encounter a few eagles. One thing I realized is that I have a lot to learn about wildlife photography, especially birds. Learning how to use a telephoto lens has a fairly steep learning curve, and trying to capture birds in flight makes it even harder.  I took a lot of shots but only have a few keepers and even those I’m only mildly satisfied with.  Having said that, the combination certainly does help in comparison to shooting with my iPhone. Eagle shot with iPhone Same eagle with a Nikon D810 and Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR lens.  Anyone claiming “gear doesn’t matter” hasn’t tried to shoot wild eagles. I relocated several times but had a hard time finding eagles.  I found out later that there are much higher concentrations of eagles in early December and by January they have started to depart as most of the salmon that they are feeding on are gone.  It was still a beautiful day so I made the most of it by shooting some landscape shots.  Even some with my iPhone. My trusty Tacoma, it never disappoints. This was actually a hand-held shot with the Nikkor 200-500 lens.  Shutter speed was relatively long but the VR system helped me get an acceptably sharp shot. After more driving around and looking in a few spots I have never visited before I did find a few more eagles.  Didn’t get the focus or composition right in all of the photos, but I did get a lot of practice in tracking eagles in flight. Finally, a comparison of iPhone vs Nikon.  See that moon in the top right? Now a little closer with the...

Nikon D800 vs iPhone 4S Aug14

Nikon D800 vs iPhone 4S

I was at Newell Lake near Brooks, Alberta with my brother a few weeks ago and as the sun was setting I tried to capture a few photos.  It was a warm evening which would have otherwise been pleasant if it wasn’t for the swarm of mosquitoes.  I was literally getting destroyed by the things, but pushed on and got some shots.  The specific location for the shots was this small peninsula. First, the iPhone photo (showing the Nikon D800).   Next, the image from the Nikon D800 with Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 lens. This is actually a 7 shot exposure bracket combined in an HDR image using Photomatix.   Both images scaled to 2048 on the long edge. If you look close, I think you will agree that the D800 has a slight edge in image quality here...

Antrodiaetus pacificus Trapdoor Spider Aug14

Antrodiaetus pacificus Trapdoor Spider

I was walking my dogs near the University of British Columbia (UBC) today and came across a spider I have not encountered before.  It looked like a small tarantula: similar body shape, hairy, black, and rather menacing.  I only had my iPhone 4S with me (wish I had the D800 and 105mm VR Micro) and took a few photos before moving on. It turns out this is a trapdoor spider (or folding-door spider) and fairly common in this area.  They are not often seen because they tend to stay in their burrow.  This one is specifically Antrodiaetus pacificus, and it is a type of tarantula.  It is likely a male out of his burrow in search of a mate. More info on these guys here (PDF).  Also found this video on...

UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research Jul15

UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research...

Last weekend, my wife and I paid a visit to the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research (at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver).  Despite having lived in Vancouver a combined 35 years it was the first visit for both of us.  We were very fortunate because one of the volunteers, Dana, took us for a private tour as no one else was there for a tour when we arrived.  He spent several hours with us, taking us first on the Greenheart Canopy Walkway, which is a series of bridges and platforms in the trees.  It’s a bit wobbly, but fun at the same time.  Also, you get an interesting view from up there that you don’t often see.  The canopy system is hung from the trees but is done in such a way that it doesn’t harm the tree, it’s rather amazing actually and the only one of its kind in Canada.   There are a lot of vines in the garden, from all over the world.   It’s not all plants and flowers.   Though there are a lot of beautiful flowers as well.   They also have a big garden with all kinds of edible things.   Including the most interesting way to grow fruit.  These trees are trained to grow at an angle and only have branches in one plane.  Because of the angle, the tree bears fruit much sooner than they would otherwise.  Also, they are very easy to pick being no more than six feet high, some only a foot with branches parallel to the ground.  I wish I remember what this growing style was, if you know please leave a message in the comments below. UPDATE: The technique of training trees in this manner is called Espalier (thanks to Wendy Cutler!).   In one section, they have plants from all of the continents including a lot of desert varieties.  Apparently there are fire ants too, though I didn’t see any.   There is also a section of the garden dedicated to plants used in the medical field.  This sundial is in the middle, accurate though doesn’t adjust well for daylight savings time :)   We found this interesting bee hive, which was a temporary art installation.  The solar panels provide energy to open and close it daily.   Finally, there is a fantastic water fountain the garden located in the amphitheatre.  It was designed by William Pye who installs these amazing water sculptures all over the world.  I’ll have to go back to get more...

Birds At Acadia Beach in Vancouver, BC Jul10

Birds At Acadia Beach in Vancouver, BC

Took a short walk with my dogs on Acadia Beach today.  The best time for birds, especially Great Blue Herons, seems to be on the rising tide early in the morning.  The Herons like to walk around in the shallow water and pick off smelt and other small fish who are too dumb to notice a three foot tall bird. I didn’t get any stellar shots today but did see a Bald Eagle, a few Great Blue Herons, Geese, and a few of the usual suspects as well.   Overall, a fun day and always nice when an eagle is around.  The birds were quite far away so these are crops from much bigger images shot with the Nikon D800 and 80-200 f/2.8D lens.  In cases like this, a longer lens would sure be nice.  If an updated 80-400mm VR becomes available I may be tempted to sell the current zoom and go for the bigger reach.  Teleconverters do not work with the 80-200.  There was also a strong backlight so I had to dial up the shadow recovery introducing some noise. I definitely got some better shots when I went to Brackendale to shoot the Bald Eagles with a borrowed 400mm f/2.8.   Impressive talons on this guy, wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of those.   The geese didn’t seem to care that a top predator was in the area.   The heron also went about his business catching fish. I even managed to catch a crow in flight.   The image above was rescued from a very underexposed shot.  The screenshot below shows the impressive dynamic range of the Nikon D800 which allowed me to recover the shadows and save the image, if only for web use....

Nikon D800 Macro and Focus Stack Jun23

Nikon D800 Macro and Focus Stack

When I was mowing the lawn, I came across a bee in the grass. I’m not sure what type of bee it is, but it could be one of the solitary ground dwelling types that can be found here. One of the wings was much shorter than the other and I don’t think it could fly. I put the bee in a safe place and took a few shots. The shots were taken with a Nikon D800 and AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens. I have another set of photos shot with the 105mm here (lower light, hand-held). Update: I found out this isn’t a bee after all, but a hoverfly (Narcissus fly).  It mimics bees as a defense against predators.  Very cool. This shot is a single image converted from RAW but cropped from a much bigger frame. ISO 360, 1/125 second shutter at f/9. I also took a few more images focus stacked them with Zerene Stacker, turned out better than I expected considering this is also a significant crop. And a flower I shot shortly after, also a single image converted from RAW.   And an image I shot previously.  The detail when shooting the D800 with this lens is just...

Poppin’ Pollen May06

Poppin’ Pollen

Yesterday I noticed what I thought was smoke in the kitchen but had no idea where it was coming from. As I was looking around, I saw that a flower on the counter was shooting out pollen. I have never seen anything like this, so I had to grab my camera and shoot a short video. I have never seen anything like this! I’m assuming this is not a common sight, otherwise I would have seen it myself before (we have a lot of plants) or I would have seen it somewhere online. Regardless, I had to capture it on video so others would not think I’m crazy :) Shot with the Nikon D800, 1080p, 105mm f/2.8 VR lens.  View the HD video on Youtube....

Page 1 of 212