Sunday 30 December 2012

Year of the Raptor

Not the most stunning nature shot, but one that nonetheless, fit the category, "On the Prowl", and received an honourable mention in the Canadian Geographic 2012 Wildlife Photography of the Year Competition.

2012 was most definitely the year of the Raptor for me. Early in the year I travelled down to the Boundary Bay area in Delta, B.C. to photograph Bald Eagles. A place that I often passed on my commute to and from work but seemingly never having enough time to stop even for a while. With heavy concentrations of eagles in the area, I was quite content to park inland and start shooting. However, I quickly heard from word of mouth that there was a congregation of about 25 Snowy Owls wintering along the shoreline of the bay, so I made my way over. I was surprised to see busloads of birdwatchers doing the same. The owls were enjoying a bit of celebrity as hundreds of people came out to see them. But as fascinating as they were, I spotted other smaller and less noticeable raptors actively hunting, such as Northern Harriers and beautiful little Short-Eared Owls and I found them to be much more interesting. I captured a few good photos of the birds at rest and in flight and one of photos ended up with a Honourable Mention in the Canadian Geographic 2012 Wildlife Photography of the Year Competition.

Master falconer, Gary Worley and an exceptionally intelligent Great Horned Owl named Hagrid, have educated thousands over the years with their Radical Raptors show at the Greater Vancouver Zoo.

Later on during the summer months, I decided to put my son, Brad in a Falconry Camp put on by Radical Raptors at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. I’m not really sure why I thought he would like it but it was something a little bit different and I thought it would be a great experience. He reluctantly prepared himself for the first day with very little enthusiasm, but when I picked him up after the day was done, he was so jacked up, he couldn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the night, telling me what his responsibilities were, what birds were his favourites and why, and rattling off all sorts of newly learned facts about the fascinating animals. As the week came to a close, he somehow arranged to be a volunteer and we spent the next 4 or 5 weekends at the zoo. I took the opportunity to enjoy some weekend downtime and I of course took photos of the raptors as well as other animals in the zoo. I even had the privilege of holding a beautiful rescued Golden Eagle that was preparing for her future as an “Educational” bird. It was a fantastic couple of months.

A Short-Eared Owl 

Then in November, the editor of the Surrey Now, Beau Simpson, was in my son’s classroom as part of an ongoing project, and a discussion was overheard for the need of a “Bird Photographer”. Brad shot up and sang the praises of his dear old Dad to him and I was awarded with a small Freelance assignment to provide photos of birds to accompany a story that was going to run in the next paper. During a short telephone conversation, Mr. Simpson mentioned to me that it would be great if Brad had a photo to run as well, so we set out on the weekend to try and get something on file. Saturday was a bust as poor weather conditions hampered our efforts and we went home empty handed. However, we were still positive with the knowledge that we had another day to try again. The next morning, we got an early start knowing that if we wanted to get Brad a photo in the paper, we would have to yield some results, as that night was our deadline. There were good numbers of birds in the area, including a few Snowy Owls, but we spent hours without capturing anything worthwhile with our cameras. The Snowy Owls had to be accessed by way of cutting through hunting grounds and even though some people went there despite the warning signage, I refused to. I held firm in my belief that the area and it's residents should be respected and not harassed and at just about the time we were ready to call it quits, a gorgeous Short-Eared Owl miraculously came to perch on a fence post about 30 feet in front of us. It sat there and allowed us to photograph it for a good 20 minutes. Brad managed to snap a few and one of his shots ran in the paper. 

Finally, on Christmas Eve, as I entered my home with thoughts of family and Christmas vacation on my mind, I bent down to pick up the latest issue of the Now only to discover that it was the special issue that was put together by the Grade 6/7 kids from Latimer Road Elementary (of which my son is so lucky to be a part of). I smiled as I looked over the cover shot of the students and their teachers holding their iPads and newspaper copies with big smiles on their faces.

I quickly made my way to the kitchen table where I could sit and read more and as I turned the page to see that Brad had photos published to accompany a story about a field trip that the kids took to Zion Park Manor to visit with the seniors, I was filled with pride. What an amazing feeling it was to see the kids doing such a good deed!

As I read further in to the paper I came across a column that my son had written about how Birds of Prey had taught him lessons in life and I thought to myself, “This has got to be one of the best Christmas gifts ever!”

Open minds, open doors

Saturday 21 April 2012


The difference between a good day and a bad day is usually only a day.

Keep it in perspective.

Monday 9 January 2012

Harness the Power

Trainers warm up horses at Fraser Downs racetrack in Cloverdale, B.C.