Nature

Hwy 40 Views
Hwy 40 View: ISO 200, 15mm, f/8, 1/125

I have always wanted to take a drive on Alberta's Highway 40 which passes through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. I finally managed to do that while my parents came out to visit us this fall.

It was a beautiful day. This image was taken near the end of the drive as the sun was starting to come down in the west.

Juvenile Robin
Juvenile Robin: ISO 200, 210mm, f/7.1, 1/500

There is a man made marsh in our neighbourhood park system. I went to snap some photos of blackbirds and waterfowl this afternoon.

One rule of photography is always look behind you to see what you are missing. I took a look behind me and this young Robin was checking me out atop of a fence post.

Duck and Heron
Nose Creek Great Blue Heron and Duck: ISO 800, 210mm, f/7.1, 1/250

It has been awhile since I posted anything to my photo blog. Spring has come early to Airdrie, Alberta. The vegetation is turning green early. We have been in need of rain and it has finally fallen this past weekend and today.

I had to take a walk today and thought I would do some exploring along the banks of the Nose Creek. The waterfowl are out as well as this Great Blue Heron.




Fading Summer Aspens
Fading Summer Aspens, Heart Mountain Trail, Alberta, Canada

Read More...

 After the Storm Downtown Calgary
Downtown Calgary Hail Storm 2015: ISO 800, 15mm, f/5.6, 1/45

The wife and I went out for supper last night and we decided to be adventurous and try a new restaurant. The car I was driving took us to downtown Calgary. After supper we took a walk along Stephen Avenue, Eau Claire Market, Prince's Island Park and through Chinatown before heading back to the car.

We walked past a few of the Downtown Community Gardens that were set up for the local food banks. We were very sad when we saw what the August 4th Hail Storm did to these well intentioned gardens. As you can see there is basically nothing left of most of the plants.

Although we had a wonderful supper last night after seeing this damage both our stomachs were not feeling all that settled.

After the Storm Carnage
Downtown Calgary Hail Damaged Community Garden: ISO 800, 35mm, f/5.6, 1/45

Pulverized lettuce in one of the hail damaged Downtown Calgary Community Garden. It basically looks like mulch.

 After the Storm Prince's Island Park Calgary
Prince's Island Park Hail Damaged Black Eyed Susie: ISO 320, 85mm, f/5.6, 1/30

These Black Eyed Susans were under trees in Prince's Island Park. They still suffered damaged from the August 4th Calgary hailstorm.

Watchful Wolf at the Calgary Zoo
Watchful Wolf: ISO 800, 110mm, f/4.0, 1/250

We are currently experiencing spring like weather here in the Calgary area. I took advantage of a warm, overcast day and headed to the Calgary Zoo with my annual Membership pass. I figured if I was willing to go out and enjoy the fresh air, so would the animals at the Zoo. I will share more of my snaps in the coming days.

This wolf was pacing in her enclosure. I believe she was watching for elk in the next enclosure over.

Baby Mountain Sheep with Mom Tall Calgary Alberta
Mothers Day: ISO 200, 70mm, f/4.6, 1/800

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend! This image shows the special relationship between mother and child.

This is also proof that spring is finally here. A mother mountain sheep keeping her infant close by at the Calgary Zoo. The baby sheep is showing off her leaping abilities by leaping as high she can. If the baby sheep could talk she would probably being saying to her mom, “Watch This! Watch This!”

Feeding Squirrel
Feeding Squirrel: ISO 800, 200mm, f/6.3, 1/160

Feeding Squirrel II
Feeding Squirrel II: ISO 800, 149mm, f/6.3 1/125

Peering Squirrel
Peering Squirrel: ISO 800, 159mm, f/6.3, 1/160

I filled our bird feeder earlier this week. The neighbourhood squirrels are feasting on the sunflower seeds and peanuts. There is a Blue Jay flying around the backyard waiting his turn and squeaking is displeasure that he has to wait.

Bat in Umbrella
Bat Hiding in Umbrella: ISO 800, 122mm, f/4.0, 1/125

I opened up one of our patio umbrellas yesterday afternoon and noticed this little bat hiding from the sun.

I didn’t have any True Blood to offer him!

Chickadee Surprise © Chris Bates 2013
Chickadee Watching: ISO 200, 200mm, f/6.3, 1/1250

As I was waiting for the wrens to come back and feed their new additions to their family this chickadee perched right in front of me.

Wren Feeding Time
Breakfast Time: ISO 200, 200mm, f/6.3, 1/1600

I set up a bunch of bird houses in our backyard a few years ago. Every year but the last a wren pair had used one of them to start a new family. This year I was losing hope that they would again not use a house . It seemed they were busy building a nest in the neighbours’ trees.

Last week the wrens were getting agitated whenever someone or something invaded our backyard. Watching the wrens revealed that they had set up a nest in the birdhouse I set up in our garage side garden.

I got this image by sitting down on the lawn waiting for the wren to take its usual path from the back fence to the bird house. As you can see by the picture the bug is almost as big as this small bird. I also took the shot mid morning so that the low sun would illuminate the garden and bird.

Chickadee, Chris Bates, Photography, Red Deer, Alberta, nature
Chickadee Feeding: ISO 640, 140mm, f/5.6, 1/750

This is another shot from my previous post. Waiting for the Blue Jays to come to the feeder and tis small guy kept fluttering from the trees to the feeder.

That is a sunflower seed in his bill.

Yellow Rumped Warbler (1)
Yellow Rumped Warbler: ISO 640, 360mm, f/5.6, 1/1000

It has been awhile since I last updated my journal. When I started this project I wanted to post at least once a week. It seems now I am lucky to post at least once a month. Life is racing by and I have little time for my passion of photography. I have to make a conscious effort to not let this happen. I have to remember why I love spending time with my cameras.

The above image is such an example of why I must make this time.

Last month (September) Blue Jays were coming to my backyard feeders carrying away food for fall. Blue Jays love to hide food almost anywhere including compost heaps, eavestroughs, planters etc. I grabbed my cameras and sat on the deck by the feeder waiting for these big birds to return for more food.

As I waited patiently I started snapping shots of the other birds playing in the backyard. First, it was the common house sparrows. Then a chickadee fluttered back and forth from the trees to the feeder. Then I noticed a moving patch of yellow in the apple tree. I quickly focused and got a shot of this bird.

When new birds come to the backyard I usually want to get reference pictures so that I can identify them later with my Peterson Field Guide. I don’t want to scare the bird so as you can see my zoom is out quite away (360mm). I am hand holding the camera as birds tend to move about rapidly. To get the fast shutter speed I have to turn the ISO up. The picture isn’t the sharpest under these conditions but I usually have enough good snap shots to be able to identify the new visitor.

From my research in the Peterson Field Guide and Google I came to the conclusion this was a Yellow Rumped Warbler. I posted this image on Flickr and had one of my contacts confirm that I identified this bird correctly.

I am excited by these new finds. I live within a 10 minute walk to downtown of a city with close to 92,000 people. The backyard is like an oasis in this busy city. I must take the time to stop and marvel at the sights and not let life get too busy for my passions.

Hide and Seek Squirrel foraging for food Chris Bates Photography
Hide and Seek Squirrel: ISO 250, 85mm, f/5.6, 1/180

HIde and Seek Squirrel foraging for Food
Hide and Seek Squirrel II: ISO 250, 85mm, f/5.6, 1/180

I was cooking Sunday supper at the BBQ when I noticed something running back and forth along our garage wall. I turned around and this squirrel wanted to play Hide n’Seek or Peek-a-boo.

At the time I only had my iPhone in my pocket. I called into the house for Angela to grab the “Heavy Duty” camera. I thought I was too late as the squirrel had vanished.

A few minutes later he had come back to play his games with me.


Squirrel on old wagon wheel foraging for food
Squirrel on old Wheel: ISO 250, 80mm, f/5.6, 1/60

The shot above you can see that the tail is out of focus. He was busy twitching it. Warning me that he was getting agitated with how close I was getting.

The squirrels in the neighbourhood are busy foraging for food. They have been chewing off branches of the neighbour’s Mountain Ash tree to get the berries. Today, I watched another one busy carrying pines cones along the neighbour’s fence.

Orange Lily, nature, floral, Alberta, macro
Orange Lily: ISO 200, 35mm, f/5.6, 1/800

Our neighbour over the last couple of years has given us lilies to plant in our garden. I guess they multiply rapidly and she doesn’t like to waste flowers. I believe she sees them as a major investment.

This year they have finally bloomed and there is an abundance of them. I cheated by adding a little Miracle Grow a few times.

This was taken a couple of evenings ago as the sun was setting. I was trying to capture the shadows of the stamen and carpel of the plant. See Mom, I paid attention in science class!

Peony, bud, bloom, ant, ladybug, macro, nature
Before and After: Peony Bud and Bloom

We have a few peony plants in our garden. We notice that ants seem to love the bud heads in early spring.

After doing some reading the peony and ant seem to have a symbiotic relationship. The peony bud produces nectar to attract ants. The ants are protective of food sources which in turn will keep other pests away. The end result is well feed ants and beautiful and huge peony blooms.

Ant Peony Macro Ladybug nature
Ladybug and Ant: ISO 800, 35mm, f/7.1, 1/100

As promised another ladybug image to share.

This ladybug is sharing a peony bud with an ant. The ladybug was sitting perfectly still while the ant was probing this large creature with her antenna.

Ladybug Lupin Time Warp illusion backyard nature
Ladybug on Lupin (Bottoms Up): ISO 800, 35mm, f/5.0, 1/30

Angela pointed this opportunity out to me on on of her afternoon backyard garden walks.

Just like the previous image, I have used my Tokina 35mm 2.8 Macro lens to capture this close up of a Ladybug head first in a branch of Lupin leaves.

This year we seem to have an over abundance of ladybugs in our backyard. I will have more images to share.

Ladybug on Leaf macro ladybug Alberta Canada
Ladybug on Leaf: ISO 800, 35mm, f/2.8, 1/4000

I was enjoying the spring sunshine one afternoon last week and noticed this lone ladybug checking out the leafy foliage of some of our perennials.

I used my Tokina 35mm f/2.8 macro lens to capture this image.

Spring Shake Up House Sparrow fluffy bird
House Sparrow fluffing up his feathers: ISO 200, 320mm, f/5.6, 1/1500

Sitting on the Fence side profile house sparrow
Sitting on the Fence: ISO 200, 320mm, f/5.6, 1/1500

Spring feels like it is finally here. The birds are out playing and enjoying the new foliage.

The above shots are of the same male house sparrow. Enjoying the sun while sitting on our fence.


Tulips eaten by deer, Red Deer, Alberta, nature, nuisance
Half Eaten Tulips: ISO 200, 47mm, f/2.8, 1/500

This past winter the deers took a liking to our backyard. At first I thought this was pretty neat then I seen all the deer droppings.

I also noticed that the birds were no longer visiting our feeder. Even the magpies and crows were staying away.

I managed to get a shot of a deer at our bird feeder helping himself to the nice mixture of seeds and nuts early one morning. The quality is not the greatest. I was fresh out of bed and quickly set the camera settings to ISO 800 and shot with the lens wide open. I also had to shoot through our dirty back door window so that I would not startle the deer before he ran away.

This is why the birds have not been visiting. I will have to give the feeder a real good cleaning hoping to wash the deer smell off it!

As the snow started to melt and the spring flowers came up I noticed that they were also a tempting food source for our four legged friends as you can see by the picture above. I will not have many tulip pictures this spring as the deer have eaten most of them.

Deer at Feeder, nuisance, backyard, nature
Deer at Bird Feeder: ISO 800, 35mm, f/2.8, 1/13

Tip: When taking photos of wildlife I have learned that it is best to take your shots early and then move in a step and take another shot. Keep doing this in a slow steady action until the subject “flees”.

Bohemian Waxwings, Mountain Ash, Birds, Feeding
Birds: ISO 200, 53mm, f/4.5, 1/4000

A followup to my previous post.

This is where the flock of flying waxwings were headed. The neighbour’s Mountain Ash (Right Side of Picture) provides many tiny berries for a large quantity of birds to feed. I wonder how these tiny branches can handle the number of birds that perch on them.


Formation Flying: ISO 200, 15mm, f/8.0, 1/2000

The bohemian waxwings came back to our yard this winter for another feeding. The sound this amount of birds make is surreal.

This is just a small bunch of the birds. Most of them were in the trees behind me feasting.

yellow warbler, Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Red Deer, Alberta
Yellow Warbler: ISO 200, 200mm, f/8.0, 1/750

Waiting for spring to arrive. This yellow warbler was captured last spring at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Red Deer, Alberta during one of my nature walks.


Mating Dance 1: ISO 200, 200mm, F/4, 1/1000



Mating Dance 2: ISO 200, 200mm, f/4, 1/1000

House Sparrows love our neighbourhood. They love the trees and the food everyone leaves out for them.

Watching them over the years you get used to their quirky behaviour. Once and awhile you will notice a male showing off to a female by keeping his chest low, wings down, and tail up going into some sort of dance that resembles an epileptic seizure. When I see it, I tell my wife the sparrows are "chicken dancing."

The camera doesn't quite capture it. I will have to carry my little Kodak Playsport around with me more often to try to capture video.

Duck, Peterborough, Ontario, feed, tame
Duck out of Water: ISO 400, 140mm, f/4, 1/60

This is another shot I took while visiting family near Peterborough, Ontario. The ducks along the river banks of Peterborough are known for being pretty tame and not really afraid of people.

I did not bring my tripod. I was lucky to get a fairly sharp image while hand holding the camera at the 140mm focal length using a slow shutter speed of 1/60th of a second.

Great Blue Heron, Youngs Point OntarioWater, Youngs Point, Ontario, fishing, Tai ChiGreat Blue Heron, Strike, fishingGreat Blue Heron, fish, fishing, Youngs Point, Ontario

Just returned from a trip from Ontario visiting family. My father and brother in law (who was visiting from South Africa) decided to go fishing at Youngs Point one night after supper. I went along with my camera.

Dad called me over to his fishing spot and told me that I had to check out the Great Blue Heron standing at the bottom of the dam. It was close to sunset so I had to set my ISO to 800 in order to get a fast shutter speed while using my telephoto lens.

Dad and my brother in law never caught a fish that night but while watching the Heron he had caught two. Looks like he had the better fishing spot picked out!

\
Pair of Theives: ISO 400, 163mm, f/4, 1/1500

Nature, water drops, flower, green, Red Deer, Alberta
All Roads Lead to the Centre: ISO 200, 200mm, f/5.6, 1/125

We have had plenty of rain the last 2 weeks. Our plants are loving it especially when the burst of heat comes.

This is leaves of a lupine waiting for the suns rays.

Common Loon, Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Red Deer, Alberta
Common Loon: ISO 200, 380mm, f/8, 1/800

I went for a short walk from the house on Friday morning to the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. It is nice in a way that I can walk 10 minutes east and hit downtown Red Deer and 10 minutes north I can hit a nature sanctuary and feel as though I have left the city.

I moved to Alberta more than 15 years ago from Ontario, Canada. I spent most of my teenage/early adult life in "Cottage Country" where the loon is a common sight. The call of the loon is eerie and at the same time comforting. I was happy to see four Common Loons playing and calling to each other during my walk on the shores of the Gaetz Lakes in the Nature Centre. It was like I had walked home!

I was lucky enough to capture this one showing off.


Waxwings, Chris Bates, Photography, nature, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
The Invasion: ISO 320, 200mm, f/8, 1/90

On my way home from work today I noticed the neighbour's crab apple tree was covered with a blanket of Waxwings. I finished my drive home, parked the car in the garage, ran into the house, said hello to my wife, headed downstairs to grab the camera, said I will be back to my wife and then walked to the end of the alley to get some pics of the birds and tree.

I was able to get quite close to these birds. A passerby by said to me that he heard the birds get a little intoxicated by the fermented apples so maybe that is why they are not as skitish as usual.

Click here to see a larger version of this picture.

Fall Sunset House Sparrow Raspberry
Warm Sunset: ISO 320, 170mm, f/5.6, 1/250

Some visitors did not like my last post. It was sad but that is how nature works. I had no hand in but just document what I see.

This is not a winter image but needed to show that with the bad comes good.

This is a lone house sparrow visting our backyard and the remaining raspberries and enjoying the warmth of a fall sunset.

Death Mouse Cold Winter snow covered
Harsh Reality of Winter: ISO 200, 90mm, f/5.6, 1/250

It has been cold here the last week. Minus 20 Celcius weather. I went outside to take pictures of the snow covered fences and vegetation this morning and I noticed this poor little guy on our sidewalk. There has been so much snow that we have been shovelling at least once a day. We might have buried the way to his home or his food source.

Photoblog Awards

Downy Woodpecker, nature, bird, Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Alberta
Preparing for the Storm: ISO 400, 200mm, f/4, 1/350

Went for a walk at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre yesterday while the weather was still relatively warm (Just below 0 degrees ceclius).

This was the only bird I could get close enough to photograph during my hike but I could hear chickadees and waxwings playing in the woods. My lens just couldn't reach far enough to catch them. This Downy Woodpecker was busy searching for food. He must sense the winter storm the weather people are predicting for this weekend.

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada, mountains, landscape
Mitsaya Canyon, Banff National Park: ISO 200, 18mm, f/8, 1/15

I have to make up for the spider picture. Got some complaints. ;)

Hope you enjoy this one more. Took this in October when we went to Banff National Park for the day. A few hours drive from the house.

Poppies Remembrance Day Veterans Day
Poppies: ISO 400, 250mm, f/4.5, 1/250

Remembrance Day is coming up. I have a few images I want to share this week in honour of this very important day.

Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote a poem called "In Flanders Fields." From this poem poppies have become a symbol of the sacrifices men and women have made during times of conflict.

The colour of the Remembrance Day poppy is significant as well. Red is a symbol of the bloodshed of trench warfare during World War I. In Canada, we wear the poppy close to our heart.

We grow poppies in our backyard garden and they alllow me to remember sacrifices whenever they bloom. These two images I am sharing today are identical. Top image is in colour and the bottom is in black and white.

It was interesting when I did some post processing work on the original image and discovered that the red colour turned to white, which is a symbol of peace, when converted to black and white.


Poppies Remembrance Day Veterans Day

House Sparrow, Rose Bush, Autumn, Fall, Fence, Colour
House Sparrow on the Fence: ISO 320, 240mm, f/4.5, 1/2000

My previous post I showed you the rose leaves on the ground. This post I will show you the ones still remaining on the bush.

It has been unseasonably warm here and the animals in our neighbourhood are taking full advantage of this. The house sparrows were playing in our backyard this morning paying me no attention.

Chris Bates Photography Red Deer Alberta Canada nature fall
Falling Leaf: ISO 200, 90mm, f/5.6, 1/90

The leaves are changing colour and falling off the trees. We are experiencing an "Indian Summer" right now. Warm summer like temperatures and sunny skies.

This image was taken just before sunset at Michener Hill which is about 5 blocks from the house. This hill overlooks downtown and the river valley.

Chris Bates Photographer Red Deer Alberta Canada duck nature pond
Like Water off a Ducks Back: ISO 400, 190mm, f/6.7, 1/350

Fall is here. I have seen Canada Geese flying south for the winter.

I took this in August at Bower Ponds in Red Deer. These ducks are pretty tame and you can get pretty close to them. These two might already be headed south for the winter as this shiny pond will soon become a cold hard surface in a few months.

Update to Coming Out



As promised, the video of a baby wren falling out of its nest. I am also posting below a shorter clip of the wren coming back and hanging on a leaf. The baby wrens have no real tail yet.

Coming Out


Baby on Bark: ISO 800, 90mm, f/19, 1/250

Gaining Strength: ISO 800, 90mm, f/8, 1/250

Peering Out: ISO 800, 90mm, f/8, 1/45

The backyard is very quiet now. The House Wrens have left the crabapple tree and our yard. I was very fortunate to have the day off when the babies left the nest. I am still processing the images and video!

The above shots were of two different babies. The first two photos are of the same bird. He/she was the first to literally fall out of the nest. The bottom picture is the second bird to fall out. I managed to video record the second baby falling out. I will upload here when I get a chance.

I ended up using my Tamron 90mm 2.8 Macro lens to get these shots. My zoom lens could not focus at the short distance I was able to get to the nest. My 35mm was not filling the frame and I would have to crop a lot of the shots. I forgot how versatile the 90mm is for not only macro but for all other shooting situations.

I also had to increase the camera ISO to 800. This was uncharted territory for my newest camera (Canon 40D). One of the reasons I hunted it down on Ebay was because it was to have good image quality and low noise at 800 ISO or less. I am very happy with the results. You can detect noise in the darker areas of the photos but the detail is still pretty good in my opinion. I hope you agree.

Pushing my Luck






Open Wide: ISO 400, 100mm, f/5.6, 1/30 (Same Settings for Both Pics)

Well the baby wren's are getting bigger. Parents are flying around looking for bugs to feed them every 5-10 minutes it seems.

The parents are very agitated when I peer into the apple tree to snap shots. I don't want to push my luck too much. I noticed my settings weren't the greatest on my camera. I didn't check them before I peered in. I should have set my aperture to around 8 or 11 but then I might have had to push up my ISO to get the faster shutter speed.

I bought a Kodak Playsport Video Recorder and have set it up to record the feedings. Video will follow shortly. From what I seen yesterday there is 3 baby birds in the house.




Update: Here is the Video Link. I adjust the camera at the beginning and the babies hear the rustle of the leaves and pop their beaks out real quick then Mom comes and makes her warning call. At the end of the clip she comes back and feeds the kids.

Messed Up


Poppy in Snow: ISO 200, 90mm, f/5, 1/250

I have been going through my photo library the last few days and have noticed some photos I have not shared. Well, okay there are a few thousand but only a few I deem worthy enough to share with you.

The weather here has been normal spring weather for Alberta, Canada. Warm weather one day and sub zero temperatures the next. However, we are currently experiencing a very dry spring. The local governments have declared drought in some regions.

The "Poppy in Snow" image was taken last May and cleary shows the spring weather we experience where I live.

Downtown Edmonton


Edmonton Skyline: ISO 100, 28mm, f/8, 1/500

Last week I had to drive to Edmonton for an appointment. Edmonton is an hour and a half drive north from Red Deer. You may have heard of Edmonton back in the 1980s when the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers were winning the Stanley Cup with a player by the name of Wayne Gretzky. Edmonton is also the Capital City of the Province of Alberta much to Calgary's displeasure.

This picture is taken from Edmonton's River Valley which is a dedicated Park System that runs along the North Saskatchewan River. We are looking up into downtown. The tallest building downtown is only 35 Storeys and is hiding behind the "Telus" building.



Hotel MacDonald: ISO 100, 53mm, f/8, 1/350

The Hotel MacDonald was built in 1912 and was named after Canada's First Prime Minister (Sir John A. MacDonald). It is like the other Railway Hotels that the Canadian National Railway built in the Chateau Style. In 1983 the City of Edmonton almost lost this historic building to demolition.

The Low Level Bridge was also Edmonton's first bridge across the North Saskatchewan River it was completed in 1900.


Ice Flow: ISO 320, 33mm, f/8, 1/180

As it is spring here the ice is slowing melting. Here is a picture of a chunk of ice floating East towards the Low Level Bridge. Good thing the Titanic was too big to sail along this river.