Archive for Wolf


Posted in Natural History, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by chamimage

Emerald Lake_Yoho

Things I learned in Banff last week:

1. The Canadian Rockies are still beautiful. It had been 14 years since I had visited.

2. You really do need to keep shooting photographs to keep in practice. I made a whole bunch of stupid mistakes the first couple of days.

3. The new Nikon D4 has, for some reason, turned the exposure meter in the viewfinder upside down as opposed to the previous six Nikon cameras I have owned. I have been shooting long enough that I usually dial in exposure compensation without looking in the viewfinder so this caused some problems. After an embarrassingly long time I finally found the sub menu that turned the exposure meter readout back right-side up. THEN the main command dial dialed the exposure the wrong direction so I had to go back in and find a sub menu that let me reverse that as well.

4. I use the function button on the front of the camera for the virtual horizon so I don’t have to purchase ($35) and use one of those hot shoe bubbles that I always manage to break off. The virtual horizon in my brand new, extremely expensive Nikon D4 does not work. Neither does the multi-selector on the back of the camera you use to go back through images (chimp). Okay, it sort of works. Press it three times it might finally back up one image, or two images at one time. Or not. Not stuff that is worth sending the camera in to Nikon repair and never see it again for a month, but irksome in a brand new camera. The important stuff all works.

Aspen Grove

5. One of the reasons I went to Banff was to try to shoot a calendar photo of an elk. I failed. One reason is because elk are getting to be scarce in Banff. They have had to bring elk up from Yellowstone to maintain the breeding capacity. Not sure why. Wolf haters blame wolves, but they have always had wolves in Banff. The wolves did come into town and kill the tame local elk, which they weren’t really supposed to do. Of course they shot them for fear of the big bad wolf. These elk are as far north as elk can survive so it could be that heavier snow fall has simply made it impossible for them to survive winter. They don’t have a National Elk Reserve to migrate to in winter like the Yellowstone elk do.

6. Another reason I didn’t get a calendar photo of an elk is because the backgrounds are awful in Banff. Banff is woodsy, compared to Yellowstone, and there are either bushes and branches right behind the elk or there is a sloping road cut bank right behind the elk. The elk don’t spend much time in meadows in Banff.

Rocky Mountain Elk Bull

7. Bull elk frolic in meadows. I photographed a relatively small bull elk for about an hour one evening as he grazed along. At the end of the hour he inexplicably ran off. “Was it something I said?” I asked. I walked around some trees, expecting he would come out the other side into a large meadow. He did. He walked for a while and then he broke into a run again…and he frolicked. I have seen caribou in Alaska run around all of a sudden in response to a Bot fly up their nose so I can’t discount that as a possible explanation. Looked like play to me, dancing sideways and throwing his antlers around. The bull elk in Banff all seemed relatively good-natured in comparison with the Yellowstone bulls that savage cars and fight endlessly. Even when the largest herd of cows got spread out and was split in half by a competing bull one morning there was no battle. The two bulls just walked uphill side by side as though they were defining an imaginary boundary line and then one went one direction and the other the other direction and that was it. Near Lake Louise, where there are seemingly no cow elk, I saw six bulls feeding together as they do, but not during the autumn rut.

Frolicking Bull Elk

8. It is always a thrill to see a wild wolf. I didn’t get great shots, but I got to photograph them. The wolves are doing a bit better in Banff than they were twenty years ago. They are run over by cars all too frequently. A major highway bisects Banff. It has fences along it and wildlife overpasses and underpasses to minimize the carnage, but one female wolf got hit despite the fence and others got hit when a tree fell on the fence and it took forever to get it fixed. There is no fence along the Bow Valley Parkway and if you do the speed limit (60 km/hr or 45 mph) you will be constantly tailgated by speeders. Constantly. Even in town there is a Welcome to Banff sign followed by a sign warning that there have been way too many bear, wolf, cougar, and deer deaths along this road. They continue to use salt on icy roads instead of magnesium so the bighorn sheep are crucified when they go on the road to lick the salt. They can afford to build fences and wildlife overpasses, but not to use magnesium on icy roads?

Wild Timber Wolf

9. Water from the Bow River, which originates in the Bow Glacier above, you guessed it, Bow Lake in Banff, flows all the way to Lake Huron. Water from the Athabasca River, originating in the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper flows all of the way to the Arctic Ocean and down the Frazier River to the Pacific Ocean. Impressive.

Bow River

10. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on October 8th. I got a two-fer this year.

Happy Halloween from the Bow Valley Parkway



Posted in Philosophy and Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , on March 15, 2010 by chamimage

Gray Fox

I photographed the gray fox above at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. He is sleeping because gray foxes are nocturnal, which may explain why I’ve never seen one in the wild even though they are found in western Oregon. I saw two wild wolverines in one year in Montana and Alaska, but have never seen a gray fox in my own back yard. I kind of respect that.

I posted this captive fox because there has been some talk lately about ethics concerning captive animals. The death of the orca trainer has touched off calls for an end to killer whale shows. Even the largest pools are a bit confining compared to, say, the ocean. And the decor is a bit boring. I think I have to side with the Free Willyites on this one. Of course, there are those that say nature photographers exploit wild animals for profit. Ouch.

The latest issue of Audubon magazine has an article about game farms. These are places where a photographer can go to take photographs of a tame wolf or a cougar or bobcat that is posed for him or her by a professional handler. The animals are well cared for because the prettier and healthier they are the more photogenic they are. I’ve gotten to where I can spot one of those photos pretty easily. You don’t have to look too hard to find one, most of the photographs in the wall calendar were taken at one of these farms. The animals are clean and groomed and are posed leaping from a big rock or some some other dramatic pose. Wild animals, on the other hand, have been out in the rain all day and slept on dirt and grass last night. These are the photographs I usually submit.

There are some endangered animals that you just can’t photograph any other way, like snow leopards, Florida panthers, lynx. The detractors say that all of the snow leopard photos make it look like they are common and people don’t appreciate how rare they really are. Perhaps they underestimate our ability to imagine a bit. I haven’t been to a game farm and don’t have any plans on going to one. I admit it kind of bugs me to see all of those calendar pages being taken by the same handful of photographers year after year while I went out and got skunked or frozen or wet trying to get wild animal photographs and they are not considered high enough quality because he wouldn’t leap from a rock for me or he had dead grass all over his fur.

On the other hand I can sympathize with a wildlife photographer that I admire that does utilize the game farms. She does not get a salary. Every month is a clean slate and she and her husband rely on their photo sales for a living. She says baby animals sell well and pay the rent so they go once a year and photograph baby animals. The rest of the year they are out there in the rain and snow doing what they love the best. I can live with that.

I have a handful of zoo and museum photos like the one above. I like to take photographs and I love animals, what can I say. I have the most ambivalent feelings about zoos. I hate to see wildlife exploited and caged and I don’t think zoo animals have a very happy life. On the other hand, they do act as animal ambassadors to people who would never travel to see a real lion in the wild. They provide a personal contact for people to develop a caring for wild animals. People are more likely to care about conservation efforts due to that personal contact they had with zoo animals.

Wild Wolf

This is not a game farm wolf. I photographed this wild wolf in Kootenai National Park, British Columbia. It was June and it had been pouring rain all day. He was not a warm, happy wolf, but he was free. I theorize that he was in the clearing because the bushes were dumping water on him every time he touched one and it was dryer out in the open. Some night when you are lying in your warm, dry bed and it is pouring rain outside, think about the wild critters out there in the rain. I do.

Rainy Days

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2009 by chamimage
Stormy Sunrise

Stormy Sunrise

     My photo shoot for the weekend was rained out. I don’t often let rain stop me. Living in Oregon means not letting a little rain spoil your plans, otherwise you would never do anything. The photograph above was taken on a morning that I went out despite the rain. I was up on Sunday morning early, anyway, so got the paper and drove to the nearby wildlife refuge and sat in the car and read it. Out of the corniner of my eye things suddenly got very pinkish orange. The sun found a small rent in the clouds just above the horizon. I shot a roll of film (in the rain) and then it was gone. I like dramatic clouds in my photographs. The clouds this weekend were very boring ones. End of storm light is usually very interesting light, so if you live somewhere where it doesn’t storm for days, like Oregon, you can go out while it is raining just to be there when the light gets really good. I did that at Yosemite one evening, only it was still raining hard on me while the warm light bathed the nearby hills. The park ranger parked behind me thought I as nuts. It was worth it. That print has a prominent place on my wall now.

     The photograph below is not beautiful. But it is a reminder to me that there are critters that are out there in the foul weather. This wolf was willing to put up with a photographer rather than leave the clear roadside to go back into the wet bushes again. It was photographed in Kootenai National Park in Brithish Columbia.

     Anyone interested in the Nikon D3X should check out Moose Peterson’s blog. He has posted full resolution photographs that you can actually zoom in to about 200% using something called zoomify. The detail is staggering. If I were a studio photographer I’d have on in a flash. For what I do, I can’t even come close to justifying its $8,000 price.

One Wet Wolf

One Wet Wolf