About Me

Wells, BC, Canada
Richard is a working photographer and writer in B.C. His camera focuses on natural history. archeology, travel, and documentary photography. His photography blog may be found at: http://richardtwright.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wildlife Photography in Canadian Rockies - Take 2

A quick wrap up to my May 9th post. Life has been busy here with photography and other work.
After two days in Jasper, in early April, I headed south on the Icefields Highway, hoping for a change in my luck in searching for wildlife.  On that note my timing was off b ut once again the weather was fantastic for scenics.
An evening shot at Moberly Landing on the Athabasca River in Jasper National Park.
Nikkor 12-24mm F4, D7000, ISO 100, 18mm, f8, 1/160. Richard Wright photo.

My first major stop this day was at Mount Kerkeslin wayside stop. The salt licks on both sides of the highway, particularly those above the river, are particularly good for spotting Mountain Goats.  I have photographed them here in the past, but not this time.  A few old clay castings were left, but no goats.
View from the Kerkeslin Goat Lick wayside stop above the Sunwapta River.
Nikon D7000, Nikkor 12-24mm f4; f11, 1/500. Richard Wright photo.
Heading south I had a brief moment of excitement as I thought I spotted wolf crossing the Sunwapta River. A quick check though my 200-400mm showed it was a coyote, and a long way off - perhaps half a kilometre.  I slipped the Nikkor 1.7 extender on the 200-400mm f4, locked it onto the Manfrotto Carbon Fibre tripod with the Manfrotto 393 gimbal mount and fired off a few shots. Even at this distance he spotted me. With a further 50% crop in Aperture 3 it was a reasonable shot, the kind I call good for a slide show, but not for publication.

Coyote on the Sunwapta. Nikon D7000, Nikkor 200-400mm f4 with 1.7 extender,
 for an effective focal length of 975mm in DX format. Cropped 50%. F8, 1/1000.
Richard Wright photo.

A couple of Canada Geese just upriver from the coyote; same camera, lens and settings.
Richard Wright photo.

A final stop was the Columbia Icefields, interesting at this time of year, early April, for being devoid of visitors and Icefield buses. Imagine being the first person to see this, or photograph it. And who was that?

Columbia Icefields. Nikon D7000, Nikkor 12-24mm, 12mm, ISO 100, f18, 1/1250.
Richard Wright photo.

I made a quick lunch stop at Saskatchewan River Crossing - a most strange restaurant. Actually it was a cafeteria. There was no menu, just photos on the wall with no price or explanation as to what the dishes were. I chose the mystery grilled-chicken Caesar after an explanation of the photos. Sure enough - it was chicken on a bed of lettuce.  The place was full of every book on the National Parks one could imagine (and few you might not imagine), but no tourist information. I had thought of spending the night here, but moved on to Radium in B.C. as I had a conference to attend on Urban Wildlife Interface in Cranbrook and time was wasting. But that is another story.

For more photos from this shoot go to: http://richardtwright.photoshelter.com

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Nikon D800 arrives! First shots.

Some days are diamonds
Some days are stone ..
John Denver

Yesterday was a diamond.
After three months of lusting and a week in transit, I have a Nikon D800 of my own, in my hands. The camera has been so hard to find that my son and I have literally been searching the world. One of his contacts in Hong Kong, where he lives, was delivered one and within hours, thanks to him and my daughter-in-law, it was purchased and winging its way to Canada.

After a delay in customs the camera was released from bondage, on payment of the
HST ransom and sent on it's way. (Labels have been obscured for privacy.) 

 As past readers of this blog know Rich managed to find and purchase a D800 about a month ago in Hong Kong while I was there. I had the use of it for a few days and managed to post a few blogs about the camera.  Leaving it behind was hard - but not as hard as leaving my family there.
So, yes Virginia, it was purchased in Hong Kong and Nikon Canada may not like that. (If you do not purchase in Canada you are not eligible for entry into NPS - Nikon's professional service group.) But, as I mentioned in great detail a few blogs ago, that does not make it grey market, though it does complicate warrantees, due to Nikon's awkward corporate structure and equipment support.
The question is, how much longer would I wait here in Canada?  In three months I had gone from number 17 to number eight on my dealer's long list of pre-orders.  When at Nikon Canada in Richmond recently to pick up a repair, a friend asked what they could tell her about delivery of the D800. The repair clerk said she understood that the D800s were being delivered or sold to NPS members first.
When the call came from our favorite Hong Kong camera store, Chung Pui Photo Supplies, we jumped at it.  A few days later they offered Rich a D800E and he bought it. He must now be a rare photographer - how many have a D800 and D800E?  According to the clerk Nikon are only producing one E for every ten D800.  Rich is testing it now on a trip to China and we will report back on this blog.
For the second time I get to unbox a Nikon D800.

My D800 did not arrive here without a few problems. It did not take long to fly from Hong Kong to the US and then to reach DHL brokerage in Richmond.  Unfortunately someone at Canada customs or the brokerage misread the value and wanted HST on $28,356 dollars. Some camera. I explained that the invoice was in Hong Kong dollars. So then they wanted to charge me tax on $5,500. I suggested they re-check their exchange rates. DHL made several calls to my cell phone, but, we do not have cell service here in the mountains.  Fortunately someone then tried me at home. Then it was on the road again. My partner Amy picked up the camera from the DHL depot (an hour away) as she came through town at 9:57 p.m. They close at 10 p.m. When she got here after a long day she was sure I was more excited to see the camera than her. Which of course was not true. Though I did keep it nearby. Still, not bad - 1 week from Hong Kong to Quesnel, B.C. with a May Day holiday in China and a customs delay here in Canada.

Having exposed several hundred shots with a D800 in Hong Kong it is not unfamiliar to me. In addition my son has been reporting on his use of it and the options he as set on his camera. Life is busy here right now but I did manage to stick on my 200-400 f4 on the way to town the other evening, and managed to get my first 28 shots on the D800, of a black bear. I set nothing other than basic menu items - set it on P - and fired away.  I am, to say the least, impressed with the first few shots. Exposure is within 1/3 of what I wanted and for hand held with a 400mm, resting, at 1/50, the images are as sharp as I could expect. However, I am anxious to set up my new LaCie RAID drive as the file size of these shots is 42 MB. You have to love were you live when your first test subject is a black bear.

Black bear near Wells, B.C. Nikon D800, Nikkor 200-400mm f4, ISO 100, f4, 1/50th.
No alterations other than a 50% crop of the bottom photo. Richard Wright photos.
Lots of blog material yet to cover, so stayed tuned for updates on the D800 and the D800E.

Website: http://richardtwright.photoshelter.com
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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Barkerville Sled Dogs, Outdoor Photography winner

This last winter, or this winter I guess as there is still snow on the ground here, Thomas Drasdauskis and I spent a day photography the annual Sled Dog Mail Run around Wells and Barkerville. For a short time the light was just right, not too bright, but not clouded over. Thomas had shot this race several times so knew some good locations, including a spot where the mushers raced down a trail across the historic Ballarat mining claim.
I shot a few hundred images that day but my favorite was one I called, "Blue eyes and flying feet."
I recently found out that the image has won the editor Roy Ramsay's assignment for January, "Winter Lifestyle and Sport", in Outdoor Photography Canada, a great quarterly publication. Not a Pulitzer, but then my old editor Jerry MacDonald always used to say, as we neared deadline, "I don't want a Pulitzer - I want 3 columns by 8 inches" or, "I just want 12 inches, now."
Thanks to the editor for choosing my photo, as there were lots of good ones.  If you are interested in photography outdoors pick up a copy of the magazine. It is on most Canadian newstands.

Nikon D7000, Nikkor 7-300mm f4.5-5.6G IF ED lens, f9, ISO 160, 1/320.

As it turned out Thomas shot a similar shot from a few feet away. We both captured the dogs at precisely the same moment, with their feet and tongues in exactly the same position.

Website: http:richardtwright.photoshelter.com

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wildlife photography in the Canadian Rockies

As my last posting indicated I have been off for a week of shooting in Canada's National Parks, and to attend a conference on Urban Wildlife Interface.

Any trip through the national parks of Jasper, Banff and Kootenay and the Rocky Mountain Trench is good, and the weather was spectacular.   However, this time the wildlife remained elusive.  Even my usual guarantee of bighorn sheep did not prove up. But the scenery was stunning.

Along the Athabasca River on Highway 16 in Jasper. Richard Wright photos.

It had been a dark and stormy night when I pulled into Jasper after the seven-hour drive from Wells, and the waitress at the cafe said the weather had poor for days.  Perhaps that accounted for the desk clerk's grumpiness at the Mount Robson Inn, and her demand to check my room before my deposit was returned the next morning.
But, despite that poor start the weather was -8 C, clear and bright. The mountains leapt out to greet travelers.  I spent a day traveling Highway 16, the route of the Overlanders of 1862, and remembered how they had written poems, sung hymns and quoted biblical verses in their diaries when the reached this valley and the towering mountains, after weeks on the prairies.
[For a summary of their journey and the resulting change in history go to: www.theatreroyal.ca and click on the Producer's blog.]

Deer and elk - that was it.  Now I like deer and elk but, of course, the bulls did not have their fall racks. However, cruising around I did manage to find a few backroad deer. 

Mule deer, 70-200 f2.8 after a slow stalk across open ground. Richard Wright photo.

Whitetail, 70-200 f2.8 Nikkor, from the passenger side window.
Typical of whitetail I had about 2 minutes of shooting before they bolted. Richard Wright photo

Two Mule deer, in morning light, using my truck as a blind I followed them for
about 20 minutes. 70-200 f2.8 Nikkor. Richard Wright photo.

Fortunately the highway through the National Parks is wide enough to easily pull over and get right off the road.  I have found it is usually best to stay in the vehicle to shoot, so I had a couple of window rigs set up for resting camera and lens. Usually though I only had time to grab the usual bean bag.  In this situation I always have a long lens mounted, either the 70-200mm or my Nikkor, 200-400mm f4, a favorite of mine, set to auto.  I figure if I want a scenic I will always have time to pull over, mount a wide angle and shoot whatever I want. Animals do not always wait.

One of the problem son this trip is that I was traveling on my own and did not have my partner Amy to watch the right side for random sightings. I traveled slowly, stopped lots, and concentrated on the left side of the highway. The elk were cooperative and I was able to add to my collection of cow elk, or wapiti.

Wapiti, or elk, in Jasper. Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8. Richard Wright photos.
Another night in Jasper after a 13-hour day of shooting. Diesel here is 30¢ a litre cheaper, so time to fill up my 100-gallon tank. Oh, and a different motel, The Marmot Inn, bigger, better, with a restaurant, solid not sketchy wireless and the same price.

No luck with sheep, goats or wolves, and bears seem to still be denning.  Tomorrow I head south along the Icefields Highway.  It's all good. Let's face it - any day of photography is better than a day in the office.
Go to my website for more photos from this shoot.
And the Hong Kong diaries are coming soon.

Website: http:richardtwright.photoshelter.com