More Bald Eagles

Well time to hit the road again to see what the eagles are up to on the Nipigon River.

The owner at The Lodge has authorized me to offer a 25% discount for any last minute bookings for the Red Rock-Nipigon Eagle Photo Safari. Call Ray Rivard to confirm available spots (807) 886-5603, mobile (807) 621-6342. Package details here: www.photographybygaryblake.com

Would love to show a few more avid wildlife enthusiasts what northwestern Ontario has to offer!

Click on any photo to see a larger version.

Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Bald eagle, immature

Bald eagle, immature, I think he spotted the photographer

Bald Eagle, adult

Bald Eagle, adult, youngster checking his landing technique

Bald eagle, immature and adult

Bald eagle, immature and adult “face time”

Bald eagle, immature

Bald eagle, immature, crowded airspace with more incoming

Bald Eagle

A crowd of ravens attempting to intimidate a young bald eagle (Didn’t work)

Bald eagle, immature

Bald eagle, immature

Bald Eagle, Juvenile

Bald Eagle, Juvenile, striking a pose

Of course if you get tired of the eagles, there is always the scenery….

Sunrise at Red Rock

Sunrise from The Lodge at Red Rock

Nipigon River

Nipigon River

Jessie Lake

Jessie Lake

Nipigon

The long and winding road, near Nipigon

Save

Save

Inverted Eagle

“Ninja Eagle” If Bruce Lee were to be re-incarnated as an eagle this would be him. (Bit of a story to go with this one)

I have been watching and photographing eagles on the Nipigon River for five years now. Eagles are usually territorial and spread out over large areas based on available food. When an excess of available food presents itself (such as a salmon spawning run) they tend to congregate in large numbers in small areas. As such they need to develop social skills and a hierarchical system. The abundance of food means that each meal is no longer a life and death survival issue so they generally tolerate one another to a certain extent. They still seem to like to challenge one another though and one of their favourite games is to try and knock the other eagle off of the fish they happen to be feeding on.

An eagle feeding on the ground is at a huge tactical disadvantage to an incoming eagle in the air. The eagle on the ground knows this and the general rule is to put up a bit of a fuss, squawk a lot, and then get the h___ out of the way or you are going to get seriously hurt.

This particular eagle has figured out a unique defense to this problem. He would crouch down, precisely time the arrival of the incoming eagle, leap in to the air and go completely inverted to present his talons to the incoming eagle. Tactical advantage is now almost equal, the incoming eagle still has an airspeed advantage but our Bruce Lee eagle has the advantage of surprise. This seemed to work well for him, I watched him do this three times before getting this shot as it happens lightning fast.

Bruce would then finish his acrobatics by completing a somersault and land back on his feet, straighten his feathers and finish eating his lunch.

Look at the picture and realize that this eagle stands about 2 ½ feet tall and has a wingspan of about 7 feet. Look again (particularly at the wing feathers) and you can see that he appears to be able to control every feather individually in order to accomplish this pretty amazing maneuver.

Nature never ceases to amaze me……

Bald Eagle, Adult

Bald Eagle, Adult

Artist & Artisans Show & Sale presented by A Gift of Art

I will be exhibiting at Newcastle’s 9th annual Artist & Artisans Show & Sale presented by A Gift of Art. The show runs this Saturday and Sunday, July 9-10, 10:00am- 4:00pm at the Newcastle Memorial Arena.

I will be showing a video promoting the Red Rock-Nipigon Eagle Photo Safari , for anyone interested in wildlife photography, bald eagles in particular.

Juvenile bald eagle landing at sunset

Juvenile bald eagle landing at sunset

Recently I have been printing some of my images on canvas and I will be bringing some of the results to the show. The prints are made with archival inks on canvas specially prepared for ink jet printers. This provides photographers with another option for displaying their work as the canvas print can be stretched and mounted in the same manner as a painting done on canvas.I have been playing with my own custom made wood framing for the canvas prints and have developed a double frame that is constructed from four separate frames. The first frame is a simple pine frame to stretch the canvas on. This is followed by a support frame that attaches to the stretcher frame and two outer frames surround the image.

Support frame, inner and outer frames assembled

Support frame, inner and outer frames assembled

Frame parts dyed and finished

Frame parts dyed and finished

Corner detail, double splined mitre joint

Corner detail, double splined mitre joint

Front view, finished frame

Front view, finished frame

The same image, tradition framing, matted and behind UV glass.

The same image, tradition framing, matted and behind UV glass.

Great Grey owl on canvas, custom maple frame

Great Grey owl on canvas, custom maple frame

Barred owl, black and white on canvas, custom oak frame

Barred owl, black and white on canvas, custom oak frame

Hummingbird, Early Morning Light, on canvas, custom oak frame

Hummingbird, Early Morning Light, on canvas, custom oak frame

Moonrise, on canvas, custom oak frame

Moonrise, on canvas, custom oak frame

Should be a good show, lots of artists displaying their wares, an ice-cream truck outside and some talented local musicians performing, come on out if you are looking for something to do this weekend.

Bald Eagle Photography

I will be at the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show at the International Center this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (February 19-21, 2016). Along with The Lodge and Nipigon River Adventures we will be promoting The Red Rock Nipigon Eagle Photo Safari, a 5 day all-inclusive wildlife photography package.

Package details and videos are here: http://www.photographybygaryblake.com/default1.htm

The package is a unique outdoor adventure and photography workshop. You will have the opportunity to watch bald eagles in their natural environment as they feed and interact during the fall salmon spawning run. You will on average be only 30-35 feet away from the eagles so the sights and sounds are quite spectacular. You will learn how to set up and shoot from a simple effective blind, undetected by the eagles you can observe and photograph natural behaviours and interactions between the birds.

Some interactions can get quite intense:

Bald Eagle, Adult

Bald Eagle, Adult

Our setups work! This eagle was photographed from a distance of 5 feet and was not aware of the photographer….

Bald Eagle, Juvenile

Bald Eagle, Juvenile

The package has been designed to accommodate any level of photographer from beginner to professional. Instruction is available based on your experience level. Shooting from a blind and from close proximity means you can get great shots with very basic equipment (A 70-300mm telephoto zoom will work just fine)

Forecast is for a rainy wet weekend, perfect for an indoor show, drop in and see us, booth 637, Nipigon River Adventures.

Bald Eagle, Juvenile

Bald Eagle, Juvenile, dropping in on a rainy, foggy day

Remembrance Day 2015

As we freely  travel around this great country of ours we are reminded of the great sacrifices made by so many during the two world wars through the many memorials and monuments erected to commemorate these events.

There are also some far more obscure reminders that are slowly fading from memory, and their former physical presence torn down or naturally decaying.

Just back from a trip to northern Ontario I had the chance to visit one of these places.

One of the 40 Canadian prisoner of war camps was located In Red Rock, Ontario and operated between 1940-1941. This particular camp also had a satellite labour camp in the bush about 25 miles north of the town of Dorion on the Wolf River system. The camp was a logging camp and prisoners were sent here and put to work.

There was little chance of escape from these camps as they were so far in the bush there was no place to go and basic survival would have been a key issue. The other side of this is that they were treated and housed so well few or none wanted to escape, an interesting read about his here:

https://legionmagazine.com/en/2012/03/the-happiest-prisoners/

Little remains of the camp today, the buildings are all gone, the clearings slowly growing over. I found a few remains from the cookhouse, old tin cans, a piece of the an old cook stove, some broken bottles and dishes.

The camp itself was located on the top of an escarpment, a small tributary of the Wolf River flows over the escarpment at Talking Falls. A truly beautiful small waterfalls with a straight drop cascade of about 70 feet that you can actually walk behind. I was told that the remains of a log structure visible in the first photo was once a sauna. The stream then flows out in to a series of ponds which apparently holds some very nice brook trout.

Seems these POW’s were dropped in to a little bit of paradise.

Talking Falls

Talking Falls

A couple of alternate views of the falls:

Talking Falls

Talking Falls

Talking Falls

Talking Falls

In retrospect a far cry from how our POW’s were treated. (An uncle returned weighing only 75 pounds on being liberated and barely surviving after forced “death marches”)

So on this remembrance day I am very grateful to the greatest generation who fought for our freedom and have provided us with the opportunity to explore such beautiful places.

Lest we forget.

 

 

 

 

 

New Camera and Hummingbird Yoga

I have been breaking in a new camera, testing it out on one of my favourite subjects before a fall trip. These little hummingbirds are endlessly fascinating to watch. Energetic and feisty, and packed with quite a bit of attitude inside such a tiny package. I watch and photograph these little birds most of the summer.  Photographing them at very close range I have come to able to identify most of them as they are all slightly different in size and markings.

The new camera is a Sony A7R2. This is Sony’s latest model and is 42.4 megapixel mirrorless camera. Lots of very positive reviews so I thought I would try one out. I have basically been an Olympus user all my life and use a pair of Olympus OMD EM1 cameras.

What impressed me most about this particular camera is the fact that is very similar in size and layout to my Olympus cameras and the fact that I can customize the buttons so it will work in almost the same way as the Olympus camera. Bonus is that I can use all of my older Olympus OM lenses on it with an adapter (manual focus though).

Initial impressions are that the Sony engineers have really done their homework on this one, very impressed so far. Will be putting it through its paces in Northern Ontario shortly.

Here is a few on the first results. For those that are interested these are the full resolution images just slightly cropped from 2:3 to 4:3 format (Takes a little off the sides to better fit paper sizes for printing)

The thing about a 42.4mp camera is the incredible amount of detail it is capable of capturing. These pictures are taken in my backyard where I can control the lighting and background better. It is hard to tell from images resized for the web but on the computer at 100% I can see the back of my house and count the floorboards on my deck – in the reflection of that tiny little eye! Awesome!

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird, first red gorget (throat) feather showing

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird, stretching

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird, streching the other way

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird,
yoga position

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird, resting after all that stretching

I think the little guy stretching must have spent some time outside someones window watching yoga lessons (not mine though). Most of the hummingbirds I have seen do this stretching do it very quickly like everything else they do. This little fellow was working at a very slow and relaxed pace.

Gary

Barred Owl at Sunset, canvas print, exhibition details

I will be exhibiting at A Gift of Art’s annual Artist and Artisan’s Show and Sale at the Newcastle Memorial Arena Saturday and Sunday July 11th-12th, 10am-4pm.

A Gift of Art is a not for profit charitable organization whose main purpose is to support and promote local artists and artisans. You can check them out at their website www.agiftof-art.com.

The organization was founded in 2008 by Ann Harley who has invested much of her time, money and inexhaustible energy into creating a wonderful community and artist resource center. A Gift of Art originally started with 22 artists and has now grown to over 100. The new location is 187 King Ave E, Newcastle in a renovated circa 1850’s house. There are two full floors of gallery space as well as space for workshops, art lessons and children’s art camps.

I have been fortunate enough to have been involved with this organization from the beginning as one of the original artist members and currently serve as a volunteer member on the board of directors. Highly recommended as a great place to visit and shop if you are in the Newcastle area.

This weekend show and sale is an open show featuring many of the artists from A Gift of Art and is also open to other visiting artists. Some talented local musicians will be entertaining throughout the show.

One of the pieces I will be exhibiting will be a custom framed photograph of a barred owl. This image has been inkjet printed on archival canvas and measures approximately 15”x20”. The canvas has been gallery wrapped on a 1 – 3/8” thick pine frame. The gallery wrapped frame has in turn been inset into a custom handmade birds-eye maple frame accented with walnut splines at the mitre joints. (Woodworking is another pastime and I make my own frames)

Framed canvas print, barred owl at sunset

Framed canvas print, barred owl at sunset

Corner detail, bird's eye maple with walnut splines

Corner detail, bird’s eye maple with walnut splines

The image itself was taken in a local conservation area in late winter at dusk. I had been following the owl from about 10:00 in the morning. It was a very bright winter’s day and the light was quite harsh. The owl was quite inactive and slept most of the morning and afternoon. A few awkward roosting spots added in to the mix resulted in not many real excellent photo opportunities. Late in the afternoon the light was getting better and the owl started to move about and went in to hunting mode. The owl investigated a few different places where it was probably hearing mice or moles moving under the snow.

Barred owl, preening claws

Barred owl, preening claws

The owl then moved to a very nice position and sat and watched the setting sun for a while. Perhaps contemplating the night’s hunting that lay ahead.

A couple alternate images at the same location

Barred Owl

Barred Owl at sunset

Barred Owl

Barred Owl at sunset, profile view

The final printed image shows the setting sun and trees reflected in the owl’s eye. The owl picked a very nice perch with a snow covered background. Low light conditions required a large aperture setting which renders the background nicely out of focus. The low light and nice background gave this image a painterly quality which seemed to lend itself well to printing on canvas.