Tag Archives: Canada

Walking on Thin Ice… One More Polar Bear

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) crawling on thin ice

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) crawling on thin ice

It has been quite a while since I published an image, so I thought I would put up a funny one, one that I really like about Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) because it shows the (deceivingly) goofy side of these white, fluffy and yet deadly giants.

Beside being funny, the image actually shows an interesting behavior: when they are approaching thin ice, polar bears assume this position and start crawling on the ice so that their considerable weight more evenly spreads out a wider surface, thus reducing the risk of breaking through the ice and going for a cold swim.

For more information about this image, please click on it. If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

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The Easter Bunny Is Real!

Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) in summer coat

Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) in summer coat

As you can tell from the image above, traveling to Canada’s arctic territory of Nunavut allowed me to undeniably prove that the Easter bunny does exist! 😉

Happy Easter, y’all!

For more information about this image, please click on it. If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to brow. se my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Resilient: Inuit Women Out Hunting

CANADA, Nunavut - 
Inuit women

CANADA, Nunavut – 
Inuit women out hunting

Inuit people are really quite amazing, and for sure they are resourceful and resilient – and their elders are no exception! I made this portrait of two elderly Inuit women while they were out hunting caribou for subsistence on a quad. I mean, hats off to these strong women who, despite their age, ride for hours a four-wheeled bike on bumpy dirt roads looking for caribou for dinner! And when they find one, they pull out their rifle, kill the animal and then pull it up whole on their quad to take it back home for cooking. Wow, talk about driving down to the grocery store… 😉

As mentioned on an earlier post, Inuit are one of the three groups of Aboriginal people who live in the Canadian Arctic (the other two groups being First Nations and Métis): Inuit speak a language called Inuktitut (Inuit is an Inuktitut word which means “the people“) and some of them also speak English (not these two ladies, though!)

For more information about this image, please click on it. If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to brow. se my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Polar Bears

I am reblogging this post that was published today on The World According to Dina, a magnificent blog about the northern part of the world, photography, literature and symbolism.

The post is the result of a recent collaboration project on Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) between one of the authors of that blog, Dr Klausbernd Vollmar, a German-raised, English-resident psychologist, symbologist and author, and myself. When Klausbernd asked me if I wanted to be a part of this project, I was very excited and honored and of course I enthusiastically jumped on board!

More specifically, the post/article contains a part with general natural history information about polar bears (this is the portion that I researched and contributed) and a part dealing with the symbolism of the polar bear (which Klausbernd authored), plus a selection of my polar bear photographs.

I am very pleased of this collaboration and I think the end result shows the hard work that both of us put into it – but of course I will let you, dear readers, be the judge of it if you feel like visiting The World According to Dina (which I think you should, regardless of this specific post) and reading the article! Needless to say, your feedback would be most welcome! 🙂

Thanks,
Stefano

The World according to Dina

URSUS MARITIMUS
Der Eisbär

General Information
Polar bears are the largest land carnivores in the world and the most carnivorous of the bear species: they primarily feed on seals and, to a lesser extent, walrus and beluga whale. In search of their prey, they may often be found in areas of shifting, cracking ice where seals may surface to breathe air. Adult males (which are larger than females) measure up to 2,5 m in length and can weigh up to 720 kg!
Since they spend much of their time on Arctic sea ice, they have evolved to adapt to such extreme conditions: their white fur provides camouflage in their environment and is thicker than any other bears’, even covering their feet for both warmth and traction on ice; their skin is black to absorb heat from sun rays; and a thick layer of fat provides buoyancy and insulation. Polar bears…

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Valentine’s Day First Date?

CANADA, Churchill (Hudson Bay) Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) interacting

Because that’s what this image reminds me of when I see it! A clumsy kiss, some indecision mixed up with curiosity, you know… 😉 Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day, wherever you are and whichever way you plan to celebrate it! 🙂

I took this photograph of Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) interacting in Canada’s Manitoba province, where every year many polar bears congregate in late Fall, waiting for the temperatures to drop so that the waters of the Hudson Bay freeze and the bears can venture out on the ice in search of their favorite food item – seals. More about this on a future post.

For more information about this image, please click on it. If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to brow. se my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Herculean Polar Bears

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) confronting one another in a snow storm

With winter storm Hercules being the first big storm to hit New England in 2014, two mere days into the New Year, it only seems appropriate that I share another image from my Polar Bear Gallery, portraying two Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) play-fighting in a snow storm near Hudson Bay, in Canada’s Manitoba province: if you live in an affected area, stay warm! 🙂

For more information about this image, please click on it. If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Happy Thanksgiving!

CANADA, Princess Royal Island (BC) Sunset with S-shaped cloud formation

Happy Thanksgiving to all our North American readers!

Enjoy the holiday and, quoting our 7-year-old daughter, “be thankful for all good things in life!” – for us here, a serene sunset with great pastel colors and an otherworldly cloud formation such as that displayed above would certainly qualify! 🙂 This image was taken on a beautiful, uninhabited small island off the coasts of British Columbia, Canada.

In the spirit of giving thanks, I am offering a 15% discount on any of the prints in the galleries of my Website, including Limited Edition ones, until Monday December 2! If you like any of my photographs, head over there, pick your favorite and at checkout enter code TKSGV13.

Also, if you are interested in finding out how we are celebrating, head over to Flora’s Table and check it out for yourselves! 🙂

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Raw Moves: Three Reasons for Shooting RAW Instead of Jpeg

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) play-fightingCaption: Canada, Hudson Bay – Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) play-fighting

A while ago, the exquisite Fairy of the North, Dina (who so elegantly authors the blog The World According to Dina, masterfully combining her beautiful images with perfectly selected quotes to complement them) asked me if I would write a post about why I think anyone who shoots digital and takes his or her photography seriously should shoot RAW as opposed to straight off the camera Jpegs.

By the way, before we even get to the point, what is a RAW file, just in case you were wondering? A RAW file is essentially the equivalent of a film negative in the digital age. Every camera manufacturer has their own proprietary formats of files containing the raw (hence the name), unprocessed input captured by the sensor. In fact, RAW files are called in several different ways and have different extensions, depending on the various camera makers: for instance, Nikon’s are called NEF and Canon’s are called either CRW or CR2, depending on the models.

Unlike straight out of the camera Jpegs (which are the result of the camera’s computer processing the sensor data, making arbitrary choices that you as the photographer cannot control and producing a file format that is immediately viewable by anyone), RAW files need to be processed through specialized software such as the camera manufacturer’s proprietary processing software or third-party software such as Adobe PhotoShop or Lightroom or Apple Aperture and then converted to a usable file format, such as TIFF, PSD or Jpeg.

In essence, processing a RAW file requires more of the photographer’s time because he or she has choices to make (in terms of optimizing white balance, exposure, contrast, color balance/saturation, etc.) but puts the photographer back in control of his or her creative decisions and what’s best, in a totally non-destructive, reversible way (more on this later).

Having said that, here are the three main reasons why I think you should set your camera to shoot RAW instead of Jpeg:

1. Unlimited White Balance Adjustments: This is one of the most powerful reasons for choosing a RAW file over an in-camera Jpeg. In short: if for any reason you shoot an image using a white balance setting that is not optimal for the scene you are shooting and you have your camera set to produce a Jpeg file, then you are stuck with that suboptimal white balance and changing it (or at least improving it) will be a difficult and time-consuming task to be performed in your image processing software. If instead you shoot RAW, you can easily correct your white balance with just one click in your processing software. Done!

2. Lossless Process: Jpegs are image files that are considerably smaller than other formats. This is because they utilize a compression algorithm that is lossy, meaning that it discards a bunch of color information from the image to make the file smaller. The more you compress, the more subtle color transitions and image sharpness you lose. In addition, image data loss is cumulative, meaning that every time you save or re-save a Jpeg file, you lose information that cannot be recovered later on. If you shoot RAW instead, you retain all of the information captured by your camera’s sensor, forever. This means not only that, should you need to perform some intensive editing of your image you will have more information to work on, but also and more importantly that you will forever retain full access to all the information that the sensor originally captured.

3. Non-Destructive, Reversible Editing: If you shoot Jpeg and then edit your file in post processing you can then either keep it as a Jpeg when you save it (in which case, all your edits will become permanent AND you will experience image data loss when you save your processed Jpeg) or work using layers (if available in your processing software). The latter is definitely the way to go, because layers can always be discarded later on, should you wish to process your image differently. However, Jpegs do not support layers, so if you use them and want to retain them, you will have to save your processed file in a format that supports layers, such as TIFF or PSD which are both lossless formats but end up in bigger file sizes. Instead, if you shoot RAW and process your RAW file, all your edits will be stored in a so-called “sidecar file”, meaning a small text file that goes hand in hand with your RAW file and contains all the information about the edits that you performed. This means that your RAW file will never be altered and you will always be able to change any of your edits at any time in the future with no damage to your image file or information loss. Pretty cool, huh?

As a final note, even if after reading these compelling reasons for shooting RAW 😉 you were to choose to continue shooting in-camera Jpegs, at the very least make sure that as soon as you download them to your computer you immediately save them to a lossless image format: as we said earlier on, not only will this let you retain your adjustment layers if you so choose, but it will avoid image degradation every time you re-save that Jpeg.

Ever Heard of a Sik-Sik?…

Arctic ground squirrel, or sik-sik (Spermophilus parryii)

Thought so. Quite honestly, neither had I – at least before I traveled to Canada’s arctic territory of Nunavut (I have published more photographs from that trip on thisthis and this previous posts). Up there, beyond Inuit, caribou, wolves, arctic hare, the occasional polar bear and billions of mosquitoes and black flies you can find… sik-siks, which is the kind of cute sounding way Inuit call arctic ground squirrels because of the sound they make.

Arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus parryii) are the largest and northernest among North American ground squirrels. They seek shelter from the frigid tundra temperatures by building a maze of burrows in areas where the permafrost does not prevent digging.

Throughout the long acrtic winters sik-siks hibernate for 7 to 8 months a year. Now get ready for a super cool fact: “Researchers at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks have shown that during hibernation, arctic ground squirrels adopt the lowest body temperature ever measured in a mammal. [Their] body temperature […] drops below freezing, a condition referred to as supercooling. At intervals of two to three weeks, still in a state of sleep, hibernating squirrels shiver and shake for 12 to 15 hours to create heat that warms them back to a normal body temperature of about 98 degrees Fahrenheit [(about 36.5 degrees Celsius)]. When the shivering and shaking stops, body temperature drops back to the minimal temperature” (quoted from the Denali page of the National Park Service’s Web site).

By the way, I have uploaded a new gallery to my Web site with a selection of my images of rodents and lagomorphs (i.e., rabbits and hares – no pikas, sorry): feel free to go take a look if you feel like it!

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Barren-Ground Caribou Bull

Barren-ground caribou bull (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus)

I took this image of a barren-ground caribou bull (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) during my trip to Canada’s arctic territory of Nunavut (by the way, I have published other photographs from that trip on this and this previous posts).

This bull was strutting on a Nunavut beach, stomping its hooves on a layer of dried sea weed that the high tide had left behind and in so doing the animal was making literally hundreds of black flies come out of those sea weed for the joy of both the caribou and… the photographer! Whenever the wind dies down in the tundra, black flies and mosquitoes fill the air and become a major nuisance. This image was taken in the summer, when caribou shed their winter fur and leave patches of skin exposed to mosquito or black fly bites.

Anyway, to me the key points in this image are the position of the caribou, with two raised legs to convey a sense of motion, and the graphic four-layer background, which appears to be interestingly divided into four bands of brown, yellow, green and cyan.

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

The Long and Winding Road

Cabin in the tundra

I took this image at sunset on a stormy day in Canada’s northern territory of Nunavut, in the Canadian Arctic. On that huge expanse of barren flatland, most houses are built on short stilts because of permafrost that makes it virtually impossible to dig deep enough to lay a proper foundation.

The vast majority of the about 31,000 people living in Nunavut are Inuit (about 26,000 or 85%). Inuit are one of the three groups of Aboriginal people who live in the Canadian Arctic (the other two groups being First Nations and Métis): Inuit speak a language called Inuktitut (Nunavut and Inuit are two Inuktitut words respectively meaning “our land” and “the people“) and some of them also speak English. If you venture out of the just 26 communities where most of Nunavut’s Inuit live in that immense territory of almost 2 million square kilometers (about 772,000 sqm), it is not unusual to see isolated cabins such as the one in the image above that Inuit use mostly as a base for hunting.

That day, when I realized that the setting sun was about to briefly peek out of the thick stormy cloud cover, I quickly set up my camera and tripod and framed that dramatic sunset using the winding dirt road created by the wheels of the there ubiquitous quads as an element of the composition leading to the cabin that I placed in one of the rule of thirds “power points” to add an element of interest to what would otherwise have been a flat, static composition.

This image brings to my mind the lyrics of the famous Beatles’ song:

The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before it always leads me here
Leads me to your door

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Bugling Elk

CANADA, Jasper National Park - Bugling elk (Cervus elaphus)

The image above shows a bugling elk in Jasper National Park, Canada, with traces of fresh wounds that it probably suffered in a fight with another bull.

During the mating season in the Fall, bull elk (Cervus elaphus) are used to bugling, that is sending out long, high-pitched rutting calls that can be heard for miles to attract cows or threaten other bulls. Bugling is often associated with the opening of the elk’s preorbital gland to release a scent that should further attract cows.

At that time of the year (September/October), bulls are nervous and aggressive, and this often reflects in their behavior, such as when they stick the tips of their antlers into the ground to dig holes, spray urine or even engage in battles with other bulls over cows or to establish dominance.

Especially during mating season, it is important to be cautious approaching elk because getting too close may (and often will) result in becoming victims of an elk charge or even worse being gored by elk. Photographers and wildlife enthusiasts should not invade the animal’s comfort zone and be watchful for body signs that may signal stress in the animal and the risk of an imminent attack, such as stomping the hooves on the ground, lowering the ears, strutting, etc.

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Tundra Lichens and the Sacred Geometry of Chance

Tundra lichens: the sacred geometry of chance

On an expedition to the beautiful and extreme barren lands of Nunavut (Canada), at some point I have become fascinated by the endless patterns, colors and texture of tundra lichens. So, an afternoon with overcast weather, perfect for macro photography, I set out on a journey to capture an image of the lichens that would hopefully do them justice and that would convey my aesthetics.

To me, macro photography can be spectacular and challenging at the same time. Spectacular because, if you succeed both technically and artistically in capturing the “right shot”, the results are extremely rewarding and lead the viewer to a trip to a mysterious and often overlooked miniature world. Challenging because macro photography confronts the photographer with several difficulties, from technical ones (e.g., attaining pleasing lighting as well as sufficient magnification while retaining enough sharpness and depth of field) to artistic ones (e.g., framing the subject so as to obtain a balanced and pleasing composition as well as convey a message that is immediately evident to viewers).

The answer to these challenges is patience, observation, method and experimentation. With my camera and macro lens on my tripod, I tried several different compositions and moved around to find just the right patch of lichens that would realize my vision. After several attempts, I found what I was looking for: a patch of lichens that were pristine in appearance, covered the entire field of view of my lens, leaving no empty spots, and conveyed a Zen-like “Yin & Yang” kind of message. In the above image, a slightly curved, strong diagonal line of neutral-toned white lichens visually separates the super-textured green plants and berries in the top left portion of the frame from a smaller reprise of colored and textured lichens in the bottom right corner of the frame.

In my view, quoting Mr Sting, this image reminds me of “the sacred geometry of chance“.  😉

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

A Valentine’s Day Polar Bear Hug

Polar Bear Hug (Ursus maritimus)

As some of you know, I love bears, of any species, and I love it whenever I have the opportunity to see them up close (in a safe way, of course), observe their behavior and photograph them. They make for great photo subjects.

This image was captured on a trip to the Western shores of Hudson Bay in Manitoba (Canada) where in or around late October/early November large numbers of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) congregate after hibernation waiting for the sea water to freeze so they can venture out on the ice to try and capture one of their favorite preys: seals.

While they hang out by the shore and wait for the temperatures to drop so as to make the magic happen once again, younger polar bears often kill time play-fighting. Witnessing this “boys will be boys” kind of rough game is fascinating, and if you keep your eye in the viewfinder long enough, with some luck you may photograph them while they strike poses that can look awkward, funny, dramatic or… just shweeeet like the one in this image, which two years ago these days was published as a Valentine’s Day poster insert in the Italian magazine Focus Junior.

However, appearances are sometimes deceiving because, in the “play-fight” portrayed in this image, the bear on the right was actually biting the other bear’s ear while holding its victim steady with its strong paws. You might therefore say that this image would be more appropriate to illustrate an ear piercing ritual of sort or that infamous “if you cannot beat them, bite them” Tyson vs Holyfield moment… 😉

Happy Valentine’s Day to those of you who celebrate it!

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Spirit Bear

Spirit (or Kermode) Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei)

This image is dedicated to gracious Sarah at diary of a house elf and Kimberly at WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot4, two friends that like to hang out at Flora’s Table and two blogs that if you are not following already, you definitely should because you don’t know what you are missing: great photography, a lot of fun and… lots of wisdom too.

The reason why this image is dedicated to them is because they both live in beautiful British Columbia which, among many great things, is also home to the Spirit Bear (AKA Kermode Bear), which is the bear depicted in this image. Spirit Bears (Ursus americanus kermodei) are rare black bears that were borne white due to a recessive gene present in the blood of both their parents, but they are not albino. Being able to see, and even more to photograph, one does not happen often and when it does, it is a real treat.

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you 🙂