Tag Archives: wildlife

Standing Tall

Brown bear (Ursus arctos) and fireweed

I took this image of a standing European brown bear (Ursus arctos) with a backdrop of colorful fireweed in the summer in Finland, near the Russian border.  That area is known to have a fairly high concentration of bears and the very long summer days contribute to keep you shooting. This particular bear stood momentarily to watch out for a big male that was in the vicinities and I managed to take a couple of shots before the action was over.

You all have a great weekend!

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 :-)

Juvenile White-Tailed Sea Eagle in Flight… and The World According to Dina!

Juvenile white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) in flight

A new gallery with a selection of my bird images is now available on my Web site (feel free to go check it out, if you feel like it!): among other bird shots, it includes several images from my trip to Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s largest island, where in the winter numerous white-tailed sea eagles, Steller’s sea eagles and red-crowned cranes congregate to hunt for fish.

This image of a juvenile white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) in flight is one of those rare moments that make the day of a wildlife photographer, when everything comes together just the way you wanted/hoped for! The sea eagle is tack sharp, it has got the fish in its claws, the entire wingspan (which, at over 2 mt/6.5 ft, makes them the fourth largest eagles in the world!) fits just perfectly within the vertical shot with no clipped feathers, and the eagle looked back at just the perfect time: man, what do you want more? 🙂

Also, a selection of Arctic and Subarctic images of mine has been published in the wonderful, inspirational, educational blog The World According to Dina, that revolves around pretty much everything having to do with the North of the world and her beautiful home country, Norway: please do yourselves a favor and pay my gracious hostess Dina (whom I wholeheartedly thank for inviting me as a guest author!) a visit and check out for yourselves how magical a place her blog is and how masterfully she juxtaposes her beautiful photographs with just the perfect quotes to go with them!

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 :-)

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 :-)

Happy Mother’s Day!

In a rare (at least for this blog!) multi-image post, here’s to all the Mothers who enjoy reading Clicks & Corks and to the Mothers of all of our readers!

Which of these mommies do you, or your Mom, relate more to?  😉

Happy Mother’s Day!

Snow monkey (Macaca fuscata) nursing her baby

Protective?

Coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos) sow with cub

Romantic?

Black bear (Ursus americanus) sow play-fighting with cub

Playful?

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) sow with cubs

Cuddly?

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 :-)

Bighorn Sheep Portrait

Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis)

I have uploaded a new gallery to my Web site with a selection of my bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) images taken in Canada’s Jasper National Park: feel free to go take a look if you feel like it.

The image above is a sample from that gallery: a few hours “invested” following a herd of bighorn sheep during their grazing rewarded me with a few photographs that I am happy with. This one is a head shot of a beautiful individual who let me approach at a safe but relatively close distance. I am fond of this image because I think it shows the character of these animals, highlighting their most distinctive feature: those majestic, weathered, curled horns in a graphic way, while the soft, diffused light of an overcast day limits contrast and allows viewers to see every detail of the subject’s face.

The gallery contains a collection of different images, some of which will be the subjects of future posts because they are interesting behavioral shots of these animals.

if you have the opportunity to check them out, let me know what your favorite ones are!

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 :-)

Portrait of a Red Fox

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

I like foxes: I took this photograph of a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in Manitoba, Canada, not far from where I photographed the arctic fox that I posted about a while ago. This red fox stuck around for a little while, looking at me and my tripod with some curiosity, before moving on in search of prey in those barren, wintry grounds. I love how it really looks in its prime, with that wonderful fur and tail, in the soft, diffused light of a nice overcast day, just perfect for a portrait!

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 :-)

Black Bear Cub Climbing a Tree

Black bear (Ursus americanus) cub climbing a tree

Black bears (Ursus americanus) are proficient climbers. They use their curved claws to cling to the bark and quickly climb high into trees. Generally, they do it to escape danger (it is common behavior for cubs), to eat the nuts or fruit in the tree, or to rest or sleep at the juncture between branches and trunk. In this image, a young black bear is descending a tree after an excursion to the canopy. It is amazing to see how even little bears will climb quickly and with dexterity all the way to the top branches of tall trees and perch there for a nap, with no fear of heights.

By contrast, grizzlies have longer claws that are not as well suited for climbing, which makes them not as effective a tree climber as black bears. This does not mean, however, that grizzly bears cannot or will not climb a tree. They certainly can, they are only clumsier than black bears (given also their heavier structure) so to climb a tree they often resort to hugging the tree and pulling themselves up, using branches as if they were the steps of a ladder.

Anyway, should you experience a close encounter with a bear in the wild, follow sensible bear safety procedures and avoid climbing a tree because chances are that either species of bears will climb it at the very least as well as you can!

Some useful online resources about bears and their behavior can be found at:  

Bear Aware

Bear Country USA

Denali National Park and Preserve

National Geographic Magazine

North American Bear Center

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 :-)

Pan Blur Technique and Barren-Ground Caribou

Pan blur of barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus)

Before getting to the point of this post, let me just quickly say thank you to all of you who have been reading and following Clicks & Corks so far: this new blog was officially launched on February 10 and less than a month later it has had over 1,000 views, 210 comments and 71 followers. Your support and your active contributions to C&C are nothing short of exceptional and they are a phenomenal reward to the effort that goes into trying to publish quality content that hopefully many of you may find interesting and worth reading or viewing. Once again, thank you.

But let’s move on to today’s subject: pan blurs. Pan blurs are fun to do and sometimes they may offer a solution when freezing an action shot either is not an option or would not yield an interesting enough visual result (as would have been the case with the running barren-ground caribou cow and calves (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) that are portrayed in the image above).

Successful pan blurs convey a sense of motion in a painterly, sort of impressionistic way, as if the “light painter” behind the lens (all photographers are essentially painters who rely on the qualities of light instead of paint and paintbrushes!) had chosen a quick, thick and essential brushstroke style.

The situations in which I find myself using the pan blur technique the most are those when my subject is in motion and either light levels are so low that attaining a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action would be impossible or impractical (as is often the case when photographing at the fringes of the day in the outdoors or in dark indoor contexts, such as a poorly lit gym or ice rink) or the subject and the context the subject is in are not interesting enough to be captured in a crisp, detailed shot that freezes the action. In these instances, instead of not taking any shot at all, I switch to pan blur gear and see what I come up with. A desire to convey a strong, visual sense of speed when photographing a fast living thing or object in motion may be another very good reason to resort to a pan blur.

Should you be wondering how to make a pan blur, just follow these steps:

  • Stick a telephoto lens on your camera;
  • Set your exposure using the M or S modes and pick a fairly slow shutter speed (how slow depends on how fast your subject is and how “streaky” you want your background to be, but somewhere between 1/8 and 1/60 sec should get you in the ballpark most of the times);
  • Set your AF system to an active tracking mode;
  • Position yourself such that your moving subject will be in front of you and its trajectory will run from one side to the other (left to right or right to left);
  • Stand still and, by rotating your torso/arms, aim your camera to the side your subject is supposed to come from;
  • As soon as your subject is in sight, lock focus on it and start tracking it by panning your camera in a fluid motion in sync with your subject and keeping it in the frame;
  • When your subject is by and large in front of you, without stopping your fluid panning motion, trip the shutter to expose one or more frames;
  • Keep tracking your subject for a few more moments just to make sure not to interrupt your panning when the shutter is still open.

The whole point of this technique is to blur the background and the moving parts of your subject (e.g., the limbs of a living thing, the wheels of a vehicle…) while retaining some key part of your subject relatively in focus (such as the head of a living thing or some distinctive feature in a vehicle).

Variants of this technique include the use of a flash set to rear curtain sync, which accentuates the sharpness of the subject while retaining the streaky background, or extreme pan blurs. Extreme pan blurs call for even slower shutter speeds so that not only the background but also the subject is blurred, although to some lesser extent than the background: when successfully performed, these shots may yield even more artistic, painterly abstract results, which can be equally rewarding.

Pan blurs are kind of hit and miss by definition, especially with fast moving subjects, so be prepared to take several practice shots to master this technique before using it in any important situation.

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 :-)

Environmental Portraits and Arctic Fox

Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) in its environment

Up until a while ago, the dominating trend in wildlife photography was shooting tight, delivering images that showed the animal up close, whether they were portraits or action shots. While tight shots are by all means still relevant and utilized by photo editors, a more recent trend has been that of the so-called environmental portraits, that is photographs that show the animal not in isolation but in the broader context of the ecosystem it is a part of.

There certainly is merit in this trend, in that through such images viewers take in much more about the animal than they could from a tight shot. Viewers have a better and more visual idea of the conditions and the geography the animal lives in: in other words, they get a more complete story about the subject.

The above image of an arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) in the barren lands in proximity to the shores of the Hudson Bay (Canada) exemplifies the notion of an environmental shot. I will post in the future closer images of the same species that show the animal’s body features from up close (if you are interested, you can view a selection of them right away on my Web site), but this photograph immediately tells you what animal we are talking about as well as something about the environment it lives in and its camouflage ability.

So, if you are pulling together your wildlife photography portfolio, it is a good idea to include both tight shots and environmental portraits, so as to add some variety and tell a more compelling story about your subjects.

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 :-)

Sprinting Coastal Brown Bear

Sprinting Coastal Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)

Beside loving bears, which I find truly fascinating animals, I love Alaska: such beautiful country, most of which is still wild and pristine, notwithstanding human efforts to drill more oil out of it (will we ever get rid of so dirty an energy source?…)

I visited Alaska twice, and I hope I will be able to go back in not too long a time. The first time I went to Katmai National Park, and the second time back to Katmai (although in a different area) and then on to the Kodiak archipelago. Alaska and Katmai in particular are among the best places you may be at to observe and photograph coastal brown bears. These are often interchangeably called “grizzlies” but, although they both belong to the species Ursus arctos, coastal brown bears (as the name implies) prevalently live in coastal areas and tend to be bigger than grizzlies who are considered a distinct subspecies (Ursus arctos horribilis) and live inland, away from major bodies of water.

If you travel to Katmai in the Summer, chances are that you are going to witness one of the most exciting phenomena in the life cycle of a coastal brown bear: the salmon run. Around that time of the year, wild sockeye salmon enter their spawning phase, during which they somehow find their way back from the ocean to the very same river where they were born so that they can work their way upstream, reach the headwater gravel beds of their birth, lay their eggs and generally die within a couple of weeks (because when they return to their original freshwater environment, they stop eating and live off their fat reserves).

Clearly, brown bears are not indifferent to nature’s call that brings the salmon back to accessible waterways to reproduce. Since fall and then winter are fast approaching (and with them a long period of hibernation), brown bears enter a phase known as hyperphagia where they maximize their food intake (they can eat up to 90 pounds of food per day!) to build up sufficient fat reserves to survive the hibernation months. In this period, coastal brown bears congregate by the shore or next to river banks anxiously waiting for one of their favorite prey to arrive in huge numbers.

When salmon eventually comes, all hell breaks loose and bears start chasing salmon in shallow waters to catch them and eat them. Bears are especially fond of salmon eggs, so much so that, after a bear has eaten enough fish for a day, sometimes it keeps catching more salmon just to eat the eggs while discarding the rest (for the seagulls’ happiness).

While I was observing a group of about six bears chasing salmon in the estuary of a river in Katmai, this young bear started sprinting in my general direction in pursuit of a salmon (that eventually proved to be faster than the bear) and gave me a great opportunity to freeze the motion of the bear at the peak of the action. The low angle of the image (that I shot kneeling in the sand) accentuates the majestic nature of the bear and creates an eye-level connection with the animal. Hope you 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 :-)

Snow Monkey Business

Japanese Snow Monkey (Macaca fuscata) in thermal pool

When I traveled to Japan on a wildlife photography trip, one of the highlights was photographing the Japanese snow monkeys.

These monkeys (which are actually macaques – Macaca fuscata) are a species that is indigenous to Japan. On Japan’s big island (Honshu), they live in two main areas, one of which is a mountainous region in the center of the island, by the town of Nagano, at an elevation of about 850 mt/2,750 ft.

There, whoever is interested in observing or photographing the snow monkeys needs to hike to Jigokudani Yaenkoen National Park (which supposedly means “Hell’s Valley”) and then to the thermal pool, which is one of the monkeys’ favorite places to congregate in winter. This is because this region of Japan gets very cold in the winter, with temperatures that drop to -15 C/5 F, and therefore the monkeys seek comfort from the warm waters coming from natural hot springs that are heated by the underground activity of the Shiga Kogen volcano.

Actually, the whole use of the thermal pool by the snow monkeys started relatively recently and marked a discovery in the monkeys’ adaptive skills. While beforehand no snow monkey had been observed in the thermal pool, in the Sixties one monkey ventured into the hot spring waters to collect seeds that had been thrown in by the Park’s keepers. The monkey evidently enjoyed not only the free meal, but also the warm water and this led to imitation by the other monkeys in its troop and eventually by virtually the entire population of that area, that took on the habit.

If you happen to travel to Japan, I wholeheartedly recommend you pay a visit to the snow monkeys, as they are very interesting (and often times downright funny) to observe, with their human-like behavior. Plus, they make for great photo subjects! The one captured in this image reminded me of Planet of the apes, as if it were crawling out of the pool thinking “I’m coming to get you!”

If you want to learn more about the Japanese snow monkeys, I suggest you start by checking this Web site out.

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 🙂