Clowns of the Sea

Machias Seal Island has been on a list of destinations I have wanted to visit for several years. I was fortunate enough to take a trip there this month, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. You wouldn’t think there would be much to see with an area less than twenty acres, but like they say, big things can come in small packages. If you are nature photographer or birder this amazing bird sanctuary is a must see. It is home to a variety of seabirds such as Razorbills, Common Murres, Arctic Terns, Eiders and the stars of the show – Atlantic Puffins.

Machias Seal Island

Machias Seal Island

Seal island is located approximately 16 km (10 miles) southeast of Cutler Maine and approximately 19 km (12 miles) southwest Grand Manan in the Bay of Fundy. Between late May and mid-August there are two companies that run boat tours to the island, one from Grand Manan and one out of Cutler Maine. My wife and I took the tour from Maine due to a conflict with the departure time for the ferry to Grand Manan. Either location requires an overnight stay the day before because the tours leave between 6:30 and 8:00am local time.

Left, Right and Centre

“Left, Right and Centre”

For those who have been whale watching or on other sightseeing tours there is always the fear of not seeing anything. That is not the case here unless it’s because of fog. Our boat launched about 7:30 am, and we were fortunate all aspects of the weather cooperated. The bay was smooth and the fog lifted before reaching the end of our 45 minute cruise. The anticipation was high as we all caught a glimpse of the manned lighthouse and saw puffins in flight over the water towards their sanctuary.

Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffin

Once in sight of the island it didn’t take long for the action to begin with seals sunbathing and bouncing on the rocks as well as the seabirds coming and going like bees from a hive. We taxied ashore and gathered by the lighthouse keepers and awaiting our instructions. We were split up into groups of four or five and taken to a blind to spend the next hour and a half. Normally I might be a little claustrophobic but that 90 minutes felt more like ten. The birds posed and played for the cameras like they were on stage. One other photographer said it was almost like it was cheating being so close to the action. You quickly see where their nickname comes from as their personality truly shines – clowns for sure.

Waddling Circus

“Waddling Circus”

Puffins are not an endangered species but their numbers are monitored closely now around the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy due to their popularity with hunters until the late 1800’s for their meat, eggs and feathers. With their smaller numbers in past years it left them exposed to other seabirds like gulls taking over their habitat. The decline of herring as a food source in recent years is also a concern, as is a reduced rate of reproduction. Puffins only lay one egg each year and don’t mate until about age five. Organizations like the Canadian Wildlife Service, University of New Brunswick and the Audubon Society are all studying and working to protect Puffins and the other native seabirds.

Feathers in a Flap

“Feathers in a Flap”

I’ve never been on a safari but I assume you would experience a similar affection for the animals you photograph there. Once you see firsthand how fragile an animal and their habitat are, it really changes the way you look at that particular creature and the actions we can have; both positive and negative.

 

Trouble in Paradise

"The Cove" - Paradise Island, Bahamas.

“The Cove” – Paradise Island, Bahamas.

My wife and I celebrated our 20th anniversary last month in the Bahamas and enjoyed some absolutely spectacular scenery on the resort. Off the resort the scenery was still fantastic, but at times I was saddened by the condition of environment and amount of litter on the beaches and in the water. On a few occasions I saw some of the locals treat the water around the wharf like a giant trash can and I continually thought to myself “don’t they realize what they are doing to this paradise”.

As the days have gone by and I’ve edited my photographs from our trip the thoughts of the trash on the beaches and in the ocean have continued to distress me, until recently. As I’ve started photographing around my own home town I’ve realized the people in my area are no different than those in the Bahamas.

"The Veil" - Welsford, New Brunswick

“The Veil” – Welsford, New Brunswick

A few weeks ago I was hiking though the woods looking for this waterfall and during my walk came across several piles of trash along the paths in the woods, some of it right next the falls itself. It was at this point I started to feel a bit of remorse for the thoughts I had while we were visiting the Bahamas because I realized how hypocritical I was being in my judgment of the local people when they are no different than those of us in the north. We tend to think of paradise being a tropical location but the truth is the God has created the whole Earth and there is fragility and beauty to be found everywhere, not just where the white sandy beaches are.

 

 

Fisher of Men – An Easter Art Project

Bay of Fundy, Deer Island New Brunswick

Bay of Fundy, Deer Island New Brunswick

About 2 months ago I received an invitation by my pastor to take part in an Easter art project at our church. I felt extremely honoured to be asked, and jumped at the opportunity to work with such a diverse group artist. Those involved displayed talents in woodworking, pencil sketches, paintings, poetry, music and pottery. All of our work was incorporated into an annual event our church host on Good Friday called “Journey to the Cross”, as well as the Good Friday Service.

The idea was to share a piece of art that depicted the events Good Friday. After a short time searching images on my laptop I came across this image from the fall of 2010 I entitled “Fisher of Men”. Normally it is the colours and light that I’m drawn to when creating a photograph, but for this scene in Deer Island it was the cross. I’m not sure if it has a specific purpose for the local fishermen but the cross represented so much more to me and my faith and why I placed it in the center of everything.

Eternal Winter

The days are getting longer. The temperature is rising. The end of winter must be near. Right?

"Evening Shiver" - Lepreau River, NB

“Evening Shiver” – Lepreau River, NB

Winter has seemed extra long, snowy and cold this year, and yet, at the same time the scenery has been magnificent. This has been one of the best winters for photography. Frosty ice storms and the mountains of snow have created some beautiful subjects.

"Hay There"

“Hay There” – Central Bedeque, PEI

For the last month or so my friends and neighbours have been a chorus of voices asking for the warmer weather to arrive and an end to the snow and freezing temperatures. I admit, there have been weeks when winter has seemed long; especially when shovelling a foot of snow or trying to manoeuvre around the icy streets. I know the calendar says that winter is coming to a close, but it’s certainly not going quietly. This past week Eastern Canada experience what some are calling a winter hurricane and the worst driving conditions I have ever experienced. For good measure we received another ice storm today and a third consecutive snow day for the kids. The last four months have been intense, but there is still a little part of me that is sad to see the end of winter.

Smoke and Fire

Winter can be cruel. This year it seems even more-so. The bitter cold, day after day, a ridiculous ice storm followed by a few days of mild weather, and then back to the deep freeze. With January done and the short month of February here, I can feel spring just around the corner.

"Smoke and Fire" - Bay of Fundy, Saint John, NB

“Smoke and Fire” – Bay of Fundy, Saint John, NB

The photograph above was taken in January on an extremely cold morning. I dropped my daughter off at school and I noticed the sea fog was floating over the Bay of Fundy so I went back home to get my equipment. The cold air over the bay created a thick fog and with the sunrise shining through it made for a fabulous scene. I fired off a few shots for about 10 minutes and then headed back home because the wind chill burned through my jeans and made it just too uncomfortable to continue. Winter conditions can be challenging at times. Fortunately, photographic excursions don’t have to be to far away, or for a long time to be successful.

I created this image using a Canon 50D and a Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM, set to aperture priority (AV) at f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/400 of a second at ISO 100 and with the focal length of the lens at 38mm. Post processing was done using Corel AfterShot Pro.

To view more of my work please visit www.duckcovephotography.ca or www.facebook.com/DuckCovePhotography

Eye Of The Beholder

Many in the Eastern parts of Canada and the United States have endured what I’d call a crystal Christmas this year. Typically we all look forward to a white Christmas but this year instead of snow many areas received freezing rain and ice pellets. For days since the storm the scenery has been amazing, unless you are one of the hundreds of thousands who have been without electricity. It’s been over a week without power for some areas and it may not be turned on for a few more days for hundreds. My family went without power on two occasions last Monday but those six hours were nothing compared to those who have waited for six plus days.

Below are a few images of the beautiful landscape I’ve made this week created by the “Ice Storm of 2013″. There is some irony in these images. For those with power we can appreciate the amazing beauty and for those without power it represents the incredible inconvenience. To my friends and neighbours around the country still without power I truly hope that life returns to normal soon.

Musquash Falls

Musquash Falls, NB

Lepreau Falls

Lepreau Falls, NB

The view from my lane

The view from my lane

Ice on veins

Icy Veins

Rosy and Red

Frozen Roses

White and Gold

Encased

Encased

Frozen in Time

Old and Grey

Silver Bells

Silver Woods

Parting Shot

I have friends who think photos of sunset are overdone, but for me there is something majestic about a photograph of a sunset or sunrise. A new beginning, or a perfect ending to the day. The anticipation of shooting the sun breaking the horizon or falling behind it never gets old. In that short window of time I’m continually awestruck by the awesomeness in one of God’s miraculous wonders. That giant ball of fire reflecting off the clouds in the sky can’t help but can capture the attention of all; young, old, photographer and non photographer alike.

A few weeks ago I spent the day driving and walking along the coastline of the Bay of Fundy. My journey began in Garnett Settlement and my day concluded in St. Martins, New Brunswick. This 30km stretch of back-roads and highway is one of the most scenic areas that I’ve driven and one of my favourite places to visit every year. I’m continually drawn to the magnificent beaches along with the rugged and rocky coastlines. Each visit brings me back to a familiar area but I’m always introduced to something new that I’ve missed before.

"Half-Light" - The sun setting behind the coastline in St. Martins New Brunswick

“Half-Light” – The sun setting behind the coastline in St. Martins, New Brunswick

After spending six to eight hours chasing light and shadows it seems only appropriate to finish the day by making images of the setting sun. I love the intensity, texture and shapes created by the light and once it’s gone the only thing left for me is the excitement of seeing the images I recorded. It’s the end to a perfect day.

The Archer’s Bow

The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep. – Paul Strand
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The Kingston Peninsula is located in Southern New Brunswick between the Saint John and Kennebecasis Rivers and  home to one of Canada’s most famous photographers, Freeman Patterson. The Kingston Peninsula is accessible by several ferries from either Saint John, Grand Bay-Westfield or Quispamsis. You can also drive to the peninsula directly from the town of Hampton; however, part of the unique charm of this rural community is crossing over by one of the ferries.
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The Upper Moss Glen Falls are well-known in the area and a popular spot for photographers or those who just enjoy nature. The 10 meter waterfalls are near the end of the Puddington Lake Brook just before it exits into the Kennebecasis River. My Wife and I moved to this area a few years after we married and lived there for a few years in the mid 90’s before we moved to our current home in Saint John. We revisited the area about a month ago and walked along the shore of the brook back toward the falls. The waterfalls are usually a bit wider, but due to a drier summer it was a narrow cascade over the rocky cliff.  I was quite fortunate to arrive when I did because the narrow stream of water created a perfect bow-shaped reflection in the calm pool below.
The Archer's Bow

The Archer’s Bow

It’s Not What You Think.

Glen Falls

Glen Falls

I’ve been involved with an organization called the Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) for about five years. ACAP has spearheaded a project for several years called the Marsh Creek Restoration Initiative. Marsh Creek is an estuary which starts in the suburbs of Saint John and cuts through the heart of the city. The project was initiated by ACAP because the creek has been contaminated by raw sewage and abused by industry in a small section of the marsh for several decades. Thanks to the attention ACAP has brought to Marsh Creek a plan has recently been put in place to finally fix the problem.

If it wasn’t for the work ACAP is doing I would have continued to associate Marsh Creek with the polluted parts, like most people. When I got involved with ACAP I began to learn that there is so much more to the creek and started to realize how many beautiful parts there are besides the small part that’s been polluted. I like the shot above because it’s not what most people think. You tell them it’s part of Marsh Creek and they are so surprised; just like I was the first time someone told me.

Going Up

Every year in September, the Atlantic Balloon Fiesta arrives in Sussex New Brunswick. Known as the Dairy Capital of the Maritimes, the small town of Sussex, with its population of approximately 4500 people, welcomes some 40,000 visitors for this event during the first weekend after Labour Day.

Launch times are twice daily. The first starts around 6:30 am and the second at 5:30 pm, with balloon glows happening at dusk (balloons are tethered to the ground for this launch). The Balloon Fiesta is a fabulous family event. The waking of kids at 5 am is a little iffy, but necessary to make sure that you arrive on time to see the pilots inflate and take off in their balloons. The launch times really provide perfect conditions for taking photographs because you are avoiding the harsh midday light.

If acrophobia is not a problem for you and you have a couple of hundred dollars to spare, riding on a balloon will give you a very unique perspective of the Balloon Fiesta, and the surrounding area.

A tripod and two lenses should be enough for equipment. A wide angle telephoto for pre-launch and a medium telephoto for balloons in flight will allow you to capture just about anything you see.

Even though the balloons and pilots from all over the world are the main attraction, there is a lot more to see and photograph. The car shows, craft and artisan shows along with the rides at the fair, make it an all day family (or photographic) event.