Birds of a Feather

Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them. Matthew 6:26 TLB

I haven’t written since May of 2017 and with the start of a new year I felt like it was time and to get you caught up on what I’ve been up to.  For several years the Bay of Fundy has been my primary focus but in 2017 I decided to turn my focus to the local wildlife.

I’m not sure if it was by coincidence or divine intervention but I was fortunate to capture several images of some of my favourite birds. Perhaps my wife was the good luck since she was with me for several sightings.

There is something special about seeing a large raptor or heron in the wild. Every time I come away with a new photograph but also a new appreciation for the animal and their survival instincts. As a spectator  in different locations the one constant I notices was their ability to go about their business with little concern about me, with the exception of an osprey feeding its young. Don’t mess with a mom!

As I edited, filed and sorted my images the Bible verse above came to mind on several times. Over the years it’s become my go-to scripture during the stressful or anxious times of life.

Nature photography is dual purpose for me. I love being outside photographing nature and enjoying the wild places, but it’s also a time to enjoy all the God has made. It’s also a great reminder that if He can create and care for all it, He can certainly look after all my needs.


Compassionate Photography

1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

I have struggled with this week’s blog. My first dose of writers block has set in. This was originally planned for Palm Sunday but I have been unable to focus and to get my mind away from the environmental issues I wrote about two weeks ago.  Since I posted my Running Water blog, I have read a few other stories on the topic of water and the environmental and I’ve struggled to concentrate on much else.

Palm Sunday - It was a great time for some internal reflection

For several years I have wanted to use my photography for a greater purpose than just my own fame. There is part of me that still has the desire to be a full time photographer traveling the world creating captivating pieces of art; but there is also the part of me that understands the greatest satisfaction will come from making a difference in the world with my images.

Don’t get me wrong, going out early on a morning or late evening continues to motivate me and I still get excited every time I plug my camera into my laptop. Just being outside enjoying nature, recording images and editing on my computer sustains me from week to week, but long term I would like to accomplish more.  I was planning a trip later this year to Kenya with some friends from my church but unfortunately that was postponed due to an election in Kenya. I had visions of capturing the next image of “The Afgan Girl” like Steve McCurry or a wild creature like Frans Lanting’s “Cheetah and Cub” but that will have to wait.

Synchronized Swimming - A lot of my inspiration comes from sharing the uncommon and the common; sometimes at the same time.

Palm Sunday and Easter is a time of celebration of an Individual who was an example for us all. On several occasions Jesus demonstrated his compassion for the less fortunate and those who were sick. I think most of us now realize the issues that we are now dealing with in regards to the environment will have the greatest effect on the poor. Those who are least able to help themselves are the ones who face the biggest obstacles. The challenge for me now is to demonstrate compassion like Jesus did and is there a way for me to use my photography to share this message.

I have had several discussions over the years with different people and family about my ideas and desire to use my images for something else besides art on a wall. I have discovered new organizations like Help Portrait, Outside the Lens and Broken Light Collective and many others which are all amazing projects. I just haven’t found the one that feels like the right fit for me yet.  So now I’m turning to you my friends, new and old, for ideas.  If you are involved in some kind of an organization or doing something on your own and using your photography to give back to others, I would love to know what you are doing.

The Fundy Isles – Grand Manan

The goal is not to change your subjects, but for the subject to change the photographer.  ~Author Unknown

It was April 1994, the day after my wedding that my wife and I left for our honeymoon on Grand Manan. This was my first visit to any of the Fundy Isles. It was also on this trip that my infatuation for photography began.  I had lived next to the Bay of Fundy my entire life, but I had never left the mainland. Sometimes, I look back and regret that I didn’t spend more time traveling around the area I grew up in.  I was unaware of where I lived and what magnificent wonders were so close to home for me.

With my very first camera, a Minolta X370 and Magnicon 70-200 4.5-5.6 lens, I was set to go.  With little knowledge of photography or Grand Manan we set off from Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick for our week long adventure. The ferry ride in itself is part of the adventure.  The Bay can be merciless to those with weak stomachs, as one poor young fellow demonstrated for us in the cafeteria.

The ferry as is looked arriving to Grand Manan in 1994.

Our ocean front cottage provided an incredible view and beach access. The beach also presented an unusual introduction to one of our fisherman neighbors while we were there.  Apparently, April is a slow fishing month so golf (while wearing hip waders) is a favorite pastime on the island. The beach looked like it had been invaded by sea turtles that left their eggs. My wife and I introduced ourselves and played caddy for a while, collecting golf balls and then returning them to our mariner friend.

One of the sand traps the local golfers play through on Grand Manan

The real reason to go to Grand Manan, besides April golf, is the scenery and wildlife. Oh, and of course the famous Grand Manan dulse.  There is no shortage of subjects on this tiny island; the whales, birds, lighthouses, wildflowers, beaches or the famous Hole in the Wall.  Grand Manan is also the gateway to Machias Seal Island, the southernmost breeding site for the North Atlantic Puffin. (Seal Island is next on my bucket list). This island of approximately 2500 people is only 24 km long by 11 km wide but like the other two Fundy Isles there is no shortage of subjects, and beauty abounds everywhere.

It is a magnificent view for many of the residents.

I know that the photographs included here don’t do justice for what Grand Manan has to offer, but as I looked through my portfolio, it was an intriguing time of reflection on my first visit to the island.  I found it interesting to see what inspired me 18 years ago and how my photography has changed. I would encourage you to do the same and look back over your photographs from 10, 20, or maybe 30 years ago, if you are old enough. How has your photography changed? How you have changed? Perhaps, like I did when viewing my photographs of Grand Manan, you’ll desire to go back somewhere familiar again, or feel encouraged by how far you have come.

Go On A Safari At Home

Animals make for interesting subjects and I love to photograph the exotic as much as I enjoy the common neighborhood ones.  There is something intriguing about watching animal behavior, be it the intelligence they display or their instinctive behaviors.  While some seem shy in front of the camera others seem to know when the “camera is rolling” and it’s time to perform.  This unknown in the animal kingdom is what makes it entertaining and what makes for some of the challenge and reward when it comes to creating great animal photographs.

It’s unlikely that I’ll have many opportunities to travel and go on safaris or explore the wild places of polar bears or penguins. My opportunities for travel are limited because it’s expensive and also because I have a wife and three children and leaving them for long periods of time isn’t conducive to my wife’s sanity.  Since I don’t really travel, the best places I’ve found to get great animal shots are local zoos and aquariums. Now, these are not without controversy and the concerns about animal well-being are thoroughly documented and sometimes justified. I would much rather see a wild animal in the wild but not if it means there is a risk of poaching or danger due to habitat loss.  While zoos are not the ideal home for animals they do provide a place for rehabilitation and education and some zoos do participate in captive breeding and reintroduction back into the wild.

One of the horses used for wagon rides at Rockwood Park

You don’t need to live in Florida, California or cities like Vancouver to take advantage of the animals in your hometown.  Rockwood Park is a great urban park where I live and as an added benefit it’s free. Inside of Rockwood are several lakes and ponds that are home to multiple species of ducks such as Mallards and Wigeons.  Besides the waterfowl, there is ample opportunity to see deer, squirrels and chipmunks. Spotting a hawk, eagle or turkey vulture is not unusual either.  Almost every town or city has a park like this. Take some time to get out and enjoy the one near you.

A two hour car ride from the city where I live is Moncton’s Magnetic Hill Zoo .  This zoo is a terrific park with everything from exotic birds and primates to the massive mammals like lions and buffalo. The park is 40 acres so it takes a long, long time to cover the whole place with 3 small kids. I’m not sure what I enjoy more the animals themselves or the reactions from my kids as they travel from each area to the next with anticipation of what they will see next.  Seeing wildlife on a show like Planet Earth or Life is great but nothing compares to seeing animals like a ring-tailed lemur in person.  The visit also makes for great family memories and still creates excitement in the stories my children tell.

Ring-Tailed Lemur - Magnetic Hill Zoo, Moncton, NB

One of the best zoo trips I’ve ever taken, almost twenty years ago, was to the Toronto Metropolitan Zoo and its 710 acres of exhibit area and 10 km of walking trails.  While I was attending college in Peterborough my wife and I took a trip to the “big city” and spent the day walking the trails around this incredible park.  You can literally spend the whole day on the grounds and still not see all of it.  I was also lucky that a friend and co-worker lent me his Nikon F4 and a Nikon 70-200 2.8 for the trip.  This was a huge step up from my first fully manual camera, a Minolta x370.  It was like a going from a Hyundai Accent to a Porsche 911.

Elephants at the Toronto Zoo

Zoos have provided a lot of fun for our family to get outside and enjoy nature and a few amazing creatures that we don’t have the opportunity to see in our own little world.  It’s also a little ironic that my wife and I met at the zoo and now three children later it feels a little like … well let’s just say some days I wish we met at the library.