Creative springtime approaches

Greetings to all my new outlook followers. Welcome aboard!

Green starts to appear in Northern Ontario in early to mid-May, along with the blackflies! The first blush of green in the aspens is always a delight and I make sure to get out with the camera to some of my favourite locales.

Looking up in an aspen woodland. f22, 1/160 @ 35 mm

When the sun is bright and the skies are blue I resort to backlighting to take advantage of the translucent green glow in the emerging leaves. I prefer soft overcast with these first spring colours but I have to ‘go with the flow’ and make the best of what mother nature offers me.

Trying to be creative I usually drift toward some interpretive techniques, most of which are ‘in camera’. I hope to communicate the essence of spring with these approaches- delicacy, freshness, transience to name a few.

One technique I like is to look for emerging leaves in smaller trees near the camera. Positioning them between me and the lens I then (manually) focus on background subjects such as these birch tree trunks. With a telephoto lens and shallow depth of field I created this image (below), all in one shot, in the camera.

Birch woodland. In-camera selective focus. f/4 @ 86 mm

Another in-camera technique I like to occasionally use is multiple exposure. I choose six to ten frames and with a wide aperture I expose 5/6 or 9/10 with varying degrees of ‘de-focus’. I have to deselect autofocus and manually change focus, sometimes accompanied with a bit of zooming.

Aspens on a hillside. In-camera 6 frames. 240 mm.

Birch woodland. In-camera multiple exposure. 10 frames 155 mm f4 manual focus.

Birch woodland. In-camera multiple exposure. 10 frames 155 mm f4 manual focus.

Finally, with stands of tree trunks like these aspens I move the camera slowly up or down or up and down during a long exposure. I obtain longer exposure times using low ISO, small apertures and a polarizing or neutral density filter. This photo was made @200 mm and 3 seconds.

Aspen woodland. 3 seconds @ f20, ISO 31.

The advantage to employing these techniques is that the photographer can make interesting, unique images close to home.

Spring is Here

I live in Northern Ontario so even though Spring officially arrives around March 20 I know from experience that March is a winter month. A few years back our Science Centre had a spring equinox party- greet the sunrise and celebrate- except that is was -30℃ that morning. Last year was unusually warm and we were spoiled. After enduring a long and seemingly arduous winter (but fairly normal stats-wise, according to Environment Canada) we were longing for warmer days and no snow as March ended.


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A varying hare one day before the first day of spring

A varying hare one day before the first day of spring

I’m always on the lookout for photo opportunities, especially during unusual weather. Some recent personal encounters with nature and my resultant photos could be ‘blamed’ on the quirkiness of a slow spring.

For the first time our maple tree dripped sap and it froze to become an icicle on the tree branches. In other years I have observed chickadees, sapsuckers and squirrels sipping at the drips, but this year things were different. The extremely cold overnight and early morning temperatures froze the dripping sap. I observed chickadees hovering below the dripping ‘sap-sicle’, trying to get a drink. I set up the tripod and long lens and attempted to photograph the action. Out of about 600 frames I captured 3 or 4 like this one. I was frustrated by extremely brief, sporadic encounters, but the keepers were very satisfying.

Chickadee sipping from maple 'sap-sicle'

Chickadee sipping from maple ‘sap-sicle’

I have never had much luck photographing varying hares (snow bunnies) in their white winter fur coats. They are active mostly at night and tend to hide under trees during daylight. These rabbits do become more visible and approachable in early spring. This year I had very approachable hare around the advent of the equinox but with all the snow yet to melt and more coming down, I was fortunate to finally capture some decent white rabbit pictures.

The Easter Bunny, posing near the house.

The Easter Bunny, posing near the house.

Finally with only remnant patches of snow, receding ice in the lakes and ponds and returning birds, I ventured out one early morning to a nearby beaverpond. Because the temperature was well below 0℃ there was abundant frost even though geese were calling and ducks were flying into the pond. When frost is backlit, at a certain angle, it refracts into frozen rainbows of colour. I decided to use a long lens with its shallow depth of field to throw these circles of colour in the background into out-of-focus blobs of colour, turning a rather mundane scene into a late winter-early spring wonderland.

A marsh rush with frost and rainbow refractions in the background

A marsh rush with frost and rainbow refractions in the background

Manitoulin Island In Spring

Burnett’s Sideroad near Sheguiandah

The “Island” is one of my favourite places for day trips and overnight photo trips. Situated in Georgian Bay Manitoulin is Canada’s largest freshwater island. The topography is largely rural and agricultural with many lakes, pastures small towns and woodlands. The Island is an extension of the Niagara Escarpment and Bruce Peninsula, its geologic base being largely limestone. Even though it is barely 100 km from where I live in the Canadian Shield, Manitoulin’s ecology is very much different from that of Northern Ontario’s ‘spruce/moose biome’.

A spring pasture with cattle near Green Bay

Spring is a favourite photographic season for me no matter where I am. Manitoulin offers possibilities to photograph rural landscapes, hardwood forests with flowers on the forest floor, waterfalls and the Georgian Bay shorelines, with their alvar ecosystems. The rare lakeside daisy blooms in these alvars in late May. In early May however I expected to see marsh marigolds and the blush of fresh spring colour in the aspens and perhaps the hardwoods.

As we so often seem to remark these days, Spring was early this year. Even so, I was very surprised to see trilliums in full bloom in early May. This is something I would expect to see much later in May. It was a bonus, albeit slightly disquieting.

High Falls near Manitowaning

Maple woodland with trilliums near Kagawong

Canada plum flowers along a rural road

Bridal Veil Falls near Kagawong

Animals of Montana

Animals of Montana is the business name for a wildlife model photography service run by Troy and Tracy Hyde. The wildlife centre is housed at Troy and Tracy’s ranch in the mountains near Bozeman Montana, on the road to Bridger Bowl Ski Area from downtown Bozeman.

Still photographers and videographers are able to book private, customized sessions alone or in small groups. In addition there are numerous group ‘photo tours’ offered either near the ranch or on location, as far abroad as Red Rock country in Utah.

In late February I will be joining a tour with emphasis on winter predators, featuring mammals such as wolf, grizzly, fisher, bobcat and small mammals along with some exotic species like Siberian tiger, snow leopard, and Barbary lion.


Troy is an expert animal trainer and the animals will be posed near you and made to behave in natural ways, including action shots like running and leaping. Joe and MaryAnn McDonald attest to Troy’s expertise and feel that this is the best wildlife model experience among several good ones from which to choose. Other pro wildlife photographers such as Dennis Fast feel the same. The experience is friendly, exciting and intense. You’ll wonder how those memory cards fill so quickly!

I like to combine a session at Animals of Montana with photography in Yellowstone, which is only about two hours from Bozeman.

For more information about pricing, dates, tours etc, please visit Troy and Tracy’s website .

Here is a selection of images from a Winter tour and a Baby Animals tour.