Friday, March 30, 2018

Spring is here, or is it?

Most years, but not every year, for the short period of 7 to 10 days the swans are stopping by here in Southern BC during their spring migration

Returning from their wintering habitat and on their way to their breeding grounds farther north.

For us a sign that spring can't be that far away anymore....even if the first images I was able to take of them this year were photographed in a howling snow storm.

Most of these swans are Tundra Swans. Tundra swans are the most abundant swans in North America. They breed on the coastal plains of Alaska and Northern Canada  but spend the winter as far south as California's Central Valley.

There are two subspecies of the Tundra swan, the so called whistling swan with a smaller yellow patch at the proximal part of it's beak and the Bewick swan (named after an English illustrator who first captured this swan on paper) with a much bigger yellow plate.

 Illustration by Robert Bewick, the son of Thomas Bewick after which the swan is named.

I believe the Tundra swans that stop by here to be whistling swans, as they only have a small yellow patch. The movie below makes it easy to understand how they got their name.

 While observing the swans I noticed, that lots of ground feeding swans were accompanied by a few ducks and as soon as the swan would come up, the ducks went down. I guess they profit off what the swan had stirred up.

The Tundra swans leave their wintering site usually around Mid March to arrive at their breeding habitat by Mid May,

 To my surprise and delight, for the first time this year, I also saw Trumpeter swans. I first noticed that there were a few swans that seemed to be way bigger than the others. Zooming in on them I saw that they don't have the yellow patch. This may or may not be an indication as there are Tundra swans that don't have them but then I heard I heard a sound as if someone were blowing into an old trumpet....

Trumpeter swans are the heaviest birds that are native to North America, They weigh between 15 - 30 lbs and have a wingspan up to 3 m! Trumpeter swans almost faced extintion.. In 1930 there were only 70 swans left in the wild, around the Hot springs of Yellowstone National Park.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the trumpeter swan was hunted heavily, for game or meat and for their quills and feathers. The Hudson's Bay Company alone captured thousands of swans annually with a total of 17,671 swans killed between 1853 and 1877...
Thanks to reintroduction and habitat restoration today the numbers are up to an estimated 46000 birds. The reintroduced Trumpeter swans though don't seem to migrate....which means that the swans that stop by here are from some wild gen pool!

This trumpeter swan seems to check out that funny furry bird....

Tundra swans coming out of the water for pruning and rest 

Bar brawl?

Mrs. and Mr Common Merganser are also enjoying an evening swim 

As elegant as swans look while on the water, their getting in and out of flight looks a bit prehistoric.

 Dinosaurs in the sky?

Nevertheless they are flying thousands of kilometers each year, and very soon they will be off, flying farther north....

...I will miss their whistling and trumpeting....until next spring!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

All In The Wild...

 ...was the theme for the 2018 International Ice Carving Competition in Lake Louise.
And photography played quite the role this time as the ten teams could choose their favorite photograph from the many that have been taken over the years capturing the beauty of the Banff National Park. They then had exactly 34 hours to create their personal masterpiece.

Please click on the images to enlarge them, it's worth it!

As every year, it blows my mind how detailed and creative these ice carvings are.
This year though, almost a week went by after the competition finished that I had a chance to visit Lake Louise. Wind and weather, or better, snow and weather, had taken their toll. One of the sculptures had already disappeared, others showed quite some damage.

This piece of art I will call "Aurora" as it had no official title, but the inspiring photo shows the aurora. On second thought, I might have called it "Le Petit Prince" or "B 612"!

Beautifully executed and painstakingly hard to photograph...

This years Ice Sculpture Competition was at the same time the Canada Cup of Ice Carving which is hosted by a different site each year. The creators of "Aurora", Team Samuel and Michal from France/Poland, won the Cup last year in Ottawa.

Another favorite of mine was the "Eskimo Chieftain" by Team Ice Kingdom from China.

Ever wondered why it is called the blue hour? The sun had long set, but the light was still lingering as snow was falling in steady fine flakes.

With total darkness though and the proper illumination the sculpture really shows its full splendor.

"Aurora" was my favorite sculpture of all, but this one comes in as a close second.
Horse, of course....for those of you who know me.

Created by the Baisas Brothers from the Philippines "Catch me if you can" won a very deserved 3rd place this year.

Isn't that detail just amazing? 

Team Sakha from Russia carved my favorite sculpture of last years competition, "The Guardian". This year they won 2nd place and the People's Choice Award for their "Fun" carving.

To give a better appreciation for the sculpture I will include the sketch here.

Fun indeed!

Last but not least, the winner of this years competition:
"Moonlight Meeting" by Team US EH!!, from, you guessed it, the US and Canada.

Wildly stunning!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Black & White Is The New Color

Since the beginning of photography in the early 1800s, photographers were eager to be able to photograph in color. Since 1935 color photography became more and more main stream.

Starting with high saturation slide films like the Fujichrome Velvia and others, color photography took on a new dimension. Photos were as colorful as nature itself...sometimes even more so. In the era of Photoshop color-reality seems to be rather an interpretation of the artist than pure documentation.
I love color and I love Photoshop, but lately I feel the urge to take a step back and focus more on other elements that make a good photo.
Composition, texture, detail, depth of field to name a few.
Will I be able to create as good and impressive photos if I forgo color?

With this question in mind I promised myself to post at least one blog per month in 2018 that is dedicated to Black & White photography.

As you can see, I allow myself a splash of color here and there...

These images were taken at a nearby vacant ranch. I feel very fortunate to have obtained the permission to wander there and to take images.

The ranch is stunning, but my love goes to this absolute amazing former dairy barn.

 A log barn with incredible charm!

Another one of my favorite items on the ranch...

What do you think? Comments here or on facebook are appreciated!