Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Northern Lights in Yellowknife, Canada

March, 2010
Northern Lights dance and dazzle across the unbelievable clear skies north of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. This is the reason I have travelled so far, all to capture the beauty of the aurora in a camera. But try as I might, I have not even scratched the spectacle of this phenomenon.
Here the big dipper (upper left) is surrounded by the aurora.
A waxing moon setting in the west lights up the snow on frozen Gordon Lake while the northern lights shimmy and shake.
Tamarac and birch trees of the boreal forest make the perfect foreground to the aurora.
There are times when the entire sky is lit up and dancing under the influence of the lights.
The shapes and colors are absolutely beyond belief. Truly you have to see it for yourself to believe it!
So even at -32 degrees C and with my eyes freezing shut I am one happy photographer in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, surrounded in ethereal light and moonbeams on fresh snow. How can it get any better?

To see more of my photography please visit www.wildlifeimages.net

Canadian caribou, anyone?

March, 2010
Caribou! The absolute symbol of the north. Life for native peoples around the Arctic is and always has been tied to the annual migrations of this member of the deer family. The sub species found here in Yellowknife is particularly handsome, wouldn't you agree?
Winter temperatures can be brutal in these parts, but caribou are magnificently adapted for life in the frozen north.
Able to run at speeds approaching 50 mph caribou are fleet and swift, even in deep snow or on slippery ice, as shown here when crossing the ice road.
With nothing to eat on these frozen lakes, the caribou gather in an open place where the approach of predators (like hunters or wolves) can easily be seen and avoided.
At the first sign of danger (me) these caribou are off to the races!
Whether coming or going, caribou are a beautiful animal indeed!

The ice road from Tibbitt to Contwoyto, NWT, Canada

March, 2010
The famous ice road out of Yellowknife used to truck supplies to the diamond mines up north makes for an interesting backdrop to night photography.
The road itself is a photographic macro opportunity.
Stress cracks and fractures from the weight of heavy rigs crisscross the ice surface.
Gilles setting up for ice macro photography.
Pretty cool, eh?
Caribou crossing the ice road find it much easier to travel the road than in the deep snow surrounding it.

Trucking on the ice road

March 2010
Trucks supply fuel and logistical support to the diamond mines of Canada's Northwest territories. The ice road of course depends on cold temperatures to maintain safe driving conditions over the myriad lakes and ponds in this area, so the trucks run at night when the temperatures are the coldest (and safest!)
One of the side benefits to running at night is the chance to drive a heavy rig under absolutely dazzling northern lights!
Of course there are many hazards on the ice road like slippery conditions and of course the chance for breaking through the ice.
Tail light trails of heavy trucks on the ice road offset the aurora borealis.
Sunrise finds the last of the trucks trying to make it across the ice to Port Lockheart.
What a place to drive a truck! For a southerner, the thought of driving a big rig across frozen lakes is really awesome!

Photography in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

March 23, 2010
For the last 2 weeks my good friend Gilles Pucheu and I have been camping and taking images north of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. My real goal was to take images of northern lights, but of course there are so many other things to see and shoot!
Gilles and I first met in Churchill, Manitoba where our mutual love of polar bears brought us together spending hours and hours looking for bears along the shores of Hudson Bay.
So what do we do while waiting for nightfall and the aurora? Prepare dinner and hot drinks for the cold (- 30 degree C weather) night to come.
The sky here is of course crystal clear and makes even the most mundane activity like boiling water on the stove a photographic opportunity!

To see more of my images please visit www.wildlifeimages.net

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Whales are making a comeback in Antarctica!

February, 2010
Although it might seem like a small thing to see a huge whale in Antarctica, it really is quite a big deal. In the 20th century all of the great whales in Antarctica were pursued to the point of commercial extinction. Seeing a southern right whale like the one above signals the slow comeback of great whales in Antarctic waters.
Rather than being hunted by humans, humpback whales now inspect us...just who is watching whom here?

A beautiful sight indeed! Blue and fin whales sub-surface feeding side-by-side. Each of the four species of great whales pictured above were reduced to single-digit percentages of their prior to 20th century whaling populations. Let's hope that we can continue to offer sanctuary to these recovering populations in and around Antarctica and all oceans of the world.
To top it all off here is a rare sighting of an adult male Gray's beaked whale in calm waters in the Drake Passage.

Seal of Approval

February, 2010

How can you not fall in love with them? When they are small, cute, and curious Antarctic fur seals are about the most photogenic animals going on South Georgia! Only as they grow (in both physical size and aggressive attitude) do they lose their appeal.

Mothers with nursing pups are abundant at every landing as fur seals now number into the millions here in South Georgia, quite a comeback after being hunted to commercial extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries.

With their soulful eyes and curious nature they are perfect for photographers!

Of course anyone who knows me knows that I love blondes (they have more fun)! Here a rare (1 in 1,000 or so) blond pup meet a "normal" colored Antarctic fur seal.

Naturally the good-humored nipping and sparring ensues, skills that will be required later in life.
This little fellow snuck up behind me as I was photographing his neighbor.

Of course we all know that curiosity killed the cat...and sometimes fur seal pups as well. This poor little guy has become entangled in fishing line and his future looks grim indeed.

To see more of my photography please visit www.wildlifeimages.net