Wildlife

Anna's Hummingbird in the Snow

I've been a little obsessed with watching the Anna's hummingbirds go about their day in my backyard this past year. We've recently had a lot of snow and cold weather here on Vancouver Island but these little guys manage to stick it out! Since the snow was supposed to melt by tomorrow, I decided I would try to capture a shot of a male with some snowflakes around him. It's really hard to get close enough without scaring them though so I made a makeshift blind out of a tent fly and it actually worked! I'd love to try perfecting this technique, especially if it snows again. I would start by making the blind more comfortable to sit in that's for sure! I have profound respect for photographers who have logged days, weeks, even months sitting stationary in a blind, muscles cramping in uncomfortable positions waiting for the perfect shot. It's difficult on so many levels but well worth the effort in the end!

 My makeshift blind formed by throwing a tent fly over a chair and my tripod. After it snowed for awhile, I blended in pretty well!

My makeshift blind formed by throwing a tent fly over a chair and my tripod. After it snowed for awhile, I blended in pretty well!

16 Favourite Photos From 2016

Well, it has been another incredible year, jam-packed with new adventures, discoveries, and photos! It's hard to pick favourites from it all but here are my personal top 16 from 2016. Do you have a favourite image? Let me know in the comments below! A huge thanks goes out to the amazing groups and individuals that I've worked with this past year and to all those who have supported my work. It wouldn't be the same with out you! For those who might be interested, prints of most these images are available in my online store as well. Here's to a happy, healthy, and wild 2017! TJ.

A tree climber makes his way up Big Lonely Doug, Canada's second largest Douglas-fir tree near Port Renfrew. Climbing this tree for a second time was something I never thought we'd get the chance to do but it was just as amazing an experience as the first time. It's hard to convey just how small you feel in comparison to this gentle giant but hopefully this photo does it some justice. You can see a drone video of the climb here. Canon 5D MK2 | 17-40 f/4L lens | 1/200sec | f/9.0 | ISO 400.

A giant rainbow arcs across the ancient forests of Edinburgh Mountain near Port Renfrew. I've never seen a rainbow so intense or that hugged the land so tightly. As new roads and clearcuts continue to threaten the largest remaining intact old-growth forest here on southern Vancouver Island, I couldn't help but think that the mountain was happy to see us there, working to protect its forest friends. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L lens | 1/200sec | f/8.0 | ISO 200.

The little bonsai tree growing out of sunken log at Fairy Lake must be one of the most recognizable and photographed trees on Vancouver Island. That only makes for a fun challenge though, to see how you might capture it in new and unique ways. Since the lake is connected to the nearby San Juan River, water levels can rise dramatically during periods of heavy rain. When they did just this fall, it left only part of the tree poking through the lake's surface. At times, the entire tree can become submerged. How it lives through all of this I am not quite sure, but I'm sure happy that it does. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L IS lens | 1/4 sec | f/6.3 | ISO 200.

I love to watch the sunrise. It's a great excuse to get out of bed early and it's wonderful to have the world to yourself, if only for a little while. Of course, it's often beautiful too, like this fiery morning sky reflected in the San Juan River estuary near Port Renfrew. Canon 5D MK2 | 17-40 f/4L lens | 1/100 sec | f/5.6 | ISO 1600.

My heart normally pulls me deep into the woods but over a weekend this past summer, some friends and I headed for the hills instead. It was refreshing (minus the mosquitoes) to get up high and explore an open landscape with sweeping panoramic vistas. The mountain we climbed was 50-40 Peak, located about 45 minutes outside of Port Alberni, and this was the view from near the summit looking towards Cobalt Lake (where we camped) and Triple Peak in the far background. Canon 5D MK2 | 24-70 f/4L IS lens | 1/800 sec | f/10 | ISO 400.

The evergreen forests of coastal BC are dominated by a million shades of green and brown, so the autumn yellows of this vine maple (Acer circinatum) in the old-growth forests around Echo Lake appeared as though someone had splashed brightly coloured paint across the canvass of the woods. I love the way the tree's branches flow and curve so gracefully as well. Nature is the world's greatest artist! Canon 5D MK2 | 24-70 f/4L IS lens | 1/125 sec | f/5.0 | ISO 1600.

A Pygmy Owl sits perched on the branch of a maple tree next to the San Juan Spruce in Port Renfrew. Despite its cute looks and being about as small as a mini football, you can still see the feathers and flesh from a bird it must have been feeding on. The Vancouver Island Pygmy Owl subspecies is distinct and associated with older forests, and sadly, is on the decline. There may only be 500 breeding pairs left and old-growth logging is considered to be a major threat. I managed to get a single shot this little guy before he decided to fly off into the woods to carry on with his day. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L IS lens | 1/400 sec | f/4 | ISO 3200.

I feel most alive when alone in the woods. Your senses awaken and your intuition becomes your guiding voice. While wandering through a remote patch of old-growth forest in the Klanawa Valley between Bamfield and Nitinat Lake, I heard the sounds of twigs snapping up ahead. Eyes wide and hairs on end, awaiting to determine nature the sound, a large bull elk appeared along with a group of 4 or 5 females. Relieved (slightly), it was beautiful to see them up close as a guest in their home. As quietly as they appeared they slipped away back into the woods. As I fruitlessly tried to follow their path, I stumbled upon this incredible trio of Sitka spruce trees. You just never know what amazing experience may await around the next corner out there in the woods. Canon 5D MK2 | 24-70 f/4L IS | 0.6 sec | f/10 | ISO 400.

The old-growth coastal temperate rainforests of British Columbia are some of the most dense and impenetrable, yet beautiful, landscapes on Earth. Life sprouts from every available surface while debris from fallen trees litters the forest floor like a giant game of pick-up-sticks. Capturing this complex environment in a single image often presents a challenge as it ends up looking too busy or confused. On a cool winter day this year though in the Walbran Valley, the fog and light came together to illuminate this ancient world in just the right way. Canon 5D MK2 | 24-70 f/4L IS | 1/320 sec | F/5.0 | ISO 800.

The San Juan River estuary is one of my very favourite places on Vancouver Island. It's home to an amazing array of wildlife including elk, deer, cougars, bears, wolves, countless birds, and much, much more. It's in a constant flux as well, ever changing with the rise and fall of the tides. Here, mist washes over the meadow during a chilly autumn sunrise. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L IS lens | 1/20 sec | f/8 | ISO 200.

UBC researcher Vincent Hanlon provides scale from the forest floor to the towering trunks of two giant Sitka spruce trees in the Randy Stoltmann Grove in the Carmanah Valley. The group of researchers secured the help of expert tree climbers to assist them with a study on tree genetics in the valley which involved collecting samples of young needles from the tops of over 20 trees. I joined them to help document the project and at the end of the last day was given the opportunity climb the tallest tree in the grove - a 275ft (84m) tall Sitka spruce. The feeling of hanging in mid-air amongst giants like these is one of humbling awe. Canon 5D MK2 | 24-70 f/4L IS lens | 1/100 sec | f/6.3 | ISO 1600.

Waves wash across the ocean and the sky along the west coast of Vancouver Island. The patterns found in nature, from big to small, are something to marvel at. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L IS | 1/2000 sec | f/8 | ISO 400.

During a stormy weekend in Port Renfrew this fall, thousands of gulls gathered along the shoreline to avoid the windy weather. Every now and then, something would startle one of them and they would all take off in unison. I loved the way it looked against the green cedars so I hid behind a large piece of driftwood and waited for the moment to happen again. It was hypnotizing to watch but the spell was quickly broken by the sound of a million bird droppings landing all around me. Thankfully, I escaped unscathed. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L IS | 1/800 sec | f/8 | ISO 640.

I've waited and dreamt my whole life o a cougar and this year, it finally happened. While heading out of the Walbran Valley innot one but two cougars walked in front of our vehicle. After being passed my gear, which was packed away in the back of the van after a long weekend of shooting, I franticly worked to assemble my camera and lens in time to get a shot. In the end, I only had time to get this one image, which was taken through the front window of my van while the cougar stared directly at us. From a photographer's perspective, it would have been nice to get a clearer image, but on a personal level, I'm just extremely grateful to have seen them with my own eyes - a moving experience that I will never forget. Canon 5D MK2 | 70-200 f/4L IS | 1/1000 sec | f/4 | ISO 1600.

A male Anna's hummingbird sits perched on the branch of a cedar tree. After closely watching this little guy's patterns early each morning, I noticed he tended to land in a few particular places. So, with the hopes of capturing an image of him in his natural setting, I carefully set up my camera with remote shooting and began to watch the branch for the next 4 hours. Getting the timing and focus just right was extremely tough but after some narrowly missed attempts, it finally worked out! It took a lot of patience and planning to create this image but I'm super happy with it and have a newfound love for this beautiful bird. Canon 5D MK4 | 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro lens | 1/400 sec | f/3.5 | ISO 1600.

Fog drifts across the clearcut surrounding Big Lonely Doug in winter time. This might be my favourite photo of BLD. I love the way the passing fog acted as backdrop for the tree and set the solemn mood. Doug has become quite the star over the past few years, with people coming from around the world to pay their respects. Although he's lost some of his closest relatives, I hope he senses that we humans do indeed care about him and the fate of our remaining ancient forests as well. Canon 5D MK2 | 24-70 f/4L IS lens | 1/125 sec | f/5.6 | ISO 1000

Snapshot: Male Anna's Hummingbird

A male Anna's hummingbird sits perched on the branch of a cedar tree. After closely watching this little guy's patterns early each morning, I noticed he tended to land in a few particular places. So, with the hopes of capturing an image of him in his natural setting, I carefully set up my camera with remote shooting and began to stare at the branch for the next 4 hours. Getting the timing and focus just right was extremely tough but after some narrowly missed attempts, it finally worked out! It took a lot of patience and planning to create this image but I'm really happy with it and have a newfound love for this beautiful bird. Click here to order a print of this image.

Canon 5D MK4 | 100mm 2.8L IS Macro lens | 1/400 sec | f/3.5 | ISO 1600.

A second shot of the hummingbird on one of his favourite perches. His colours and cute little feet are just the best!

Snapshot: Anna's Hummingbird

An Anna's hummingbird pauses in flight early this frosty morning. Weighing about as much as a nickle, their wings beat from 40-50 times per second while their heart beats around 1,220 times per minute! Amazing little birds.

This is the first image I’ve captured using the new Canon 5D MKIV’s WiFi feature, which allows you to adjust settings, see live view, & shoot remotely from your phone. That let me stand inside the house and avoid disturbing the bird. Quite an awesome feature! It meant pre-focusing the image though and then hoping that the bird would pause for an instant in that razor-thin plane of focus. In the end, one shot worked! Exposure: 1/4000 sec, f/3.5, ISO 3200. Canon 100mm f2.8L macro lens.

Drone Video - Protect Echo Lake Ancient Forest

Here is the latest drone video that I filmed and produced with the Ancient Forest Alliance. It features the endangered ancient forests found at Echo Lake, which lies in the territory of the Sts'ailes First Nation band between Mission and Agassiz about 100 km east of Vancouver, BC. Since the introduction of HD video to DSLR cameras, photographers have increasingly become expected to produce video alongside stills. They really are two very separate things though that require you to think, frame, and shoot differently. Without formal training in film making, many of us photographers are having to learn on our own through searching the internet or asking our videographer friends for tips. This was the first video I've made that includes interviews with people and I've learned a lot through the process for next time. Many of the location visits that we do with AFA are shot under super tight timelines as well - usually a single afternoon visit - that involve running around the forest capturing photos, switching to handheld video for some clips on the fly, quickly flying our drone (DJI Phantom 3 Pro) for an aerial view, before speaking with someone about the issue and heading home! It makes for a challenging work environment to capture it all in one go on your own to say the least. I'm having a lot of fun flying the drone lately though and am excited to continue incorporating it into our conservation efforts. It's just a perfect fit! Hope you enjoy :)

Please take a second to send a letter to the BC government as well at: www.ProtectEchoLake.com

Press: Shaw TV Features Big Lonely Doug and the Eden Grove

I recently had the pleasure of touring a journalist from Victoria's Shaw TV to both Big Lonely Doug and the spectacular, yet endangered Eden Grove right next door. Check out the two resulting news pieces below, which also feature some of my drone clips and new video from my trail camera of a black bear climbing a giant cedar tree!


My First Cougar Sighting in the Walbran Valley

Well, the moment that I've been waiting half my life for finally happened. I saw a cougar. Not just one cougar though, TWO cougars!! After spending over a decade exploring Vancouver Island's old-growth forests (home to the highest concentration of cougars on earth) and driving thousands of kilometers of remote backroads, I was starting to wonder if it would ever happen. Did these giants cats truly even exist? They're so elusive you start to eventually wonder.

On the drive home though from the Walbran Valley Convergence, a celebration organized by the Friends of Carmanah-Walbran of the 1991 environmental protests in the valley, a large female cat bounded directly in front of my van from a small side road. The distance she coverage with casual effort was incredible. After quickly stopping in disbelief, I looked up the side road to see a second smaller cougar slowly sauntering off. After fumbling for my phone and shutting off the vehicle, I managed to capture a short clip of the animal walking away. We then reversed down the road to give them some space while I frantically asked friends in the back seat to pass me my camera bag which, of course, was buried within all of our camping gear. As I scrambled to unpack and assemble my camera and zoom lens as fast as humanly possible, the large female cougar walked back out across the road to follow the juvenile, presumably her cub. I had just enough time to snap a single photo of her through the front window as she looked directly at use before she too was gone.

Though I wish I'd managed to get a clearer shot, I'm so incredibly thankful to have had such an up close and intimate view of these almost mythical creatures. Instead of just catching a brief glimpse of a tail disappearing into the forest at night, we were treated to a nearly minutes-long experience - enough time to make eye contact with one of the most beautiful and powerful creatures to call the island home. It's a moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life!!

10 Favourite Photos from 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, I've taken a look back and picked 10 of my favourite images from the past year. Never an easy task when you have thousands to choose from, but for one reason or another, these ones stand out for me personally. 2015 was the year of the plane and with many incredible aerial trips made across the island, it was hard to not choose only images taken from above. But the time spent on the ground and in the woods proved to be spectacular and beautiful as well. In 2016 I look forward to exploring more uncharted terrain, flying over new locations, and taking on some fresh personal projects as well. Here's to a great New Year and a happier and healthier planet for all!

This turquoise-blue lagoon, found on the remote Brooks Peninsula on northwestern Vancouver Island, is thankfully protected within a park. It appears more like scene from the Caribbean then the west coast of Canada but flights over this region have revealed a level of beauty that I may never have otherwise imagined in our country. Goal for 2016: camp on that perfect sandy beach.

A second shot from the north side of the Brooks Peninsula. I'm captivated by the ruggedly beautiful and wild coast found here. A land so perfectly sculpted by the intense wind and waves that have washed over its hills and shores for millennia. This photo, my favourite of the year, was taken during a helicopter flight over the region which allowed us to get a much lower and intimate view of this hard-to-access landscape. Just this winter, hurricane-force winds reaching speeds of 147 kph were recorded in this very region.

This image was captured on my first flight with Nick Temos of the Pacific Northwest Collective in early 2015. Here, the shadow of our plane is encircled within a rainbow high above the towering forests around Cheewhat Lake, home to Canada's largest tree. We took this special sight as a good omen for times to come. Nick has since generously volunteered much of his time flying us over Vancouver Island to document ancient forests and the impacts of logging from above. A good friend with a great heart, I thank Nick for the unforgettable experiences we've had already and those still unwritten.

I am forever grateful for the spiritual experiences I've had in the woods. Nothing quite compares to the peace and tranquility one can find wandering alone through the ancient forests of Vancouver Island. On this particular trip, I came across this giant redcedar tree high in a remote gully beyond Port Renfrew just as the fog was rolling through. It was like stepping back in time to another world where for a moment you could imagine that modern civilization didn't even exist at all. In 2016 I'm resolving to do more of these personal trips as they often lead to the most unique and exciting discoveries.

A forecast of rain and clouds isn't always a bad thing in photography. In fact, fall, winter, and spring are often the best times to be out shooting in a coastal rainforest when the weather provides more gentle lighting, enriches colours, and often results in fog. It's this wet weather that also gives life to these ancient landscapes, produces their giant trees, and imbues them with their unique spirit. Above is a view I never tire of - gazing up the trunk of a towering tree that's been standing in that very spot half a millennia while the only sounds around you are those of raindrops gently patting the forest floor.

Every now and then, all the quintessential elements that define a landscape or ecosystem finally come together into one scene, like this section of coastal temperate rainforest in the Gordon River Valley near Port Renfrew. It showcases, in a beautiful way, the diversity that makes old-growth forests unique, such as; various-aged trees ranging from young to very old, large woody debris and nurse logs, and a luxuriant plant understory. Second-growth tree plantations, logged again ever 30-80 years on the coast, aren't allowed enough time to regain the unique characteristics of the old-growth ecosystem that was lost. We must protect these rare and endangered ancient forests before it's too late.

Even though old-growth forests are home much wildlife, we often don't see the creatures living their as they're gone or hiding by the time we're nearby. I had a vision though of capturing an image with a large, charismatic animal alongside a giant old-growth tree. After recalling a massive cedar I had seen in the Gordon River Valley that had claw marks leading up to a hole in the trunk, I set up a motion-sensitive trail camera on a nearby tree and waited a few months to come back. Upon later checking the camera, I was thrilled to find this photo of a black bear climbing the tree among many others revealing the life that goes on in the forest while we're not around. I hope to assemble a higher quality trail camera setup in 2016 and capture more unique shots like this one.

The roots of my photography really began with experimental and abstract images before shifting to forests and landscapes today, so while on a road trip away from work this summer it was fun to play around and blend those two worlds together. Here, ripples in the fabric of space and time appear to spread out through the sky after tossing a pebble into the clear waters of a lake and flipping the image upside down.

This past spring was the first time I'd visited Uplands Park in Oak Bay, where some of the last original Garry Oak meadow ecosystem remains and where camas flowers bloom in the thousands. This year I also purchased the new Canon 24-70 f4L IS lens, which beyond proving itself to be a very useful all-around landscape lens, also has an additional macro setting which I put to use here. It was a truly sublime afternoon carefully moving through the purple and green meadows while photographing and smelling the beautiful flowers along the way.

2015 featured a spectacular supermoon eclipse as well. The last time the earth, moon, and sun aligned like this was 1982 and the next time will be 2033! I had almost forgotten to catch it that evening but the red moon caught my eye while driving in the dark countryside and I quickly zipped down to the nearest beach. There, I framed the moon among the tall beach grass (which I lit with the light from my phone) and captured this shot just as the eclipse began to recede. Mother nature will forever be a source of wonder, awe, and inspiration and for that we should show her our greatest respect, admiration, and care.