I just completed my first of two “Into the Great Bear Rainforest” trips.  On this one we started in Bella Bella, British Columbia, and traveled north and ended in Kitimat, stopping at various inlets, and estuaries along the way.

 

One of my favourite things about the Great Bear Rainforest photo tours is that there is a long list of potential wildlife that we could see along the route, but we never know what we will see, and where we will see it.  It’s a true wilderness photo tour.  The other nice thing is, what we enjoy, we enjoy to ourselves, instead of being among a bunch of other photo groups.

 

We started our trip with several Humpback Whales, including one that was lunge feeding and coming quite high out of the water, which was pretty incredible.  However it was a bit hard to predict where he was coming up, and therefore also hard to predict where to point your camera and shoot.

 

Down Low

Throughout the trip we were treated to rivers and streams full of salmon, which had already brought in the Bald Eagles that were lining the trees.  We had the opportunity to photograph them in the pouring rain, sunny days, and even in some fog/mist.  It really provided us the full gamut of Bald Eagles in the Great Bear Rainforest.

 

We also had the opportunity to photograph both Grizzly Bears and Black Bears, including one of each with cubs, so adding a little extra cute factor to the photography.   For the most part the bears were taking advantage of the salmon runs, and trying to start packing on the weight before hibernation.

 

We ended the trip with quite a show from some Transient Killer Whales, who had already started attacking a Stellar Sea Lion when we showed up.  We spent almost two hours watching as they came out of the water and jumped on him, or hit him with their tails, and doing everything they could to get their next meal.  It was the first time that I had witnessed something like this, and while it was incredible to see the Orcas, you were left feeling a little sad for the poor Sea Lion.

 

So if you are interested in a trip along the coast, where you could be treated to both land mammals, and marine mammals, the  Great Bear Rainforest might be a trip for you.  We have several different options, including ones in the spring, summer and fall, with more information available on my Photo Tours page.

 

Stay tuned for Part Two of my blog post after I finish my next trip into the Great Bear Rainforest.

One of my favorite things about our annual Marine Mammals photo tour, is that you never know what to expect.  While we expect to see Humpback Whales, Sea Lions, Sea Otters, and Orcas, we never know when or where they are going to pop up and which is going to steal the show.

 

Crab Dinner

This year, my personal thoughts are the Sea Otters stole the show, but others on the trip might disagree.  We encountered several Sea Otters bringing up various things from the ocean floor, and displaying an all you can eat buffet for us.  Their hauls included various urchins, clams, and even crabs.  It was also a lot of fun to watch them when they brought up a clam and banged them against their special rock to get it.  Besides just eating, we also had the opportunity to watch them preening their fur, with their pups, wrapped in kelp, and surprisingly just hanging out in the middle of the strait (in very deep water).

 

It was not just a trip of Sea Otters though, we also had a lot of other action.  Including Humpback Whales breaching, lunge feeding, and tail lobbing (no, not all by one humpback whale).  When we visited some of the Sea Lion rock haul outs, we got to see a few battles (both in and out of the water), jumping from the rocks, and gathering in a big group and swimming towards our zodiac.

 

The Bald Eagles didn’t want to be out-done by the marine mammals.  We had several opportunities to nab some shots of them while fishing at bait balls, and ended up cursing the gulls that photo-bombed some of our shots.

 

Catching Air

Sticking with the title of this blog post, one of the most unique and unexpected things that we witnessed this year, and it was the very first for our experienced skipper, was Harbor Seals mating.  What we thought was a dead Harbor Seal floating just at the surface, ended up being two in the midst of action.  While it did produce great photos, it was cool to GoPro, and even cooler to just see.

 

So when people ask me what my favourite trip is, and I mention the Marine Mammals, I think you are starting to get a picture as to why.  Even after four trips, I come away each year with different highlights, and unique photos from one year to the next, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

 

I’m starting to post some images from the trip on my Recent Photos page, and will post more as I get through them (there are so many to choose from).

 

I don’t have too much time to relax, as I’m already prepping for my next journey Into the Great Bear Rainforest, where I will be leading two trips this year.

 

If you want to join us on this trip visit my photo tours page for more information or contact me at contact@wildelements.ca for more details.

If you noticed that I have not been posting images or blog posts so much, it is because I have been a bit busy on photo tours.  I just arrived back from one part of the BC Coast, and I’m spending the month and a half travelling from one part of the British Columbia Coast to the next.

 

Coastal Deer

I started in early July in Gwaii Haanas National Park, this was the first time I have visited this area, so I did not know what to expect (other than what I had read online).  Given that Gwaii Haanas coast is home to over 1.5 million seabirds, I had expected that we would have the opportunity to photograph some birds.

 

Well the trip met my expectation when it came to photographing birds, there was no shortage of Black Oystercatchers or Pigeon Guillemots,  And we got lucky seeing a few different Tufted Puffins, including some fly-bys with fish in the beaks.  Gwaii Haanas has the highest concentration of nesting Bald Eagles, so we had the chance to capture some times of Bald Eagles in various perches, including on rocky islands.

 

In addition to the birds, we also had the opportunity to photograph various mammals that call Gwaii Haanas home such as the Sitka Deer, Black Bears, Stellar Sea Lions and a new one for me the Risso’s Dolphins.  The Black Bears in the area have no predators, and are the largest part of the food chain, which causes them to be some the largest found in North America.

 

The trip wasn’t all about the wildlife of the area, we also had the opportunity to photograph some beautiful landscapes, historic totem poles, and some old grave sites and historic machinery.

 

Bright Eyed

I am now getting ready to head to a different part of the coast, the Johnstone Strait up to the Northern tip of Vancouver Island.  In addition to the beautiful landscapes, this trip is focused on the marine mammals that are in the area, which includes Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, the very adorable Sea Otters, Stellar Sea Lions, and more. Despite focusing on Marine Mammals, we will also be on the lookout for various species of birds while exploring in the zodiac. The Marine Mammals trip is one of my favourites, because it is often action-packed and varied species, and we never know what to expect while traveling along the coast in the beautiful Ocean Light II sailboat.

 

From there I am coming home from a few days, and then leaving again to explore the last bit of coast for my 2019 photo tour season, the Great Bear Rainforest.  I will be leading two separate trips along the coast, where again we will be exploring different areas, hoping to photograph Humpback Whales, Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, and if we get lucky, the unique and rare Spirit Bear.  There are still spaces available on one of the photo tours, so if you are interested in coming along, please send me an email, contact@wildelements.ca.

 

I very much enjoyed my first time visiting Gwaii Haanas, and looking forward to visiting both the Johnstone Strait and Great Bear Rainforest again.  Stay tuned for updates, and images, from my recent adventures.

If you are noticing the lack of action and new photos being posted on my website, and social media, it is because I’m currently on a trip exploring Gwaii Haanas in British Columbia.

 

Huh! What’s Gwaii Haanas? It’s a National Park Reserve and Marine Conservation Area off the coast of British Columbia and protects an archipelago of 138 islands. We are there searching for marine mammals, landscapes, and intertidal photography, in addition to some of the rich cultural history of this area.  This is our first time offering photo tours in the area, so I’m excited to see this new part of the coast.

 

More about Gwaii Haanas can be found on Wikipedia.

 

We have a few spaces available to join us in 2020 when we explore the west side of  Haida Gwaii, more information can be found on my photo tours page, or contact me for more details.

I am back after enjoying nine peaceful and calm days among the Grizzly Bears of the Khutzeymateen, joined by two different groups of eager photographers.

 

This Blog Post is later than I had planned it to be, I’ve been home for over a week now, but I took so many photos, that I wanted the chance to actually edit some, and do an overall review of the images, before making a post about my experience.

 

Let Me See!

I would say the theme of the 2019 trip to the Khtuzeymateen during my nine days was “calm”.  After leaving the hustle and bustle of the city, you are presented by an overall calmness and tranquility of the Khutzeymateen Estuary.  This was combined with the fact that the bears that we were seeing over the nine days tended to be calm bears.   What do I mean by this?  Well there really was not any big large males roaming around the estuary or inlet (until the last day) therefore all the bears kind of had their place and stuck to it, with no one pushing anyone else around.

 

When photographing the bears, which included three different moms with cubs, we had a lot of opportunities to watch them calmly go about their day, which included eating, pooping, and if we were lucky, taking a nap on a pretty log, stump or rock close by.  Having three moms with cubs for much the nine days allowed us to capture various interactions between them, including the mom standing, with the cub standing behind her with his hand on her back which I titled “Let me See“.  We also had the chance to photograph one of the moms napping her cub, and the cub cuddling up next to his mom.

 

On the last day was when the dynamic started to change, and there was a bit of a buzz in the air in the Estuary.  It started off with one of the moms with cubs that we had been watching seeming like she was a little edgy.  She kept watching into the Estuary and seemed to be a bit more cautious than normal. It was not long before her and her cubs ran off into the forest.  Shortly afterwards, a male came roaming down the shoreline, focused on smelling around for the mom and her cubs.  The anxiety among the bears continued further in the estuary when there was another large male bear lurking in the tree-line while a mother and her cub fed, and he subsequently ended up chasing them away. If you had only attended the last day of the trip, you would not have believed how calm the other eight days were.  There were a few more males further down the inlet as well, but there were less smaller bears and no cubs down there (that we had seen), so their presences seemed to have less of an impact.

 

Back from the Dead

We capped the trip off by seeing a bear that was assumed to have been dead, “Brutus”.  He was first spotted further down the inlet earlier in the season, and then started hanging around in one of the creeks closer to the Estuary.  When we actually laid eyes on him ourselves, we were surprised that it was him, “Back from the Dead“.  For many, many years Brutus controlled the estuary, and now he is over 30 years old.  So when he disappeared a couple of years ago, everyone had just assumed that he had passed away, it was really surprise that he was still alive, and relatively healthy, given his age, although not nearly as big as he once was.

 

The calmness of the bears also provided me with the opportunity to try out various pieces of camera equipment that I brought along. I was able to try different body/lens combinations, try out my new EOS R, the new 400 f/2.8L IS III lens, including with various teleconverters, and even brought along my 70-200 f/2.8L IS III lens which got more use than I had expected.  Stay tuned to future blog posts on my thoughts on the performance of both the 400, and EOS R in the “real world” (or at least the real world where I do the majority of my photography).

 

There is now one spot available for 2020 Khutzeymateen instructional photo tour, and the 2021 priority booking list continues to grow, so if you are interested in having the opportunity to visit this pristine estuary yourself, please send me an email contact@wildelements.ca for more information.

After one year off, I’m excited to be heading back into the Khutzeymateen for my fourth time, and spending 9 wonderful days aboard the Ocean Light II with two great groups of guests.

 

Coastal

This year I have two new pieces of equipment that I’m very excited to try out in the Khutzeymateen.  The first being the EOS R.  I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to shoot with the EOS R since I picked it up last winter, and this will be the first photo tour that I’m bring it on.  In addition, I also have my new 400mm f/2.8L IS III that I’m very excited to try out.  If there was ever a trip for the 400 f/2.8 lens, I think the Khutzeymateen might just be one of those trips.  I will admit, I have already noticed the weight advantage of the 400 f/2.8 when I didn’t pull a muscle trying to put my bags in the overhead bin of the airplane on the way here. It was hardly noticeable in the bag, especially compared to the previous version of the 400 f/2.8.

 

With the new 400 f/2.8 I’m excited to put the Image Stabilization (IS) to the test, because it has one more stop of image stabilization compared to the previous version of the lens.  That coupled with the lighter weight of the body overall, I’m curious how low I can push the shutter speed while shooting from the zodiac and still come away with sharp images.

 

Regardless of the new gear, I’m really looking forward to getting the opportunity to visit the Khutzeymateen once again.  Stay tuned to my website for my thoughts on my new equipment and a summary of the trip overall.

 

If you are interested in joining us on Khutzeymateen trip, contact me at seminars@wildelements.ca to get yourself on a cancellation or priority booking list for future trips.  To see images from previous Khutzeymateen trips, visit my Khutzeymateen gallery.

Spirit Bear Gear Bear Rainforest British Columbia

Spirit of the Great Bear Rainforest

We have just added a Brand New trip in 2019, August in the Great Bear Rainforest. This trip will start in Bella Bella, British Columbia, and travel north up the coast of British Columbia and ending in Kitimat. This trip includes 7 full days aboard the sailboat Ocean Light II. 

 

Typically these trips sell out a year in advance, so this is your opportunity to book and travel in the same year.

 

More information on this trip can be found on my photo tours page, or send me an email at Contact@wildelements.ca for more details on this exciting new trip.

It’s getting close to that time of year, when everyone is getting excited to book their trips for next year, so when will the 2020 trips be available, here is the latest information on what to expect:

 

Grizzly Bear Great Bear Rainforest

Grizzly in the Great Bear

1. When 2020 Photo Tours Will Be Publicly Posted.

 

Detailed descriptions of our 2020 Photo Tours will be posted on the Photo Tours page of this website in early-to-mid February (we are still working on finalizing some details on the 2020 photo tours). The minute those trips are listed on the photo tours page we will begin taking registrations for them.

 

2. Can I Reserve a Spot Ahead of Time?

Sort of. We have a Priority Booking List for EACH photo tour we offer. Think of it as a “first right of refusal” list. If you go on this list you will receive FIRST crack at getting a spot on the trip (based, of course, solely on when you went on the list). So if we have a photo tour where we can take 6 participants, the first 6 on the Priority Booking List are guaranteed of a spot if they still want it when registration opens. We do hold off on taking registrations until we know the final dates and pricing of each trip. You can find out more about the Priority Booking List for 2020 Photo Tours on our Photo Tours Page. Please note that there is NO commitment on your part in going on any Priority Booking List.

 

To help you out a little, you should know that some of our 2020 photo tours (mostly those that have been around the longest) already have very long Priority Booking Lists and the chances of getting a spot on these trips now (by going onto the Priority Booking List NOW) are low. However, a number of our newer trips have pretty short lists and if you act fast (i.e., going on the Priority Booking List for those trips now) you have a really good chance of getting a spot. So here’s a quick and dirty guideline (and just go to our Photo Tours Page if you need more info about these trips):

 

A. Photo Tours With VERY SHORT Priority Booking Lists (trips you WILL get on):

• Pacific Rim Explorer Instructional Photo Tour: Send Priority Booking List Request
• Spring in the Southern Great Bear Instructional Photo Tour: Send Priority Booking List Request

 

B. Photo Tours With MODERATE LENGTH Priority Booking Lists (trips you have a GOOD chance to get on):

• Haida Gwaii Explorer Instructional Photo Tour: Send Priority Booking List Request
• Marine Mammals of the Central Pacific Coast: Send Priority Booking List Request
• Summer in the Southern Great Bear Instructional Photo Tour: 2020 Priority Booking List Request

 

C. Photo Tours With LONG Priority Booking Lists (so in the “What the heck…you never know” category):

• Khutzeymateen 5-day Instructional Photo Tour: Send Priority Booking List Request
• Khutzeymateen 4-day Photo Op Photo Tour: Send Priority Booking List Request
• Into the Great Bear Rainforest Instructional Photo Tour: Send Priority Booking List Request
• Into the Great Bear Rainforest Photo Op Photo Tour: Send Priority Booking List Request

 

Note that we will be accepting names on any of the 2020 Priority Booking Lists up to the end of day on January 23, 2019.

I got back from the Great Bear Rainforest just under a week ago and I am still fully digesting the trip, and going through the many, many, photos.  Receiving my Canon EOS R as soon as I got back has somewhat thrown a wrench into my time behind the computer…but more about that later.

 

One of the reasons that I continue to love going back to the Great Bear Rainforest, is that you never know what to expect, and honestly each year is really different.

This year some of the salmon streams in the Great Bear Rainforest were impacted by lower than usual number of salmon.  This was not just caused by a lower number of fish in the salmon run, but also due to the fact that they have had very little rain to fill the streams so that the salmon can get up them.  I think it had almost been one month without any rainfall on one particular place that we visited, according to the First Nation Guide.  Therefore it seemed like this year we had to work a little harder to see the wildlife and to photograph it.

 

We were treated to a wide variety of wildlife, from Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, a Spirit Bear, Humpback Whales, Bald Eagles, Mink, River Otters, Harbor Seals and even saw TWO Sea Otters.  Some of the highlights of the trip were when we waited along a river for quite some time without really seeing anything, and then just before we were about to leave a Spirit Bear appeared…this is a good reminder of why you should “tough it out”.

 

We also had the opportunity to spend over 45 minutes watching two young grizzlies, which we assumed were siblings, wrestling in the water.  We actually left them and they were still going at it.  We went to “check out” a bay to see if there was any activity, and there were over 18 Bald Eagles in the water itself, with a bunch more white heads dotting the trees next to the bay.  And then when we went in the zodiac to check it out, we spotted a Grizzly along the shore.

 

Finally, we topped the trip off by seeing two sea otters.  It was awesome because one was really quite far north, and further north than the skipper had ever seen.  The second one was super accommodating and provided us ample opportunity to get some really great images while she cleaned her fur.

 

We came away with some really unique experiences and I am already looking forward to going back again next year.

 

Stay tuned to my Recent Photos for new photos as I have time to edit them.  And also stay tuned to my blog for my thoughts on my new EOS R.

 

Our 2020 trip dates will be released a the beginning of next year, if you would like to get your name on the priority booking list, contact me at contact@wildelements.ca for more information.

I have escaped the snow of Calgary and I am just getting ready to head back into the Great Bear Rainforest for my 5th year in a row, and to say I am excited is an understatement.

 

Under Cover

For this version of the instructional photo tour we will be taking a different route than usual, and starting in Kitimat and ending in Bella Bella.  This is a route that I have not done since 2014 (my first trip).  I am looking forward to the opportunity to seeing some areas that I have not been to in a several years, and also looking forward to checking out some of the “usual” spots.

 

And there is a reason that we do not call this trip the Spirit Bear trip, because the trip is about so much more, and encompasses all the wildlife and scenery that the Great Bear Rainforest has to offer.  Under Cover was photographed during my trip in 2017, and was taken as a Spirit Bear woke up from a nap in the woods and came back out to the water to eat some fish.  For more of the images that I have captured on my Great Bear Rainforest trips, visit the Great Bear Rainforest Gallery.

 

If you are interested in signing up for one of our future Great Bear Rainforest trips, visit my Photo Tours page for more information.  Or feel free to contact me at contact@wildelements.ca for more information.

 

I am looking forward to coming back and sharing the details of the experience and some images!

I have escaped the snow of Calgary and I am just getting ready to head back into the Great Bear Rainforest for my 5th year in a row, and to say I am excited is an understatement.

 

Under Cover

For this version of the instructional photo tour we will be taking a different route than usual, and starting in Kitimat and ending in Bella Bella.  This is a route that I have not done since 2014 (my first trip).  I am looking forward to the opportunity to seeing some areas that I have not been to in a several years, and also looking forward to checking out some of the “usual” spots.

 

And there is a reason that we do not call this trip the Spirit Bear trip, because the trip is about so much more, and encompasses all the wildlife and scenery that the Great Bear Rainforest has to offer.  Under Cover was photographed during my trip in 2017, and was taken as a Spirit Bear woke up from a nap in the woods and came back out to the water to eat some fish.  For more of the images that I have captured on my Great Bear Rainforest trips, visit the Great Bear Rainforest Gallery.

 

If you are interested in signing up for one of our future Great Bear Rainforest trips, visit my Photo Tours page for more information.  Or feel free to contact me at contact@wildelements.ca for more information.

 

I am looking forward to coming back and sharing the details of the experience and some images!