Breathtaking Breach

Our 2021 Photo Tours are now live with some really great trips down to just one remaining spot.  A summary of all photo tours with pricing and availability can be found on my Photo Tours webpage. We are offering our very popular trips from prior years along with two new photo tours, the Khutzeymateen Explorer, and Autumn in the Queen Charlotte Strait. More information is available by clicking on the links.

 

And if you just cannot wait until 2021 to join us, we have two spots remaining in 2020.

 

Spring in the Southern Great Bear rainforest, where we explore the Great Bear Rainforest at a different time of year, hoping to capture bears as they emerge from hibernation and start feeding on sedge grasses, and Humpback Whales as they make their way north, and if we are lucky,  coastal Gray Wolves.  More information about this trip can be found here.

 

We also have one space available on our exciting Marine Mammals photo tour in August.  On this tour we use the sailboat and cover the northern tip of Vancouver Island between the mainland, hoping to capture Humpback Whales, Orcas, Steller Sea Lions, Sea Otters and more. This is one of the most exciting trips we offer (in my opinion), with each day offering something different and unique. More information about this trip can be found here.

 

Contact me for more information about any of our exciting photo tours contact@wildelements.ca.

GREAT BEAR PHOTO TOUR AVAILABILITY!!!

 

Big Boy

If you are looking for a spring time getaway, we still have one space available on our 2020 Spring in the Great Bear Rainforest.  The dates of the trip are May 29 – June 6, 2020.

 

This trip explores the Great Bear Rainforest at a different time of year than when people typically visit it, as Black Bears and Grizzly Bears emerge from their dens and start feeding on sedge grasses in the estuaries.  This is also a great opportunity to grab photos of Humpback Whales as they make their way back from the south, and if we are lucky, see Coastal Gray Wolves.

 

More information on this great photo tour is available here or you can contact me contact@wildelements.ca for more information.

Me & My Mini Me

At this time every year we get prepared to start offering our photo tours for the next year.  In the next couple weeks we will be contacting those that put themselves on the priority booking list for 2021, and they will get the first right a refusal for those trips.  If you still want to get added to the priority booking list, contact me for more information.

 

While our photo tour offerings for 2021 will be pretty similar to 2020, there is at least one exciting new trip, and a few changes to some of the existing trips.

 

The go-live date for those not on a priority booking list will be available on my photo tours page around the middle of February.

 

Can’t wait until 2021?  Well we do still have a couple openings in 2020, including Spring in the Great Bear Rainforest, and Marine Mammals, visit my photo tours page for more details. Questions? Contact me at contact@wildelements.ca.

Well 2019 is in the rear view mirror and I am already looking forward to the opportunities of 2020. But I decided I should take a few minutes to reflect on 2019 and share some of my favourite moments.

 

Let Me See!

My 2019 tour season started with me visiting the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, and there was certainly no shortage of Grizzly Bears to photograph during the nine days.  This included mothers with cubs, and some bears enjoying the estuary on their own.  While we were provided with many great photo opportunities, I think one of the top moments was when a mother and cub both stood up to look over a little hill in order to check out a bear that was on the other side.  It was certainly a jaw dropping moment.  Also a moment that was truly amazing, is seeing one of the oldest bears in the estuary, who was presumed to be dead making his way at a decent pace up the inlet. While you could definitely see that he was aged, at over 30 years old, it was pretty amazing.  If you are interested in seeing all the photos from my Khutzeymateen trips, those can be found in my Khutzeymateen portfolio, or you can read about my blog post here.

 

From the Khuzeymateen I headed to a new area, Gwaii Haanas, a National Park Reserve and Marine Conservation Area.  While we explored the area we had the opportunity to photograph a number of sea and shore birds, and even a few mammals such as Sitka Deer and Black Bears.   It was a great to get a chance to explore a new part of the coast of British Columbia, you can read the blog post here.

 

Crab Dinner

I started August with one of my favourite trips, Marine Mammals, where we explore the coast off the north and west part of Vancouver Island looking for Orcas, Humpback Whales, Steller Sea Lions, Sea Otters and more.  In 2019 we were treated to all our targeted species, with the Sea Otters stealing the show (but not to be outdone by a Humpback Whale which breached for us on our last day).  We had the opportunity to photograph Sea Otters eating a number of things that they brought up from the ocean floor, including urchins, clams, and even crabs, like the one captured in the Sea Otter image to the left.  More photos from my previous Marine Mammals trips can be found in the Marine Mammals portfolio, and the blog post from 2019 can be found here.

 

Launched

My official tours of 2019 ended with me leading two trips in the Great Bear Rainforest, while they only had one week in between them, they both had different highlights.  We had the opportunity on both trips to photograph Grizzly Bears, Black Bears and Bald Eagles which all gather to eat the salmon in the rivers and streams.  We also had the opportunity on to witness some bubble feeding by a lone Humpback Whale. I think the ultimate moment of 2019, watching transient Killer Whales attacking and killing a large male Steller Sea Lion, I don’t think I will ever get an opportunity quite like this again. My photos from the Great Bear Rainforest trips can be found in my portfolio, and you can read more about my first trip and second trip in the links.

 

Elk Expanse

And I ended 2019 with a quick trip to Yellowstone National Park.  While I always hope to get a chance to see wolves, this year I wasn’t so lucky.  I did however get a couple of opportunities to photograph River Otters while they fished and rolled around in the snow, and some beautiful male Elk posed in front of the Yellowstone landscapes.

 

In 2020, most of our trips are sold out, however there are still a few spaces available, and our 2021 trip dates will be released soon, so if you would like to join us on one of these tours, contact me for more details contact@wildelements.ca.

I ended my 2019 photo tour season in mid-September with my final trip into the Great Bear Rainforest.  The Great Bear Rainforest is special to me because it’s the first place I visited on the BC Coast, and is the trip that got me started down the path of leading photo tours.

 

Spin Cycle

I lead this second trip just after one week off from the previous trip, and I was headed in with some expectations based on my experience the week prior.  The salmon run on most of the streams and rivers we visited was going very strong, especially compared to my previous trips, which could have been partly attributed to the fact that I was visiting the area about one month earlier than I normally go.

 

During the trip we were treated to a variety of bears.  Black Bears, Grizzly Bears, including moms with cubs and even the rare Spirit Bears.  Our Spirit Bear sightings didn’t come easy, with the first one we saw only showing up for a brief moment near the end of the day.  Our second sightings allowed us a little more time with the Spirit Bears, and our final sighting was just a brief glimpse of one on the shoreline from the sailboat.  Despite the number of years I have been visiting the area, I still find every Spirit Bear sighting is a rare treat, and I am as excited as the first time I saw one.

 

Fishing from Kelp

One of the other highlights of the trip was just the number of moms with cubs, with both black bears and grizzly bears.  There were a couple of instances where there were more than one mother and cubs out in our sight at the same time. And it was incredible to see how trusting these mother bears, of both species, were of bringing their cubs out around us, and even allowing the cubs to be closer to us than they were to their mother, which shows an incredible amount of trust by the mothers.

 

But as always, the trip is not only about finding bears.  My favorite thing about this trip is that you never know what you are going to see, especially when it comes to the “not bears” species.  One of the most unique experiences I think we had is the opportunity to closely photograph a Great Blue Heron as it fished from kelp.  Besides being able to closely watch and photograph the Great Blue Heron, I also appreciated that our expert guide, and group, was able to leave the Great Blue Heron as it continued to fish, so we did not impact on the fishing.

 

We also had a couple opportunities to photograph Bald Eagles, Humpback Whales, and Harbor Seals along our travels and while out in the zodiac.

 

If you would like to experience the Great Bear Rainforest trip with us in the future, visit my Photo Tours Page for more information, or contact me for more information.

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.