Being a good wildlife photographer means being at least a little bit lucky. Yes, you create your own luck by putting in the time and being patient. Very patient. But sometimes you’re just in the right place, right time to get the shot.
While my wife has a remarkable knack for the right place, right time part of the equation, I haven’t always had the luck. For many years, certain creatures avoided me like the plague and left me feeling like I’d never get on a wildlife photography hot streak.
But starting in March of 2014, my luck changed. And for almost 12 months to the date, I rode a hot streak the likes of which I’ve never seen nor may ever experience again. You never know when you’re luck runs out, but I have a sense it has. I’ve whiffed on a few wildlife encounters this spring and even common sights (why am I finding it hard to see a raccoon in a city with the highest concentration in the world?) are beginning to elude me. Not that I’m complaining. I had a great run. Here’s a look back at the hot streak that was:
After numerous jaunts across Ontario to find snowy owls, I finally struck gold, coming to know an adult female who took up residence in a small lakeshore park along Toronto’s streetcar line.
While I wasn’t able to get the greatest photo of all time, I’ve been looking for long-eared owls even since I began learning about the species a few years back. A trip to Hamilton, Ontario – along with the help of a local conservation official – I finally found this owl tucked into the spine of a tree at Fifty Point Conservation Area.
After missing more opportunities than I care to remember, friends finally helped us find an active fox den. Last summer we ended up discovering four dens, including a most remarkable month spent with one family in Waterton National Park.
I’ve been fortunate to have observed many wolves in my life, but I’ve only been able to photograph a few of my encounters – and I’ve never been able to to snap a good black wolf photograph. It all changed in 2014 when Jill made her ridiculous, yet accurate, annual proclamation, this year stating we’d find black wolves. A special encounter in Yellowstone set the stage for an even more remarkable day with the famous Bow Valley Pack in Banff National Park.
Weasels have haunted my dreams from the first days Jill and I began our summers in the wild, but thanks to my own personal weasel whisperer, Jill, we found an actual den in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, giving me the chance to set-up, be patient and land actual sharp images, snagging shot after shot of the cute and curious mustelid.
Mink are another member of the mustelid family that I’ve long been challenged to find, even during the recent population explosion in Toronto. But during a holiday walk to the famed Tommy Thompson Park to search out snowies, our friend Turbo helped us find not one, but three mink at photographable range.
My pursuit of a pine marten photo is the stuff of legend – and absurdity. Yet the longest and most frustrating run of futility came to an end on Valentine’s Day in Ontario’s iconic Algonquin Provincial Park. The pine marten capital of the world produced three different individuals, hundreds of images and a dream come true.
And bookending my streak was the one mustelid I’d never seen: A fisher. While in Banff leading the summit Hope Decoded, I was able to steal away one morning for a photo safari with our friend Kerri Martin. While searching for an early-to-wake-grizzly, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. My first reaction was that I was staring at a marten, but quickly I realized it was too big and the colouring was wrong. I was staring at a fisher. Though it moved to quickly for a shot, the mental image etched in my brain is priceless.
It was a remarkable streak – and even more amazing when you think of the luck we enjoyed during that time frame photographing other animals such as Raspberry…
Black bear cubs…
And even alligators eating fish.
Now if only I can start a new streak full of porcupines, pygmy owls, lynx, bobcat, and a photographable wolverine and fisher!