Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Black Bear Diaries 2012 is just around the corner

I'll begin this blog post by bringing you all up to date with the goings on in my life since I last posted back in January. Life has been pretty busy over the last few months and I want to share a few highlights in this blog post before we dive into Black Bear Diaries 2012.

As I write this post I am prepared for my wife to go into labour at any moment. Our son is now one day overdue so like I said, anytime now things could start getting exciting. So far though he doesn't seem to be in any hurry to come out but wife and child are well so that's what matters most. He must want to enjoy a few more days of the easy life before coming into the world. Wish us luck.

Just to add to the excitement and stress of becoming parents we also bought a house and will be getting the keys and taking possession this Sunday. Talk about careful planning and combing two of life’s most stressful things into one month. But hey how hard can this be??

Besides all that and back to the topic of photography, I was able to spend two days shooting the local snowy owls back in late February and early March with renowned wildlife photographer Steve Kaluski who is a two time gold medal winner of the Royal Photographic Society Nature Competition. Steve is also the Wildlife Moderator on Bird Photographers Net which is a website forum dedicated to helping photographers improve their images through gentle critique. I have been a member since late 2009 and you can visit the site for yourself at

To see some of Steve's award winning photography please visit his website:

On a less happier note, on the last day of shooting we also enjoyed the company of accomplished wildlife photographer Todd Frost from Oregon not knowing that the Sunday would be his last day with us. Todd unfortunately passed away later that evening from a heart attack which came as a huge shock to Steve and I when his wife shared the news the next day. I didn't know Todd very well but he was someone who leaves a lasting impression on you after only spending one day with him. It was a privilege meeting Todd and the three of us shared many stories that day and had some good laughs.

Life has a funny way of giving us a reality check once in a while.

On a more positive note though, I was honoured to find out in the middle of March that I was going to be featured in an article which would appear in the local regional newspaper from the area in which I grew up. The Hexham Courant is a newspaper which circulates the Tyne Valley Region of Northumberland in the United Kingdom. My parents still live in the town so I kept the news quiet and it was a nice surprise for them. My mum worries about me working with bears but she will be visiting in May and I hope to take her out to see them and hopefully remove some of that fear she has.

This is a screen shot of the published article...

I should be launching Black Bear Diaries 2012 in the next couple of weeks so stay tuned for regular updates and images. I was out earlier this evening on the lookout for bears ended up coming home empty handed and soaked through from the heavy rain.

Be sure to check back again soon and in the meantime please visit my website @

Thank you for the continued support and remember your bear smarts this spring. Keep that garbage locked and sealed or in the garage until the morning of pick up day and help reduce the unnecessary slaughter of bears in our communities.


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Encouraging Bear Awareness: Last front page of 2011

Happy New Year folk and welcome to 2012.

This year is going to be an exciting year. My wife and I are due to have our first child in April and found out last month that it is going to be a little boy. This means I am going to have a little partner joining me on photography trips in the future which is very exciting news. For the moments when I am not changing baby nappies or catching up on sleep, I have a few ideas for this year and I am hoping to spend some time photographing the local Orca pods. Come on... who hasn't wanted to do this ever since they watched BBC's Frozen Planet???? I am just amazed with myself that I haven't seen one in the wild yet. Come to think about it, I haven't seen one full stop in the flesh and pods are often sighted just off our local beaches. I think it is safe to say that Orca's are high on the agenda for this year along with my continued efforts to get to photograph the local bear community and to one day see the local Cougar that pops up now and again. I am looking to buy a trail cam soon so I can set one up on local well worn critter trails in a bid to hopefully catch sight of it and photograph it.

However, before we plunge into 2012 I want to share my last published image from 2011. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that my bear beside the caution sign image featured for the 2nd time this year on the front page of the local Tri City region newspaper. The image took centre place for the review of events in 2011.

I am very proud that my images can be used to promote bear awareness in the local communities. This image was used to draw people's attention to the sad fact that a number of bears were shot this year due to too many human and bear encounters. If we are going to continue destroying their habitat with the urban sprawl of housing developments and strip malls then we must learn to co exist with these amazing creatures and take some very simple straight forward measures such as containing your garbage and only putting it out the morning of pick up. Such simple and very small steps would have an almost instant positive impact on bears.

For more information on Black Bears and steps you can take to improve the relationship between bear and humans please visit

My buddy Peter Sulzle contributes a number of images to the website. To see more of Peter's images please visit his website: Peter is a very talented photographer from the Okanagan Valley region of Brtish Columbia.

Remember you can view my work on my current portfolio which is being used until I get around to updating my website.:

People often ask what are my New Years Resolutions. I usually reply by saying that I always just hope to achieve more than I did the year before and that people in my life stay healthy and safe.

Thank you again everyone for all your visits and comments in 2011. This year is going to be an intersting year. I also have a few product reviews lined up so stay tuned.

Before I go...
Do you often have to work at high ISO settings and have trouble dealing with the noise when you are working in Photoshop? If so, please check out Professional photographers' guide to noise reduction for EOS Cameras by Arash Hazeghi:

Many of my Black Bear images are taken in low light using ISO settings beyond ISO800 therefore, being able to deal with the image noise in post processing is crucial for maximising the image quality.

Best wishes for 2012.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A weekend of hooting aboot with Snowy Owls

Just over 3 weeks ago reports started coming in that snowy owls were appearing on our shoreline after a four year absence. Snowy owls migrate south during winter from Alaska and on certain years when the lemming count is low they migrate south in large numbers. Needless to say I was pretty excited at the thought of seeing my first snowy owl let alone being able to spend time photographing them. Lousy weather and life's commitments (more on that later) over the last few weeks have prevented me from venturing out to see them. It has been torture seeing my photographer friends post some awesome photos these last two weeks so I blocked this weekend off from socialising to go see them for myself.

Accessible wildlife means hoards of people, so I planned to leave the house a good 1.5hrs before sunrise so I could drive down and scope the area for the owls well before the sun came up. Funny how I don't seem to mind getting up early to go crawl around in the mud and cold looking for wildlife but yet getting up for work takes full effort just about everyday. I am sure I am not alone with that feeling.

On Saturday I got up at 5:30am and was out the door about 10 minutes later. When I arrived at the owl hangout it was still completely dark but this meant I was first on the scene so grabbed my little inadequate flash light and headed out into the shoreline to find me some owls and a good spot before other photographers arrived.

Here are some basic description facts before we get into the details from the weekend. The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus). Description courtesy of wikipedia.

This yellow-eyed, black billed white bird is easily recognizable. It is 52–71 centimetres (20–28 in) long with a 125–150 centimetres (49–59 in) wingspan. These birds can weigh anywhere from 1.6–3 kilograms (3.5–6.6 lb). The Snowy Owl is one of the largest species of owl and in North America is on average the heaviest owl species. The adult male is virtually pure white, but females and young birds have some dark scalloping; the young are heavily barred, and dark spotting may even predominate. Its thick plumage, heavily-feathered taloned feet, and colouration render the Snowy Owl well-adapted for life north of the Artic Cirlce.

Like I said, when I arrived it was still dark but it did not take me long to spot about 17 owls clustered together in an area by the shoreline. I though seeing one would be awesome but 17!!! man I knew this was going to be a sweet morning. Light was terrible so I knew I was going to need a lot of patience if I wanted to come away with some good results. The snowy owls spend all summer being stalked by artic foxes so it takes a lot of patience and skill to successfully approach an owl. I decided to go for a dopey looking juvenile seeing as it was my first time with snowy owls and I did nott know what to expect. I have found with Bald Eagles that the juveniles are usually more trusting so thought I would apply the same logic to owls. They have usually had less encounters with predators.

The first photo was taken though my camera's viewfinder using my iphone, call it killing time while I waited for the sun to come up. It  gives you an idea of the lack of light, see camera settings in green.

Image © Jamie Douglas|Photography 2011

The owl below on the left below is my dopey little friend who I spent a good 2 hours approaching. Just when I found a sweet angle with a nice clean background a female turned up from out of nowhere and landed right beside it. I missed the landing as I was too busy checking my camera settings. I was thrilled when I looked through my viewfinder because the dopey little guy wouldn't open his eyes fully for me and as you can see, the female has the great big yellow eyes that complete any snowy owl image. I call this photo 'see no evil, hear no evil'.

I wonder if the mature female on the right was the little guys mother flying down to eye what was getting so close to her not-so-sharp infant?

So here I was with two snowy owls right in front of me and they didn't seem to be at all bothered by my presence. I was starting to get cramp at this point but decided to sit and enjoy the moment for a little longer. The trick with wildlife photography is to spend a long time in the field understanding your subject and making sure you get in and get out without disturbing the wildlife.

Techs: 400MM @ F8 // 1/160// ISO640// Exp comp +1
Canon 7D with 400mm F5.6L
Image © J M Douglas|Photography 2011

Wildlife never fails to take your breath away. Just as I was contemplating leaving a third owl came flying over the head of the two above and was in hot pursuit of a rather large rodent which I presume was a rat. I could do nothing but just aim my camera and hope for the best. I knew I was on a very slow shutter speed so I didn't have time to change it and used the panning technique to follow the incoming owl and taking advantage of the camera's eight frames per second. I like how the eyes and face are sharp and there is plenty of motion in the wings.

Techs: 400MM @ F8 // 1/60 // ISO400// Exp comp +1
Canon 7D with 400mm F5.6L
Image © J M Douglas|Photography 2011

Techs: 400MM @ F5.6 // 1/320// ISO800 // Exp comp -1/3
Canon 7D with 400mm F5.6L
  Image © J M Douglas|Photography 2011

See hi res images and more on my new work in progress website:
*Please note, website under construction. More to come in 2012.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Black Bear Diaries 2011 Part 24: My second front page of the year

Hello folks, Bear season is slowly coming to an end and I haven't seen one about for over a week now. This is mostly due to the darker nights so I don't get as much after work on my bike which sucks. However, I do hear reports that they are seen by the creek and are pretty content with sushi on offer. I do think they prefer to come out after dark though as the creek is near a road. There are certainly a lot of signs of hungry bear activity including the huge patch of grass that has been turned into a salmon eating bed by at least one local bears.

Hopefully I will have a few more encounters before we get into winter. I don't think the bears go into full hibernation around here but I will need to consult with the local experts.

This has been an amazing year and I hope everyone has enjoyed reading about encounters and seeing my photos. I have a lot of editing to catch up on but I will for sure still share reports of my photography through the winter months so don't go away. My new and improved website is coming in the new year but in the meantime please contact me if you are interested in purchasing a print. I can be contacted at

Now for the primary reason behind this blog post....

I am excited to share that another one of my bear photos made the front page of the local paper. I feel very proud that my images can help capture people's attention and promote bear awareness in the local communities. They also gave me a nice little mention below the image and put a link to the Bear Aware Program website where I currently have a photo on their homepage,

See more of my images here:

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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Black Bear Diaries 2011 Part 23: Cougar

I was so so close to seeing my first Cougar this evening.

Tonight's bike ride was exciting and a little scary at the same time. The bike ride started off as usual with a quick stop at the creek to see how the salmon are doing and to see if a bear might show up. I heard a lot of dogs barking up on the hill behind some homes not far from the creek so I knew a beer must be in the area. It was cold this evening so after a short while I gave up waiting because it was also getting dark and I had a fair ride home ahead of me. Just before I left the creek I got talking to a local who said that the local cougar has been spotted by four people earlier that day very close to a young deer. I did think for a second that maybe heading that way at dusk might not be such a good idea but curiosity led me down the trail.
I peddled pretty quickly passed the field where it had been spotted glancing every now and again behind be and into the field. For some reason Cougars don't usually attack adults but they have a thing for cyclist. Maybe they get a kick out of pouncing on a moving target rather than someone walking.

Anyway once I got passed the area I noticed some wet paw prints along the trail and stopped for a few minutes to check them out. It was then I saw some fairly fresh Cougar scat and a series of wet paw prints heading along the trail, see below. The scat and paw prints were identified using "The Canadian Rockies Guide to Wildlife Watching by Michael Kerr". A book I thoroughly recommend to any keen wildlife spotter.

I decided not to hang around for long and took these quick snaps on my iPhone to document the sighting.

This was the exciting part of my ride. The nest is well, not so fun. About 50 meters or so along the trail after seeing the prints and scat my front tire went completely flat. I must have rode over some thorns. The tire went down so quickly that I nearly fell off my bike. Well you can imagine I wasn't too thrilled getting a puncture so close to the cougar tracks and also I was about an hour walk from home and it was already late and not far being very dark. The above photos were lightened hence the noise levels.

I decided I best call a friend and start having a loud conversation as to let any hungry critters know I am in the area and hopefully scare them off. 

It was a long lonely walk home and I fought pretty hard to not spook myself. I had a few moments when I saw dark shadows along the trail because as you all know from following my blog it is also black bear country.

Anyhow I made it home safely in one piece, tired and cold. Now I am just annoyed I have a flat to deal with.

Still it was very exciting nearly seeing such an elusive predator and hopefully one day I get to see it from a safe distance.

I have a website coming in the new year so stay posted.
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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Black Bear Diaries 2011 Part 22: The one that got away

I spent the weekend hanging around in the cold by the local creek waiting for some action to photograph. My imagination was full of images of black bears feeding on the salmon in the dense early morning and hawks on the shore line scavenging the left overs. Unfortunately those images will remain in my head for the time being. You would think the place would be full of fishing bears but not today. It wasn't until about 6pm that a bear decided to show up but by that time the light was long gone. I wasn't going to go home empty handed so I decided to see what I could do given the circumstances. This is the result from pushing the 7D and 70-200mm F2.8 IS combo....

Techs: 200MM @ F2.8// 1/100// ISO2000//
  Canon 7D with 70-200mm F2.8 IS

Image © Jamie Douglas|Photography 2011

The bear spent a few moments eyeing me up before casually making his way down the opposite river bank. I took this as my cue to retreat from the river bed and watch him fish from the top of the bank. He was a bad fisherman and certainly needs to work on his technique. 

While I was waiting for action a number of folks came by and stopped for a chat. I was lucky to have the opportunity to meet the owner of the local fish hatchery who got me up to speed on salmon. The creek is full of Chum Salmon at the moment and the Coho run will be happening shortly. Before meeting this gentleman I wasn't sure what species of salmon I was looking at.

The next guy that showed up wasn't so informative. He proceeded to tell me that the 70-200mm is too short blah blah blah for wildlife photography and the 400mm F5.6 is too slow blah blah blah. Now and again you encounter an opinionated bore or two.  The proof is in the pudding if you ask me. If the 400mm was too slow for wildlife then how would I get an image like this handholding the lens on a wet cloudy day::// ? Not to blow my own horn :)

Before I go, here is a Chum Salmon making his way up the creek. It is truly amazing watching the sheer strength and determination of each fish propel themselves up stream.

See some of my Black Bear photos in larger res here:

I have a website coming in the new year so stay posted.

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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Black Bear Diaries 2011 Part 21: Are you full yet?

It certainly looks like the local bears have well and truly stuffed themselves with the local berry crop this summer. This bear is a prime example of a healthy bear that has begun his pre hibernation binge in preperation for winter. The bear wobbled as it walked amongst the berry bushes.

Did you know: Towards the end of summer and early fall black bears go through a binge period called, hyperphagia where they will gain up to one third of their normal body weight. The black bear will feed for up to 20 hours a day and not worry about any other activites besides eating.

Coming up next: Bear goes fishing

I have been busy this week searching for bears catching salmon in the local rivers so stayed tuned. I had a encounter this evening and I hope to have some more luck over the weekend. See you again soon.

For more information on Black Bears visit: