What's Going On?

It has been a LONG time since I wrote.  

If anyone used my website alone, they would probably assume I'm either dead or took up a new interest.  Fortunately for me, that's far from the truth.  I have discovered another way of sharing my work through Instagram and you can find my work there as well at http://www.instagram.com/maxxam_originals - Please follow me!  I'm needy and I promise I won't be clingy or desperate.  Much.

The fact is, if I want to get a new shot I'm proud of up and get it noticed, there's no better place.  I don't know if I have any subscribers here, though I do share the link from time to time.  At the moment, this is more of a place to write than sharing.  Regardless, I'll try and do better.

Did I mention you should follow me on Instagram?  Alright, enough of that.

  • What's been going on

I have found that over the course of the past year I have set little assignments for myself to shoot and perfect before moving on.  My last blog was about my experience shooting loons.  I took many, many photos of loons and it was a great experience.

Continuing with that, I entered a contest in the spring to capture a shot at Golden Hour.  Having been paddling at the local lake many times, I knew there was a loon mother protecting her eggs and if I could get access to the park early, I could be there for a shot at first light.  What it meant though was getting permission, paying a healthy fee, and paddling out there in the dark.  Boy, what an experience that was, and it was worth every dime.  The shot I submitted wasn't worthy of the contest as the light just wasn't "golden hour" thanks to lingering fog followed by the sun being blocked by the treeline.  I'm still happy with the shot though...

Mother loon leaves her eggs for a short swim and a light breakfast.

In a vastly different direction, I managed to get in quite a bit of telescope time as well during the nice weather.  Unfortunately, I have found the learning curve to be quite steep.  Moreso than I expected, but I have gotten better over time.  I was finally able to put my cooled CCD camera to work when I managed to get my scope set up on a clear night and capture this shot of the Whirlpool Galaxy which is only 23 million light years away.  What does this mean? The light from this galaxy has traveled 23 million years to reach my telescope.  Mind-blowing.

The Whirlpool Galaxy - m51a and it's companion m51b

My next goal is to shoot the Orion Nebula as soon as the temperatures start to rise.  Unfortunately it is a relatively short window before it disappears from view until very late fall, so I'll have to make sure I do it right as I won't get many tries.

I'm probably jumping a little in the timeline, but with the nice weather comes a desire to do a little macro photography.  There's a complex definition of it, but what it means is shooting small things extremely close up.  In this case, bees.  

With the sunflowers in full bloom, there was no shortage of bees collecting pollen.  The sound of buzzing was hard to miss and it is fairly unnerving, but fortunately with the camera in front of my face, I tried not to think about how many inches separated me from my models.  The result was several beautiful shots.

A bee is covered in pollen as it works busily at a sunflower.

In the end, it satisfied an itch I'd been meaning to scratch, and I walked away with no pain or swelling.  I call that a win.

Moving forward, I also managed to get some shooting time in at the Canadian Raptor Conservancy.  Here, many species of raptor are unveiled for photographers to shoot as they pose and fly.  Whether it was eagles, hawks, owls or something else, it was nothing but a treat to participate in.  And It was also a challenge.  Some birds are far faster than others, making them extremely difficult to shoot in mid air.  I couldn't be happier with this one though.

Coming in for a landing on top of a post, wings are spread wide in order to stop in time.

Because I love bald eagles, I can't help but share one more.  The fierceness in their eyes is unmatched in any other animal I've come face to face with.

Wings fully extended as it comes in to land.

I truly wish I knew where to find these in the wild locally because I could shoot them all day long.

Let's see now, what else.  Something else unique must have happened.  Well, there was the purchase of a DJI Phantom 4 drone (more properly known as a quadcopter).  This little baby has opened up a whole new world of photography for me.  No longer am I restricted to what I can see with my boots on the ground.  The camera on board is no high-level DSLR camera, but I'm still quite happy with it's quality.

Here is a capture from 300 feet above Algonquin Provincial Park as the leaves were in the process of turning.  For my eyes, this is breathtaking and with just this one shot alone, nevermind the video, it was worth every dime it cost (and continues to cost).

Algonquin Provincial Park from high above the trees in the autumn.

There is also a truckload of video I shot.  I'll only share one here though.  I need to get my hands on some decent editing software, but as of this point, it appears I'll be on the hook for about $500.  That's pretty prohibitive in my world.

I titled this one "Search and Destroy" as I flew quickly just above the treetops as if searching for my prey below.  Hope you like the music, and for those who notice, yes that's me at the end piloting.

Along with a couple of portrait shoots, there was also a trip to New York City with my girlfriend who too often takes on the task of carrying at least some of my gear.  Usually the heavy stuff.  Boy do I know how to pick 'em! 

New York is an absolute goldmine of photographic opportunities.  Whether it's a city skyline from the water, a look at Manhattan from above, or street photography anywhere, there are endless opportunities to shoot something eye-catching.  For me, my favourite shot is probably this one.

Manhattan as seen from the top of the Rockafeller building.

I was only going to share one photo here at the risk of this becoming too long, but you can hardly mention shooting from the water and not include one.  I seem to be favoring monochromatic shots here.

The single Freedom Tower stands alone while it's twin awaits it's turn to be built.

While I never got to see the original World Trade Center, I find this shot to be moving while one building awaits the return of it's twin.

As winter moved in, I began to re-adjust to a new mission.  I'd heard of Gray Jays being put forward as a candidate for Canada's national bird, but I had never seen one myself.  Challenge accepted, and it was back to Algonquin once again.

No trip to the Park would be complete though without a ridiculously early alarm though.  Winter being what it is though, there's no need to be up before 6:00am as the sun won't be up until around 7.  I have also had it in my head that I would like to shoot a fox and another pine marten as well.  Yes, I always have a shot list.

After a stop in my usual location which I know to be full of blue jays, there were no grays around.  From here, it was off to another beautiful path to try there.  It wasn't long before the blue jays there were joined by a gray, and then another.  With a bag of peanuts in hand, we kept the blues busy while the grays watched on.  Being far more timid, they weren't nearly as open to flying in close for food, but instead, they did a great job posing for photos, and I am grateful for it.

A gray jay watching thoughtfully.

The rest of the trip wasn't kind enough to produce a marten or a fox, but we were graced by a moose immediately upon entering the park.  A humbling experience, but as I have several moose shots in the past, I will wait to post another until I have one with a full rack.

Did I mention foxes? Well, it wasn't to be on our first trip, but returning solo a few days later, I was extremely lucky to pass one first thing in the morning.  The previous night had snowed heavily and I had just checked out of my motel and got on the road and into the park when this little fellow came running the opposite direction along the highway.  

Having zero interest in shooting animals on the road, I turned my car around and watched as it left the road and disappeared over the rocks.  I was extremely fortunate that there was a driveway nearby that I was able to pull into and walk for a short while.

I could hear him barking away, I presume in hopes of finding a mate, so I knew it was still quite close.  I could hear it getting further and further away though, so I knew my only hope was to bark back and hope curiosity got the better of him.  It seems I can pass for a female fox as it did return and came very close to me.  It was very skittish, darting away before coming back for a closer look several times.

When I took this shot, it was at 70mm and very close to me - to the point where it became clear that it lost it's fear of humans.  Not good.

This red fox was kind enough to answer my call.

Absolutely beautiful creatures, and the fact that it came so close felt like a real moment.  I won't tell you how many shots I got, but it's triple-digits, and I still managed to put the camera down and just enjoy the time it spent with me.

My final shot to share comes care of an obsession I've had for a long time.  Snowy Owls.  Because their natural habitat is in the arctic circle, they can only be found this far south for a short time during the winter before they return home.  They are exceedingly difficult to find, particularly if they are on the ground in the snow.  While they aren't particularly scared of humans, they won't let you get very close unless they are high above.

This one stared at us for a long time before we left her to see if there truly were others in the area.

A snowy owl quietly looks for food somewhere out in the snow.

Knowing she has flown hundreds of miles for such a short time makes this an absolutely magical experience.

  • What's next?

Having recently graduated from the New York Institute of Photography, I find myself missing having specific assignments.  

I frequently ask people where their interests lie in hopes of bringing them a photo they would like for their own, but moving forward, I am looking for further certification.  To accomplish this, I have joined Professional Photographers of Canada as an observer and will be working towards full membership through accreditation in several different areas.  The challenge this provides will go a long way towards helping me take my work to the next level.

  • What's new?

As well, I have recently ordered an elaborate triggering system that will allow me to shoot some eye-catching studio shots that I'm very excited about.  Stay tuned for more on that.

As well, I have been saving desperately in hopes of a new lens for wildlife in low light.  Unfortunately things like trips and overnight excursions don't come cheap and I find myself dipping into that savings too often.  I may have to put it away on a 5 year lay-away plan.

In the meantime, if you have enjoyed reading this, please follow me on Instagram to follow my work as it evolves and I will try and provide more frequent updates here as well.

Until then, if you'd be kind enough to share my work with others, I would truly appreciate it.