A photo instructors top 11 pictures from 2011

I was recently recognized by Younes Bouhnar on Google+ as having one of his favourite portfolios of 11 pictures shot in 2011.  For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a photography instructor at the Burwell School of Photography in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and a contributing editor and regular columnist with Outdoor Photography Canada Magazine.

I thought I’d take a moment to share those images with you and tell the story behind how they were made from a photography education point of view (you can click on the images to see a larger version of the image)….

Coyote coming over a ridge on a fall day - CA

Coyote coming over a ridge on a fall day – CA

This was a test image taken during my Fall Wildlife Photography Workshop held at the Triple “D” Game Farm in Kalispell, Montana.  While I don’t shoot purposely for myself during my workshops, I do take test shots to help the students with suggestions for exposure information.  We purposely set up on this ridge and had the trainers work with the Coyote to come over the top of the lens.  This wasn’t the exact shot I’d envisioned for my students, but it worked out well none the less.  Here are the technical specifications for the image:  1/1000th of a second at F5.6, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 100-400 F4.5-5.6L IS @ 320mm, ISO 1600, hand held.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog pearing out of its burrow amongst the fall colour

Black-tailed Prairie Dog pearing out of its burrow amongst the fall colour

My wife an I had the opportunity to borrow a Suzuki “Gator” ATV and run around an old abandoned game farm and golf course this past fall.  The fall colours were fantastic and I’d spotted this young prairie dog when I was there a couple of weeks previous who wasn’t too shy and so I managed to work my way up close to him; lying on my belly and shimmying closer and closer until I managed to get this wide-angle shot of him peering out of his burrow with the beautiful blue sky and fall colours in the background.  It is fantastic when the image you end up creating matches what you had in your head before you pressed the shutter button.  Here are the technical specifications for the image:  Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-70 2.8L @ 35mm, 1/2000th of a second at F4, ISO 400, hand held.  Aperture priority mode with -1/3 exposure compensation.

Perigrine Falcon standing in a grassy clearing

Perigrine Falcon standing in a grassy clearing – CA

This is a picture of a Peregrine Falcon who is owned by a falconer friend of mine.  You can’t see them because the tall grass hides them, but the bird does have jesses around its ankles to keep it tethered to its perch which is out of frame.  For this image, I wanted that intimate eye contact so again I was down on my stomach, shooting from a prone position and waiting until this lovely male Peregrine would give me its full attention.  Here are the technical specifications for the image:  Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 100-400 F4.5-5.6L IS @ 400mm, 1/200th of a second at F7.1, ISO 400, hand held.

River rocks under the water found near Kalispell, Montana, USA

River rocks under the water found near Kalispell, Montana, USA

I was walking back to the car one sunny summer afternoon in Montana when I was about to step over a small creek that was running through the path I was on.  As I looked down, I was impressed at how the nearly direct overhead sun was acting as the running water refracted its rays and the shadows the water was creating.   I didn’t have my tripod with me, so I set up for a couple of hand held shots and I ended up really liking the abstract dynamic shot I ended up creating.  The technical specifications for this shot are:  Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 100-400 F4.5-5.6L IS @ 200mm, 1/400th of a second at F9.0, ISO 400, hand held.

Common Loon transporting a pair of chicks on its back

Common Loon transporting a pair of chicks on its back

This shot of a Common Loon with two chicks on its back was made during our Loon Photography Workshop last July.  My clients finished photographing for the morning and so my wife and I took the boat and went out.  My wife is a huge nature lover and loved seeing the loons up close and personal.  For me, the different expressions on the baby’s faces is what makes this shot work for me.  The technical specifications are:  Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 500mm F4L IS, Canon 1.4x Extender II @ 700mm, 1/1250th of a second at F5.6, ISO 800, Gitzo 3541 XLS tripod, Jobu-Design BWG-Pro Gimbal tripod head.

Alberta Prairie Panorama

Alberta Prairie Panorama

I was chasing a thunder storm on the way home from a workshop and I was really enjoying the thunder head formations over the prairies.  I pulled over along Highway 22 and made this panorama image from 12 individual vertical shots that were hand held as I pivoted on a spot.  The shots were stitched together in Photoshop and I was pleased at how well it worked out.  The technical specifications are:  Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 100-400 F4.5-5.6L IS @ 100mm, 1/1000th of a second at F6.3, ISO 100, Manual exposure and white balance, hand held.

Baby Black Bear playing in a hollow tree stump - CA

Baby Black Bear playing in a hollow tree stump – CA

This is another one of those test shots from a workshop, my Spring Wildlife Photography Workshop in this case, and it is a picture of a baby black bear named Casey from the Triple “D” Game Farm.  This cute little fellow has a ton of personality and I think it really comes across in this shot.  The technical specifications are:  Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 100-400 F4.5-5.6L IS, @250mm, 1/250th of a second at F6.3, ISO 1000, hand held.

Young girl reaching into her purse

Young girl reaching into her purse

This is actually a picture of my niece.  The photo was taken at our wedding barbecue.  She’s a great poser and when I saw an opportunity for a candid shot where she was lined up with a nice background, I got down on the ground to get to her eye level and called to her to look up.  She did and that smile is spectacular.  Here are the technical specifications for the image:  Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 F2.8L IS @185mm, Canon 580EX Flash in high-speed sync mode, 1/1250th of a second at F6.3, ISO 400, hand held.

Snowflake Yanling - Stellar Dendrite Snowflake

Snowflake Yanling – Stellar Dendrite Snowflake

This picture of a snowflake was one my favourite of 2011.  It is classified as a Stellar Dendrite snowflake and I named it Yanling.  I love the way that this temporary art form is created out of almost nothing (well water vapor) by nature.  I was honoured when the Canadian Press picked up the story on my snowflake photography this January and the story ended up running in many newspapers, radio stations and even a few TV news casts.  The technical specifications for this image are:  Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 65mm MP-E 1-5x Macro lens, Kenko Extension tubes, 4 external flash units, 1/250th of a second at F4, ISO 100, copy stand.

Oil on water...the beginning

Oil on water…the beginning

This shot was created in preparation for the Macro Photography Course we’re running in March of 2012.  It was created by putting just enough water in the bottom of a glass cooking pan to cover the bottom and then adding some cooking oil and swirling things up.  That cooking pan was then placed above some colourful cloth and was lit using a couple of LED lights.  I really loved the other worldly effect it achieved.  The technical specifications for this shot are:  Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 180mm F3.5L Macro, 0.4 Seconds at F5.6, ISO 100, Gitzo 3541 XLS tripod, Really Right Stuff BH55 ballhead.

Cougar jumping the red rocks in Utah - CA

Cougar jumping the red rocks in Utah – CA

This shot is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite shot of the year.  It was made near Zion National Park and Hurricane, Utah.  The cat doing the jump is an elder statesman of the Triple “D” Game Farm named Andy and on this particular day, he performed spectacularly.  The weather was a bit cool when we were there this past April and in fact we had to wait out a snow storm before we could begin this shoot.  When I surveyed the scene I could see that if I was lucky, there was a perfect spot that I could capture Andy as he jumped between the two rocks.  I positioned myself at the very back of the group (shooting over a lot of heads) and managed to time this shot perfectly as he jumped.  I wasn’t shooting a high frame-rate camera so it isn’t like I got 10 or 15 shots of this jump.  I got three.  And, in my opinion, this one is about perfect.  It looks fantastic printed on aluminium too!  Technical specifications for this shot:  Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 100-400 F4.5-5.6L IS @210mm, 1/2000th of a second at F5.6, ISO 400, hand held.

I hope that you enjoyed my top 11 shots of 2011 and would welcome any and all comments or questions that you might have about them.

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