It was neat to go out and release some ring-necked pheasants today with the Souris Moose Creek Wildlife Federation. Hunters and conservationists have been releasing pheasants since the 1880s in North America. They have flourished here and have become a favourite quarry for upland bird hunters. I’ve hunted them my whole life and there is not much more excitement to be had than walking around almost stepping on them because they hold cover so tightly! Of course, we enjoyed watching the dogs work the cover more than shooting. But pheasants are more than delicious! In fact, they are my favourite “Chinese food!” We’ve had some fairly destructive winters since 2011 in our area which has no doubt lowered the numbers of pheasants and other upland game birds. Not to mention large numbers of coyotes, hawks, skunks, racoons and other predators that have also brought their numbers down. So it is nice to get out and put some back! Hopefully the 200 birds that were released today will make it through the winter and make more in the spring.
Things have been exceedingly chaotic for the last little while but are now starting to even out again. I’m quite behind in blogging and have lots of posts upcoming, even though they will be slightly delayed. I thought I would start the catch up practice with a post on a mini “stay-cation” we did back in the first part of July.
Enter: The Big Muddy. What a sensational place! It’s a lesser known gem of Saskatchewan. In fact, when we asked people in our area if they’d ever made the 300km trip west, it was largely a big No. It’s a provincial treasure though. Really different badlands style terrain and really cool history! Outlaws, live stock thieves, Native heritage sites. This stuff should be taught in school! We took an 8 hour van ride tour out of Coronach, SK. There were 9 different stops along the way. Our kids 3, 5, & 7 did amazingly well. There is lots of terrain to cover but so much cool stuff that it kept them entertained the whole time. The tour gives you a scenic view of the region as well as the ability to look at sites not publicly accessible.
We admired that the place hadn’t largely become “touricized” – turning the natural beauty of the place into a fools paradise of fences and signage. You can access some sites, like Castle Butte, just by driving up to it. You can climb all over it, go to the summit, take pictures and have a grand ol’ time. It’s fantastic! Other places you have to have permission to access. Or, take the tour we did because they are on fenced private land. The tour is the way to go because you get the low down on the area from local people. They leave out of Coronach, SK and have a variety of options to choose from. Check them out on this website.
Besides the “non-stereotypical Saskatchewan flat landscape” of the area, there is such cool history from the NWMP to the horse thieving outlaws who used the region to steal and sell livestock. Tamela Burgess of the Circle Y Ranch does an incredible job of highlighting the Outlaw Stories through her amazing artwork and story telling. By far this was one of the most interesting aspects of the tour. And, they’ve filmed a couple episodes of ManTracker on the ranch! It’s a very beautiful location.
If you haven’t gone and seen the Big Muddy, I highly recommend it. It’s a seldom seen provincial treasure! Check it out! The gallery contains a few photo highlights of the area all shot on the FujiFilm X100s.
On the weekend I had a career highlight as a photographer! I was honoured to tag along with the Oxbow Enniskillen Fire Department on a training session. An old farm house was available for a controlled burn. This kind of exercise is invaluable for firefighters as they get to practice in a real world setting but without the real world risk of having to rescue anyone inside.
The burn was done in stages. Simulating the fire starting in a living room and a kitchen and eventually the entire house. Tagging along as the photographer allowed me to get some photos that would be impossible to get in a real world house fire. I was suited up for the experience in fire pants, jacket and helmet. But nothing could have prepared me for the extreme heat of that fire.
Up until now I have always had grandiose dreams of grabbing my kids and carrying them out of a burning building if it should ever happen to us (God forbid!) But let me tell you, I was on the opposite end of the house when the fire broke out, taking pics as the firefighters entered. The wall of heat was so intense, the smoke so horrific that you couldn’t see or breathe! It is all manor of awful scary. The conditions that our firefighters endure for our safety cannot be overstated. These men (and women!) are your real heroes! Say thank you, buy them a coffee or a meal any time you can!
In the midst of the seriousness, there was also fun too. One highlight for me was getting a three generations firefighter photo. That is something you don’t see everyday. It is a rare and awesome thing to see! Three generations of heroes!
This was such an amazing experience! It reinforced in my mind fire safety. Make sure your smoke alarms all have fresh batteries and are in good working order!
Take a look at the gallery of images here. It’s only a handful of the shots I took, but I have tried to visually tell the story of the day from beginnings of the fire all the way up until the house was completely burned. There were loads of great candid moments throughout the day and I was super thankful for the opportunity!
For my early birthday present this year, my lovely wife signed me up for something totally awesome. It was the Prairie Smoke & Spice Barbecue Fundamentals class. This was an introduction to the Low n’ Slow cooking methods made popular in the Southern States of America. But gradually, low and slow is coming to the truth north, strong and free. For over a year I’ve been delving into BBQ cooking on my Big Green Egg ceramic grill. I instantly fell in love with smoked food and the amazing results this method of cooking produces. Being the self-starter that I am, I learned everything I know from the Internet and watching YouTube, especially the Barbecue Pit Boys‘ channel. But it was really great to get some first hand instruction in real life. Enter Rob’s Class.
This course is absolutely ideal for the BBQ beginner. Rob takes you through all the various grill styles from Yoder Pellet Smokers to Kettle Grills to Offsets, etc. for low and slow. And, he cooks competition grade food for the participants so you can really experience what great BBQ is supposed to be like. Rob comes across with a humble confidence. He isn’t trying to prove to the BBQ world that he’s “all that and a can of slow cooked spam.” He simply and effectively communicates the knowledge, techniques, and tips and tricks that make for amazing food. The course had the perfect balance of classroom instruction, engaging hands on learning and of course, the best part: eating! Even though it was 5 hours long, never once did I feel like it was lagging or slow. Rob really kept it moving, interspersing the teaching parts with the results parts – us scarfing down some of the best BBQ in Saskatchewan. It was great to watch him prepare and rub down a brisket, and then get to taste the finished product (which was kicked up to notches unknown to mankind). Likewise for the pulled pork, chicken, ribs and for this course, a kettle grill cooked prime rib. Rob showed us the importance of reverse-searing the prime rib for a perfect internal medium rare cook but also some nice crispy bark on the outside too. It was to sooooo good! Everything was simply delicious and I could have indulged in the sin of gluttony repeatedly. :D
If you want to have an excellent experience and get into BBQ, I cannot recommend Rob’s class enough. He’s a great instructor with a wealth of tips from the BBQ competition circuit and years of experience. It’s the perfect course for the beginner or the person who already loves BBQ and wants to learn more. If you have a carnivorous BBQ fan in your household and are looking for a perfectly unique gift for her or him, be sure to sign up for the next class. For the proof is, like they say, is in the
What a whirlwind tour this last little bit of time has been for us. We were up to Edmonton for a friend’s wedding that I also ended up doing some pictures for. Then on the way back we had to stop at one of Saskatchewan’s craziest spots: The Crooked Bush. We had heard about it in a tourism book and we decided that it was worth the stop. So we detoured at North Battleford on our return journey and navigated to this crazy little plot of trees. It’s literally just that. A strange little aspen wood plot in the middle of nowhere. The bluff of trees right beside it are straight and normal. But these trees are totally gnarly and wild looking! Such a cool place to stop and check out. Nobody knows for sure why this little grove of trees are so crooked. Some have speculated a genetic defect in the trees, other say a UFO crashed there. Others still say that a lawyer is buried there. Ha! :D
Now because we had been shooting the wedding, I had all my big lighting gear with me. So we took a few shots of the kids. It was very dramatic light that day so we played with it a bit and turned out some pretty cool keepsake images in a really cool place! If you are ever up there near Hafford, SK, be sure to check out the crooked bush!
We’re having a heat wave! And it is fantastic! Our weather has gone absolutely crazy. We’ve swung from -50 billionºC with a windchill to +6ºC. For January in Saskatchewan, that is pure craziness. We’ve been hibernating in our homes for the past few weeks so it feels tremendous to get outside and grab some fresh air and take some photos! I was dying to get out and shoot the new 50mm 1.8G lens. So, when the weather was unbelievably great, I locked it on the Df and went for a walk with the family. It was super great. I can’t overstate how great this 50mm is. It’s so light on the Df that it feels like you’re carrying a mirrorless system. And it performs great.
For this walk I had it stopped down to around f/8. The light was extremely bright and contrasty so I set my picture style to Monochrome, even though I shot RAW. It’s cool to see the shots in black and white in camera, but know you still have colour to work with in post. To match the high contrast lighting conditions, I pushed these files with heavy contrast in Lightroom. I wanted to capture that iconic “street photography” look. It was a lot of fun! And, there was a lot of laundry to do when we got home. Thankfully, that’s not my department. :cool:
When I saw the sun raking across the clouds this morning, I ran back in and grabbed the camera! :cool:
It is Cold.
Family Sessions are pretty much finished off now, especially since winter has set in with a mighty wallop of cold temperatures & wind! It’s already been quite nasty other than not having a metric pile of snow which is great! And also, on the positive note, there has been none of that freezing rain malarky either. Two whoop whoops and a boo ya for -20ºC right off the hop of winter! LOL :cool:
Fall on the prairies is hellfire fast. But this year it was somewhat delayed which is a such a sweet bonus. It was rather rainy though which limited the shooting opportunities. But you have to be fast when it comes to hammering out all the best colour as it is usually here one day and gone the next. Here are two images I shot at the end of my crescent where there was this amazing red hedge. These photos were shot only 3 days apart. Crazy difference! I shot the same photo/pose with the families to illustrate this reality of fall photography in Saskatchewan: HURRY! :D
A little bit of wind can ruin your photo background in no time! That said, while we missed the red colour on the latter shoot, we also picked up some incredible yellow that wasn’t ready just 3 days before.
So you never know what kind of palette you will be given to work with from shoot to shoot. A couple of days is an enormous difference! But you can still wring it out even when the colour gets scarce. The photographer’s two best friends are Bokeh & Compression. Or, long focal lengths and wide apertures. This shot of Lexi was with my 85mm at f/2.5. A bit of telephoto compression and pretty wide aperture. Similar results could have been nabbed at 200mm and f/4. Charlea’s photo was similar, with my favorite 85mm at 2.8. She had much more colour at the red hedge while the bush behind lexi was really on it’s way out. But the bokeh goodness smooshes it into a pleasant blur of colour.