When was the last time you heard absolutely nothing at all?
Ontario-based wildlife and nature photographer Gary Blake gets to hear it a lot.
“Although,” he admits, “It’s amazing how many sounds you do hear while sitting in a copse of trees in the middle of the wilderness in the middle of Northern Ontario, waiting for an owl or an eagle to stop by – so you can get that one-of-a-kind, never-seen-before wildlife shot.”
Gary describes ravens as very intelligent birds – and very “pushy” – even when they are outmatched by eagles. He explains, “When eagles are feeding during a salmon run it usually attracts a lot of ravens who show up for the leftovers. Sometimes, the ravens can’t wait for the eagles to finish and try to steal some nibbles.” Gary is then quick to photograph the intimacy of the challenge between a 13-pound angry eagle with a seven-foot wingspan and the raven.
Gary said, “Then it happens! And for the first time, you have all the proof you need right inside your camera – ravens can fly backwards.”
For these rare photos it takes infinite patience – and a mirrorless OMD EM-1 or a Sony mirrorless A7R2 camera and a bagful of lenses.
What is equally amazing are the incredible photographs Gary does take while sitting and listening to the silence – all the while observing – waiting for the right moment in nature to capture with his camera.
“But while you’re sitting there, you’re never alone for long,” he smiles. “Before long, a lynx will come by for a quick “Hi there”. Or a nosy, nervous field mouse. Or a fox. Or a tired-eyed owl waiting for nighttime to arrive.”
And each “visitor” might bring with it that “magic” shot that wildlife photographers long to take.
“You never know what you’re going to get,” Gary explains. “Some days, I get as many as 1,600 shots. Other days, nothing at all.”
Then it happens! And you have to be ready – because when it happens, it happens in a split second.
Gary also has an uncanny ability capture the stillness, raw beauty and eccentricities of nature with his camera. His camera draws you deep inside the tulip to share its perfection and radiance.
Gary is known for his stunning photographs of eagles and has studied their behaviour in order to capture once-in-a-lifetime photographs.
“Usually, eagles are very territorial and spread out over a wide area, based on the availability of food,” he explains. “Salmon spawning runs, however, attract large numbers of eagles to a relatively small area. When there’s an excess of food, it means each meal is no longer a life-or-death struggle for survival, so they generally tolerate one another to a certain extent.”
“However, eagles are eagles. They like to challenge one another. And one of their favorite games is trying to knock another eagle off the fish it is feeding on.
An eagle feeding on the ground is at a huge tactical disadvantage to an incoming, airborne eagle. The eagle on the ground, of course, realizes this and the general rule is to put up a bit of a fuss, squawk a lot – and then get wisely out of the way before it gets seriously hurt.
Then he met the “Bruce Lee” of eagles.
“As I watched, one eagle figured out a unique defense to this problem. That’s why I call him Bruce Lee. He would crouch down, precisely timing the arrival of the incoming eagle – then leap into the air, flip completely upside down and present his talons to the incoming bird,” Gary explains. “By doing this, the tactical advantage is almost equal. The incoming eagle still has an airspeed advantage, but ‘Bruce Lee’ has the advantage of surprise.”
The surprise tactic worked well for the this ingenious eagle. Gary watched him do it three times before he was able to get this shot in full form – which happened at lightning-fast speed.
“‘Bruce’ would then finish his acrobatics by completing a somersault and landing back on his feet. He’d then straighten his feathers and finish eating his lunch.”
Gary points to the photography and explains, “Look at the wing feathers. He seems to be able to control each feather individually in order to accomplish this unique manoeuver.”
“Nature never ceases to amaze me!” Gary exudes of his passion for wildlife and its natural surroundings.
Gary began his career in 1973 with an Olympus OMI-MD film camera. He also used Pentax 6X7 medium-format film cameras.
Then in 2004, he went digital with an Olympus E-1 DSLR – and is currently using Olympus EM-1 and Sony mirrorless A7R2 cameras, with a variety of adapted lenses – including older, manual-focus 35mm film lenses and adapted auto-focus lenses in Olympus 4/3 mount, Nikon and Canon mounts.
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