Eagles and muskox and bears, oh my!
As you have likely learned, we at the Huffington Post Alberta love a good animal story.
So when we made contact with Alberta wildlife photographer Pat Roque, we are so excited to feature his work as Alberta's Photographer of the Month.
Pat's wildlife imagery is second-to-none, and he's no doubt dedicated to the craft of capturing so of Canada's most majestic animals. He takes several trips each year to remote areas of Canada, and comes away with some of the most wonderful animal photos we've seen.
Pat was kind enough to answer some questions about what inspires his photography and how he's able to capture the photos he does. Scroll down for photos from Pat's collection.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in southern Manitoba, a small rural community named Lorette. Currently I reside in Calgary.
How long have you been shooting photos?
For as long as I can remember I have been interested in photography. I purchased my first SLR camera at the age of 13 and although I normally had a camera nearby, it wasn't until I relocated to Calgary that my passion for wildlife photography became obvious.
What about Alberta inspires you?
The abundance of and accessibility to wildlife throughout the province. Whether it;s searching for grizzly bear in the mountains to big horn sheep in nearby Turner Valley or even deer in Fish Creek Provincial Park. I can normally find a subject to photograph! I find southern Alberta's one of the most amazing areas in Canada to view and photograph a vast variety of wildlife.
Interview continues after the slideshow.
How patient do you have to be to photograph wildlife and nature?
Rather than attribute it to patience, I consider it luck. Professionals, will agree that even though you are fortunate enough to encounter a subject, having the subject act naturally and continue with their normal actions regardless of your presence is luck. To be able to leave that subject after having captured that magical moment and the animal continues to do what ever it was that they were doing prior to arrival - is magical in my world. I do spend a great portion of my free time in pursuit of wildlife subjects and from that perspective, a wildlife photographer does have to be patient and willing to spend time doing so.
What's the most unusual, remarkable thing you've ever had happen to you while taking photographs?
One of the most memorable incidents involved a coastal wolf near Prince Rupert. While out looking for spirit bear, I came up to a section of road where I had photographed a wolf earlier in the day. I had spotted my friend's vehicle parked along the road and saw him standing at the back with his camera equipment. I knew right away that the wolf must have re-appeared, so I parked and joined him with my equipment. The wolf was in the thick brush but we could see it from where we stood. We decided to slowly make our way toward the animal, and as we got closer, we realized that it was eating bones from a carcass. The brush was thick and it was difficult to shoot, but we managed to work around it. Having a wolf within 10 meters, that is accepting your presence while it carries on it's normal activity, is amazing. The wolf was so comfortable around us that at one point, it walked right past us to get a drink and walked back to the carcass to grab a last bone before disappearing into the forest.
What is your favourite animal to photograph and why?
The grizzly bear. Although I find all bears incredible, it's the grizzly that intrigues me most. I find that the different coloring and markings on grizzlies makes them unique and allows differentiating one from another. Of course, the fact that they are so majestic and powerful is an obvious attractant, but the fact that the species is threatened in Alberta, we really don't know how much longer we'll have these magnificent animals in our parks.
Have you ever found yourself in a scary situation while shooting?
No I've been very fortunate over the years likely because I truly believe that no shot is worth endangering mine or the animal's well-being. I don't often set out on a trail expecting to photograph a bear, I will for moose or sheep but never for bear. When shooting bears and wolves on land, I have found that my vehicle serves as a perfect blind, likely due to most wildlife being accustomed to traffic.The vehicle often allows me to photograph the animal acting normally.
What's your advice to people who want to take remarkable wildlife photographs?
Take the time to research and understand your subject. This is key to wildlife photography -- capturing the images that you will be pleased with and, most importantly, experiencing an amazing wildlife encounter. A little luck is always good as well. Understanding your equipment and its capabilities is also very important to achieving the results that you're looking for. The internet is a great source of information as are camera clubs and stores.
What do you like to do when you're not taking photos?
My wife and I like to hike in the summer or snowshoe in the winter with our Portuguese water dog, Buster.
Many of the photos that you've provided seem to have been taken outside of Alberta. Does your passion take you on many trips?
I normally do three wildlife photography trips each year. The bear season starts in May with a trip north of Prince Rupert to photograph the bears coming out of hibernation and the start of the breeding period. The bear season then comes to a close for me in October with a trip to central B.C. which coincides with the end of the salmon spawning period. The bears concentrate on the river systems to gorge themselves on the spent salmon and build up the necessary body fat levels to survive the winter hibernation. I've added a third trip to my annual trip roster -- last year it was a November trip to Wapusk National Park to photograph polar bear and this past July I travelled to Somerset Island in Nunavut for muskox and denning Arctic fox. To fill the gap between trips, I spend most weekends in Canmore chasing wildlife in nearby Banff National Park or Kananaskis Provincial Park.
Explore more of Pat Roque's work:
Are you interested in being Alberta's Photographer of the Month? Email us and we can chat!
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