It’s hard to believe we’re already looking back on 2018 and all the memories and moments it held. We missed doing this kind of a post in 2017, so we thought it was definitely time to share some of our favourite moments and images with you from the past couple years. We decided to organize our highlights around a few categories of favourites for Josiah, Jenaya and John: New Print Releases, Memories from the Field, Beauty All Around Us, and our most popular prints amongst our collectors and gallery guests.
Favourite Print Releases
JOSIAH: My dad and sister and I had been photographing black bears all evening in a nearby mountain valley when we decided to take one last drive through another good area for wildlife. The sun was long since behind the mountains and the light was mostly gone, so we packed our camera gear away and just enjoyed the drive. Suddenly my dad and I spotted this young cougar watching us pass on the road below the ridge it was on! We quietly pulled the truck off the road and scrambled for the camera gear we had packed away. There was almost no light left for photography, but when you have a wild cougar in front of you posing, you have to keep trying! I stabilized my lens on a beanbag on the truck window, and when the cougar lowered its head to peer through the grass at my dad as he set up his gear, I squeezed off this shot. Incredibly, we got to spend almost 40 minutes with this beautiful big cat before it silently sauntered off into the forest.
JENAYA: This is definitely one of the craziest experiences I’ve had behind the lens to date. I’m not sure I’ve ever photographed in as heavy a snowstorm before or after the morning I witnessed this scene! The two wolves at the bottom of the picture had pursued a cow elk across several ridges and valleys, before finally bringing it down in the tall grass at the edge of a river. The trailing members of the wolf pack were still catching up, winded from the long pursuit. In fact, one of my dad’s favourite things about this picture is there is actually a fourth wolf totally concealed by the bush in the top left quarter, just like how it usually is in the wilderness when you find wolves…you’re never sure if you’ve spotted them all or if one is hiding on you! I love the painterly effect the heavy snow brings to the scene, and the positions of the numerous ravens as they arrived in hopes of a meal.
JOHN: I had been photographing this handsome Short-Eared Owl with Josiah when the sun slid behind some clouds at the end of the day. The colours of the scene slowly shifted from warm evening light to the cool blues of the coming night, when suddenly the sun partially broke free for one last kiss of golden light. Photography is at its essence the study–and art–of light, and nature provides endless opportunities to capture moments of beauty as the light paints the world before our eyes. The brief encore of sunlight never reached the salt marsh behind the owl where it had earlier been hunting, leaving the beautiful blues of the shadows untouched as the background canvas for my kindly cooperative hunter.
Favourite Memories from the Field
JOSIAH: I love photographing tiny animals, and hummingbirds are some of my very favourites. I found this young Rufous Hummingbird vigilantly protecting its territory against other intruding hummingbirds. He would puff himself up to look big whenever another hummingbird was near and occasionally flare his tail or dart out and chase them off. I’d always have to guess where he might perch and only had a few seconds to get my shots, but once I noticed him choose this tiny branch a few times, I set up my camera to frame him amongst all the spruce needles of his forest home.
My dad and I noticed that he had been banded, but unfortunately we never were able to identify the complete number on the band to try and learn where he was from and see if he was reported later during his amazing migration south from the Canadian Rockies.
Aside from being one of my favourite subjects to photograph, one of the reasons this experience made my favourite memories list is because of how much I enjoyed this day in the field. Our friend and fellow professional wildlife photographer, Andy Howard, had joined us for a couple of weeks photographing the wildlife around our home in southwest Alberta. I love photographing with Andy, and we had an amazing time that day spending hours with pikas, ground squirrels and other Rocky Mountain species. Finding these hummingbirds on our way home was the perfect way to spend the last hours of a great day in the field that I will never forget.
JENAYA: Last year I took my first solo trip to Yellowstone National Park, camping in my Jeep and exploring the park each day while photographing its many animal species. Every day brought new experiences and photo opportunities, so it’s pretty hard to narrow it down to a favourite! My dad and I thought we should share this one in part because we both love the colours and tones in the picture, and the graceful look to the coyote as he focuses in on a possible meal. What you cannot see, though, is why this experience is one of the coolest memories of my trip and year. When I first found this coyote, it was hunting cooperatively with an American Badger! I had heard about protocooperation between species before and knew that sometimes coyotes and badgers kind of join forces to be more successful while hunting, but I had never witnessed it and definitely didn’t expect to see it happen on my trip! Initially the pair were hunting the meadow in the background, then they swam a small creek together and the coyote came out of the creek bed and trotted through the grass in front of me. I was really bummed out I wasn’t able to get an angle from my vantage point that showed both animals together in one picture, but every time I look at this beautiful coyote I remember how cool it was to watch that.
JOHN: OK, confession time: my professional pride almost prevented me from choosing this image to showcase, but the experience it comes from was simply too crazy cool not to share! My son and I were photographing this young bull moose as it quietly swam across a shallow bay in a lake in the Canadian Rockies. Neither the moose nor Josiah and I were prepared for what was about to happen! Just as the bull was about to step out of the lake, having arrived at his destination, a male Common Loon exploded out of the water to drive the unsuspecting trespasser away from its nesting site. The loon charged the moose repeatedly and succeeded in pushing the big ungulate to the end of the bay before it scrambled out of the water none the worse for wear (but perhaps a little wiser). Unfortunately, because I had been photographing a very slow-moving moose in a tranquil scene, my settings were far from ideal for capturing the unexpected spontaneous action.
Josiah and I normally work our craft very quietly in the field, but I can tell you there were a lot of excited exclamations going on behind our gear for a few moments, starting with “What on earth?!” as we tried to comprehend and react to what was happening! We could not believe the determination and aggression of this protective loon, nor the apparent panic of its infinitely larger target! Eventually the action was over and tranquility returned to the lake as if nothing had happened. We sat on the shore for several minutes after this unexpected encounter, shaking our heads in disbelief and looking through pictures and laughing together as we recounted the experience.
Favourite Beauty All Around Us
JOSIAH: I found this handsome Mule Deer buck making his way through a farmer’s field just a few kilometers from my home. My dad and sister and I love photographing members of the deer family when their antlers are in velvet, and almost always try to backlight them if possible to help highlight the beautiful soft textures of their antlers. Southwestern Alberta was blanketed by thick smoke from wildfires this summer, and it helped diffuse the evening light and open the shadows in the farmer’s crop to add even more texture to the scene. I liked the uneven growth of this buck’s antlers and the beautiful look of the field as he worked his way through it, but I never even noticed how tattered and torn his ears were until I focused my telephoto lens on him and composed my picture. Perfectly symmetrical, studly bucks look great in pictures, but I love finding animals that have unique character like this guy does.
JENAYA: I like photographing male ungulates with their impressive antlers and horns as much as anyone, but I always feel like the females and youngsters get pretty much ignored by a lot of photographers. I always find myself watching out for baby deer, elk, moose and sheep while I’m in the mountains, and even during the big annual rut events I’m often pointing my lens at a cute youngster while everyone else is focused on the big boys. This cutie was no different as she grabbed my attention away from a bull elk grazing a few yards away from her, and I dropped my lens down deeper into the grass for effect and worked to find a hole for her face. Of course all this made her mighty curious, too, so we stared at each other for a few moments and I came back with several images I smile at every time I see them.
JOHN: Living in an area teeming with wildlife is a very special blessing that is not lost on us. It’s pretty incredible to be able to photograph bears, cougars, elk, moose and more just minutes from our door, or bighorn sheep, lynx or mountain goats within a few kilometers (like literally 2km) from our Wildlife Art Gallery in the Crowsnest Pass. But more and more we find ourselves on the lookout for those moments of simple beauty with less exotic species.
Josiah and I were driving near our home when we spotted this juvenile Swainson’s Hawk perched on a weathered snow fence near the home of one of the many farms and ranches in our area. The forms and textures of the fence intrigued me, and we quietly positioned our truck for a variety of different compositions before I decided the view I liked best was straight down the fence line. While the greens and browns of the scene were attractive against the mostly-white fence, I knew immediately I wanted to simplify the scene and craft a black and white image.
Favourite Prints of our Collectors
JOSIAH: Little Hunter by Josiah Launstein has emerged as one of the top-selling prints both online and in our Wildlife Art Gallery this past year, and overtook Josiah’s “First Snow” to become his bestseller of 2018. Little Hunter was also awarded in the 2018 Bird Photographer of the Year competition.
JENAYA: Yukon Porcupine by Jenaya Launstein is a perennial bestseller and one of the most requested prints worldwide. 2018 was no different, and Yukon Porcupine once again took top spot for Jenaya (it’s also our number one selling greeting card)
JOHN: The Bond of Love by John Launstein retains its title as his best-selling Fine Art Limited Edition Print for 2018. This special moment is a treasured memory for John, and has endeared itself to collectors across North America and abroad.
These kinds of overviews always leave out so much more than they include, but we hope this gives you a snapshot of some of our favourite moments, memories and images for the past year! Be sure to subscribe to our Newsletter and join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to follow along with our adventures in the field! Wishing you all the best for 2019 and beyond!