Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Wolvesonly Review of the Apex Bean Bag

It's actually as much a customer service experience as it is a gear review. When I ordered my Apex Bean Bag from Essential Photo Gear I had visions of using it from my car with a Wimberley style head attached so I could shoot with my Nikon 600mm lens from my car. When it arrived I promptly filled it up with sunflower seeds, mounted my Jobu BWG Pro head and ran out to the car to give it a try. In the video of the Apex Bean Bag they depict the Apex with a long telephoto lens being used from a truck. When I mounted the Apex on my Honda Accord which obviously has less window clearance then a truck (15 inches to be exact) I did not have the clearance from the top of the door frame to the top of the lens which meant this bag was not going to work for my intended use unless I bought a Jeep which for some reason I was unsuccessful selling to my wife. LOL

Now here's my real reason for writing this blog. What I expected when I contacted the supplier with this issue is that they would advise me to send it back and they would refund my money. SURPRISE, SURPRISE what I got was this response from Travis Peltz, "Give me the measurements for your car's window frame and I will design a bean bag that will work for you." Seriously, in 2011 how often do you get that kinda of service. I can't begin to tell you how impressed I was in dealing with Travis. Sixteen email exchanges and two design iterations later and presto the Low Profile Apex Bean Bag was born. The Low profile version sits a full 4 inches lower then the original Bean Bag and works great from my Honda Accord so needless to say I am a happy camper. Long story short, if you own a car and need a great bean bag for use with a long telephoto lens and Wimberley style head then the Apex Low Profile should be high on your list.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Wolf Bounties In 2011 - Seriously!!!

Another week's past us by and most of us are so caught up in the business of day to day that we never stop to give much thought to the natural world around us. So in this weeks time stopper moment I'd like to explore why the wolf has been the focus of such hatred and fear, especially over the last hundred years. I'm willing to bet that if you surveyed 100 people and asked them what the first emotion that comes to mind is when they think of a timber wolf or arctic wolf that 90% of them will say fear.

Is it any wonder. If you're like me you grew up with bedtime stories like, "The Three Little Pigs" and "Little Red Riding Hood" The wolf wasn't exactly portrayed as the good guy in those tales now was he. Since then I've come to appreciate the importance of the wolf in the balance of nature. To me wolf pictures like this one portraying a timber wolf feeding on a wild boar carcass are just normal part of the predator and prey relationship.

I don't want to turn this into a history lesson but did you know that over a million wolves were killed between 1850 - 1900 in North America. And in 1907 there was a call for the total extinction of the wolf. If you're like me, you read that statement and thought to yourself, "humans sure had some crazy thoughts running through their heads back in those days, glad that's all behind us." And as much as I wish that it were all behind us, sadly it is not. Here's a clip from a recent article that gives cause for concern: Full Story

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 8, 2011 — Calling wolf populations out of control in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, Secretary of the Interior Dan D. Lyons said today the federal government should start paying bounties to hunters and ranchers who shoot wolves. "If a hunter or a rancher misses a wolf more than two or three times, "we'll take that as prima facie evidence that he is intentionally violating the law and letting a wolf continue harming our game animal populations. The fine is $1,000 and 48 hours in jail."

And closer to home here in Canada another headline that supports this rather disturbing trend:

Big Lakes Alberta Wolf Bounty Put an end to this misguided cruelty!!
Problem: Rural Municipality of Big Lakes Alberta began offering a $300 bounty on wolves in September 2010.
Note the dates on the statements above folks, these are here and now. Truth is the wolf has been part of the natural balance for thousands of years and in less than 100 years man through ignorance and misinformation has brought the species to extinction in many parts of the world. Are there some areas where wolf populations have made a recovery and there is a now a need for balance, absolutely, is the answer a shoot on sight bounty, I think not.

So where do things stand today? There are strong opinions on both sides of this debate ranging from those that share the opinion that the only good wolf is a dead wolf to those on the far right that believe wolves should never be killed for any reason. I for one do not wish to see a wolf killed, but when man and wolf come into conflict usually the wolf will loose so we need to find a balance between these extreme points of view.

It is unfortunate that the wolf through no fault of its own has come into conflict with man, but the reality is that with the ever shrinking wilderness that makes up the habitat of the wolf, if we do not find a middle ground the wolf may once again find itself on the brink of extinction.

Michael and I are hopeful that through our wolf photography at Wolves Only and blog we will raise awareness and rally support for the preservation of sustainable wolf populations and their habitat. We are still deciding which group or coalition to support through our efforts so if anyone has any suggestions we would love to hear from you.

Until next week let's do our part to keep the howl of the wolf a symbol of nature rather then a woeful goodbye.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Who's Afraid of "Losing" The Big Bad Wolf

I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you why Michael and I established It was born of a love of wolf photography pure and simple. As anyone who has had the pleasure of observing a wolf pack can attest there is just some mystical magical thing that draws you to them the moment your eyes connect. That is exactly what happened to me the winter of 2010 when Michael introduced me to the Arctic Wolf pack and Timber Wolf pack that he had been photographing for years.
As any wildlife photographer will attest the secret to getting great shots of any species is through a thorough understanding of the behaviors of your subject. This allows you to plan your outings according to the seasons and anticipate those moments that will make for a great photograph before they occur. During my research of the wolf I was deeply disappointed to learn that the future of wolves in many parts of the world, Canada included, looked rather bleak. That brings us to the real reason came to life. Up to this point Michael and I had quietly shared a few wolf pictures by email with our friends and posted a few to various sites for general viewing.
That's all changed for us now as we have come to realize we have a tremendous opportunity to use our wolf pics as a means to aiding the conservation efforts of the wolf. I think most would agree there is no greater tragedy in the world then when a species is put in danger at the hands of man and that goes for cute and cuddly seals all the way to top predators like cougars, bears and wolves.
Now just to be clear Michael and I are not hard core activists, far from it, we're just a couple of wildlife photographers who happen to love to photograph wolves. We also share a common belief that it would be catastrophic if in our lifetime the wolf found itself on the brink of extinction and we hadn't done our part to do something about it.
As you are all aware with any cause there are always two extreme camps and one somewhere in the middle that is unaware of the issues. Over the weeks that follow I will be bringing some of those issues to light through this blog and be asking for your aid in our effort to help conserve sustainable wolf populations for future generations to enjoy.
Michael and I will be donating a portion of the proceeds from all sales made through to an organization or charity that supports those conservation efforts. As we have just launched the site these are exciting times for our followers as we really do want and need the help of anyone and everyone who wishes to join the cause.
Call to Action: Michael and I are in the process of determining what organization or charity to support thus we would really appreciate your feedback if you're aware of any standouts as it relates to wolf conservation.
Until next week keep those emails and blog posts coming we'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Wolves Only Brand New Blog Site

Hello and welcome to Wolves Only brand new blog site. Wolves Only is a partnership between wildlife photographer Bill Maynard and myself Michael Cummings. I met Bill quite by accident one day during the winter of 2008-2009. I was driving in a neighbourhood that was known for some excellent bird life. As I was leaving the area I saw a fellow photographer off to the side of a main road taking photographs of a Red Tailed Hawk flying in a field. Being the person I am I just had to stop and talk to this fellow. After talking shop for a period of time Bill asked if I wanted to go out looking for the Great Gray Owls that were reported to be outside of Ottawa that winter. I had been looking for them for a week or so, but Bill seemed to have better information about their present location. So off we went and while we were looking on the area Bill said they had been seen a motorist stopped and asked what we were looking for, we said the Gray Owls. He said they were about 200 feet just over the small hill further up the road we were on. So up we went and there it was the most amazing Owl I had ever seen. The photograph on the right is one of the shots I took that evening. I was absolutely amazed how calm and regal this huge owl was. Doing some research and talking to birders who have knowledge of these birds say that they do not fear humans because they do not see very many people where they normally live up north.

So how does this relate to Wolves Only. Well Bill and I have now been getting together to get some photography outings when time permits both of us and we can match our schedules. One of our favourite photographic subjects are wolves. While wolves and dogs share some common characteristics they are not the same animal. When you come into the presence of either an Arctic Wolf or a Timber Wolf you know you are not seeing just a dog. There is an aura of majesty about them that is just not found in the domestic dog. There is a sense of an old soul when your eyes meet for even the briefest moment in time. 

Bill and I created this blog and our website to share with you our love of these animals. We have tried to capture their essence and being in our photographs. In this blog we will bring you information about wolves from fact to fiction, information on our photographic tours we will be offering starting in the near future and information on how and where to purchase wolf prints and other wolf merchandise we sell through our website.

Please check back regularly for new blog entries.
Thank you. 
Michael Cummings