FEA­TURES 8 Win­ter Won­der­land

Won­der­land Am­a­teur pho­tog­ra­pher John Stager of Pick­er­ing, Ont., has a knack for cap­tur­ing the magic of Cana­dian win­ters

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Pho­tog­ra­phy buff John Stager of Pick­er­ing, Ont., ex­cels at cap­tur­ing the magic of our frosty Cana­dian win­ters.

Ihave al­ways en­joyed tak­ing pic­tures, but given my busy work sched­ule as a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive in the On­tario gov­ern­ment, my pic­ture-tak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and pho­tog­ra­phy skills were both pretty lim­ited. It wasn’t un­til af­ter my wife Jen­nifer and I re­tired six years ago that I be­came much more in­ter­ested in pur­su­ing pho­tog­ra­phy as a hobby. I in­vested in good cam­era equip­ment, took a num­ber of cour­ses to im­prove my level of un­der­stand­ing and joined the lo­cal pho­tog­ra­phy club to learn from knowl­edge­able prac­ti­tion­ers. I also spent con­sid­er­able time tak­ing pic­tures to fur­ther de­velop my skills. Over time, as I be­came more pro­fi­cient with the cam­era, I de­vel­oped a real pas­sion for my new-found hobby.

Jen­nifer and I have also been for­tu­nate since re­tir­ing to ful­fill our dream of trav­el­ling. We’ve taken the op­por­tu­nity to travel across Canada as well as many other coun­tries in the world, where we have ex­pe­ri­enced and en­joyed the peo­ple, cul­ture, his­tory and land­scapes of each place. We com­ple­ment each other very well; I love to take pho­tos, while Jen­nifer has a great sense of im­age com­po­si­tion and an ea­gle eye when it comes to spot­ting birds and an­i­mals.

Al­though we have trav­elled to many des­ti­na­tions, we both still feel that Canada is the most beau­ti­ful coun­try in the world. From a pho­tog­ra­phy per­spec­tive, I par­tic­u­larly en­joy the wide va­ri­ety of land­scapes, flora and fauna that Canada has to of­fer,

not to men­tion the ben­e­fit of our four sea­sons.

I’m par­tic­u­larly fond of win­ter, with its raw, nat­u­ral beauty. I love cap­tur­ing snow- cov­ered land­scapes or birds and wildlife. I also love pho­tograph­ing Canada’s nat­u­ral won­ders in win­ter, such as ice-cov­ered water­falls and ice-packed shore­lines. I de­rive a great sense of seren­ity and even spir­i­tu­al­ity when we hike the woods and snow- packed trails in hopes of cap­tur­ing these spe­cial im­ages.

Some of my pre­mier win­ter pho­tog­ra­phy spots are right here in On­tario, in­clud­ing lo­cal woods and trails, the pro­vin­cial parks, con­ser­va­tion ar­eas and the shore­lines of the Great Lakes. I also love pho­tograph­ing Ni­a­gara Falls—the ice and snow are a won­der­ful com­ple­ment to the rush­ing wa­ters.

Out­side of On­tario, my favourite win­ter spot in Canada has to be Al­berta, in par­tic­u­lar, the Kananaskis area, with its ma­jes­tic snow-capped moun­tains and glacier-fed rivers.

In terms of pho­tog­ra­phy gen­res, my great­est pas­sion is bird pho­tog­ra­phy. There is some­thing spe­cial about cap­tur­ing a qual­ity im­age of a bird, whether still or in flight. Birds are ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to pho­to­graph, given their un­pre­dictable be­hav­ior, ten­dency to hide for their own pro­tec­tion and their abil­ity

to fly so quickly. As a re­sult, it’s tremen­dously sat­is­fy­ing when I do get a qual­ity im­age. I par­tic­u­larly like win­ter land­scapes for bird pho­tog­ra­phy, where fall­ing snow can form a beau­ti­ful back­drop to the im­age.

Over the past few win­ters, I have been very for­tu­nate to cap­ture qual­ity im­ages of many birds in­clud­ing car­di­nals, chick­adees, dark- eyed jun­cos, jays, spar­rows, nuthatches, owls, hawks, ea­gles, wood­peck­ers, water­fowl and more.

The other ben­e­fit of bird pho- tog­ra­phy for me has been my in­creased knowl­edge and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of birds gen­er­ally. I have made a point of re­search­ing them to bet­ter un­der­stand their habits, which in turn has pro­vided greater photo ops. I have also de­vel­oped an on­go­ing cat­a­logue of my bird sight­ings from all over the world, which has fur­ther en­hanced my knowl­edge.

A high­light from last win­ter was when Jen­nifer and I vis­ited Amherst Is­land on Lake On­tario near Kingston. We both fell in love with the is­land and the

Clock­wise from top left: A blue jay weath­er­ing a snow­storm; a male car­di­nal on a cold win­ter day; a fe­male car­di­nal in gen­tly fall­ing snow.

con­di­tions were per­fect for win­ter pho­tog­ra­phy. The weather al­ter­nated be­tween clear skies and over­cast con­di­tions with pe­ri­ods of fall­ing snow. I was amazed at the va­ri­ety of photo ops, which in­cluded land­scapes, unique ar­chi­tec­ture and a va­ri­ety of bird species. I cap­tured shots of bald ea­gles, red-tailed hawks and barred owls, and was ec­static to get my first-ever pho­tos of snowy owls.

Jen­nifer and I con­tinue to travel ex­ten­sively and wher­ever we go, I bring my cam­eras, mul­ti­ple lenses and a tri­pod. This has re­sulted in a sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion of im­ages from Canada and abroad. When I’m not tak­ing pho­tos, I like noth­ing bet­ter than tak­ing some time each day to en­joy look­ing at these pic­tures, which brings back fond mem­o­ries of our trips.

I take pho­tos all year round but have a spe­cial place in my heart for the magic of win­ter. ■

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