FEATURES 8 Winter Wonderland
Wonderland Amateur photographer John Stager of Pickering, Ont., has a knack for capturing the magic of Canadian winters
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. ■