Backyard Beauty by Lori Metcalfe

The two most photographed types of wildlife in my backyard would be birds and grey squirrels. Like all birds some species are more comfortable with humans than others. I find Blue Jays, Chickadees and Woodpeckers are some of the birds that are more comfortable being photographed while the Northern Cardinal is probably the most guarded.
I have four different types of bird feeders that have different kinds of bird feed in them to attract different species of birds. Food, water, protective cover and a sheltered place to raise young are the basic requirements for any wild animal’s survival. Satisfy these  needs, and all you’ll have to do to photograph wildlife is step out the door.
Backyard animals are often accustomed to human presence, allowing you to approach close enough for a photograph if you move slowly and quietly. Squirrels and rabbits are usually tolerant enough to permit a photograph using a telephoto lens. The type of wildlife photos you can capture in your backyard is limited only by your imagination and the number of animals you’re able to attract. Get to know more about the types of wildlife in your area.

As you can see from the images above Blue Jays love peanuts. Sometimes
all it takes is patience, right time, right place or just plain luck or all. I always keep my camera nearby with a telephoto lens on it so I can capture the moment.

b+w jay

Who says nature has to be photographed in colour. This blue jay was on a tree in our backyard probably telling me the feeder was out of peanuts.

Always keep your windows clean. This was shot through my patio door. If I had
opened the door they would have flown away. I am always thrilled when I can get a an image of a cardinal. This past summer I had several families come to my feeders and when I saw this young female drinking out of our dog’s water bowl with the sparrows I just had to capture it.

water bowl

The image below was captured after I had filled up the bird feeder with peanuts and had gone back in the house. A female cardinal is cleaning up the mess I made on our patio table. This image was shot through the patio window and I can’t stress enough about  making sure your windows are clean.

wet cardinal

This was taken on my daughter’s 19th birthday a couple of years ago. This female cardinal flew into one of our windows. My daughter had picked her up to ensure she was ok. My camera was nearby and I was able to get a couple of shots before this beauty happily flew away.

cardinal in the hand


Although the lighting the day this image was taken was not fantastic I could not pass up the opportunity to photograph these three. I call this one “The Three Stooges”.

This is my rodent friend Oliver. He is an Eastern Grey Squirrel. As you can tell he is a handsome fellow and likes to pose for me. I have been photographing him for almost a year now. The shot below was taken this past summer and the collage of images was taken this winter.

squirrell 4 by

Having bird feeders may attract wildlife that you may or may not want. As you can see from the last two images we had a family of rats that were nice enough to share the food with the squirrels and birds in my backyard. I love animals of all kinds and love capturing them. Whatever you chose to photograph in your backyard have fun with it and enjoy.



My Southwest USA Trip by Greg Coman

As I sat down to write this blog  I  realized why I had been putting it off. Simply put, it is overwhelming!  How do I encapsulate a month long trip with  hundreds of memories and thousands of photographs to choose from,  into one blog.  To do it justice,  it may take  a series of blogs, but  I  will endeavor to at least  summarize it now.
As an assistant leader with the Phoenix Explorers,  Peter (the other leader), myself,  and  our  group of  a half dozen  17 year old adventurers from  Ontario,  headed out on July 28, 2017   in our two trusty SUV’s, to explore lands afar for 4 weeks.
Looking at an old fashioned map put  the route  that we hoped to follow in  perspective.


Our planned route ( marked in orange highlighter)

We bee lined it across the 1-80 West during the first 3 days, crossing through the States of  Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska to get to  Colorado.

big sky country

Big Sky Country   Photo: Greg Coman

Before I go any further,  I’d like to share  a few logistics stats from our trip.
28 -Number of days travelling
8 – Total number of adventurists
2 – Number of Vehicles
1 – Trailer
4 – Tents
11,240 – Total Kilometers traveled
10  – Number of States visited
4 – Number of  Walmart parking lots slept in
Yes, Walmart. Their  parking lots have easy  access,  and offer a  free rest-stop  on a long drive.  Most often though, we found  beautiful campsites  like the one below.

subaru outback campsite

My 2014 Subaru Outback   Photo: Greg Coman

Speaking of camping, here are  a few details.  We picked up two National  Park Passes,  good for entry into any of the US National Parks.  We definitely got our money’s worth as we visited 10 National Parks, in addition to a couple more State Parks. Here’s a few of them.


The first National Park we visited was Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado (below) which had just gotten a downpour of precipitation.  We generally had hot dry weather, but check out one of my   previous blogs about  a big  storm  we encountered.


Great Sand Dunes , Colorado  Photo: Greg Coman

Next up was Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado, who’s ominous landmark  looked like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind


Mesa Verde (meaning Green Table in Spanish)  Photo: Greg Coman

It is  known for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings.


Cliff dwellings. Mesa Verde National Park  Photo: Greg Coman

The next day, we took  a wild, scenic drive through Silverton, Colorado to Moab, Utah.  This part of the the world is Bugs Bunny/ Road Runner country  with Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and the  less known Goblin Valley State Park.  The  bizarre landscape  is home to  thousands of hoodoos,  formations of mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles, which can resemble mythical Goblins ( especially when you’re alone , at night) .


The Hoodoos  in Goblin Valley State Park   Photo: Greg Coman

Then off we tootled toward Zion National Park, where we would set up camp for a few days. However first we  stopped for a hike through  beautiful  Bryce Canyon.


Bryce Canyon National Park  Photo: Greg Coman

Zion National Park – The Zion Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. The trail  literally follows the Virgin River, through a gorge, with walls a thousand feet tall.  Do not attempt this hike if there is any threat of rain, which can create sudden flash floods.


Greg wading up the Zion Narrows   photo credit: Peter Wiinholt

Angel’s Landing . After a series of 21switchbacks, called Walter’s Wiggles, we made it to the  top of the ridge, at Scout Lookout. For the final 1/2 mile, the trail followed the ridge across a saddle and up the hogs back. This is where things got interesting, as it was very steep, and we were  grateful for the chains.


The view from the peak of Angel’s Landing , 1488 feet  Photo: Greg Coman

This challenging  hike would prove to be good warm-up for our  next biggest  challenge- the Grand Canyon. However we still  had a couple more days to prepare for that. From our campground in  Page, Arizona  we would venture out on day excursions to Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and Antelope Canyon.


The Colorado River meanders through Horseshoe Bend, near Page, AZ  photo:Greg Coman

Antelope Canyon is a photographer’s dream, but also a challenge. Light is low, and there are lots of  people. The canyon is protected and run by the Navajo nation, and all  visitors must be on a guided tour, so  time in the Canyon is  limited. Additionally no bags are allowed,  so it is just one camera, one lens, and  make the best of it.
The shot below is straight out of camera, with no filters, or adjustments.


Upper Antelope Canyon  Photo: Greg Coman

Our Navajo guide was awesome, and a good photographer..  Here is a shot  that she took of our group.


Clockwise:  Greg, Peter, Ethan, James, Richard, Jordan, Thomas & Brandon.   Photo: Antelope Canyon Tours

Our group will then go on to hike to the bottom of the the Grand Canyon, and up.  That is worthy of a second blog.  After the Grand Canyon we had some R&R  in  Flagstaff  and Sedona, Arizona where we recovered from our hiking adventure,  before heading north to Wyoming.
In Wyoming, we venture into the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park, and find ourselves a great spot in Wyoming to observe the Full Solar Eclipse.
Stay tuned for more adventures of the Phoenix Explorers in the  Southwest, coming soon to a Blog near you.
Greg Coman