Mar 30, 2015
Jess Findlay


There is no one perfect type of lighting for any scene or subject. However, understanding which weather conditions are most desirable for your chosen shooting location can greatly improve your chances of taking successful photographs! One of the most important things I’ve learned throughout my time spent behind the camera is how to react to the changing conditions one is often faced with in nature. Not only that, but also how to plan my outings to coincide with the best possible conditions. Here are a few tips that I hope will help you choose what, where, and how to shoot in all different types of weather and lighting…

 Direct Sunlight

When hearing people comment on “What a great day it is for taking pictures!”, more often than not, there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Indeed great conditions to be outdoors, soaking up the sun – but perhaps not always a great time to break out the camera. In many places, with the exception of extreme latitudes, the sort of sunlight suitable for making successful photographs is in short supply, often only remaining useable for a few short hours each day. When photographing outside of these brief windows, heavily contrasty light can really suck the life out of a scene and create difficult shadows, due to it’s harsh, steeply-angled nature. Another problem associated with photographing during the middle of sunny days is “heat haze”. This is especially prevalent in the equatorial regions of the earth and high in the mountains, where the sun’s rays are much stronger. This can completely destroy an otherwise awesome photo! So how does one go about getting great shots on days such as this?

Get up early, stay out late…

So… the answer is simple, right? Only shoot for the first and last few hours of the day? Well, yes… but unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Additional challenges sometimes encountered are obstructions on the horizon, such as mountains, that can impede the day’s best quality of light. Be sure to find locations with low horizons, free of obstructions. This is of huge importance when trying to harness the dramatic light of the “golden hour”.

This photo of a juvenile Western Sandpiper was taken on a beach just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. At this location, during clear, late summer evenings, the sun dips nearly all the way to the western horizon before just briefly being blocked by the distant mountain ranges of Vancouver Island. This allows for the warm glow of low-angled sunlight to be cast across the landscape.

Shoot Action!

Without any type of diffusion, direct sunlight is the strongest form of natural light available to photographers. This means that without a doubt, action is most easily captured during such conditions. Allowing for fast shutter speeds without the need for a high ISO, dramatic, motion-freezing photographs can be created.


This image of a Bald Eagle, taken off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia was made possible by strong, low-angled sunlight. This was taken in the late afternoon as the sun was setting over the Pacific Ocean.

Change angles…

Photographing in direct sunlight gives you the option to greatly change the look of your images, depending on how you position yourself and your subject in relation to the light source.

The traditional way of photographing wildlife is using “front-lighting” , where the photographer has the sun at his or her back. This shows off the subject well and is a great way of showcasing colours.


For a subject like this male Bufflehead, direct front-lighting from the sun is crucial in showing off his amazingly-colourful plumage.

Positioning yourself perpendicular to the sun, the light hitting your subject at an angle, can lead to some fantastic results as well. This technique, known as “side-lighting”, counters the flat look sometimes associated with front-lit images, helps reveal contrast, and can add interest to an otherwise ordinary scene. Be aware that side lighting can introduce some difficulties with properly metering your exposure, as the frame will likely be filled with areas not fully illuminated by the sun. Concentrate on the highlights and make sure you aren’t blowing out the brightest portions of the image. Don’t worry too much about the image looking dark overall. This contrast, sometimes resulting in pure black areas (depending on your subject’s surroundings) can really enhance the image.


Sun filtering through trees just before sunset made for some dramatic side-lighting on this Great Blue Heron perched in a Vancouver city park.

Here’s another great example of the use of side-lighting. This photo of a Common Loon was taken by my good friend Connor Stefanison in the interior of British Columbia.

Shooting towards the sun, a technique known as “back-lighting” is a fantastic way to add drama and atmosphere to your photos. The lower the sun’s angle, the more apparent and warm the back-lighting will be. This technique is best used during the first and last hour or two of light, when the sun is the lowest on the horizon.

This photograph of a Black Tern in flight was taken in a marsh in central British Columbia. Coinciding with sunset was a huge insect hatch. Things like these insects, raindrops, and snowflakes can greatly enhance back-lit images, adding more points of interest.

By photographing towards the sun, during the early morning hours , the golden needles of this alpine larch and the surrounding grasses were enhanced. Neither the glow from the tree or the light rays would be visible if the light source had been coming from the opposite direction.

Overcast Light

Though lacking the warmth and striking qualities of direct sunlight, the diffuse light of an overcast day can provide many benefits. The lack of strong shadows makes photographing throughout the day possible without being shut down by the powerful light of the midday sun.

Photograph all day!

Environments such as forests become generally more photogenic and easier to work in, when not dealing with the dappled light associated with sunny days. The combination of sunlight which has penetrated the forest canopy, and dark, shadowed areas often presents a tonal range far too broad to be captured in a single photograph. Techniques such as blending multiple exposures during post processing can make such circumstances work, but it can be challenging at times.

This scene in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area was captured on an overcast day which provided even lighting in the forest. A sunny day would’ve resulted in “hot spots” throughout the image, necessitating blending in an additional, darker exposure during post processing.

Another great aspect of photographing on overcast days is, having even lighting in all directions. Quite often, on sunny days, when you can photograph at a certain location is dictated by light angle. It’s not always possible to approach your subject or scene from the appropriate angle, but theoretically, on an overcast day, the light angle should be consistent for 360 degrees.

The soft, even lighting provided by overcast skies is perfect for creating “high key” images.  Summarized briefly, these images generally lack deep shadows, the subject often surrounded by overexposed areas that lack fine detail. This can be an effective way of combatting flat, uninteresting light resulting in fun, artistic shots.


I photographed this Kittlitz’s Murrelet on a bay in the Aleutian Islands on an overcast day. Instead of trying to retain what little detail reflected on the surface of the water, I metered my exposure for the bird, rendering it’s surroundings nearly pure white.

Stormy Conditions

When stormy skies appear overhead, the last thing on most people’s minds is taking out their expensive electronics and heading outdoors. That said, some of my favourite landscape photos were taken during a storm, or shortly after a storm has cleared. Light and clouds are often at their most dramatic, increasing your odds of capturing a spectacular and unique moment.

Grab your rain gear and go!

Warm, sunset light leaks through an opening in storm clouds above a classic west coast scene. I photographed this rock formation on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Don’t write off the day simply because the current weather looks less-than-ideal. Learning a little about the weather patterns wherever you’re photographing, and forecasting in general can go a long way.

Be forewarned though, this isn’t for the impatient. I’ve waited for days on end for nasty weather to give way, sometimes wondering what in the world I’m doing standing in the wind and rain. You might stand a chance of going home with nothing, but you stand a 100% chance of having an empty memory card by staying inside!

Finally, on the third day of this backpacking trip in BC’s Garibaldi Provincial Park, the clouds broke momentarily, letting in this extraordinary display of sunset light over the Black Tusk – an ancient volcanic plug. 

This Broad-winged Hawk was photographed in the

This Broad-winged Hawk was photographed in the rainforest of Ecuador. The element of raindrops adds interest and mood to an otherwise static photograph.

Be sure to check back here soon for part two, where I’ll being sharing with you some tips on photographing during foggy conditions, twilight and at night. If you have a question or comment about this post, feel free to comment below.

Best of luck out there, everyone!

If you’d like to learn more about nature photography, I teach courses in southwestern British Columbia and guide multi-day nature photography workshops in Canada, Ecuador and Peru. Check out more details, here on my website!


  • Thank you Jess … I thought that the photograph of Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge with the overcast lighting exceptional! As a matter of fact .. I thought that you had a draw for a large print of that particular one! Who won it? :) So sad, not me. :(

    Now I want the one with the “sunset light over the Black Tusk! :) I just love your work and thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

    Best regards, Kelly E. Hilton

  • Great advice Jess, beautiful photos, that eagle…incredible !


  • Thanks for sharing these valuable information on light. It will certainly be useful to enhance my knowledge on nature photography.

    Best regards,


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Dec 23, 2014
Jess Findlay


2014 has been a fantastic year! I was fortunate enough to enjoy some great photography opportunities during three lengthy trips to Ecuador, Peru and Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Despite visiting these far away destinations, my favourite photograph of the year was made much closer to home, right here in the Pacific Northwest. This has been my home for all of my 22 years and I can’t ever envision myself leaving. The enormity of wilderness is a constant motivation to get out and explore.

The Columbia River Gorge Natural Scenic Area is a particularly special place found in this part of the world.

The 2000 km long Columbia River’s headwaters lie in the mountains of southeastern British Columbia. Moving southward, it winds it’s way through the grasslands of central Washington. Descending further yet, it forms the border of Washington and Oregon before it’s exodus into the Pacific Ocean. About 200km upstream lies the gorge itself. Huge amounts of rainfall and snowmelt from the towering Cascade Mountains drain into the river along this deeply-carved stretch. Boasting the world’s highest density of waterfalls and famous for it’s lush greenery, it’s no wonder this area has become popular amongst photographers and nature lovers.

Throughout the last few years, I’ve visited the gorge on a few different occasions – each time learning of more amazing locations that prompted future trips. During my latest visit, at the height of spring, I was more excited than ever to explore.

Since I began photographing the natural world, I’ve always been driven to seek out and photograph seldom seen areas. The thought of discovering magical places in the wilderness that few people have visited has occupied my mind since I can remember. So each day I trekked through forests and up and down creeks, seeking out subjects. Sometimes this came in the form of a tall stand of old-growth Douglas firs or a creek winding it’s way through a sea of ferns. Other times an American Dipper or a Pacific Chorus Frog would capture my attention. No matter what, any day in this environment is rewarding, no matter if my memory card is empty or full.

Many areas of interest in the gorge can be readily accessed via short hikes on well-used trails. There are however, countless hidden gems that require far more work. One particular waterfall caught my attention while doing some research online. I found no more than a few photos of it and by all accounts, the access seemed quite difficult. The majority of the information I could find was written by a few climbers who had made their way in using gear I did not have access to. However, there were rumours of a route which didn’t require ropes that I was eager to see for myself.

Early one morning, I gathered my gear and began following the creek upstream. Carefully crossing the rapid water on fallen logs and wading through deep pools, I continued on in hopes of accessing the amazing location I’d seen just glimpses of. Shortly after, the time came to skirt the otherwise impassable lower waterfalls which required a very steep, loose climb up the forested canyon wall. Emerging from beneath the canopy, I took in an incredible view from a couple hundred metres above and enjoyed a much needed rest. I slowly traversed the steep slope on an old game trail far better suited to a sure-footed Mountain Goat than a human being. I consider myself an experienced hiker, confident in my ability to remain upright while scrambling up and down mountains. This trail however, truly got my heart racing. In hindsight, having a partner with me during this trip would’ve been a nice way to ease my nerves, but understandably, this isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. Determined to get past this nasty stretch, I continued on, keeping my eyes on the trail as I inched forward, about a metre from a 100 m cliff. Slowly descending back down to creek level, I could hear the distant roar of a waterfall. One final stretch of wading and a climb up and over a small falls and I had made it.

As I neared the base of the impressive 25m plunge, the skeleton of a Black-tailed Deer lay on the ground, likely taken a few days before my arrival by a Cougar. I could hear the squeaks of a brood of American Dippers emanating from a nearby nest as the parents busily delivered food. This helped to lighten the mood. My attention soon shifted to how I was going to photograph this stunning place. As I unpacked my gear and setup my tripod, a small object on the distant stream bank caught my eye. At first, I assumed it was just a piece of woody debris but I wondered if it could in fact be a Coastal Giant Salamander. I’d previously seen this species during my time working in field biology, surveying endangered species throughout southern British Columbia. I’d only ever found one terrestrial adult, so this seemed like a long shot. Nearing closer, I could see that it was in fact a mature Coastal Giant! These amazing amphibians range from northern California to southern BC and can grow to over 35cm in length. I raced back to get my camera equipment then slowly crept closer as not to disturb it. I soon found out that it was very indifferent to my presence, allowing my wide angle lens to just under 30cm: it’s minimum focusing distance. I composed this photo to include the dramatic scenery that this amphibian calls home.

A terrestrial Coastal Giant Salamander just downstream of a 25m waterfall, deep in the backcountry of Oregon's Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

- The Realm of a Giant -

A terrestrial Coastal Giant Salamander downstream of a 25m waterfall, deep in the backcountry of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon, USA.

Canon 5DM3 | Canon 17-40mm f/4 | 0.8 sec | f/22 | ISO 1250 | Circular Polarizer

Prints Available

I felt so privileged to not only be in such an amazing location, but to see such an elusive animal as well. Having captured a photograph that exceeded my expectations, I spent the following hours enjoying the tremendous natural beauty and solitude. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a powerful moment as standing next to the plunge pool, feeling the spray on my face.

I’m sure this experience will stay with me for a long time to come. It exemplified everything that I love about nature photography. The mystery, the adventure, the spontaneity and the opportunity to get away from everything and experience the natural world in it’s completely raw form.

Thank you very much to all that have supported me throughout my photographic journey, especially this past year. I can’t wait to see what 2015 holds!

Best wishes to you all.

See more photographs from the Columbia River Gorge:



  • Wow ! I hope you discover more of those magical places Jess ! Thanks for sharin’ those places…what a journey.

    My best in the New Year Jess ! & Merry Christmas !


  • Awesome story, I have done a lot of hiking in the Columbia River Gorge but have not ventured too far off the beaten path! This is one of my all time favorite images from the area, adding that extra element of life with the giant salamander really makes this a special shot! Congrats!

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Dec 10, 2014
Jess Findlay


Living in the Pacific Northwest, outdoor enthusiasts such as myself are never far away from vast areas of wilderness. As a nature photographer, having access to these tremendous natural areas offers up some incredible opportunities. Within a half hour drive from my home, not far from downtown Vancouver, I can be standing at a trailhead that leads to days of trekking through uninhabited land. I get a great deal of enjoyment from photographing, no matter where I am. However, there is something very special about being in a place that few or maybe no one else has ever photographed. Pursuing this type of photography comes with many challenges – physical, mental, and the added technological aspect of image making. The reality is, our ways of life and bodies have since changed drastically from the days of living solely off the land. That being said, along with the anticipation for what I may see and what photographs I might come home with, overcoming these challenges themselves is a huge part of why I love doing what I do.

During a summer heatwave, my friend Connor Stefanison and I planned a trip high up into the alpine, in attempt to escape the scorching 40ºc valley bottom temperatures. After driving a few hours inland from Vancouver, deep into the heart of the Pacific Ranges, we slept at the trailhead in order to get an early start the following morning.

The long, steep road in.

We were delighted to see clouds covering much of the twilight sky when we woke. Hoping, despite the forecast, mainly cloudy skies would prevail throughout the following days, we geared up and enjoyed the relatively cool temperatures as we started our ascent. Having slightly miscalculated where the trailhead would be, the day began with a less than pleasant 45º slope bushwhack through a regenerated clearcut.

Connor contemplating his career choice.

As we hiked alongside a steep valley, the cool air, although a false precursor for the days to follow, was gladly welcomed. We eventually made our way up to the open expanses of the subalpine. Stunning views of the surrounding peaks and a multitude of beautiful wildflowers helped suppress the nagging pain of already blistered feet. I realized at this point that my efforts to break in my new boots the following week were futile at best.

Beautiful subalpine views!

Creek crossing.

Before long, we had entered the barren, rocky alpine environment, where little more than lichen and small wildflowers grow. We set up our camp as, to our dismay, the skies opened up and temperatures rose. We had previously scouted this area using satellite imagery and had seen a handful of photos, but for the most part, this area rarely saw humans. The attraction of a remote location such as this is undeniable, but with that comes the unknown. Having looked at topographical maps and the angles of light, we were hopeful that our little home in the mountains would be truly photogenic. To our disappointment, the small basin in which we would be staying lacked the photogenic qualities which we’d hoped for.

Our tents in the expansive alpine terrain.

Both Connor and I are not easily discouraged, so we set off with some food and water to scout out other possible shooting locations. We scrambled up the tallest peak in the area to take in the view. A beautiful vista, but again, it appeared the specific photos we had in mind, showing the enormity of the Coast Mountains, would not be found here either. Oddly enough, what we did find were countless ladybugs irrupting (presumably hatching) from crevices in the rocks. A steep traverse lead us back to camp. Upon arriving, I shouted to Connor, “Hey, it looks like the marmots got to your tripod!” to which he replied “My tripod is over here…”. I looked down to find that not just one, but four of the rubber grips on my tripod legs had been chewed off by the inquisitive rodents we’d come to enjoy frequenting our campsite. Lesson learned, marmots can’t be trusted.


Dappled light in the valley below.

Connor negotiating his way along a cliff face.

Long summer days spent waiting for the light to improve can pose difficulties. After many kilometres of hiking at altitude, sleep becomes a precious commodity. In this environment, almost entirely void of shade, sleeping on a hot day is nearly impossible. To make matters worse, the melting snow created small pools which were apparently very suitable for mosquito breeding. I’ve spent time on the Arctic Tundra, in the Amazon Rainforest and waist deep in the bogs of the Boreal Forest, but nowhere had I seen this many mosquitos and horse flies. On one morning, once the sun came up, the constant barrage of insects was so debilitating that we had no choice but to simply zip ourselves in our tents until the blood-thirsty hordes had moved on. Spending several days in this type of environment can really play on the psyche. (Mosquito fact: Only females take blood from hosts, males feed purely on the nectar of plants.)


Mosquitos galore!

Not having taken a single reasonably good photo yet, we had accepted that this is very much the nature of photography. Being able to admit defeat and not fight the conditions is a very important trait to have when trying to make art. With the modern era of digital manipulation, it is easy to see when for some, that pill is too hard to swallow and something has to be made out of nothing. At times, you have to know when to fold the (memory)cards.

Regardless of our lack of photographic success, we were in a beautiful part of the world and had seen some amazing sights, such a small herd of Mountain Goats, family groups of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, and some friendly Hoary Marmots. To beat the heat, we decided to convert our giant emergency garbage bag rain covers, which at this point had become completely laughable as we baked in the strong sun, into makeshift pants/toboggans in hopes of making the best of the remaining snow. Long story short, the snow ended up being a little crustier than expected, towards the end of our luge runs. “Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it’s ice rash on sunburn time!”.


Nailed it…

As we nursed our wounds and averted our eyes from the judgemental gaze of the local goat population, a flicker of hope drifted across the horizon. Smoke from a nearby forest fire was slowly being blown south, coating the western skies with a thin layer of haze. Having photographed during such conditions before, I knew this could make for some great sunset colour! We gathered our gear and made a plan to get to a high vantage point. Our tired legs brought us up and over several false summits, to the top of an adjacent peak, well over 2500m.


One of many steep, false summits.


Making my way up the final push.


Gorgeous mountain views!


Last light.

It was clear that this was the view we had been hoping for. The sun descended and set the sky ablaze before dipping beyond the western-most peaks. As twilight set in, we enjoyed a 600m boot ski descent back to camp, seeing several ptarmigan on the way, knowing that we’d finally captured a stunning moment.


- Ember -
The setting sun casts it’s final rays of light across the the alpine landscape. Far below, a glacier-fed lake is cradled by towering peaks. Pacific Ranges, Coast Mountains, British Columbia, Canada.

Canon 5DM3 | Canon 17-40mm f/4 | Blend of two exposures for dynamic range.

Prints Available

Spending time in these parts of the world can be extremely rewarding. Sometimes the effort seems greater than the payoff, but despite the trials, seeing fleeting moments such as this makes it all worthwhile. The memories that stand out are always the triumphs of reach the top of a tall peak or seeing the light developing perfectly before your eyes. With snow only just recently consuming the high mountain landscapes, my sights are already set on next summer.


  • Jess, you have made this old woman very happy to see what you boys are doing. Please be careful and thank you for doing it. Vaya con Dios.

  • I enjoyed your account of climbing and photographing in the coast mountains, but I wonder why you didn’t include any shots of wildlife, other than the mosquito which I mistook at first for a helicopter. The marmots would have been nice.

    • Thanks, Ken! While we did see some interesting wildlife during this trip, the right opportunity to photograph them never presented itself.

  • Jess, as usual you keep up the great work….way to go CUZ.

    Les Findlay

  • Absolutely incredible ! Thanks for the adventure…must have been somethin’ !

  • That was an extremely good read plus the photos, last one especially, just fantastic work guys!!

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Nov 5, 2014
Jess Findlay


Boasting a huge diversity of geography and climates, it’s no surprise that Peru is home to nearly 20% of the world’s species of birds. The tropical latitude, high peaks of the Andes, two separate ocean currents, coastal desert regions and incredibly productive rainforests with seasonal variation result in a diversity or birds and other organisms like nowhere else on the planet.

Here is a small sampling of some of the amazing birds found in various regions of Peru.

Additional images provided by Glenn Bartley and Alfredo Fernandez.

Myself and Glenn Bartley lead photography workshops in Peru which target many of these incredible species. Click here for more information.

Click images to enlarge…

Two Horned Screamers pose side-by-side, showing off their "horns" which are actually ornamental appendages comprised of cartilage.

Two Horned Screamers pose side-by-side, showing off their “horns” which are actually ornamental appendages comprised of cartilage.


An amazingly vibrant Golden Tanager perches on a mossy branch in the subtropical rainforest of the Andes.

An amazingly vibrant Golden Tanager perches on a mossy branch in the subtropical rainforest of the Andes.


A Mealy Amazon Parrot shows off it's brightly-coloured wings while in flight above the Amazon rainforest.

A Mealy Amazon Parrot shows off it’s brightly-coloured wings while in flight above the Amazon rainforest.


Marvelous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis)

One of the most impressive tails in the bird world belongs to the the Marvellous Spatule-tail. These tiny, endangered hummingbirds are found only in an extremely small portion of northern Peru. The male’s long tails, adorned with racket-shaped appendages, are used during elaborate mating displays.


A Purus Jacamar, a close relative of kingfishers, watches the sky intently for passing butterflies on which it preys. Photographed next to an oxbox lake or "cocha" in the Amazon Lowlands.

A Purus Jacamar, a close relative of kingfishers, watches the sky intently for passing butterflies on which it preys. Photographed next to an oxbox lake or “cocha” in the Amazon Lowlands.


Grass Green Tanager

A Grass Green Tanager perches on a branch in the cloud forest, high on the Andean slope. This uniquely-coloured bird feeds mainly on fruit and insects.


Wattled Jacana

A Wattled Jacana struts along floating water lillies on an oxbow lake in the Amazon lowlands.


Seen mainly in the forest canopy, the massive Common Piping Guan has a motorbike-esque call almost as unique as it's blonde hairdo.

Seen mainly in the forest canopy, the massive Blue-throated Piping Guan produces a motorbike-esque display call with it’s wings that’s almost as unique as it’s blonde hairdo.


Just like cows, bacterial fermentation takes place in the guts of Hoatzins. Feeding almost exclusively on the vegetation that grows on the peripheries of oxbow lakes and marshes in the Amazon, they can often be seen clambering about in the dense foliage.

Just like cows, bacterial fermentation takes place in the guts of Hoatzins. Feeding almost exclusively on the vegetation that grows on the peripheries of oxbow lakes and marshes in the Amazon, they can often be seen clambering about in the dense foliage.


Wire-crested Thorntail (Popelairia popelairii)

The alien-esque head feathers make this small species of hummingbird look truly otherworldly. The Wire-crested Thorntail is one of the smallest birds on earth, weighing in at only 2.5 grams.


A colourful little finch of humid forests, Orange-bellied Euphonias are often customers of fruit feeders provided by generous bird lovers.

A colourful little finch of humid forests, Orange-bellied Euphonias are often customers of fruit feeders provided by generous bird lovers.



These uniquely-plumaged seabirds can be found along the coasts of Peru and Chile. Inca Terns are restricted to the cold waters of the Humboldt Current where they feed primarily on small bait fish such as anchovies.


Long-whiskered Owlet (Xenoglaux loweryi)

At only 13cm in length, the Long-whiskered Owlet is among the smallest owls on earth. They weren’t well observed in the wild until 2007 in their very restricted range, in the Peruvian cloudforest. There are thought to be only 250-1000 of these endangered birds.


Along with many other species of parrots, Red-and-Green Macaws gather each day at clay licks or "colpas" to feed on mineral rich soil which aids in their digestion, counteracting the highly-acidic seeds and fruit that comprise the majority of their diet.

Along with many other species of parrots, Red-and-Green Macaws gather each day at clay licks or “colpas” to feed on mineral rich soil which aids in their digestion, counteracting the highly-acidic seeds and fruit that comprise the majority of their diet.


Rufous-crested Coquette (Lophornis delattrei)

The Rufous-crested Coquette is a small species of hummingbird found throughout the eastern Andean foothills and Panama. They’re mainly found high up in the forest canopy except when enticed down by flowers. Males sport an impressive spiky-orange headdress.


1 Comment

  • It is beautiful, incredible quality photos and a huge pleasure to look at this birds. Congratulations!

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Oct 1, 2014
Jess Findlay


There are few places in the world as spectacular as the Pacific Northwest. With a landscape as diverse as the creatures that reside within, it’s a nature lover’s paradise. Here is a sampling of my favourite photographs, taken throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Washington and Oregon.

All photographs are available as fine art prints. Details can be found by clicking here!

Click images to enlarge. Enjoy!

A terrestrial Coastal Giant Salamander just downstream of a 25m waterfall, deep in the backcountry of Oregon's Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

“The Realm of a Giant”

A terrestrial Coastal Giant Salamander just downstream of a 25m waterfall, deep in the backcountry of Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

“Subalpine Angel”

A Gray Jay, also known as a Whiskey Jack, in flight on a sunny winter morning, high in Vancouver BC’s North Shore Mountains.


“Niveous Queue”

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep orderly arranged on a snowy mountain slope in Alberta’s Jasper National Park.


The stare of a Great Gray Owl. Photographed near Merritt, British Columbia.


“Tidal Bounty”

An amazing display of intertidal life found in Olympic National Park on Washington’s rugged coast. Pictured are Green Anemones, Purple Encrusting Sponge, Ochre Sea Stars and a Sea Lemon.



Forest fire smoke sweeps across the horizon on a summer evening, high in the Pacific Ranges near Pemberton, British Columbia.

“Reach Out”

A stream rushes through one of the lushest places in the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon.

“Cheeky Fox”

A Cascade Red Fox catches snowflakes on it’s tongue on a cold day in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.



A young White-tailed Ptarmigan, perhaps less than a week old, explores it’s alpine home, high in the Cascade Mountains of southwest British Columbia.



Giant sea stacks tower above the Pacific surf as the setting sun casts vibrant pink light on storm clouds. Olympic National Park, Washington.

“Frigid Passage”

An ice cave is slowly carved by summer meltwater beneath a glacier in the backcountry of BC’s Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Queen of the Grove

“Queen of the Grove”

Perched high in an old-growth western hemlock, a female Barred Owl surveys her temperate rainforest domain. North Shore Mountains, British Columbia.

“Guiding Light”

An incoming tide sweeps through coastal rock formations during a dramatic sunset. Olympic National Park, Washington.

“The Cycle”

Hordes of seabirds and waterfowl such as these California Gulls and Brant flock to the coasts to feast during the annual pacific herring spawn. Vancouver Island, British Columbia.


Pausing from a wild strawberry feast, a Black Bear cub stares inquisitively. Cascade Mountains, British Columbia.


  • Spettacolari….

  • Amazing wildlife photography. Inspires us weekend photographers. Thanks for sharing. Ivan Cordero

  • Just awesome! “Ember” is my pick.

  • Absolutely incredible !

  • These are all phenomenal! It’s not possible to pick just one.

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Sep 29, 2014
Jess Findlay


I absolutely love photographing at night. The mystery involved with complete darkness and the host of creatures that only show themselves under it’s cover, combined with the ability for one to create their own light makes things very exciting. Venturing out in the dark with a headlamp and my camera gear has always been one of my favourite activities, especially in an area as wild as the Amazon.

While returning from a great afternoon session at one of the area’s many oxbow lakes, my headlamp caught the eyes of several Spectacled Caimans that were relaxing on the mudflats and floating in small ponds bordering the much larger river. Seeing this, I planned on returning here later in the evening in hopes of photographing them. A few hours later, I made the trek out to the river bank and was again greeted by the shining eyes of several Caimans. I had a photo in mind and I would need to get much closer to create it.

I forded a few shallow tributaries before entering the expansive flats that were home to these primordial reptiles. After discovering their rather timid nature, I soon realized that I would need to stalk them carefully and use a lot of focal length if I were to get the shot. First I tried photographing from in the water. The ripples I created caused alarm amongst the animals – back to the drawing board. I put down my photography gear and waded into a small pond to see if accessing an island would reward me with a cooperative individual or two, no such luck. Besides, after a few minutes spent up to my waist, with a few 5-footers around, my nerves got the best of me.

Later on that night, I came upon a young caiman in a shallow pool. The opportunity for me to sneak up presented itself as a hill on the landscape was partially concealing my form. I crawled up and over very slowly and was eventually able to compose this photo. By carefully positioning my headlamp, I was able to achieve my goal in showing the effects of this animal’s tapetum lucidum. Many vertebrates that are active at night have this special membrane behind their retinas which reflects visible light and in turn, increases the available light to the photo receptors. To our eyes, this appears as glowing pupils. After experimenting for a short while, I was able to get the angle of refraction just right, highlighting the amazing, luminous colours.

Click image to enlarge.

- Nebula -

Canon 5DM3 | Canon 600mm f/4 IS II with 1.4x Teleconverter | 1/5th | f/5.6 | ISO 3200 | Petzl Nao 315 Lumen Headlamp

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Aug 28, 2014
Jess Findlay


Ecuador is a country of incredible natural wonders. The geography ranges from the rugged Pacific coastline, to the high peaks of the Andes Mountains, and the lowlands of the Amazon Basin. Such a great elevational gradient (nearly 6,300m) spawns an array of different ecosystems and in turn, amazing biodiversity, namely – birds. Over 1600 species of birds have been recorded in Ecuador; a country the size of the state of Colorado.

Here are a few amazing birds that call this country home!

Click images to enlarge…

Masked Trogon

Masked Trogon

This colourful species sits motionless in the mid canopy of sub-tropical and tropical rainforests, waiting patiently for passing insects on which they feed.


Sword-billed Hummingbird

Sword-billed Hummingbird

The extremely long bill of this hummingbird is a special adaptation, allowing it to feed on the nectar of large, tubular flowers. Sword-billed’s are the only birds to to boast a bill longer than their body. They can be found above 2500m in the cloud forests of the northern Andes.




Resident throughout Amazonia, these strange and unique birds are often seen clambering about dense vegetation on the peripheries of rivers and lagoons. Young Hoatzins have two claws on each wing which they use to climb back to their nests if ever they were forced to flee from predators. Their diet consists of nearly 100% leaves. Bacterial fermentation takes place in their guts which helps to break down consumed foliage.


Torrent Duck Family

Torrent Duck Family

Living in fast-moving mountain rivers, it’s hard to believe adult Torrent Ducks can survive in such a hostile environment, let alone their youngsters. Stiff tails act as rudders as they swim underwater, foraging for their invertebrate prey. Long claws on large, webbed  feet also aid their travels in swift water and on slippery rocks.


Agami Heron

Agami Heron

A denizen of shadowed blackwater streams and lagoon edges, the Agami Heron uses it’s massive bill to catch fish, amphibians and small reptiles.


Red-headed Barbet

The sinister appearance of these masked passerines strikes fear into the hearts of berries and fruits throughout Ecuador’s humid montane forests.


Yellow-crowned Parrots

Yellow-crowned Parrots

Everyday, special clay banks throughout the Amazon Basin are each frequented by hundreds, sometimes thousands of Parrots. Consuming the mineral rich soil helps to neutralize the acidic seeds and fruits that comprise much of their diets. Seen here are Yellow-crowned Parrots and a few Mealy Amazons.


Black-banded Owl

San Isidro Owl

A small, disjunct population of owls lives in Ecuador’s eastern Andean foothills. Similar in appearance to both Black-banded and Black and White Owls, some ornithologists believe these birds represent an entirely different species.


Booted Racket-tail

Booted Racket-tail

Small hummingbirds of the Andes, male Booted Racket-tails sport spatule-shaped tail feathers and cotton ball-esque leg puffs. This one is feeding on the nectar of andean blueberry flowers.


Long-tailed Sylph

Long-tailed Sylph

Females of this species select the male with the longest tail feathers to be their mate. It’s not all good news for well-endowed males though. The dazzling streamers become a hinderance to their flight in which they rely on for safety.


Crimson-rumped Toucanet

Crimson-rumped Toucanet

The Crimson-rumped Toucanet is generally found in the canopy of humid montane forests, where they forage for fruits, invertebrates and small reptiles.



  • We are looking forward to seeing and photographing these amazing birds with you and Glenn Bartley in January!

  • Excellent series of images.

    Do you mind if I ask the details of exactly where you have visited to get these? I had my first trip out there earlier this year, with of time in both rainforest (Sacha Lodge) and the cloud forest (Bellavista). While I enjoyed it immensely, I found it wasn’t always set-up ideally for photography. More time would have allowed me to get to get a better grip on the opportunities presented, but should I get to go back it’d be nice to know if there are places that better cater for photography.

  • Awesome images. Brilliantly captured.

  • You’re very talented Jess. Beautiful work!
    I saw most of them at Perú, but not with such photos!

  • Jess, these shots are incredible. The most beautiful bird portraits I have seen!

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Aug 22, 2014
Jess Findlay


During a trip to Washington’s Olympic National Park earlier this year, I spent my initial evening at Second Beach. This isn’t a remote area that requires a long trek, just a one kilometre hike through tall sitka spruce will bring you to this beautiful patch of coastline. I generally like to avoid crowds and prefer to explore on my own, often finding my favourite photographs far off the beaten path. However, this place brings back great memories for me. My very first landscape shoot was at this very beach a few years prior, alongside my friend Alex Mody. A very enjoyable experience, albeit somewhat trying at times given the new environment and techniques behind the camera. Believe it or not, with all the fumbling, I ended up taking my very first magazine cover that evening. Regardless of the potential for an abundance of other beach goers, I happily strolled down the trail looking forward to the familiar view.

Unlike most all other times, I didn’t scrutinize weather forecasts or do much in the way of planning. This can often lead to being at the wrong place at the wrong time but on that day I let my intuition take over – or something like that. To my delight, I arrived at an empty beach. Only a few drift logs and some bull whip kelp bumped along the shoreline, kept in perpetual motion by the relentless pacific surf. For a few hours I travelled up and down the beach, moving slowly as I sunk into the soft, wet sand with each step. Moving out into the water, I pressed my tripod legs into the trillions of tiny rocks beneath me. As the frothy water surrounded me and receded I pressed the shutter over and over, feeling the strength of the ocean tugging on my legs; my favourite part. Before I knew it, I had taken about 500 photos and the nearly-full moon provided the only light. Even then I sat on the sand, letting the surf sweep all the way around me. In the distance, the running lights of a few fish boats cast a shallow glow in the surrounding mist. At that point I wasn’t sure if I had taken a single photo worth much of anything but was so content, even in my chilled waders.

Sometimes as nature photographers it’s very easy to become consumed by the computers atop our tripods. As pertinent as it may be to stay on top of the newest technology in the hopes of taking the best photographs you can, it can never be of upmost importance. I’ve seen it happen first hand many times and am guilty of it myself on a few occasions, being so focused on the myriad of buttons and settings that you’re incapable of recounting a feeling or  a sense of place afterwards.

What inspires me to get up before the light of day, hike farther into the wilderness and deal with far more insects in an evening than most are subjected to in their lifetime is not just the final image, but the entire experience. Regardless of if you’re a professional or if each click of the shutter and footstep through the wilderness is an alien experience, be present each and every time, be in the moment.


- Remnants -

Towering sea stacks and cirrus clouds catch the last rays of sunlight as the pacific surf sweeps onto a sandy beach in Washington’s Olympic National Park.Canon 5DM3 | Canon 17-40mm f/4 | 1/5th | f/14 | ISO 250

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  • Hey Jess,

    Beautifully written and poignant post. I could totally relate to the way you described your experience. Even though I haven’t been to the PNW coast (yet), it reminded me of my experiences on the Atlantic. I agree with the premise, too. If we aren’t in the moment, how can we translate the essence of a place to our viewers?

    - Chris Kayler

  • Jess…your photos give me pause at a time in my life that not only appreciates it, but needs it.
    To escape the now, ta get lost in the wonders of your images, ta go there…even for the moment…does the heart an mind good.
    Your written words an descriptions that accompany your photos Jess are a breath of fresh air, your passion is both seen an heard.

    Thanks Jess !


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Jul 27, 2014
Jess Findlay


Hi everyone,

I have just returned from a short trip to British Columbia’s Cascade Mountains. Joining me were two of my good friends and very talented photographers: Glenn Bartley and Connor Stefanison. We spent two nights camping in this beautiful region of the province; photographing in Manning Provincial Park and further north high in an alpine backcountry area. Glenn had a couple species in mind that he had hoped to add to his growing Canadian bird portfolio. Connor and I knew just the place which gave us the chance to revisit some of our old stomping grounds!

One species of interest was the White-tailed Ptarmigan. During our time spent hiking in the alpine, we were fortunate enough to locate several families. No easy task as they are amazingly camouflage! Their plumage adapts to their environment throughout the year, making them very cryptic birds indeed. I spent most of my time photographing the tennis ball-sized youngsters. I was amazed at their independence. Perhaps less than a week old and already they strayed 20m or more from the safety and warmth of mom, gleaning insects and plucking seeds from the sparsely vegetated tundra.

- Ptarmlet -

A White-tailed Ptarmigan chick steps down the side of a boulder, framed by pink mountain heather. Cascade Mountains, British Columbia, Canada.Canon 5DM3 | Canon 70-200mm f/4 | 1/1250th | f/4.5 | ISO 320
Prints Available

Summer in the alpine is truly spectacular. Small tarns filled with fresh, cold water dot the rugged landscape; ridge tops decorated with wildflower-laden meadows seek the sun of long days and bird song fills the crisp clear air.

Pastel colour lingers in the evening sky above a towering granite monolith. Cascade Mountains, British Columbia, Canada.

- Sentience -

Pastel colour lingers in the evening sky above a towering granite monolith. Cascade Mountains, British Columbia, Canada. 
Canon 5DM3 | Canon 17-40mm f/4 | 1/4th | f/11 | ISO 50
Prints Available

Aside from the White-tailed Ptarmigans and Hoary Marmots, we were fortunate to have this beautiful alpine area all to ourselves. There is nothing more peaceful than watching the night settle in from a backcountry campsite, high in the mountains.

The sky darkens as another summer day has passed in the high alpine. Cascade Mountains, British Columbia, Canada.

The sky darkens above our backcountry campsite as another summer day passes in the high alpine. Cascade Mountains, British Columbia, Canada.

Canon 5DM3 | Canon 17-40mm f/4 | 30sec | f/5.6 | ISO 1000

Prints Available


Kiss of Light

- Kiss of Light -

Engelmann spruce trees catch the day’s last rays as the sun descends into a thick veil of forest fire smoke. Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.

Canon 5DM3 | Canon 70-200mm f/4 | 1.3sec | f/14 | ISO 50

Prints Available

I can’t wait to return to this great area of wilderness with great friends!


  • wow this is amazing jess my fave is the fox!

  • I really like your writing style

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