Given that our focus this past year was video for Nature Labs, and that we were cursed with a terrible wildlife sighting cold streak (highlighted by our ‘main character’, Chocolate the grizzly bear, going missing after day three in the field), we took fewer images than ever. Still, we did have some luck during our six months in the field. Before we commence with our countdown of favourite images from 2019, we first wanted to share YOUR favourite images we shared on Instagram. 

As we look through the images you ‘liked’ the most (and thank you for liking them!), it’s interesting to note that none of them were taken this year. Why? We delay the sharing of images to protect sensitive wildlife and habitat locations. It’s not that we believe people shouldn’t experience nature – far from it – but the fine line of wildlife photography is getting even finer. And during an upcoming episode of Nature Labs After Dark, we’ll breakdown how the issue has evolved and how our ethics have evolved, in the hopes of contributing to a positive conversation on the subject.   

Top Images of 2019 – Just missed!

Grizzly bear cub of the year: a bear called Wahb. Has anyone read the classic book ‘Biography of a Grizzly’ by Ernest Thompson Seton? If you have, you will know why we named this special bear Wahb, cub of one of our favourite grizzly bears, ‘Alaska’. The book is also a window into how we’ll be telling nature stories on Nature Labs.

Top Images of 2019 – Just missed!

A classic grizzly bear photo. After a month of working to capture video of grizzlies, this was one of our first opportunities to take stills. The boar was in love with the Robson Park matriarch – our best supporting actress for Nature Labs, if you will, and he had been romancing her for days. 

Top Images of 2019 – Just missed!

Short eared owl in flight. Photo shoots that occur within the city limits are quite pleasant. We had a great time in February (other than the cold) with short eared, long eared and snowy owls pretty much at our doorstep.

Top Images of 2019 – #19

Our first grizzly bear sighting of the year was this good sized male. We were able to observe him looking a bit groggy. We’re certain that’s why he decided it was time for a wake up dip in a thawing, yet chilly, mountain lake.

Top Images of 2019 – #18

We will never tire of seeing scenes such as this one. Snowy owls are often found perched on farmers fences around the city of Calgary. They are great at keeping the vole population in check!

Top Images of 2019 – #17

Smiling bear. There’s much for this grizzly to be smiling about in this photo. He’s looking to his nearby mate, the Robson matriarch and our ‘best supporting actress’ for Nature Labs.

Top Images of 2019 – #16

We call this girl the white tornado. She was unbelievably fast, and even though we’re getting better at video, this girl was the ultimate test. Luckily for Nature Labs, we were able to get a bit of video of her, between her twists, turns, pops and leaps to showcase the concepts of adaptation and genetics in grade 10 Science. Also, always fun to see a long tailed weasel in its winter whites!

Top Images of 2019 – #15

We have mixed feelings about winter photography (or no feeling at all, when it comes to our fingers). But we had a wonderful time with owls this past February, you know, when it was -40 degree C. It’s hard to beat the muted winter light, though, even when our fingers mimic the blue tinge in this photo.

Top Images of 2019 – #14

Yes. Another snowy owl. It was a crazy string of weather, but we were fortunate to photograph these white ghosts in bright sun, muted light, and yes…crazy snowstorms. 

Top Images of 2019 – #13

We had a remarkable few days with this young otter in March 2019. You will remember the crazed behind the scenes video of us trying to follow this fellow as it searched for its own home territory. Jill was actually filming Simon for Nature Labs the moment we spotted the otter the first time, so the surprise and joy was all caught on camera for you, as one of our first posts on Patreon.

Top Images of 2019 – #12

I mean…such a Canadian scene here. Bull moose in a snowstorm, standing on guard for thee.

Top Images of 2019 – #11

Ohhh poor lady. This river otter was not having a good day, by the sounds and looks coming from her. We spotted an odd shape and a series of splashes one morning last May and could not quite figure out what it was we were looking at. Then came a series of growls and screams…and finally Simon shouting out MATING OTTERS! 

We were delighted to be able to capture a bit of the scenario for a great representation of the grade 10 science topic of reproduction. But we did feel a bit badly for her. She was desperately trying to get away from him, and in this image, we had her running for dear life onto land trying to find a rock, or a Simon, to hide behind. All that did was bring the racy scene closer to us to see & hear. #scarredforlife

Top Images of 2019 – #10

This grizzly sow, the Robson matriarch, will be one of the main supporting characters for Nature Labs, a character that will help students learn core competencies, while understanding the importance of nature and their connection to it.

She was casually eating dandelions beside a small pond this past spring in Mount Robson Provincial Park and was able to provide us with much needed video content for Nature Labs.

We showcased some of the video we captured of her back in July.

Top Images of 2019 – #9

Blue eyed bear cub. This cub’s family took us by surprise last spring when working in BC and it was a joy to document them during our brief encounter – most especially this three-month-old cub.

Top Images of 2019 – #8

We were overjoyed to be able to observe several coyote dens in 2019 and loved learning the role of curiosity in helping the pups learn basic survival skills in the wild. Capturing video and stills of these pups helps us connect the stories of iconic creatures like grizzly bears to the more common and relatable critters like coyotes. 

Top Images of 2019 – #7

Occasionally, we were able to escape the great Chocolate (Robson’s most dominant grizzly bear) search to spend time with a beautiful black bear family. On this day,done of the two cubs was particularly excited about expanding it’s diet from grass to bark, only to discover that bark doesn’t taste good.

Top Images of 2019 – #6

Short eared owls are some of the best hunters we have seen. Every time we looked up, it seemed like they had a fresh meal in their talons. Documenting how efficient they are at controlling rodent populations in rural areas is an important lesson for high school students.

Top Images of 2019 – #5

As you’ve seen, we had an incredible February observing owls…

Top Images of 2019 – #4

We love this image, more for the bears’ emotion than the technical quality of the photo. Is it her look? Or his? Or his front paw? Or the light in their eyes? Or is it just the love in the air?

Top Images of 2019 – #3

At first, when we saw this young cow moose in a field, we didn’t think about raising our cameras, but then we noticed that twilight was upon us, creating a unique light to capture this quasi-urban moose. Usually moose are found in forested areas, near swamps or ponds, not in the middle of a wheat field. To capture this image, with this light and backdrop, we had to select it as our third favourite image of 2019.

Top Images of 2019 – #2

This grizzly boar is the same fellow featured showing some love to the Robson matriarch in our 2019 countdown #4 image. The sow had wandered into the forest for a nap and he was sniffing the air to ensure she was still nearby. Ahhh, young love.

Top Images of 2019 – #1

Here it is: our favourite image of 2019. Well, favourite images. you see we had to feature a sequence to really tell you the story of the most playful grizzly cub of the year. We were incredibly lucky to have caught this moment in October, a few hours before bad luck struck, when we got into that car accident on a different stretch of the same highway.

We were on our way to a location to film b-roll (extra footage to help tell one of the stories on Nature Labs) when we stumbled across a grizzly sow and three cubs of the year, searching for their last meal prior to heading for their winter den. It’s the latest date we’ve been able to watch grizzly cubs and we’re still having trouble whiping the smiles off of our faces (even with the accident).

These images – and all of the images in our top 2019 gallery – were made possible thanks to our incredible partners, Mount Robson Provincial Park – the crown jewel of the BC Parks system – and Nikon. Not only were we able to capture better video and images with the new Z6 mirrorless camera, but thanks to Nikon, we were also able to use some of their very best lenses in the field, including the 800mm 5.6 – literally changing our perspective for the better in the encounters we’ve documented.

Thank YOU dear patrons for your support this year. Hope you all have had a wonderful year. Happy holidays and cheers to 2020!