Are we ever glad to see the backside of 2023. It was a year where pretty much everything went wrong – we both had/are having to stick handle serious health problems, both of our families had to withstand brutal health challenges, we moved for the fourth time in less than two years, and our work faced setback after setback.

That’s the bad news. On the flip side?

For one glorious three-week period, the clouds lifted on our personal dramas (in what was, in retrospect, merely the eye of the storm), allowing us to capture a laundry list of missing content for Nature Labs. And though it was work – often around-the-clock, slog through mud-and-bugs hard work – it did mean we were able to briefly return to our roots, living in a tent and spending time in nature.

With the last couple of years having been focused on web site construction and post-production editing of our platform’s 500+ stories, it was a rare treat to hear birds and see the sun and look for wildlife. Our time in the field took us to from our home in Alberta all the way to Alaska and Fort McMurray (the oil sands in northern Canada), as well as our touchstone Mount Robson Provincial Park, in just 19 days.

Most of our work was video-centric, with highlights including a toad migration, a very co-operative shrew (!) and a least weasel (!!) – only our second ever sighting.

Photographically, we were able to snag a few great grizzly images, but the best encounter was easily a great grey owl nest that we’ve been lucky enough to see for two out of the last three years. The family never ceases to entertain, but this particular encounter was special. 


Well, the great grey female wasn’t looking at us in this photo, but rather a rambunctious deer that was feeding behind our backs. Apparently, the owl and deer had a long running feud because, before we could process what was happening, the owl dove over our heads and attacked the deer. I kid you not. It dive-bombed the poor ungulate repeatedly, pecking at its hide, until the deer retreated back into the forest.

We’ve never seen behaviour like this and, given it happened mere feet away, we were powerless to actually capture the moment, despite being surrounded by three cameras and a couple of phones. Look, we’re a bit rusty, okay? Regardless, the moment is captured in our heads and at least this image, the one taken before a sequence of poorly-cropped, out-of-focus flight images and video, helps bring it all back.

Here’s to wonderful 2024 – it’s gotta be better than 2023, right? RIGHT?!

Some of our favourite images & encounters from 2023

  • Simon & Jill