On and Over the Hills

"Go as far as you can see; when you get there you'll be able to see farther." ~ Thomas Carlyle

I Sing To Scare Away the Bears

Unfortunately, that scares away all the other critters too!

I have changed my mind. I needed a break from going through my hundreds of B.C. pictures and instead worked on a little HDR project I did on August 17th.

I drove out of town a little ways in the evening before sunset, planning to go to the same spot where I did my first HDR pictures, but once there decided I wanted a different view. So I donned my backpack and hoisted my old tripod and started hiking down a little dirt road.

I kept eyeing up a hill to my right , the knee of a spur that had been clearcut a summer or two before and tried to decide whether or not I should hike up it. I really wasn’t prepared for a hard scramble, I just had on a pair of old runners and the sun was dropping fast. I do carry a cell-phone, although there is not always reception out here, as well as a little first aid kit and a granola bar in my backpack, so I knew I shouldn’t die up there.

Now, I’ve ranted about the practice of scraping the debris from clear-cuts since it robs the ground of precious potential soil, but this one had not yet been scraped or replanted. From a distance the grasses and forbs looked like a smooth meadow, but I knew better. The greens hide a treacherous ground of wet holes hidden by rotting tree limbs strewn and piled like a gigantic and neglected game of pick-up-sticks. However, temptation got the best of me and I plunged into the alder scrub that lined the road and made my way into the clearcut.

The sun was low enough to shade the inside of the alder line, but using my tripod with its retracted, though dangling legs as a tester and walking stick, I made my way, one careful footstep after another, and began my assent of the hill. About half way up it occurred to me that I would have to come back down and really did not want to do that in the dark. Damn. I would not be able to stay until the sun was completely set.

So singing any ditty that came to mind to warn the bears that might also be enjoying the evening sun in the still standing forest on the top of  the spur, I plodded carefully but as quickly as I could possibly manage to the edge of the woods.

It was glorious! The sun was partly masked by a thin layer of cloud and a red glow had begun to form in the sky. Foxtail barley and the last of the fireweed shone on the hill. The ridges that make up the Swan Hills were visible for kilometres and a little reservoir was glinting with the last glow of the sun. The only thing I might have wished for, photographically speaking, was a cessation of the wee fresh breeze that I knew would blur the grasses in the long exposures. The wind must have been a little stronger in the sky, as the clouds were moving quite quickly across my view, so I knew I would be limited as to how many exposures I would be able to get for a single HDR.

I found a stump to set my tripod on – well, two legs of it anyway, the third was extended down into the ground beside it. I set the camera on Aperture Priority at f16 because I wanted to get as much in focus as I could. My camera does not do bracketed exposures automatically, so I carefully adjusted the e.v. by two stops between each of the four shots I took before I thought the clouds had moved too much.

I continued to shoot, rotating the camera and zooming in and out as much as my 18-55 lens would allow for each set and then sat down on another stump and just took it all in for a while. Apart from the dull roar of a semi making its way up the hill on the not too distant highway, which you can just see in the following picture, the only sounds were the slight rustle of the grasses and the occasional call from a raven. Songbirds tend to be scarce in the coniferous forest, but a yellow (or yellow-rumped – I’ve confused the calls of these species) warbler graced me with one melodious evening song.

That was my signal. This call often fills the evening air until after sunset, so I reluctantly packed up my camera and headed back down. I chose a slightly different route thinking it looked better from my uphill vantage, but soon discovered that I would not be able to cross the gnarly gap of a creek that had been hidden in the regrowth. So I had to zig back to my original route.

I was lucky, slipping only once or twice into gaps between branches and caving in only one or two rotting logs, I managed to make my way back to the road-edge scrub without injury. I felt bad for startling a little bird in the grasses just at the edge of the alders, but saw no other wildlife. A disappointment, but relief in a way as well. Wolves and cougars, although rarely seen, are out there. The moose are heading into the rut and the bears are fattening up on the berries in preparation for their hibernation. None, I know, are interested in me and are happy to scoot from the area when they hear me singing, but as I scrambled through the thick scrub and made my way onto the road I was honestly hoping that there would be a critter, any critter, taking advantage of the travelling ease of the old road. Just a glimpse and I would be content.

As it was when I got back to my car, I decided to drive further on the pavement just to prolong the enjoyment of the evening and was lucky that a bull moose was grazing the ditch grasses along side the road and obligingly allowed me to take a shot or two of him from the car. Far too dark and camera not set well at all. But it’s a memory.

Post-processing of the main picture, after being tone-mapped in Photomatix Beta 4 with the tone compressor, included adding layers, dodging & burning and whatever else struck my fancy as I played with it – I do love to play with pictures.

If you’re wondering where this was taken, you can click on the map on the Flickr page. If you know how place a map here on WordPress, please let me know!

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15 comments on “I Sing To Scare Away the Bears

  1. pixilated2
    August 31, 2010

    You live in an amazing place, and you are very brave to go out at sunset alone as you did! Me? Not so much. I think I will have to tell you the story of when I hiked myself out of the mountains and into the desert… unintentionally. I remembered this because of your comments about the song birds when so deep in the forest. I will send you it an email however. (NO, I will write it on my website and direct you there instead!)

    The pictures you took were so lovely and really enjoyed them, but it was your storytelling that caused me to think that I might like to get out more and see the trails around here… which I have not done since I moved here two years ago. Thanks for the inspiration! ~ Lynda

    • missusk76
      August 31, 2010

      Thank you, Lynda. I’m so glad to have inspired you. There’s nothing like getting out there on your own. It always feels like a little adventure!
      I can’t wait to hear your story, you have me intrigued! 🙂

  2. bobzeller
    August 31, 2010

    I agree with Linda. Gosh, what a nice story. I appreciate how you told how you took the images, too. Nice photos. I have Photomatix also. I don’t use it much because my birds and wildlife don’t sit still long enough. I am going to Big Bend National Park in October, so maybe I give it a try there. Keep writing and shooting. You have a faithful reader here. Bob

    • missusk76
      August 31, 2010

      Thank you, Bob. It feels good to know that you enjoy my stories. I’ve always written them, but never shared them up to now. I only have the Beta version of Photomatix and so am still experimenting. I like that I can get a full range of tones, but am not yet satisfied with the finished products.

  3. Matt Katzenberger
    August 31, 2010

    Beautiful light!

  4. themichaellamcollection
    September 1, 2010

    I love HDR photography, not very good at it yet, but I still love it 🙂
    I find yours to be both rich in colour and content!!!
    Keep shooting!

    • missusk76
      September 1, 2010

      Thank you very much Michael. I find that HDR can potentially have a real paint-by-numbers feel, especially in landscapes. I’m still playing with it to find the ability to express my personal interpretation or impression of a place.

  5. flandrumhill
    September 1, 2010

    I’m unreasonably scared of bears and never thought of singing to have them keep their distance from me. (I dropped the bear alarm my mother gave me in a river).

    That peachy color in the sunset is something I usually don’t see here. It’s beautiful. So is that moose. What a sighting!

    • missusk76
      September 1, 2010

      There is nothing unreasonable about being afraid of bears. They are huge, powerful and intelligent wild animals that will do what they need to do to survive and, in the case of sows, to ensure that their young do as well.

      I’m lucky where I live that there are seldom bears here (and there are black and grizzly) that associate humans with either food or harm, and in spite of the vigorous efforts of the lumber and oil industries that lease all this land from the crown, there is, so far, still sufficient room to move, so if given the chance they will avoid us as they would any other phenomena that they have no instinctive connection to. I have never heard of a bear attack in my 27 years of residence here, although there was one that I know of previously. In that case my understanding is that a hunter had wounded a bear. I don’t know the details of the events that ensued, nor do I want to.

      Having said all that, however, I am always totally on my toes when I am out. If I’m alone I sing or talk to myself, hoping I’m never overheard by human ears. 🙂 The encounters that I have had have always been, so far, when I was with my husband and each one proved the theory that if given the chance, bears and most other critters will avoid humans.

      Moose and deer, both mule and white-tail, are common sightings on the road-sides. They like the ditch-weeds (introduced species for the most part) that are planted there. In all these years though, I’ve never lost the thrill of any encounters with wildlife.

      Woah, long winded answer! 🙂 Anyway, thank you so much for stopping by.

  6. photographyfree4all
    September 1, 2010

    This reminds me of the night I spent shooting the moonrise while I was in the mountains. Other than the gophers and bats attacking, everything was fine. But bears – well, count me out. Great shots!!

    • missusk76
      September 1, 2010

      Thank you photographyfree4all, I hope your moonrise was a more relaxed experience, aside from the hostile critters. 🙂

  7. Pingback: When Logging Companies Piss me off. | pakos.me

  8. janechese
    August 9, 2012

    Beautiful country you live in, have travelled through the area once. The warm glow in your photos is wonderful. I was singing to alert the bears and realized I was singing “Teddy Bears Picnic.” My friend who was with me just laughed at that one.Good to see a fellow Albertan on here look forward to reading more.

    • Cindy Kilpatrick
      August 9, 2012

      Haha! I have found myself singing that one a time or two as well. Thank you for your compliment and for stopping by. I too am always thrilled to connect with someone from “nearby”, especially when we seem to share an interest in the natural world. There are a few of us around here in the blogisphere.

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