Storyteller Scroll: Smile for the Camera!!

  • Published on May 10 2011 |
  • This article is tagged as: storyteller

Katie Robertson, CPAWS-OV Volunteer, shares her thoughts about the CPAWS-OV Nature Night with local nature photographer Stephen J. Stephen

In Ottawa, we are blessed with an abundance of natural treasures. And now that spring is upon us, it is the ideal time to experience the wealth of jewels the nation’s capital has to offer.

On Wednesday the 4th May, I was lucky enough to spend the evening viewing these treasures, captured through the lens of renowned local nature photographer, Stephen J. Stephen. With useful information, examples, slide demonstrations and exceptional photos, Stephen gave an informative and entertaining presentation displaying the beauty and wildlife of the greater Ottawa area. The presentation covered topics from necessary equipment and fundamental techniques, to specific hints for capturing landscapes, native flora, mammals and bird species. He was able to successfully relate to the audience’s wide range of aspiring photographers, from amateurs to well-seasoned hobbyists.

Holding a Masters degree in marine biology and having studied terrestrial wildlife, Stephen is not only passionate about capturing that perfect, memorable shot but also about the welfare of his subjects. He concluded his presentation by covering ethical practices for photographers and proper conduct for interacting with wildlife, such as respecting the subject and their habitat by not leaving designated paths and determining when it is and isn’t acceptable to feed wildlife. Although your individual impacts may seem minimal, the cumulative effect of multiple intrusive photographers, hikers and birders can have a significant negative impact on any ecologically sensitive area.

As a biologist, Stephen stressed the importance of knowing the habits and behaviour of your intended subject and not imposing on an animal. Instead, he suggests, keep your distance, be patient and allow the subject to become acclimatized to your presence. A relaxed animal that doesn’t feel threatened will interact with others around it and its environment, creating a more natural looking photo that tells a story. Patience and subtlety are key. Stephen even told stories about how he and a photographer friend spent an entire morning slowly inching their way closer to a bird that they wanted to photograph. Their slow movements kept the bird calm, and their patience was rewarded with a fantastic photo!

Even after being an Ottawa resident for 11 years, Stephen continues to be amazed by the new and fascinating scenes he still finds to photograph in Ottawa’s ample green spaces. “I feel fortunate so far to have been able to capture some of its beauty in my images,” he says. The list of places to take great wildlife and landscape photos is actually a lot longer than some locals might expect: From city parks, bike trails, lakes, ponds, the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers, Canada's Central Experimental Farm and other large areas of agricultural land, the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, Gatineau Park, the 150 square kilometres of the Greenbelt (including the west end's Stony Swamp woodlands, marshes and trails and the east end's Mer Bleue bog), the habitats found in the Mud Lake/Britannia Conservation Area, and other NCC properties, Ottawa and its surrounding areas provide a multitude of local habitats in our own backyard that offer nature photographers a year-round cornucopia of diverse wildlife to explore with your camera! CPAWS-OV, of course, also encourages people to get out and enjoy these local green spaces so that you can see the incredible places that we’re working to protect.

Stephen’s knowledge of wildlife and photography produces spectacular images that not only convey his exceptional talent, but also his obvious passion and dedication to wildlife and their habitat. You can view these exquisite images, from fungi and foxes to beautiful flora and birds (his personal favourite), on his website. I would like to express my sincere thanks on behalf of the all of those who attended, to Stephen, and to CPAWS-OV for an interesting and enjoyable evening.

Next time you are out exploring Ottawa’s wildlife gems, don’t forget your camera. You might be pleasantly surprised by what treasures you find in your own backyard! Happy snaps!

For more information on Ethical Behaviour Guidelines/Code of Conduct for wildlife photographers, visit: