Shooting photos, from Burnaby Lake to Antarctica

Paul Steeves is a volunteer at the Wildlife Rescue Association and avid nature photographer. Ten of his photos will be featured in the organization
Paul Steeves is a volunteer at the Wildlife Rescue Association and avid nature photographer. Ten of his photos will be featured in the organization's 2013 calendar.

Little did Paul Steeves know the V.P. Twin pocket camera his mother gifted him when he was five years old would embark him on a lifetime of adventure and photography.

His first photo of a neighbour’s kitten has become tens of thousands of negatives, slides and digital files of birds and animals from the Amazon rainforest to the steppes of Machu Picchu to the plains of Kenya to the craggy rocks of the Galapagos Islands.

But the bulk of Steeves’ photos are snapped closer to home, on excursions to the Reifel Sanctuary or Minnekhada Park and on kayak outings around Burnaby Lake or along Burrard Inlet. Many are shot in his back yard, where Steeves maintains a handful of feeders and suet baskets that attract all variety of birds within easy reach of his telephoto lens.

Ten of Steeves’ photos are being featured in the Wildlife Rescue Association’s 2013 calendar, sales of which help the Burnaby organization treat close to 4,000 animals a year that are then released back into the wild.

It’s a group that’s near and dear to Steeves’ heart; he’s been volunteering at the facility on the south shore of Burnaby Lake for 21 years.

Helping care for the animals, feeding them, cleaning their cages, transporting them for release, puts Steeves in very close proximity to many of the species of birds and animals he then photographs in their natural environment.

“You get to know different animals’ and birds’ characteristics,” says Steeves, who’s now retired after a career in the airline industry. “You can really see it when they’re in care.”

That kind of intimate knowledge can help put him in the right spot at the right time to capture a Steller’s jay plucking berries from a bush, or a loon looking back on a placid lake.

When Steeves sets off in the early morning for a photo excursion, he packs along two digital cameras, a telephoto lens, a tripod, his Gore-Tex jacket and warm boots. But his most important tool is patience.

Capturing photos of birds and animals in their natural habitat is as much about getting them comfortable with his presence as the quality of his camera equipment.

“The idea is not to act like a predator,” says Steeves. “You don’t want to upset them, you have to be deliberate in your motions.”

Steeves is already preparing for his most ambitious photo quest yet, a 28-day expedition next November to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica. He’ll be traveling aboard an icebreaker with a group of like-minded nature photographers seeking to capture images of penguins at the beginning of their brooding season. It’ll be a unique opportunity. After all it’s unlikely he’ll ever get the chance to feed a penguin at the Wildlife Rescue Association.

The WRA 2013 calendar costs $15 and is available by calling 604-526-2747 or email


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