Arts Scene – Christy Grinton: Life in the Wild through a Lens

by Jo Barnes | photo by Leah Gray –

Face to face with a bear? No thank you!

For most of us, our typical encounter with wildlife consists of saying “Look, a squirrel!” in our backyard. For Christy Grinton, however, she prefers to meet more intimidating wildlife in its own habitat with only her camera lens between herself and the animal she seeks.

The North Saanich photographer, a former zookeeper with a wildlife biology degree, has a passion for wildlife photography and loves to capture unique moments in nature with images that are increasingly gaining attention from the public and magazine publishers.

“I have always loved nature and I love seeing what’s going to happen,” shares Christy. “I like getting the shot for my own happiness, but I like to capture moments people might miss. I hope I can bring the images people wouldn’t normally see.”

Christy’s photography takes her from local Peninsula sites to provincial places like Banff or Jasper and further afield to international destinations like Tanzania, Namibia, Kenya and Costa Rica. She sells prints of her work on a variety of formats with the images appearing on metal, paper or canvas. Her work has been published in Canadian Geographic and Beautiful British Columbia magazines and has garnered recognition such as bronze and silver medals at the 2023 Toronto Salon Photography competition.

Capturing the intimate wildlife experience motivates Christy on every photography adventure. Sometimes the results can be surprising. “Things are happening fast while you are shooting. Once during a trip to Costa Rica,” she reminisces, “I took photos of a red-eyed frog. Afterwards when I looked at the images, the frog had tiny little ants on its nose. I never noticed this when I took the shot.”

Observing wildlife in its habitat is fascinating and exciting, but Christy is always aware that she needs to be alert and prepared for whatever might happen. “I really enjoy seeing the interaction between animals, but you need to know the signs, the behaviours going on, and for safety reasons, when it’s OK to be there and when it’s not. You need to have an exit plan and know when to leave.”

Christy has her favourite places for photographing wildlife, and one of them is Khutzeymateen Wilderness Lodge near Prince Rupert. “It’s a magical place. I’m one of eight people in a group usually,” she says. “I go out in the morning and afternoon. I get about 50 to 100 feet away from the bears and can watch them preening, grazing or mating.”

This fascination and love of wildlife began in Christy’s childhood when she regularly visited the zoo. Those afternoon visits impacted her studies and future career. “I went to the Toronto Zoo a lot as a kid. I love wildlife; it’s a part of me,” she says. “I did two summers at the zoo. The first year I worked with miniature goats and helped kids learn about animals. The second year I worked in the Canadian Domain area and worked with bison, wapiti elk, moose, wolves and bears.”

Eventually, she completed a wildlife biology degree from the University of Guelph and subsequently moved to the West Coast where her work focused on studying the impact of deforestation on wildlife.

Her keen interest in photography began in her teenage years when she took a few courses in high school focused on developing pictures in a dark room and using a shadow box. That interest resurfaced in her adult years when her children were older and she found herself with a little more time to devote to hobbies.

“I was a stay-at-home mom and my focus was on raising a family. I got back into photography 10 years ago,” she comments. “I took digital photography courses and learned about the photography application Lightroom.”

With the technological advancements in photography, Christy is enjoying a whole new world of possibilities, as she comments: “I’m now able to do more than years ago when I could only take 24 shots on my Kodak camera. Back then, I had to take rolls of film with me and then wait to develop them. Now I can take up to 1,000 to 2,000 shots and, using software, I can adjust images afterwards.”

Even with the assistance of new technology, there are still challenges in her work. She has to find just the right light, minimize noise, deal with weather conditions, and be alert to animal behaviour. Christy, however, enjoys the rewards of capturing the image and sharing it with others.

“It is never just a photo,” she notes. “The photo sparks conversation. Photography allows people to see and understand more about animals.”

For Christy Grinton, that face-to-face encounter with a bear, or any other animal, with only the camera lens between them, is an opportunity to which she says, “Yes please!” every time.

Owl photo courtesy Christy Grinton Photography.

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