February 23, 2018
For flying too often last year, I unexpectedly gained MVP Elite status with Alaska Airlines this year. Besides early boarding and more legroom in Premium Seating, sitting forward in the plane also gives an unobstructed view out of the window—my preferred version of inflight entertainment.
Last week as our plane banked for a landing in Anchorage, I couldn’t resist photographing the low-tide mudflats and ice floes with my iPhone.
Apple iPhoneX, 6mm lens, exposure of 1/170 sec @ f2.4, ISO 16.
January 27, 2018
Last month while testing a new camera on a resident Snowshoe Hare in near darkness, I noticed an Ermine (Short-tailed Weasel) checking the woodpiles for a Red-backed Vole to invite to dinner. After several unsuccessful attempts to photograph it--they never stay still--I prefocused on a hole in the snow and snapped several frames as he popped up, before he promptly disappeared.
The amazing thing about this 'barely usable' image is that the ISO was 10,000! Normal would be 100...
Canon 1DX Mark II, EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II lens at 400mm, exposure of 1/400 at f5.6, ISO 10000, handheld.
December 24, 2017
When penguins return to their colonies in the spring, the shorelines still have ice walls left over from the winter storms. Some shorelines are easy, and all the penguins need to do is wait for high tide and easily “fly” out of the water onto shore.
But on Astrolabe Island this past November, the ice walls were still high, so the Chinstrap Penguins have learned to climb the walls using their sharp claws, and when necessary, using their beaks as ice axes.
Canon 5D Mark IV, EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II lens at 400mm, exposure of 1/1250 at f8, ISO 160, handheld.
December 7, 2017
Katabatic winds are usually generated by gravity as colder air flows down a glacier’s ice field, but in Antarctica, they are often caused by wind from a weather front spilling over a mountain range. I encountered the 50mph version of these winds on Half Moon Island, as it generated a ground blizzard that the penguins just ignored.
This Chinstrap Penguin seems to be really enjoying the strong wind, maybe wishing that he wasn’t a flightless bird!
Canon 5D Mark IV, EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II lens at 142mm, exposure of 1/1250 at f9, ISO 200, handheld.
November 22, 2017
When I photographed the Palouse region last May, the emerging crops were a vibrant green and the precise rows of plants on the rolling hills made interesting compositions. On my return in early October, the crops had been harvested and the fields were being prepared for planting winter wheat or left in stubble for the winter.
Gone were the many tourists driving the dusty backroads looking for snippets of farming relics from the past, while ignoring all the modern machinery and farming methods. The locals have their Palouse back...
Canon 5D Mark IV, EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II lens at 371mm, exposure of 1/400 at f8, ISO 640, Arca Swiss B-1 ballhead on Feisol CT3301 tripod.
September 20, 2017
In 1908, diamonds were discovered in the desert near Luderitz, and the village of Kolmanskop was built to support the German miners. Besides homes and offices, a hospital, school, theatre, casino and ice factory were built. As the diamonds played out and the workers moved on to other finds, the village declined and was finally abandoned in 1954.
This ghost town is now a tourist attraction, as the Namib desert slowly fills the buildings, creating interesting images like this.
Canon 5DS R, EF16-35 f4 lens at 24mm, exposure of 2.6 seconds at f18, ISO 100, Arca Swiss B-1 ballhead on Feisol CT3301 tripod.
August 24, 2017
Walruses are very inquisitive animals. For obvious reasons you are not supposed to approach them too closely, but if you sit on the beach or not move your Zodiac raft, they will invariably come to you. Our group of 12 sat on a beach and this male approached us, eyeing us, and basically put on a show.
Since they prefer eating mollusks like clams from sandy bottoms near shore, they are found in shallow waters.
Canon 5D Mark IV, EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II lens at 400mm, exposure of 1/500 at f7.1, ISO 1600, handheld.
August 1, 2017
After a dip in the ocean of course you have to dry off. This Polar Bear, swimming from ice floe to ice floe searching for seals to share a meal with, tried to dry off by shaking. With so much fur holding water, the amount of spray made a dog’s spray look rather puny. Even after several good shakes, he still rolled on the ice to blot out some more. Then, with water still dribbling from his belly hairs, he jumped into the ocean towards the next ice floe. Wet, shake dry, repeat...
Canon 7D Mark II, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 400mm, exposure of 1/1300 at f8, ISO 100, handheld.
June 30, 2017
After cancelling my visit to the Palouse area of Eastern Washington for the previous two years, I was finally able to photograph there in late May. Fairly well known to landscape photographers but lesser known to the typical nature photographer, the Palouse encompasses 4,000 square miles of farms and small farming towns; the attraction to photographers are the rolling hills. Unfortunately, the numerous red barns that once accented the landscape are disappearing, but at least the abstract designs of planted crops on the rolling hills will never disappear.
Canon 5D Mark IV, EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS II lens at 400mm, exposure of 1/400 at f8, ISO 125, Arca Swiss B-1 ballhead on Feisol CT3301 tripod.
June 4, 2017
For this Alaskan, shooting star images at 68º in Utah is much more pleasant than -30º in Alaska! Unfortunately too many other photographers had the same idea, and things resembled a circus as people jockeyed for position and one group's light painting messed up another's photos, etc.
I painted this rock formation with light reflected off my hand, easy to do when exposures are so long, but not that easy to get even illumination. The dotted line is an aircraft flying overhead.
Canon 5D Mark IV, Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens, exposure of 20 seconds at f2.8, ISO 3200, Arca Swiss B-1 ballhead on Feisol CT3301 tripod.
April 26, 2017
Photographing the Milky Way for Alaskans is elusive—during the dark winter it appears low in the southern horizon, making a decent composition difficult, and during the summer when it higher in the sky, there is no darkness.
The tree, softly illuminated with light reflected off a hand, is the Quiver Tree, so named because natives hollowed out branches to hold their arrows.
Canon 5D Mark IV, Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens, exposure of 30 seconds at f2.8, ISO 3200, Arca Swiss B-1 ballhead on Feisol CT3301 tripod.
March 26, 2017
While Alaskans are all too familiar with drifting snow, the coastal town of Luderitz in Namibia has a different kind of drifting problem. Relentless winds off the Atlantic Ocean cause traveling sand dunes that often cross roads and train tracks. The track cleaning crew, using heavy equipment, was probably only a kilometer away, prompting our driver to say that they must be expecting the train today.
Canon 5D Mark IV, EF 24-105mm f4 lens at 58mm, exposure of 1/320 at f10, ISO 100, handheld.
February 20, 2017
Living in a mountain pass has its pros and cons. Sometimes a snowstorm can’t quite push through the mountains, so only sends us warm temperatures. But when a cold air mass drops down from the Arctic, the cold air literally screams down the pass, giving us frost bite conditions.
We’ve had our usual share of cold winds this winter, producing these mini-snow dunes in the process, as the wind scours and reshapes the existing snow. Now all I need is a miniature Lawrence Of Arabia to insert in the picture, bundled in his parka, trudging along on his camel…
Canon 5D Mark IV, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 241mm, exposure of 1/200 at f16, ISO 100, handheld.
January 25, 2017
A reasonable criticism of my photography might be that it is too literal. And I agree, but that is the nature of wildlife and nature photography--recording what I see, so others who aren’t able to see are able to see what I saw. Granted, what they see might have slightly exaggerated colors and contrast to make the image more pleasing, but no major deletions or additions.
Realizing this, I’m always on the lookout for ‘natural abstract’ images--something not obvious on first glance and open to interpretation--like this bow wave of the small ship I traveled around Svalbard in last summer.
Canon 5DS R, EF 24-105mm f4 lens at 105mm, exposure of 1/500 at f8, ISO 200, handheld.
December 26, 2016
It pays to always have your camera gear with you, even during such mundane chores as driving to the local Post Office. Granted, your daily drive might not have such a dramatic backdrop as mine, but I'm sure that every so often you see something worth photographing--something natural like weather, something artistic like an abstract detail, something human like an accident, some wild animal that found its way into civilization, etc.
I can't say I always follow my own advice, but on this day I was glad that I did.
Canon 5D Mark IV, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 312mm, exposure of 1/320 at f10, ISO 100, handheld.
December 3, 2016
Termites have a symbiotic relationship with fungus: They cultivate the fungus underground and in their mounds for food, and the fungus (Termitomyces microcarpus) feeds off of their feces. The fungus doesn’t need any light to grow, and the warmth and moisture underground are ideal for growing.
But during certain times of the year, like at the start of the wet season when the temperatures are more moderate and the rains provide the needed moisture, the same ideal growing conditions exist outside of the termite mound—so instant mushroom gardens!
Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-105 f4 lens at 105mm, exposure of 1/160 at f8, ISO 100, handheld
October 30, 2016
Like all Alaskans, Red Squirrels need to prepare for winter. Because of a very rainy summer, White Spruce cones, the mainstay diet of squirrels, were plentiful and the squirrels have been very busy caching the cones all through their individual territories. The process involves climbing to the top of the trees, knocking the cones to the ground, then gathering the cones in places where they can find and dig them up from under the snow.
For the newborns, the knowledge involved with how, where and when must be genetic, for I doubt they learned it from the mother before she kicked them out of her territory.
iPhone 5S, 4.2mm lens, exposure of 1/120 sec at f2.2, ISO 64
September 25, 2016
When tourists drive this narrow and twisty highway through the park, there is no doubt in their minds that the road was built in the 1930s. But what they might not realize is that most of the bridges they are driving over (but can’t really see) are of a quality not seen in modern bridges--sturdily built of interlocking natural stone, rather than the steel and concrete of today.
Only when a visitor stops, as in my case, to explore the washes for photographs, do you see the craftsmanship from an era long gone.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-105 f4 lens at 32mm, exposure of 1/40 sec at f8, ISO 125, Arca Swiss B-1 ballhead on Feisol CT3301 tripod.
August 26, 2016
Other than whales, walruses are the largest mammals found in the Svalbard Archipelago. They are usually found in shallow waters, since their diet consists mainly of mollusks (clams, et al) dredged up with the aid of their tusks. The ivory tusks (actually elongated canine teeth found in both sexes) are also used to break through the ice in the winter for breathing holes, as well as for fighting.
For a mini Trip Report of my visit to Svalbard, click HERE..
Canon 7D Mark II, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 400mm, exposure of 1/800 at f8, ISO 1000, handheld.
August 1, 2016
On a windswept hillside in Northern Svalbard, rotting boards draw your attention. Upon closer examination, you see that it is actually a crudely built wooden box. Peering inside, you see a skull, and realize that this is a casket. Your guide then explains that this person died in the 1600s at this Russian whaling station, that freeze/thaw movements over the years have pushed the casket to the surface, and from the size of the skull, this was probably an orphaned teenager impressed into forced labor in an inhospitable place.
Canon 5DS R, EF 24-105 f4 lens at 65mm, exposure of 1/160 at f8, ISO 100, handheld.
July 13, 2016
The beaches of the Svalbard Archipelago are littered with trash from all around the world--mainly plastic pollution, which takes centuries to disintegrate. I found it difficult to photograph on the beaches without some obnoxious red or green or blue plastic intruding into the image.This young Polar Bear--its peaceful proximity to an adult female suggesting that it's in the separation process from it's mother--appeared bored as it investigated every plastic item along the beach, either chewing on it or batting it around. Our expedition group rightfully named him "Plastic Bear".
Canon 7D Mark II, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 360mm, exposure of 1/1328 at f5.6, ISO 250, handheld.
May 30, 2016
March in Zion National Park is an interesting time for photography--the deciduous trees haven’t started to leaf yet, so the "bones" of the trees are revealed and many rock formations are now more visible. But probably more important is the (relative) lack of tourists.
Early one morning on the tourist-free Emerald Pools trail I was able to fully photograph shallow water flowing over colorful sandstone, with the reflections of the blue sky and the morning sun on nearby sandstone walls adding to the mossy greens for a muted natural palette.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-105 f4 lens at 105mm, exposure of 1/30 sec at f16, ISO 1600, Arca Swiss B-1 ballhead on Feisol CT3301 tripod.
April 27, 2016
For the over 2 million animals that make the annual Great Wildebeest Migration (actually a misnomer, since hundreds of thousands of zebras, gazelles and elands join them), danger is around every corner. An estimated 250,000 wildebeest lose their life during the 1000 mile round trip, many of them at river crossing; there, Nile Crocodiles have been fasting for many months, waiting for the migration to return.
The fear of crossing the rivers is so ingrained in their collective memory that they sprint across the rivers, not realizing that they do not need to run across the crocodile-less Lake Ndutu.
Canon 7D Mark II, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 214mm, exposure of 1/500 at f8, ISO 160, handheld.
March 20, 2016
This winter's rains in California have produced a rare "super bloom" of flowers in Death Valley National Park, the best since the last great one in 2005. After regional and nationwide media publicity that drew (and continues to) many thousands of extra visitors to the park, the roads and any roadside parking were filled with cars (and people walking among and photographing the flowers).
Canon 5D Mark III, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 371mm, exposure of 1/400 at f8, ISO 125, handheld.
March 17, 2016
I eradicate people, and their tracks, without any regret (using Photoshop, of course!). The "super bloom" of desert flowers caused by rains in California brought many visitors to Death Valley this spring; unfortunately, many of these visitors spilled over to the Mesquite Flat sand dunes, making photography there quite difficult if you were looking for pristine dunes.
Maybe with other shots with less people and less tracks some Photoshop eradication of people from an image may be feasible, but this one will remain just a people shot...
Canon 5D Mark III, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 321mm, exposure of 1/250 at f8, ISO 100, handheld.
January 24, 2016
At first sight I wondered why an ostrich would be sitting in the middle of the road, in the bright sun of a fairly hot day, and not looking like he was planning to move for our vehicle. Then Fadhil, my safari guide, explained that the ostrich was using the hot sand to kill any bird lice that he might have. In other words, baking them! Brilliant!
After taking several images, we dutifully drove around him, giving him wide berth, so that he wouldn’t be disturbed from this important task.
Canon 7D Mark II, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 400mm, exposure of 1/500 at f8, ISO 200, handheld.
December 28, 2015
Another disgusting sight from my October 2015 photo safari on the Serengeti—if you look closely, the Marabou Storks and vultures are feeding on hundreds of wildebeest carcasses that are clogging Crossing #0 on the Mara River. Three weeks earlier, 14 safari vehicles interfered with a crossing, resulting in the deaths of over 300 wildebeest as they struggled in the resulting stampede.
One disturbing part (besides the carnage and horrendous smell) was that the drivers were professional guides who should have known better; I haven’t heard any follow up if they were held accountable.
Canon 7D Mark II, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 120mm, exposure of 1/200 at f8, ISO 400, handheld.
November 29, 2015
The poaching of wildlife in African National Parks has always been a problem, but seldom do visitors witness it. This Zebra stallion was spotted along the Mara River in October; he stood apart from the other migration zebras, still dragging his snare, and moving noticeably slower. The next day he appeared to be doing better, more active and grazing, but several days later we found his intact carcass (meaning that he did not die by predation). So sad to see such a magnificent animal die because of human greed.
Canon 7D Mark II, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 360mm, exposure of 1/640 at f5.6, ISO 6400, handheld.
October 29, 2015
Although I’ve seen and photographed white Arctic Foxes in northern Alaska, this is the first blue color morph (variation) that I’ve photographed in Iceland. Blue is a misnomer, since the color is more brownish-black through out the year, although judging by the tail color, this male has some white morph genes.
As Iceland’s only carnivore, they mainly survive on nesting birds and eggs, invertebrates, berries, and especially during winter, carrion along the coast. Unfortunately, they also prey on domestic sheep lambs (Iceland’s primary farm animal) so they are hunted throughout the country. As a result, Arctic Foxes are not commonly seen.
Canon 7D Mark II, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 349mm, exposure of 1/665 at f8, ISO 320, handheld.
September 23, 2015
Located just an hours drive from Fairbanks, the White Mountain National Recreation Area provides many forms of recreational opportunities. But lightning caused forest fires burn thousands of acres every summer. Forest fires aren’t the end of the world, just a little messy and ugly until the new growth returns. Here Black Spruce skeletons are slowly being dwarfed by faster growing birch and aspen, with a rich underpinning of dwarf birch and willow, as orderly plant succession continues. Perhaps by the next century, barring another forest fire, the Black Spruce will be the dominant species again.
But for the nature photographer, the early September colors and contrasts in the meantime are just too good to pass up.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 400mm, exposure of 1/320 at f8, ISO 250, handheld.
August 29, 2015
Besides the usual Zodiac and amphibious boat sightseeing tours of the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, this young entrepreneur was offering Stand Up Paddle Board tours. Decidedly not for the typical visitor, he wasn’t having much success finding willing customers to don a wetsuit and paddle among the icebergs.
But later in the evening, after the tourists had departed, I found him taking a self-tour in the fading light and approaching fog—-a man dedicated to his sport!
Canon 7D Mark II, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 100mm, exposure of 1/320 at f6.3, ISO 100, handheld.
July 27, 2015
Fair weather or foul, each summer day the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon is overrun by hordes of tourists. Apparently Iceland is now the “in” place to visit, resulting in a 50% increase of tourism this summer.
But by early evening the crowds thin, and by late evening only the photographers remain. Besides the lack of tourists, the lighting is usually more interesting and the ever-present wind usually dies down for calmer waters. As in all nature photography, rarely do all the key components necessary for great photography appear at the same time in the same place, so everyone makes the most of what they find…
Canon 5D Mark III, EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 100mm, exposure of 1/800 second at f8, ISO 400, handheld.
July 13, 2015
Estimates are that within 10-20 years the Atlantic Puffin will disappear from the Western Fjords of Iceland. Sand eels, the main prey food of puffins and other sea birds, are steadily declining as warmer ocean temps have allowed larger fish like mackerel to decimate their populations. As a result, very few puffin eggs are being laid or are being abandoned.
It may be a case of anthropomorphism on my part, but I think the ‘out and out’ fight I witnessed between these two puffins is an indication of the intra-species stress caused by the lack of food.
Canon 7D Mark II, EF100-400 II lens at 400mm, exposure of 1/640 at f8, ISO 100, handheld.
May 29, 2015
Normal travel time by ship across the Scotia Sea from South Georgia Island to the Antarctic Peninsula is about 3 days, but when faced with 90 knot headwinds and seas of 20-30 feet, you can add another 2 days to that. With such heavy seas, our ship, the Ortelius was lucky to make 3-4 knots/hour. Unfortunately, during the worst of the storm passengers were not allowed on the bridge to take photographs as the waves broke over the Ortelius' bridge. But as the storm slowly abated, I was able to capture this photograph of a wave breaking over the bow. For scale, keep in mind that the ship is 300 feet long...
GoPro Hero4 Silver, exposure of 1/750 second at f2.8, ISO 100, handheld.
May 2, 2015
To many people, 'photoshopped' has bad connotations because of all the questionable changes that can be made to an image, but what most people don't understand is that every photo taken with their digital camera or phone is automatically 'photoshopped' by the camera. Every digital image is lightened or darkened, contrast improved, colors saturated, sharpened, etc. to make a pleasing image.
Here, Photoshop saved this image of a Black-browed Albatross gliding over the colony; in the original image the albatross was lost in the cluttered background, but by lightening and slightly blurring the background I was able to separate it from its neighbors and still retain some semblance of the colony below.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF100-400mm IS lens at 310mm, exposure of 1/400 second at f8, ISO 100, handheld.
April 4, 2015
Hope Bay contains an Adelie Penguin colony of close to one-half million members, but since the colony is part of an Antarctica Specially Protected Area, visitors are not permitted to land on shore. These Zodiacs are returning from a morning of cruising the shoreline of the colony and the face of a nearby glacier. Smaller pieces of ice from the calving glacier litter the bay, forcing the boats to avoid the 'growlers'; larger pieces are called 'bergy bits'.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm IS lens at 105mm, exposure of 1/800 second at f8, ISO 100, handheld.
February 27, 2015
This King Penguin Colony is home to about 150,000 pairs, plus their almost one year offspring (the brown "Oakum Boys), along with many other non-breeding penguins on the beach. If you look closely, you'll see that the adults are either incubating eggs or protecting their new hatchlings, and that everybody is fairly equidistant from each other. That's not a coincidence-- each penguin is just inches beyond the pecking range of the neighbors!
Canon 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm IS USM II lens at 160mm, exposure of 1/500 second at f8, ISO 400, handheld.
January 14, 2015
Grytviken, on South Georgia island in the extreme southern Atlantic Ocean, became a thriving whaling station in 1904 until low whale populations forced it's closure in 1966. Nowadays the rusted remains are a tourist attraction (after an extensive clean-up of the hazards) for the many cruise ships that are required to stop for customs and immigration before exploring the island.
One of the hidden photographic gems I found on my visit, noticed only if one happened to look up, are these colorful doors to the furnace that provided the steam to render the oil from whale blubber. And it was probably the only non-rust colored thing that I saw…
Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm USM lens at 32mm, exposure of 1/30 second at f11, ISO 250, handheld.
January 14, 2015
Penguins can't fly, but they almost need to if they want to join their friends on an iceberg shelf. The ice shelf offers a place to rest and sleep without the chance of being eaten by a leopard seal--not that the leopard seal couldn't jump up itself, but their ability to chase a penguin out of the water is awkward at best.
These Gentoo penguins practiced porpoising out of the water for hours, with many spectacular feats and failures--some either missed the shelf completely, or bounced off their chests, or landed, only to slide backwards into the water. Who thought practice flying was a survival tool?
Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm USM lens at 58mm, exposure of 1/1600 second at f9, ISO 400, handheld.
November 29, 2014
Last month I couldn't help but notice the number of giant tree skeletons along the canyon rim, overlooking the Hoodoos of Bryce National Park. Where I live in the Alaska Range Mountains the Spruce trees pale in comparison in both girth and height, so I always notice any large trees. Even more striking are the dead trees, whose limbs against the sky are a study of lines and shapes. (Make sure you expand this thumbnail image). Hard to say what the cause of death was--no visible evidence of any fires, so that might indicate insects or disease.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm USM lens at 65mm, exposure of 1/320 second at f8, ISO 200, handheld.
October 31, 2014
"Ho, hum...just another noisy eruption. Can't a lazy buffalo get some decent sleep around here? Why are all those tourists looking at me? Oh, that's right, they traveled from all around the world just to see that smelly water gush out of the ground every 60 minutes or so. I should charge them for appearing in their pictures. A candy bar from each of them would be great. You know, it's a tough job posing for all those tourists. I'm glad the grass grows so well here--I hardly have to move anymore. Guess the show's over--time to munch more grass..."
Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm USM lens at 82mm, exposure of 1/1600 second at f8, ISO 200, handheld.
September 20, 2014
One of the difficulties of still photography is trying to convey the feeling of motion from a still photograph. One remedy is to use a slow shutter speed while panning the camera lens as it closely follows the subject, hopefully keeping the subject fairly recognizable and rendering the background as a linear blur. Good results take "on location" experimentation to determine the best shutter speed for the combination of subject motion and lens focal length.
Another use of this technique is on waterfalls, where the blurred water (from a slow shutter speed) against a sharp background helps reinforce the idea of falling water. See numerous examples in my Iceland Portfolio.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF300mm f2.8 II USM lens with 2X III teleconverter, exposure of 1/60 second at f25, ISO 200, Jobu 3 Jr. gimbal head mounted on an Apex beanbag.
August 29, 2014
With tonight's weather forecast of 1-2" of snow in the surrounding mountains, these Bitter Fleabane flowers have gone to seed just in time for the winds to disperse them. Bitter Fleabane is fairly common in Interior Alaska, typically found growing on recently disturbed gravel (my driveway).
Like last month's example of good bokeh, the background of this image was specifically chosen to be free of distractions and the proper exposure for the seed pods rendered it darker for even a more dramatic effect.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF100mm f2.8 macro lens, exposure of 1/200 second at f2.8, ISO 200, Arca Swiss ballhead on a Feisol CT3301 tripod.
July 28, 2014
Fireweed contributes a welcome splash of color to the otherwise green landscape of Alaska, especially so this summer when record rains have given us too many gloomy days. This plant is one of the first to appear on freshly disturbed earth and after forest fires.
Did you notice the pleasing out-of-focus background? This is the result of using a telephoto lens with an excellent bokeh (boh-kay, meaning a smooth rendering of out-of-focus points of light) along with an extension tube to allow close focusing. Not all lenses produce a pleasing to the eye background.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF300mm f2.8L II lens with a 36mm extension tube, exposure of 1/400 second at f6.3, ISO 200, Jobu Jr. 3 Deluxe Gimbal head on a Feisol 3371 tripod.
July 3, 2014
Not a dyslexic word transposition, but a rare example of an elephant killing something rather than being killed. This Secretary Bird chick, not quite old enough to fly, was thrown from its nest (at the top of the Acacia in the background, shown in the full image) after a bull elephant pushed the tree over. This is common, as witnessed by all the mangled trees on the Serengeti, since knocking a tree down brings more leaves within the elephant's reach. What is disturbing is that the chick appears to be old enough to have run away, so there is the distinct possibility that the elephant stomped on it. And it must have just happened, since the elephant was still feeding on the other side of the tree as I photographed.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF17-40mm f4 USM at 17mm, exposure of 1/200 second at f11, ISO 200, handheld.
May 22, 2014
Play toys for lion cubs are a little scarce on the Seregenti Plains, so mother's tail is fair game. When this three month old cub and her sister became a little too rambunctious around and on top of their mother, the lioness decided she had enough and tried to walk away. But this cub didn't want the fun to end quite yet...
Canon 5D Mark III, EF300mm f2.8 II + 2X Teleconverter III, exposure of 1/500 second at f8, ISO 320, gimbal head mounted on a beanbag.
April 30, 2014
I've just returned from another successful photographic safari in Tanzania--my goal was to photograph the wildebeest migration during the Green Season, and as you can tell from this photo, I succeeded! This part of the migration must have totaled 100-200 thousand animals (the migration also includes zebras and Thomson's Gazelles), and stretched as far as you could see. The herds are always on the move, looking for fresh grass; after they move on, the remaining grass is so short you would think that a lawn mower had just passed...
Canon 5D Mark III, EF100-400 f4.5 IS lens at 220mm, exposure of 1/250 second at f9, ISO 320, handheld.
March 24, 2014
Elephants are a fairly docile animal, and if your vehicle remains stationary rather than appearing threatening by advancing, most elephants will continue grazing around you. That is the key to getting close-ups of most animals--appear non-threatening, and they will continue going about their daily business. Elephants aren't really pure gray in color, since the color of the mud they cover themselves with influences the shade of gray, so I decided that a black and white image would be more striking, especially after restoring the normal eye color.
Canon 5D, EF100-400 f4.5 IS lens at 400mm, exposure of 1/200 second at f8, ISO 500, handheld.
March 2, 2014
"Wolf Eyes" is the title of a new Limited Edition photograph that I am preparing to offer soon. This image has languished in my slide files for ages, but I knew it had potential after some computer work. The photo was taken on a very dark and wet evening, so it lacked obvious contrast and color. My original intention was to convert it to a black and white, but once I saw the cream and tan colors of the fur, I knew it had to be in color. But to me the most captivating feature was the eyes, thus the title "Wolf Eyes". (Please note that this website version is cropped slightly different than the actual 16"X20" Limited Edition print)
February 3, 2014
Dawn on the Masai Mara can be a peaceful experience. The thermal-caused winds haven't started up yet, the noisy airplanes ferrying more tourists are still hours away, and other safari vehicles are scarce since they usually leave the lodges at sunrise. But photography can be difficult in such low light, such as the ISO 3200 needed to achieve even the very risky (too slow) shutter speed of 1/25 second. Another example of how Image Stabilization can save a photo...
Canon 5D Mark II, EF100-400 f4.5 IS lens at 190mm, exposure of 1/25 second at f8, ISO 3200, handheld.
January 15, 2014
Visiting the Serengeti Plains at the start of the long rains has its pros and cons. On the positive side, everything is green and there are fewer tourists; on the negative side, the rains might prevent you from crossing a small stream, or much worse, turn the plains into a quagmire. After watching a cheetah family in the pouring rain, this tourist safari vehicle unfortunately drove into a warthog hole as they tried to leave. After many attempts to extricate the vehicle from the hole, the driver radioed another company vehicle for assistance. To lighten the load in the stuck vehicle, all the passengers had to stand in the rain; surprisingly, they took the inconvenience in stride.
Canon 5D Mark II, EF500 f4 IS lens, exposure of 1/500 second at f8, ISO 400, handheld.
December 1, 2013
Thousands of summer tourists have watched this beaver swimming in Horseshoe Lake, near the entrance of Denali National Park, but very few have seen it on the final days of October, just before the cold temperatures seals the lake's surface with ice. The three resident beavers, with their daily forays seaching for food, had kept the last several hundred square feet of the lake free of ice with their movements. Several days later I returned to find the lake completely frozen over.
The unusual coloration of this image, a blue beaver in almost golden water, was the result of difficult photographic conditions: The open water was in the shade of trees, with no chance of direct sunlight; the golden reflection in the water was sunlight reflected off a nearby rock wall; and the wet beaver's back was reflecting the clear blue sky. And since the air temperature was well below freezing, 'blue' also described my fingers...
Canon 5D Mark III, EF100-400 f4.5 IS lens at 400mm, exposure of 1/320 second at f8, ISO 1250, handheld with Image Stabilization.
November 1, 2013
Who knew there was a monster lurking in the eddies of the Presque Isle River, in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Michigan's Upper Peninsula? I knew the habitat (eddies along the banks of slow moving rivers), knew the best season (peak leaf colors) and the conditions (lower water levels), but had to search many streams and rivers for this particular monster... :-)
I've just returned home from a long planned photographic safari of the western USA National Parks--my goal was to catch the flora and fauna in fall colors--plans that were stymied by the government shutdown and our extreme weather of late.
After being forced out of the western National Parks by the shutdown, and then chased further eastward by the first big snowstorm of the season, I finally found one of the subjects I was looking for, in Upper Michigan.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF 24-105 f4 lens at 55mm, exposure of 1/100 at f11, ISO 320.
September 18, 2013
Residents of Interior Alaska have learned that the appearance of the V formations of migrating Sandhill Cranes in mid-September signals a change in the weather. Despite the deceptively clear blue skies, these cranes are fleeing the state, ahead of an approaching Arctic cold front. They have spent the summer in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, or even Siberia, and are migrating to the American Southwest and Mexico for the winter. Several miles to the east of my house these loose formations join in huge upward spirals as they gain the altitude needed to cross over the Alaska Range Mountains.
As many thousands passed overhead (this Yukon-Kuskokwim group is estimated to total 200,00) while I was working in the driveway, the clouds quickly built, the temperature slowly dropped, and by the next afternoon, fine snowflakes were falling. Sounds like the cranes had the right idea...
Canon 5D Mark III, EF100-400 f4.5 lens at 400mm, 1/400 second exposure at f8, ISO 100, handheld.
September 1, 2013
One of the signs of another summer ending is the appearance of rosehips, the fruit of the Prickly Rose flower so commonly found around Alaska. Very edible with a taste resembling apples, but often overlooked by people harvesting the other more common berries, rosehips are usually left for the moose and other wildlife to eat throughout the winter. A shame, since they are packed with vitamins, as well as lycopene, thought toprotect against cancer.
Canon 5D Mark II, EF50mm f2.5 macro lens, exposure of 1/125 second at f5.6, ISO 200, handheld.
August 1, 2013
Imagine yourself driving in the middle of nowhere in the Eastern Iceland highlands, on an early summer day that still looks and feels like late winter, and finding a stainless steel sculpture next to the road. Digging into my guidebook, I found that this is actually a vent pipe for an underground penstock for the Karahnjukar Hydro Project, feeding water from a remote dam to a hydroelectric generating station near the coast. Leave it to the Icelanders to turn a rather mundane eyesore into a work of art...
Canon 5D Mark II, EF24-105 f2.8 lens @ 50mm, exposure of 1/500 second at f9, ISO 100, handheld.
July 1, 2013
For many years, in rain and snow and smoke from forest fires, I've noticed a couch full of stuffed animals stoically watching the traffic passing along the Parks Highway, in the Nenana Hills near Fairbanks. I don't know the story behind this display, but someone has been periodically adding more animals, tending to the fallen, and even hauling the couch back up the embankment after someone had pushed it over. Just one of those mysteries....
Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-105 f2.8 lens @ 24mm, exposure of 1/125 second at f11, ISO 100, handheld.