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Category Archives: Nature
Hello beautiful weather. So nice to see you!
After a rather forgettable winter, our spring has been rather insane. In Chicago, we’ve gone from 40-degree days one day to 80-degree days the next. As I write this, our “normal” is somewhere near 70-degrees, but I feel like every day is about twenty degrees warmer, or twenty degrees cooler. Getting dressed in the morning makes for an interesting challenge.
Nearly two years ago, to the day, I took the above picture at the Chicago Botanic Garden, in Glencoe, Illinois. That particular spring was as normal as normal could get, which was nice for planning trips to the botanical garden. This year, however, I find myself at Mother Nature’s mercy, as I try to work in time to get out and take pictures of everything from iconic lighthouses to flowering tulips.
It’s been awhile — a long while — since I’ve posted an image to this space.
Somewhere towards the beginning of 2010, I decided to regularly post an image to my website. It was nice getting a lot of varied images off of my hard-drive and up on the website. My site’s traffic went from one or two page views a week to nearly 8,000 page views last month. The biggest reason that number appeals to me is that, last year, nearly 15,000 visitors checked out my images.
That’s pretty cool.
If you follow me on Facebook, I recently posted a picture of greeting cards in a few UPS Stores. It’s nice to know that someone likes my photography enough to buy it and send it to a friend or family member. It’s also nice to know the images have gotten off of my hard drive.
That all being said, towards the end of last year I decided I was going to scale back my photoblog. Somewhere along the way I realized I was working harder on content than quality. I was trying to pump out an image a day, and instead of getting up early for a spectacular sunrise, I was staying up late working on blog images. Ask any photographer, they’d much rather take pictures than write about them.
So I’m scaling back my photoblog. Things are busier now more than ever, which isn’t a bad thing, but I’m going to take a bit of time off from photoblogging, then occasionally I’m going to post a blast of photos at a time. Instead of one photo a day, I may post five or ten at a time, a couple of times a month.
Please stick around for the journey. I truly enjoy photography and hope you’ll enjoy what I produce. Some images are good, some images suck, and some images even take my breath away. Hopefully changing up how I do my photoblog produces more breath-taking photos.
One of the first things our guide asked us on our safari was “What do you hope to see?” I said I was hoping to see some baby animals (they’re always so cute) and my wife was destined to see giraffes.
As our time on the safari continued on, our guide heard about a group of giraffes on the edge of the property and raced to let us see them. They’re quiet animals, enormously tall, and vegetarians. They happily grazed on the leaves of the surrounding trees, and paid no attention to the Americans watching from not far away.
On safari in Kruger National Park, I could sit and watch the lion cubs for hours. They’d jump; they’d play; they’d hide in the bushes to attack one another. It was just like the movie The Lion King where the two cubs ran and played with each other. I follow our Private Game Reserve on Facebook and have watched the cubs grow into adult lions and set out on their own. I’m extremely happy to have been able to see and spend time with the lions when they’re that super-cute “cuddly wuddly” phase of young and adorable. A few months later and they would have been able to eat me in one bite.
I’d like to post something profound or poetic in this space, but these are just a bunch of pretty flowers from the Chicago Botanic Garden, located outside of the city of Chicago.
As the leaves start to fall off the trees for the year, I find myself looking ahead to May in hopes of more fun foliage to shoot. Sure, there is a hearty winter between now and then which will offer a bunch of good photo opportunities. Winter will also offer a few great nights to stay inside to keep warm.
While most of the leaves have made their way from the trees to the ground, it’s still a fine time of year to look for fall colors. A lot of really pretty views can be had by looking much closer at the small details of nature.
I’ve seen a number of great photographs this year of brightly-colored leaves in the process of changing colors. Just yesterday I saw a fantastic image of a leaf sitting on the ground, but with a slight layer of frost on it. So, while the wide, expansive shots of autumn have, apparently, come and gone, the beautiful colors are still everyone.
I look back at pictures from our safari in South Africa and it makes me want to jump on a plane and go on another one. Unfortunately it takes a bit more planning and money to do that, but it was a truly majestic experience that I won’t ever forget.
In Kruger National Park, the animals can get overwhelmed by tourists snapping photos and surrounded them with their vehicles. On the private game reserves located throughout the African continent, the animals are better cared for and the experiences are incredible. Their comfort around people in vehicles gave it a whole new level of awesomeness.
The elephants, pictured above, weren’t too concerned about us in our vehicle because it is something they’re used to, and they don’t ever really have issues with people. Leaving animals with good experiences with humans will insure they aren’t scared of us the next time come back.
Autumn is my favorite time of the year as I love the colors of the trees and the crispness in the air. (I’m also a big fan of apples.)
I’ve blocked off a number of days this year to go out and shoot the changing colors. It’s always an “educated guess” with reserving a week or two several months out, but even the front and back end of those dates can be beautiful. Fortunately, there are a number of websites that track the fall foliage (like the Weather Channel’s) so I’ll check them regularly and pack a few energy drinks for when the timing is right.
One of the marque items while exploring the Galapagos Islands is how docile the wildlife is. Most of the animals have no predators, so it is possible to get closer to the animals without them running away.
A lot closer to the animals.
While swimming near shore, an adult sea lion swam up and started to play around with me. The next day, a sea lion jumped up onto the back my my kayak and hitched a ride. It really is an incredible experience and I strongly encourage everyone to plan some time and set aside some money to go.
While exploring the fabled Galapagos Islands, it is easy to focus so much on the big-ticket items — century-old turtles, sea lions, sting rays, etc. — that it’s easy to forget about the smaller things. The caterpillar picture above is just wandering across the land. While hiking on one of the islands I saw him down by my feet and crouched down for a closer look.
He’s extremely colorful and I’m glad I was able to take pictures of him instead of unknowingly squish him beneath my feet.
While on a safari in South Africa, my wife and I were fortunate enough to meet Nottens. She’s a female leopard and has grown up on the private game reserve located adjacent to Kruger National Park. The first night we were staying on the property, Nottens was tracking a meal when our vehicle spooked the animal she was about to pounce on. As Nottens made her way for other dinner options, we followed close behind.
Slowly she crept along in the tall grass keeping a close eye on a large field full of impalas. Quietly she waited for the right moment to act and, as if giving her a gift, a few of the impalas broke away from the rest of the pack and walked right into where Nottens was hiding. Suddenly, she sprang from her hiding place and scattered the impalas. In one lightning-fast move, she reached out her giant paw and brought down an impala, quickly breaking its neck. Our guide put us in a fantastic position to watch the drama unfold, and after the coast was clear, he drove us closer to the kill site.
Nottens was fast at work devouring her catch. This was Africa at its wildest, and the leopard knew her time was short. Before long, hyenas caught on to the action and wanted a piece of it for themselves. Using strength in numbers, three of them moved in, driving Nottens from her meal. Wisely, she ate as much as she could before the hyenas arrived so when she ran off it was with enough food to make it another day. Meanwhile, the hyenas couldn’t settle on who should eat, so they began to fight amongst themselves for the meal.
After we originally spotted her, barely ten minutes had passed before Nottens brought down an impala. A mere six minutes of feeding had passed before hyenas had chased her off. Such is life on the African bush.
I’m primarily self-trained as a photographer. Some time back in my childhood my parents gave me a small film camera that, I think, took 110-style film. Later on I graduated to a 35mm camera and didn’t get very far with it. I remember exploring an extremely old cemetery in my teens, only to become very disappointed when I realized the camera was broken and after I took a picture it didn’t advance the film.
After purchasing a new camera, in high school I put together a small, monthly newspaper about whatever seemed super-important to a kid at the time. As our grade would go on field trips, I begun to travel my camera along with a roll of black and white film loaded in it (it was easier to print black and white images in my black and white newspaper). By high school I joined the yearbook club and attended all of one meeting. I did, however, enjoy the photography class in which we developed our own film in the lab.
Years later I didn’t do much of anything with photography. In college I had a Polaroid camera, which was the earliest form of Instagram. Beyond that, I didn’t do much until 2005 when I purchased a Nikon D70s before a trip to Italy. Since then, I’ve watched my photography grow from simply taking pictures while on vacation to taking specific vacations to take pictures. Those early images from 2005 through 2010 can be pretty rough. Sure, there are some things I’m proud of, but as the saying goes, “Every-now-and-then even a blind squirrel gets a nut.”
As the years progressed, my image-making improved. I’m pretty proud of some of the pictures in my portfolio. Additionally, some things not in the portfolio have been used in advertisements, travel brochures, newspaper articles and even hang on peoples’ walls.
Looking back at pictures through the years, like the above one of a flamingo in the Galapagos Islands, I’m amazed at how rough my photography was back then. As the years have progressed, so have my skills. If an overly-backlit flamingo in search of food helps me learn and advance my ability, then so be it. It all has to start somewhere.
Last week I asked how many pictures I’d take on any given vacation, and I genuinely didn’t know.
There is always discussion amongst photographers about taking too many pictures. One of the guys I frequently work with is on an effort to take less pictures this year. In general, a lot of photographers can hold their finger on the camera’s shutter button and fire off nearly a dozen frames per second. They then have to go through and decide which of those dozen is “the best.” The guys next to me at baseball games will do this for every pitch for most of the game. At the Air and Water Show in Chicago a few weeks back, one photographer I know took nearly 3,000 images in two days. Wedding photographers can shoot several thousand images in a day. So when my co-worker says he’s trying to take less pictures, I clearly see his point. Nobody picks up a camera and says “I want to sit in front of a computer editing images all day long!”
So to answer the question how many pictures can I take on a vacation: I suppose it varies amongst photographers, location and time spent taking pictures.
For myself, whom I’ll call a “serious hobbyist,” spending a week in Maine during autumn netted nearly 600 pictures. While in South Africa, which is where the above Black-collared Barbet is native to, I took 1,100 images during the five-day safari.
Wandering around in my parents’ garden (the size of which dwarfs my garden), I was introduced to the resident garter snake. Apparently, he hangs out and eats whatever may pass by and does fairly well himself. Knowing he was fairly docile allowed me to get pretty close for some pictures. Occasionally he’d flick his tongue out (a snake’s way of smelling) but that was the extent of our time together. I didn’t want to stay too long to freak him out and I didn’t have the patience to sit and wait hoping for him to devour something scampering by.
Springtime is always fun with the brightly-colored flowers popping up all over the place. Even when they are small and don’t have a lot of color, the flowers attract bees for pollination. There is the old phrase about stopping to smell the flowers once in awhile, but it’s also fun to stop and watch the flowers on occasion. There is a tiny ecosystem in operation along with the scent that can be quickly passed over if one is too busy to look around and enjoy.
In Bali, Indonesia is a forest called Alas Kedaton, and within that forest is the small Alas Kedaton Temple. Monkeys live and play within the forest and have taken advantage of the quiet atmosphere surrounding the temple. Fairly docile yet extremely playful, monkeys will wander around the forest and play with the tourists who make their way here. Some will run and jump on their human counterparts and some will look curiously at their own reflections in camera lenses.
This past weekend my wife was out of town and I had great plans of living the life of a bachelor. However, Friday’s baseball game involved a nearly-four hour rain delay and Saturday I fell asleep on the couch before I could make it out to a friend’s birthday party.
So, I ended up doing a lot of nothing.
Something I did before I fell asleep was go through a lot of my “saved” websites within my internet browser. Basically, over the years, I’ve been bookmarking photographers I like with the intention of going back to their site to see what they’ve been up to. Turns out I forgot about most of them. With the advent of Facebook, I looked up each of them to see who had pages and who didn’t. I liked whoever had a Facebook “photography” page where I can, hopefully, keep up better with what they’re doing.
None of this, of course, has anything to do with the above picture from Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois.
Last week I was driving along the highway shortly after midnight and looked to the east as the moon peaked over the horizon. Earth’s natural satellite looked enormous in the night sky, so I took the next exit and drove about a mile off of the highway to photograph it.
I’m surprised how quickly the moon (and sun) move in the sky. When standing outside and looking directly at it, the moon doesn’t move very much. The closer one looks the more noticeable the movement. When framed inside my camera’s lens, every minute or so I’d have to change my composition to keep the moon in the frame.
By the way, the above image is heavily cropped. I don’t have one of those crazy big lenses to zoom all the way in to explore the moon. Once I got home and downloaded the images into the computer, it’s fun to blow up the moon’s image and look at the surface and all the craters.
One of the nice parts about going on a safari via a private game reserve is, I feel, the animals are far more docile. In the massive Kruger National Park anyone can drive through and scare the living bejeezus out of the animals, but private game reserves are far more strict on some rules, yet loose on others.
This really pays off with the different animals because they’re not as terrified of humans as they may otherwise be. As long as the animals are continuously left with a good experience with humans, they will continue to not be as terrified of them.
So, at a watering hole while in South Africa, we were able to sit and watch elephants drink water while other animals moseyed up and drank as well. The kudus (picture above) did glance over at us on occasion, but for the most part everyone did their thing and life continued without much care for the humans in the land rover nearby.
Recently I changed how I was going through my pictures.
Normally I’d import however many images I took, scan through them to choose the better ones, then post those in the galleries section, on this blog or on Facebook. Lately, however, I learned I’m skipping over a lot of good photographs in search of the next better one.
I learned with India to take the time and go through each picture to look at it. Yes, it may take several days, but I’d rather not fill my hard-drive up with 1,000 images I won’t ever use, and instead see about making all of the better pictures work. Between this photoblog and my stock photography sales (which I’m terrible at keeping up with), I can certainly do more with all of the pictures I’ve taken.
Both of the family of flowers, the dark red “Ronaldo Triumph Tulip” and the orange “Temple’s Favorite Single Late Tulip” grow at the Chicago Botanic Garden.