Category Archives: Nature

Gullfoss Iceland

Two tourists are dwarfed by the size of Iceland’s Gullfoss. (4325)

It seems like forever since I’ve posted anything in this space.

 

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Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

Autumn. Is. Here.

Unfortunately the rain is, too.

I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to get out and photograph the colors of autumn with the rain we’re getting. Sure, the precipitation gives everything a nice washing and pretty shine, but it’s a bitch for the way it knocks the leaves off of the trees. It’s also not the best for camera equipment. So this is a picture from last year in Traverse City, Michigan!

Yey fall colors!

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Yellow Eyes, Blue Feet

Yellow Eyes, Blue Feet

In the Galapagos Island, this may be one of the more famous birds. It has a variety of reasons for its notoriety. Its name, for starters, contains every man’s friend. The other note about their name is it comes from the Spanish word for “bobo,” which means, well, “dumb.”

The birds are, however, fairly intelligent animals. They have tremendous vision and are fantastic shallow water divers. The boobies mating dance could get them made fun of, though.

The males flaunt their blue feet, dancing to impress the female boobies; they’ll spread their wings, stomp their feet and squawk. If she likes him, the mating process will take less then five seconds. Together mom and dad watch the eggs, keeping them warm by holding their webbed-feet over them. After nearly nine months of incubation, the eggs will hatch and the parents will walk around with the chicks on their feet getting around.

And they’re kinda cute, too.

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Mother and Child Elephant

Mother and Child Elephant

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.

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Lion Cub on the Prowl

Lion Cub on the Prowl

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.

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Elephant’s Trunk

Elephant's Trunk

As big as elephants can be, some of my favorite pictures from our South African safari are the close-up pictures of them. In the South Africa section of the Galleries is a picture of an elephant’s eye and skin details. As I was scanning through images looking for something to post as today’s picture, I stumbled upon this photograph. I’ve seen this image before, obviously, but I really like the close-up of the elephant’s trunk as he grazes some food.

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Window Frost

Window Frost

Last week we received over a foot of snow in Chicago (fourteen inches of snow at our house). It was nice to have the time at home with my wife, whereas the last time we were pummeled I was out of town. While I’m a fan of the seasons and its varied temperatures, I could do without the arctic blast we get on occasion. Several years ago Chicago had a high of nine degrees below zero. Since I had a really, really old car at the time, I took the opportunity to run some errands and keep the engine warm (to avoid it freezing up).

This time, with the temperature being twelve degrees below zero outside, I have no problems staying in the house bundled up warm and cozy. My wife or I may open the door on occasion to let the dog out, but even with these temps, puppy has no desire to go outside either.

Given the weather being what it currently is, I wanted to take pictures but didn’t want to venture outside (one part lazy and part safety, I guess). So I compromised. From inside the garage looking out, the above picture is a close up of the frost which formed on the window. Puttering around the house and garage with my camera is a good way to keep cabin fever at bay without freezing my butt off.

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Resting Sea Lions

Resting Sea Lions

While in the Galapagos Islands, our catamaran was anchored just off shore from this beach. While we went kayaking and swam around, we noticed how many rocks were on the nearby shore.

After lunch, we jumped in the small raft and headed to shore. As we approached the sandy, boulder-filled beach, we realized the shore was full of sun bathing sea lions, not boulders.

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Water Droplets and Spider Webs

Water Droplets and Spider Webs

While taking the dog for a walk one morning last week, I realized there was a lot of dew on the ground. Since the puppy didn’t want to go back in the house, I decided to come outside and let her roam around in the yard while I took some shots with my camera.

Originally I started shooting the one or two water droplets on a blade of grass. Eventually, puppy was curious what I was doing at there went my photography subjects. After getting up from laying in the of the wet grass, I began slowly wandering around the yard, looking for anything else that may catch my eye.

In our strawberry planter was a small spiderweb criss-crossing the top portion of the now dormant plants. I was fascinated by all of the droplets caught in the web and happy to have my camera in my hand. I spent about a half-an-hour in the yard shooting things here and there.

Considering I probably wouldn’t have noticed the dew had the dog not been taken for a walk, and also considering that I don’t normally look in the top of the strawberry planter for spiderwebs, I was pleased with how everything unfolded, and how one event led to another.

It’s nice when it works out like that.

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Eating Elephant

Eating Elephant

There were so many parts of our South African safari that was, one way or another, on my bucket list; experiencing another culture, hearing the noises in the middle of the night, getting up close to animals, going to Africa, et cetera. One thing on the list, which I didn’t realize was on my bucket list until in occurred, was landing an airplane on a gravel airstrip.

No, I did not physically land the plane, however, as we came out of the clouds in our small, eight-seater airplane, I looked down through the window and saw our runway in the distance. As we got closer and closer to the place where we would be landing, I remember thinking “Why does that runway look different?”

There was something odd about the runway we were rapidly approaching. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but it looked a little more “rough” then most runways I’ve landed on.

Sure enough, as we were a few hundred yards from touching down, my brain processed that we were about to touch down on a gravel airstrip. I scrambled for my iPhone so I could record a video of us touching down.

It. Was. So. Loud.

Just driving on a gravel road can be deafening, but landing a plane on one seemed overwhelmingly loud. Additionally, being in an airplane, I felt like every one of the rocks “pinging” off of the wing was a little more terrifying than the rocks “pinging” off of my car’s fender.

In the end, it was a much smoother ride than I ever expected, but at the same time, it was so much louder than I ever thought it would be.

Obviously everything worked out and our plane landed and took off without issue. The whole thing took place after we left our safari, on our way back to civilization. Before leaving the wild animals that make a safari so incredible, we had spent time with the elephant above, as he enjoyed a mouthful of grass near Kruger National Park in South Africa.

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New Kid in Town

The following originally appeared with Vagabundo Travel Magazine on May 22, 2012:

“If you’re not comfortable, just let me know,” said Adam Richardson, as he started the engine of our Land Rover.

Adam was our guide with a private game reserve near South Africa’s Kruger National Park and he was talking to our tracker, Pauley. Pauley was firmly seated on the front of our vehicle in an attached chair, and the focus of our attention was a young, male leopard, with a notch in his right ear, who had recently wandered onto the property.

“Because if it is that leopard, we want to try to make sure we leave him happy.”

We first encountered the leopard a few days prior on a game drive shortly after he made a kill, and it was trying to drag the carcass into a tree.  The noise of the Land Rovers and cameras clicking away spooked the apprehensive leopard, so our guide chose to pull away and let him get slowly acclimated to human interactions before trying to get close again.

Now, a couple of days later, we were on a game drive through the bush and stumbled upon a large, male rhinoceros patrolling its area.  We watched as the rhinoceros approached his dung pile and proceeded to mark its territory.  Then our guide, knowing what was developing, zipped ahead to a nearby watering hole, realizing it was probably the next stop for the rhinoceros.

After we parked near some large bushes for cover, the rhinoceros approached the scene, checked out the surroundings and plopped into the mud pit.  He rolled around in the mud, freely passing gas, while my wife shot video and I took pictures. After he was finished, the rhinoceros made his way up the small incline towards a clearing.

About 15 feet from the watering hole, the wandering rhinoceros was caught off guard by a leopard laying in wait.  The rhinoceros jumped in the air from fright, but continued his course knowing the leopard wouldn’t attack. While Adam was repositioning the Land Rover for a closer view of the leopard, he realized it was the same apprehensive animal from a few days prior.

Very cautiously the leopard watched as the Land Rover slowly crept towards it’s resting place.  At a safe distance, Adam turned off the engine and for nearly an hour he, my wife and I chatted about everything from life as a guide to the potential back-story of this leopard.

Our guide’s goal was to give the leopard an opportunity to have a good experience with vehicles and people.  Each time the wildlife on South African game reserves has a good experience with vehicles, the more likely it will allow the vehicles to get in closer next time; the sounds of the vehicle’s engine, people’s voices or clicking cameras will no longer bother it as much.  In this particular case, Adam had a new animal on the property that could use some “TLC,” plus he had my wife and I in the vehicle and we were more than happy to give the leopard all the time it needed.

It was one of those unplanned moments in life where “going with the flow” was exactly what was needed.  As a result, the whole sequence became one of my favorite moments on our safari: the skill of our guide Adam to acknowledge an opportunity ahead with the rhinoceros aiming for the watering hole; the adorable “freak out” from said rhinoceros stumbling upon the new leopard; the new leopard checking out humans, letting out a large yawn and falling back to sleep for its nap; us parking and allowing the leopard to become acclimated to tourists and Land Rovers; knowing that, potentially, my wife and I are helping a family get closer to the leopard when they come for their safari in a few weeks or a few months.

Arriving back at the lodge fairly late from our time with the rhinoceros and then the leopard, the other guests were all gathered near the fireplace swapping stories about their day’s game drives while sipping cocktails. Three women from the United States really, really wanted to see a leopard but hadn’t been fortunate enough yet, but they also knew that we had been very lucky to see a leopard every day (including an incredible kill on our first night). Because it was best for the new leopard to only have one compassionate vehicle near it — versus swarms of vehicles and tourists — other guides respectfully stayed away and mentioned nothing to their guests. As a result of all of this, it was sort of a situation that became “our little secret” with the other guides in the lodge. Showing up late, one of the women looked directly at me and said “Don’t tell me you saw another leopard today!”

I am a terrible liar, so I mumbled some sentence containing a “No” and quickly took a large gulp of my drink.

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Tulip Standing Tall

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.

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Lion Cub Watching Its Mother

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.

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Grazing Giraffes

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.

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Bringing Up the Rear

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.

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It’s a Jungle Out There

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.

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Fall Beauty

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.

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Mother and Baby Elephant

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.

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Brightly-colored Leaves

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.

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Caterpillar on the Move

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.

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