Archive for the Travel Category

Miriam’s Place

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2014 by chamimage
Flame-colored Tanager

Flame-colored Tanager

One of the most awesome days I have had as a photographer occurred last December in Costa Rica at Miriam’s Place, Comidas Tipicas Miriam.

We spent the morning in transit from La Selva in the hot and humid central Costa Rica to the Talamanca Mountains in southern Costa Rica, which are cool and not humid at all.

We arrived in time for lunch, and oh what a lunch Miriam made for us. Her restaurant is on a windy gravel road that runs seriously downhill from the main highway to Savegre Lodge where we were to stay.

She kept bringing out dishes full of chicken that fell off of the bone, the traditional rice and beans that are required fare for every meal in Costa Rica, even breakfast. I can’t even remember what all was served now, but I remember it was the best lunch I ever had and I was hungry.

After lunch we got our gear and headed out into the back yard where bird feeders were set up. The action in Miriam’s back yard was non-stop all afternoon. We shot flame-colored tanagers, acorn woodpeckers, yellow-thighed finches, slaty flowerpiercers (they pierce the base of a flower with their beak to get at the nectar); mountain robins, slaty robins; rufus-collared sparrows and magnificent hummingbirds.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

At one point some other photographers stopped by and were very disappointed that we were already there. They decided they would come back later. They had some perches they wanted to set up so we offered to set them up for them.

“Oh no, these are our very own special perches just for our photographs.” Really. They hid the perches in the house for later. We heard Miriam and her daughter laughing in the kitchen. It turns out she knew where these very special perches were hidden and wanted us to set them up. She was not impressed with the other photographers attitude. She was feeling naughty and so were we so we got the perches out and set them up, fully intending to leave them set up.

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Slaty Flowerpiercer male

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Slaty Flowerpiercer female piercing flower.

The evening was then spent photographing Resplendent Quetzals in a wild avocado tree down the canyon a ways, just to round out a long, productive day in the rain forest. And the cool nights in the mountains were so welcome after sleeping in wet sheets from the humidity in other humid parts of Costa Rica.

Yellow-thighed Finch

Yellow-thighed Finch

Mountain Robin

Mountain Robin

 

Rowena Crest and Oneonta Gorge

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2014 by chamimage
Rowena Crest

Rowena Crest

I made a trip to the Columbia River Gorge last weekend for photography at Rowena Crest and Oneonta Gorge.

Rowena Crest is a plateau above the Columbia River on the east end of the Columbia Gorge just before you reach The Dalles on the Oregon side. The hills are carpeted with arrowleaf balsamroot and lupines in late April and early May. The most popular spot for photography is the Tom McCall Nature Conservancy area at the top of the hill. I’ve seen some photographs from the Washington side of the river, also, but have not gone over there to see what is there.

The previous times I have been to Rowena I was pretty much all alone, but last weekend was packed with photographers. Fortunately they all seemed to be enamored with areas where I didn’t want to work, anyway. I suspect the clustering of them in one spot suggested a photography workshop. I think photography social media such as Google+ has led to a lot more people finding my suddenly not so secret spots. I was told that the traffic jam to get to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, Oregonon the weekend this year was miles long.

Rowena Wildflowers

Rowena Wildflowers

The Columbia River Gorge is the windsurfing capitol of the world so photographing wildflowers on the open prairie in the evening is not going to happen. When I arrived late in the day I concentrated on the sheltered areas toward the base of the hill. The lupines were much better developed than they were on top of the hill. This area is more oak savanna with lots of poison oak and wild turkeys.

There were rain showers with brief clearings, so I sat in my car and read a book until it stopped raining and then sprinted out to take the next photograph. I usually had enough time for one photo and to scout the next one before it rained for another fifteen minutes. The only downside to my plan was a road kill deer in the ditch that made getting to and from the car and bit odorous.

At the end of the night I set up looking down on the winding road that comes up the hill and waited and waited for a car to provide me with headlights to streak, but no luck. In retrospect I should have gotten my long lens out and shot down onto the I-84 in the distance as Plan B. Driving up the hill at dusk I saw wild turkeys in two different places along the very short road.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

The next morning was still raining, but it cleared just in time for the sunrise. The workshop group was working an area facing east, shooting into the sun. The photos I’ve seen looked very good. I worked the area facing northwest. I was all alone out there. There were deer grazing. Turkey vultures nest in the rock face overlooking the river.

Oneonta Gorge

Oneonta Gorge

On the way back west along the Columbia Gorge I stopped at Oneonta Gorge. It is located east of Multnomah Falls a few miles. You have to really want to photograph Oneonta. To get into the gorge you have to strap on your chest waders and get into the creek, then scale a twenty foot high log jam and get back into the creek on the other side. It is best to put all of your camera gear into a backpack so you can use two hands on the log jam, you’ll need them. If you fall and get swept under the log jam, nobody is ever going to find you. The Marines could use this as an obstacle course.

I’m not sure why the state of Oregon hasn’t cleared that log jam. I suspect they are waiting for a movie studio to want to shoot back in there bad enough to dynamite the log jam for them. This would be a great place to shoot a movie.

The water in the spring is fairly swift and deep. Everything in the bottom pockets of my photography vest got wet. Oneonta Gorge is relative short and there is a waterfall at the end of it.  You can see the end of it once over the log jam, though you don’t know it because the waterfall is off to one side a bit.

I was all alone at Oneonta. Time of day is unimportant, but if you want sun filtering through the misty water falling on each side of the gorge you will need to be there in mid day. A lot of people wade in the creek in summer, but very few scale the log jam and walk on the far side of it. Still you probably wouldn’t get a shot without people wading in the creek on a summer weekend unless you got there very early.

One fine day

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2014 by chamimage
Baby Green Sea Turtle

Baby Green Sea Turtle

By far the highlight of our last full day in Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica was finding hatching baby green sea turtles. We had been told none of the nests looked like they were ready to hatch that evening. They always hatch at dusk, I assume to avoid bird predation.

We had been entertaining ourselves while our local boat driver took a look up and down the beach. He had given up and was almost back to the boat (which, strangely, was on the other side of the Tortuguero airport runway) when he came across the hatching nest. I had to sprint about one hundred yards in sand so was pretty breathless when I got to the turtles.

They go fast. The trick is to photograph them without leaving big old footprints in the sand for the next turtle to fall into. You lean a lot.

Todd

Todd

Here is our trip leader, Todd Gustaffson with his 15 mm fish-eye lens, getting the turtle, Caribbean, and sky all in the same shot. Tells a story. You can see where a little turtle might fall into foot or knee prints, but they were strong and climbed right out when the did. I wonder how they know which way the ocean is?

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

As fun as the evening was, the morning started off with a bang, as well. We had exhausted the rivers and lagoons by then so opted to take our morning boat ride northward, past the village of Tortuguero, itself.

I think the yellow-crowned night-herons are especially lovely. This one is on a sea wall.

 

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

The fog didn’t suddenly set in. I must have shot through someone’s hat or something. It was surprising how quickly we learned to not lurch around an rock the boat while shooting. It still helps to keep the shutter speed 1,000 or higher.

Tiger-herons

Tiger-herons

On my previous trip to Costa Rica I had seen just one tiger-heron so was hoping to find more. We ended up seeing them everywhere this time. These are bare-throated tiger-herons standing in a blue and white boat that is docked. The orange is a retaining wall.

Tiger-herons

Tiger-herons

Maybe they were waiting for a ride? The lagoon eventually leads to the Caribbean. Some of the lodges near where the herons were cater to marlin fishermen. All of the lodges were serviced by boats. There are no roads in Tortuguero. You get in via about a twenty mile boat ride, then end of which is pretty wild. Big boats speeding up and down a narrow, narrow river – both ways. We didn’t lose anybody. It costs a dollar to pee at the car park before your long bus ride back to civilization.

Caribbean

Caribbean

 

Tortuguero Birds

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2013 by chamimage
Sungrebe

Sungrebe

Our first stop in Costa Rica earlier this month was Tortuguero National Park in northeastern Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast. Tortuga means turtle in Spanish and Tortuguero is named after the green sea turtles that were found to nest on the beaches here. More on those in a future post.

Tortuguero is like the bayou country in the southern U.S. There are no roads so everybody uses boats for their daily activities. There is a large lagoon that parallels the coast for twenty-two miles, two rivers, and a series of canals that criss-cross the park. The canals were dug sixty years ago when the area was logged for teak and mahogany. So Tortuguero has rain forest, swamp, and beach habitat all in one place.

We explored Tortuguero in an open boat, open to allow us to look up into the tree canopy for Howler, spider, and capuchin monkeys, bird nests, and green iguanas sunning themselves on tree limbs.

The sungrebe above was found swimming and feeding at the edge of the main lagoon. It is always fun to find and photograph a bird that you never even heard of before. He is looking for bugs in an overhanging limb in the photo above.

Little Blue Heron with Pipefish

Little Blue Heron with Pipefish

We found a lot of herons walking and feeding from the floating mats of vegetation on the edges of the canals. There were so many little blue herons and green herons that the boat driver wouldn’t even stop for them any longer after the first day. This little blue heron snagged a pipefish (a relative of the sea horse). Much to his consternation, the pipefish wrapped himself around the heron’s beak. The heron would normally toss his prey up and swallow it as he caught it from the air, but the pipefish was foiling his technique. It was still a stalemate as we drifted away.

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Another bird I had never heard of before photographing it at Tortuguero was the purple gallinule. These guys are related to rails and soras. He was feeding on a mat of vegetation beside some northern jacanas before he lept up onto this branch for his portrait session. While I was taking this image I missed a shot that would have been very interesting. Others in our boat had closer proximity and a better angle to photograph the jacanas and I looked up to see our guide with his cell phone about two inches from a jacana taking its photograph. I wished I had photographed him photographing the jacana. The birds in Tortuguero have become very accustomed to the boats and, much like in Africa, they seem to see only the vehicle and not the people that occupy it.

Later, as I process the images, I’ll talk about the tiger herons, monkeys, and turtles of Tortuguero. Then on to the toucans and tanagers (and squirrels!) of La Selva and the Resplendent Quetzals and hummingbirds of Savegere.

Desert Landscape

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2013 by chamimage
Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch

I had hoped to post some nice new landscape images from Central Oregon today, but when I got to the summit of the Cascade Mountains at Santiam Pass, the view eastward was of socked in smoke. Curse you forest fires!

I back-tracked to Detroit Lake and headed up to Breitenbush Lake. This is not a road for the timid. It involves crawling over basketball-sized rocks for about an hour. You can come in from Ollallie Lake, too, but that is equally, if not more, rough and is steep to boot.

Green River Overlook

Green River Overlook

I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in to Jefferson Park and back just for a workout. Even high in the Cascades it was too smoky for landscapes and I was relegated to shooting wildflowers, which I would have photographed, anyway.

I hadn’t anticipated backpacking so didn’t bring any gear to camp over at Jefferson Park. There is a photograph up there of Mt. Jefferson at sunrise that has eluded me. Someday soon I’m going back to get it, sharp this time. Yesterday the mountain was socked in haze.

Shafer Canyon

Shafer Canyon

All but one of these photos are all from Canyonlands National Park out of Moab, Utah. I was there in March and experienced a bit of everything – snow, heat, and wind so strong there was no way you could have gone out without goggles or glasses due to the flying pebbles. I never found the False Kiva (Well worth Googling to see a photo of it) on that trip so will have to go back. I was following a guidebook description and re-traced my steps a dozen times. Now the GPS coordinates are listed on-line and in guidebook updates.

Aztec Granary

Aztec Granary

I did find this Aztec granary on Aztec Butte. They must have had a heck of a rat problem.

Shafer Canyon

Shafer Canyon

Another place I would like to explore if I go back to Canyonlands is Dead Horse State Park. As I recall there was some road work being done and it cost to get in and I had plenty of other things to do. Of course, then you come home and see all of the photos and realize it would have been killer. I didn’t pack a laptop on the road then like I do now.

Ghost Ranch

Ghost Ranch

This one is not from anywhere near Canyonlands, but I worked on it today so threw it in. This is New Mexico. The artist Georgia O’Keeffe lived here on a ranch called Ghost Ranch. It is near Abiqu, which is north of Santa Fe and south of Taos. I happened to be there when storm clouds came through ad created some interesting light.

 

The Lions

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , on June 10, 2013 by chamimage
Lioness

Lioness

I have just finished reading Man-eaters of Tsavo, by J.H. Patterson and Out of Africa, by Isak Dineson (aka Karen Blixen) back to back. Tsavo is about Kenya in the 1890’s and Out of Africa is about Kenya in the World War I era.

What is striking about these books is the attitude toward the animals. I tried my best to keep the era in which they were written in context, but both books were a blood bath for wildlife, especially lions.

At least in the Tsavo book the body count probably favored the lions. The author was an engineer putting in the railway from Mombasa to Nairobi. While building a bridge over the Tsavo River they were haunted by a pair of lions that found preying on humans easier and safer than trying to bring down 400+ pound hoofed animals. Despite their best efforts at building thorny barriers around the tents, the lions consistently broke through in the middle of the night and tidily extracted an Indian worker from a tent.

Yawning Lion

Yawning Lion

At one point or another, lions tried to jump through an open window in a box car; entered a box car through a sliding door and when it closed behind him he carried the human out by breaking through a window; tried to rip the corrugated sheet metal off of the top of a train station to get at the human inside. I wouldn’t plan on reading this book while on safari and sleeping in a tent in the bush.

The author waited night after night with his gun, but the lions always managed to strike a different camp than he was guarding…until they didn’t. He finally ends up killing both of those lions plus a good ten or so others, just for sport. As well as at least one of pretty much everything that moved on the savanna. I think the hippos thwarted him. And the rhinos should have rightfully killed him a couple of times.

But those were the days when birders took a gun in the field with them so they could kill the bird for a closer look. Animals were plentiful and, despite the lesson of the bison, there was skepticism that there could ever be a shortage of wildlife.

Karen Blixen is famous in Nairobi for Out of Africa. Seemingly everything is named Karen after her there. There is a Karen Blixen Museum. She also liked to take her gun in the field and especially liked to shoot lions. At one point she waxes poetic about the lioness silhouetted against the horizon. So regal. Then she shoots it. Whenever she was out and about with her boyfriend and they came across lions and he asked if they should stop and shoot them, the answer was always yes. Sigh. Context, Thomas, context.

Interesting that in the Tsavo book Nairobi was no more than a train station when the author first arrived. Then a market sprung up, but plague occurred so he burned the market to the ground. It worked to stop the plague outbreak. Not sure why. I guess it scattered the rats (and their fleas) and the humans.

By the time Karen Blixen came along fifteen short years later Nairobi was bustling. I had not seen the movie Out of Africa.  I tried to watch it once, but I have this aversion to Meryl Streep for some reason, and lasted only about ten minutes before I had to turn it off. I have seen the coffee and tea plantations north of Nairobi and it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I could totally live there.

Malheur Trip

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2013 by chamimage
Corral

Corral

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge does not give up its secrets easily, and last week was no exception. Like any wildlife location, you need to spend some time when you first arrive to do some scouting and network with locals to find out what is happening in the refuge. No matter how may times you’ve been to a place, every year is different, every day is different.

This year I went to Malheur (which means sorrow or misfortune, in French) a week earlier than usual due to the vagaries of my call schedule. I discovered that a week later than usual might have been a better choice. The migratory birds, such as the western tanagers and Bullock’s orioles,  had not arrived yet.

White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis

The first thing I noticed on arrival was that the white-faced ibis were not in the ranch pastures as they had always been in the past. I soon found that they were in the refuge in abundance, but due to low water levels they were dispersed to other areas with more standing water. I got some flight shots of them and the above image from the OO Ranch pond, but they were mostly inaccessible this year for photography. They even changed their roost location so the flight corridor in the evening was different.

Mountain Cottontail Rabbit Baby

Mountain Cottontail Rabbit Baby

I decided I would need to work the subjects I found a lot harder and not flit from here to there in an ADD fashion. That meant spending a lot of time with the babies on the grounds at the refuge headquarters. There are two adult Great Horned owls in this place so this was the only baby rabbit left of the litter, though I did find momma. Interestingly, she jumped up on a low rock fence for a while, but not long enough for me to get a photo other than of her butt right before she hopped back down again.

Ground Squirrle Baby

Ground Squirrel Baby

When the baby rabbit took a nap I turned to the ubiquitous baby ground squirrels. They did have brothers and sisters to play with and it was good comic relief to stop and watch them wrestle for a while. Like meercats, they are infinitely cutest when they stand on two legs.

Bull

Bull

On the way out to OO Ranch I got behind a herd of about twenty bulls. I imagine these must be rodeo stock. I’m not sure why else one ranch would have so many bulls. There were actually about forty altogether, with just twenty on the road. This guy was the big daddy. I wasn’t going anywhere until they decided to clear the road. When they did the herd broke up at a Y intersection and this guy became clearly upset about it. It’s not a pretty sight when this guy gets upset and about the time I took this image I was thinking seriously about backing WAY back away from him. I would not want to be the bull rider that is stepped on by him. It was amazing to see how close these bulls were and how they banded together. There was a little friendly horn to horn pushing going on, but there was  no question who the dominant bull was.

Corral B&W

Corral B&W

Unlike most of my past visits to Malheur, it remained a bit hard to scare up much to point a camera at in terms of wildlife, though I did see five different Great Horned Owls, including a nest, and three different burrowing owls. Of course, if you count mosquitos and ticks then there was no end of wildlife sightings and interactions. Even after I got home there were tick sightings.

The last two days I decided to use the sweet soft light of the morning to try out my new Nikon 50 mm F/1.4 lens. I was very impressed with it. I bought it for just the kind of narrow depth of field shots as the one above and the one at the top of this post, as well as for interiors of churches and museums when I travel to Europe. I had planned on shooting the long barn at the P Ranch with my new lens, as well, but my experience with ticks on a short hike the day before softened my enthusiasm for walking around in tall grass.

One of the highlights of the trip was to see a bobcat at the base of Steens Mountain. The reason I have no photo to share is that I had last photographed a burrowing owl in mid day sun at ISO 100 and so when the bobcat presented himself later in the day after clouds had formed ISO 100 gave me shutter speed of 1/100th of a second – panning with a 600 mm lens and 1.7x teleconverter on a running bobcat. The resulting blurs weren’t even interesting. I try to remember to reset my camera settings when conditions change, just in case a bobcat might jump out of the sage brush in front of me, but I’m not always successful.