Death Valley

It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been incredibly busy at work and haven’t done a whole lot of shooting. Lots of shifting around of gear though. So, more to say about the gear soon but first up let’s talk about Death Valley. Just got back from spending a week there. My first time. What struck me are altitude changes. I went from below sea level to over 5,000 feet multiple times each day. How to describe it…..lots of rock, but throw in some layers and color, salt, sand dunes, light and you have ingredients for lots of variety. I was working off of a small laptop with enormous files so I’ve decided to let some of those shots sit until I could spend the time at home to do some  better processing. Here is one shot to whet your appetite from the ghost town of Rhyolite.

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More from Bosque del Apache

Up and out before dawn. Brrrr…..it was cold with a brisk wind blowing. Started at an area named the flight deck and watched the snow geese blast off for the fields and some food. Made a quick dash over to the ponds where the Snowhill cranes hang out. Then onward to brunch, back out shooting and finally Mexican food for dinner. Some from the day.

 

 

 

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Bosque del Apache

I have no aptitude in shooting masses of birds blasting off….but I do have a few days to learn with 40,000 snow geese 9,000 sandhill cranes in residence…..a small sample from today

 

 

 

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Finally an Update

It’s been a while since I posted. When I came back from Kenya I was just starting a new job at a great tech start-up (sigfig.com). I’ve spent years waking early to watch CNBC and get myself up to speed on the news of the day and how the markets would likely open. On the west coast this generally was something between 4 and 5AM with conference calls often starting around 6AM. Now in the new role my hours are about 10AM until easily 7-8 at night. So, I’ve been working on making some changes to my internal body clock and also trying to get more done in the mornings before leaving for work. So, in this process the blog and website suffered. However, have no fear, my knack for getting new gear and testing out new cameras is still alive and kicking. Current new cameras include the major upgrade to the camera in the iPhone 4S, the Sony NEX 5n and the surprising Fuji X10. A lot to talk about.

Just a few days after the release of the iPhone 4s I went to the first iPhone workshop and conference called 1197 held in San Francisco. 1197 is significant as it was when the first mobile images were transmitted. In those 14 years a lot has happened and we now have the iPhone at the number one camera for uploads to Flickr. The number of Apps and processing options available right on the phone is amazing, add in what you can do on the iPad and we are in some very exciting times. At that conference I was introduced to some of the pioneers and great iPhone artists. This is an area of photography that really interests me so look for more as I try out new creative techniques.

Some simple little trials with different Apps:

Next up is the Sony NEX 5n. I was an early adopter of the NEX 5 cameras in 2010 when they debuted. I used them pretty extensively along side my Sony A900 when I was in Ireland. However, once I knew that I was going to Kenya I needed to figure out what gear I was going to use. I didn’t really own anything with the long 600mm reach I was going to need on Safari. In addition there wasn’t a viable option with NEX as the system was still in its infancy in terms of a robust lens offering. I went to Kenya with all micro 4/3 gear and 90% of the pictures were made with the 100-300mm lens.

All through the summer there were leaks about the upcoming NEX 7 camera and it looked so appealing. It finally launched right during my Kenya trip and I knew this seemed like just the camera for me. The right form factor, the right buttons, etc. As we all read the initial reviews and field reports excitement started to build but then disaster. Horrible flooding in Thailand that not only disrupted and devastated the lives of the Thai people it also severely damaged many of the factories in the area for Sony, Nikon, hard drive manufacturers and more.  Suddenly no cameras were going to come. That didn’t upset me but the situation in Thailand along with the knowledge that this sort of flood was inevitable based on the country’s water management was depressing. I thought my kit was going to be NEX5 and NEX7 but once the camera supply started to dry up I decided to upgrade the 5 to the much praised new 5n model and use that until the NEX7 arrives.

All of this sounds so well planned until we get to the Fuji X10. I barely paid attention to the news when it was launched. However, as the release date got closer I started to take notice of the buzz starting to bubble up about this camera. You know curiosity got the better of me and I sold of some other gear I wasn’t using that much (I’m trying to make sure I sell gear before I buy new). Well the X10 has completely surprised and delighted me. I think it will turn out to be my favorite compact (small sensor) camera I’ve ever owned.

So that brings me to today, Thanksgiving. I’m in New Mexico meeting up tomorrow morning with Sallie Jo (gritsphoto.com) to do some shooting at Bosque del Apache, a winter refuge for a tremendous number of birds….yes, I know I’m not a “birder” or as Sallie Jo says “maybe not yet”. So, look out for more from me over the weekend. In the meantime….

Self portrait with the Fuji X10

My first out ing with the X10 – Farm Market at the Ferry Building

 

 

Posted in Camera Gear, iPhone Tagged , , , |

An Update

My goal was to fully have my Kenya work edited and up on line. However, even though last weekend I set aside time to edit and post, I ended up curled up on the couch wrapped in a blanket with the chills. It turned to fever and sweats. Guess what those are all the symptoms of malaria. After getting blood tests thank goodness malaria was ruled out. I did end up with a small case of e-coli but have no idea of where, when and from what I got it.

So, this weekend I’m getting caught back up on the blog and galleries. Two new galleries were just added. Kenya in Color and Kenya in B&W.

I’m still actively working on my images so the galleries are still being edited. I’m also just getting started printing some for my photo wall.

Posted in Editing

My New Print Wall

Not long before leaving for Kenya I commissioned to have steel panels installed on my den wall. I’d seen a galvanized steel panel hanging in a gallery and it was a really interesting way to display a folio of an artists work. Hanging something similar from my ceiling was not a good option because I didn’t want any sway and making one panel big enough would probably be problematic for the elevator. So, we developed the idea to do three panels side by side. They measure 46″ x 60″ making the whole installation about 144″ x 60″

I am going to have fun with this. It gives me the opportunity to rotate around my prints without having to frame everything.

I just put up what I had printed to test out the various magnet options. Next step is to trim some edges up and play with the layout. To give a sense of size the larger prints are 17′ x 22″

 

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The Cheetahs

This was my first safari. I didn’t know exactly what to expect or not to expect but experienced safari goers are pretty shocked by the fact that we saw three different cheetah kills. I’m not talking about driving up and seeing a cheetah eating something that they captured but rather we watched the cheetah assess the situation, develop a strategy and execute on their plan. It was stunning to watch, it doesn’t happen quickly, and you need a lot of patience. All three were different but no less interesting. Cheetahs are generally alone but they will work as a hunting pair and they hunt during the day (which does give better odds for us to see them in action). Our first encounter was with two brothers as a hunting pair. We were in the Mara Triangle where the grasses were long and provided good cover. In the field near them were a couple of Topi and more Wildebeests. Cheetahs working alone are very careful about not trying to take on too big of a foe but working together they can can go after a larger animal. Topi’s are usually very aware of their surroundings and are nicknamed the sentry from standing on top of termite mounds looking around. In this instance the Topis were a little bit lax on the job. One walked further away to eat and the second came down off the mound and was also munching away. When the Topi looked up it seemed that the cheetahs realized it was full grown and not realistic prey. What was realistic was a small wildebeest juvenile just nearby but just far enough away from the other wildebeests to be interesting. The cheetahs now had a plan. For the next bit of time we watched as they went down low in the grass, inched forward, came up to survey the situation, go back down again and silently communicated between themselves.  Finally they were close enough to make this particular attach……whoooosh and they were off in unison and took down the baby wildebeest. One pinned down the back legs, and the other got the windpipe and strangled the animal. I felt pretty lucky to experience this and was mesmerized by the process. I never figured we would see this play out differently two more times. Working together the cheetahs were able to get close, make a bigger kill and not have to expend too much energy. The other two were solitary cheetahs, the prey was much further away, they were more out in the open and they needed to do what cheetahs are known for, go all out on the full run.

The second kill was a baby Thompson Gazelle that was staying close to the mother. Adult “tommies” can outrun a cheetah but the smaller children can’t. Once the cheetah realized that the tommie across the field had a small child with her, the decision was made. First the stalking, and then the dead on full run. I wasn’t prepared for the run and how fast the cheetah really is when they go into “overdrive”. I was able to get off a couple of really bad shots.

The third time as we watched the story unfold I was determined to try out video. The cheetah was so fast that I lost focus in the video….I’m going to leave it in the final cut (not ready yet) because it does give an idea of the speed. As we watched the third one, we radioed to our travel companions on what was transpiring. They arrived just after the cheetah had made their run and was munching on a baby Impala. As we looked out of our roof hatch to speak with our friends, Sallie Jo said “holy ****” there is a Leopard! It went into the bushes. Since we both had already seen a cheetah dine on two other critters we were more interested in the leopard’s behavior than the cheetah. Well, the leopard knew exactly what was going on and wanted to hunt “the easy way” by stealing the cheetah’s kill. Eventually the cheetah realized she was being stalked by the leopard and again I caught some of that on video but in the last picture you can see the cheetah trying to eat but looking to where she knows the leopard is lurking. In the end, the leopard did not get the kill. This was most probably because of the humans in the area. When something interesting is going on, it is amazing at how many safari vehicles will eventually come up on the scene and stay for a while. The thought in this case was that there was too much activity going on and the leopard decided to leave the kill and not go after it.

 

 

I’ve got some video of this as well but seeing as I am a complete video newbie….it may take a while….first I need to just get it off the card!

There is no joy and pleasure at watching a kill and one animal devour another (posing with a bloody snout). What is fascinating is watching the entire eco system and seeing how the animals, live their lives and how interdependent they are on each other.

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Processing……

I’ve been thinking about how to write about my trip and post different pictures that I made. What I’ve found is putting together my favorite  images into a gallery doesn’t really allow me to delve into some of the different animal behaviors or to illustrate my thoughts about what I saw and experienced. So, I’ve decided to do things a little bit differently……

I spent last night copying over all of my images to my home desktop machine where I can work on large 30″ monitors and evaluate/edit the images more carefully. It’s just getting light here in San Francisco (even if I have been up for several hours) and  I still haven’t made it to the market to get some fresh food but am going to head out shortly before I get to work with the images.

More soon!

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The Long Trek Home

I’m headed home from a fabulous trip to Kenya. Getting back takes a long time thank goodness for wifi on the layovers. Right now I’m in the lounge at Zurich airport with another 4 hours to kill. I took about 10,000 exposures on this trip. Granted I have multiples of many shots but shooting at 600mm or more in light that wasn’t always cooperative meant that I shot a lot in burst mode so I could assess later which was the sharpest shot. What does all this mean….I have a monumental editing task ahead of me! I did try and process a few shots with quick laptop edits each day so now that I’m back to a wifi network I can post those. One note that was amazing was cell phone/iPad coverage….FANTASTIC. Now I just need to work on a good way of uploading pictures from the iPad into a gallery for the blog.

OK here are some…..much more to come (images and thoughts) over the coming days.

One sad update…..Mumbushi the elephant that we fostered and is pictured in my last post sadly died a few days ago. Again I will write more about it when I arrive back home.

Posted in Kenya Tagged |

Nairobi

It only took about 29 hours from the time I left my apartment in San Francisco until my arrival at the hotel in Nairobl. The only thing I can say about driving in Nairobi is that it is totally insane. First up there is a ton of traffic, second up they are building a lot of new roads and it is a mess with a mix of new and old roads. Ever driven on a highway with 5 cars across but no lane markings? Five lanes is not normal it was just a small section. What is normal are crazy roundabouts that with people seeming to go in all different directions.

We had two twin boys now nicknamed the “double boy’s” that couldn’t sit still on the flight from Zurich to Nairobi. To blot them out I put my headphones on with loud music and a blanket over my head and managed to sleep for a good chunk of that flight….unfortunately, last night it left me pretty wide awake when I should have been sleeping (3AM-7AM Nairobi time.)

So in a few minutes I will desperately try and get some sleep. I have more to post from today but I will start out with two shots of our adopted foster child Mumbushi. He is now three months old and we saw him this AM and then again for feeding and bedtime with his keeper. He is tiny! Smaller than I expected. He elso still seems sort of sad and traumatized (His parents killed by poachers).

Tomorrow AM we head up to Samburu and really start our safari.

 

 

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