Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Wilds, Part 3

Believe it or not, I still have more photos to share from my trip to the Wilds.  These were some of the last species we encountered during our stay there.

Here are some Grevy's Zebras.  They never got too close to the bus, unfortunately.

Here are some zoomed out shots, just to give you some idea of how huge this place is (almost 10,000 acres).  It's miles and miles of rolling hills, grasslands and woodlands.  I think they are working very hard there at the Wilds to keep all of the vegetation as native to the area as possible.

I think it's interesting that the giraffes are following the road in this shot

Here are the Sable antelope again.  I know I showed them before, but they are so sweet-looking here!

These are Bactrian camels.  We had seen them (and the zebras) earlier in the day, but they were hiding out under a sun shelter, far away from the bus.  We got to see them much closer in the evening.


C'mere and give me a big ol' kiss!

These are some female Bactrian deer.  Seeing them in these poses makes me wonder if these were the species of deer so many lawn ornament deer were modeled after?

And these are male Bactrian deer, showing off their manliness.  I mentioned my Sunset at the Wilds post that we witnessed a raging fight between 2 deer bucks, and these are they.

The light was fading fast, and they were far from the bus and in constant motion, and my camera just couldn't keep up with them very well.  These were the best shots I got.  I've never seen anything like this in real life, and it was unforgettable.  Even though we were quite far from the bucks, every time they butted heads were could hear their antlers clacking.

One of the males had some fencing material stuck in his rack, and at one point both males had the material tangled around their antlers and they were literally stuck together.  Our bus driver radioed to animal control because he didn't know if they could break themselves free, but eventually one male flipped the other male completely off the ground -all 4 feet in the air - dislodged himself, and emerged the victor.

Notice the deer on the right has his hind end flying up into the air.

This was the buck who lost, getting the heck out of dodge.

Still a few more posts about the Wilds are yet to come.  I'll specifically talk about the African Wild Dogs and the Rhinos.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The texture of fall

One thing that I learned about my camera during my photo camp weekend at the Wilds is that I can set the lens to auto-focus even when I have everything else set on manual. I had no idea that could be done! I thought when the camera body was in manual mode the lens had to be set in manual too. What a valuable insight this has turned out to be.

It's a rare thing for me to take a bunch of pictures ("a bunch" meaning several hundred) and end up with more than 3 or 4 that I really, really like. A recent crisp, overcast autumn day found me playing with my camera in a new way. I didn't use the viewfinder. Well, I barely used it. In 95% of the pictures, I just clicked away, not knowing what I was getting. ** Camera geek-speak warning** I set the lens on auto-focus, set the camera body on Manual, I left the aperture set as far open as it can go (about 5.6 most of the time, depending on the focal length), messed with the shutter speed here and there, and the rest is history. ** Camera geek-speak over** The results turned out better than I hoped. I ended up with lots of shots that I LOVE. This does NOT happen very often, folks. Just ask Dave. When I come back from a pre-determined walk-about with the camera, he'll ask me how it went, and I usually say "Ehh, it was okay."

After moving these shots from the memory card to the computer and checking them out, I was quite pleased. I'm not going to bore you with all of them, but I'll share those that I feel really stand out. I feel like the subject matter in many of them lends itself to strong B&W images, so sometimes I'll present the color original with the B&W option directly following. These "artsy"-style shots are among my very favorite types of photos to take. I hope you enjoy them.

An explanation on the last 3 shots to come. One thing I did while I was playing around that day was sit the camera down on the deck, turn the shutter speed down, and rotate the camera around on a fixed axis. 99% of those pictures were a "waste", but one of them grabbed my attention. There are many ways I could play with it, but basic options are offered up here. First the original, then 2 variations, then all in a row.

As always, comments and constructive criticisms are welcome!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Offering competition to the squirrels

We have several Shagbark Hickory trees on our property, one of which branches out right over our house.  Come fall, its abundant supply of nuts bombs our rooftop when it's windy, when it rains, when the squirrels decide they want a snack...

This year, after trying some hickory nuts at our friend Brian's house, we decided to make nice with the tree that bombs our house and harvest some of those nuts.

So far we've collected about 3 lbs. 4 oz. of nuts in their shell.  Our first harvest, about 10 oz. of nuts in the shell, yielded about 2.5 oz. nut meat.

The process of getting to the meat is tedious. It involves a hammer and some kind of pick-like tool.
One thing I have decided after cracking many a nut with a hammer is that I don't really want to provoke a squirrel or chipmunk to bite me. If they can do with their teeth what we need a hammer and a pick to do, well... those are some bad-*** teeth!
Squirrel's dining table

Thankfully, the end result of all this trouble is a delicious-tasting nut. The taste, to me, is reminiscent of maple, and butter pecan ice cream. (I have learned that pecans and hickory nuts are related, but the hickory nuts taste nothing like pecans to my tongue.)

They are good for eating out of hand, and are tasty on top of some vanilla frozen yogurt, but what recipes will make the best use of their deliciousness? I surely intend to find out!