It’s the side of the road in the hills of Beirut. I’m shooting through the moving car window in the passenger seat. It seems that I never really get the ideal shooting situation. But if I did, perhaps we’d never get to where we’re headed. It really was not countryside but city. So to me this is a novelty… unexpected as much as cows would be unexpected on a New York City street.
There is a square in which someone attends the pigeons, leaving out food and water. Julia especially liked the flying pigeon. The pigeons took wing because a feral cat wandered through. Though emaciated, it made no effort to get a pigeon meal. The pigeons weren’t taking any chances.
Julia visited recently. When I first came to Jeddah in December 2011, I passed a series of roadside vendors selling camel milk. Herds of a dozen or more camels were stretched out along the roadside. It’s said that camel milk is healthy for you. Then they told me it’s unpasteurized and can lead to interesting infectious disease. That quenched my desire to give it a try. Julia and I made three unsuccessful road trips to the area that I remembered. I even [and I never do] asked for directions. No! No luck. the best we could do is see some poor decrepit camels behind a cinder block wall. It was OK with Julia, she’s ridden a camel in Africa. Me, I’ll look again when David visits.
Oh, the camel? It’s a silly Photoshop trick the kids taught me. Actually, they hold their hand up and pretend that the camel in the background is in the palm of their hand [perspective, not Photoshop]. I just took a camel on the other side of the wall and cloned it on her palm. After all her pose was all set up for me [except for the camel].
After the first, I saw this species many more times. They are almost like iguanas in that they stop when you approach. They wait to see if you are a threat and then move off if you come closer. With a big lens you can actually get a pretty good close-up.
Once we saw a lion and I got my fill of shots, the goal was again to capture some unique behavior. It’s not like every moment a lion is yawning. They mostly lie about and sleep. There aren’t really any predators above them in the food chain. So eat, sleep and then get up to hunt again.
Look, there’s a croc sunning on the island in the middle. It’s not that fast, I think. And it’s easy enough to see. And you could walk up about 10 yards along the riverbank and cross there. And then you wouldn’t be eaten. No, they are all gathered here. They will cross here. And they will be lunch … or not. Dumb?
When we arrived in the Serengeti, it was the tail end of migration season. There was still crossing of the wildebeests going on but you would never know it. Here’s how it goes. For as far as the eye can see, there are wildebeest filling the landscape. Thousands upon thousands are grazing on both sides of the river. To look at them you don’t know if they are coming or going. And while we were there they moved in both directions. And only a few moved at a time. The reason that it is dangerous is that there are crocodiles in the river, which will take down a wildebeest and eat it. Compared to a few crocodiles there are thousands more wildebeest. Still there is a built-in fear of river crossings. They (wildebeest) don’t look, they just gather courage and then run across the river. It’s not too hard to see the crocs, but they all run. It gets even sillier when they leap and run across puddles. Ok, so this is one quintessential shot of migration that I did not capture. But I suppose that it’s ok that a croc went hungry and a wildebeest lived to leap another day.
There are some animals in abundance. Zebras are seen everywhere. They are cautious enough. One sees herds numbering in the hundreds. So taking a shot is pretty easy. It’s the idea then to get something that is other than a cute portrait or close up. You looks for patterns or groupings that are different than the hundreds of zebra pictures you have shooting each day. You never know when or if your image will show up. So here we came up on a couple of zebras wrestling. And after a few hundred shots, you have to pick one.
We found this pride near a river. The group of females and young came down to the riverbank to sun. It seems that everyone had fed recently. We laughed because this little one looked so low and heavy.
The big five… if you look them up, they are on the list of every big game hunter. We actually saw them all within one day on this trip. Amazing! Rhinos are special. We saw a few. We were fortunate. Our guide was staring off in the distance and then suddenly we tore off bouncing and throwing up a big tail of dust. They (rhinos) don’t see too well. But they don’t feel to threatened by a vehicle. So we were able to get some close-in shots before he trotted away.
The big cats are hard to see. They just don’t like to be where people are present. Go figure. It’s probably good because I have no desire to be a next meal. This early morning we arrived in the Serengeti and our guide took us straight to this spot. The evening before this leopard had made a kill. Here he was calmly munching on wildebeest. It was quiet enough to hear the bones crunch. By the next morning there was nothing left to see of the carcass. You would never have known it had been consumed in a day. Timing, it’s pretty special. We were very fortunate to have come at the right time.
When my daughter taught in Namibia for a year, we (wife) visited her in Tanzania. She had already seen Namibia, so that’s why I missed the sand dunes and lovely scenery in Namibia. This shot is one among about 15,000 images from that trip. It can get silly, but it’s a once in a lifetime trip and I had plenty of memory card space. This particular shot came when we were tearing up the road from one place our evening accommodations. The roads were under construction and there was dust so thick you had trouble seeing the road. And where else in the world are you going to have to slow down for giraffes crossing the road. Naturally, I poked the camera out and tried to grab a shot. It’s a National Geographic moment. I read where they would tell their photographers to always include people. It was more personal that way. Our driver/guide was included in the mirror as well as within the Landcruiser.
I’m slowly working my way through pictures from my archives. I’ve got many thousands. It would intimidate the average person to know how many images, I’ve culled and then scanned (tens of thousands). I love penguins. They are still exotic to me. I have a wish to go to Antarctica and see them live and in person. Considering how many things on wish list have come true in my life, maybe it’s not entirely impossible. For instance, I’ve been up in a helicopter many times and I’ve learned to scuba dive. I did these things more than once. But it’s not near the top of the list and so I take shots of the penguins whenever I see them.
This is Nellie our second Cavalier King Charles spaniel. She frequently traveled with us. On this occasion we were in Mystic Connecticut taking the kids to camp. She’s a good dog. Doesn’t everyone say that? Nellie tends to be fidgety and likes to run away. So how it is that I got her to sit still and not chase the kids is a mystery to me. She was always a whole lot better as a subject than Reggie, our first. He was black and just never photographed well.
Costa Rica. We were on the last leg of the trip and found a beach where iguanas were everywhere. How could I know? They were about on the walks, walls, and on the grass, posing for my camera. What fun! I got my share of photo ops.
Red is danger? We’re hiking the rain forest in Costa Rica and our guide points out this red tree frog. All I remember is that brightly colored frogs in the rain forest are poisonous. This little guy wouldn’t poison me. Would he?
If you follow photo critical (see sidebar), I comment on photo technique. We had just dropped David off at Putney School for a summer art program. This is panning. I caught the little guy running across. It ain’t perfect. But then it doesn’t always need to be. And I remember where I was when I took this shot. Dave had a great time and made a girlfriend (maybe the first, sorry Dave) while he was there. And this is what I remember when I look at this shot.
I had to check the spelling. Sometimes I amaze myself. I mean most of the time I am happy to have some images that are good. My family thinks that it’s because I shoot and shoot. By sheer volume of images you have to get one or two. Right? Or, “even a blind squirrel gets a nut sometimes.” Underwater photography is the newest venture. I think I have, family, landscapes, street photography and so forth, going pretty well. Underwater, it’s a completely different deal. It’s like being back in BxW. You have to visualize and then see what you have on the negative. I don’t check the LCD while shooting. No time, too lazy, not interested, who knows. I just don’t really look until the shoot is over. So about 6 hours after the dive and when I could finally sit down and see the day’s shoot…. wow! This is my second shoot and I’m still in total experimental mode. It used to be that film cameras held 36 shots and then you were done. Digital has made everyone an underwater photographer. Coral is not so much a challenge. It doesn’t move. Fish, that’s an entirely new learning curve. They move. You move. There’s color and focus issues to work through.
Lionfish on a coral wall swimming upside down. I got enough problems of my own swimming right side up. Fortunately it swims slowly. No need to hurry. It’s dangerous to get close. Color was absolutely miserable last week. Everything was monotone blue green. No amount of Photoshop made much out of anything. My best shots were in 2 feet of water. Ha! You don’t need scuba gear for that. This week I turned on the flash, hooked up the flash diffuser (’cause it came with the housing), prayed the water would not fry my Canon G11, and started shooting from the hip at wide angle. There’s really no practical way for me to compose at this point in the learning. I can’t tell you how surprised I was to get this coral color using the flash. At this depth everything had the blue green monotone. Even Mr Lionfish was monotone. So I could say I knew it all along. But here’s one more instance in which I got very lucky. If it’s any help the motto from my training days as a neurosurgery resident is, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” It’s not always brain surgery that I do.
Parades occur in New York City on a very regular basis. It has become a source of street photography for me. This man shows up at about as many parades as I attend. Here he has a dragon hat for the Chinese New Year. Otherwise his threadbare clothes and colorful beard are pretty standard. I think his beard is permanently this color. And his poor little dog dresses too. This year there was a grey parrot. It was cold but the bird seemed nonplussed. I guess I’ll continue to see him as long as I go to parades.
These animals are easy to find… in Africa. They don’t seem to mind people. And they like to travel together. This makes it one of the easier photo ops. That said, it is always a challenge to avoid a shot that has been done before. Then again its hard to see the same giraffe twice. I’m not good at identification by the pattern of the spots. By the way, in spite of the long neck (obviously), giraffes have the same seven cervical vertebrae as we do. The bones are just bigger. Amazing!!
On our bicycle tour we passed a baboon sitting on the side of the road. No one else seemed to think that this was a bit unusual. I don’t think there was anyone there to feed him. When I stopped to photograph, a couple guys pedaling uphill passed me. They stopped to give the baboon a piece of sugar cane for the benefit of my photographs. They smiled at me and went on their way.
This was another phenomenal find in my opinion. These are soltary cats. I had seen one a few days before in the Ngorongora crater. It was the size of a dot in my image and the shy cat kept hidden among the grass. Here we drove up. This guy sat and posed. He didn’t run. He wasn’t protecting a kill. What luck!!
Chewy, maybe he was named Chewie. I never did find out. Our guide had seen this particular leopard often enough to have given him a name. The day before we had seen Chewy eating a fresh killed wildebeest. The carcass was stripped bare the next morning. Late in the afternoon we found Chewy once more in the shade of a rock. I felt so fortunate. I don’t think it’s too easy to see the big cats. We never did see another leopard during our trip.
Unlike the hippos, lions are actually lazy. So says the guide/driver who took us about the Serengeti in an open sided Toyota Land Cruiser. Toyota appears to be the vehicle of choice not the ubiquitous Land Rover that dots the NYC streets. There’s a rifle mounted to the rear bumper. A lot of good it will do if the lion is outside the vehicle and you’re inside.
Still we were told that the lions ignore the passengers and perceive them to be a part of the vehicle. This gave me a bit more confidence. You can see that we can get quite close, as the drive did not hesitate to get right up to where this big guy was lounging in the grass.
Later that afternoon we met up with another traveler who told me that a lion had tried to eat the bumper of the vehicle that morning. It made me wonder whether the lions were not too bright or whether I was the fool to have my legs so close to the outside of the open sided cruiser.