While this gator casts a wary glance at me, I am quite wary of him too, and I keep a respectful distance. On a recent trip to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, I learned a few new facts about the American Alligator. If he chases you, don’t run serpentine, like the wive’s tale says. Run in a straight line, as fast as you can for alligators are very quick for just long enough to catch you. (They can run at 20 miles per hour.) The jaws too are powerful (2900 pounds of force recorded), and no match for human self-defense.
The 70mm lens on my Sony a2r7 camera makes it appear that I am close to the gator than I really am. (“Kids, don’t try this at home.”) Park rangers suggest a distance of at least 15 feet. Watch behind you, too. There are hundreds of alligators in the Everglades, some hidden underwater, Any fresh water watering hole in Florida could contain one.
Both the San Diego Zoo in the city and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, 30 miles northeast in the San Pasqual Valley, are exciting places to visit. The habitats for more than 2600 African and Asian animals are enormous at the 1800 acre Safari Park. You can plan ahead and book a variety of safaris, or just spend the day wandering around.
I particularly enjoyed the 6 female Transvaal lions, named for their original home in southern Africa. These lions have a shoulder height from between 3 to 4 feet, and weigh 250-400 pounds. They are powerful and beautiful animals.
I met an avocet for the first time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. These birds sometimes live on the south east shores of the United States, but they are more common on East Texas coast and in California. I was captivated by the unique thin beak curving up. The bird is about 16″ tall and slender with delicate legs and beak. If you find it feeding in the wild, you will see it wading along the shore and in marshes, sweeping for little insects and other edible creatures.
While American avocets display a rust colored neck during breeding season, this one was purely grey and white.
Great bird photography comes from a successful collaboration of the right location, the right equipment, good technique, plenty of patience and an ounce of luck. If you approach a target-rich environment with the right lens and practice your technique enough — you will get lucky. (I paraphrase my husband’s motto: luck comes to the well prepared.)
The nesting arctic terns on Vigur Island in Iceland (a target rich environment) are very strong, fast and quick. They are busy catching small fish and delivering the fish to their chicks on the island. They also have an instinct to attack your head, so it helps to have an assistant guard your head with a stick.
Set your camera this way: fast shutter speed to freeze action, and all other settings to support that choice: higher ISO, wide open lens, spot meter, and maybe continuous shooting. Then, my technique was very quick action: pan/focus/shoot.
It was a day multiple blessings and just one First World Problem. First, here are the blessings:
We were on vacation in Iceland.
The weather was sunny and warm (not typical).
In Akureyri, we were going on a RIB (rubber inflatable boat) to observe whales in the fjord.
Humpback whales feed in the Icelandic fjords in July.
We had an experienced pilot and guide who have identified 150 humpback whales by name and understand a great deal about them.
I kept my Sony a7IIr camera dry, and did not lose my sunglasses as we sped around the fjord.
So, what was the First World Problem? We got so close to Jackson the humpback whale that I couldn’t get the whole whale in my frame! I caught myself exclaiming, “Oh my, we’re too close!” and heard a voice reply, “too close?”
Well, you see, I wasn’t really complaining. I was amazed. Thrilled. Grateful.
My husband was not behind a camera, and just watched the whale, seeing his eye.