Why do I love the lion?

Maybe I fell for this beautiful lion because her behavior reminded me of my dog.

#1. I could look at this face all day.

#2. Licking her paw and yawning, that’s my dog.

#3. I can’t get close to this dangerous African animal, but I CAN look at her all day with these photographs I made with my Nikon D800 and Tamron 150-600mm lens, at 600mm held steady with a monopod.

#lion, #yawn, #sandiego, #safaripark, #paw, #behavior, #eyecontact, #teeth
Transvaal lion just chillin’ in the shade at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Gotta love that face, and respect those canine teeth.

Arctic Terns in flight

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.

#tern, #flight, #freezemotion, #nikond800, #iceland, #vigurisland, #bird, #birdphotography
My favorite capture. Admire the tern’s strong wings, which will help him travel the longest migration on Earth — to Antarctica and back.
#bird, #tern, #arctictern, #iceland, #vigurisland, #windstar, #flight, #migration
The soft evening light highlighted this arctic tern in flight.
#bird, #tern, #arctictern, #iceland, #windstar, #vigurisland, #nikond800, #flight, #nature, #wildlife
This capture shows a unique angle of the tern’s wings in flight, as well as the forked tail feathers.

“Thar She Blows”

“Thar She Blows” was the cry of a sailor spotting a whale, but the expression came to mind as we stood waiting for the Icelandic geyser to explode with a massive force of steaming water.

About every 10 minutes, Iceland’s Strokkur geyser puts on a show — shooting hot water about 30 meters into the air. It’s a dramatic natural phenomenon that you can watch only a few places in the world. Yellowstone National Park and the north island of New Zealand are two other sites that come to mind. Geysers are an indication that you are standing in a volcanic landscape.

You would be well advised to keep your children and yourself out of the line of fire, but not everyone follows the rules or exercises good judgement.

#howto, #geyser, #geysir, #freezemotion, #iceland, #stokkur, #nikon
I chose to freeze motion with 1/1000 second exposure and f/11, the focal length that would keep the whole scene in focus. F/8 and f/11 will also give you a sharp image, edge to edge.
#strokkur, #iceland, #geyser, #geysir, #nature, #howto, #nikon
Strokkur reaches a height of about 30 meters. It’s startling to observe its power.

Geothermal Iceland

An active geothermal field of steaming, bubbling, and erupting hot water can be found a few hours from Reykjavik, Iceland. The “Litli Geysir” (little gusher, pronounced “gay-zeer”), is the name and place that originated the English word “geyser.”

#geyser, #geysir, #iceland, #boiling, #geothermal, #caution, #hot
This geothermal field is a good place to obey the signs about keeping your distance. Even the streams can be boiling hot, and you wouldn’t want to slip and fall and get burned, or step into mud and sink.

The geothermal field reveals its wide color palette, from yellow to green to blue and purple.  Steam escapes from many vents in the Earth.

#landscape, #iceland, #geothermal, #steam, #colors, #nature
Volcanic mountains and evergreens create a peaceful backdrop to the geothermal field.
#iceland, #steam, #geothermal, #hot, #sulphur, #landscape, #photography, #nature
Speculating that sulfur deposits may account for the yellow stain on the rocks underlying the hot stream here. As the water dries on the rock, the sulfur oxidizes. Notice ruins of a building to the left near the steam vents.

 

My Solar Eclipse Chase

On June 25, I got inspired to photograph the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017. I was sitting in my 97-year-old mother’s sitting room while she watched TV and I was reading articles on the Web.  Looking at a NASA map of the Zone of Totality, I estimated the cheapest flight from Pittsburgh to the Zone, would be Atlanta. I chose a site in South Carolina near the Georgia border. Concerned about supply and demand, I immediately booked plane tickets and a Hampton Inn and ordered solar glasses. Within a few days of hearing my crazy plan, my husband volunteered to come with me for moral support. My  mission to study specialized photographic techniques began.

Most helpful was the iBook “How to Photograph the Solar Eclipse” by Alan Dyer, who has traveled to numerous eclipse sites around the world. Dyer describes many different approaches and urges you to get geared up and practice. Which camera and which lens? Still photos or video? Weighing the relative difficulties of each, could I manage two set-ups, and still enjoy watching the eclipse?

I bought photographic solar filters in three sizes, an additional “Really Right Stuff” ball head for a second tripod and an intervalometer. I developed a plan to operate my Sony a7rII with a 24 mm lens and no filter on one tripod. An intervalometer would operate it automatically to take a photograph every 6 seconds for 90 minutes, so that later a time lapse video could be made. The second tripod would hold my Nikon D800 with a 200mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter (for a 280mm equivalent focal length), dedicated to taking close-ups of the Corona at Totality. Examining the options, I decided the image resulting from this set-up was my top choice. The close-up requires a solar filter to capture all the partial eclipse images.  During Totality I would remove the filter and bracket shots (ISO 100 and f/8) one stop apart from 1 second as the longest exposure to 1/1,000 second as the fastest (1 sec., 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000),  to capture the various levels of luminosity of the Corona. These images would later be combined with layers and masks to create one very special image. It was going to be tough to remain calm and also watch and wonder during Totality, as I knew I would feel really excited and Totality would last only 2 minutes and 18 seconds.

From Atlanta, we drove 2 hours north to a Hampton Inn in Hartwell, Georgia on Sunday night. On Monday morning, we left the hotel around 9am to drive another half hour to Anderson, SC to a recreational park I had pinpointed on Google Maps on Lake Hartwell. We arrived at the park, happy to find plenty of parking spaces, a lovely lake view, blue skies and a few trees to provide shade. Thanks to our Sewickley friend Sarah Hay Rawls, who lives in Atlanta now, we had some chairs to sit in while we waited 4 hours for the action to begin.

#southcarolina, #lakehartwell, #eclipse, #solareclipse, #eclipsechasing, #andersonsc, #nature
The still banks of Lake Hartwell made a serene setting to observe the day’s natural wonder.
#Sun, #solareclipse, #andersonsc, #readytogo, #nature, #photography, #lakehartwell, #eclipse
Blue skies and brilliant sunshine were a good omen as we arrived at Lake Hartwell to observe the Great American Solar Eclipse.

 

Just imagine how we felt as clouds formed just at the WRONG TIME and covered the Sun for most of the eclipse duration. Yes, weeks of focused study, a few hundred dollars in equipment, flights, hotels, rental car and two days of priceless spousal support would result in… what exactly?

Here is the image my Sony was capturing every 6 seconds. (Turn it off.) We looked at one another and shrugged.

#clouds, #solareclipse, #ithappens, #whatcanyoudo, #anderson, #southcarolina, #eclipse, #greatAmericaneclipse, #eclipse2017
While other parts of the sky remained clear, these heavy clouds covered the Sun during most of the solar eclipse as viewed from Anderson, South Carolina.

Okay, what is the good news? I captured a few close up images during the first few minutes of the partial eclipse.

#solareclipse, #greatamericaneclipse, #nikond800, #gotit, #andersonsc, #nature, #photography
We cheered as the eclipse began. My Nikon D800 was carefully focused on the Sun, so I captured the sun spots and some tonality, while the Moon took its first bite of the Sun.
#solareclipse, #greatamericaneclipse, #gotit, #andersonsc, #nikond800, #catchmeifyoucan, #nature, #photography
Clouds gave the Solar Eclipse a unique ghostly look. You can still see the sunspots. This is my favorite image.
#solareclipse, #eclipse, #partialeclipse, #clouds, #andersonsc, #nikond800, #nature, #photography, #phenomenon
Our last glimpse of the solar eclipse with clouds painting a shadow on the western edge.

The other advice that helped me manage my disappointment was from my photography mentor Gary Hart, an accomplished landscape photographer, who advised me to savor the moment and not get too involved fiddling with the camera during Totality. In fact, many solar eclipse experts emphasized that advice. Gary said, “I refuse to be so focused on getting the shot that I fail to appreciate this experience of a lifetime. I’ll take a great memory over a great photo anytime.”

We had a great experience in multiple ways — the wonderful Park family we met there, the serene setting by Hartwell Lake, the mystery of the darkening and lightening of the sky during Totality and the inexplicable special feeling that came with bearing witness to this phenomenon of Nature. I will post my video of totality in my next post.

#solareclipse, #photography, #zoneoftotality, #southcarolina, #andersonsc, #hartwelllake, #eclipsebuddies
My husband Charlie (yellow shirt) and me (blue shirt) with our eclipse buddies Don Park (left) and his son-in-law Dustin. Don is an authorized Nikon repair rep in Georgia, and Dustin works for NASA in Houston. They were as knowledgeable as they were kind!

Puffins on Vigur Island

Puffins are camera shy, as they flee when they see you coming — unlike many seabirds that I’m accustomed to in Florida. As soon as I spotted one, tried to creep a bit closer, framed the shot and focused — off it went. Most of my photos that afternoon on Vigur Island were shot a second too late. Charlie and I were a persistent team; he was holding high sticks to ward off the Arctic Terns who are apt to attack your head. He was watching the long grass in the hillside for puffin nests where the puffins briefly land to feed their chicks, and acting as my spotter.

“Over there,” Charlie whispered to me, pointing. I crept closer with camera poised, hoping to focus and shoot before the puffins took flight.

#puffins, #puffin, #vigur, #windstar, #birds, #wildlife, #seabirds, #arctic, #iceland
One, two, three, jump! Puffins take flight as humans approach.

I kept my shutter speed high and my lens wide open, trying to freeze action on a flying puffin at the very least. I was working hard to get a good puffin shot before leaving Iceland. Having seen puffin photos in all the shops, I knew how cute the little birds are!

#puffin, #inflight, #flying, #bird, #nature #wildlife, #iceland, #vigur
Puffin flies back to sea for more fish to feed the chicks hidden in the hillside.

At last our teamwork paid off, and I captured this image of a puffin with a beak full of fresh fish for the chicks. The Nikon D800 with 70-200 lens and a 1.4 teleconverter gave me a sharp image even though we were about 10 meters away.

#nikond800, #puffin, #iceland, #vigur, #bird, #wildlife, #nature, #vigurisland
Best Iceland souvenir: my own close-up of a Puffin in the act of fishing for the young.

 

Hydrangea Twins

Just outside my back door, I found fraternal twins on my hydrangea bush: a pink and a blue blossom on the same plant. All the rain in the past few weeks are helping the blossoms last. Stay away, hungry deer!

#hydrangea, #july, #pinkandblue, #favoriteflower, #nature, #flowers, #nikon, #sewickley, #pennsylvania
Fresh pink and blue blossoms on my hydrangea bush. Shot with Nikon D800, at 1/500 second, f 2.8 and ISO 100. Shallow depth of field gives the photo an intimate feeling.

The hydrangea may be my favorite flower, thanks to associations with my daughter’s  June wedding as well as memories of seeing them on Cape Cod.