Around the Neighborhood 3: Roberta

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California / Photo Log / Photography / Wildlife

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July 13, 2019, Back Deck. Roberta was born about two years ago and we’ve been watching her grow since she was a kitten. She comes around every six weeks or so, patrols the yard, and moves on. Sometimes she looks inside and watches us. More often she gives the house a wide berth.

Last week she walked by about thirty feet away, heading for the steps on the deck. I grabbed the beast, confirmed that I was in spot-metering mode, opened the French door, and framed the shot. Once framed, I said, “kitty kitty kitty” and shot as she turned and gave me a look. The look said, “I am not a domestic cat. Don’t ‘kitty kitty kitty’ me.”

And with a twitch of the tail, she sauntered away.

How do I know she’s a she? I don’t, but everything I’ve read says that a two-year-old male bobcat would be larger than this one’s approximate fourteen-inch shoulder height. So, rightly or wrongly, it’s Roberta.

(Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 ED VR zoom. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Around the Neighborhood 2: Red-Tailed Hawk

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California / Hawk / Photo Log / Photography / Wildlife

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July 11, 2019, Just down the street. Red-tailed hawks have lived in my neighborhood for years but they have been stubbornly elusive when I’m out with a camera. One day last week I went out to get the mail and I heard hawk cries nearby. Several different voices. I looked up, into a tree and there they were. Three of them.

I dashed inside and got the beast — eight pounds of camera body and lens. While I was inside, the birds arranged themselves so that I couldn’t get all three in one shot. But this one sat alone on a branch, very interested in what I was doing.

(Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 ED VR zoom. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Around the Neighborhood 1: A Tree

comments 26
California / Inspiration / Photography / Positivity

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July 14, 2019, Los Gatos Creek Trail. For the past several weeks I’ve been in a mode of weekly themes. It does give me a focus, so I’ll continue — but this one is different: it’s a smattering of what I’ve shot in and near my neighborhood in the past week or so. Not deathless photography, but it does make a nice potpourri. In many cases it proves the adage, the best camera is the one you have with you.

Most recent one first, shot with my phone yesterday on a Sunday morning walk. I’m generally adamant in my view that tree carving is unacceptable, but for this one I’ll make an exception. I hope the tree is proud to carry this message.

(iPhone 8. Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Drawn Away 2: Sprite Rising

comments 22
Abstract / Photography / Seascapes / Sunset

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Today, in the United States, we celebrate Independence Day. It’s the anniversary of the day in 1776 when our forefathers said, “enough.” We declared ourselves independent of tyranny.

We, as a culture, have been — and remain —  fiercely independent. We carry that spirit of independence as a badge of honor. And we should. We fought hard for these values:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

These words are as true now as they have ever been. But many things have changed in the years that have transpired since 1776. Our technical advances have made the world more complex and more interdependent. And our population has grown. Today, the action of one individual can have world-wide ramifications. With the exception of kings, that wasn’t true in 1776. It is true now.

Today’s reality is that independence must make peace with interdependence. In the world of 1776 where homesteads were separated by miles, with an average population density of about six people per square mile, pretty much anything could go without severely encroaching on the rights of others. Now, a typical city (Lynchburg, VA*) has a population density of 161 people per square mile. That’s a fairly small city. A larger city, Philadelphia for example, has a population density of 11,234 people per square mile. We are almost literally stepping on each other’s toes.

It’s not too difficult to see that in order for any of us to even have a decent shot at “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” we may need to make allowances for others. Here’s where personal independence and societal interdependence intersect and often conflict. But conflict is not inevitable. Not if each one of us takes some responsibility for the other guy.

We would do well to acknowledge that we may have different viewpoints on religion, politics, and economics. We may have different colors, genders, orientations, origins, and cultures. Yet we all have been “endowed by (our) Creator with certain unalienable Rights, …among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

If we all understand and respect the fact that we all have these rights, then we could — each one of us — independently decide to assist each other in fruition of these rights by showing that same respect for each other as individuals.

Then, as my sprite, we could all rise to greater heights.

Happy Fourth.

(Camera movement, intentional with a twist. Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

*Google “typical US city” and you’ll get Lynchburg.

More fine art photography at www.amagaphoto.com

New Zealand Wildlife 4: Birds

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Nature / New Zealand / Photo Log / Photography / Wildlife

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July 1 and 2, 2018, Near Waipara, New Zealand. We were staying in a remote location near the Greystone Winery. Our trip was nearing the end and I was losing hope of getting a good shot of my favorite New Zealand bird: the New Zealand fantail — the Maori names being Pīwakawaka, Tīwakawaka, or Piwaiwaka. The trouble was, being insectivores, they were in constant darting motion playing “you can’t catch me,” which made them very difficult to track in flight, especially with an eight-pound camera-body and lens combination. At last, this one lighted in a tree and scowled at me. Actually, he probably wasn’t scowling, but his coloring made it look that way. I barely had time to focus and shoot before he was gone like a cool breeze.

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I was happy, but my wife wanted a picture of a silvereye. Being omnivores, they will occasionally light — except when I’m trying to get a photo and it’s cold and I want to go inside for some hot coffee. But before I realized how challenging it would be, I’d promised not to come back without a good shot. And so I waited, standing perfectly still so as not to spook them, and cold-soaked my body. Finally this guy landed on a nearby fence, adjusted his position for a good pose, and patiently waited for me to get my shots. Portrait made, I went inside. The coffee was good.

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The next day we hiked along the side of a canyon, my wife to explore and me to try to get a shot of the large swamp harrier I’d spotted the day before. Unlike her smaller darting distant cousins, this harrier was very accommodating as she slowly swept over the brush, patiently looking for lunch. I got my shot. She got her lunch.

(Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR. RAW processing in DxO Pro; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

New Zealand Wildlife 3: Juvenile Delinquent Sea Lion

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Nature / New Zealand / Photo Log / Photography / Wildlife

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June 28, 2018, Otago Peninsula, New Zealand. This is a bonus post. A few minutes before yesterday’s shots were made, this bigshot chased us off the beach. Tony told us this guy had been troublesome at times and had chased several people away. He told us to run if he started chasing. Run fast. New Zealand sea lions can sprint 26 kmh. (16 mph.)

My wife got the lead shot before he decided to mess with us. (First time I’ve posted one of her shots. Won’t be the last.)

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I grabbed this shot an instant before he started to move on us. As a photographer, I must say that the shoot-or-run decision creates a noticeable amount of mental conflict — shoot or be squashed — but in the end, the desire not to be steamrollered by nine hundred pounds of testosterone-infused adolescent sea lion with infectious teeth won out. One shot and I ran.

Once we reached safety, he dejectedly lumbered away. We thought we could hear him mutter under his breath, “Gee Officer Krupke.”

(Nikon D750, 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 AF-P ED VR; Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR. RAW processing in DxO Pro; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

New Zealand Wildlife 2: Yellow-Eyed Penguins

comments 29
New Zealand / Photo Log / Photography / Wildlife

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June 28, 2018, Otago Peninsula, New Zealand. A one-day tour of Otago is like going to a gourmet restaurant, having the amuse bouche, and leaving — but there we were, and we were going to get everything out of our day that we could. Tony said it was very important that we get to the beach by 3:45.

“Why?”

“Because that’s when the penguins come home from work.”

“Oh. Really? 3:45? Exactly?”

“Within a very few minutes of that.”

And so we went.

We arrived a bit early and positioned ourselves, just in time for a nine-hundred-pound juvenile New Zealand sea lion to chase of off the beach.

Reminds me of an exchange in Avatar:

(Referring to a large and very threatening creature) “What about that one?”

“Run. Definitely run.”

We ran. (Perhaps a bonus post about that soon.)

I was just regrouping from rapid sea lion avoidance when Tony stage-whispered to me to move back about a meter and be very quiet. I did and I looked to the right. Plop plop. Plop plop. Plop plop. The commuter came up off the beach and plodded by like I wasn’t there. My shutter clicks bothered him not a bit.

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A few minutes later, two more came marching by in step. And then another and another. About a dozen in all — some eyeing slumbering sea lions to whom they gave a wide berth, hoping they wouldn’t wake up.

According to Wikipedia, these are possibly the most ancient of all living penguins. There are only about four thousand of these determined creatures left. All in New Zealand and neighboring islands. They deserve respect.

(Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR. RAW processing in DxO Pro; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

New Zealand Wildlife 1: New Zealand Fur Seals

comments 31
Nature / New Zealand / Photo Log / Photography / Wildlife

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June 20, 2018, Doubtful Sound and June 28, 2018, Otago Peninsula, New Zealand. New Zealand fur seals were hunted to near-extinction in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and were injured and killed by the thousands by commercial fisheries well into the twentieth century. In New Zealand, they have been protected by law since 1978.

The show-off above was guarding the mouth of Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park.

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This mother and child were on the southeastern end of the Otago Peninsula.

(Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR. RAW processing in DxO Pro; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

New Zealand 6: Otago

comments 15
Landscape / New Zealand / Photo Log / Photography

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June 28, 2018, Northwest of Dunedin, New Zealand. After the photography workshop, we rented a car and headed southeast from Queenstown to Dunedin and then took a week to drive all the way up the east coast of the South Island.

We fell in love with Dunedin, which reminded us a little of San Francisco — although it beats San Francisco by having the steepest street in the world. While there we took a tour with Tony from Elm Wildlife Tours. Tony knows his stuff. Ask him anything about natural history, geography, botany, wildlife, and the San Francisco music scene in the late 1960s. Encyclopedic, he is. The morning was dedicated to landscape photography and the afternoon was filled with wildlife. (Stay tuned. Wildlife shots next week.)

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Both of these shots were made in the hills northwest of Dunedin. In both I reverted to conventional wisdom (which didn’t kill me) and featured prominent foregrounds.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR. RAW processing in DxO Pro; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)