Natural History Photography Blog - Phillip Colla

Beautiful Oaks and Perfect Sunrise at Oak Alley Plantation

Filed under: Landscape, Panoramas — Tags: , , , , — on 7/8/2015

Oak Alley Plantation, with its remarkable double row of 300-year-old southern live oaks (Quercus virginiana) is, I imagine, a near-ideal vision of what the old South once was. I photographed this amazing tunnel of oaks at both dusk and dawn and, after contemplating the images for a few weeks, have decided the light I had in the morning was perfect, sublime. After the sun rose it side-lit the trees beautifully. Since it had to pass through heavy, wet Louisiana air the light was just diffuse enough that it filled in the shadows of the trees. I was alone the entire morning, enjoying listening to the cicadas and watching the squirrels move about the trees and over the lawn. Perfect.

This image will print 36″ x 60″.

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana
Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31019  
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA
 

If you enjoy this image but want something wider or bigger, this panoramic photo will print 60″ x 150″ long:

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana
Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31018  
Location: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana, USA
Pano dimensions: 6564 x 17803
 

Photographing Macrocystis in La Jolla’s Beautiful Forests of Giant Kelp

I have been photographing kelp forests in California with a passion for 25 years, from the Mexican border on up to Monterey including all the Channel Islands. Usually when I go diving in kelp its to San Clemente Island, which arguably has the most beautiful underwater scenery anywhere in California. In doing so I have bypassed the large tracts of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) just offshore of La Jolla and Point Loma because the water is just not as clear as I would like in those places. During the last couple years, however, the kelp forests at San Clemente Island have thinned out incredibly due to overly warm water, while those along the coast are still thick and healthy. Recently while out with a friend on his boat, I was able to do a little freediving in the kelp beds just off Point La Jolla and managed to get some nice photographs. The light was great, the visibility “good enough” and I was reminded again just how beautiful a healthy kelp forest is. As is done with a lot of my underwater photography, these images are made with only the available light — no strobes or tricky equipment. In other words, this is what you would see if you put on a mask and fins and went for a swim off in the kelp beds off Alligator Head or Children’s Pool. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera
The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California’s Southern Channel Islands.
Image ID: 30986  
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
 
The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera
The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California’s Southern Channel Islands.
Image ID: 30989  
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera
The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California’s Southern Channel Islands.
Image ID: 30996  
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera
The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California’s Southern Channel Islands.
Image ID: 30998  
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera
The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California’s Southern Channel Islands.
Image ID: 30992  
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 

Oak Alley Plantation and Its Famous Tunnel of Old Oak Trees, Vacherie, Louisiana

Filed under: Landscape, Panoramas — Tags: , , , , — on 7/4/2015

While in New Orleans recently, I made a side-trip to visit Oak Alley Plantation. I love ancient, huge and gnarly trees, and when it comes to oak trees — specifically the southern live oak, Quercus virginiana — Oak Alley Plantation has some of the most photogenic in the South.

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana
Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31009  
Location: Vacherie, Louisiana, USA
 
Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana
Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31005  
Location: Vacherie, Louisiana, USA
 

My goal was to produce one or two very large prints — 6 to 7 feet long — of the trees that grace this plantation, hopefully for hanging in our dining room. This required waiting for good light with no people around and shooting multi-image high resolution panoramic photographs, a slow process. The plantation’s most captivating view is that of its stately Antebellum mansion framed by the canopied tunnel of enormous trees, and that is where I spent most of my time. The double row of southern live oaks in this view was planted in the early 18th century, well before the house itself was built, and now forms a remarkable path between the house and the Mississippi River. The river itself can no longer be seen due to the the levee at its edge, but the effect is still stunning. Could the person who planted the trees 300 years ago have known what a perfectly balanced and imposing instance of deciduous wonder they would one day become, centuries hence? That would have been foresight indeed.

A tunnel of old southern oak trees stretches off toward the Mississippi River.  Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana
A tunnel of old southern oak trees stretches off toward the Mississippi River. Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31021  
Location: Vacherie, Louisiana, USA
 
Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Vacherie, Louisiana
Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31004  
Location: Vacherie, Louisiana, USA
 

Oak Alley Plantation receives hundreds of visitors each day, so I opted to avoid the crowds and shoot at sunrise and sunset. I lucked out and got both types of light I was hoping for: overcast skies and muted, soft, flat light at dusk, and fairly clear skies and warm side lighting at dawn. I was alone for some hours walking the grounds in peace and quiet, checking out the stately mansion and its varied barns, cottages, gardens and out-buildings in addition to the many huge old oaks spread across the plantation. After sunset the sound of what I am guessing were cicadas buzzed everywhere and continued through the night. Once all hint of color had left the evening sky, I returned to my cottage and enjoyed the meal of gumbo, etouffee and grits that the kitchen staff had left for me in the fridge. I was tempted to walk around again as the moon had risen and I knew the movie Interview with a Vampire had been filmed here so there must be some kind of evening spirits inhabiting the property, but jet lag caught up with me so I set my alarm for 30 minutes before sunrise and crashed for the night. The following morning the overcast skies had lifted so I knew there would be some side lighting on the trees. It is fortunate I rose early, since the first thing that happened when I stepped outside into the heavy, wet, warm morning air was to completely fog every surface of my camera. After many years of diving with cameras in the tropics I should have known better than to take a cold camera out into a warm humid place. After 20-30 minutes the camera fog had cleared and I could shoot properly, and I set about photographing the panorama that I had planned for just as the sun crested the horizon and shed warm, diffuse Louisiana light on the oaks. Around 7:30 I had to leave, needing to be back in downtown New Orleans by 9am. The light and conditions had been just perfect and I lucked out on this one.

Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Quercus virginiana, Vacherie, Louisiana
Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31017  
Species: Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana
Location: Vacherie, Louisiana, USA
 
Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of  300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana).  The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Quercus virginiana, Vacherie, Louisiana
Oak Alley Plantation and its famous shaded tunnel of 300-year-old southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). The plantation is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Image ID: 31020  
Species: Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana
Location: Vacherie, Louisiana, USA
 

I was hoping to be captivated by the place — by the trees especially — and I was not disappointed. If I sound romantic it is with good reason since Oak Alley is indeed a romantic place, evoking the grace, decadence and elegance of the Old South. Will I return? Absolutely. The next time I am in New Orleans it will be the first thing I put on my calendar.

Cheers, and thanks for looking!

San Diego County Fair at Night, Del Mar, California

Filed under: California, San Diego — Tags: , , — on 7/3/2015

The Del Mar Fair — or, for noobs, the “San Diego County Fair” — has some great lights at night. My favorites are the ferris wheels and whirling rides. This year I added a new image to my collection, one in which the full moon is rising above the fairgrounds. A little bit of time exposure lets the moving rides trace out cool circles in the air like a Spyrograph. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Full moon rising at night over the San Diego County Fair.  Del Mar Fair at night
Full moon rising at night over the San Diego County Fair. Del Mar Fair at night.
Image ID: 31030  
Location: Del Mar, California, USA
 
Train lights, Del Mar Fair and San Dieguito Lagoon at Night.  Lights from the San Diego Fair reflect in San Dieguito Lagooon, with the train track trestles to the left
Train lights, Del Mar Fair and San Dieguito Lagoon at Night. Lights from the San Diego Fair reflect in San Dieguito Lagooon, with the train track trestles to the left.
Image ID: 31025  
Location: Del Mar, California, USA
 
Ferris wheel and fair rides at sunset, blurring due to long exposure, Del Mar Fair
Ferris wheel and fair rides at sunset, blurring due to long exposure.
Image ID: 20872  
Location: Del Mar Fair, California, USA
 
Hot Dog on a Stick, corn dog, greasy fried fatty food, Del Mar Fair
Hot Dog on a Stick, corn dog, greasy fried fatty food.
Image ID: 20860  
Location: Del Mar Fair, California, USA
 
Del Mar Fair rides at night, blurring due to long exposure
Del Mar Fair rides at night, blurring due to long exposure.
Image ID: 20876  
Location: Del Mar Fair, California, USA
 
Full moon rising at night over the San Diego County Fair.  Del Mar Fair at night
Full moon rising at night over the San Diego County Fair. Del Mar Fair at night.
Image ID: 31028  
Location: Del Mar, California, USA
 

Sport Diver Cover, June 2015, Sea Lion in the Sea of Cortez

I love diving in the Sea of Cortez in the Fall. The water is warm, the weather is often serene, the diving easy and fun. And there are some amazing rookeries of sea lions, including the world famous Los Islotes island in the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve. So I was pleased when a photograph from my last visit to the Sea of Cortez ended up on this month’s cover of Sport Diver. Thanks Sport Diver and Seapics who arranged the photo use! If you like this cute sealion, be sure to see more Sea Lion Photos and more photos from the Sea of Cortez. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Sport Diver cover photo, June 2015, Sea Lion in the Sea of Cortez

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Torrey Pines Golf Course and Black’s Beach

This aerial panorama of Torrey Pines Golf Course will print huge: up to about 4′ high and 10′ wide! In the center is seen Torrey Pines Golf Course south course, with the north course to the left. I played Torrey Pines often when I first moved to La Jolla and it is as beautiful on the ground as it looks from the air. Dominating the scene are the 300′ tall seacliffs that characterize the coastline from Torrey Pines State Reserve south to Scripps Institute of Oceanography. To the right is seen Torrey Pines Glider Port on the mesa, and Black’s Beach at the base of the seacliffs. Interstate 5 is seen in the center distance along with University City, Del Mar to the extreme left and Mount Soledad and La Jolla to the extreme right. I am often asked if I use a drone to shoot aerials, since they are becoming so popular. The answer for now is “no”: I always hold the camera. Someday I will probably use a drone but for my current interests and goals, I have greater control and can produce a higher quality image if I am in the air with my camera. Besides, its fun to fly, and I don’t want a drone to have all the fun. It was exciting making this panorama, hovering over some of the most beautiful coastline in all of California. If you like this, see more of my aerial panoramic photographs. Cheers, and thanks for looking.

Aerial panorama of Blacks Beach, Torrey Pines Golf Course (south course), and views to La Jolla (south) and Carlsbad (north)
Aerial panorama of Blacks Beach, Torrey Pines Golf Course (south course), and views to La Jolla (south) and Carlsbad (north).
Image ID: 30851  
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 6962 x 19824
 

Underwater Photos of Marine Algae in Southern California and Baja California

Filed under: California, Underwater Photography — Tags: , , — on 5/31/2015

I dive in Southern California and Baja California, and one of the most appealing things about the underwater landscapes I see are the many species of marine algae. Marine algae cover the reefs in most places with a lush, colorful, vibrant carpet of life. Following are photos of some of the more common and beautiful forms of marine algae found underwater along the Pacific coast of Southern California and Baja California. Descriptions are from Wikipedia. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all marine algae, nor is it meant to be an identification guide — it is simply to show the variety and beauty of my favorite types of marine algae. Thank you to Dr. Kathy Ann Miller of UC Berkeley for help in identification, any errors are strictly mine. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Giant Kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera

Macrocystis pyrifera, commonly known as giant kelp or giant bladder kelp, is a species of kelp (large brown algae), and one of four species in the genus Macrocystis. Giant kelp is common along the coast of the eastern Pacific Ocean, from Baja California north to southeast Alaska, and is also found in the southern oceans near South America, South Africa, and Australia. Individual algae may grow to more than 45 metres (148 ft) long at a rate of as much as 2 feet (61 cm) per day. Giant kelp grows in dense stands known as kelp forests, which are home to many marine animals that depend on the algae for food or shelter.

Kelp frond showing pneumatocysts, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island
Kelp frond showing pneumatocysts.
Image ID: 00627  
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 
A kelp forest.  Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy.  Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest.  Lush forests of kelp are found through California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island
A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California’s Southern Channel Islands.
Image ID: 23428  
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 
A view of an underwater forest of giant kelp.  Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy.  Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest.  Lush forests of kelp are found through California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island
A view of an underwater forest of giant kelp. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California’s Southern Channel Islands.
Image ID: 25400  
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 
Kelp holdfast and substrate, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island
Kelp holdfast and substrate.
Image ID: 00622  
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 


Feather Boa Kelp, Egregia menziesii

Egregia menziesii is a species of kelp known commonly as feather boa kelp. It is native to the coastline of western North America from Alaska to Baja California, where it is a common kelp of the intertidal zone. It is dark brown in color, shiny and bumpy in texture, and may reach over five meters long. It grows a branching stipe from a thick holdfast. It bears long, flat, straplike fronds lined with small blades each a few centimeters long. There are pneumatocysts at intervals along the fronds which provide buoyancy. The alga varies in morphology; the rachis, or central strip, of the frond may be smooth or corrugated, and the blades along the edge of the rachis may be a variety of shapes.

Feather boa kelp (long brown fuzzy stuff) and other marine algae cover the rocky reef, Egregia menziesii, San Clemente Island
Feather boa kelp (long brown fuzzy stuff) and other marine algae cover the rocky reef.
Image ID: 25416  
Species: Feather boa kelp, Egregia menziesii
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 


Southern Sea Palm, Palm Kelp, Eisenia arborea

Eisenia arborea, or the southern sea palm (not to be confused with the sea palm), is a dominant species of kelp that is found in the Northern and Eastern Pacific from Vancouver Island, Canada south to Isla Magdalena, Mexico, and along the coast of Baja California. They are commonly found from the midtidal areas stretching to the subtidal areas. It is an edible seaweed, a source of nutrients for grazing marine invertebrates and a source of alginic acid, a food thickener. Some of the algas have a hollow stripe above its holdfast with two branches terminating in multiple blades. Eisenia arborea is studied in order to predict environmental stress in oceans intertidal zones. Hollow stripes where present when the Eisenia arborea did not receive essential nutrients for its thalli development. Eisenia arborea with hollow stripes are believed to be evolved algae in order to increase their survival in harsh living conditions. They play a huge role in determining environmental stress.

Southern sea palm, palm kelp, underwater, San Clemente Island, Eisenia arborea
Southern sea palm, palm kelp, underwater, San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30919  
Species: Southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 
Southern sea palm, palm kelp, underwater, San Clemente Island, Eisenia arborea
Southern sea palm, palm kelp, underwater, San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30917  
Species: Southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 
Southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)
Southern sea palm.
Image ID: 09537  
Species: Southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico
 
Palm kelp. Southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)
Palm kelp. Southern sea palm.
Image ID: 01249  
Species: Southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico
 
Kelp covered wall of Isla Afuera, diver, Eisenia arborea, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)
Kelp covered wall of Isla Afuera, diver.
Image ID: 03724  
Species: Southern Sea Palm, Eisenia arborea
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico
 


Surfgrass, Phyllospadix

Phyllospadix is a genus of seagrass or surfgrass, a flowering plant in the family Zosteraceae, described as a genus in 1840. Phyllospadix grows in marine waters along the coasts of the temperate North Pacific. It is one of the seagrass genuses that can perform completely submerged pollination.

Surfgrass (Phyllospadix), shallow water, San Clemente Island, Phyllospadix
Surfgrass (Phyllospadix), shallow water, San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30941  
Species: Surfgrass, Phyllospadix
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 
Surfgrass (Phyllospadix), shallow water, San Clemente Island, Phyllospadix
Surfgrass (Phyllospadix), shallow water, San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30886  
Species: Surfgrass, Phyllospadix
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 
Surfgrass and diver, Phyllospadix, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)
Surfgrass and diver.
Image ID: 03736  
Species: Surfgrass, Phyllospadix
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico
 


Asparagopsis taxiformis

Asparagopsis taxiformis, red marine algae, growing on underwater rocky reef below kelp forest at San Clemente Island, Asparagopsis taxiformis
Asparagopsis taxiformis, red marine algae, growing on underwater rocky reef below kelp forest at San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30939  
Species: Asparagopsis taxiformis
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 
Garibaldi and Asparagopsis taxiformis (red marine algae), San Clemente Island, Hypsypops rubicundus, Asparagopsis taxiformis
Garibaldi and Asparagopsis taxiformis (red marine algae), San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30881  
Species: Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus, Asparagopsis taxiformis
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 
Various kelp and algae, shallow water, Asparagopsis taxiformis, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)
Various kelp and algae, shallow water.
Image ID: 21376  
Species: Asparagopsis taxiformis
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico
 


Stephanocystis dioica

Stephanocystis is characterized by highly differentiated basal and apical regions and the presence of catenate pneumatocysts (air-vesicles). In Stephanocystis old plants have an elongated main axis, and in time the primary laterals become proportionally elongated. Their lower parts are strongly flattened into ‘foliar expansions’ or basal leaves. Fertile regions which bear conceptacles are known as receptacles. These are normally found at the tips of the branches. Their basal and apical regions are highly differentiated. They have catenate pnuematocysts (air vesicles). The aerocyst or air vesicles keep the organism erect, by causing it to float in strong currents.

Stephanocystis dioica (yellow) and surfgrass (green), shallow water, San Clemente Island, Phyllospadix, Stephanocystis dioica
Stephanocystis dioica (yellow) and surfgrass (green), shallow water, San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30946  
Species: Surfgrass, Phyllospadix, Stephanocystis dioica
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 
A group of juvenile and female Guadalupe fur seals rest and socialize over a shallow, kelp-covered reef.  During the summer mating season, a single adjult male will form a harem of females and continually patrol the underwater boundary of his territory, keeping the females near and intimidating other males from approaching, Arctocephalus townsendi, Stephanocystis dioica, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)
A group of juvenile and female Guadalupe fur seals rest and socialize over a shallow, kelp-covered reef. During the summer mating season, a single adjult male will form a harem of females and continually patrol the underwater boundary of his territory, keeping the females near and intimidating other males from approaching.
Image ID: 09677  
Species: Guadalupe fur seal, Arctocephalus townsendi, Stephanocystis dioica
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico
 
Stephanocystis dioica (lighter yellow), southern sea palm (darker yellow) and surfgrass (green), shallow water, San Clemente Island, Eisenia arborea, Phyllospadix, Stephanocystis dioica
Stephanocystis dioica (lighter yellow), southern sea palm (darker yellow) and surfgrass (green), shallow water, San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30948  
Species: Southern palm kelp, Surfgrass, Eisenia arborea, Phyllospadix, Stephanocystis dioica
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA
 

The Disappearing Kelp Forests of San Clemente Island

Filed under: Aerial Photography, California — Tags: , , , — on 5/30/2015

I was recently diving at San Clemente Island. The profound lack of giant kelp forests was a striking contrast to what I am used to seeing over 25 years of diving at the island. Under ideal conditions, giant kelp can grow about 2′ per day (the fastest growing plant on Earth), but it does require relatively cool water to really flourish. In 2014, water temperatures were higher than normal, leading to poor growth conditions. The kelp has not recovered, and if an El Nino that is predicted to occur in 2015 comes to pass, it is almost certain to cause whatever kelp forests are at the island to recede considerably. Here are two images, from above the southeastern tip of the island (”Pyramid Head”) looking northwest along the axis of the island, shot in September 2010 (top, healthy thick kelp forests appear in brown, from Pyramid Cove in upper left around Pyramid Head point and up the eastern side of the island) and July 2014 (almost total absence of giant kelp forests). These two images are crops, click on either to see the original composition.





See more photos of San Clemente Island, photos of giant kelp forests, and aerial photos. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panorama of Point Loma, Cabrillo Monument and San Diego Bay

This is a highly detailed aerial panoramic photo of the southern end of Point Loma, with Cabrillo Monument and both old and new lighthouses visible. The original Cabrillo lighthouse is seen atop the bluff, while the new lighthouse is down near the water’s edge next to the green lawns. North Island Naval Air Station and San Diego Bay are seen in the distance over the top of the peninsula. The submarine reefs of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve are clearly visible through the clear water. The Coronado Strand stretches off to the right (south) toward Mexico, while the broken coastline of Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs stretches off to the left (north). This high resolution panorama will print 40″ high by 90″ wide. If you like this, please see more aerial photos of San Diego. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument, San Diego, California
Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument.
Image ID: 30847  
Location: San Diego, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 6195 x 13742
 

Aerial Panorama of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge

One of the images I wanted to add to my collection of San Diego aerial photos was a very wide, very detailed image of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge. I could have taken a single image with a very wide lens — such as this image taken a few years ago that has since paid for the flight many times over — and achieved a reasonable result, but as far as high resolution goes this approach has its limits. The wider the lens, the more distortion is present in the image (think “fisheye view”). Correcting such distortion reduces the sharpness of the details especially around the edges of the image. Also, a single photograph will be limited in resolution by what the camera can record — these days, 36 megapixels is typical. What I really wanted was an enormous, highly detailed, and rectilinear (straight lines, no fisheye distortion) image suitable for large reproduction in a space that would warrant it, such as an office lobby, museum, or the Oval Office. Equipped with the most expensive and high-tech ball head in the world, my daughter and I got up in the air and set about shooting the images. I later stitched them together on the computer using several stages and software programs. The result is this panoramic photo of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge, suitable for printing 50″ by 100″ wide with no interpolation.

Panoramic Aerial Photo of San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge
Panoramic Aerial Photo of San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge.
Image ID: 30789  
Location: San Diego, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 7503 x 14441
 

If you like this, please see my other San Diego aerial photos, or my collection of aerial panoramic photos. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Park, San Diego

Panoramic aerial photograph of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Parks (center), with La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rising above, La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Caves to the left and the La Jolla Coast with Children’s Pool (Casa Cove) to the right. The undersea reefs of Boomer Beach are seen through the clear, calm ocean waters. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 50″ high by 130″ long with no interpolation. If you like this, be sure to check out my always growing gallery of San Diego photos.

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach, Scripps Park
Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach, Scripps Park.
Image ID: 30773  
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 7744 x 20541
 

This is the second in my series of recent San Diego aerial panoramas, part of my collection of aerial photos of San Diego. Making an aerial panorama is difficult. The technique used in the sky is important and requires a good pilot and the right conditions. Lens choice is important as well, otherwise distortion will affect the resulting image considerably. And obtaining a perfect result, with no “stitching errors” or gaps, requires a degree of patience, several pieces of software, and some trial and error. I spent days assembling these panoramas, and hope to see them reproduced at enormous sizes once the right opportunity presents itself. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panorama of Bird Rock and the La Jolla Coastline

Aerial Panorama of La Jolla’s Bird Rock, with surfers in the water at lower right. Submarine reefs, characteristic of the La Jolla coast, can be seen through the clear water. Mount Soledad rises above everything. This 180-degree panorama extends from Camp Pendleton in the extreme distance to the north to Point Loma in the south. The resolution of this image will permit it to be printed 80″ high by 200″ wide with no interpolation.

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Bird Rock and La Jolla Coast, with surfers in the waves.  Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are to the far right (south).  La Jolla's Mount Soledad rises in the center.  The submarine reefs around Bird Rock are visible through the clear water. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 80 inches high by 200 inches wide
Aerial Panoramic Photo of Bird Rock and La Jolla Coast, with surfers in the waves. Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are to the far right (south). La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rises in the center. The submarine reefs around Bird Rock are visible through the clear water. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 80 inches high by 200 inches wide.
Image ID: 30778  
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 7948 x 20303
 

In March and April I made a series of flights to photograph many of San Diego’s prominent coastal features. (Yesterday I described one flight focusing on making aerial photos of San Diego’s Marine Protected Areas.) During their spring breaks, my daughters and I hired helicopters a couple times with the goal of adding to my collection of aerial photos of San Diego, trying something new. The pilots and I discussed the plans before taking off, and we gave it a shot. Making an aerial panorama is very difficult to get just right. The technique used in the sky is important and requires a good pilot and the right conditions. Lens choice is important as well, otherwise distortion will affect the resulting image considerably. And obtaining a perfect result, with no “stitching errors” or gaps, requires a degree of patience, several pieces of software, and some trial and error. I spent days assembling these panoramas, and hope to see them reproduced at enormous sizes once the right opportunity presents itself. This is the first of several I will post over the coming days. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Photographic Survey of San Diego Marine Protected Areas for Lighthawk

I recently made a special flight with my pilot friend Steve Parker in collaboration with Lighthawk. Lighthawk’s mission is “to accelerate conservation success through the powerful perspective of flight”. On this flight, we were trying to produce new aerial images of several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the San Diego coastline for organizations involved with these MPAs to use in their outreach, conservation, research and legislative efforts.

Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve
Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve.
Image ID: 30569  
Location: Carlsbad, Callifornia, USA
 

I’ve flown with Steve many times, including previously for Lighthawk to document the impacts of the large wind turbines constructed on the landscape around Ocotillo, California as well as a number of times to survey blue whales in the southern California bight and the Channel Islands. On our San Diego MPA mission, we would be passing over several lagoons and rivermouths, various kelp forests, two submarine canyons, several stretches of coastal bluff, one peninsula and lots of urban elements surrounding and interspersed with these MPAs. Our goal was to produce imagery presenting, for each of the MPAs, at least the following: 1) the general setting of each MPA, so that viewers can quickly understand what and where it is, and 2) something unique, special and/or appealing about each MPA, to help viewers connect with and appreciate the MPAs. Steve’s daughter Roxanne accompanied us as second pilot as well as locating the MPAs and facilitating communication between Steve and me. Steve handled the primary piloting, and communications with air-traffic controllers in the area.

The Marine Protected Areas that we hoped to fly over were, from North to South in the order we would see them:

  • Batiquitos Lagoon SMCA
  • Swami’s SMCA
  • San Elijo Lagoon SMCA
  • San Dieguito Lagoon SMCA
  • San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA
  • Matlahuayal SMR
  • South La Jolla SMCA
  • South La Jolla SMR
  • Famosa Slough SMCA (we missed this one, unfortunately)
  • Cabrillo SMR
  • Tijuana River Mouth SMCA

Time in the air is always limited and, frankly, it comes at a steep price. I wanted to make sure we had some variety of perspectives, and at least one or two good images from each of different MPAs. It is a challenge, in more ways than one, to pull off a successful photo flight like this. We had several long conservations with Lee Pagni at Lighthawk about the objectives, then Steve and I had to work out several possible flight dates given tides, position of the sun in the sky, etc. Our first slot was scrubbed due to clouds. When we finally met at Palomar-McClellan airport in Carlsbad, we already had invested some hours and energy. On top of that are the expenses Steve incurs operating the plane, which are considerable. So, I did want to leave any possibility of missing a photo due to equipment failure or simply having the wrong lens in hand. I would be shooting out the side of Steve’s Cessna 206 plane, with views from about 7 to 10 o’clock (the nose of the plane being at 12 noon). We also mounted a GoPro camera on the wing, pointed somewhat forward and down, in the hopes of obtaining some additional very wide images with a view that I was not able to get. We set the GoPro to take a picture every 5 seconds for the duration of the flight. I photographed with three cameras to give me quick access to a variety of focal lengths: Nikon D800 with 14-24 lens, Nikon D800 with 24-70 lens, and Canon 5D Mark III with 70-200 lens. The 24-70 is by far the most useful lens for this sort of aerial landscape. The 14-24 is typically too wide and sometimes catches a wing tip or strut in the corner of the frame, but it can produce beautiful aerials in some circumstances. Unless the air is exceedingly clear, 70-200 is typically too much lens for my taste and produces a flat-looking, low-contrast image even with a polarizer. (The 70-200 is, however, excellent for photographing whales while shooting straight down.) I also had two GPS units recording our positions every few seconds, producing a “GPX file” which I would later use to “geo-tag” all of the photos. (Good thing I had two, my older GPS produced a faulty GPX file and is now retired.)

Aerial Photo of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve, Point Loma, San Diego
Aerial Photo of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve, Point Loma, San Diego.
Image ID: 30641  
Location: San Diego, California, USA
 

Editing left me with 150 images, including a few of the GoPro ones that illustrated reef structure in La Jolla that I did not manage to photograph well with my “real cameras”. In particular, the GoPro stills are hard to use due to the fisheye-like view they produce, but in some cases the fisheye distortion can be corrected and a useable image results. Taking all of the GoPro images, correcting them all for distortion and then cropping them to a 9:16 perspective, allowed me to produce a sort of jerky time-lapse which gives a sense of the views we where working with. If you don’t see a Youtube frame below, you might need to refresh the page. Be sure to select “HD” when it starts playing:

When editing aerial images, the first thing I always do is “geo-tag” them. This simply means adding the location (latitude, longitude and altitude) into the EXIF information that is present inside of a digital photograph. I do the geotagging in Adobe Lightroom, using the GPX file created by my handheld GPS. (Some cameras, including the iPhone, geotag photos as soon as they are taken.) The raw GPX file is simply a dot-to-dot set of locations that, when plotted in software like Google Earth, shows the path of the flight:

Here are a couple zoomed-in-views, showing our flight paths over Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) (first image) and Swami’s SMCA and San Elijo Lagoon SMCA (second image):

These tracklogs are nice, but without the images they simply say “we were here”. After geotagging the images and producing a “KMZ file” to display in Google Earth, one can see the images at the location where they were made. The geo-information associated with each image is now of some value:

If you have Google Earth installed, you can work with the full KMZ file by clicking the next image. (It may simply download the KMZ file instead of displaying it in Google Earth.) It contains embedded within it small versions of all the edited images, appearing at their proper locations. If this does not work, you can download the raw KMZ file to your computer and try loading it into Google Earth directly.




click to launch this map in Google Earth

The full collection of images being made available to bon fide conservation organizations can be seen here. Please contact me directly if you have questions, or if you would like to make use of them.

I would like to thank Lighthawk, Christine Steele and Lee Pagni of Lighthawk, and my pilot friends Steve and Roxanne Parker for helping to make these photographs possible. I will be posting detailed information about selected images from this flight over the coming weeks. If you reference these images, they should be credited “Phillip Colla / Oceanlight.com / Lighthawk.org”.

Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve
Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve.
Image ID: 30563  
Location: Carlsbad, Callifornia, USA
 
Aerial Photo of San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA. Blacks Beach and Torrey Pines State Reserve, La Jolla, California
Aerial Photo of San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA. Blacks Beach and Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Image ID: 30622  
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Aerial Photo of South La Jolla State Marine Reserve
Aerial Photo of South La Jolla State Marine Reserve.
Image ID: 30638  
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 

Lunar Eclipse April 4 2015 from Joshua Tree National Park

I went up to Joshua Tree National Park to watch the lunar eclipse of April 4, 2015. Photographically, I was not sure what I was going to do. I’ve made a series of lunar eclipse sequence images (lunar eclipse October 8, 2014 and April 14, 2014 version 2 version 3). While these images are visually appealing and challenging to make well, I really wanted to do something different for this eclipse, push the creative comfort zone so to speak. Fellow photographer Garry McCarthy and I mulled over some ideas on the drive up to Joshua Tree but after arriving I was still at a loss. I deliberately left my 500mm lens at home so I would not fall into the trap of trying to photograph closeups and sequences that way. In fact, I brought my fish eye lens to force myself to look for something different. We headed to the arch, a spot we often go to for night photography and the place at which Garry (with some help from me) originally planned and executed the “Milky Way Arch over Arch” photo, which we have subsequently re-photographed in many variations over the years. A little pondering, a pause for a Santana’s chicken burrito, some crawling around on the rocks looking for angles, and then thankfully I had finally had an idea for a different kind of sequence and a different angle on the arch. At least something to try.

Lunar Eclipse Sequence through Arch Rock, April 4 2015, Joshua Tree National Park, California
Lunar Eclipse Sequence, the path of the moon through the sky as it progresses from being fully visible (top) to fully eclipsed (middle) to almost fully visible again (bottom), viewed through Arch Rock, April 4 2015.
Image ID: 30713  
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA
 

I wanted a composition that told the story of the entire eclipse from start to end in one photograph, and in which the Joshua Tree NP setting was clearly evident. I recalled the exposure settings I had used during the last eclipse and realized that the variation of the moon’s light is too great to capture with just one exposure setting, but that could work to my advange in depicting the entire smooth path of the moon through the sky. I took a wild-ass-guess at the best aperture, shutter and ISO to use, set up my camera on a small tripod wedged into some rocks, turned on the intervalometer and let it go all night. The result is the following composite image, depicting the moon from about 1am until 6:30am, including the lunar eclipse from when it began at 3:15am until it set behind the rocks in the distance. The frame is “Arch Rock”, but in an unfamiliar angle. 890 individual images were taken to make this image. The stars and eclipsed moon are shown at about 5am, when the eclipse was at its “peak”, the moon being in its “blood red” phase and lit only by indirect, refracted light passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. The color of the moon is indeed red in the full res version but its hard to make out on the web. The path of the moon is flared toward the top due to high altitude clouds which were passing by, but as the eclipse began the skies cleared and the moon’s path through the sky becomes smoother.

We also realized that during the eclipse, the milky way would become visible, something that is typically impossible to see during a full moon. In fact, the strength of the moonlight would gradually fade in such a way that we could wait for it to exactly match the milky way and starlight above, allowing us to photograph the arch lit by a perfect amount of moonlight, right at astronomical twilight when blue just begins to appear in the sky, without resorting to using any artificial light at all. The result was this image: Milky Way over Arch Rock during Lunar Eclipse of April 4, 2015. (Note: I think this is the highest quality panorama of this scene I’ve ever photographed, and I’ve practiced it many many times. It will print 4.5′ by 7′ with no interpolation.)

Milky Way during Full Lunar Eclipse over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 4 2015
Milky Way during Full Lunar Eclipse over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 4 2015.
Image ID: 30717  
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 8903 x 14184
 

We were also treated to a 22° lunar halo an hour or so before the eclipse occurred. Often mistakenly called “lunar corona”, the lunar halo forms when moonlight refracts through hexagonal high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22° the sky is darker inside the halo. It formed a complete circle for about 45 minutes. We were freezing our asses off and, while this was a superb distraction, once it was gone we still had to wait and freeze until the eclipse began. Why is it still so cold in the high desert in April?

Full moon with 22-degree lunar halo, Joshua Tree National Park.  The lunar halo (not to be cofused with lunar corona) forms when moonlight refracts through high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22-degrees the sky is darker inside the halo
Full moon with 22-degree lunar halo, Joshua Tree National Park. The lunar halo (not to be cofused with lunar corona) forms when moonlight refracts through high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22-degrees the sky is darker inside the halo.
Image ID: 30711  
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA
 

Cheers and thanks for looking!

Moonflowers - Desert Wildflowers at Night

Filed under: California, Desert — Tags: , , — on 3/12/2015

“Moonflowers” - with a nod to my favorite rock band, and the best guitarist of all time. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and the small community of Borrego Springs contained within, have had a reasonably nice wildflower bloom this year. That’s great news, since it has been awhile since the last nice bloom there that was not adversely affected by the black mustard plant. Alaskan photographer Ron Niebrugge kindly kept us up to date on the bloom from his winter location in Borrego Springs, and I managed to get out and try my hand at wildflower photography five times over the course of a week.

Dune Evening Primrose and Full Moon, Anza Borrego, Oenothera deltoides, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California
Dune Evening Primrose and Full Moon, Anza Borrego.
Image ID: 30497  
Species: Dune primrose, Oenothera deltoides
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA
 

Anza-Borrego is only 75 miles from my home in Carlsbad, and the entire mountains along the way are beautiful right now, including the oaks on Mount Palomar and the rolling hills around Lake Henshaw, so the drive itself was fun each time. My first visit was actually a detour on the way to Death Valley, so I really just went to scout and find the densest, healthiest patch of flowers I could find, free from the hordes of caterpillars and footprints that had overtaken DiGiorgio Road a short time before. I did have some great evening storm clouds over the flowers, and managed a few photos. I found the best area well to the north of Henderson Canyon Road. From just before before a big rain, to a few days after the rain and then into a dry hot spell, I was able to watch this one patch of flowers flourish with moisture, rise out of the sand and bloom, only to be overtaken by moth caterpillars and dry conditions and soon reduced to virtually nothing in 9 days. Having not had a chance to really photograph my favorite wildflower — the dune evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides) — in some years, I tried photographing it in as many ways as I could think of, knowing it will probably be some years again before I see such nice displays. I shot these commando, working quickly and in one instance shooting handheld, while the moon rose (top photo) and fell (bottom photo). Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Dune evening primrose (white) and sand verbena (purple) mix in beautiful wildflower bouquets during the spring bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Oenothera deltoides, Borrego Springs, California
Dune evening primrose (white) and sand verbena (purple) mix in beautiful wildflower bouquets during the spring bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Image ID: 30502  
Species: Dune primrose, Oenothera deltoides
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA
 

Elephants (Three Different Ones)

I am starting to post my images from a fantastic safari experience in Kenya in September, and searched on the term “elephant” in my own stock files and found these three came to the top. I immediately thought “Elephants (Three Different Ones)”. Yes, I am a Pink Floyd fan, naturally. And no I don’t mean that kind of pink floyd. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Elephant arch and stars at night, moonlight, Valley of Fire State Park
Elephant arch and stars at night, moonlight, Valley of Fire State Park.
Image ID: 28435  
Location: Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, USA
 
Bull elephant seal exits the water to retake his position on the beach.  He shows considerable scarring on his chest and proboscis from many winters fighting other males for territory and rights to a harem of females.  Sandy beach rookery, winter, Central California, Mirounga angustirostris, Piedras Blancas, San Simeon
Bull elephant seal exits the water to retake his position on the beach. He shows considerable scarring on his chest and proboscis from many winters fighting other males for territory and rights to a harem of females. Sandy beach rookery, winter, Central California.
Image ID: 15458  
Species: Elephant seal, Mirounga angustirostris
Location: Piedras Blancas, San Simeon, California, USA
 
African elephant herd, Amboseli National Park, Kenya, Loxodonta africana
African elephant herd, Amboseli National Park, Kenya.
Image ID: 29531  
Species: African elephant, Loxodonta africana
Location: Amboseli National Park, Kenya
 

Paradise in February: San Diego

Filed under: San Diego — Tags: , , , , — on 2/18/2015

President’s Weekend was nice here. The rest of the country is freezing, yup that’s pretty bad. Southern California is in the midst of a bad drought and our Sierra Nevada is missing its usual snowpack which is going to hurt in the coming months, but at least the warm winter makes for clear skies and very nice temps. Here are a couple photos from President’s Day’s weekend, all depicting a few of my favorite scenes and all including the Pacific Ocean which was flat calm and glassy much of the time. Cheers and thanks for looking.

Broken Hill and view to La Jolla, panoramic photograph, from Torrey Pines State Reserve, sunrise, San Diego, California
Broken Hill and view to La Jolla, panoramic photograph, from Torrey Pines State Reserve, sunrise.
Image ID: 30469  
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 6212 x 12960
 
Gray whale raising fluke before diving, on southern migration to calving lagoons in Baja, Eschrichtius robustus, San Diego, California
Gray whale raising fluke before diving, on southern migration to calving lagoons in Baja.
Image ID: 30463  
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: San Diego, California, USA
 
Gray whale raising fluke before diving, on southern migration to calving lagoons in Baja, Eschrichtius robustus, San Diego, California
Gray whale raising fluke before diving, on southern migration to calving lagoons in Baja.
Image ID: 30464  
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: San Diego, California, USA
 
California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy. Note the winter mating plumage, olive and red throat, yellow head, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy. Note the winter mating plumage, olive and red throat, yellow head.
Image ID: 30449  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Surf and spray during Santa Ana offshore winds, San Diego, California
Surf and spray during Santa Ana offshore winds.
Image ID: 30461  
Location: San Diego, California, USA
 

The Original Wind Surfers: Pelicans, Waves and Surf

Filed under: Birds, Pelicans, San Diego — Tags: , , , , — on 2/16/2015

Wikipedia describes the origins of wind surfing in the 1940s and 1950s. It couldn’t be more wrong. For as long as they have existed, sea birds and their ancestors have plied the oceans, riding the updrafts of surf, waves and sea swells to gain efficiency and a free ride. My favorite practitioner of this skill is the pelican, although the wandering albatross is a close second. I have been watching pelicans cruise the coastline of my southern California home with a graceful effortlessness my whole life. This winter I made it a goal to shoot some images of brown pelicans surfing and skimming waves. Here are a few of my favorites, photographed in Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar and La Jolla. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30257  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California
Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30199  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30262  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30275  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California
Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30193  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave.
Image ID: 30353  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30277  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California
Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30194  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30278  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave.
Image ID: 30364  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave.
Image ID: 30374  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30273  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30314  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave.
Image ID: 30352  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30264  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 

I photograph brown California brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis). If you like these, please see more California brown pelican photos or a little PDF e-guide about photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla.

Killer Whales (Orca) attacking California Sea Lion

Filed under: Marine Life, Sea Lion — Tags: , , , — on 2/9/2015

I saw Wild Kingdom in action yesterday: killer whales preying upon California sea lions. Classified as Biggs transient orcas, these individuals are well known (CA51) for terrorizing other marine mammals along the Southern California coast. “Biggs transients” are one of four distinct populations (some insist they are species) of killer whales, characterized by predating upon marine mammals and occasionally sea birds as opposed to ground fish or salmon as do other coastal orcas. Coming upon the five killer whales as they finished toying with and consuming one predation (likely a sea lion), we watched them proceed to take at least two more sea lions over the next hour. In each of the following photos there is a sea lion although in some it is hard to find. The first image depicts the first hit that one of the adult orcas put upon the sea lion. I knew it was coming but still nearly did not get the lens on the sea lion in time. Several other hits took place and the sea lion was clearly panicky and stunned. In the third image, one of the females passes by the sea lion but what is not obvious is that there are two other orcas just below and in front of the sea lion, the pinniped is literally surrounded. There were two subadult orca in the group and it may have been a case of the adults allowing the subadults to learn how to hunt; in practical terms the pack was toying with its doomed prey. In the fifth photo you can see how close to shore this took place. In the final three images, the sea lion is 1) barely able to avoid being pushed under by one of the females, 2) hammered sideways by one of the adults, and 3) gasps for breath before being finally pulled under for the last time and consumed. I don’t photograph killer whales often, but have photographed other whale species including humpback whales and blue whales and some dolphins: Cetacean Photos. For my diving buddies who might be wondering: this was purely a topside trip. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30425  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30426  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30427  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30428  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30429  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30430  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30431  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30432  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30433  

La Jolla Birds

Filed under: Birds, La Jolla — Tags: , , , , — on 2/7/2015

La Jolla birds as of this morning. I had until 8:45 before catching the end of Sarah’s practice so I went down the coast highway. There were some waves in Encinitas but nothing special. Spectacular clearing mist at Torrey Pines at sunrise. In La Jolla the light changed much and often, wisps of fog passing just to the east in front of the sun. There was no workshop or crowd at the bird spot this morning which meant lots of birds and whisper quiet. Pelicans are at peak plumage, the cormorants have quite a ways to go. All in all a great morning. All photos are handheld with Canon 200-400. Cheers and thanks for looking!


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Updated: July 28, 2015