Today is the first of three guest entries from our good friend Skip Stubbs, who just returned from an extended trip to Paris and Provence. Here is a nighttime view of Aigue Mortes. To see more of Skip’s shots from Provence, click here.
Here is a shot of Middle Island, part of the Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado) not far from San Diego and Tijuana, just south of the border. Partially obscured by Middle Island is “Middle Rock”, to the left and behind.
Blue whale. The sleek hydrodynamic shape of the enormous blue whale allows it to swim swiftly through the ocean, at times over one hundred miles in a single day.
Image ID: 21250
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
From a recent flight over Islas Coronados (Coronado Islands, Mexico) recently, seen here is the western exposure of North Coronado Island viewed from the southwest. Do you see the crack between the rightmost tip of the island and the main island? There is a narrow submerged passageway through that crack from the east to the west side of the island which we have swam through while diving. If the water in the slot is calm, there are often sea lions hanging out there. On this day you can see that the wave energy was high and it would have been a ass-over-teakettle tumbler of a ride for a diver to swim through that passageway.
I had a chance to go flying with a pilot friend whom I had not seen in a few years, and jumped at the opportunity. Flying in small planes is a lot of fun, and it allows us to see the ocean in ways one cannot from the coast or on a boat. The plan was to fly over the Nine Mile Bank and around the Coronado Islands. We saw hundreds of Risso’s dolphins, and two huge herds of what appeared to be short-beaked common dolphins (it was difficult to be sure from altitude but they were one of the smaller dolphin species). Mola mola (ocean sunfish) were sunning themselves on the surface, we saw about a dozen of them without really even looking very hard. And we found at least four, perhaps five, blue whales above the submarine trench off La Jolla. The only times I have ever truly seen an entire blue whale, clearly and for more than a few moments, is from the air. When observed from a boat, only about 10-20% of a blue whale is visible at a time. When seen underwater, which is quite rare, the entire blue whale may be briefly visible if the water is clear enough but it is nonetheless difficult to truly appreciate the detail and sleek lines that a blue whale has in such a fleeting moment.
I was glad to have a new Nikon D3 with me since we had less than optimal photography weather and the camera has great performance in low light. The skies were mostly cloudy this day, so the lighting on the whales was flat and without contrast. The low light levels also meant I was fighting for enough shutter speed to freeze the motion of the whales against the shaking of the camera in my hands as I tried to keep it steady shooting out the small plane. I jacked up the ISO to 1600 and even 2000 for some of the shots, and the results were amazing: the color was intact with plenty of detail in the shadow areas and very little noise. I’ve shot film on these animals before in ideal conditions and even then it was difficult to obtain sharp appealing images. Shooting good images with film on this day would have been impossible, and was difficult even with my Canon bodies (1DsII and 5D). But the Nikon D3 recorded so much detail at high ISO that with the usual raw conversion steps (white balance, curves, levels) I was able to glean some real keepers.
It’s the time of year when the bugling of rutting elk echoes around Yellowstone National Park. Here is our collection of elk photos (Cervus candensis), all from Yellowstone National Park, most taken in the fall during the elk rut but a few in summer as the elk antlers are still in velvet.
Elk, bull elk, adult male elk with large set of antlers. By September, this bull elk’s antlers have reached their full size and the velvet has fallen off. This bull elk has sparred with other bulls for access to herds of females in estrous and ready to mate.
Image ID: 19739
Species: Elk, Cervus canadensis
Location: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA