Monthly Archives

October 2008

Rough Sex Redux

California, Monterey, Wildlife

I was recently up in Monterey to join Jon Cornforth trying to photograph sea otters (Enhydra lutris). We saw a few. In this photo, Casanova (the male sea otter on the left) is holding his lady friend (the female, inverted on the right, apparently not enjoying it) by HER NOSE as he mates with her. It is brutal, yes, but it is standard otter fare. Male sea otters usually mate with females in this manner, so much so that females can usually be identified by their scarred and wounded noses.

Sea otters mating.  The male holds the female's head or nose with his jaws during copulation. Visible scars are often present on females from this behavior.  Sea otters have a polygynous mating system. Many males actively defend territories and will mate with females that inhabit their territory or seek out females in estrus if no territory is established. Males and females typically bond for the duration of estrus, or about 3 days, Enhydra lutris, Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Moss Landing, California

Sea otters mating. The male holds the female’s head or nose with his jaws during copulation. Visible scars are often present on females from this behavior. Sea otters have a polygynous mating system. Many males actively defend territories and will mate with females that inhabit their territory or seek out females in estrus if no territory is established. Males and females typically bond for the duration of estrus, or about 3 days.
Image ID: 21606
Species: Sea otter, Enhydra lutris
Location: Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Moss Landing, California, USA

See more of our sea otter photos.

What’s with the title of this post, you might wonder? Strangely, an earlier post of mine entitled “Rough Sex” has become one of the most popular posts on this site. So I thought I would do a little shameless SEO and use the technique again hoping for more visitors.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Sample Images

How To

I just picked up a Panasonic Lumix DMC LX3, after having used its previous incarnation (Lumix DMC-LX2) for about a year for our family snapshots and as a general grab-and-go camera. There is plenty of information about the Panasonic LX3 on the web already, so I won’t get into a detailed review. Instead I’ll simply offer my positive recommendation and some sample images. Here is a particularly accurate review.

If you don’t want to read any more, the sample images are here. (Update: the raw files are now removed, they’ve been there for a few weeks and I don’t want them eating up storage space on my server.)

Here are a few more, not available in high res but you can get an idea of how I use this camera and what images I think are “keepable” out of it. These are straight out of the camera, no postprocessing.

As I expected based on my experience with the LX2, for a point and shoot camera (P&S) the Panasonic Lumix LX3 is, in my opinion, a pretty darn good camera. I really like its small size, wide angle lens (24mm equivalent), 16:9, 4:3 and 3:2 aspect ratios, and good exposure and flash capabilities. At the wide end, the LX3’s Leica 24mm-equivalent lens is great for landscape images as well as any “forced perspective” image in which the foreground subject takes on a larger-than-life importance in relation to the rest of the image. For me this is a big plus, since I shoot the LX3 as wide as possible 95% of the time, and 24mm is noticably wider than the 28mm or 35mm focal lengths offered in most other P&S cameras. (The LX2 had a 28mm equivalent lens). As far as exposure goes, I generally leave the camera in its “P” mode (program exposure) and just dial the exposure compensation up or down. Occasionally, if I am shooting a landscape with the camera on a tripod, I will use aperature-priority mode with the aperature set at f/8. Once in a while I will shoot deliberately blurred images, for which case aperature priority mode is again useful (f/8, ISO 100). When shooting flash-lit images, one can dial the exposure compensation on the flash up and down independently of the compensation used for the available light exposure. And like most P&S cameras these days, the LX3 has a video feature which allows us to get some grab videos on our vacations.

A note on RAW. Like the LX2 before it, the LX3 can produce a RAW file in addition to JPG. However, my experience with the RAW converter provided with the LX3 — Silkypix — has not been pleasant. Frankly, I couldn’t stand it. The interface seemed awkward and slow, and I found it difficult to batch process a group of images that all required slight variations of RAW adjustment from one another.

Note: as of March 2009, Lightroom supports LX3 raw files, so I use that when I feel the need to shoot RAW with the Lumix LX3.

I’ve posted a selection of sample images taken with the Panasonic Lumix LX3 over the past few days. I may revise this group of sample images in the coming weeks if I have a chance to shoot more. The JPGs shown are all straight out of the camera, the only adjustment being that they have been resized and sharpened for display as a web gallery by Expression Media. They all used auto-white-balance, some form of auto exposure (P or A). Most were shot with ISO 100 although some were shot at ISO 200. I’ve linked the full res JPG and, where available, the RAW file as well so you can see what detail or lack thereof is found in the original. However, if you get into pixel-peeping, consider that you are probably getting too critical and may be loosing sight of how P&S cameras such as the LX3 fit into the quiver of a photographer. I consider my LX3 to be the camera to use when I would otherwise not have a camera. I do not expect anywhere near the same degree of sharpness, color fidelity and shadow detail that I get from my dSLRs! In my opinion this camera, when properly used including careful technique and exposure control, produces images that are acceptable for press, web, and small to medium-size print use.

Some of the images I shot with my LX2 are now in the stock files of myself and at least one agency, and I expect selected future images from the LX3 will be as well.

Update: the raw files are now removed, they’ve been there for a few weeks and I don’t want them eating up storage space on my server.

Guadalupe 2008: Great White Shark Portrait, Horizontal

Great White Shark, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Sharks, Wildlife

This is one of my favorites from this year’s trip on the M/V Horizon to photograph great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) at Guadalupe Island.

A great white shark swims underwater through the ocean at Guadalupe Island, Carcharodon carcharias, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

A great white shark swims underwater through the ocean at Guadalupe Island.
Image ID: 21346
Species: Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Shark Diving resources: Horizon Charters and SharkDiver.com. Also, be sure to check out our hundreds of additional Guadalupe Island photos and photos of great white sharks.

Guadalupe 2008: Great White Shark Face

Great White Shark, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Sharks, Wildlife

Here is the face of a great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias). Check out the detail in the shark’s eye, he is looking straight back into the camera. This was shot with a 24mm lens, full frame sensor, no crop. Pretty tight.

A great white shark swims underwater through the ocean at Guadalupe Island, Carcharodon carcharias, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

A great white shark swims underwater through the ocean at Guadalupe Island.
Image ID: 21347
Species: Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Shark Diving resources: Horizon Charters and SharkDiver.com.

Be sure to check out our hundreds of additional Guadalupe Island photos and photos of great white sharks.

Guadalupe 2008: Satellite Tags on a Great White Shark

Great White Shark, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Sharks, Wildlife

Many of the great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) at Guadalupe Island are known to researchers and appear in the white shark ID database. Some of the sharks have even been “tagged” and now sport small pop-up satellite transmitter tags that collect data about the shark’s environment and behavior, eventually transmitting the data via satellite back to researchers. Shown below are a pair of satellite tags, located just below the dorsal fin of a great white shark:

Two satellite tags, below dorsal fin of great white shark.  The tags record the sharks movements, relaying data to researchers via satellite, Carcharodon carcharias, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Two satellite tags, below dorsal fin of great white shark. The tags record the sharks movements, relaying data to researchers via satellite.
Image ID: 21391
Species: Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Shark Diving resources: Horizon Charters and SharkDiver.com.

Be sure to check out our hundreds of additional Guadalupe Island photos and great white shark photos.

Vertical Photo of Great White Shark

Great White Shark, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Sharks, Wildlife

When a Guadalupe Island great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) first approaches the boat, it is often deep. If there are divers in the cage they typically get a look at the shark as it swims slowly beneath the boat. It seems the shark is surveying things before making a decision to move shallower and approach the boat and cages more closely. Occasionally a shark rises from the deep suddenly, straight up, leveling out only when it reaches or breaks the surface. That’s what this male white shark did. (You can tell he is a male by his two claspers visible on his ventral surface.)

Great white shark, underwater, Carcharodon carcharias, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Great white shark, underwater.
Image ID: 21362
Species: Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Shark Diving resources: Horizon Charters and SharkDiver.com.

Be sure to check out our hundreds of additional Guadalupe Island photos and photos of great white sharks.

Guadalupe 2008: Morning Routine

Great White Shark, Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Sharks, Wildlife

Each day on a Horizon Charters great white shark trip to Guadalupe Island starts with the crew lowering the huge aluminum cages into the water as guests enjoy breakfast and the morning calm. Often a shark will show up circling the boat and inspecting the cages before any divers have even had a chance to enter the water. Check out how flat the water is in these photos. The shark diving location, near the lighthouse in a broad protected bight at the north end of the island, is typically flat calm and sunny with blue water.

Lowering a shark cage into the water alongside M/V Horizon.  Large, strong aluminum cages protect divers while they are in the water viewing sharks, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Lowering a shark cage into the water alongside M/V Horizon. Large, strong aluminum cages protect divers while they are in the water viewing sharks.
Image ID: 21380
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Shark cages in water, astern of M/V Horizon.  Large, strong aluminum cages protect divers while they are in the water viewing sharks, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Shark cages in water, astern of M/V Horizon. Large, strong aluminum cages protect divers while they are in the water viewing sharks.
Image ID: 21370
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Great white shark, dorsal fin extended out of the water as it swims near the surface, Carcharodon carcharias, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Great white shark, dorsal fin extended out of the water as it swims near the surface.
Image ID: 21353
Species: Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Shark Diving resources: Horizon Charters and SharkDiver.com.

Be sure to check out our hundreds of additional Guadalupe Island photos and great white shark photos.

Guadalupe 2008: Approaching the Island

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Last week I made another trip to Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe) on my favorite boat, M/V Horizon, captained by Greg Grivetto. The trip was conducted in collaboration with Patric Douglas and SharkDiver.com. Of all the boats and captains working at Guadalupe Island, the Horizon and Captain Greg have to have the greatest experience at Isla Guadalupe. The Horizon and the Grivetto family have been hosting open-water diving (non-cage) trips to the island since 1994. And since 2001, when he captained the first of the modern Guadalupe island cage diving trips that have since lent the island the fame that it now enjoys as the world’s finest white shark viewing location, Captain Greg has led shark diving expeditions to Guadalupe Island each year, from August through October. I have had the good fortune to join him at Guadalupe at least 15 times now (frankly I’ve lost track as I don’t actually have a dive log anymore) with somewhere in the neighborhood of 110 days spent either tank diving, free diving or in a cage looking at sharks. I like being at the island.

This year we motored down to Guadalupe Island under remarkably uninspiring conditions. The seas were calm and the ride comfortable, but we saw virtually no blue skies once we got south of the Coronado Islands. As we made our approach to the north end of Guadalupe Island the clouds were quite heavy and dark. However, the towering cliffs that make up the north end typically reach into the clouds and hold open a donut-hole of blue sky. Sure enough, as we reached the island, the skies parted and we had glass water and warm sun as we anchored the boat and prepared to get in the cages.

Guadalupe Island, dark and gloomy clouds, northern approach, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Guadalupe Island, dark and gloomy clouds, northern approach.
Image ID: 21369
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Shark Diving resources: Horizon Charters and SharkDiver.com.

Be sure to check out our hundreds of additional Guadalupe Island photos.