Monthly Archives

July 2015

The Marsh Pride of Lions, Maasai Mara, Kenya

Kenya, Maasai Mara

Of all the animals we saw during our safari in Kenya, the most fulfilling were the lions of the Maasai Mara. I say “fulfilling” because seeing these lions came at the end of 120 years (cumulatively, for my mom and I) of pondering Africa — reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, watching Denys Finch Hatton fly over Out of Africa, and hearing Richard Attenborough’s excited descriptions of the wildlife there — but never having had a chance to personally go on safari. So, finally seeing prides of lions, with their cubs, with their kills, in trees and roaming the savannah, was exciting. I guess someone who sees a whale for the first time, up close, after waiting their entire life must feel the same thing. We did see a few lions in Amboseli National Park around the elephants of course, and in Meru National Park as well, hidden in the bush, but it was not until we arrived in the greater Maasai Mara region that we really saw a lot of lions (and other cats) on the wide open terrain.

Lionness and two week old cub, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Panthera leo

Lionness and two week old cub, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Image ID: 29793
Species: African Lion, Panthera leo
Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

The “Marsh Pride” is a family of lions living along the Mara River, near the lodge at which we were staying, so we made a point of finding them first thing on our sunrise game drives. These lions are stars of TV program I believe, as there were some folks at the lodge who knew all the “names” of the adults and how they were related. When I was a part of a whale research team in Hawaii, I learned quickly never to name the subjects of our observations. The practice has remained with me through my time photographing and watching animals, but I can see why these cats have their names. They are celebrities.

Our final morning at Little Governors camp, my mom opted to sleep in so I had a car to myself. My driver and I spent the entire morning watching Marsh Pride lions, all lionesses and cubs, as they moved out from the trees along the Mara river onto the savannah, inspecting old kills not yet fully consumed, the cubs alternating between play and keeping up the adults as they moved from place to place. As the sun rose and the day grew warmer, the lions finally settled under a cluster of trees in an otherwise wide open area, with a good view of the herds they would likely hunt later in the day, and slept.

Lion female, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Panthera leo

Lion female, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Image ID: 29917
Species: African Lion, Panthera leo
Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Lion, adult male, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Panthera leo

Lion, adult male, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Image ID: 29786
Species: African Lion, Panthera leo
Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Lions in a tree, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Panthera leo

Lions in a tree, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Image ID: 29882
Species: African Lion, Panthera leo
Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Lion, adult male, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Panthera leo

Lion, adult male, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Image ID: 29863
Species: African Lion, Panthera leo
Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Lions, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Panthera leo

Lions, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Image ID: 29861
Species: African Lion, Panthera leo
Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Lionness and cubs, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Panthera leo

Lionness and cubs, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Image ID: 29930
Species: African Lion, Panthera leo
Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Marsh pride of lions, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Panthera leo

Marsh pride of lions, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Image ID: 29951
Species: African Lion, Panthera leo
Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

SCUBA Diving Beneath Oil Rigs Eureka, Ellen and Elly in Long Beach, California

California, Underwater Photography

I recently made a few dives underneath the oil rigs “Eureka”, “Ellen” and “Elly”, about 8 miles off Long Beach, California. Oil rig Eureka is located in about 700′ of water, so from the perspective of recreational divers it is a bottomless dive. Ellen and Elly are in shallower water, about 260′, which is still out of reach of recreational dives but I suppose if you wanted to you could check out the bottom, at which point you could then direct your captain to take you directly to the Catalina chamber. The Power Scuba group with whom I was diving had chartered the dive boat Pacific Star for the day. We left the dock at 7am. I thought the boat looked familiar and indeed it was: I had divemastered on this boat 20+ years ago when it was named Bold Contender. About an hour later, after eating a great breakfast, getting a briefing and putting together gear, we arrived at the Eureka. Seas were flat calm and glassy, and the captain made our lives easy by bringing the stern of the boat close to the rig so we had only a short swim to reach the enormous pilings.

Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720' of water

Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720′ of water.
Image ID: 31093
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Scuba Divers at Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720' of water

Scuba Divers at Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720′ of water.
Image ID: 31089
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Water visibility was not great and the sun was still low on the horizon, so I had to resort to shutter speeds of about 1/8 to have any reasonable light to balance my strobes. My goal was to photograph the invertebrate life covering the underwater beams and columns. In preparation for a series of dive trips I have starting in October, I’m practicing wide-angle lighting again after taking about 14 years off of shooting underwater seriously. I figured big, stationary oil rig pilings with lots of color in relatively clear water was just the thing upon which to practice. The beams above about 50′ had been cleaned recently so did not offer much color, but below the first set of cross beams (at 60′) large clusters of Corynactis and Metridium anemones were growing and provided something to photograph.

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure and invertebrate Life, Corynactis californica, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure and invertebrate Life
Image ID: 31073
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure
Image ID: 31080
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

After finishing our dive on the Eureka we moved to the nearby twin rigs Ellen and Elly, and made a dive on each. Conditions were a little better since the sun had risen further and the water seemed a little cleaner. On all the rigs, we saw large schools of bait along with a few California sea lions in the shallower reaches of the beams, which was fun — I love diving with sea lions.

Oil platforms Ellen (left) and Elly (right) lie in 260' of seawater 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California

Oil platforms Ellen (left) and Elly (right) lie in 260′ of seawater 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California
Image ID: 31095
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31114
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Corynactis anemones on Oil Rig Elly underwater structure, Corynactis californica, Long Beach, California

Corynactis anemones on Oil Rig Elly underwater structure
Image ID: 31121
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Starfish on Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure, covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Starfish on Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure, covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31117
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

I plan to return and try it again, hoping for cleaner water and thicker schools of bait. It was a lot of fun, and pretty easy to do (provided one has excellent control of one’s buoyancy), and offers something very different than most of the other diving pursuits in California. Cheers and thanks for looking!

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig, Zalophus californianus, Long Beach

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig.
Image ID: 31087
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Bait fish schooling underneath Oil Rig Elly, Long Beach, California

Bait fish schooling underneath Oil Rig Elly
Image ID: 31143
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig, Zalophus californianus, Long Beach

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig.
Image ID: 31088
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31100
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Metridium anemones covering Oil Rig Elly underwater structure, Metridium senile, Long Beach, California

Metridium anemones covering Oil Rig Elly underwater structure
Image ID: 31125
Species: Plumose anemone, Metridium senile
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Metridium anemones covering Oil Rig Elly underwater structure, Metridium senile, Long Beach, California

Metridium anemones covering Oil Rig Elly underwater structure
Image ID: 31129
Species: Plumose anemone, Metridium senile
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Corynactis anemones cover Oil Rig Ellen underwater, Corynactis californica, Long Beach, California

Corynactis anemones cover Oil Rig Ellen underwater
Image ID: 31096
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31112
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Beautiful Oaks and Perfect Sunrise at Oak Alley Plantation

Landscape, Panoramas

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

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

La Jolla, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

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 throughout 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 throughout 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 throughout 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 throughout 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 throughout 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 throughout 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

Landscape, Panoramas

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: Oak Alley Plantation, 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: Oak Alley Plantation, 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: Oak Alley Plantation, 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: Oak Alley Plantation, 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: Oak Alley Plantation, 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: Oak Alley Plantation, 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

California, San Diego

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

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

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

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

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