Seeing otters is always a major highlight of any boat trip in Alaska, and we were able to see quite a few off Gull Island. Otters are always special to our family, because our oldest grandson was fascinated with them beginning when he was very little and continuing throughout his childhood. Now that he is a teenager living in Alaska, otters have become less exotic to him- but no one can really resist watching the playful antics of these delightful creatures.
One of the highlights of our Alaska trip was a two hour boat trip to Gull Island in Kachemak Bay. We enjoyed it so much that we actually returned the next day!
Gull Island is the breeding ground for several types of sea birds who return every year to make (and reuse) their nests and lay their eggs. There seemed to be many more kittiwakes (the white gulls) than the other species, and you can see them flying around and dotting the cliff in their nests. There were also many common murres and some puffins. A few eagles were sitting on the tops of the cliffs. Otters played in the waters below.
We returned yesterday from Alaska- arriving at 6:15am in Phoenix after a smooth but excruciating overnight flight from Anchorage. It was a smooth flight with the potential for a good night’s sleep in the darkened cabin, BUT. . . the lady behind us had brought her CAT which yowled continually the entire time! Sleep was beyond reach for me- I watched a movie and tried to calm my frazzled nerves by playing a meditation album on my iPhone and taking photos out the window. Lonnie actually managed to sleep for a few hours.
None of the above diminished the joy I felt from our wonderful reunion with our daughter and family and our 50th anniversary vacation within a vacation! It was perfect!
I’m posting an iconic Alaska photo first, because previously I had managed to travel to Alaska at least 5 times without capturing a moose image! It was raining lightly as we drove along the Seward highway as we were leaving Anchorage. We spotted a small group of moose, pulled over, and managed to get a shot of this young moose before he turned back to resume eating. The others had already disappeared into the brush. I love the look in his eye as he spotted us!
While everyone around us was watching the hummingbirds at the feeders, I happened to turn around and spot this little guy on the pole behind the group. He looked at me, I looked at him. He was very cute! My bird app tells me he was a white-breasted nuthatch.
I am now the owner of a long zoom lens- and am totally intimidated by it! It is heavy (4.5 pounds)and very zoomy (up to 600mm), but so much fun! Until yesterday I had only used it in the driveway (it has been rainy and dreary), but I finally took it out for a short walk at Willow Lake. I was fortunate to have my photo assistant (Lonnie) with me to carry the tripod (I didn’t attach the lens to it until we got out to where I was setting up). I know my friend, Carol carries her much heavier gear on a tripod over her shoulder, and I even watched a Moose Peterson video on doing it this way- but I was nervous about handling the new gear, not having the special tripod head etc. But once I was by the lake, it was all fun!
The shot below was taken as we walked to the lake. It is the same spot where I took reflections shots earlier this month. Normally there is no water here. This was taken before I put the big lens on; I just used the lens which I happened to have on the camera, my 50mm.
As you can see from the above shot, it was very overcast and even more unfortunately, there were no herons or egrets there to greet me. So once I got the tripod set up, I had some practice with the ducks who were reluctant to pose and were mostly swimming away from me. I have a lot of shots just like this one:
Not too impressive, I know, but- take my word for it- he was very far away! And it’s all good practice!
I seldom photograph birds, especially since my friend, Carol, has set the bar so high with her amazing, professional quality bird photography (oh, THAT’S what a bird photograph should look like!)- but I went along with my camera club on an outing to the Arizona Raptor Experience. It was fantastic! We were there by 7:00 a.m. and had beautiful light for most of the morning. And the birds were magnificent!
I’m not posting any action shots- although I did get 3 acceptably sharp shots out of dozens I took. It was operator error- my camera and lens did pretty well. I did get some pretty raptor portraits.
Today it’s a Harris’s Hawk (which I always thought was a Harris Hawk). Tomorrow will probably be a Swainson’s Hawk. See you then!
This morning I was out with my macro lens, trying to capture the early morning light on the flowers when I became aware of some movement across the street.
It was a javelina!
He seemed on a mission and continued up the hill and up the driveway of our neighbor’s house, where I lost sight of him.
We have lived here almost three years and, although herds of javelinas can be seen throughout Prescott, especially in early evening, we had never seen a javelina in our neighborhood until today. I know from neighbors that they are around, but they seem to avoid my camera. In fact, last month something rooted up all our bulbs in the front flower bed- and damaged some of the drip system. And now I have a potential suspect!
Unfortunately, my 80mm macro lens was on the camera, so I wasn’t able to zoom in on our visitor. The first two photos are cropped.
FYI, javelinas are collared peccaries, not boars or pigs. They are usually in small herds or family groups and can be aggressive.
And they sound like this! http://www.desertmuseum.org/books/audio/javlina_medley.mp3
You might think that I was finished with bison photos- I see them every time I go to Yellowstone, after all. However, on this last visit I saw got to see bison doing something I knew they did, but had never viewed. On the last day of our visit (the same day we saw the bighorn sheep), my son-in-law pointed out a small herd of bison crossing the Gardiner River. This is probably a typical sight for him, but, for me, it was something new to photograph.
Every time we made the short drive from Yellowstone to Gardiner, Montana, we would see bison gathered at the river munching on the grasses. The steam rising from the water gives a misty appearance to the scene, contrasting with the icy banks. We stopped several times to take photos; I never get tired of this scene!
I had fun with some creative edits on the above two shots using Topaz Simplify and textures.
The one below is probably my favorite edit. I used both Topaz Simplify and Impression, as well as textures. I desaturated the bright blue sky to create a monochromatic look, which is more pleasing to my eye.
On Monday, I mentioned here that I photographed one of my “bucket list” animals while in Yellowstone last week. Well, here it is- a Big Horn Sheep (or Sheep Horn Sheep, as Henry calls them)!I have been coming to this part of Yellowstone 2 or 3 times a year for five years, and this is the first time I’ve been able to get a photo like this. It has become somewhat of a joke in our family- we drive by the sheep area every time we go into Gardiner, and I never see them. I’ve seen a few blurry sheep tushies scrambling up the rocks and once a ram walking quickly away- but never anything that I could really photograph. And they are there most of the time- just not when I’m there!
So you can imagine how thrilled I was when my son-in-law spotted this guy conveniently posed atop the rocks by a pullout! And he’s a beauty- look at those horns!
I’m very grateful to my eagle-eyed son-in-law for finally getting me this shot!
Yes, we are back home from Yellowstone! We actually arrived in Phoenix last night, but we spent the night and did some shopping before heading up the hill this afternoon. We got home an hour ago- and we’re already unpacked, the laundry is going, my photos are uploading (still!), and my husband is out at the store picking up something for tonight’s dinner.
I took a ton of photos (darn burst mode!), and it will take a week or so to go through them. Expect to see some darling boys (and dogs), some elk (of course), more bison, lots of snow, the hot springs, and some photos of one of my bucket list animals (a very common one at Yellowstone that had thus far eluded me)!