Rinus Baak Photography: Blog http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Rinus Baak Photography rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Thu, 10 Apr 2014 21:38:00 GMT Thu, 10 Apr 2014 21:38:00 GMT http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/img/s10/v99/u419035600-o443440908-50.jpg Rinus Baak Photography: Blog http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog 120 80 Biding My Time http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/3/biding-my-time  

Here I am biding my time waiting to depart for my next photo trip.  Winter is always a slow time of year for photography.  Unless, of course, you like cold, snowy winter scenes, or you head to the southern half of the world where it is summer.  But not this year.  I am patiently waiting for spring and my trip to the Big Sur coast in central California.

Although I am biding my time, I have also been keeping my photo gear limber by doing some shooting along the coast in La Jolla.  I have been patiently waiting for those times when the tidal conditions and sunset colors collide to make for "keeper" images.  There was some success but it took several trips to the beach.

I have also been experimenting with some night sky photography.  My first attempt was to get an image of the full moon rising over the visitor center at the Tijuana Estuary.  That's a pretty specific mission, I know.  But, being a volunteer photographer for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex, I had been requested to see about some unique shots of the refuge and I had thought a moonrise over the visitor center would be "unique".  To prepare, I researched when a full moon would rise with sufficient ambient light to properly expose the visitor center. 

Next I wanted to learn how to photograph the really dark, night sky with stars.  After much reading, I decided that the Anza-Borrego desert would be a good place to try star photography.  So my photo-buddy Bruce and I spent a couple of night in Borrego Springs trying to practice what we had learned about taking pictures of the stars.  I was particularly interested in getting "star trails", not just the static stars.  Getting good star trail images requires hours of exposures, making for late nights.  Fortunately, this early in the year the sky is dark enough for star photography fairly early and we were back at the motel long before midnight.

In early April, Bruce and I attended a Night Sky Photography workshop sponsored by the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park (www.joshuatree.org).  The workshop was conducted by Dennis Mammana (www.dennismammana.com), an astronomer, night sky photographer and author.  Dennis was very passionate about teaching proper techniques and procedures to obtain sharp focused and correctly exposed images.  During the late night hours we practiced what Dennis had admonished.  On one evening, we were visited by the Space Station which traversed through the sky where we were practicing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a lot of fun trying these night shots and it has given me enough confidence to try again.  Hopefully the night sky in Big Sur will not be too foggy or cloudy to shot the stars while I'm there.  The plan is to try for a moonset over the Pacific Ocean.  There is also going to be a full lunar eclipse at that time that I will be trying to photograph.  Good luck with that!  I'll let you know how that worked out when I return from Big Sur.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Desert Institute Joshua Tree National Park big dipper night north star sky http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/3/biding-my-time Sun, 23 Mar 2014 19:11:35 GMT
From North to South http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/12/from-north-to-south Our last trip of 2013 was a doozy!  We traveled nearly as far south as we had traveled north in September to an area of vast proportions, unique wildlife, diverse environments and incomparable landscapes.  Jane and I joined a small group of avid photographers to explore remote Patagonia and Easter Island.  The tour was sponsored by Michael Francis (www.michaelfrancisphoto.com) and the in-country guide was Rex Bryngelson (www.patagoniaphoto.com).

We flew from San Diego, via DFW, to Santiago, Chile and on to Hanga Roa, the only community on Easter Island.  Hanga Roa, with a population of about 3,800, is allegedly the world's most isolated village, located about 2,500 miles from continental Chile and 2,900 miles from its Polynesian neighbor, Tahiti.  Easter Island was discovered by Dutch explorers on Easter Sunday in 1722, hence its name.  On world  maps it is also named Isla de Pascua, the Spanish translation of Easter Island.  The Polynesian name preferred by the islanders is Rapa Nui.

The island is small, about 63 square miles, a mere spec in the vast southern Pacific Ocean.  Its history is unique, controversial and makes for great reading.  Rapa Nui has a vast concentration of prehistoric archaeological artifacts causing the entire island to be declared a World Heritage Site in 1966. The moai are Rapa Nui's most unique archaeological attraction and these iconic stone statues are what we had come to photograph.  See the Rapa Nui gallery for images from Easter Island.

                                                  

 

 

 

                                                          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Hanga Roa, it was back to Santiago and on to Coyhaique, Chile, to start our Patagonian adventure.  Shared by Argentina and Chile, Patagonia is a vast 403,750 square mile geographic region stretching from Atlantic to Pacific oceans and from Cape Horn in the south to approximately latitude 40 degrees south.  Patagonia is big, huge, enormous and spectacular.  Imagine this, a region 115 time the size of Yellowstone National Park, 3 times the size of the Colorado Plateau, 1.5 time the size of Texas.  Patagonia is also remote and solitary.  There are more sheep than people.  The population density is about one person per 130 acres.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting in the north at Coyhaique, we traversed some 1,000 miles in 15 days along the mid-section of Patagonia south to Punta Arenas.  We lodged in old style, family estancias, quaint B&B's, and some stylishly modern inns.  Lunches were served picnic style from the back of our vans between photo shoots.  After all, this was a photo tour.  We photographed at many of Patagonia's national parks and numerous spots in between.  The most notable were Parque Nacional los Glaciares in Argentina and Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in Chile.


 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We encountered a few surprises along the way.  First, I'd guess that a good 85% of our travel, that is 850 miles, was on graded gravel roads, with varying amounts of bouncing, jouncing and rattling about.  That made for difficult cat-napping as we wended our way through the seemingly endless pampas of the Patagonian steppes.  The second surprise was the arid nature of the terrain.  Most of the Patagonia steppes we traversed, with the exception of the areas near the Andes mountains, consisted of undulating plains, much like the great plains of North America, however, almost bare of any vegetation.  Even along mighty rivers emanating from the Andes, there were no trees.  These plains, or pampas, are in the rain shadow of the Andes and receive relatively little precipitation.  The soil supports various native grasses such as bunch grass.  But throughout our journey we observed no extensive agricultural development, only sheep and cattle grazing.  Finally, in the realm of unexpected surprises, let me mention the wind, the incessant wind, the perpetual wind, the unremitting wind, the unceasing wind, the knock-you-to-the-ground wind, the why-would-anyone-live-here wind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first night was spent at the Estancia del Zorro (what are the chances of that?) and photographed Chilean Flamingos feeding in a small pond near the ranch house.  The next day we explored the Estancia Punta Monte searching for Andean Condors.  The condors are attracted to potential sheep carrion and we found a large group of condors soaring along a steep cliff on the ranch.  Fortunately we were able to navigate within a few hundred yards of the top of the cliff where we were able to photograph the condors as they floated on the wind nearly at eye level.  So our adventure in Patagonia began.

Another memorable photo shoot was at the Cuervas de Marmol (Marble Caves) along the shore of Lago General Carrera (you have to admire a general named after a Porsche).  These caves were formed by 6,000 years of waves washing up against the marble (calcium carbonate) peninsula projecting into the lake and creating intricate, swirling tunnels and colorful columns, enhanced by the emerald blue reflection of the lake water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After some fantastic photography at the marble caves we sojourned at Valle Chacabuco.  The Lodge at Valle Chacabuco was recently constructed in the old, elegant style of the great railroad lodges of the west.  The lodge was built on an old estancia that is being transitioned to be a future Chilean national park by the Conservacion Patagonia organization.  This conservation group was started by Kristine Tompkins, the former, long time CEO of the Patagonia clothing company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we traveled from Lago General Carrera to Valle Chacabuco, we would occasionally see guanacos that I was anxious to photograph. On each occasion Mike Francis would dissuade me with assurances that there would be ample other, and better, opportunities to photograph guanacos.  In fact, he boasted that we would photograph so many guanacos that I would be satiated.  Doubtfully I acquiesced to his assurances.  At the end of the tour, however, I found that I had photographed as many of the adorable mammals that I wanted and found myself, in fact, not caring to photograph any more. 

We left the elegant ambiance of the Lodge at Valle Chacabuco in Chile for the home-style milieu of Estancia la Oriental adjacent to Francisco P. Moreno National Park in Argentina.  Here we were treated to a sumptuous evening meal, served family style, of roasted lamb, red beats, potatoes, vegetables, bread and a cheery wine.  The lamb was culled from the herd that day and roasted on a a rack in an open oven adjacent to the dining area.  What a feast!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My original interest in Patagonia stemmed from its breathtaking mountain scenery.  Images of Torres del Paine and Monte Fitz Roy were my inducement to sign on with Michael Francis for this memorable tour.  Turns out that Patagonia is much, much more than just world class mountain landscapes.  Jane and I so much enjoyed Patagonia's vastness and diversity.  We watched new born guanaco chulengo taking their first staggering steps, we observed black-necked swans protect their young cygnets, looked into the eyes of condors, chased a hairy armadillo, were fascinated by the behavior of rheas, and marveled at the wonder of the Andean peaks.  What a marvelous adventure this turned out to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Andes Argentina Chile Easter Island Mount Fitz Roy Patagonia Rapa Nui Torres del Paine black-necked swan guanaco moai oyster catcher pampas penguin rhea http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/12/from-north-to-south Wed, 25 Dec 2013 18:54:56 GMT
North To The Yukon And Back http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/10/north-to-the-yukon-and-back Where to begin?  You know you've been on a long trip when you get a haircut and oil change en route.  North to the Yukon and Back was a long trip, a very long trip, seven thousand five hundred and thirty road miles and thirty seven hours on Alaska's famous Marine Highway ferries.  But what an adventurous trip it was.  No wonder I don't know where to begin this blog.

So I will start at the beginning.  This trip was conceived to combine two long-delayed travel goals into one extended trip.  These travel goals were to explore southeast Alaska's Inside Passage and to tour the historic Alaska Highway.  Exploring the Inside Passage implied maximizing opportunities for wildlife and nature photography and making as many stops along the Marine Highway as possible.

A cursory check of various maps and publications confirmed that this concept was feasible.  We could sail the Inside Passage on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system and drive the Alaska Highway from Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, to Dawson Creek in British Columbia.  From there getting back home to San Diego would be a "snap".

After several months of internet searches, emails and numerous telephone calls, I had a complete and detailed itinerary for this monumental excursion.  Jane and I partnered up for this adventure with Bruce Hollingsworth, our good friend and photo buddy.  On August 12, with Willie Nelson singing our road trip theme song "On The Road Again", we three adventurers headed north to the Yukon on Interstate 5 from San Diego.  All the planning was now behind us and ahead lay the exhilaration of a fantastic photo journey.

As with any journey of this magnitude and complexity, there were times of elation when expectations were fully attained, and those low, dispirited periods when all went awry.  At Prince Rupert, gateway to the Inside Passage, I had arranged for two days of chartered whale photography with Foggy Point Charters (www.foggypoint.com).  Rodney, caption of the Orca Breeze, was excited about taking us to where he knew with certainty the whales would be.  All the enthusiasm and excitement dissipated as the weather turned blustery and the whales were not to be found.  The second day was cancelled due to high winds in the Chatham Sound.  Thus were my high hopes and expectations of breaching whale images dashed.  Not only at Prince Rupert, but also Ketchikan, Wrangell and Gustavus where the Icy Strait is know for its predictable population of humpback whales.  It was a major disappointment of the trip.  At Wrangell, however, I had scheduled two days of black bear photography at the Anan Wildlife Observatory that turned out to be a truly memorable part of our adventure. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ketchikan was our first stop along the Marine Highway.  It is also a major port-of-call for cruise ships plying the Inside Passage.  Five massive cruise ships disembarked their thousands of passengers while we were in town.  Needless to say, streets were jammed with shoppers and local attractions packed with sightseers.  We did manage to find solace at Totem Bight, a small Alaska state historic park some ten miles north of Ketchikan (www.dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/totembgh.htm).  This quiet little enclave has an impressive collection of restored and re-carved totem poles representing Tlingit and Haida cultures.  In Ketchikan we also got away from the crowds with two days of flightseeing with SeaWind Aviation (www.seawindaviation.com) to the Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness and to Traitor's Cove Bear Observatory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next destination was Wrangell and Wrangell was a total delight.  No flocks of tourists to contend with here, just friendly locals and a handful of adventurous independent travelers like ourselves.  Not all was perfect, of course.  We did lose out on a whale photography charter due to high winds out in the Sumner Strait.  But our two charters to the Anan Wildlife Observatory turned out wonderful.  All our charters in Wrangell were booked with Alaska Charters and Adventures (www.alaskaupclose.com).

The Anan observatory is about 30 miles southeast of Wrangell, that is, the way the crow flies.  The trip is a bit longer by boat.  Brenda Schwartz, one of the principals at Alaska Charters and Adventures, piloted her high powered jet-boat smoothly and quickly through the Eastern Passage and Blake Channel to get us to the Anan Creek trailhead.  There we were met by U.S. Forest Service rangers who, together with Brenda and her "bear gun", guided us to the observatory.  As we hiked along the trail, we observed plenty of evidence (scat) that this was bear country.  The observatory was a newish, wooden structure constructed above Anan Creek from which bears could be observed while sheltered from rain.  Below the observatory, almost at creek level, was a canvas covered photo blind where the three of us spent most of our time photographing the black bears of Anan Creek.  I have created a gallery just for the Black Bears of Anan Creek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gustavus was next on our itinerary.  This tranquil community of about four hundred year-round residents was a delight to visit.  Talk about friendly people!  A wave of the hand, or a warm "good day", was obligatory when passing people on the street or in their cars.  Gustavus is the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park, but no cruise ships stop here.  There is no infrastructure to accommodate these mega-ships and the throngs of passengers they carry.  Instead, cruise ships bypass Gustavus, sail pass Bartlett Cove into the Silakaday Narrows, and on to the glaciers in Glacier Bay.

The weather and an early migration conspired against our last quest for breaching and bubble feeding whale images.  We had three days of whale photography arranged with Glacier Bay Sport Fishing (www.glacierbaysportfishing.com).  Although we actually did get on the "Stoic" with Mike Halbert each day, they were not productive photo sessions, with high swells, fog and rain in the Icy Strait.  The best we could conjure up were some whale tail shots and a pass along a Steller's sea lion colony.  Mike speculated that warmer than normal ocean water had created an over-abundance of plankton.  Being low man on the food chain, this high concentration of feed stock resulted in the whales fattening up earlier in the feeding cycle and starting their migration south several weeks ahead of their normal start.  Irrespective of this disheartening reality, no great "money" shots of whales breaching, we enjoyed immensely our stay in Gustavus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next we sojourned to Haines, leaving the quietude of Gustavus behind.  From now, there would be no more frustrated attempts at whale photography.  We were back on the mainland and the famous Alaska Highway beckoned.  At Haines we concentrated on landscape photography and a stop at Steve Kroschel's Wildlife Center (www.kroschelfilms.com).  We had arranged for local photography guides with Rainbow Glacier Adventures (www.rainbowglaciers.com).  Weather continued to plague us in Haines.  The ice fields of the Chilkat Range created dense low clouds that obscured picturesque peaks and hanging glaciers.  Rain and fog made photography of the colorful, autumn-colored, tundra difficult along the Chilkat and Three Guardsmen passes in the foothills of Nadahini Mountain.  Bad weather also confronted us at Steve Kroschel's Wildlife Center.  We arrived early in the morning with a dense overcast and light rain, resulting in low-light wildlife photography.  Not good!  Steve raises "wild" animals for his film projects.  Joe Ordonez, of Rainbow Glacier Adventures, had arranged a private photo shoot at Steve's menagerie.  I was able, under difficult conditions, to obtain some images that would be impossible to obtain in the wild, including a pine marten, lynx and wolverine.  See the Other Wildlife gallery for images from Steve's place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Haines, it was North To The Yukon.  We drove the Haines Highway to Haines Junction, at historic mile 1,016 of the famous Alaska Highway, in the Yukon Territory.  This was our most northerly penetration and from Haines Junction our journey continued southeast along the Alcan to Dawson Creek, mile zero of the Alaska Highway.  It was a four day journey with stops at Marsh Lake, Watson Lake, Fort Nelson and Dawson Creek.  At Watson Creek we left Yukon Territory and entered British Columbia.  With embarkation onto the Marine Highway ferry in Prince Rupert, some twenty-five days earlier, and arrival at Dawson Creek, the primary goals of the adventurous expedition had been realized.  Now, we just had to get home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We traveled home at a leisurely pace with sojourns in Jasper, Kananaskis Village and Many Glaciers.  Jane and I had visited Jasper in the past and thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance of this tidy community.  For our travel home, therefore, we included a four day respite in Jasper.  We savored its restaurants, pubs, shops and, of course, its grand and spectacular scenery.  We departed Jasper well rested as we headed for Kananaskis Village along the Icefields Parkway, through Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore.  On the way, we took advantage of the many scenic photo opportunities the northern Rocky Mountains offered.  See the Scenes Along the Way gallery for impromptu images taken along our route.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Kananaskis Village, our last stop in Canada, the weather delivered an unexpected surprise.  After a blustery and rainy day, we were greeted, the next morning, with a light dusting of snow on the high mountain peaks surrounding the village.  This "terminal dust" portends the end of autumn and the beginning of winter.  For us, having a dusting of new snow on the jagged, craggy mountain peaks offered a welcomed enhancement to the beauty of photographing the scenic environment of Kananaskis Country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our last coffee stop at Tim Horton's in Pincher Creek, Alberta, we crossed into the U.S. at the Chief Mountain border station.  We were most relieved that we were allowed back into the country.  From the Chief Mountain entry, it was a short jaunt to the Many Glaciers section of Glacier National Park in Montana.  We overnighted in the park lodge at Many Glaciers, something Jane had wanted to do for some time.  This venerable old lodge lacked many of the hotel amenities we now take for granted.  However, the historic elegance of this majestic and grand eighteenth century lodge more than made up for its understandable shortcomings. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So now our monumental odyssey North to the Yukon and Back draws to a close.  After Many Glaciers, we three intrepid wanderers stowed our gear and prepared to head home.  Bruce departed via Delta Airlines from Kalispell while Jane and I enjoyed some additional days of solitude with hot Jacuzzi soaks at our Glacier Wilderness Resort timeshare.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Alaska Highway Gustavus Haines Inside Passage Jasper Kananaskis Ketchikan Prince Rupert Wrangell travel vacation http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/10/north-to-the-yukon-and-back Wed, 16 Oct 2013 00:18:51 GMT
Silver Salmon Creek http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/7/silver-salmon-creek  

WOW!!!   What an adventure it was!!!

There we were, in knee-high Mug boots, at low tide, on Alaska's Cook's Inlet mudflats, photographing brown bear sows teaching their cubs to dig for clams.  And that was just the very first morning!  We had flown with Tim Smith, in his small, but juiced up, Cesna (www.alaskasmithair.com)  from Anchorage to the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge (www.silversalmoncreek.com) that morning.  After landing smoothly on the beach, we were transported to the lodge, located on the shore of Cook's Inlet, by an all terrain vehicle (ATV) pulling a small trailer with us and our bags aboard.  After a quick, informal check-in that included a warm welcome from our host Dave Coray, an introduction to our personal guide, Brian, and a familiarization tour of our very comfortable cabin, the Puffin Perch, we were off before lunch photographing Alaskan Coastal Brown Bears on the mudflats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The concept for this photo adventure was conceived more than a year ago.  I contacted the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge because so many bear photography workshops are conducted there.  I specifically asked Dave Coray about the best time to photography first-year cubs.  That's how Jane and I ended up in Alaska again (this was our sixth time), at this amazing location within the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (www.nps.org/lakl), in mid-July for an exciting four day stay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The question often asked about our wildlife photographs is "how close were you?".  Well, at Silver Salmon Creek we were very close.  It was not uncommon for us to be within about ten yards of the bears.  The coastal bears at Silver Salmon Creek have contended with photographers for several bear-generations and have habituated to the presence of photographers and wildlife enthusiasts.  Even though we were in very close proximity, mother bears with their cubs were extremely tolerant and exhibited no signs of stress as we watched and photographed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The images in the Silver Salmon Creek gallery tell the story.  We delighted in watching female bears teaching their young to clam on the mudflats, chuckled at cubs cavorting and playing in the meadows, were impressed with the energy and power of immature bears posturing and play-fighting, and enjoyed tender moments as sows nursed their cubs.  Of course there were many hours of trudging the landscape and waiting as the adult bears lazily grazed the meadows and the tuckered out cubs napped.  But ....

 WOW!!!  What an adventure!!!

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Alaska Lake Clark National Park and Preserve Silver Salmon Creek Lodge bears cubs photography travel http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/7/silver-salmon-creek Fri, 19 Jul 2013 23:15:59 GMT
Cedar Mesa Adventure - A New Quest http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/6/a-cedar-mesa-adventure  

Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah is a 400 square mile plateau riddled with a maze of steep, eroded canyons, arroyos and washes.  It is also peppered with archeological sites of Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings and rock art.  My new quest is to create a portfolio of outstanding images of these long abandoned, ancient ruins.  So, after considerable and detailed planning, Jane and I packed our proverbial bags and headed for Indian country.  Our friend and photo-buddy Bruce Hollingsworth signed-on to join us on this expedition.

For those impatient souls who just want the highlights, here is a brief recap of our adventure.  We left San Diego on May 26th bushy-tailed, bright-eyed and full of vim and vigor.  We returned on June 6th travel weary, fatigued with blisters on our feet and faces adorned with big red, itchy gnat bites.  In between we had an exciting, thrilling and stimulating quest.  In addition to seven days exploring and photography on Cedar Mesa, our stops along the way included Wupatki, Navajo, Hovenweep and Canyon de Chelly National Monuments as well as a tour of Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley.

Now for the particulars!

Our first stop after leaving San Diego was Wupatki National Monument (www.nps.org/wupa) just north of Flagstaff, Arizona.  This national monument includes several impressive ancient pueblo sites.  We photographed at the main Wupatki Pueblo, the Box Canyon dwellings and Lomaki Pueblo.  The pueblos at Wupatki National Monument were built and occupied about 800 years ago.  For fun, Bruce and I tried to photograph moon rise with Lomaki Pueblo in the foreground.  We had stopped to purchase some large flashlights in Flagstaff to "light-paint" the pueblo from the front.  I won't show the results as they were dismal.  But, it was fun trying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, on our way to Blanding, Utah (www.blanding-ut.org) , we stopped briefly at Navajo National Monument (www.nps.org/nava) , just long enough to for some distant shots of Betatakin Dwellings from the overlook on Sandal Trail.  We reached our final destination, Blanding, later that afternoon.  There we settled into our cozy suit at Craig and Kathy Simpson's Stone Lizard Lodging (www.stonelizardlodging.com) and shopped  at Clark's grocery store for supplies.  Each morning of our weeklong stay started early with a cold breakfast, preparing lunches for the day, filling water bottles, loading camera gear, setting GPS coordinates, and applying generous portions of bug spray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our experience on Cedar Mesa was not that of a typical, run-of-the-mill photo trip. Using the Stone Lizard as our "base camp" we day-tripped to the mesa each day.  I had created an itinerary that allowed travel to two or three archeological sites per day.  Typically, from the Stone Lizard it required anywhere from a half hour to a couple of hours to reach the dirt road turnoffs that lead to the trailheads.  Some of these dirt access roads required some serious four-wheel drive maneuvering.  After reaching the trailhead, the real work started.  I had selected sites that were within no more than a mile and a half from the trailhead.  Even with the GPS coordinates I had obtained, it was difficult to find our way to the cliff dwelling sites.  Many wrong turns were made as we followed poorly marked trails over slick-rock or were fooled following trails created by free ranging cattle.  Hiking the trails required scrambling up precarious sandstone ledges and trudging through dry sandy washes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In all, we were able to visit 14 separate archeological sites during our exploration of Cedar Mesa and make a day trip to Hovenweep National Monument (www.nps.org/hove) to photograph the well preserved ruins there.  One of our favorite Cedar Mesa ruins was River House.  It was in this vicinity, along the north bank of the San Juan River, that the "Hole-In-The-Rock" pioneers bivouacked before ascending Comb Ridge.  The reallife story of these heroic pioneers is truly inspirational.  Another favorite ruin was Moon House.  The trek to this cliff dwelling was by far the most difficult.  The trail down the south rim of McCloyd Canyon descended steeply along precarious sandstone ledges to the slick-rock bottom of the canyon.  Only Jane and I made it to the bottom.  Bruce opted out after seeing the ruin on the north rim and anticipating the steep descent and climb back up.  Jane made it as far as the last scramble up the final jumble of boulders to the ledge with the Moon House ruin.  The last few hundred feet were nearly vertical and required full use of both hands to pull and maneuver through the rock fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a week of jarring four-wheel drive excursions and slick-rock scrambling, we were ready to head back to San Diego.  Satisfied with our accomplishments we bid adieu to Craig and Kathy at the Stone Lizard, taking our sore muscles, blisters and bug bites in stride.  Being the intrepid photographers we are, however, we could not go all the way back to California without stopping at the Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley (www.navajoparks.org)  and Canyon de Chelly National Monument (www.nps.gov/cach).  These stops were brief, but long enough to start us thinking about our next Indian country adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be sure to check the Cedar Mesa gallery for images from this adventure.  Also, if interested, I wholeheartedly suggest you read about the "Hole-In-The-Rock" expedition (www.nps.org/glca/historyculture/holeintherock.htm) .  It is a tale of true endurance, fortitude and perseverance.

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Ancestral Puebloan Blanding Bluff Canyon de Chelly Cedar Mesa Hovenweep Monument Valley National Monument Navajo Utah Wupatki cliff cliff dwelling dwelling expedition exploration explore four wheel drive hike petroglyph photography pictograph pueblo rock art ruin ruins travel http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/6/a-cedar-mesa-adventure Sat, 15 Jun 2013 17:43:33 GMT
Imperial Valley Revisited http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/5/imperial-valley-revisited In the March Madness blog I shared my experience photographing the little burrowing owls of the Imperial Valley.  Although I had seen several single birds, most of the owls I photographed at that time were mated pairs perched near their burrows.  That got me thinking that the breeding season was underway and perhaps there would be chicks in the near future.  To follow up on that hunch, I returned to the valley in early May.  This time Bob Miller of Southwest Birders (www.southwestbirders.com) joined and guided me through the maze of dirt tracks that crisscross the agricultural fields of the Imperial Valley.  After many hours of searching we had found many burrows and spotting fifty or more birds, but not chicks.  Finally, as our frustration and disappointment peaked, we stumbled upon a burrow with chicks.  With relief, using the vehicle as a blind, the two of us relaxed and watched very young birds slowly and tenuously emerge from their nest.

The next morning I returned to the burrow by myself and spent three hours, parked about 30 feet in front of the nest, watching and photographing.  The evening before, Bob and I had seen four chicks, but this morning only three came out of the nest.  They were roly-poly little balls of yellow down with a squatty heads accentuated by big, bright yellow eyes and a stubby beak.  As they emerged from the burrow, they were unsteady on their disproportionately long legs and stumbled about, flapping wings that exhibited only a hint of the feathers yet to develop. 

Three hours of watching the interactions of this owl family was exhilarating and exciting.  Of the three owlets, there was certainly an "alpha" chick who was normally first in line when the female brought a morsel of food to the burrow.  I suspect that the fourth owlet was the runt of the brood and not brave enough to venture from the underground nest chamber yet.  I watched as the female foraged for creepy-crawly things and brought them back for the chicks.  At one time she was only a few feet from the vehicle, totally involved in chasing down a tidbit.  During the entire three hours, the male owl only appeared once.  When he did, he came flying in with a loud alarm call that sent the three chicks scrambling back into the burrow.  The male and female stood guard in front of the burrow.  I could not determine the cause of the alarm, although I did notice a turkey vulture soaring low over an adjacent wheat field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have included the images from this photo shoot in the Burrowing Owls gallery.  I hope you enjoy them.  These images would make really fun photo-greeting cards.  Let me know if you would like some.  Just click the blue "send message" button to email me.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/5/imperial-valley-revisited Tue, 14 May 2013 18:52:44 GMT
Three Weeks - Three Countries : A Birthday Wish http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/5/three-weeks---three-countries How long ago was it?  I don't really remember, but quite some time ago I had told Jane that for her birthday, she could pick anywhere she wanted to go and it would just be a vacation, no photography.  I must have had a streak of guilt to make such an offer.  On the other hand, it was one of those significant birthdays that end in a zero and something special was called for.  It took her about a nanosecond to come up with Paris.  So Paris in April it was and Jane put her heart and soul into planning the details of the trip.

This is what she came up with. Fly to Paris, rent a car, drive to Lisse Holland for the spring flower exhibit.    Then visit with my brother in Spijkenisse after which we would drive to Bruge, Belgium, for a few days.  After Bruge it was onto France with short stays in the Mont Saint Michel area and the Bayeux area with a day trip to the Normandy D-Day beaches.  The trip would end with a week in Paris.  Jane worked out the entire itinerary, researched "must see" attractions, found excellent accommodations, highlighted the Michelin Maps with our route, and printed out detailed Google maps with directions to our lodgings.  The coup-de-grâce of the entire plan was that Jane managed to obtain roundtrip business class frequent flyer tickets from San Diego to Paris.

Holland

We left the house with our carry-on luggage at 4:15 AM on Tuesday, April 9th, arrived at Charles de Gualle airport in Paris as scheduled on Wednesday, April 9th ,around 11:00 AM.  After concluding the rental car transaction, we headed north to Holland.  The rental car was a two-door, European sized, diesel powered, Peugeot with a standard transmission.  With Jane navigating, using all the navigation aids available (paper maps, an iPad map ap, and GPS) we arrived in Lisse in time for dinner around 6:30 PM Wednesday evening.  Our home in Lisse was De Duif Hotel (www.hoteldeduif.nl) where we enjoyed a junior suite with plenty of space to spread out.  After dinner at La Fontana, just around the corner from the hotel, it was early to bed.  We had nine hours of jet-lag to make up.

Sleep did not come easily.  When we finally did fall asleep it was already late morning in Holland.  We did not roll out of bed until around noon on Thursday and spent the rest of a rainy day exploring Lisse.  First action of the day was lunch at the Vrouw Holle restaurant for some pannekoeken (pancakes).  I had mine with smoked salmon and mushrooms while Jane had hers with brie cheese.  These were not your typical Bisquick pancakes.  After lunch we headed for the Black Tulip Museum (www.museumdezwartetulip.nl) to be out of the rain and wind.  This museum is dedicated to preserving the history of Dutch flower-bulb agriculture.

The weather on Friday was not much better but early in the morning we drove to Aalsmeer to visit Flora-Holland (www.floraholland.com), the world's largest trading center for plants and flowers.  Here they auction about 12.5 billion plants and flowers annually.  Flora-Holland uses the "Dutch" auction method that is based on an auction clock.  The "bidding" starts at the top of the clock with the highest price, then the bid decreases as the price circulates counterclockwise around the clock.  If a bidders wants the lot, he is inclined to bid high in order to secure the lot.  It is all somewhat counter intuitive but moves lightning fast with the use of an electronic bid board.  In just tenths of a second, lots of plants and flowers of various sizes are traded and global prices are established.  The floor of the trading center is a beehive of activity as growers bring their flowers to the auction and bidders obtain their lots.  The flowers are physically there and are moved from seller to buyer via a complex system of carts and wagons that swarm all over the warehouse floor.  It was an astonishing sight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keukenhof (www.keukenhof.nl), the world famous bulb garden of Holland, was only a fifteen minute walk from our hotel in Lisse.  After the visiting the flower auction, breakfast and a short nap, we were ready to visit Keukenhof where bulb growers display their various hybrids to the public in a garden like setting.  In anticipation of some bad weather during our trip we had packed some slip-on rain pants.  Well, the weather was not too bad as we started to walk to the garden.  However, by the time we arrived, it started to rain.  We quickly ducked into the restrooms and slipped on our rain pants.  So, equipped with suitable rain gear and umbrellas, we ventured into the 80 acre park accompanied by rain, hail pellets and thunder.  The cold, late spring in Holland had not been kind to the daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths.  These flowers were just coming out of the ground.  Only the crocus were hardy enough to bloom.  All was not lost, however, the various pavilions provided not only shelter from the foul weather, but exquisite flower displays.  Blame it on our giddiness from jet-lag, but despite the unfavorable weather we thoroughly enjoyed Keukenhof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Saturday we drove from Lisse to Spijkenisse to visit with my brother, Dick.  For an 88-year old, he is in excellent health and mentally fit.  We had a lovely visit and were joined by his son, my nephew, Wim and his girlfriend, Verula.  During the day we did some sightseeing along the Europort harbors, one of the world's busiest marine ports.  Dutch civil engineers have recently completed a new port project that reclaimed 5,000 acres of land from the North Sea (www.maasvlakte2.nl).  That evening, the five of us enjoyed a chatty family meal at De Waal Restaurant (www.dewaalrestaurant.nl) in the outskirts of Rotterdam.  It was a long day and Jane and I were happy to get back to our hotel, the Carlton Oasis (www.carlton.nl) since we were not quite over the jet-lag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belgium

After a farewell breakfast with Dick on Sunday, Jane and I turned the Peugeot south to Belgium.  On the way we drove along the Delta Works, declared as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.  The Delta Works were initiated after the North Sea flood of 1953.  This disastrous event was caused by a high spring tide and a severe storm over the North Sea.  The storm resulted in 2,551 people losing their lives, 30,000 animals being drowned, and nine percent of all farmland in Holland being flooded.  Fortunately for us, the weather had improved and there were no severe storms in sight.  Our drive to Bruge through the low lands of Holland and Belgium was serene.  We arrived at the Hotel Adornes (www.adornes.be) in late-afternoon with ample time to stroll the streets of Bruge and enjoy some famous Belgian beer.  We explored this old city for several days, marveling at its ancient buildings, visiting its museums and relishing its seafood cuisine.  We especially savored the mussels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

France 

Our next destination was Châteua de Boucéel in Vergoncey near Mont Saint Michel in Normandy France, our third country.  Our host was Count Régis de Roquefeuil-Cahuzac.  His family has owned the estate since the 15th century when his forbearers were granted the property by the Duke of Normandy, Richard III.  It was truly a grand experience staying in this old, historic châteua.  Visit www.chateaudebouceel.com to learn much more about this romantic get-away.  Régis shared many intriguing stories about his family and the château.  One particular story touched us deeply.  There is an American Cemetery in the nearby village of Saint James and Régis has volunteered stewardship of one soldier's grave.  Once a week, or so, he places a bouquet of flowers on the grave.  Since we were planning to visit the cemetery and memorial (www.abmc.gov), he asked us to do that for him.  It was a very emotional experience for us to be at the grave to pay our respect and place a bouquet of red camellias on George Mick's grave site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the château, it was a short drive to Mont Saint Michel, one of France's most iconic tourist sites.  Jane and I spent the most part of a day exploring the narrow streets and steep stairways leading to the monastery and church that were first established in the eighth century.  The island is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In the 14th century, during the Hundred Years' War, a small number of French knights successfully defended Mont Saint Michel from the English siege.  Some of these knights were Régis' ancestors.  Their loyalty to the French king was rewarded with the land grant that established the estate.

 

Bayeux was our next stop.  In addition to having its own old medieval charm, Bayeux is the gateway to the D-Day beaches of Normandy.  We visited the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer a short distance from Bayeux.  Like the cemetery in Saint James, this memorial was also immaculately maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission.  Reading the heroic stories about the soldiers who perished on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, was a humbling and heartrending experience.  We also drove to Pointe du Hoc Monument that honors soldiers of the 2nd Ranger Battalion who scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc to disable German artillery aimed at Utah and Omaha beaches.  In all, we spent most of three days in Bayeux.  The village itself, although only a few miles from the allied invasion, was spared major war damage and has a bounty of medieval buildings and churches.  The most significant medieval artifact in Bayeux is the 70 yard long by 20 inches high tapestry (actually an embroidery) created around 1070.  The tapestry tells the story, in "picture form", of how William the Duke of Normandy defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings to become William the Conqueror and King of England.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris was next on Jane's itinerary.  After nearly two weeks on the road we were heading for Jane's week in Paris.  What can I say about Paris that Rick Steves has not already said?  It was beautiful, it was charming, it was captivating, it was cosmopolitan, it was sophisticated, it was international, it was ours for a week.  Jane's navigation skills got us arriving at Gare du Nord to drop of the Peugeot an hour ahead of schedule.  From there it was the Number 4 Metro line to Saint-Germain-Des-Prés on the "left bank" and our apartment at 1 Rue du Dragon.  We had an absolutely fabulous and enchanting time visiting museums, sipping coffee at sidewalk cafes, and walking the busy avenues and narrow side streets of Paris.  The parks and gardens were outstanding.  The warm, sunny spring weather in Paris had brought budding leaves to the sycamore trees along the boulevards and blossoms to the cherry trees in the parks.  Students were lounging on the steps of the Sorbonne and Pantheon.  Families were picnicking and playing in Parc du Champ de Mars in front of the Tour Eiffel. 

Oh what a delightful, exhilarating time we had exploring the iconic and obscure sites of Paris!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That's all folks.  After a week of the hustle and bustle in Paris, it was back to quiet San Diego for us.  With a tinge of depression and sadness, we boarded our Delta flight back home.  The saving grace was that we flew in business class and fully enjoyed all the privileges that were bestowed upon us during the flight.

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) American Cemetery Belgium Bruge Brugge D Day FloraHolland France Holland Keukenhof Lisse Mont Saint Michel Netherlands Normandy Omaha Beach Paris Saint James Spijkenisse birthday travel trip vacation http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/5/three-weeks---three-countries Fri, 10 May 2013 21:33:21 GMT
March Madness http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/4/march-madness

Oh, but what a month is was! Truly madness was in the air at our house during March.  Lots of little annoying things going haywire and costing money, like traffic school for me and a root canal for Jane.  Glad March is history and now Jane and I have (hopefully) only good times to look forward to.  Of course, that is not to imply that March was a total loss.  I did manage to do some photography.  Early in the month I headed to Imperial County, around Brawley and Calipatria, to photograph burrowing owls.  I knew that the agricultural area of Imperial County was a hot spot for these cute little owls.  Having photographed a captive burrowing owl at the Chula Vista Living Coast just last month, I was anxious to photograph these owls in their natural habitat.

To maximize the probability of finding the owls, I had contacted Bob Miller, a local Imperial birding guide at Southwest Birders (www.southwestbirders.com), for advice.  He was very helpful and provided several potential locations for me to check.  I talked my friend Bruce into joining me for this exploration.  The Imperial Valley is a big place and our expectations of finding the small owls amidst this vast agricultural haven were subdued.  Nevertheless, we ventured forth to the areas Bob had suggested.  We were very pleasantly surprised at the results.  We found several pairs of burrowing owls at three of the four locations provided by Bob.  The owls are really rather small, about the size of a slender quail, but when standing tall and looking at you with those big yellow eyes, they are adorable little creatures. 

 

We stumbled upon some more Imperial County surprises as we explored the area around the Salton Sea.  First, we happened upon commercial flower fields similar to the ranunculus fields of Carlsbad.  There were acres and acres of colorful stock flowers ready to be harvested.  Pickers were already in some of the fields cutting the flowers and getting them ready for transport to flower markets.  If you are familiar with stock flowers you can appreciate not only the variety of colors displayed for us but also the very pleasant aromatic scent in the air.  Bruce and I spent quite some time photographing the multi-colored fields.  Composition, which is my photographic nemesis, was the biggest challenge in photographing the flower fields.

 

Driving along the dike bordering the Salton Sea we also encountered a variety of birds that occupy the fringe areas along the shore of the lake, including double crested cormorants, horned grebes, white pelicans, egrets, numerous great blue herons, and an occasional sandhill crane.  The large flocks of snow geese that migrate through Imperial County had already left for their northern breeding grounds.  We photographed  along the dike as opportunities presented themselves.  As ever, the blue herons were the most skittish and always took to the air as we got our big lenses out.  However, near Obsidian Butte, adjacent to the Salton Sea, we actually came upon a blue heron rookery.  A large number of herons were roosting in dead trees about a hundred feet or so from shore.  Several of the birds were sitting on nests, presumable incubating eggs.  Knowing these canny birds do not like people, we parked some distance away and approached cautiously on foot.  Stopping at a considerable distance from the nests, we used our long telephoto lenses with tele-extenders to photograph the roosting herons.

 

In summary, our expedition to Imperial County turned out to be more productive than we had originally anticipated.  Photographs from this trip can be viewed in the Burrowing Owl gallery.
March Madness continued with a trip to the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park for the butterfly exhibit.  There it was truly madness as the small exhibit area became inundated with families and school groups and noise levels exceeded our ability to endure.  Again, Bruce joined me on this photo shoot and we arrived when the exhibit opened.  The first 30 to 45 minutes in the enclosure was enjoyable as there were only a few diehard photographers to share the area with.  Although there were plenty of butterflies, a lot of patience was required to either find, or wait for, a situation where the butterfly was properly positioned to obtain maximum sharpness with an appropriate background.  In any regard, the trip to the butterfly exhibit, although a bit hectic and claustrophobic with the crowds of people, provided a good opportunity to practice our patience and use of our photographic equipment.  Images from the Safari Park butterfly exhibit are in the Butterfly gallery. 
To finish the March Madness month, Bruce and I ventured to the Anza Borrego desert for wildflower photography.  Unfortunately, there had not been sufficient rain for any kind of wildflower bloom.  My on-line research had forewarned me of that probability.  However, it was March and I had an itch for some more photography.  You can call that madness if you must.  Poor Bruce, I conned him into coming along on this unproductive shoot.  We headed east out of San Diego on I-8 to Ocotillo.  There we discovered a vast, newly constructed, wind farm.  It was a bit of a shock to come off the Jacumba Mountain grade into Imperial Valley and see so many of the huge, white windmills.  As we drove through the wind farm on County Road S-2 the enormous size of these gigantic structures became obvious.  People, cars, even large cranes appeared miniscule compared to the towers and blades of the windmills.

 

Photography wise, we found that in limited areas ocotillo and some cacti were in bloom.  For the most part, the desert appeared dry and brown with very little evidence of living plants.  We did the best we could under the circumstances and ended up a bit giddy about the whole experience making fun of ourselves for stooping so low as to photograph a single ocotillo bush multiple times.  There was a full moon the nights we were in Borrego, but the sky was overcast and no photography was possible.  Can you believe that?  It was madness!  We did spend some enjoyable time at the Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association gift shop (www.abdnha.com).  The shop carries my photo-greeting cards so be sure to stop there whenever you visit Borrego Springs.

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) anza-borrego burrowing owl butterfly cormorant desert great blue heron imperial owl rookery roost stock flower wind-farm windmill http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/4/march-madness Sun, 07 Apr 2013 23:15:52 GMT
President's Day 2013 http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/2/presidents-day-2013 It is President's Day and the mechanical humming of paint spraying equipment penetrates from outside my window.  We are having the house painted today and new windows installed next week.  It's not as exciting as a photography trip to some exotic location, but it takes care of a major "to do" for this year.  Getting the painting and windows out of the way clears the calendar for more adventurous undertakings in 2013.  But, let's not get too far ahead.  After all, it's only mid-February.

So far our travels have been more vacation than photography.  Early in January, Jane and I enjoyed a ski vacation with Joy and Jon Eaton at Park City, Utah (www.parkcitymountain.com).  We thoroughly enjoy skiing at Park City.  It feels like the slopes were designed and groomed to our level of skiing ability.  Over the years, this was our fifth time at Park City and the third with Joy and Jon, we have been able to hone our skills and now feel extremely comfortable paralleling down the slope.  We have found our "grove", one might say.  Of course, this is all limited to the trails with Green Circles.  We totally loose confidence when the Blue Squares appear and panic should a Black Diamond loom ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a lot of fun.  That is, untill Jane twisted her ankle on the sidewalk coming home from dinner one evening.  We had all devoured some savory buffalo burgers at the No Name Saloon (www.nonamesaloon.net) and were on our way back to the condo.  Walking from the shuttle stop, she stepped off the sidewalk onto a large break in the gutter, twisted her ankle and when down to her knees.  A visit to urgent care the next day revealed a small crack in a bone in her foot.  So, poor Jane was relegated to wearing a foot boot and using crutches for the rest of our stay.

Jane is a trooper and was ready to travel again in early February to our next destination, Whistler, Canada, (www.wistlerblackcomb.com) for some more skiing.  Our lodging was a most comfortable timeshare condo at Northstar Creekside.  All of Whistler Village was an easy walk from there and what fun it was to stoll along the shops and restaurants all bundled up on our winter wear.  At night the Village was singularly vibrant with colorful, sparkling lights illuminating the pedestrian concourse.  Adding to the ambiance of the Village were the multitudes of people coming and going in their showy, multicolored ski outfits.  The Village is large and easily accommodated the crowds with its abundent shops, restaurants and bars.  We loved it and became part of the crowd finding a different restaurant for dinner each evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The skiing experience, however, is a different story.  To begin, the weather did not cooperate with us.  By even the most conservative definition, we are fair weather skiers.  A stormy overcast and light rain in the Village kept us cozily sitting by the fire reading our books for the first few days.  The wait payed off.  After a few days we were treated to blue skies and high clouds and ventured out to experience Whistler Mountain.  The mountain was magnificent, the snow plentiful and scenery breathtaking.  The gondola ride from the Village to the top of the mountain is a stunning twentyfive minute sensory adventure.  The snow capped peaks of the coastal range surrounding Whistler Mountain provided a stunning 360 degree vista.  There are two major ski areas, Whistler and Blackcomb, seperated by the Fitzsimmons Creek canyon.  A peak-to-peak gondola has been constructed connecting the tops of two ski areas.  Jane and I rode this amazing peak-to-peak gondola to experience the spectacular scenic beauty of the area.

Returning to our skiing experience, let me merely recount that not all Green Circles are created equal.  The Green Circle ski runs at Whistler are reminiscent of the Blue Square runs at Park City.  Both Jane and I were more than a little intimidated by the steepness of the slopes marked with the Green Circles.  In addition, at Park City we are accustomed to packed groomed ski runs.  At Whistler the runs were loosely groomed causing the snow to billow into small mounds and moguls as more and more skiers moved the loose snow around.  Needless to say, we lost some of the cockyness we acquired in Park City but still enjoyed the challenge of Whistler Mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just because there were two consecutive ski-vacation trips does not suggest that my hankering for photography diminished.  My photo-buddy Bruce Hollingsworth joined Jane and me for an exploration of The Living Coast (formerly The Nature Center) at Gunpowderpoint in Chula Vista.   Thanks to Sherry Lankston, Guest Experience & Marketing Coordinator at The Living Coast (www.thelivingcoast.org) we were treated to some one-on-one photo ops with three of their birds on exhibit.  The birds were displayed for us by Lindsay Bradshaw one of The Living Coast avian curators.  We were able to get some charming closeups of a burrowing owl, barn owl and female kestrel.  These birds were not able to be returned to the wild and so are on perminent display at The Living Coast.  Getting portrait style closeups of birds in the wild is nearly impossible so this was an exceptional opportunity for us to obtain some very detailed images.

So far, a very good start to the 2013 travel season, two ski trips and some awsome bird shots.  Once the house painting is complete and new windows installed, we will go into extreme research mode as we contemplate and plan where we will go this year.  It will be difficult to replicate last year's great trips, but we will certainly give it a try.  Please come back occasionally to check the blog and catch up on our travel experiences.

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Canada Chula Vista Gunpowder Point No Name Saloon Park City The Living Coast Utah Whistler avian barn barn owl burrowing burrowing owl curator gandola kestrel owl peak-to-peak ski skiing village http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2013/2/presidents-day-2013 Mon, 18 Feb 2013 23:56:18 GMT
End Of The Year Blast http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/12/end-of-the-year-blast I ended 2012 with a Blast!  Not the fireworks kind, but a great photo trip to Costa Rica.  I signed up for Greg Basco's workshop, Biodiversity of Costa Rica, and had a most enjoyable and challenging time photographing that diversity (www.fotoverdetours.com).  There were ten participants in the workshop and I was truely impressed with the photographic skills and accomplishments of the group.  One of the great outstanding features of this workshop was the teaching ability demonstrated by Greg.  For every major shoot, he would inform us of the basic setup and how to prepare for it.  He also would go over the composition and exposure alternatives so that we could achieve the best photographic results.  In the darkness of the rainforest much of the photography required suplemental flash, an area of particular weakness for me.  With Greg's assistance, however, much of the mystery of flash photography was clarified.

 

                                                     

The itinerary was also outstanding.  We started and ended our adventure at the Bougainvillea Hotel on the outskirts of San Jose (www.hb.co.cr/). From the Bougainvillea we traveled first to the Selve Verde Lodge (www.selvaverde.com), then to the Bosque de Paz Biological Preserve (www.bosquedepaz.com), and finally the Arenal Observatory Lodge (www.arenalobservatorylodge.com), each for three nights.  Side trips were made to photograph macaws, iguanas, hummingbirds, a variety of snakes, lizards and frogs, and a large variety of small birds.  Images from this last adventure of 2012 can be viewed in the Costa Rica galleries.  I will leave it to each of you to decide on the most intriguing, interesting, humorous, or revolting images.  As I said, it was a Blast!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this end of 2012, Jane and I wish all our friends and acquaintances a safe, healthy and happy 2013.  As a sign at the Arenal Observatory Lodge proclaimes, "Leave Only Footprints; Take Only Pictures; and Kill Only Time".  Happy trails to all of you. 

Our plans for 2013 include some more exciting trips.  Hopefully, there will be lots of new images to share.  Check back every once in a while for new blog entrees. 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Arenal Observatory Lodge Bosque de Paz Costa Rica Foto Verde birds bougainvillea hummingbirds iguana photography snakes workshop http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/12/end-of-the-year-blast Sat, 22 Dec 2012 16:43:47 GMT
Anniversary Trip http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/10/anniversary-trip How do you begin a Blog about a monumental, month long, 5,300 mile, fifteenth wedding anniversay trip?  Do you begin with the grand scenic places we visited?  The unique inns and lodges we called home along the way?  Or, the intimacy of sharing new exciting experiences?  I'll begin with a quick recap of this exciting odyssey and then share some of the details that made this fifteenth anniversary uniquely special.

 

As much as Jane and I travel, there are still places and adventures we muse about experiencing.  One of those was to drive U.S. Highway 395 from its origins in San Diego to its terminus at the Canadian border (www.sdcounty.ca.gov/dpw/organization/old395.html).  Well, we did that!  Another was to stay at a high, remote alpine lodge in the Canadian Rockies.  Well, we did that too!  Although we had been to Lake Louise before, we had not hiked the longer alpine trails around the lake.  Again, we did that!  Finally, we finished our trip with a stay at "our place in Montana", Glacier Wilderness Resort for some needed rest and relaxation.

 

From San Diego to Hesperia, U.S. Highway 395 has been replaced by Interstate 15.  Although there were several signs along I-15 referring to Old Highway 395, it was at Hesperia that we actually exited the Interstate to begin our Highway 395 sojourn.  There was not much scenic beauty to rave about until we reached Lone Pine, six hours, or so, from home.  From Lone Pine to Lee Vining, our first overnight, we paralleled the east side of California's majestic Sierra Nevada mountains.  We had time for some unplanned sightseeing including Mammoth Mounain ski area, Mono Lake and its tufa outcroppings (www.monolake.org) , and the ghost town of Bodie (www.bodie.com).  Leaving Lee Vining, we made a mental note that this area would make a great fall photography location.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next destination required a slight detour from Highway 395.  At the recommendation of our friends Jon and Joy Eaton, we had placed Crater Lake National Park on our list of must stops.  So, from Lee Vining we headed for Klamath Falls, Oregon.  There, we happened upon a local newspaper that headlined a warning about a midge irruption.  Neither Jane or I had ever heard of a midge, but we encountered them big time the next day on our way to Crater Lake.  Swarms of small, mosquito like, insects irrupting from Upper Klamath Lake, formed massive dark clouds over the road (www.craterlakeinstitue.com).  Needless to say, the 4Runner was covered with thousands of the little midges.  This fatal attraction necessitated an emergency stop at a service station to clean the winshield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Jon and Joy for their recommendation.  We enjoyed Crater Lake immensely and would recommend a stop there to anyone traveling in that direction.  The crater, formed by the collapse of an old volcano caldera, was immense and the lake water a stunning deep blue.  We had time to enjoy a short hike to Plaikni Falls and buffalo burgers in the lodge.  From Crater Lake, we traveled to Bend, Oregon for our third overnight.  From the lake, the terrain transitioned from mountainous, wooded forests to open plains of agricultural fields with their unique geometric patterns.  We continued along the same landscape to Spokane and on to Golden, British Columbia, Canada, (www.tourismgoldern.com) by way of Coeur d' Alene, Idaho.

 

Heading north out of Coeur d' Alene, we traveled between the Purcell Mountains on the west and the Kootenay Range in the east.  The route was sprinkled with quaint little communities, like Kimberly, Canal Flats, Invermere, and Edgewater, as well as a multitude of resorts, like Fairmount Hot Srings, Windermere, and Radium Hot Springs.  Near Canal Flats, we drove along Columbia Lake, the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River.  Our destination was Golden, confluence of the Kicking Horse and Columbia Rivers, and our point of departure for the Purcell Mountain Lodge (www.purcellmountainlodge.com).  This remote, alpine lodge is accessable only by helicopter from Golden.  We spent our fifth overnight at the Kicking Horse River Lodge, a very nice and comfortable accommodation (www.khrl.com), prior to our rendezvous with Alpine Helicopters for our ascent to the lodge (www.alpinehelicopter.com).

 

If ever I scored big on selecting an anniversary location, this was it.  Starting with the thrill of the helicopter, with Jane in the "second", co-pilot seat, and ending with melancholy goodbyes and hugs, this was by far the best celebration we have experienced.  To start, Purcell Lodge, a member of the Unique Inns group, was an exquisitely stunning accommodation.  Immaculately maintained, spotlessly clean, comfortably furnished and appointed, the lodge provided a serene environment for our fifteenth fete.  Upon landing, we were met by our guide, Kevin, and cheff, Stephane, and that is when the adventure began.  The daily routine consisted of a hardy breakfast, packing a lunch, four to six hours of leasurely hiking, pre-dinner hors d'oeuvres, and a sumptuous evening meal.  There was a bit of a ritual associated with the dinner call.  Stephane would pick up his guitar, find a comfortable spot on the couch, and proceed to sing the menu to us.  His performance was always a much enjoyed preamble to a delectable dining experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The daily hikes took us on various trails on the Bald Mountain meadows surrounding the lodge.  Kevin lead the way, always offering several alternative routes and Jane always choosing the most strenuous.  The views were extraordinary.  Sunrise at Mount Sir Donald was especially memorable.  Kevin and I would leave the comfort of the lodge before sunrise to arrive at the edge of the meadow and watch the pre-dawn sky over Sir Donald turn a rosy crimson and light up the glacier-covered mountain peak with alpenglow.  At other times we hiked the alpine meadow, filled with autumn heather, dwarf willow, paintbrush, pearly everlasting, mountain groundsel and broad leaved arnica.  During our stay, in early September, the western anenome flowers had turned to seed leaving showy "hippie stick" pods in vast numbers all along the trails.  Wildlife is not abundant on the meadow.  There is not sufficient feed to support the larger ungulates such as deer and elk.  At the low end of the food chain are the Columbia ground squirrels.  These rotund and nervous rodents provide an adequate food source for red-tailed hawks and the "resident" bear, Bella.  Although sightings of Bella and her cubs are not infrequent, we did not see her during our stay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All too soon our interlude at the comfortable Purcell Lodge came to an end.  The helicopter flight back to Golden was bittersweet.  We hated to leave the lodge, yet looked forward to rest of our journey.  From Golden we drove the Trans-Canadian highway to Lake Louise for the next chapter of our anniversary trip.  Along the way, we stopped for a picnic and hike around Emerald Lake with its aquamarine waters surrounded by glacier-capped mountains.  We also took in Takakkaw Falls that plunge 1,250 feet from the Daly Glacier to the valley floor.  The drive to Lake Louise followed the Kicking Horse River, flowing west to the Columbia River, and then over Kicking Horse Pass, crossing the continental divide, into the Bow Valley.  Jane and I have been in these Canadian Rockies three times now and the intimate grandeur of their glacier-clad peaks and tranquility of their pine covered valleys continue to create a sense of awe and reverence in our spirits.

 

At Lake Louise Village we spent four nights at the Paradise Bungalows in a well appointed and cozy log cabin, along the main road to the lake (www.paradiselodge.com).  The last time Jane and I journeyed to Lake Louise, the weather was nasty and we only stopped for a quick lunch and gas for the car.  This time the weather was sublime, by Lake Louise standards.  We enjoyed a very pleasant day photographing and hiking around Moraine Lake.  This has to be, in my opinion, one of the most scenic lakes in the world with its dazzling blue water and glacier carved peaks erupting around its edge.  Another very scenic hike we enjoyed was to the cascades and falls of Johnston Canyon.  Parks Canada (www.pc.gc.ca/) has constructed a steel catwalk along this trail that is cantilevered from the shear rock walls of the canyon.  At times we were actually walking above the roaring river.  The most memorable hike, however, was to the Plain Of The Six Glaciers Teahouse.  It was along this seven mile, roundtrip, trail that the fickle nature of high alpine weather became apparent.  As we reached the end of this 1,230 foot elevation gain trail, grey clouds obscured the mountain peaks and a sprinkling of rain started to spit down on us.  By the time the Teahouse was in sight there was a constant light rain and we decided not to dally but to retrace our steps down the trail.  As we began the descent, rain turned to snow.  Big, massive, watery flakes fluttered from the sky creating a fairyland effect that we ignored as we stoically trudged back to the trailhead.  Our cosy cabin was a welcomed retreat as we warmed ourselves and dried boots and raingear in front of the pot-bellied stove. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the homey warmth of the Paradise Bungalows cabin, we headed south to "our place in Montana".  Our place in Montana is the Glacier Wilderness Resort timeshare cabin where we have the last two weesk in September (www.glacierwildernessresort.com).  The bright yellow fall colors of cottonwoods and quaking aspen usually peak during our time there.  The resort is adjacent to Glacier National Park and we spent some time hiking and photographing there.  At Many Glaciers, we had the opportunity to  watch a mother brown bear teach her cubs the art of berry picking.  It was facinating to observe the cubs using their tongues to manipulate the berries into their mouths.  We also endeavored a long hike to Iceberg Lake but only made it to Ptarmigan Falls, still a daunting effort considering the elevation gain.  At the Many Glaciers Lodge we boarded a tour boat on Swiftcurrent Lake to shuttle us Lake Josephine and an easier hike to Grinnell Lake.  While we were at the cabin there were a number of forest fires, some as far away as Idaho, that created a smokey haze over the mountains and deterred us from other hikes.  Instead, we explored the Flathead Valley along the Mission Mountain Range, including the National Bison Range and Mission St. Ignatius. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our cabin provided quiet solitude and relaxation that was much welcomed after our adventurous stays at Purcell Mountain Lodge, Lake Louise and Many Glaciers.  So what did we do at our secluded retreat in Montana?  Soaked luxuriously, with a glass of wine, in the hot water of the Jacuzzi on the front porch of the cabin and planned our next trips, of course.  For example, as we drove from Lake Louise through Kananaskis Country, south of Canmore in Alberta, we found the Rockies there to be of exceptional beauty.  So we spent time in the hot tub plottng when we might return there.

 

For more images from this amazing trip, see the Anniversary Trip gallery.

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) alberta bodie british columbia canada crater lake emerald lake glacier wilderness resort golden johnston canyon klamath falls lake louise mammoth mountain midge montana moraine lake paradise bungalows parks canada purcell mountain lodge takakkaw falls http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/10/anniversary-trip Wed, 17 Oct 2012 21:17:13 GMT
A Summer Potpourri Of Pictures http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/8/a-summer-potpourri-of-pictures Jane and I scheduled a major bathroom remodel project to start after our return from Colorado in late June.  The contractor, Rancho Kitchen and Bath (www.ranchokb.com), started work on July 2nd.  We can't say enough good things about Rancho.  The workmanship was outstanding, the workers friendly, the work finished ahead of schedule, and most importantly on budget.  That means construction will be completed well in advance of our fall trip.  Of course, I could not wait two months before taking some more pictures.  So, Bruce Hollingsworth and I made a couple of short trips to while away the time.  First, we plied our skills at Bolsa Chica in Huntington Beach, California (www.bolsachica.org).  From there we came back to San Diego for some shooting at Santee Lakes and the Tijuana Estuary.  At Bolsa Chica we met some other wildlife photographers and one of them, Patrick O'Healy (www.ohealyimages.zenfolio.com), joined us at Santee Lakes (www.santeelakes.com) and the Tijuana Estuary (www.tijuanaestuary.com).  After that, Bruce and I spent a few days further afield photographing Bristlecone Pines in the White Mountains and the Alabama Hills adjacent to Mount Whitney.

For me, Bolso Chica was a bust.  This was partially due to my lack of skill in photographing small birds in flight, but mostly due to the lack of birds.  The photographers we met at Bolsa Chica had come specifically to photograph black skimmers and they were pretty much skunked as well.  It was pretty much the same at the Tijuana Estuary.  We attempted to shoot some snowy plovers, but they are very small and difficult to approach for full frame shots.  Our best bird shots, although not numerous, were at Santee Lakes.  There, we spent some time photographing male and female wood ducks.  In July, the males were not sporting there colorful breeding plumage, but were, nevertheless, very attractive birds.  A little chumming with cracked corn brought the ducks within easy range for full frame shots.  We also practiced our patience waiting for a perched osprey to spead its wings and fly off.  It paid off!  We had waited about 30 to 45 minutes, when it finally took flight.  We got some decent images from that little trip.  We concluded, however, that most southern California bird photography locations are best during the winter months when birds are migrating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To set the stage for our next trip, I need to tell you that the Bristlecone Pine forest in the White Mountains is a long 50 minute drive from Big Pine (www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5129900).  That meant early morning and late everning photography required an extensive drive up and down a steep, narrow and twisty mountain road in the wee hours of the morning and evening.  Not only that, there are two major bristlecone pine groves.  The second grove is an additional half hour on a steep, dirt tract.  I convinced Bruce that it would be best if we were to camp out at the Grandview Campground (www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/inyo/recreation/camping.../recarea/?...29) about five miles from the first grove.  Bruce was up for it and had all the necessary camping gear we needed for our stay on the mountain.

 

I would say that our trip to the Bristlecone Pine forest was a success.  The weather cooperated by supplying a very threatening stormy sky without actually raining on us.  Both Bruce and I got some very attractive images of the trees.  I won't go into detail about the age and hardiness of the bristlecone pine but only direct you to my images in the Summer Potpourri of Images gallery.  The images did not come without a price, however.   Bruce and I hiked at least a total of eight miles carrying are photo gear up and down the trails at elevations ranging over 11,000 feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the campground, we chummed in some forest critters with bird seed.  After some time, the critters became habituated to our presence and we spent several hours sitting comfortably in our camp chairs watching and photographing them.  First came the golden-mantled ground squirrels.  They would scurry around, squabbling with each other, and stowing away the seeds in their expanding cheeck pouches.  There were also some much smaller Uinta chipmunks around.  But these were shy, timid, aloof and never within camera range.  That's when I decided it was time for the ultimate critter attractor, peanut butter.  I pasted some of the nectar on the branches of a Utah Juniper tree and waited for the elixir to work.  It did not take long.  First, the golden-mantled ground squirrels availed themselves of the goody.  Then came the Uinta chipmunks.  These nimble creatures took a more direct route jumping from low ground bushes onto the branches of the juniper.  It was quite a circus to watch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last stop on our trip to the Owens Valley was Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills (www.blm.gov/ca/bishop/alabamas.html).  I don't mind telling you that I find landscape photography very challenging and the Alabama Hills are doubly so.  With the exception of the Mobius Arch, we concentrated most of our time on photographing Mount Whitney at sunrise and sunset.  On the second day of shooting, we were again fortunate to have billowy clouds over the mountain both in the morning and evening.  The morning alpenglow shots turned out particularly well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see images from these trips in the A Summer Potpourri Of Pictures gallery.  And here is my commercial announcement: you get order prints of any image on my website directly using the "buy" link after selecting the image.  If you would like blank photo-greeting cards of any images, please contact me via the "send message" link under Contact.

Jane and I are now looking forward to the completion of the bathroom remodel and our upcoming trip to the Purcell Mountain Lodge in the Canadian Rockies.  Tell you about that adventure when we return.

 

 

 

 

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Alabama Hills Bolsa Chica California Grandview Campground Mobius Arch Mount Whitney Rancho Kitchen and Bath Santee Lakes Tijuana Estuary Uinta White Mountains bristlecone pines chipmunk" golden mantled ground squirrel osprey photography wood duck http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/8/a-summer-potpourri-of-pictures Sun, 12 Aug 2012 22:13:38 GMT
A June Two-Fer http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/7/a-june-two-fer June was an exciting month with two great trips.  It wasn't guite a two-fer since both trips had their own costs.  First, Alaska!  We boarded an Alaska Airlines flight from San Diego to Anchorage where we rented a car and headed to Whittier.  Whittier is one of those Alaskan towns where the weather is as independent and varied as its people.  We were to go out with Gerry Sander on his boat, the M/V Sound Access, for two days of pelagic wildlife photography (www.soundecoadventure.com).  Well, the weather was most uncooperative and the best we could do was one day, which turned out to be rather nice, by Whittier standards.  We stayed at the Inn at Whittier, a very nice hotel located on a rocky ledge overlooking the bay (www.innatwhittier.com).  Much to our surprise at breakfast one morning, there was a huge cruise ship docked just a few hundred feet away.  A behemoth like that makes everything else look very small, especially our four story hotel.

Gerry guided us through Prince Williams Sound to several islands with kittiwake and puffin colonies, including Fool Island, Naked Island, and Smith and Little Smith Islands.  Photography was best for us at Tree Island, a small rocky outpost of the Dutch Group of Islands.  Tree Island has a shallow soil layer on top of the bedrock.  Puffins have dug their burrows into the soil right at the contact zone.  Jane and I were able to photograph a mated pair in front of their burrow.  Kittiwakes and gulls nested along the rocky ledges and cliffs of the tiny island and were much more numerous than the puffins.  We also encountered several groups of humpback whales but were only able to get fluke shots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My original impetus for the trip to Alaska was to photograph the famous white, Dall sheep at Windy Corner along the Seward Highway south of Anchorage.  My research had suggested that these sheep frequently ventured close to the road and could be easily photographed.  So we changed accommodations from Whittier and moved to Girdwood, at the Alyeska ski resort.  Jane had arranged for a nice vacation home rental through Alyeska Accommodations (www.alyeskaaccommodations.com).  Unfortunately, like the weather in Whittier, the Dall sheep had different plans.  Yes we saw some, but they were very high up on the rocky cliffs above the highway and much too far for photography.  After hiking the trail at Windy Corner without any sightings, we abandoned plans for sheep photography and headed to Potter Marsh for potential waterfowl shots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Potter Marsh is a well know birding area and on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game viewable wildlife list (www.adfg.alaska.gov).  Jane and I thoroughly enjoyed strolling the boardwalk and photographing from the highway pullouts.  I did not realize how closely the Arctic Terns nested to the pullouts and was noisely attacked by an aggravated tern while getting my tripod from the trunk.  It's nest was only a few feet from the car.  To my surprise, the tree swallows that swarmed around the marsh were very habituated to people and we were able to photograph the little swallows from close proximity.

Our last stop of our Alaska venture was at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (www.alaskawildlife.org).  I have had an urge to photograph musk oxen for a long time and the conservation center had a small group of these prehistoric looking beasts.  In addition to the musk oxen, the center also had Alaska's famous brown bears and herds of wood bison, elk and reindeer.  The wood bison and elk had a large number of newborn calves which were fun to watch and photograph.  Jane particularly enjoyed the visitor center/gift shop.  We found it best to be at the center early in the morning before the tour busses arrived from Anchorage with their loads of sightseers.  From our observation, the Center appeared to be well managed, operated and maintained.  The animal enclosures were very large and natural allowing the animals to roam freely over a large area of varied terrain.  Photography through the fences was challenging, but could be accomplished with a little effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second June two-fer trip was to Mount Evans in Colorado.  Mount Evans had also been on my to-do list for a long time.  It was the mountain goats that roam the fourteen-thousand foot heights of Mount Evans that I wanted to photograph.  Jane and I drove from San Diego to Idaho Springs where we stayed for five nights.  The house Jane had rented was right on the road to Mount Evans so our "commute" to the top was fairly easy, although it still took about 45 minutes to drive to the top.  We arrived in Idaho Springs on a Sunday afternoon and decided to drive to the top for some reconnaissance and familiarization.  I'm glad we did because the road to the top was narrow, steep, with numerous switchbacks and sheer drops, in short hair-raising.  The recon trip prepared us for what to expect and our subsequent trips to the top were not as scary.  On Sunday afternoon we were also plagued with hundreds of sightseers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the next two mornings we were up at 5:00 AM and out of the door by 5:30.  Getting to the top was no problem and at the top we encounted only a few other hardy souls.  It was cold and windy on top.  Did I mention it was windy?  Each morning, we were buffeted by strong gusts that about blew us over.  In order to take photos, we had to wedge behind large boulders and position ourselves behind other potential windbreaks.  These distractions did little, however, to lessen the delight of sharing the mountain top with several families of mountain goat nannies and their kids.  At times there must have been close to fifteen adult goats and six or so very young kids.  The kids stole the show as they played among the boulders, jumping sure-footed from one to another.  Sometimes three or more youngsters would be on the same boulder, pushing and shoving each other for "king-of-the-hill" honors.  It was shear pleasure to be part of their world for a time.  For the most part, they paid little attention to the nearby photographers clicking away.  As the goat families roamed about on top of Mount Evans, licking minerals from the rocky soil, they would often pass within a few feet of us.  I'll have to admit it made me a bit nervous as the adults with their sharp horns entered my "space". 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although mountain goats were the objective, we also did the tourist thing.  We visited Breckenridge, Leadville, Aspen (via Independence Pass) and Marble.  We pretty much got our fill of steep, narrow and twisty mountain roads.  The scenary was beautiful, although that nasty bark beetle has taken its toll.  We concluded that another trip to Colorado was needed, but in the fall with the aspen trees in their glory.

You can see images from these two trip in the Varied Wildlife of Alaska and Mount Evans Cuties galleries.

 

 

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Gerry Sander Idaho Springs Mount Evans Potter Marsh Prince Williams Sound Whittier alaska colorado goats kid kids mountain mountain goats musk ox pelagic photography wildlife http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/7/a-june-two-fer Mon, 02 Jul 2012 19:36:25 GMT
White-Water Thrills http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/5/white-water-thrills  

Well, we did it.  After nearly a year of planning and anticipating, Jane and I white-water rafted down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.  What an exciting adventure!  Six exhilarating days meadering and splashing through the grandest of canyons, hiking its remote trails and marveling at its beauty.  We arranged our expedition with Arizona River Runners (www.raftarizona.com).  They provided most everything from knowledgable and skilled guides, pontoon rafts, cots, and sleeping bags to three squares a day.  We merely had to show up, be "in the moment", and partake in the fun, comradery and exhilaration of the canyon experience.

The rafting expedition started at the Lees Ferry launching ramp in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area about 15 miles below Glen Canyon dam.  We met our guides, Kenny, Riley, Easy and Sheila at the Marble Canyon Lodge (www.marblecanyoncompany.com).  After roll call, there were 27 of us intrepid traverlers, and brief introductions we loaded our ample gear into vans and headed for the launching ramp.  There we received our personal dry-bags, life preservers and final safety briefing.  By that time we were all anxious to scramble onto the rafts and head down river.

 

For six awesome days we marveled at the Grand Canyon's iconic beauty and were doused by the Colorado's cold rapids.  After six exhilarating days, no single experience stands out.  Instead, it was a continuous kaleidoscope of bright colored cliffs, foaming white water, vivid watery reflections, exhausting hikes, turquoise tributaries and bright sunny skies.  Some of the outstanding canyon activities we enjoyed included: a stimulating hike up North Canyon through its wave like slot canyon walls; a respite from the hot sun at the shady Redwall Cavern; a steep strenuous scramble to ancient Anasazi graineries high up the canyon wall; floating carefree like a kid in the turquoise waters of the Little Colorado; a brief rocky scramble up Blacktail Canyon for a refreshing splash under its waterfall; a harrowing hike along steep ledges to the "patio" above Deer Creek Falls; and a treacherous docking and hike along narrow ledges to the turquoise and travertine laden waters of Havasu Creek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the wonder and excitement of the canyon came to an abrupt end at Whitmore Wash, river mile 187.  There, after breakfast, breaking camp and a group photo, we were helicoptered some half mile vertically out of the Grand Canyon to the Bar 10 Ranch (www.bar10.com).  At the ranch, our now extended "family" of 27, bid each other adieu as some flew home through Las Vegas and others via Marble Canyon.  The memory of this extraordinary trip through crashing rapids and majestic scenery will linger in our memory for a long, long time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This fantastic white-water river trip was a vacation and not a photography outing.  Therefore, you will not find a Gallery on the web site with images from the trip.

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Arizona Arizona River Runners:, Bar 10 Ranch Canyon" Colorado Colorado River Grand Canyon Havasu Havasu Creek Marble River adventure exhilarating expidetion pantoon raft rafting rapids scenery travel white water http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/5/white-water-thrills Sat, 26 May 2012 23:33:42 GMT
End Of An Era http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/4/end-of-an-era  After nearly a decade of selling my photo-greeting cards and fine-art photographs at art and craft shows, I have decided to "move on".  It was 2003 when I first obtained my reseller's permit from the state of California.  I honestly did not remember it was that long ago.  Time flies when you are having fun.  For about the last five years, I have sold exclusively at the Bernardo Winery art and craft shows in Rancho Bernardo.  That was close to home and I enjoyed working with Veronica and her crew.  The surroundings there were comfortable and inviting resulting in crowds of visitors enjoying the ambiance and entertainment of the venue.  But, quite frankly, after ten years it got a little old setting up and tearing down for each of the shows.  Plus, I wanted to travel and photograph more and the show dates started interfering with that.  So, with some regret, I am going to concentrate on selling my photo-greeting cards and fine art prints at retail outlets and online.

 

 

For my past and potentially new clients, I now offer the convenience of online shopping right here on this site.  I have priced my prints to be competative with art and craft show pricing.  By following the various links you can choose print size, cropping, mat color and frame style.  Then, most conveniently, the framed and matted print will be delivered right to your home, or any alternative location you may prefer.

For those of you who have purchased my photo-greeting cards, and there were many of you, and would like to continue doing so, please "contact" me using the link on the web site.  To ensure quality, I personally make the cards and can arrange to make them for you if you send me an email request.  If you reside in the San Diego area, you can also purchase my cards at the following retail outlets: 

          Callifornia Backyard Birds in Encinitas www.californiabackyardbird.com

          The UPS Store on Highway 101 in Solano Beach www.theupsstorelocal.com/0746/

          The Birdwatcher in Julian www.thebirdwatcher.net

          Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association  in Borrego Springs www.abdnha.org

I have appreciated your past patronage and hope you will continue to consider my photography for your personal use or as gifts.

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Bernardo Winery art craft fine-art photo-greeting cards prints retail sales selling set-up http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/4/end-of-an-era Mon, 23 Apr 2012 23:43:14 GMT
Birds of Southern Arizona http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/4/birds-of-southern-arizona  

Southern Arizona is a national hotspot for photographing migrating birds, that is, when the birds are migrating (www.tucsonaudubon.org).  Bruce Hollingsworth and I just returned from a photo trip to southern Arizona and discovered that timing is everything.  Everywhere where we attempted to photograph birds, we found that we were to early and that the "real" migration hadn't started yet.  It is true that, although the winter had been mild, spring turned out cold and late.  Bruce and I commented, as we drove to the birding hotspots, that the terrain still looked like winter.  Desert shrubs were still without leaves and there were no sping flowers anywhere, except peoples' yards.  We had planned an extensive itinerary, three days around Green Valley, three days around Patagonia, and three days around Sierra Vista.  We had taken our own photo-blinds hoping for opportunities to set them up at strategic locations for some close-up shooting.  All in all, the venture was only partially successful.  We did not capture as many images as we had hoped and only had a few new species to add to our portfolios.

We started our trip at Bill Forbes' "The Pond At Elephant Head" in Amado, Arizona (www.phototrap.com).  We spent a day and half shooting at Bill's place.  Keeper images there are almost guaranteed.  Bill has set up shooting blinds around a very small watering pond and has spent years habituating the birds to his feeders and perches.  Gambel's Quail, Orioles, Thrashers, Cactus Wrens and a variety of finches and sparrows are regular visitors to the feeders at the pond.  We had also hoped to shoot in Madera Canyon where Bill has another setup for shooting hummingbirds from blinds.  The target species was the Magnificent Hummingbird.  Unfortunately, Bill was the first of many to tell us that the birds had not yet arrived.  I'll have to go back in the future to get my Magnificent.

 

 

From Amado, we traveled to Patagonia.  All the birding guides rave about the Patagonia area.  We explored Patagonia Lake State Park, Paton's backyard, the Nature Conservancy's Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, and the area around our B&B (Cross Creek Cottages).  The story was much the same, birds had not arrived yet.  At Patagonia Lake State Park we carried our heavy equipment along the wooded lake trail and steep chaparral covered hillsides looking for shooting opportunities.  This of course, was an exercise in futility.  Without a well established feeding station and blinds, photographing birds is a fruitless effort.  But as luck would have it, we did have some success.  As I was carrying my gear up a steep, brushy trail, Bruce spotted a Gila Monster.  It was big, ugly and scary!  We had an exciting time trying to get good images as it lumbered along in the weeds and brush.  The other success at the state park was a Vermillion Flycatcher.  We had spotted the bright red bird perched in a tree, but way to far for a shot.  Then it toyed with us as it fluttered, back and forth, overhead only to perch again out of range.  We had given up and were heading back to the car when we stumbled upon some Pipits.  The little birds were foraging on the ground among the old leaves and grasses.  The Pipits were so preoccupied that we had time to set up our tripods with 500 mm lenses.  Just then the Vermillion Flycatcher swooped in and perched on an old tree snag not far from us.  Although still very small in the view finder, we did get some keepers.

Due to the overall lack of birds, we left Patagonia a day earlier than originally planned and headed for Siera Vista.  There we explored several birding hotspots, including Huachuca Canyon, the Nature Conservancy Ramsey Canyon Preserve, and San Pedro House, in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (www.sanpedroriver.org).  In al those well known hotspots, there were very few birds and no real photo opportunities.  We ended up arranging with Tony Battiste to shoot from blinds at his B&B (www.battistebedandbirds.com).  That proved worthwhile and emphasized again that you need well established feeding and watering stations and blinds for productive shooting.  Morning light was best at Tony's, so we photographed there two mornings.  I got some new species to add to the portfolio, including a Bewick's Wren, Inco Dove, Audubon's Warbler, and Lucy's Warbler.  Not bad, considering it was an off-spring for bird photography.  Tony invited us to come back in the evening to photograph an Elf Owl pair that has a nest on his property.  However, that turned out to be a unproductive.  Although we saw the owls swooping around the trees in the darkness of late twilight, the birds did not perch in the open area we were prepared for.

 

 

Images from this trip can be viewed in the Birds of Southern Arizona gallery.  Bruce also keeps a blog and you can read his version of the trip there (www.logofspartina.blogspot.com).

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Amado Battiste's Bed and Birds Bewick's Wren Bridled Titmouse Bullock's Oriole Cross Creek Cottages Gambel's Quail Gila Monster Hooded Oriole Inco Dove Ladder-Backed Woodpecker Lazuli Bunting Lucy's Warbler Mockingbird Northern Cardinal Patagonia Pyrrhuloxia Siera Vista The Pond at Elephant Head Yellow-Rumped Warbler birding hotspots photography southern Arizona http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/4/birds-of-southern-arizona Mon, 16 Apr 2012 16:03:27 GMT
More About Hummers http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/3/more-about-hummers Not because I got skunked at Miramar Lake, but because I just wanted to get some good Anna's Hummingbird images, I signed up for a hummingbird workshop with Neil Solomon (www.nsolomonphoto.com).  Neil conducts his workshops in Alpine, California (www.alpinechamber.com).  That is just a forty minute drive from home and too good an opportunity to pass up.  The target workshop species in Alpine are the Anna's, Costa's, Ruffous and Black Chinned hummers.  During the workshop, it was predominantly the Anna's that buzzed around the feeders and flowers.  A Ruffous and Black Chinned showed up occasionally, but I failed to get images of those.  Since my objective was to get some good Anna's images, the workshop turned out great for me.

Neil is a true professional.  His setup included five flashes, a variety of backgrounds and native flowers right out of the yard.  Since his equipment and my camera were all Canon, the whole setup was triggered wirelessly by my 550 EX Speedlight flash with its wireless selector switch on the "master" setting.  We had to experiment a bit on the appropriate exposure settings.  Once that was fine tuned, the rest of the shooting was almost automatic.  Since it is nearly impossible to focus on the flittering hummers, the camera was pre-focused on the area where the birds were expected to feed and set on manual focus.  I still ended up with hundreds of out-of-focus shots.  That was OK since I filled four 8 GB cards during the two day workshoop and had plenty of in-focus images to work with.

The birds seemed to follow a pattern of all showing up at the same time and then disappearing for a while.  At times there were as many as five or six hummers pushing, shoving, intimidating and chasing each other around the feeder.  It got nasty at times and the clashes could easily be heard.  During the lulls, Neil and I had plenty of time to swap stories and get to know each other.  Turns out, we have photographed at many of the same locations.  Neil's specialty is definitely birds and he responds immediatly when he hears of any special bird photography opportunities.  Most recently, he flew to Seattle in order to take advantage of the Snowy Owl irruption resulting from too many young birds for the available northern food supply.  To learn more about bird irruptions or explosions check out these sites www.birdsource.org and www.ebird.org.

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the two days I spent with Neil photographing hummingbirds in Alpine.  You can see the results of the workshop on my website in the Alpine Hummingbird Workshop gallery.  Most of the images are of the female Anna's with its freckled throat and golden and green back feathers.  My personal favorites are the male Anna's with there bright, irredescent red gorgets.  There are also a couple of Costa hummingbirds with their purple gorgets. 

 

A few years back, I participated in a hummingbird workshop with John and Barbara Gerlach (www.gerlachnaturephoto.com) at the Bull River Guest Ranch (www.bullriverguestranch.com).  During that workshop I was able to capture many Rufous and Caliope hummingbird images.  You can see those on my Hummingbirds gallery.

 

If you care to leave a comment, let me know what you think of the silhouette images.  They were actually a bit of a mistake in lighting.

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Alpine Anna's California Canon explosion flash setup hummer hummingbird photography workshop http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/3/more-about-hummers Sun, 01 Apr 2012 00:49:50 GMT
A Humming Surprise http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/3/a-humming-surprise To help stay in reasonble shape, Jane and I like to walk around Miramar Lake (www.sandiego.gov/water/recreation/miramar.shtm).  Some years ago, quiet a few actually, when the City still had money (in the form of land developer donations to obtain favor from elected officials) the road around the lake was paved and extended over the dam to make a five-mile loop.  Jane and I try to walk this loop about three or four times a week.  A few days ago, while walking around the lake (actually one of the City's water supply reservoirs), Jane spotted a tiny hummingbird sitting on its nest.  How she was able to spot the little thing is a mystery to me.  It was well hidden among the leaves on a tree branch near the side of the road.  The nest was wedged between a couple of thin branches and only about two inches tall and in diameter.  The miniscule hummer was sitting "V" shaped on top of its nest with its tail skewed up in one direction and its face in the opposite, presummably incubating her eggs.

Well, this was a great find that I had to try to photograph.  I checked the incubation and fledging period for Anna's hummingbirds to get an overall idea for a plan of attack.  Although a hummer on a nest is a nice shot, I really wanted to try for some chicks in the image.  Anyway, I went back early the next morning with my telephonto lens.  There were already more people out on the loop road than I had expected that early in the moring but none stopped to see what I was up to.  I took some security shots just to make sure I had something and then started monitoring the nest every few days as I walked around the lake.  To the best of my recogning, I had about 10 days or so before there would be any sign of life.  But that was not to be.  We had a cold rainy weekend and after that the little bird had abandoned the nest.  Jane and I walked by the nest several days in a row to find the nest sans any sign of the adult hummer.

Finding the hummingbird nest was serendipity.  To find more dependable shooting I visited Santee Lakes (www.santeelakes.com).  Santee Lakes can be counted on for ring-necked and wood ducks.  Of course, you have fight off the ubiquitous mudhens.  This time of year the wood ducks are typically in a very amorous mood.  Mate selection is in full swing and couples are exploring nesting site.  As a public service project, boy scouts have placed a number of nest boxes amount the trees around the lakes.  As I was photographing, I found several wood duck couples romantically engaged in the sycamore trees.  So, my disappointment of missing hummingbird chicks was soothed by the colorful wood ducks and their amorous antics.

You can see more of these images in the Santee Lakes gallery on my web site.

 

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) amorous anna'a chick ducks fledging hummingbird incubation mating miramar lake mudhens nest nest box photography ring-necked ducks romance san diego santee lakes wood wood ducks http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/3/a-humming-surprise Wed, 21 Mar 2012 19:48:15 GMT
2012 First Photo Trip http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/3/2012-first-photo-trip On February11th, Bruce Hollingsworth and I ventured out to photography bald eagles in Utah.  I had learned that Utah was a primary destination for bald eagles during the winter.  The wildlife refuges around the eastern corridor of the Great Salt Lake provide the safety and food they seek.  Reportedly, it is common to see, and photograph, bald eagles on the shalow, frozen waters of the refuges as they compete for the plentiful carp in the deeper, unfrozen water.  Bruce and I had high hopes. Unfortunately our expectations were not be realized.  Due to the unusual warm winter, the eagles had not migrated as far south as the Great Salt Lake.  We did see a few eagles but they were far away and out of range of our large lenses.  The Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area (www.wildlife.utah.gov/habitat/farmington_bay.php) was our primary destination.  It has the best reputation for being able to photograph the eagles.  Several photographers lead workshops to Farmington Bay in the winter for an eagle shoot.  I suspect that there were some disappointed clients.  The irony was that February 11 was Bald Eagle Day in Utah.

In additiona to Farmington Bay, we also checked out Antelope Island State Park (www.stateparks.utah.gov/parks/antelope-island) and the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (www.fws.gov/bearriver/) for photographic opportunities.  We spent most of the day Sunday scouting these areas for possible wildlife.  The weather was not cooperative with a very low and dense cloud cover and drizzle.  Out of desparation we photographed some shy, Pied-billed Grebes.  Even shooting out of the car window with the 500mm lenses, they were mere specs in the view finder.  But when you have driven 900 miles, you want to photograph something, anything! 

We also happened upon an American Kestrel that had snagged a rodent of some kind and had perched on a roadway sign to consume its catch.  We made a U-turn after passing the bird and slowly worked our way back along the shoulder of the road to get closer to the preoccupied Kestrel.  The setting was not wonderful, but we got some decent images.  However, since the wildlife action was not enough to keep our interest we decided to head south to Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks.  The forecast for Monday was snow and we were hoping for snow covered red rock as we headed south.

We arrived at Ruby's Inn at Bryce Canyon National Park (www.nps.gov/brca/) by mid-afternoon on Monday the 13th.  It was overcast, cold and snowing lightly.  After checking in, we drove into the park using 4-wheel drive on the snow packed road.  We walked out to several of the view points to determine where we wanted to set up, if weather permitted.  Althought it had snowed overnight, Tuesday was one of those dramatic mostly cloudy days with scattered sunshine.  There was no typical sunrise color but plenty of light and shadow on the snow covered, fairy like hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.  We photographed mostly from Sunset Point and Bryce Point.  I'm personally a bit intimidated by Bryce Canyon.  There is so much landscape to see that I have trouble isolating a dramatic composition in the viewfinder.

We had to cut our photography short that afternoon because it started to snow again.  The next day was the same, snow.  So we checked out of Ruby's and headed to Zion National Park (www.nps.gov/zion/).  It snowed on and off along the way, but as we got into the lower elevations it stopped.  We spotted several bald eagles in the bare cottonwood trees along the Sevier River as we headed for Zion.  It was a short couple of hours from Ruby's to the Zion Canyon Lodge and the snow covered landscape along the way was beautiful.  As we did at Bryce Canyon, Bruce and I spent Wednesday afternoon exploring Zion Canyon for potential photo spots.  The weather forecast for Thursday was for sunny skies and we were excited about the prospect of finally having some good light.  That night, however, it snowed again, big, wet, fluffy flakes.  That dampened our spirits a bit.

At six the following morning, with the temperature well below freezing, I stepped out onto the patio of our room to check the weather.  After my eyes adjusted to the dark, I could clearly see the big dipper overhead.  The sky was clear!  This meant we had to layer up, gather our photo gear, and head out into the cold.  During our reconnaissance we had determined that we needed to be at the Towers of the Virgin for runrise.  That is where we headed and we were not alone.  We were the first, but within about 15 minutes several other photographers appeared.  Some were local, from St. George, Utah, while others were from as far afield as Minnesota.  This location, directly behind the Zion Human History Museum, is a must for great sunrise images.

After a full, hearty breakfast, that was included with the room, we hiked the Emerald Pools Trail.  The trail, although not long, had some icy spots that made the hike somewhat challenging, as did the weight of my camera backpack.  The pools were small, but each had a waterfall feature.  Composition wise, I found these falls and pools difficult to photograph.  That did not prevent me from taking lots of shots.  I particularly liked the vistas that opened occasionally along the trail. White snow on red rock is what we had hoped for and it is what we got.  The next day, we hiked the Canyon Overlook Trail.  This one was about half the length of Emerald Pools Trail but twice as steep.  The trail is mostly fenced with long drof-offs and ends at a spectacular overlook of Pine Creek Canyon and lower Zion Canyon.  A challenging trail with a big payoff.

After two days of photography in Zion National Park, we started the arduous drive home.  Furtunately it was Saturday and traffic from Las Vegas to the Los Angeles basin was tolerable.  Still, it is a long, boring drive.  A book on CD helps alot.

You can see additional images from this trip in the Bryce & Zion National Parks in Winter gallery on my web site.

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) american kestrel antelope island state park bald eagles bear river migratory bird refuge bryce canyon national park bryce point canyon overlook trail cold composition emerald pools trail farmington bay waterfowl management area great salt lake grebe hoodoo hoodoos photography pied-billed grebe pine creek canyon ruby's ruby's inn snow sunset point towers of the virgin travel utah zion canyon zion human history museum zion lodge zion national park http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/3/2012-first-photo-trip Sat, 03 Mar 2012 18:18:04 GMT
Good News from Birdwatcher's Digest http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/2/good-news-from-birdwatchers-digest Got some good news in the mail yesterday.  The March/April issue of Birdwatcher's Digest arrived and it had my article about the northern gannet colony on Bonaventure Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near Percé, Québec, Canada.  Jane and I visited there to photograph the gannets several years ago.  Yes, it takes some time to get articles pubished.  The editors and I agreed that the article should appear in the early spring, in time for anyone to make plans to be on Bonaventure Island during the early summer mating period.  It is always a nice surprise, however, to pick up a magazine and see your own article and photographs.

It was rather an arduous journey when we visited the gannet colony.  The trip started with a flight to Boston where we celebrated the 4th of July.  We enjoyed the Boston Commons, Freedom Trail, Beacon Hill, Faneuil Hall, and visiting "Old Ironsides" (USS Constitution).  To top off our visit, we got reservations at the Community Boathouse for the Boston Pops performance.  Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture with cannon and fireworks was a very special treat.

In Boston we rented a car and toured along the Atlantic coast to Jonesport, Maine, to photograph puffins on Machias Seal Island.  We stayed at Narda Dadis' vacation rental.  A spick and span small small home with all the conveniences a traveler needs.  We picked Narda's place because she was related to the skipper that took us to the island.  Jonesport is one of the launching points for tour boats to Machias Seal Island, catering to naturalists, birdwatchers and, of course, photographers.  Puffins colonize the small island in early summer for mating and raising their young.  Weather is always of concern going the Machias Seal Island.  If the winds are too strong, you cannot disembark safely with high swells.  That's why Jane and I stayed in Jonesport for four nights.  The number of people allowed and the time on the island are limited.  So to maximize our photography opportunity, Jane and I had made reservations to go out twice, which we did but not on consecutive days.  We got weathered out one day.  The puffins were a frantic and noisy bunch.  Whipping in from the sea and jumping among the boulders where their burrows were located.  Their hectic activity was definitely a photographic challenge.

From Jonesport, we ventured further north to the most northeasterly point of the U.S. and then on to Percé through New Brunswick and Québec.  Along the way we visited the old Roosevelt summer estate on Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada.  In the early 1880's Sara Delano and her husband James Roosevelt Sr. built their summer home on Campobello Island and Franklin D.Roosevelt spent most of his childhood summers there.  It took us two days to drive from Jonesport to Percé.  Once there, it was the same drill with multiple trips to Bonaventure Island to beat the weather.  The gannet colony on Bonaventure is more accessable then the puffins on Machias Seal Island.  Large tour boats bring visitors from Percé to the island.  The gannet colony is on the side opposite the landing dock so a healthy hike across the island is required to see the gannets up close.  And I do mean up close.  Once at the colony you are no further then a few feet away from the rambunctuous birds.  The photography was phenomenal!

Then, from Percé we traveled to Québec City and stayed an enjoyable few nights at the Hotel Chateau Laurier within walking distance of old Québec.  If you have not been to Québec I strongly suggest you go there.  What a quaint, old, historic place to spend a few days.  We walked our tails off and still signed up for a walking tour.  The tour was particularly interesting because of the history lessons that came with it. Québec is one of the oldest settlement in North America having been originally founded as a fort back in 1535.  That's old!  From Québec we flew back home after a two week photo and travel vacaction.

You can see more puffin and gannet images in my Puffins & Gannets gallery and you can read my article at www.birdwatchersdigest.com.  (You may have to subscribe to the magazine, but it will be well worth it.)

 

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rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Bird Watcher's Digest Bonaventure Island Machias Seal Island article boston canada gannet jonesport percé photography publish published puffin québec roosevelt travel writing http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2012/2/good-news-from-birdwatchers-digest Wed, 29 Feb 2012 00:21:00 GMT