Rinus Baak Photography: Blog http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Rinus Baak Photography rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Wed, 26 Aug 2015 20:13:00 GMT Wed, 26 Aug 2015 20:13:00 GMT http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/img/s6/v138/u429341411-o443440908-50.jpg Rinus Baak Photography: Blog http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog 90 120 Silver Salmon Creek Lodge – Déjà Vu http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/8/silver-salmon-creek-lodge-d-j-vu This August Jane and I found ourselves once again at the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.  It was Déjà Vu all over again.  We were there in 2013 and decided to make a return visit.  Dave and Joanne Coray and their friendly staff are outstanding hosts and we had a wonderful stay at this cozy lodge.  Access is by bush plan from Anchorage with a landing on the beach along the shores of the Cook Inlet.  The journey started with adverse weather conditions in Anchorage resulting in our flight being delayed several hours.  After arriving at the lodge, however, we enjoyed several days of sunshine.

As it was in 2013, the objective of this short, 5-day jaunt, was to photograph the Alaska Coastal Brown Bears, aka as grizzlies.  In August there is a Silver Salmon run which draws the bears to the creek for some high energy fishing.  Salmon migrate from the Cook Inlet to spawn along Silver Salmon Creek and its tributaries.  This time bears were not as numerous as during our trip in July, 2013.  But there was plenty of photo action with bears splashing after the swift fish.  We also were able to observe and photograph young cubs play-fighting as their mother fished for their dinner.  As always in the Alaskan wild, Jane and I had a great time enjoying the diversity and beauty of nature.














On this trip, there was also the opportunity to sail out to Duck Island on the lodge motorboat.  Duck Island is very small, about the size of a city block in San Diego.  Small as it may be, it is a haven for seabirds, particularly horned puffins.  Photographing from the boat, with substantial surf and swells, proved to be difficult resulting in only a few keepers.  After landing, some good shots of puffins perched near their burrows, doing what puffins do, were possible.










I hope you enjoy the images from this return trip to Silver Salmon Creek Lodge as much I enjoyed obtaining them.  You can also refer back to the 2013 gallery to see what difference a month makes in the life of a grizzly.

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/8/silver-salmon-creek-lodge-d-j-vu Mon, 24 Aug 2015 22:43:08 GMT
July Doldrums http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/8/zen-test If it’s July it must be home improvements month.  Yes, most of July was spent redoing our backyard.  The project started June 15th, right after we returned from Montreal and the Canadian Grand Prix, and was completed on July 23rd.  It all began when one of the pipes to the pool sprung a leak and we had to tear up some of the backyard hardscape for the repair.  Never hesitating to make a big project out of a little one, we opted to just redo the entire yard.  The final results are wonderful, and breathed new life into our enjoyment of the backyard.  It was a comprehensive project and included replacing the wooden, termite infested, patio cover with an aluminum one; replacing cracked pool coping and tile; and installing artificial turf to replace the aged hardscape.  And last, but not least, we also decided to add air conditioning to our home.  We are loving it all!



















Photography wise, things were a little slow in July.  One bright spot, I was published again.  Nature Photography ran my story about the Black Bears of Anan Creek and Watching Backyard Birds choose one of my images for its August cover.














I did manage to get some night photography practice.  I call it practice because my images don’t quite come out the way I would like.  First, I wanted to get a full moon setting over the ocean.  In San Diego, with its almost perpetual evening marine layer, that turned out to be a bust.  Then, when I tried for a full moon rising over the city skyline, the morning was overcast.  So those ideas were a total flop with no actual shots at all.  I did make it out to Borrego Springs, with its dark night sky, for some Milky Way photography.  I considered the results mixed so I will try that again. 














Finally, in early August, I did get some nice images of butterflies in the wild when I went out with the Photo Naturalists Camera Club to the Bird and Butterfly Garden at San Diego County's Tijuana River Valley Regional Park.  It's amazing what I will photograph when I'm hard up.  Can you believe spiders and grasshoppers?

































Now that the July doldrums are over, I’m looking forward to a more robust photography schedule for the remainder of the year. That will start soon with another trip to the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park in Alaska. 

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) backyard butterflies construction milky way photography publish remodel travel http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/8/zen-test Tue, 11 Aug 2015 00:07:13 GMT
Grand Prix of Canada http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/6/formula-1-in-montreal June found us in Montreal, Canada.  Jane and I had become interested in Formula 1 car racing some years ago.  Our good departed friend, Lee Robinson, was an avid fan and got us interested.  Each Formula 1 season, as we watched races on television, we would daydream about actually going to a race.  That dream came true this June.  We chose the Grand Prix of Canada because we longed for that international flavor that is Formula 1.  We certainly got that in Montreal where the primary language is french.  

























We had a great time browsing the restaurants and sights of Montreal.  But, of course, the real treat was going to our first Grand Prix race.  We had purchased weekend tickets for Friday practice, Saturday qualifying, and Sunday racing.  Jane, the travel wiz had found comfortable accommodations near a metro stop that went directly to the race course.  We had not been in crowds like that since we were at the Fourth of July near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.  We had a hoot!











Jane and I each have our favorite drivers.  Jane favors Sebastian Vettel, who drives for Ferrari.  My unsung hero is Valtteri Bottas, driving for Williams.  We both like Fernando Alonso.  He was previously with Ferrari but now drives for McLaren with a car that is not competitive.  Unfortunately, none of our favorites did well in this race with the exception of Valtteri Bottas who finished third and made it onto the podium.












rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Canada Formula 1 Grand Prix Montreal cars racing http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/6/formula-1-in-montreal Wed, 24 Jun 2015 19:34:37 GMT
Great Basin National Park http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/5/great-basin-national-park Little did I know, before embarking upon my latest photo journey, that there was another great desert in the western United States.  I have frequently photographed in the iconic areas of the Mojave and Sonora deserts, and the desert-like Colorado Plateau.  But I had never thought of the area between the Sierra Nevada and Wasatch Mountains as a desert.  But that vast geographic area, defined as the Basin and Range Province, is known as the Great Basin Desert and that is where I spent the first week in May photographing.

Tourist accommodations and facilities are few and far between in this inhospitable and isolated area.  U.S. Highway 50 traverses this ocean of ranges and basins and is known as the “loneliest road in America”.  My destination was Great Basin National Park (www.nps.gove/grba), the only national park in Nevada.  I had never been there and was motivated by its remoteness and the potential of photographing inside Lehman Caves that are included in the park.  The first week in May turned out to be a bit early to visit Great Basin National Park.  One of the park’s primary attractions, Wheeler Peak, is some 13,000 feet high and the road up to the high elevation trail heads had not been cleared of snow.

This was a photo excursion that was shared with Bruce Hollingsworth.  Plans for the trip had been made well in advance and I had arranged to stay at the “Home On The Range” in Baker, Nevada (www.endofthetrailer.com) only about six miles from Great Basin National Park.  For the area, this was by far the best accommodation available, two bedrooms, full kitchen, super-fast wifi, and a wonderful “trail boss”, Margaret Pense.  Since we were early in the season and the high elevation roads were not open, Margaret had great suggestions for other day trips which Bruce and I gladly accepted.  So besides photographing in the park, we also explored Cottonwood Wash, an area of Desert Archaic petroglyphs on the National Register of Historic Places, and Crystal Peak, a white, volcanic, rhyolite tuff, mountain in the Wah-Wah Wilderness Area.


















The best tip Margaret had given me, though, was that the Park Service offered private, after-hours, photo tours of Lehman Caves.  I had submitted an application, paid the fees and Bruce and I were escorted into the cave, with tripods and flashes, after hours, by Dustin our assigned Park Ranger.  We spent three hours with Dustin photographing to our heart’s content.  WOW!!!  How fun was that?  All in all, we had so much fun that Bruce and I discussed the possibility of a return trip to this isolated part of the American west.

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Crystal Peak Great Basin Desert Great Basin National Park Lehman Caves Nevada Wah-Wah Wilderness Area Wheeler Peak http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/5/great-basin-national-park Sun, 10 May 2015 00:44:09 GMT
Grand Staircase - Esacalante http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/4/grand-staircase---esacalante In 1998, some seventeen years ago, Jane and I rented a four-wheel drive Blazer in San Diego and spent two weeks touring the backroads of southern Utah.  That vacation included travel through the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, created less than two years prior to our trip.  Recalling the adventure and the amazing scenery of that first journey, I had wanted to revisit and photograph the landscapes and arches of the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument.  And, that is exactly what I did in April, 2015.

The original plan was that Jane would join me on this excursion.  Then, while I was deep into planning the routes and photo locations, Jane had a change of heart and decided she would prefer to stay home.  Bruce Hollingsworth, who frequently joins me on photo trips, had commitments that prevented him from coming along.  During my research I had come across Jens Munthe, the author of a book descibing many of the arches found in the Monument and that I wanted to photograph.  Since I did not think it wise to wander in the desert looking for arches by myself, Jens kindly offered to guide me to the photo sites I had selected.  In the meantime, Bruce had cleared his calendar and was able to join me after all.

The Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument is a vast, 1.9 million acre, wilderness.  There are only a few washboard encrusted dirt roads.  For our excursion into this immense, remote area, I had selected to stay four days in the small community of Escalante and concentrate photography along the primitive Hole-In-The-Rock Road.  Accommodations were at the Circle D motel (www.escalantecircledmotel.com) a very nice, refurbished property with a very energetic and helpful host.  After exploring along the Hole-In-The-Rock Road, we moved to an even smaller community, Cannonville, to photograph along the Cottonwood Wash Road for three days and stayed at the Grand Staircase Inn (www.grandstaircaseinn.com).  Also an adequate accommodation but don't stay on the third floor if you have a lot of gear like we did.  There was no elevator but the staff was very helpful and informative.










I am so grateful to Jens for all his advice and help during the planning and implementation of my trip.  Even though there were now two of us, Bruce and I concluded that we would not have found all the arches and slot canyons we photographed if it had not been for Jens.  On our very first day out, Jens led us to three very photogenic arches that had not even been on my radar.  The most fascinating site we visited, however, was the Peek-A-Boo slot canyon.  This excursion began with a moderately challenging hike along a poorly cairned trail.  Thanks to Jens, we had no trouble locating the slot entrance.  The difficulty was in actually entering the canyon which required scrambling up a steep, 15 foot, slick-rock dropoff.  After some hardy attempts, none of us could struggle our way up the dropoff, especially with camera gear, even though handholds had been carved in the slick-rock sandstone.

Fortunately, Jens knew of a back way into the canyon and that is where we ended up entering it.  Peek-A-Boo is not a very long canyon but it is a very, very narrow one.  Even turned sideways, there were spots where we had to push and scrape ourselves through the confining red, sandstone walls of the canyon.  The ultimate reward for all this strenuous effort was the ability to photograph a double arch inside the slot canyon.










As per usual, not everything was perfect.  We had several days of very strong winds with gusts up to 45 MPH creating dust and aggravation as we hiked along sandy trails or attempted to set up for a photo shoot.  We tried as best we could to protect our camera gear from the swirling sand and dust but still had to use compressed gas in a can to blow the grit off the cameras, lenses and tripods.  We also had snow.  Not much, but enough to keep us off some of the dirt-clay tracks we had to traverse to reach our photo sites.  None-the-less, the venture into the canyons of the Grand Staircase was amazingly successful with new discoveries and amazing photo ops every day.

Images from this journey can be found in the Grand Staircase - Escalante gallery.

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Cannonville Cottonwood Wash Road Escalante Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Hole In The Rock Road Utah arch arches natural bridge slot canyon travel http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/4/grand-staircase---esacalante Sun, 26 Apr 2015 22:37:39 GMT
Eagles & Aurora http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/3/homer-and-fairbanks  

For a southern California boy, it was extremely cold during my recent trip to Homer and Fairbanks, Alaska.  Homer was my destination for photographing the iconic American Bald Eagle.  Day time temperatures were in the low to mid-teens.  I was bundled to the hilt and loaded with chemical warmers.  I had come on a 5-day photo workshop with Dale Franz (www.franzfoto.com) and four other wildlife photographers.  The objective was to photograph eagles in their winter range along the southern end of the Kenai Mountains, across Kachemak Bay from Homer.  Each morning and afternoon the six of us we would depart from the boat harbor, at the end of the Homer Spit, and motor across Kachemak Bay in the utility landing craft “XTRATUFF” piloted by Captain Kevin, to China Poot Bay for two to three hours of photography.  Our photo sessions were controlled by weather, primarily wind.  The crossing to China Poot Bay normally took about twenty, or so, minutes when conditions on the bay were good.  The ride was rough and longer when the tide and wind were against us.  Dale and Kevin always worked hard to position “XTRATUFF” in good light for photography.











The Beluga Lake Lodge (www.belugalakelodging.com) was our home for the duration of the workshop.  We spent a lot of time in our rooms.  Typically we were up and out for breakfast by 7:00 AM, then back to the room for added layers and hand warmers for a departure from the dock around 9:00 AM, depending on whether it was sunny or cloudy.  We would return from the morning shoot around one, remove some layers before heading to lunch and then back to the rooms for downloading and napping until about three or four before heading back out for the afternoon shoot.  March is still the off-season in Homer and many establishments were closed so our lunch and dinner choices were limited but Fat Olive’s was my personal favorite for lunch.










Initially we had some great sunny weather with fantastic early light and a great sunset.  Our last two sessions, however, were aborted due to heavy winds and rain.  By then temperatures were more tolerable but we could not cross the choppy and white-capped Kachemak Bay, even in the XTRATUFF.  Consequently, we spent a lot more idle time in our rooms.  By then most of us had at least ten thousand images saved on our hard drives and we spent that idle time reviewing the results of our efforts and deleting thousands of unacceptable shots.  I don’t mind confessing that I had started with over 11,000 raw images and ended up with about 2,000 after deleting out-of-focus, clipped wing, and butt shots.  You will be happy to know I whittled those down to about 35 true “keepers” that are in my gallery.

After Homer, I was off to Fairbanks for the aurora borealis.  I have long had a desire to try my hand at photographing the northern lights and, since I was already in Alaska, took advantage of the opportunity.  Fairbanks is in the auroral zone and known for good northern light displays.  There are a number of photographers that conduct aurora workshops in Fairbanks.  I had arranged with Ron Murray (www.ronmurrayphoto.com) for three nights of aurora photography.  In Fairbanks, like Homer, I also spent a lot of time in my room at the Westmark.  The drill was a bit different, however.  Here Ron and his wife Marketa would pick me up around 10:00 PM and we would head off, with the other photographers in his group, to a remote location outside Fairbanks to photograph the northern lights.  Usually, by about 11:00 PM we would set up and wait for the “show” to begin.

During our first night out there was a spectacular aurora display.  The green waves of light filled the sky, weaving, dancing and pulsating above us.  The results of the solar winds were all around us.  I was constantly changing camera positions to capture the ever changing display.  It was not easy photographing in the dark.  Although the green aurora light was bright enough to cast a light shadow onto the ground, it was still too dark to easily compose a picture through the viewfinder.  Difficult or not, I was happily taking as many shots as I could and not caring too much about composition.  The aurora display ebbed and flowed throughout the night and culminated in a magnificent finale with green and maroon lights streaking across the sky.  That night I was returned back to my hotel room at 5:30 in the morning.  What a night!











There were many more aurora displays over the next two nights, but none could compare with the first night.  I concentrated more on composition on the following nights and even attempted some star circle exposures.  Those were also difficult due to wind, which caused the pine trees to sway back and forth and be fuzzy in the final stacked image.  Because the green aurora light was relatively bright, the stars are dim and do not stand out sharply against the sky.  It was fun trying and that’s what it is all about.


rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Alaska American Bald Eagle Fairbanks Homer aurora borealis eagles northern lights http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/3/homer-and-fairbanks Mon, 30 Mar 2015 15:16:29 GMT
Quick Trip http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/3/quick-trip I have been planning a trip to Homer, Alaska, to photograph bald eagles for some time and that trip is now just around the corner.  So, my thoughts had been focused on getting ready for that new adventure.  Meanwhile, a note on my calendar reminded me to check how the spring wildflower bloom was proceeding.  Normally that bloom would occur in late March or early April and I had somewhat planned on going to the desert to photograph wildflowers at that time.  Much to my surprise, then, I learned that the rains we enjoyed in February, followed by the warm spell, had resulted in early germination of wildflower seeds and that the desert around Borrego Springs was actually starting to bloom.

Obviously I could not wait until I returned from Alaska to photograph these emerging desert spring flowers.  I had to do it now, before leaving.  A quick trip was called for.  So, I packed my camera gear and headed for Borrego Springs early last Friday for just one day of shooting.  The quick trip turned out better than I expected.  Over the last few years, I had become conditioned to the lack of spring flowers in Borrego so seeing the pallet of color that confronted me along Henderson Canyon Road was a wonderful surprise.  This quick, one day trip resulted in some very nice images as can be seen in my latest gallery.

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/3/quick-trip Sun, 08 Mar 2015 21:10:28 GMT
Yosemite & Sequoia http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/3/yosemite-sequoia The fire fall eluded us.  We had ventured to the Yosemite Valley to photograph the "fire fall" made famous by renowned photographer Galen Rowell.  During the later part of February, on clear evenings, when the sun sets at the proper longitude, its golden rays illuminate the granite wall of the El Capitan monolith in Yosemite National Park.  In turn, the alpenglow from the rock is reflected into the watery spray from Horsetail Falls that cascade down the face of El Capitan.  This February, however, mother nature conspired against us.  It requires a clear sky to trigger the fire fall effect.  Our fear was that skies would be overcast.  Not so, we had sparkling clear skies to the west.  But, there was no water draining from the top of El Cap and, consequently, no waterfall and no fire fall.

In the hope of replicating Galen Rowell's famous photograph, Jane and I had planned a week's vacation with Bruce Hollingsworth and his wife Debbie to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.  We had planned to be in Yosemite for several days to maximize the chance of clear skies.  The thought that California's drought would dry up Horsetail Falls never occurred.  Making up for this disappointment, the four of us enjoyed an expensive night out at the Ahwahnee Lodge.  Bruce and I did pursue some photography in the valley but our hearts were not in it.  In February, Yosemite needs snow to create interesting photographic compositions and there was none.  Along the Merced River, with its low-water cascades and rocky shoreline, we did find some interesting scenes to photograph.  Since there was no water to generate Horsetail Falls, we spent our time instead photographing Half Dome at twilight.  










After three days we left the warm, snow-less Yosemite Valley for the higher elevations of Sequoia National Park.  Jane and I have fond memories of a previous visit to Sequoia when there had been lots of snow.  Although cooler than Yosemite, Sequoia also offered no snowy compositions.  The long term weather forecast predicted an approaching storm that could bring snow.  The front desk clerk at the Wuksachi Lodge did not express much confidence in the veracity of the forecast.  Much to our surprise, however, it began to snow on our second day and it snowed almost continuously for some forty-eight hours, accumulating more than two feet of dry, fluffy snow.  The ghost trees, that Jane and I had hoped to see during our January trip to Yellowstone, we found instead in Sequoia.  With all this snow, we decided to stay an extra day to soak in the beauty of this newly created winter wonderland.  Unfortunately, Bruce and Debbie had commitments in San Diego and could not stay.  After installing chains on Bruce's vehicle, they headed down the mountain as Jane and I enjoyed libations and watched big snow flakes float down from the grey sky through the large lounge windows.









rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) El Capitan Half Dome Horsetail Falls Sequoia Yosemite snow winter http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/3/yosemite-sequoia Sun, 01 Mar 2015 17:32:40 GMT
Yellowstone In Winter http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/2/yellowstone-in-winter  

Yellowstone In Winter

Déjà vu, all over again.  That’s how it was in Yellowstone National Park this winter.  Jane and I had been to Yellowstone in the winter of 2011and here we were again, in 2015, all bundled up and ready for the cold.  We had come on a photography workshop with seven other hardy folks led by Charles Glatzer, a most energetic and enthusiastic photographer (www.shootthelight.com).  As in 2011, we had a wonderful time exploring the winter wonderland of Yellowstone, although this time the weather was milder with less snow than we had hoped for (it's all about climate change).










Winter in Yellowstone is a big tourist draw and there were lots of people at the lodges we stayed.  Some were cross-country skiers, others wildlife enthusiasts, and still others came for the wolves.  And let me not forget to mention the myriad of snowmobilers plying the snow packed roads of the park.  Of course, there was also the van with seven intrepid photographers holding up traffic as they scrutinized the landscape for photographic potential.  Under the leadership of Charles and our Park Service certified guide/driver Wim, our small, congenial group concentrated on photographing the winter wildlife in Yellowstone.

Using the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel as our base, we started with two days of scouting and shooting in the Lamar Valley.  The Lamar Valley is known for its wolf packs, and although we did not see any wolves within photographic range, there were lots of folks with telescopes searching the far distant hills for the packs.  We did spot a lot of coyotes, some elk, a moose (back-lit and not really photographable) and a bachelor herd of bighorn sheep.  One unique and exceptional find was a recent wolf kill of an elk.  We were not the first upon the scene but were able to find some spots to place our tripods in the congested pullout.  From a ranger, we learned that the wolves had already gorged themselves and had wandered off out of sight.  The carcass was some 200 yards off, but near enough for photography with a long telephoto lens.  With the wolves gone, the carcass was left to Yellowstone’s scavengers.  We first saw two coyotes feeding on the kill and later eagles swooped in from above, including a golden eagle.  At one time there were four bald eagles, three adults and one immature, jostling for their share of the bounty.



























After our journeys into the Lamar Valley, we traveled south to the Old Faithful geyser area.  Using the Snow Lodge as a base, we traversed the interior of the park seeking out wildlife and scenic photographic opportunities.  There, with the help of some strategic intelligence from one of Wim's guide buddies, we located a bobcat.  Bobcats are not uncommon in Yellowstone but it is rather uncommon to find one within photographic range.  We watched the small cat disappear into a forested area and after some sleuthing for an advantageous vantage point, we positioned our tripods where we anticipated the bobcat to emerge from the trees.  Charles and Wim did a good job in choosing our location because we were rewarded with some amazing photography of an elusive animal (see the Winter In Yellowstone Gallery for images of the trip).










After eight fantastic days enjoying the beauty of Yellowstone National Park in winter, it was time to pack up the long-johns, fleece liners, warm gloves and socks and put away the photo gear and head home.  We bade goodbye to our new made friends at the Bozeman airport, with some sadness, as we each headed to our respective abodes. 

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Yellowstone National Park bighorn sheep bobcat cold coyote elk moose snow winter http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2015/2/yellowstone-in-winter Tue, 03 Feb 2015 16:21:40 GMT
December With Bighorn Sheep http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/12/december-with-bighorn-sheep If you have read my “National Geographic” experience blog, you will know Don Getty (www.dongettywildlifephotography.com). Don and I first met on a photo trip to Costa Rica.  Then, as you have read, Don was one of the six intrepid photographers on the African Photo Safari.  Well, after the African adventure, I invited myself to spend a week with Don and his wife Joan at their home in Wapiti, Wyoming, to photograph Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.  Actually, Don had been bragging about how easy it was to photograph bighorn sheep along the North Fork of the Shoshone River near his home.  When I told him I wanted to come and photograph the sheep he invited me stay with him.










Typically the period of high sexual tension and excitement among male bighorn sheep, known as the rut, occurs in late autumn.  As winter approaches, the big, testosterone-driven males retreat from their high alpine territory to mate with receptive ewes at lower elevations.  That is what occurs in December in the canyon forged by the north fork of the Shoshone River.  The dry grasses along the canyon bottom provide ample fodder for numerous foraging ewes, lambs and immature rams.











Don and I spent five days, from first light to twilight, cruising up and down the canyon in his Jeep Rubicon photographing bighorn sheep.  Sheep were found incredibly close to the road.  We observed and photographed scores of sheep.  The most excitement was generated when one or more ewes excreted sexual pheromones that the rams sensed through their flehmen response.   It would not take long for a group of competing rams to sniff out a receptive ewe and attempt mating while having to fend off rivals.  This was when savage fights among equally matched males would erupt with ferocious pushing, shoving, kicking, and high velocity head-butting.  These sexually driven encounters were exciting to watch but difficult to photograph.  I was lucky to get some keepers.

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Cody Shoshone Wyoming bighorn photograph photography river rut sheep http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/12/december-with-bighorn-sheep Mon, 29 Dec 2014 18:32:56 GMT
National Geographic Moments http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/12/national-geographic-moments It was ever so much a “National Geographic” experience, three whole weeks in the east African savanna on a photographic expedition.  It all started when I agreed with Bruce that I would go to Africa if he would organize the trip and all I had to do was show up.  Bruce rose to the challenge and, soliciting the assistance of Don Getty, our acquaintance from the Costa Rica adventure (now close friend Don Getty after three weeks in the veldt) put together a three week safari itinerary that even National Geographic would envy.  There were six adventurers that embarked upon the journey, Bruce Hollingsworth and Don Getty (the organizers of the trip), Mike McDermott (who Bruce and I met on our Costa Rica trip), Sharon Ely (a new traveler friend) and Jane and I. 










It was a long haul from San Diego to Nairobi, Kenya, where our adventure began.  We arrived in Nairobi in the evening and spent the next day adjusting to the time change and rearranging our packing to prepare for the photographic adventure ahead.  Bruce and Don had obtained the assistance of Stu Porter in South Africa to arrange for our transportation, guides and accommodations.  Stu is the proprietor of Wild 4 Africa Photographic Safaris (www.wild4photographicsafaris.com) and did an outstanding job taking care of the expedition logistics. 

Stu arranged to have two large four-wheel drive Toyota Land Cruiser safari vehicles, with driver/guides, available for our transportation and game runs.  Each Toyota had three rows of seats enabling each of us to have our own row for stowing camera gear and shooting.  The vehicles were modified to have a removable top so we could easily stand to photograph as well.  These modified Land Cruisers are not the most comfortable vehicles, but after three weeks of game runs on rough graded, dirt roads, we adapted to their various quirks and concentrated on the task at hand, photographing African wildlife.











In all, we photographed in five major parks in Kenya and Tanzania.  In Kenya, we first traveled north from Nairobi to the Samburu National Reserve, then on to Lake Nakuru National Park in the Rift Valley and finally the Maasai Mara National Reserve.  From the Mara, we traversed the long way to Tanzania to explore Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area.  Although the Maasai Mara and Serengeti are adjacent parks separated by the Kenya-Tanzania border, we could not drive directly from one park to the other because there is no official border crossing station for customs and immigration control in the park.  Traversing the “long way” between these two contiguous parks provided us the opportunity to experience, through the windows of our Land Cruisers, the hustle and bustle of remote villages and towns along the way.

In the outback of Kenya and Tanzania there are no shopping centers and all commerce is carried out, pretty much, by individual vendors with portable stalls or small store fronts along the main highway.  As we drove through the villages we passed colorfully dressed women selling bananas, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, charcoal, and sugar cane stalks from their roadside stands.  Carts, pulled by donkeys and oxen, and small motor cycles were loaded to capacity with fire wood, water barrels, tobacco leaves, corn stalks, long wooden poles and planks (to build scaffolds for construction projects), and all matter of household furniture.  The motor cycles were also used as taxis to transport people and it was not uncommon to see three people straddling the buddy seat behind the driver.











Getting back to our “National Geographic” experience, the game drives were phenomenal.  To catch the soft, early morning light, we six intrepid photographers were in the Land Cruisers and on the “road” by six.  We brought snacks for breakfast in the veldt and typically returned to the lodge around one for lunch.  Then, out again by three-thirty for some more shooting and home by the six o’clock park curfew at twilight.  The wildlife encounters were incredible, like “living” a wildlife film.  We were there when a cheetah brought down a Thompson’s gazelle and watched the suffocating bite to the throat.  We were there when a young male lion snapped the neck of a Cape buffalo calf and drug it off.  We were there when a throng of Nile crocodiles savagely tore apart a wildebeest and voraciously consumed it in the Mara River.  We were there when a cheetah called her cubs to a kill and watched the cute little tikes gorge on the carcass with bloody jowls.  We were there when spotted hyenas harassed hooded and white-backed vultures to steal the remains of a lion kill.











On the gentler side, we watched massive African elephant cows huddle protectively around diminutive calves as the herd foraged across the savanna.  We watched as a colorful adult bee-eater swooped from its perch to catch bees and feed them to its young chick.  We watched female baboons carry young on their backs as they fed among the flowering shrubbery.  We watched weaver birds build and repair their nests.  We watched warthog sows, long skinny tails extending straight up, with its tufty end waving like a cavalry flag, protectively herding their gang of piglets away from danger in a hastened trot.  These were “National Geographic” moments to be savored and relished.  

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Africa Crater Kenya Lake Mara Masai Nakuru Ngorongoro Samburu Serengeti Tanzania expedition safari travel http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/12/national-geographic-moments Sat, 27 Dec 2014 20:52:30 GMT
Coronado's Inland Empire http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/10/coronados-inland-empire In late February of 1540, nearly 500 years before I was born, a band of Spanish conquistadors, under the command of Francisco Vázquis de Coronado, left northern Mexico in search of the legendary “Seven Cities of Gold”.  Driven by the thoughts of Inca-like gold and silver, the conquistadors reached the Zuni pueblos of New Mexico in the summer of 1540 where, much to their distress, they found no riches.  In their search for the fabled treasure, however, Coronado and his men became the first Europeans to traverse the great American southwest, exploring the vast Colorado Plateau with its remarkable scenic treasures more than three hundred years before John Wesley Powell’s great exploration of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon .  These intrepid conquistadors and subsequent Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to colonize the Santa Fe region of New Mexico.  A wonderful description and account of these exploits can be found in Stewart L. Udall’s book “Majestic Journey – Coronado’s Inland Empire”.

Jane and I recently ventured into Coronado’s Inland Empire to savor its rich history and experience its iconic characteristics.  Our first stop was the “Sky City” pueblo of the Acoma culture.  This pueblo was the second that Coronado and his troops encountered on their quest for riches and is considered the oldest, continuously inhabited settlement in North America (www.acomaskycity.org).   Archaeologists estimate that “Sky City” had been occupied since the early 1100’s and that the Acoma were descended from the Ancestral Pueblo culture of Mesa Verde in Colorado.




















From Acoma,we drove on to Santa Fe where Jane had arranged one of her superb VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) accommodations.  It was a delightful little renovated casita near the heart of Santa Fe’s museums and galleries.  We used our quaint little casita as a home-base and day-tripped through the area from there.










One of our day trips took us deep into Georgia O’Keeffe Country, including a tour of her home in the village of Abiquiu and a short visit to the Ghost Ranch (www.okeeffemuseum.org).  O’Keeffe was a fascinating artist and her work full of the vibrant colors of the New Mexico landscape.  Our tour was led by a knowledgeable artist who had interesting stories and anecdotes that made us appreciate Georgia O’Keeffe’s life and contributions even more.  Unfortunately, photography was not allowed at her home and studio, so no pictures in the blog.










Another day trip brought us to the Taos pueblo along the scenic “high road”.  Along the way we stopped at artist workshops/galleries; toured several small villages first settled in the 1600’s by Spanish and Mexican pioneers, including Chimayo, Truchas (where Robert Redford filmed the “Milagro Beanfield War”), Las Trampas and Rancho de Taos;  and stopped to photograph multiple churches designated  National Historic Landmarks due to their antiquity and classical Spanish colonial architecture.











The ultimate objective was Taos (www.taospueblo.com). Taos is by far the most visited pueblo in New Mexico.  These multistory pueblos, with their thick adobe walls, are the largest surviving structures of their kind.  We spend one afternoon photographing these picturesque buildings with their colorful door and window frames.  Coronado and his conquistadors also visited Taos pueblo in 1540 and their journals describe the multistory, stacked adobe buildings.  Taos pueblo also hosts a National Historic Landmark church, the San Geronimo de Taos Mission Church.  Originally built under direction of Spanish friars around 1620, construction of the chapel created cultural conflicts with the native peoples who resisted conversion and destroyed the building on two separate occasions.  The church was again destroyed during the Mexican-American War of 1847 and the current structure was rebuilt in 1850.

All of New Mexico’s pueblos celebrate various feasts throughout the year.  Taos pueblo is no exception and while we were there, San Geronimo Day was celebrated.  San Geronimo (Saint Jerome) is the Taos pueblo patron saint.  The ceremony involves a group of clowns, men with alternating black and white stripes painted on their bodies and dried corn leave headdresses.  These clowns play tricks on pueblo residents and we observed several small children being dunking into the small stream running through the pueblo by the clowns.  The kids certainly did not like it nor did their mothers but on this day the clowns were in control.  The climax of the ceremony occurs when one of the clowns successfully climbs a very thick, tall pole that had been erected in the central plaza of the pueblo and dislodges various foods from atop the pole, including a dead sheep.  The whole affair is shrouded in their ancient religious tradition and the meaning is kept secret.  During my diligent pre and post trip research, I could not discover any hint of the hidden meanings related to the clowns and pole climb.  All I could discover was that the ceremonial meaning is a secret.  Again, unfortunately, no photography was allowed during the celebration, so no photos in the blog or gallery.











Our final destination for this excursion was the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  So after six days of day-tripping and photography in Santa Fe we journeyed to this high profile, extremely popular and colorful event.  We favored driving the back roads to reach Albuquerque and ventured past the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.  No,I had never heard of this unique place either but it was on the map and on the way.











Visiting the balloon fiesta was a memorable event with extreme crowds, and a lively, vivacious “midway” full of food vendors hawking their deep fried chips and fries, corn dogs, burritos, and funnel cakes.  On Saturday morning we strolled among the hundreds of hot air balloons readying for their mass ascension into the Albuquerque air.  As crews and pilots filled their balloons with hot air from their burners, we watched the colorful envelopes take shape and slowly stretch and rise into the morning air taking gondola and crew with it.  It all seemed to go in slow motion until suddenly the entire sky was filled with balloons of every imaginable shape and color.











For Sunday, we had arranged to go up in one of the Rainbow Ryder’s balloons (www.rainbowryders.com).  Filled with anticipation of an exciting experience, we arrived at the check-in booth early.  On the field, we waited impatiently with our pilot for the “all clear” from the weather forecasters.  It never came!  It appeared that the winds were too strong and we remained stranded, with all the other balloons, firmly on the ground.  What a disappointment to head home without the exhilarating experience of a hot air balloon ride at the famous Albuquerque festival (www.balloonfiesta.com).

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/10/coronados-inland-empire Tue, 14 Oct 2014 20:25:00 GMT
Dog Days of Summer http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/8/dog-days-of-summer This year, August in San Diego was sultry and hot.  What does that say about San Diego's "Goldilocks" weather?  It was downright blistering.  To escape these stuffy and sweltering conditions, Jane and I headed to the higher and cooler elevations of the Grand Canyon's north rim.  There we found solace in the peaceful surroundings of the Kaibab National Forest and high altitude of the canyon rim.



















Our room could have been a bit more spacious, but it was comfortable and quiet.  Not that we spent a lot of time in the room, mostly we were on the go.  Up early for sunrise shots and out late for some night sky photography.  We also spent time traversing Forest Service roads to explore the Kaibab forest with its great stands of ponderosa pine and quaking aspen.  The high alpine meadows were a sea of bright orange, purple and yellow wild flowers.










I had never before attempted to photograph the Milky Way galaxy.  But, at the north rim of the Grand Canyon, the galaxy with its milky clouds of stars was so inviting, I had to try.  After sunset, the evening turns dark quickly and we could easily see and photograph the Milky Way by nine o'clock.  Jane thinks the results were remarkable, and I have to agree that the images exceeded my expectations.











Photographically, my highest hope was to get "keeper" images of the celebrated Kaibab squirrel.  This little rodent is found only in the forests along the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  The difficulty, of course, is to find the little critters in the vastness of the forest and then to have it pose for a picture.  I started my quest by asking several park rangers where I should go for best results and did not receive much encouragement.  However, I struck pay dirt with the third ranger I approached.  This ranger volunteered, after I explained my objective of photographing the Kaibab squirrel, that she had seen three of the tufted-eared, white-tailed mammals in the tree in front of her cabin and provided detailed directions of how to get to the cabin.

Upon arriving, Jane and I quickly discerned movement in the ponderosa pine in front of the cabin.  We maneuvered to obtain a better, unobstructed view and observed a white tail dangling among the dark pine branches.  Eventually, we discovered a nest made of pine branches and needles built high up in the ponderosa tree.  We visited this pine tree with its nest several times and were surprised to discover that there were three young Kaibab squirrels residing in the nest.








Finding this exceptional place to leisurely photograph these energetic rodents was definitely a high point of our short sojourn to the Grand Canyon.  Other memorable experiences included our drives into the lush, dense forest, marveling at the intensity of the stars overhead, and peering into the colorful, eroded depth of the canyon. 



rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Arizona August Forest Service Grand Canyon Kaibab Milky Way forest night north rim pine ponderosa sky squirrel http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/8/dog-days-of-summer Sun, 24 Aug 2014 16:58:44 GMT
A Great July http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/7/a-great-july July started off with a bang, literally.  Fourth of July fireworks over San Diego Bay was my first photo outing of the month.  I had wanted to create images that would emphasize the comprehensive scale of the fireworks display.  To achieve that objective, I decided to shoot from Lucinda Street with its grand view of San Diego Bay.  It must have been an excellent idea since there were score of like-minded photographers crowding the street.



















July continued to be special, very special.  My article about bird photography in the Prince William Sound and Potter's Marsh, near Anchorage, Alaska, appeared in the July/August issue of Bird Watcher's Digest.  Then, to make July even more special, my article chronicling our trip to the Yukon was published in the summer issue of Nature Photographer.  What a marvelous month July was turning out to be.














Also contributing to the distinct special nature of July was a long-awaited photo excursion to the Palouse region of southeastern Washington state.  A photo trip to the Palouse had been on my to-do list for many years.  I had seen other photographer's images of the area and have long had a desire to try capturing the unique landscape of this area myself.  The Palouse is a vast agricultural region of some 6,000 square miles.  The prairie like terrain was formed by fertile loess dunes created during past ice ages.  The resulting smoothly rounded knolls and dales have created a picturesque quilt work of cultivated fields that are a challenge to photograph.  You can see the results of my efforts in the Palouse Gallery.




















Bruce Hollingsworth was my photo-buddy on this trip and en route to the Palouse we spent some time capturing images at Mono Lake and the ghost town of Bodie.  It was fascinating to learn how the chemical reaction of calcium rich spring water with the carbonate composition of the saline Mono Lake created the unique tufa formations.  We were up early and out late attempting to photograph the tufa towers in the magical light of sunrise and sunset.  See the photo Gallery for the results.












The old gold mining ghost town of Bodie was a stark change from the natural formations of Mono Lake.  This ghost town is being preserved as a California State Historic Park in a state of "arrested decay".  It was equally fascinating to capture images of the old abandoned homes and businesses in Bodie.  Most of the original buildings have been destroyed by fire, but in the late 1880's Bodie had 10,000 inhabitants and was as bad a place as any of its contemporary gold rush camps.

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) agriculture bodie ghost lake mono palouse photography town travel tufa http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/7/a-great-july Wed, 23 Jul 2014 20:53:38 GMT
Nome, Alaska http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/6/nome-alaska In June, Jane and I had a most extraordinary photo safari on the Seward Peninsula of Alaska.  We had signed up with Trogon Tours (www.trogontours.net) for six days of bird photography.  Ken Archer (www.kenarcherphotos.com) and Roy Priest, both exceptional birders, were our guides.  Using Nome, Alaska, as our base, we traversed the only three roads on the peninsula scouting for and photographing birds, and any other wildlife cooperative enough to be photographed.










This was our first photo safari experience this far north during the long days of summer.  The schedule, dictated by the rising and setting of the sun, was brutal.  Up super early to catch warm morning light and out way beyond our bedtime to catch twilight.  The red glow of sunset was captured around one-thirty in the morning.  On good days (read easy schedules) we had time for a quick shower and afternoon nap before hitting the dirt roads again.











Every town has its story but few stories are as varied as that of Nome, Alaska.  Some 20,000 years ago the Seward Peninsula was an integral part of the Bering Land Bridge (Berengia) that allowed human migration from Asia to North America. Ancient Inupiat Eskimos might very easily have hunted and bivouacked in the Nome area.  Nome' story turns more notorious when gold was discovered in Anvil Creek, a few miles north of the current town of Nome, during the summer of 1898.  News of the discovery reached the lower forty-eight that winter and the gold rush was on.  Nome's population exploded from and few hundred to around ten thousand by the summer of 1899 and was estimate at more than 20,000 after gold was discovered in the beach sand along the shoreline of the Bering Sea around Nome.  In the early 1900's, Nome was the largest, and most notorious, town in the Alaska Territory.










As thousands of fortune seekers panned the creeks and dredged the beaches for gold, crime, corruption, and vice prevailed.  Nome was one wild and wicked town.  Claim jumping, murder and political corruption was so prevalent that the U.S. Army was sent in to police the area. Wyatt Earp owned a saloon in Nome and allegedly contributed to the mayhem.  It only lasted a few years.  By 1910 most of the easy gold had run out and Nome's population had fallen back to about 2,600.

Compassion and heroism are also part of Nome's story.  In 1925, the "Great Race of Mercy" delivered diphtheria serum to Nome by dog sled and stayed a diphtheria epidemic.  That Race of Mercy is now commemorated each year as the 1,050 mile Iditarod Trail dog sled race that terminates in Nome.











Our tenure on the the Seward Peninsula, although brief and hectic, was most remarkable.  Jane's tally showed that we had seen fifty different bird species.  Regrettably I was not able to photograph all of them.  However, I was able to get a very nice and extensive collection of new bird images.  You can see them in the Nome Gallery.  My favorite bird was the elegant and stately Red-Throated Loon followed by the delicate and flighty Red-Necked Phalarope.

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/6/nome-alaska Sun, 29 Jun 2014 21:45:03 GMT
Photographing Wild Rhododendron http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/6/photographing-wild-rhododendron It is early morning.  The forest is calm and tranquil.  The musky scent of pine and redwood fills the air.  We are the only ones there.  It is peaceful and serene.  The giant redwoods surround us.  We are in awe as we soak in the grandeur of these commanding, ancient trees. The panorama is ever changing as we leisurely explore the old-grove trails.  Here and there a colorful Varied Thrush or the diminutive Pacific Wren would flutter among the fallen tree trunks and forest floor grubbing for their favorite morsels.  We are fully immersed in the ambiance of nature's majesty.

























So it was for our photo trip to California's old-grove redwood forests.  The scattered old-groves, along northern California's Highway 101, are consolidated into the Redwood National and State Parks system.  We started this journey in Crescent City, some eight hundred miles, and fourteen hours, north of San Diego.  We called Crescent City home for four days and then leisurely meandered to Garberville for two more days of exploring and photographing the redwoods.  The trip was timed to coincide with the spring bloom of wild rhododendron in the redwood groves.  

Our timing was excellent and we first sighted the colorful "rhodies" along Highway 101 in the Del Norte Redwoods State Park some fifteen miles south of Crescent City.  Although we attempted to photograph the rhodies there, shooting alongside busy Highway 101 was extremely distracting.  Our most satisfying rhododendron photography occurred along the much less traveled, dirt track to the Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.  Here we found numerous opportunities to photograph rhodies and made several early morning jaunts there during our stay in Crescent City.

You can see the results of our efforts in the Redwoods Gallery and why we love nature photography.

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/6/photographing-wild-rhododendron Sun, 01 Jun 2014 16:39:47 GMT
First Real Trip of the Year http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/5/first-real-trip-of-the-year I was starting to exhibit symptoms of "cabin fever".  It had been several months since the adventurous Patagonia trip and, even though I had been playing around with some local beach and night-sky photography, I was ready for a real photo trip.  So it was that Bruce and I ventured to Big Sur to attempt some landscape photography along the rocky central coast.  If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will know who Bruce is.

We stayed at the Big Sur River Inn (www.bigsurriverinn.com) that is conveniently situated about midway along the picturesque coast and various State Parks where we planned to photograph.  The Inn lacked some essential amenities, such as a fridge, that required us to purchase a Styrofoam cooler to store our breakfast and lunch supplies.  The remoteness of the Inn meant there was no cell service and that required a 55 mile round trip to Carmel to make calls home.  The weather, although a bit cooler, was much like San Diego with a morning marine layer and an afternoon fog bank out over the Pacific.











We explored Big Sur from Point Lobos to the North and McWay Cove to the South.  We photographed the rocky shore line of Soberanes Cove, Garapata Beach, Bixby Creek bridge, Pfeiffer Beach, and McWay falls.



















I had conceived a couple of special photographic experiments to try on this trip.  The first failed miserably.  I wanted to photograph a moonset over the Pacific ocean.  That special experiment failed because we failed to select a suitable location to photograph from.  The moon set behind a hill before it approached the horizon over the ocean.  The second experiment had better, although not fantastic, results.  We were in Big Sur during the April 14/15 lunar eclipse and I wanted to create a "stacked" image of the moon as it was swallowed by the earth's shadow.  My timing and location were accurate.  We got an unobstructed view of the moon disappearing into the earth's shadow.  Unfortunately, as the eclipse evolved, thin high clouds started to float in front of the moon making it extremely difficult to focus properly.

California condors have been reintroduced into the remote back country of Big Sur.  My pre-trip research led us to a turnout along Highway 1 were the birds have frequently been spotted.  The area has steep cliffs that rise abruptly from the ocean and provide the dynamic uplift the large condors need to soar and search for food.  We started our vigil with extreme optimism but after an hour or so that optimism started to wane.  We had no idea if the birds would appear.  But then, just as we contemplated returning the the Inn, two condors came soaring by.  By that time we were so distracted and inattentive that we missed our opportunity to photograph these large vultures.  We watched dejectedly as the condors landed in a pine tree too far away to photograph.  Much to our delight, the condors left their tree and came soaring back by us and this time we were ready.  Bruce and I let them have it with our eight-frames per second motor drives.



Before and during the Big Sur trip, I had been checking to see if the late February and March rains might have resulted in an unexpected wildflower bloom.  I typically check the desert wildflower web site (www.desertusa.com) and the California Poppy Reserve (www.parks.ca.gov)  .  Much to my surprise the reserve web site indicated that there was a late poppy bloom and that the peak was anticipated to occur during the Big Sur trip.  To take advantage of this surprise development, we decided to leave Big Sur a day sooner than planned and spend the time in the Antelope Valley photographing poppies instead.  That turned out to be a very wise decision.  The fields and hills around the poppy reserve were carpeted with bright orange poppies.  We spent hours meandering along the unpaved roads of the Antelope Valley exploring and photographing various fields of poppies.




















PS:  For those of you who may be interested in the condor reintroduction program, you might want to check out www.condorspotter.com.  I identified the condor I photographed by the Number 4 on his radio transmitter.  Turned out it was a male named Amigo born at the San Diego Safari Park.  You can learn more about him on the referenced web site.  He has rather an interesting history.

rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2014/5/first-real-trip-of-the-year Thu, 01 May 2014 14:47:54 GMT
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.

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.










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.

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