Rinus Baak Photography: Blog http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Rinus Baak Photography rbaak@san.rr.com (Rinus Baak Photography) Sun, 08 Mar 2015 21:10:00 GMT Sun, 08 Mar 2015 21:10:00 GMT http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/img/s6/v138/u429341411-o443440908-50.jpg Rinus Baak Photography: Blog http://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog 90 120 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
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!!!

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.


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.

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.


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.











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.










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.


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.


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.


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