Rinus Baak Photography: Blog https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Rinus Baak Photography (Rinus Baak Photography) Sat, 15 Jun 2024 14:46:00 GMT Sat, 15 Jun 2024 14:46:00 GMT https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/img/s/v-12/u144419684-o443440908-50.jpg Rinus Baak Photography: Blog https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog 67 120 Early Summer Road Trip https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2024/6/early-summer-road-trip After Bruce and I completed our badlands of the San Juan Basin exploration, and Jane returned from her action packed visit with Gigi in New York City, we spent some quiet time at home enjoying our garden for a few weeks before heading out again.  Jane and I have been getting a lot of pleasure from our garden with its many colorful roses.  For me, of particular enjoyment are the cacti.  I have created three small areas in our yard where I planted several hedgehog cactus plants. They were in full bloom with spectacular red flowers.  The garden provided blotches of vivid color for us to enjoy after the dull gray of winter.

Clret Cup Cactus FlowerClret Cup Cactus FlowerClaret Cup Cactus, aka Crimson Hedgehog, In Full Bloom Showing Red Flower Petals And Reproductive Elements King Cup Cactus Flower and BudKing Cup Cactus Flower and BudBright Orange Bloom Of Hedgehog Cactus, aka King Cup Cactus, In Profile View Illustrating Flower Petals and Reproductive Parts

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My good friend Neil Solomon told me about a pair of peregrine falcons that were nesting and raising chicks along the cliffs of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in La Jolla, California.  Unabashedly, I invited myself and Bruce to come and photograph these raptors with him.  So, in early May, Jane and I ventured to San Diego for a short visit to photograph the falcons.  Neil generously guided Bruce and me to the best photo locations.  Needless to say, these nesting peregrines and their chicks attracted many other photographers and we were not alone on the beach waiting for the birds to appear.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane had arranged for us to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn in Old Town.  We did not realize it at the time, but it turned out that we ended up in the middle of the Old Town Cinco de Mayo celebration.  It was a noisy, crowded party and we happily joined the throng of revelers while enjoying a margarita along the way.

A recent issue of Arizona Highways Magazine featured an article and photographs of Chiricahua National Monument in southeastern Arizona.  I found the geology and scenery of this “sky island” fascinating and was immediately drawn to the rhyolite rock pinnacles and spires to try my own photography there.  So, we were back from San Diego a short three weeks before hitting the road again. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This time it was road trip.  Chiricahua National Monument is only about a six hour drive from home.  Since it was my idea to make the trip, I made the necessary accommodations.  For the first four nights of this week long trip we stayed at the Dreamcatcher Inn at Chiricahua, an extremely nice B&B, somewhat in the middle of nowhere.  Phillip and Ramon (Ray) were our very gracious hosts.  In fact, once Ray found out about my photography interest, he provided directions to a great horned owl nest with three chicks about to fledge.

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Although a “sky island”, with peaks reaching nearly 10,000 feet in elevation, the Chiricahua Mountains are situated on the edge of the Sonoran Desert and in early June day time temperatures were starting to sizzle.  We mostly kept our photo hikes to late afternoons/early evenings when the sun was low on the horizon and temperatures moderated a bit. To pass the time of day, we made some short excursions visiting the old copper mining town of Bisbee (where a hazardous open pit mine is a tourist attraction) and Tombstone (where there is a shootout at the O.K. Corral at one, two and three in the afternoon).  We also made a trip to the Kartchner Caverns State Park near Benson (no photography allowed inside the cave).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Dreamcatcher we moved to Cave Creek Ranch for three nights in Portal, Arizona.  Portal is a birding hotspot and Neil Solomon had told me about it.  We were not in Portal at prime birding time but since it was only a couple of hours from the Dreamcatcher, and on the way home, we decided to make it part of our summer journey.  As part of the trip planning, I had arranged for a guide to help in locating birds to photograph.  That worked out well.  James Petersen was our guide and he found us 55 different bird species, fourteen of which were new ones for us, including a spotted owl, red-faced warbler and elegant trogon.  Not all the birds James found were in positions where photography was possible, but I did my best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be sure to check the Latest Images gallery for photos from this trip.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2024/6/early-summer-road-trip Sat, 15 Jun 2024 14:46:14 GMT
First Trip Of 2024 https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2024/4/first-trip-of-2024 Finally!!!  It has been a long time between photo trips and so, at last, here is my first blog of 2024.

A few months back, after previously having decided not to photograph the 2024 total solar eclipse, I had a change of heart and made arrangements to travel to San Angelo, Texas, for this extraordinary event.  In 2017, Jane and I had traveled from San Diego to Idaho to witness the total eclipse.  Having experienced the spectacle in 2017, I had decided we did not need to do it again.  But as April 8 drew closer, the challenge of photographing another eclipse got the better of me.  Jane was not as keen as I was to go again, so we decided that I would ask my photo buddy, Bruce Hollingsworth, to join me for a photo trip and that Jane would make arrangements to visit her friend Gigi Alpers in New York City.  And that is what we did.

Bruce drove from San Diego to Albuquerque and from there we started a week long, two thousand mile, photography road trip.  The venture started, of course, with a drive to San Angelo, Texas, for the eclipse.  As part of the trip planning, I had chosen several alternative viewing locations from San Angelo in case weather became an issue.  And weather did indeed, become an issue.  According to weather reports our original shooting location in Llano, Texas, was going to be socked in with over 90% cloud cover.  We opted for an alternative location, Evant, Texas, where the cloud cover was projected to be only around 45%.  It turned out to be a good decision.  Bruce and I had a good view of the eclipse where as in Llano, we learned, the overcast sky blocked the eclipse.  Unfortunately, shortly after “totality” clouds moved in over Evant and we also lost sight of the ongoing eclipse.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on my experience returning from the eclipse in Idaho, I fully anticipated heavy traffic and long delays driving back from Evant to San Angelo.  But, fortunately, those stressful driving conditions did not materialize.  Instead we enjoyed a leisurely drive on rural “farm to market” roads with occasional opportunities to photograph roadside wildflowers along the way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next objective on this photo journey was Carlsbad Cavern National Park in New Mexico.  The drive from San Angelo to Carlsbad routed us through the oil patch of the Permian Basin.  The barren, oil well studded landscape was a dramatic change from the pastoral ranches and orchards of the Texas hill country.   For hours we dodged 18-wheeler semi-trucks loaded with heavy equipment to service the myriad oil wells scattered throughout the prairie.

As is the case now at most national parks, timed tickets are required to enter the Carlsbad Caverns.  I had acquired our timed tickets a month before starting the trip.  That turned out to have been a good strategy since there were no tickets available for the days we were at caverns.  Bruce and I spent two days photographing the speleothems in the cave.  I was certainly challenged to find compelling compositions.  Inside the cave, the main cavern, the “Big Room”, is huge and I found it difficult to convey the size and complexity of the cave photographically.  But I tried.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Carlsbad we traveled to the Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Site, a private preserve some fifty miles north of Santa Fe.  Bruce and I had visited Mesa Prieta in 2022, so I had arranged for private tours in new areas where we had not photographed before.  As before, our enthusiastic and energetic guide was Cathy Benthagen.  She overwhelmed us with stories and anecdotes about the spiritual aspects of the many petroglyphs we encountered.  Trails on the private reserve are fairly steep and not well established.  Bruce, being from sea level, was struggling a bit at 7,500 feet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After morning and afternoon petroglyph tours with Cathy, we continued on our photography road trip, driving past the communities of Abiquiu, Coyote, Regina and Cuba, to our next destination for a three night stay in Bloomfield. The Best Western Hotel in Bloomfield served as our home base for two exhaustive days of photographing the San Juan Basin Badlands.  Although Bruce and I had photographed portions of these badlands before, I had learned about other sites with intriguing erosional features that I wanted to photograph.  These unique formations came with fascinating monikers like Alien Throne, The Sentinel, King of Wings, The Castle, and The Guardians.  With names like that, who wouldn’t want to photograph these eroded hoodoos.

There turned out to be a small problem.  The San Juan Basin Badlands is a vast, treeless plain cut by broad east-west trending valleys.  Ownership is mostly divided between federal lands, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and Navajo Nation lands.  The road system throughout the badlands is a spider web of rough graded tracks and two-track dirt toads with little or no signage.  I was very concerned that we would not be able to find our way to the trailheads, nor find the trails, in this desolate area without a knowledgeable guide.  Fortunately, I was able to find just such an experienced, knowledgeable guide.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kialo Winters, Owner/CEO/Tour Guide of Navajo Tours USA, was our guide for the photo adventure in the badlands.  As we bounced along the rough rutted dirt tracks to the various trailheads, Bruce and I would frequently confide that we would never have found our way without Kialo.  In order to be in place for photography by sunrise, we met up with Kialo each morning at 5:30 AM at a Sinclair service station, about thirty miles south of Bloomfield.  That also meant getting up by 4:30 AM in order to be on the road by five for the thirty minute drive to the Sinclair station.  By late morning, around 10:30 or so, we would head back from the photo locations driving laboriously on those deeply rutted, washboard roads to the Sinclair station and from there back to Bloomfield for lunch and a short nap.  Then, we would meet Kialo again at the Sinclair station around 3:30 PM for the afternoon excursions and sunset photography. By the time we left the field and drove back to Bloomfield we would arrive there around 9:30 PM just before Blake’s Lots-A-Burger fast food establishment closed.  That was our routine for two days.  After that, it was happily back to Albuquerque for a satisfying, tasty meal and long, sound sleep.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2024/4/first-trip-of-2024 Fri, 26 Apr 2024 00:00:24 GMT
Latest Images https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/12/latest-images Since returning from our trip to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks in early October, Jane and I are enjoying being home and catching up on delayed routine chores, like doctor and dentist appointments.  The holidays are upon us and Jane had decorated our home accordingly.  We’ve also been enjoying visiting with friends and sharing good cheer.  Plans have been made for an overnighter to Santa Fe to enjoy a classical guitar symphony and stroll along the Canyon Road galleries on Christmas Eve.

In the meantime, I’ve not let my camera lie dormant in its case.  On October 14th, I photographed the annular solar eclipse from the backyard.  That was followed by a couple of short trips to the Bernardo and Bosque del Apache wildlife refuges.  Then came an evening excursion to the popular “River Of Lights” exhibit at the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens.  And finally, in early December I journeyed to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory on the Plains of San Agustin for a night sky photography workshop with the Very Large Array antennae in the foreground.

Images from these late-year trips can be viewed in the “Latest Images” gallery. 

P.S.

I made another trip to Bosque del Apache right of after new year's and have added images from this excursion to the Latest Images" gallery.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/12/latest-images Thu, 14 Dec 2023 00:56:07 GMT
Last Trip Of The Year https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/10/last-trip-of-the-year So far 2023 has been an awesome travel year for us.  It started with a trip to Costa Rica in February for my birthday.  That was followed in April with a trip to Paris for Jane’s birthday.  June found us in Newfoundland and Ontario Canada.  Then, in August, we were off to Iguazu Falls and the Pantanal in Brazil.  Wow!

We finished our travel year in a more relaxed mode with a September trip to our timeshare cabin in the woods of the Flathead National Forest near the west entrance to Glacier National Park.  We have been going to the cabin at Glacier Wilderness Resort for nearly twenty years, not every year, but often enough to call it “our place in Montana”.  We own the last two weeks of September and had specifically chosen that time so we could enjoy the seasonal foliage color change.  With a full two weeks it is possible to just kick back and relax.  Late September is also when the weather becomes more unsettled and this year we had more clouds and rain than in the past.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane and I don’t do long ten hour drives anymore. So we broke up the 1,275 mile one-way trip to Glacier Wilderness Resort with a couple of overnight stops.  Our first stop was along Interstate 15 in Utah Valley just north of Provo.  It was a very advantageous stop.  Traffic on I-15 along the Provo – Salt Lake City corridor was horrendous.  Our second en-route overnight was at the Ninepipes Lodge in Charlo, Montana, only a couple of hours from the cabin.  We spent the next morning searching for wildlife at the National Bison Range located on the Flathead Indian Reservation.  The Bison Range is now managed by the Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the bison on the range are descendants of a pure-blooded herd of bison from the 18oo’s.  In the past, we have photographed many bison, pronghorn and elk on the Range, but this year, no such luck.

We thoroughly enjoyed our two weeks in and around Glacier National Park.  Fall colors were spectacular, especially on the east side of the Park, along the foothills of the Lewis Range.  This year we ventured as far as Chief Mountain, but mainly we spent our time exploring familiar haunts like the Avalanche Lake trail, Hidden Lake trail, and sights along the Going-To-The-Sun Road.  We searched for wildlife at Logan Pass and Many Glaciers but this year, for some unknown reason, there was not much wildlife to photograph.  We did manage to stumble upon a big, burly black bear foraging for berries and roots near the Many Glaciers Hotel parking lot.  This wooly bear, most certainly, was ready for its hibernation. And, after several fruitless visits and many boring hours of waiting, a cow moose finally did emerge from the tall willows at Fishcap Lake, trailed by a bull.  While idling away my time waiting for moose, I did manage to get some shots of common mergansers fishing in the lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We extended this last trip of the year with a four night stay at the Snow Lodge in Yellowstone National Park.  Photographically, the objective was to obtain some panoramic landscape images of the hydrothermal features of the Park, primarily the vividly colored hot pools scattered throughout the geyser basins.  As they say, “the best laid plans often go awry”.  I did not consider that the cold ambient air temperature would create so much steam, coming from the hot springs, that the photogenic pool surface would be mostly obscured.  C’est la vie!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A couple of mornings, we started our day trip around Yellowstone with breakfast at the Running Bear Pancake House in the bustling town of West Yellowstone.  The Running Bear menu included box lunches that we availed ourselves of for a “dinner” in the room topped with a bottle of wine.  Our day-trip destinations included Lower Yellowstone River Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Tower Falls, Gibbon Falls, Firehole Falls, Mammoth Hot Springs (where we encountered bull elk gathering their harems), and Lamar Valley where we searched for but found little wildlife within camera range.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our journey into Yellowstone National Park, we headed south for home, traveling through Teton National Park and Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s picturesque Star Valley and Utah’s colorful Logan Canyon.  In Logan, Jane and I had dinner with my nephew Bryan, his spouse Margaret and my 96 year old sister Neli.  My sister now resides in an assisted living facility, but she absolutely doesn’t require any assistance.  She’s a 96 year old livewire!  Reminiscing and sharing family stories with my sister was a most wonderful way to close out our 2023 travel year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/10/last-trip-of-the-year Sat, 21 Oct 2023 19:45:41 GMT
Brazilian Adventure https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/9/brazilian-adventure Discounting an early hiccup with United Airlines that forfeited the first day of our Brazilian adventure, Jane and I wholeheartedly enjoyed exploring the outback of Brazil’s Pantanal.  The Pantanal is the world’s largest seasonal floodplain.  At just over 71,000 square miles, the Pantanal is about the same size as the state of Washington.  The Pantanal is located in Bolivia and Paraguay with the bulk, nearly 82% in Brazil.  During the wet season, 75% of the Pantanal is inundated with floodwater from tributary rivers.  During the dry season, fish and aquatic organisms are trapped in remnant pools throughout the Pantanal bringing in a myriad of migratory birds.  Mammals tend to stay near the main river channels where they become prey for jaguars and it was jaguars we had come to photograph.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We had selected Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, a well-recognized organization specializing in wildlife photography excursions, for our Pantanal trip.  Jane and I had good memories from our previously photo safari with Van Os to Madagascar and were confident we would have another memorable experience.  Before joining the Van Os group in Cuiabá, however, we arrived in Brazil a few days early in order to make a side trip to Iguazú Falls on the Brazil-Argentine border.  This system of waterfalls, straddling both countries, is reportedly the largest in the world.  The falls were indeed phenomenal and defy description.

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We flew into Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, from Albuquerque via Chicago and San Paulo.  We had arranged for a local guide to meet us at the airport and help facilitate with logistics including crossing the border in order to experience Iguazú Falls from the Argentine side.  Weather was not on are side as we experienced heavy overcast and rain during our tour of the falls.  The disappointing weather did not lessen the thunderous impact of 470,000 gallons of water per second falling hundreds of feet over successive layers of basalt in a horseshoe array of multiple waterfalls.  Iguazú Falls is without doubt one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stayed at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas located within Iguazú National Park and within walking distance of the falls on the Brazil side.  We were as impressed with the service and amenities of the hotel as we were with the roaring waterfalls.  Of course, staying at the Belmond was not inexpensive.  We reluctantly left the luxury of the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas to meet up with our fellow photographers of the Van Os group in Cuiabá.

Our group consisted of nine people, seven photographer clients and two guides, Mark Thomas from Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris and Paulo Boute, of Boute Expeditions, our local Brazilian guide.  I would be remiss in not including our bus drive, Elton, in our travel group.  Elton did an outstanding job maneuvering the bus to enhance photo opportunities.  After our “meet and greet” dinner at the Gran Odara Hotel, we met Elton at the bus early the next morning for the long anticipated journey south into the Pantanal. 

We reached our first accommodation, Pousada Rio Claro, after about five hours on the graded Transpantaneira highway.  We stopped along the way as Mark or Paulo sighted something of photographic interest, mostly various species of birds.  By the time we reached Rio Claro our group had jelled into a congenial band of likeminded naturalists.  The highlight of our stay at this Pousada (Inn) was photographing a variety of birds from boats on the Rio Claro.  Mark and Paulo had perfected a way to call in the birds, including Amazon Kingfishers, Cocoi Herons, and Black Collared Hawks, using fish as bait.

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Pousada Rio Claro, Elton drove us deeper south into the Pantanal to the end of the Transpantaneira highway, at Porto Jofre, where we stayed six nights at the comfortable Hotel Porto Jofre.  The highlight here was photographing jaguars.  We ventured out on the Rio Cuiabá twice a day for five days looking for and photographing jaguars.  It was no walk in the park, however.  Up and out before the sun in the morning and chasing sunset on the way back to the lodge in the evening.  But what an invigorating experience it was, observing these wild creatures in their natural environment hunting and stalking prey.  Although jaguars were the focus, there was opportunity to photograph many other subjects along the river’s edge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our exhausting stay at Hotel Porto Jofre, we headed back north on the Estrada Transpantaneira with a halfway stop at Pouso Alegre (Happy Land in Portuguese) for two nights.  It was a welcome relief to have breakfast at 7:00 AM instead of 5:00 AM.  At Pouse Alegre photography occurred at waterholes within about a mile of the lodge.  Paulo used his phone app to call in various birds but the large, colorful Toco Toucan alluded being photographed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


According to an old proverb, “all good things must come to an end” and so did our adventure in Brazil’s Pantanal.  From Pouso Alegre, Elton continued to drive us north, back to Cuiabá for a farewell lunch at the Churrascaria Aeroporto Grill.  Lunch at the churrascaria (steak house) was a unique experience.  Smartly dressed waiters would bring various cuts of meats, lamb, beef, pork and chicken, to the table on long skewers.  We could select a rare or well done portion of the meat and the waiter would carve it from the skewer and serve it right on to our plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch, goodbyes and hugs were shared as some of us departed for the airport and others back to the hotel for a later flight.  Jane and I retraced our route from Cuiabá to Albuquerque via Chicago.  It was a long day and night before we were comfortably back home.

You can see pictures from our Pantanal trip in the Brazil gallery on the home page of my website.  Please be patient when opening the gallery.  The files are a bit large and it may take a few minutes to load them for viewing.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/9/brazilian-adventure Tue, 05 Sep 2023 16:17:25 GMT
Canadian Summer https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/7/canadian-summer Locals affectionately call the large island off the east coast of Canada the “rock”. John Cabot was the first known European explorer to land on this island of Newfoundland in 1497.  For nearly a hundred years after that, fishermen from Portugal, Spain, France, Holland and England launched seasonal fishing explorations around the cod rich waters of Newfoundland.  Eventually, it was the British who claimed the island in 1583 and established permanent colonial settlements.  It wasn’t until 1949, however, that Newfoundland joined the Canadian Confederation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With that short introduction about Newfoundland, you might well ask “so what were Jane and Rinus doing in Newfoundland?”  Good question.  I had learned of photographers going to Newfoundland to photograph seabirds and so, a few years back, put the idea of going there on my to-do list.  After some covid-19 related delays, the trip finally came together this year.  The plan was to spend a couple of weeks photographing in Newfoundland and finish our Canadian trip in Ontario for some loon photography.

We flew from Albuquerque, via Dallas-Fort Worth and Toronto, to St. John’s.  With a population of about 112,000, it is the largest city, by far, in Newfoundland. We had a few days to explore this most easterly city in North America. We stayed in the downtown area near the working harbor.  Fishing and maritime activities are a mainstay of St. John’s economy and the wharfs were crowded with ships of all sizes, including the Polar Prince, mother ship to the ill-fated Titan submersible. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our hotel was close to the shops, restaurants and pubs on Water and Duckworth Streets.  We sampled a variety of restaurants and found the funky Bagel Café with its small booths our favorite for breakfast.  Jane and I are not night owls, so we missed out on some of the live entertainment offered at the pubs.  We enjoyed our stay in St. John’s but found the downtown area a bit old and weathered, which is understandable in the harsh environment of Newfoundland.  Up the hill from Duckworth Street, however, are residential neighborhoods of row houses painted in an array of bright colors, nicknamed Jellybean Row, that give St. John’s a festive look.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few miles south of St. John’s, the offshore islands of Witless Bay Ecological Preserve offered our first opportunity to photograph seabirds.  The preserve is host to large Atlantic Puffin and Common Mure colonies.  I had made arrangements with O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tour to access the preserve.  The island is off limits to all but researchers, so we had to photograph the birds from O’Brien’s boat that wallowed in the swales of the Atlantic Ocean. Not the best of conditions, but seeing hundreds of birds in their natural environment was truly amazing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was St. Bride and the Cape St. Mary Ecological Reserve, located at the southwest corner of the Avalon Peninsula, to photograph the Northern Gannet.  Gannets roost on a near-shore sea stack, called “bird rock”, about fifty yards from the mainland.  Tens of thousands of Northern Gannets have chosen the rocky ledges of this towering formation to mate and raise their chicks.  Like puffins, the gannets spend most of their lives out on the ocean, only coming ashore in late spring to reestablish relationships, build nests, and raise their young.  During our visit to the colony in early June, courtship, mating, and nest building were in high gear.  A few birds were incubating eggs and I only observed one chick that appeared to be only a day or so old.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our three nights stay at the small village of St. Bride, with a resident population of around three hundred, we drove north for a four nights stay in Bonavista, a much larger community with a population of three thousand.  It was in the area of Bonavista that the explorer John Cabot landed in 1497.  My primary objective for going to Bonvista was to photograph large puffin colonies at Elliston and Cape Bonavista.  Both of these colonies were located on large, rounded, near-shore sea stacks that had a covering of soil in which the puffins could dig their nesting burrows.  At each location the puffin viewing area was only a short walk from the parking lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puffins appeared to have just started returning from their time at sea and looking for nesting sites.  There were groups of puffins scattered around the top of the sea stack and flocks flying overhead as if looking for their missing mates.  There were only a few obviously paired couples checking out nesting sites.  Squabbles occasionally occurred as mated couples appeared to compete for a nesting burrow.  At mid-June, we were too early to observe parents with fish laden beaks returning from the Atlantic to feed their brood.  As a bonus, however, on a rocky outcrop at the Elliston location, high on the cliff, I noticed several pair of Black Guillemots going through their mating rituals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every spring, as Nordic temperatures rise, the glaciers of western Greenland calve icebergs.  These large, ten thousand year old chunks of ice are carried on ocean currents some 1,800 nautical miles to Newfoundland’s coast.  Jane and I boarded the trawler “Lady Marguerite” in Bonavista to go iceberg hunting.  We encountered icebergs shortly after leaving the harbor and the captain maneuvered the vessel for some close views.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next stop on our itinerary was a two night stay in the quaint fishing village of Twillingate.  Here we did not have to take a boat to find icebergs.  The bergs were floating around Twillingate Harbor right in front of our hotel.  The drive to Twillingate took us through the town of Gander.  Modest in size, with a population around twelve thousand, Gander is location of an international airport with a long runway that served as a refueling stop for flights between Europe and North America before the advent of long range jets.  When the U.S. closed its airspace on September 11, 2001, Gander’s airport was one of only a few capable of handling redirected aircraft.  This small community then provided refuge for nearly seven thousand stranded passengers.  This outstanding show of kindness and hospitality is now the basis of a Tony award winning Broadway musical, “Come From Away”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All through our tour of Newfoundland we were adversely impacted by smoke blown in from wildfires in other parts of Canada.  It was particularly bad in the Twillingate area.  With its numerous small islands, bays, coves and charming villages, the scenery around Twillingate would have been striking if not for the grey, hazy layer of smoke.  We did venture out to explore, however. The countryside around Twillingate and the rest of Newfoundland is primarily subarctic tundra and boreal forest.  Trees are mostly small conifers with black spruce dominating some areas.  Conifer lined roads with small ponds and lakes are prevalent throughout Newfoundland.  Treelined lakes would have made interesting, scenic landscape images if it had not been for the smoke.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Twillingate, we traveled back to St. John’s and on to Toronto for the last phase of our trip.  We rented a car at the Toronto airport and drove north to Huntsville in the Muskoka region of Ontario.  Back in 2020 I had made arrangements for a loon photography workshop with Michael Bertelsen.  Back then the Canadian border was closed due to covid-19, so this year I was finally able to make this three day workshop.  Including Jane and me, there were a total of four participants that embarked with Michael to search for loons on his specially outfitted boat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conditions were less than ideal, however, as the Muskoka region was also impacted by smoke from the Canadian wildfires.  The group was intrepid, however, and was out at five AM each morning.  We searched for loons on the Muskoka River, the Ox Tongue River and Lake Muskoka.  My hope was to photograph loons with chicks riding on their backs.  As with many of my wildlife photography aspirations, Mother Nature always calls the shots and success is totally dependent on Her.  According to Michael, there was a low probability of finding loons with chicks during this workshop. 

However, while we were photographing a nesting loon on the Muskoka River, Michael received a call from one of his fishing buddies that a loon with newborn chicks had been spotted on Lake Muskoka.  Early the next morning, that is where we headed.  Sure enough, Michael spotted the loon and chick and that morning my aspiration of photographing loon chicks on a parent’s back was realized.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After nearly three weeks of travel, we left Huntsville and headed home to Albuquerque.  Rain slowed our drive back to Toronto but we got to the airport in plenty of time for our afternoon flight back to DFW.  From there, it was a late night arrival at Sunport, a taxi ride back to Lake Isabella Way, and good night’s sleep in our own bed.  Despite the annoyance of smoke from wildfires, our excursion through remote Newfoundland and finding loons in Ontario made for a very unique adventure.

 

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/7/canadian-summer Fri, 14 Jul 2023 19:10:59 GMT
Spring Break https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/5/spring-break I have generally maintained that birthdays ending in five or zero are the significant ones.  Other birthdays are just minor events.  So as Jane was approaching a zero-ending birthday, I knew that something special had to be done.  An April birthday trip to Paris was the answer.  So, late last year, planning started for a spring trip to Paris.  As planning progressed, the journey expanded to include three European capitals, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris.

Amsterdam

Our American Airlines flight from Albuquerque, via Philadelphia, arrived at Schiphol airport around 8:30 in the morning on April 11th.  After proceeding through passport control, it was a short train ride from Schiphol to the Amsterdam Centraal train station, followed with an even shorter taxi ride to our hotel.  Arriving in the morning as we did, meant we could not check in at the hotel.  So, we parked our bags there and headed out to explore our first European capital.

It took only a few blocks of walking to realize that Amsterdam was a city of, and for, bicycles.  Cyclists appeared to have right-of-way over cars and pedestrians alike.  A large degree of caution was exercised as we explored the city.  Amsterdam is also a city of canals (grachts).  Our hotel, aptly named Canal House, is a converted old, 17th century, canal house along the Keizersgracht.  After leaving the hotel, we navigated our way on this first day of discovery by counting and noting the names of the grachts we crossed.  It was at the Museum Of The Canals that we learned that canals were built to accommodate Amsterdam’s growth in the middle ages.  Construction of canals was integral with water management, creation of buildable land, and transportation.  Amsterdam’s canals are now a UNESCO World Heritage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before going back to the Canal House to check in for our four nights stay, we walked the busy streets of central Amsterdam familiarizing ourselves with its many landmarks, museums and restaurants.  We visited the Willet-Holthuysen House, a grand mansion on the Herengracht, turned into a museum featuring period décor and an extensive collection of nineteenth century art; lunched at the Blue Restaurant with its bird’s eye view of the city; and strolled by the Bloemenmarkt (flower market).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amsterdam is home to a host of museums and during our three full days in the city we enjoyed many of them.  In addition to the Willet-Holthuysen House and Museum Of The Canals, we joined the crowds at the Hermitage Museum, Van Gogh Museum, House of Bols (gin) Museum, Rijksmuseum, and the very popular and congested Vermeer Exhibit.  Favorite restaurants included the Pancake Bakery, Seafood Bar, and d'Vijff Vlieghen (Five Flies) where we celebrated Jane’s zero-ending birthday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A spring journey to Holland cannot be complete without a visit to the famous tulip fields of Keukenhof.  These gardens are a magnet for tourists, so Jane had made arrangements for our tour several months in advance of leaving home.  Contrary to the cloudy, chilly days we experienced in Amsterdam, our day at Keukenhof was warmer and sunny making the myriad flowers sparkle in the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My nephew Wim lives with his girlfriend Marina in Middelburg, located in the south of the Netherlands.  Jane and I embarked on the train journey to Middelburg after our stay in Amsterdam to spend a couple of days with Wim and Marina.  We started that visit on a bit of a sad note.  Wim showed us the cemetery garden where my older brother Dick’s ashes were scattered.  Dick passed away, at age 97, shortly after Jane and I had visited with him last summer on our way to the Alps (see the Europe 2022 Blog of July 13, 2022).

After that emotional experience, we continued our visit with Wim and Marina on a much lighter note.  One day we drove the short distance to Veere, one of our favorite rural villages, for a meal of mussels.  We also made a day-trip to Ghent, in the Flemish portion of Belgium, with its medieval castle and cathedral.  Wim and Marina were perfect hosts and we very much enjoyed visiting with them.  But, we had two more European capitals to visit, so after a farewell dinner, Jane and I continued our journey by train to Bruxelles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brussels

The train from Middelburg, via Rotterdam, arrived at the Brussels Central Station around 2 PM on April 18th.  Although we had travelled to Europe at least a half dozen times, we had never been to Brussels.  Jane had completed a lot of “armchair” exploring of Brussels before we left home and created a list of potential sites to visit during our three days in this capital city of Belgian.  Our accommodations were at the Juliana Hotel, within walking distance of La Grand-Place de Bruxelles.  This UNESCO Heritage Site is a collection of late 17th century building around a cobble-stone paved square.  The buildings are an eclectic mix of municipal, ducal, and guild houses with a multitude of gilded architectural ornamentation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the following morning, Jane had arranged a private tour of the European Quarter of Brussels where the European Commission has its offices.  Although we did not enter any of the commission buildings, we found the modern architecture stunning and in dramatic contrast to the historic buildings of the Grand Place.  We visited the nearby Royal Museum that also included the Magritte Museum (Magritte is the artist famous for men in bowler hats) and the Library of the Dukes of Burgundy.  Dating from the 1,300’s, the collection of manuscripts in this library were copied by hand and illustrated by artisans of the Middle Ages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several decades ago, when Jane and I were first dating, we spent several weekends in San Francisco where we frequented the Mozart Café for dinners.  Now when we travel through Europe's major cities, we always look to see if there is a Café Mozart.  We found one in Brussels.  And, of course, we had to have their dinner special, all you can eat ribs, accompanied by their own red burgundy wine.  During our walks around central Brussels we found other interesting pub-like restaurants where we imbibed local beer and food.

Needless to say, any trip to Brussels is not complete without a visit to the Manneken Pis landmark. This pint sized, 22 inch, bronze fountain statue of a little boy peeing into a basin draws hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists a day.  A short walk from the Grand Place, Jane and I found ourselves among these tourists to see this obscure, small fountain wedged between buildings on the corner of Stoofstraat and Elkstraat.

Paris

It was an hour and half ride on the Thalys train from the Midi station in Brussels to the Gare du Nord station in Paris.  From Gare du Nord, it was a twenty minute taxi ride to the Hotel Raphaël for our seven night stay in Paris.  The Raphaël was a boutique hotel with traditional classic French décor.  Located on Avenue Kléber, the hotel was a five minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe and fifteen minute walk from the Trocadéro with its amazing view of the Eiffel tower.  The Kléber Metro station, right in front of the hotel, was our transportation link to Paris’ many attractions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon arrival at Gare du Nord, we purchased Paris Museum and Metro passes at the Tourist Information store.  The museum pass allowed us to skip the long queues at museum ticket counters and the metro pass meant we could bypasses the confusing ticket machines and just tap our pass to enter any metro station.  Both passes were used extensively during our week in Paris.  We spent a lot of time at the Louvre, of course, and visited the Monet’s l’Orangerie Museum, the Rodin Museum, the Jacquemart-Andre Museum, and made the ascent to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to our time in the city, we also made a couple of day trips.  The first was to Monet’s garden in Giverny.  We arrived before the large tour busses and thoroughly enjoyed the uncrowded garden with its variety of colorful flowers and famous lily ponds.  We walked the short distance from the Giverny garden to Monet’s grave, located at the nearby Église Sainte-Radegonde de Giverny.  Our second day trip was to Château de Fontainebleau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, both impressive, ornate French architectural landmarks with opulent gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walked a lot in Paris, exploring the Montmatre area around the Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur; strolled the length of Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe, past Place de la Concorde, all the way to the Louvre Museum; sauntered through the Latin Quarter past the Sorbonne Université and Panthéon; wandered around the Hôtel de Ville and the Palais Royal; and made the easy trek from the Raphael to the Eiffel Tower several times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alas, our spring break to three European capitals had come to its conclusion and on April 28th we boarded American Airlines flight 25 back to the USA, Jane having graciously come to terms with her zero-ending birthday.

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/5/spring-break Mon, 29 May 2023 17:32:30 GMT
Spring Photo Trip https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/5/spring-photo-trip As winter turned to spring in Albuquerque, my mind started thinking about photographing spring wildflowers.  Although the winter had brought some snow and rain to New Mexico, precipitation in early spring had been sparse.  Nevertheless, I talked myself into taking a short trip south to Las Cruces where the Organ Mountains have a reputation for a good wildflower show.  I also talked Bruce, my photo buddy from San Diego, into meeting me there for a few days of photography.  The objective was to find and photograph Mexican Gold Poppies with the Organ Mountains as a backdrop.

In preparation for this short excursion, I had contacted the Las Cruces Chapter of the New Mexico Native Plant Society to obtain current information about the wildflower bloom.  One of their members, Gordon Berman, was nice enough to provide me with potential wildflower locations.  But he warned that there had not been sufficient spring rain to generate a good bloom and that there was only a sprinkling of poppies scattered along the foothills of the Organ Mountains.  His prediction proved correct and Bruce and I were only able find a few small clusters of poppies, but not the fields of flowers I had hoped for.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I suggested to Gordon Berman that it would be nice to meet him in person and we arranged to meet for lunch at La Posta, an old station along the Butterfield stage couch route, converted into a restaurant, in Mesilla, near Las Cruces.  Gordon turned out to be quite the expert on native flowers many of which he grew in his yard.  He sympathized with us about the lack of poppies and offered to take us to some uncommon cacti that were in bloom along the Dripping Springs Trail in the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument.  That is where we photographed the Chihuahuan Pineapple Cactus and the New Mexico Rainbow Cactus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During our last photo trip in August, 2022, Bruce and I had some success in photographing the Milky Way.  So, on a whim, I checked if it were possible to photography the Milky Way in early April.  I did not expect it, but it turned out to be possible during the early morning hours.  So, I made arrangements for an early entry permit at White Sands National Park hoping to photograph the Milky Way with the white gypsum dunes in the foreground.  We relocated to Alamogordo in order to be closer to the Park.  We were up at 4:00 AM, out the door at 4:30 AM and at the Park entrance at 5:00 AM for our early entry.  We had scouted photo locations the previous day so we would know where to place our tripods in the dark.

Night Sky With Milky WayNight Sky With Milky WayMilky Way Over Yucca Plant At White Sands National Park, Near Las Cruces, New Mexico Milky Way Over Gypxum White Sand DunesMilky Way Over Gypxum White Sand DunesMilky Way Over Yucca Plants At White Sands National Park, Near Las Cruces, New Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When all was said and done, Bruce and I had a great time.  It was a bit disappointing that the Mexican Gold Poppies were scarce, but we had some good practice shooting the night sky.  From Alamogordo we both headed home after a brief stop at Bosque del Apache and lunch at the Owl Café in San Antonia. 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/5/spring-photo-trip Mon, 01 May 2023 20:56:35 GMT
Costa Rica 2023 https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/2/costa-rica-2023 Our first photo trip of the New Year was an encore excursion to Costa Rica.  Like last year, the trip logistics were handled by Costa Rica Focus.  Jane and I decided on lodging and potential photo locations.  Costa Rica Focus then made all the necessary arrangements for airport transfers, accommodations, meals, transportation, and our personal guide, Carlos Jimenez.  The encore was another great adventurous excursion.

There was a déjà vu moment as we prepared for our Costa Rica journey.  Last year our flight from Albuquerque to Dallas-Fort Worth had been cancelled due to weather and, as a result, we arrived in Costa Rica a day late.  This time, American Airlines sent us an early warning that a storm was expected to move into the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport area on our departure date, so we had time to book a flight a day earlier.  We spent the extra day at the Bougainvillea Hotel near San José.  The hotel is known for its exceptional garden where we spent time looking for and photographing birds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica has many remote, isolated areas including Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula.  Located along the Pacific Ocean in the southwest corner of Costa Rica, the peninsula is mostly undeveloped rainforest with only a few villages and lodges.  We stayed at the Casa Corcovado Wilderness Lodge near the San Pedrillo Ranger Station entrance to the National Park. 

The Pacific side of the Osa Peninsula has little in the way of transportation infrastructure.  We enjoyed a short domestic flight on Sansa Airlines in a 11 passenger Cessna 208-B aircraft from San José to Drake Bay where there is a small landing strip.  From there it was a slow, bumpy twenty minutes, or so, ride in an old van on a dirt track to the beach along the Drake Bay.  Staff from the Casa Corcovado Wilderness Lodge were waiting on the beach to transport us via a small boat with a large, powerful outboard motor to the Lodge. We changed into water shoes for the wet transfer from the beach to the boat.  After half an hour on the choppy waters of the Pacific Ocean, Jane and I awkwardly alighted from the skiff with the much appreciated help of the crew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were off the boat and on the rocky beach but not at the Lodge.  A short time after our arrival a tractor arrived pulling a small open trailer with snug seating for about eight.  We boarded the trailer and our luggage was placed in a rack in front of the tractor.  It was a steep haul from the beach to the main lodge facilities.  The Casa Corcovado Wilderness Lodge is small, only 14 bungalows on a 170 acre site, intimate resort with good food and very friendly staff.  We stayed five nights and participated in a number of activities, including a snorkeling trip to Cano Island, a boat tour into the mangroves of the Terrabe Sierpe National Wetlands, a hike into Corcovado National Park, and various hikes on the rainforest trails of the lodge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Casa Corcovado Wilderness Lodge, we flew back to San José where Carlos rented a car for our journey to Sarapique and the Ara Ambigua Lodge.  On the way we stopped at Don Alvara’s farm where it was possible to photograph macaws from a close distance.  The large, noisy birds are wild but have become habituated to life on the farm where they are occasionally fed peanuts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were three nights at the Ara Ambigua Lodge including my birthday.  Carlos surprised us with special dinner arrangements that night including a bottle of fine wine.  Turned out that Carlos actually lives near Sarapique and invited his wife, Maribel, to join us for dinner the last night of our stay at Ara Ambigua.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several sojourns were made around Sarapique.  The best birding occurred along some of rural agricultural tracks as well as the surrounding rainforest.  With the aid of local guide José (Cope) Perez, we were able to spot, and photograph, crested owls, Honduran white bats, a laughing falcon, and an adolescent sloth.  Cope also put some sugar water into a banana flower to attract hummingbirds that I was able to capture without flash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last night in Costa Rica was spent at the Hotel Villa San Ignacio not far from the San José airport.  The vast hotel grounds were well secluded from the hustle and bustle of urban noise and activity.  We enjoyed some quiet relaxing time there before being transferred to the San José airport and our American Airlines flight home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some photos from this trip can be found in the Costa Rica 2023 Gallery on the Home Page.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2023/2/costa-rica-2023 Sat, 18 Feb 2023 22:19:21 GMT
AN AUSTRALIAN ODYSSEY (CHAPTER 4) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/12/an-australian-odyssey-chapter-4 CHAPTER 4

 

The morning Qantas flight from Brisbane got us to Hobart, Tasmania, early enough to check in at the historic Lenna Hotel and do some exploring along Hobart’s waterfront.  We had actually arrived in Hobart the day before our three-day, private, Tasmania tour with Luke O’Brian Photography and packed as much exploring as we could during our day-and-half in this provincial capital of Tasmania.  That afternoon we walked the fashionable Salamanca Place, a redevelopment area with restored warehouses that now contain shops, galleries and upscale restaurants.  Around four o’clock that afternoon we happened upon the Pearl & Co., a waterfront oyster bar and restaurant, during their happy hour and stopped in for a glass of wine then stayed for dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After breakfast at the small, bustling, but cozy Harbor Lights Café, we joined a walking tour, which Jane had arranged ahead of time, around Hobart’s historic downtown.  Like much of mainland Australia, Tasmania was first colonized and developed by British convicts.  After years of being downplayed, this unique history is now being touted with statues and informative plaques on buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that afternoon, we learned that public tours were offered at the Tasmania Parliament House and, on impulse, decided to take the tour.  As it turned out we were the only ones on the tour that day and enjoyed the personal attention given us by our guide, a legislative analyst.  We visited the House of Lords chambers and those of the House of Commons, both simply decorated in an ornate, governmental sort of way.  We learned a lot about Tasmania’s system of government and voting process, most of which I have already forgotten.  Evening cocktails were enjoyed in the hotel lounge that reminded me of an old gentlemen’s club, often seen in British movies.  Dinner that night was seafood pasta at an Italian restaurant on Salamanca Place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday morning, November 8th, day 43 of our Australian Odyssey, was when Luke O’Brian picked us up at the hotel to begin our Tasmania photo adventure.  I was very much looking forward to some landscape photography after beating the bushes for birds in New South Wales, Northern Territory, and Queensland.  Cradle Mountain was our destination.  We made a refreshment stop at Ross, a small village in Tasmania’s Midlands, along the Macquarie River.  Ross exemplifies Tasmania’s convict heritage with the historic Ross Bridge over the Macquarie River having been built by convicts and the historic Ross Female Factory, a workhouse where thousands of female convicts worked in the mid 1,800’s, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Luke also made a short detour on our way to Cradle Mountain to drive through Sheffield, known as the Town of Murals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cradle Mountain Hotel was our home for the next three nights. After checking in and a short respite, Luke and I headed to Dove Lake for some night sky photography.  Jane opted to take a break from activities and stayed at the hotel.  Luke and I arrived at Dove Lake in plenty of time to get in some sunset photography of Cradle Mountain reflected in the still water of Dove Lake.  As dusk and darkness approached we changed our vantage point to increase our chances of getting a shot at the Milky Way, although this time of year at Cradle Mountain the Galactic Center would be below the horizon.  As darkness crept in so did a full moon start to light the sky.  Conditions were perfect for night sky photography with a clear, cloudless sky and windless conditions for a glassy lake surface.  Only the bright full moon was problematic with its light obscuring the intensity of distant stars.  Just as we resigned ourselves to a wasted effort, the night started to get darker as the moon entered into full eclipse.  What an unexpected surprise that was.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent the next two days hiking and photographing rain forest scenes, wildlife and waterfalls around Cradle Mountain.  A couple of return trips to Dove Lake were made to photograph at sunset with marginal success as a colorful cloudy sky never appeared.  We visited the Devils @ Cradle, a Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary and got some photos of the infamous Devils, although in captivity.  During our time at Cradle Mountain, Luke escorted us to an area that Wombats frequent.  Jane and I both developed an affection for these small, cuddly marsupials with their squatty frames nibbling away at the tussock grasses.  Like all grazing animals, they rarely looked up from their constant foraging, and it was difficult to get a facial portrait. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evolution creates unique solutions to ensure survival of a species and the wombat is a great example.  Wombats live in long, deep burrows that they dig with dirt being kicked out behind them. If wombats had belly pouches like wallabies and kangaroos, all that dirt whipping by the pouch would have been lethal to developing joeys.  Evolution solved that problem for wombats by creating a backward facing pouch that protects joey wombats from flying dirt.  On one of our hikes among wombats, we observed a developing joey stick its head out of the rear facing pouch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Cradle Mountain adventure ended all too soon.  Luke drove us back to Hobart via Queenstown, with substantial buildings constructed by convicts, Nelson Falls and Lake St. Clair.  He dropped us off at the airport Travel Lodge where we spent the night before flying back to Sydney the next day.  In Sydney, we spent the night at the airport Rydges Hotel to repack and organize for our next day’s flight back to San Francisco and eventually Albuquerque.  We arrived home on Monday, November 14th after 50 days of travel.

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/12/an-australian-odyssey-chapter-4 Wed, 21 Dec 2022 21:47:58 GMT
AN AUSTRALIAN ODYSSEY (CHAPTER 3) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/12/an-australian-odyssey-chapter-3 CHAPTER 3

Trogon’s Photo Tour started in Cairns, Queensland.  We met our tour leaders, Kylie and Frank Pankas as well as our fellow photographer Rich Frank on Sunday evening, October 23rd.  Jane and I had arrived in Cairns two days earlier and had already taken the scenic train ride to the quaint artisan village of Kuranda.  There we had our picture taken holding a soft, cuddly koala.  We had also taken a helicopter flight over the Great Barrier Reef and the rain forest around Kuranda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michaelmas Cay, a small, low, sandy island located some 20 miles east of Cairns, along the Great Barrier Reef, was our first photo destination.  This tiny little spec of sand hosts thousands of breading seabirds.  We were ferried to the islet from our excursion boat and spent an hour or so photographing Brown Boobies, Lesser Frigatebirds, Crested Terns, and the Brown Noddy.  Snorkeling was included as part of our morning’s sail to the Barrier Reef.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next morning the five of us were out early looking for birds to photograph around Cairns.  Trogon’s Photo Tour was very much a birding tour as we searched for birds at the Centenary Lakes, Cairns Botanical Garden, and Flecker Botanical Garden without much success.  By mid-morning, we were on our way, through the farming district of Dimbulah on the Atherton Tableland of Queensland, to Ironbark House.  This very comfortable holiday house was totally “off the grid”, with its own solar power and harvested rainwater.  The accommodation was new, well appointed, with a modern flair.  A small water feature off the back patio provided some good photo opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin and Rachael, proprietors of this 1,345 acre remote “outback” property, were outstanding hosts.  Each morning Kevin would drive us around the property looking for birds and rock wallabies to photograph.  Each evening Rachael and Kevin would provide us with a delectable dinner, family style, served on the patio.  Afternoons were spent at the Black Swan Farm, a nearby accommodation where Kylie and Frank stayed.  Black Swan Farm was “on the grid” and Jane and I enjoyed air conditioned naps there.  At Black Swan Farm, I was attracted to some very noisy, distant bird calls.  I searched for the origin of this noise and found a small group of  Sarus Cranes, in a nearby pasture, squabbling among themselves.

Sarus CraneSarus CraneOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ironbark House was a very comfortable stay for three nights after which we were off again for two nights at the Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge.  This turned out to be a typical accommodation set in the thick of the rain forest where a boisterous catbird kept our interest.  There not being much to photograph on the grounds of the lodge, we ventured out to find more productive photo areas.  The small village of Yungaburra provided some good photo opportunities including a platypus sighting along Peterson Creek.  Some new bird species were found in the Hasties Swamp area.  Curtain Fig National Park turned out to be very interesting.  The Park has a fig tree with extensive aerial roots that drop nearly fifty feet to the forest floor creating a dense “curtain”.  We finished our stay at Chambers with some night photography of a sugar glider, a small nocturnal marsupial, that feeds on tree sap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge in Julatten was our next destination.  We were on the road by 7:00 AM stopping at Mount Hypipamee National Park to search for a Cassowary, a large flightless bird, but without success.  Lunch was at Mount Molloy Café a Mexican establishment where Frank ordered a hamburger with “the lot” that included everything that could be stacked on a burger.  We reached the Kingfisher in time to do some afternoon bird photography before heading for dinner at the National Hotel & Pub in Mount Molloy. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Buff Breasted Paradise Kingfisher is the iconic bird that nests on the Lodge grounds.  The bird migrates from Papua New Guinea and had arrived at the Lodge in time for us to photograph this colorful Kingfisher.  Carol Iles, our owner of the lodge, told us that somewhere during the migration from Papua New Guinea the Buff Breasted Paradise Kingfisher had lost its long signature tail feathers.  So, my picture of the bird is sans tail feathers.  Carol was very helpful and told us about a couple of other birding hot spots, Brooklyn Village caravan park where we found a Tawny Frogmouth on its nest with a chick, and a ranch area where we found a male Australian Bustard exhibiting its mating display.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After two nights at the Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge we were on the road again back to Cairns for a flight to Brisbane and drive to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.  O’Reilly’s was a busy place with lots of guests and a myriad of activities.  Although we hiked many of the trails looking for birds, most birds hung out right by the entrance to reception where you could buy wild bird seed and feed the birds.  Parrots, Bowerbirds, and Cockatoos were all over you once you had seed in your hand.  Our last day at O’Reilly’s was charmed when we found a Paradise Riflebird, female Australian Logrunner and Albert’s Lyrebird all on the same trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last two nights of the Trogon Photo Tour were spent at the unimpressive Shangri-La Gardens in Wynnum, a suburb of Brisbane.  Kylie and Frank did their best to find us some birds to photograph, but it was slim pickings.  We lunched at the Pelican’s Nest Café where Frank assured me again that I would get to photograph flying foxes (large fruit bats).  Sure enough, a short drive from the Pelican’s Nest Café, Frank drove us through some neighborhoods to a Black Flying Fox roost with dozens of the large bats hanging from tree branches. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We celebrated the end of our Trogon Photo Tour with a delicious seafood dinner at the lively Manly Boathouse Restaurant with its great view of Moreton Bay.  Early next morning, Sunday, November 6th, forty-one days after leaving home, Frank shuttled us to Brisbane Airport for our flight to Hobart, Tasmania. 

NOTE:  Bird photographs can be found on the Home Page – Bird Gallery – Birds of Australia

Other trip photographs can be found on the Home Page – Austalia Gallery

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/12/an-australian-odyssey-chapter-3 Fri, 16 Dec 2022 19:33:38 GMT
AN AUSTRALIAN ODYSSEY (CHAPTER 2) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/12/an-australian-odyssey-continued Chapter 2

Our Australian journey started in Albuquerque on Sunday, September 25th with a neighbor giving us a ride to the airport.  We arrived in Sydney early on Tuesday morning September 27th, having lost a day crossing the International Date Line.  Sydney was our home for a week.  We had arrived two days early for the Victor Emanuel Nature Tour (Chapter 1) and had five days in Sydney before the start of the Trogon Photo Tour (Chapter 3).

Upon arrival to this dynamic, cosmopolitan city, we stayed at the Pullman Hotel on College Street across from Hyde Park.  Located in Sydney’s central core, the Pullman, with great views from the rooftop, was a great home base for our exploration of the City.  We were in walking distance of the city’s major attraction, the Sydney Opera House.  And, walk we did!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our flight from Los Angeles had arrived too early in the morning for us to check in at the Pullman.  So, that very first morning in Sydney, we parked our luggage at the hotel and, with street map in hand, started our explorations.  Quickly, we got our bearings, learned to stay left and with Jane’s excellent navigating skill stayed on course.  We found a convenience store adjacent the hotel where we could stock up on bottled water and a wine shop around the corner so we could enjoy a glass of chardonnay to relax in the evenings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The initial couple of days in Sydney were spent getting familiar with the area.  We found that College Street provided convenient access to the Australian Museum, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Hyde Park Barracks, the old Mint, New South Wales Parliament House, and the State Library.  The hustle and bustle of the Central Business District was only a short walk further as were the opera house and Royal Botanic Garden.  Hyde Park, across the street from the Pullman proved a convenient short cut when returning from our forays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we returned to the City after completing the Victor Emanuel Nature Tour, we stayed at the five-star Sir Stamford Hotel at Circular Quay.  We splurged a bit staying at the Sir Stamford but the location was perfect, right on Macquarie Street across from the Royal Botanic Garden and only a ten minute walk from the opera house.  The Sydney Opera House is a spectacular architectural venue and we spend quite a bit of time visiting the area.  We viewed the opera house from Circular Quay, from the Royal Botanic Garden, and from ferries crossing Sydney Harbor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scheduled opera performances did not fit into our schedule.  Instead, we booked a tour to see the interior of this iconic facility and got tickets for L’Hôtel, a cabaret performance, in one of the ancillary theaters at the opera house.  Lots of Édith Piaf style singing, a magician, acrobats and the “coup de grâce” was the manly hunk behind the “hotel” check-in counter who ended up pole dancing in his briefs.  Lots of fun was had with hoots and hollers from the enthusiastic audience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the Royal Botanic Garden just across the street from the Sir Stamford, Jane and I visited the garden several times.  Walking the various paths in the garden was relaxing as we viewed the many species of flowers, shrubs, and particularly the amazing variety of trees.  Appropriate for a “royal” garden, the grounds were meticulously maintained.  We particularly enjoyed the Calyx exhibit with its plant covered walls.  A couple of the paths in the garden provided excellent views of the Sydney Opera House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before leaving home, I had envisioned an image of the Sydney skyline at dusk with light emanating from high rise buildings that I wanted to capture in a photograph.  To capture that image meant crossing over to the north side of Sydney Harbor.  To make that crossing meant we had to learn about the elaborate ferry system leaving from Circular Quay.  The anxiety of using the ferries quickly dissipated when we found using the ferries to be much simpler than expected.  Good signage led us to the appropriate pier and platform for the ferry we needed and then it was simply tapping a credit card to access the ferry and again when leaving.  I photographed the evening skyline from Cremorne Point, straight across from the opera house.

Just can’t say enough about how much we enjoyed Sydney.  One morning we joined a walking tour of the old harbor area known as the Rocks.  We learned a lot about how in 1788 the first crew of convicts arrived in Australia.  Mostly, however, we created our own walking tours finding interesting places to discover, like the State Library and cozy little bistros.  During one of our forays into the sky scraper lined business core, we discovered a subterranean food court under Martin Place.  With scores of vendors, food from all over the world was available along with an amazing array of pastries.  As we left the food court, after lunching on sushi, we happened upon the Theatre Royal where Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” was playing.  Of course, we had to get tickets for that famous murder mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On October 21st, half way through our Australian Odyssey, we somewhat reluctantly left Sydney on our flight to Cairns and the Pacific Hotel for the rest of our journey.  Chapter 3 will cover the Trogon Photo Tours portion of our trip.

 

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/12/an-australian-odyssey-continued Sun, 11 Dec 2022 22:40:38 GMT
AN AUSTRALIAN ODYSSEY https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/12/an-australian-odyssey
Introduction

As the crow flies, it is just over eight thousand miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Sydney, New South Wales, in Australia.  Jane and I did not fly as the crow, we instead traveled first from Albuquerque to Denver, and then from Denver to Los Angeles, before boarding our fourteen hour, United Airlines flight to Sydney.  And that is how the seven week long journey to our seventh continent began.

This was a momentous journey with more adventures to relay than one Blog can contain.  So, I will detail this journey in several separate chapters.  But first, here is a short introductory recap of our Australian odyssey.  To begin, the trip had been planned for a 2020 departure but was postponed until 2022 due to that persistent coronavirus.  After this long delay, the journey finally started on Sunday, September 25th and ended fifty days later on Monday, November 14th.  Crossing the International Dateline going over and coming back caused some confusion with dates as did the sixteen hours of time zone change.  In summary, this long trip included twelve separate flights on three different airlines, including two fourteen hour Pacific Ocean crossings.   We scurried through eleven airport terminals and slept at seventeen different accommodations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was truly a monumental journey and can be separated into four distinct sections.  Each of these four sections will be a separate chapter of this Blog and will be published sequentially. Upon arrival in Australia, our first undertaking was a two week excursion with Victor Emanuel Nature Tours (VENT).  This tour was focused on birding and started in Sydney, New South Wales, and ended at Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory. Jane and I were two of ten participants on this tour and I was the only serious photographer.  Chapter 1 will describe our adventures on this portion of our trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the VENT tour, we flew from Uluru back to Sydney for a five night stay on our own.  Our days in cosmopolitan Sydney are detailed in Chapter 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Sydney we traveled north to Cairns, Queensland, for a two week excursion with Trogon Photo Tours.  Jane and I were two of only three guests on this tour that started in Cairns and finished in Brisbane, Queensland.  The Trogon tour was to be a photo tour but turned out to be very much a birding tour as well.  Details for this portion of our trip are in Chapter 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hobart in Tasmania was our next and final destination.  I had arranged a private tour with Luke O’Brian, a local Tasmania photographer, for three days of photography at Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park.  Chapter 4 details our visit to Tasmania and encounter with the Tasmania Devil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

We met our eight fellow travelers for the Victor Emanuel Nature Tour for lunch on Friday, September 30th, at the Pullman Hotel in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.  Our tour was led by Dion Hobcroft, an exceptional birder with over twenty years of experience leading birding groups for VENT.  Dion wasted no time.  After brief introductions and lunch we were off in the minibus, with Janene Luff behind the wheel, to our first afternoon of birding at Sydney’s Centennial Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next day, we were up at 4:15 AM to be out by 5:00 for an early start of birding at the Royal National Park about an hour’s drive south of Sydney.  That morning we hiked along the Lady Carrington Drive trail.  The birders, equipped with their binoculars and scopes, and me with my camera, followed Dion eagerly as he spotted and identified Australia’s birds.  The morning weather was gloomy with off and on light rain, making for low light photography.  After a picnic lunch, we traveled to Burraneer Park where Dion was able to locate a pair of Australia’s largest owls, the Powerful Owl.  This pair, perched high in the upper canopy of a large tree, was raising chicks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That same afternoon, while the rest of us were back birding with Dion at the Royal Park, one of Dion’s associates (Steve) was scouting the Engadine section of the park looking for koalas.  Finding a koala in the wild is not easy but Steve had lots of experience and was familiar with the habitat koalas frequented.  It did not take long for Steve to return with the news that he spotted a koala.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that the eucalyptus tree with the koala was located near the bottom of a very steep ravine.  Everyone in the group, however, was game for bushwhacking ourselves down the sheer, forested terrain.  The reward was seeing a koala in the wild and for me photographing the cuddly little marsupial.  To top the event off, while engrossed with the koala, a Rock Warbler, the only endemic bird species of New South Wales, flew into the area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After three days of birding the Sydney area, on Monday, October 3rd, our small group of adventurers journeyed west to the Blue Mountains for an overnight stay at the Blackheath Motor Inn.  From Blackheath, getting started before sunrise, we scouted the Blue Mountain region for birds.  Enthusiastically, Dion guided us through Glen Alice, Glen Davis and around Lake Wallis.  Even along the busy motorway back from Blackheath to a hotel at Sydney Airport, Dion called out bird sightings that only those in the front seats could see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next day we were off on a Qantas flight to Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory.  Situated at Australia’s “top end”, Darwin’s climate is similar to that of other tropical countries near the equator, hot, humid and sweaty.  Even a short foray into the field for birding resulted in clothing sticking to wet skin.  We were an intrepid bunch, however, and followed Dion eagerly to find that new bird.  The Adina Hotel was our home for a couple of nights as we sojourned the Darwin area looking for more new bird species.  Howard Creek, Knuckey Lagoon, Buffalo Creek, and Lee’s Point were all visited as Dion continued his tireless search.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooinda Lodge in Kakadu National Park was our next destination.  The nearly four hour drive to Kakadu started after some early morning birding around Darwin.  It was a long haul getting to Kakadu National Park with lots of “road train” trucks on the two-lane highway.  A much needed break was lunch at the Orroboree Park Tavern with its huge crocodile statue in front.  There was much birding to be done in Kakadu National Park but I was attracted to the pristine aboriginal rock art found in the park.  While the rest of the group was searching for illusive feathered creatures, I concentrated on finding and photographing this very unique x-ray style of rock art.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Cooinda Lodge at Kakadu we ventured to Knotts Crossing Resort in Katherine, Northwest Territory, birding along the way, of course.  The indigenous purple backed fairy wren was on everyone’s want list and Dion knew where to find it.  So, next day we were on the road at 4:45 AM for the two hour drive to the Victoria River crossing at Gregory.  Finding this diminutive bird was not easy.   For well over an hour, we trudged back and forth through dense flood plain vegetation.  Only Dion’s persistence kept us going and resulted in finally locating this illusive little bird.  I was not fortunate enough to photograph the bird, however.  The next day was another long one on the road as we traversed back to Darwin to catch an afternoon Qantas flight to the remote town of Alice Springs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alice Springs is a small community in the "red desert" of the Northern Territory.  The Mercure Hotel was our home for the night.  Temperatures continued hot in the desert but humidity became more tolerable.  The terrain changed noticeable to a desert environment with vegetation more open and geologic features more prominent. The ubiquitous large termite mounds continued to be a dominant feature of the landscape as we birded the Alice Springs area.  We searched for birds in the Simpson Gap, Ormiston Gorge and Glen Ellen Gorge areas.  Then it was off again in the minibus for the 270 mile drive to Uluru, the massive sandstone monolith formerly known as Ayer’s Rock.  On the way, lunch was consumed eagerly at the Erldunda Roadhouse, at Stuarts Well, an establishment typical of those along the Stuart Highway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first Europeans explorers arrived at Uluru in the late 1800’s but tourism to this amazing geologic feature did not get started until the 1950’s when less than 3,000 intrepid travelers braved the 12 hour primitive travel from Alice Springs.  An entire tourist village was planned and constructed in the 1980’s and today, with completion of massive upgrades to the village, more than 350,000 visitors arrive to experience this sacred UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

By mid-afternoon, we arrived at the Desert Gardens Hotel where we all enjoyed an afternoon break after a long, bumpy ride through the “Red Center” of the Northern Territory.  That evening, Dion treated us to a champagne sundowner at the Uluru sunset viewpoint.  It was a perfect setting for our last night together.  But, next morning, Dion had us up early again for sunrise at Kata Tjuta, “many heads” in the aboriginal language, a group of large domed sedimentary rock formations about 16 miles to the west of Uluru.  The Victor Emanuel Nature Tour ended at Uluru and after lunch the resolute birders headed to the airport for their flight back to Sydney.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane and I, on the other hand, stayed behind as we had booked two extra nights at the Desert Gardens Hotel.  Although we had thoroughly enjoyed the company of our birding friends, it felt really good to be on our own again after fourteen days of communal touring.  After bidding adieu to our fellow travelers, we prepared for a sunset helicopter flight over Kata Tjuta and Uluru.  We followed that up with a Uluru sunrise tour to complete our trifecta of sunrise, sunset and from the air views of the Uluru monolith.  I had also booked a night sky tour to photograph the Milky Way over Uluru, but unfortunately, the desert experienced one of its rare cloudy nights and that outing was cancelled.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On Sunday, October 16th, twenty days after leaving home, we enjoyed a much needed sleep-in and leisurely breakfast, after which we shuttled to the Uluru Airport for our flight back to Sydney.  Our days in Sydney are described in the following Chapter 2 of the Blog.

NOTE: Bird photographs can be found on the Home Page - Bird Gallery - Birds of Australia Sub-Gallery

          Other trip photographs can be found on the Home Page - Australia Gallery

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/12/an-australian-odyssey Sat, 10 Dec 2022 18:01:31 GMT
"On The Road Again" https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/9/-on-the-road-again Borrowing words from a Willie Nelson song, late August 2022 saw me “on the road again”.  This late summer road trip was with my San Diego photo buddy Bruce Hollingsworth.  Bruce had driven from San Diego to Albuquerque for a week of photography in New Mexico.  It had been three long years since Bruce and I had hit the road together.  (See the 2019 “October’s Whirlwind Tour” blog for that trip with Bruce.)  I had picked a handful of New Mexico locations for this photo adventure.  After three years of not photographing together, we easily fell back into our normal travel routine with lots of humorous conversion along the way.  I should not forget to mention that my trusty and reliable Toyota 4Runner also thoroughly enjoyed being “on the road again”.

Bruce and I started this journey literally in my backyard with a short walk to the community gate into Petroglyph National Monument.  Two species of wren forage among the lava boulders scattered along the mesa escarpment, the rock wren and the canyon wren.  In the past, I had had success with calling the birds using an app on my phone.  It worked this time as well and we were able to obtain images of both birds.  After photography, it was a short hike back home for lunch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly after lunch we headed west on Interstate 40 to El Malpais National Monument.  Not quite in my backyard but only about an hour and half up the road.  I had planned two photo objectives at El Malpais.  First, to photograph Mexican Short-Eared Bats as they emerged en masse from their lava tube cave, and second, some night sky photography with the Milky Way rising over the ruins of the historic Garrett Homestead.  Both these objectives were achieved.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After a sleep-in the next morning, the plan was to drive to the small town of Truth or Consequences (referred to as T or C locally) and stay at the Sierra Grande Lodge for guided tours onto Ted Turner’s Armendaris Ranch.  Frequent blog readers may recall my September 2, 2021 blog where I had attempted to photograph Swainson’s Hawks preying on bats as they foraged for bugs on the Armendaris Ranch.  That was the plan also for this trip with Bruce.  Unfortunately, the plan did not work out.  Resent monsoon rains had made the dirt tracks on the ranch impassable.  Consequently, I had to improvise an alternative objective.  So, instead of touring the Armendaris Ranch, we scouted the area around T or C for a night sky photography opportunity.  Fortunately we discovered an old steel windmill within easy access of the paved road that made a great foreground for the rising Milky Way.  So, all was not lost at Truth or Consequences.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out next photographic target was the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site.  Bruce and I had been there thirteen years ago, about the time we first started photographing together.  At that time we spent all our time on the lower portion of the petroglyph site.  This time, however, we concentrated our efforts on the “upper trail” where we had not photographed before.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of petroglyphs pecked into the boulders at the Three Rivers site and we found and photographed many new and fascinating panels.

After our morning shoot at Three Rivers, we turned north towards the small village of Mountainair where we planned to have a late lunch.  As it turned out, much to our chagrin, there was no restaurant in Mountainair for lunch.  We did find a deli counter hidden in the back of the grocery store where cold cut sandwiches were available.  The visitor center for the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is situated in Mountainair and that is where we photographed next.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is little light pollution at the remote location of this national monument.  As a result, I included this location on our itinerary with the intent of getting images of the Milky Way with the Abó Pueblo Mission ruin in the foreground.  Night access for photography required that I obtain a Special Use Permit from the Park Service.  During the process of obtaining the necessary permit, the park ranger suggested that if I volunteered to be a guest night photography instructor they would waive the permit fee requirement.  That was all arranged, Bruce and I would volunteer to assist with photography and the Park Service would arrange a night sky astronomy event at Abó for the evening we arrived.  I estimated that about 25 people participated in the night sky event.  Not all were photographers, but Bruce and I assisted those that were.  The evening turned out to be highly successful.  The Park Service was happy, Bruce and I were happy, and event participants were happy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We spent the night in Mountainair at a funky roadside motel with few amenities and the constant rumbling of freight trains going by.  Needless to say, that was not a happy night.  We headed back to Albuquerque after that for a more restful night.  The next morning we were off again, this time north to the Santa Fe and Taos areas.  We photographed at a couple of other petroglyph sites.  The first was the La Cieneguilla site near Santa Fe, and the second was the Mesa Prieta site near Taos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project (aka The Wells Petroglyph Reserve) is on private land and only accessible with a tour.  The site has an extensive collection of unique, undamaged petroglyph panels and I had wanted to photograph them for some time.  Fortunately, private tours were being offered again after a two year Covid hiatus.  Tours consisted of two hour hikes over boulder strewn hillsides.  I had arranged for two private tours, one in the afternoon and one the following morning.  Our docent guide was Cathy and her knowledge of local pueblo history and insight of the petroglyph panels made the tours very special.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We concluded our week of New Mexico photography by visiting the Highway 64 steel bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge for some panoramic compositions.  Also open again after two years of Covid shutdown was the Taos Pueblo were we spent an hour or so as our last photography location.  After learning about the pueblo and its people, we packed up the photo gear and set the GPS for 9104 Lake Isabella Way Northwest.  Early the next morning, Bruce slid into his German made luxury sedan, set the cruise control for highway speed, and enjoyed his ride back to San Diego.  In retrospect, it was totally sweet for me to be back “on the road again”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/9/-on-the-road-again Tue, 20 Sep 2022 15:44:43 GMT
Gallup 2022 https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/8/gallup-2022  

Steer wrestling, calf roping, bronc and bull riding, barrel racing, what could be more exciting?  These were the rodeo events at the Gallup, New Mexico, Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial.  The last rodeo I attended was in my teen years at the Salt Lake County Fairgrounds in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I had read about the Ceremonial in New Mexico Magazine. Founded in 1922, the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial is one of the oldest continuous celebrations of Native American culture and heritage.  This year was the event’s centennial celebration and I thought it would provide an interesting photo opportunity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Ceremonial was a ten day event but I attended just Friday and Saturday of the last weekend.  Gallup’s Red Rock Park, with its outdoor arenas and amphitheater, was the venue for the celebration.  Besides the rodeo, there was a parade showcasing the various tribes and pueblos participating in the event.  For me, highlights were the traditional tribal dances that are normally performed only at special tribal or pueblo holidays and ceremonies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entire experience was engrossing and most enjoyable.  I certainly gained a greater appreciation of Native American traditions.  Similar to the Gathering-Of-Nations Pow Wow I attended in the spring, the Ceremonial was a celebration for and by Native American families.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see more images from this trip in the New Mexico Gallery, under Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, on the home page of the website.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/8/gallup-2022 Sun, 21 Aug 2022 16:47:23 GMT
Europe 2022 https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/7/europe-2022 Planes, trains and automobiles provided transit for our month long excursion to the Swiss and Italian Alps.  It was American Airlines that transported us from Albuquerque to Amsterdam, KLM that carried us to Zürich, then, the ever efficient and punctual Swiss train system glided us to Zermatt, home of the Matterhorn, and back to Zürich, from where Swiss Air took us to Venice and a rented car got us to the Italian Dolomite Alps.  Along the way, we used trams, funiculars, cable cars, cogwheel railroads, and chair lifts to reach some of our destinations, not to mention shanks pony. 

It all started on Memorial Day, May 30th, when our neighbor gave us a ride to the Albuquerque airport.  With our TSA PreCheck boarding passes, security was a breeze and we were soon on our way, via DFW, to Amsterdam, very much enjoying the comfort of our Business Class cubicles.  A visit with my older brother Dick is always an included stop when traveling to Europe.  This trip was originally planned for 2020 the year Dick turned 95, so this year he had turned 97 and we were certainly looking forward to seeing him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our nephew Wim picked us up at Schiphol and being a very tall person, he was easy to spot in the crowded arrivals area.  Wim lives with his girlfriend, Marina, in Middelburg, a small picturesque town about two hours south of Amsterdam.  On the way to Middelburg we stopped in Spykenisse where Dick lives, still in his own home.  At 97, Dick still looked good, a bit frail and using a walker, but mentally sharp and a good sense of humor.  After our visit with Dick we continued on to Middelburg where we stayed three nights at the Fletcher Hotel near the city center.  Wim and Marina entertained us with walks along the North Sea dunes and a sail on De Arne waterway in a rented motorboat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On June 4th, we had a morning flight from Schiphol to Zürich.  In order to avoid any potential traffic problems driving from Middelburg, we spent the night before the flight at the airport Citizen M Hotel.  By this time we had become aware of the extreme labor shortages at Schiphol, including baggage handlers.  So that night, at the Citizen M Hotel, we repacked our bags making sure we had all essential items in our carry-ons.  We also took time to walk from the hotel to the departing passenger check-in counters so we would know exactly where to go in the morning.  We also decided to leave plenty early in the morning to battle the long check-in and security lines.  During our reconnoitering, we had observed insanely long lines of people queued up to check-in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left the hotel at 5:30 AM with our bags in tow.  When we approached the long queue, we were directed by a friendly KLM staffer to follow the signed priority path that bypassed the long line of disgruntled travelers.  It turned out that Jane had had the foresight to purchase the priority boarding option that came with the economy ticket.  That saved us hours of waiting in line.  Instead, we got to wait several hours at the departure gate, but we were able to relax a bit in the crowded gate area and read our books.  The wait at the gate turned out to be a bit longer than expected, however, because the KLM flight to Zürich was delayed an hour.  That created some anxiety because we had only a short window of time to catch our train from the Zürich airport to Zermatt.  But it all worked out fine.  Our single checked bag was the very first bag to arrive on the baggage carousel.  After quickly retrieving the bag, we hustled from the baggage claim area down an escalator to the train platform and were comfortably seated in a designated first class quiet car with time to spare for our journey to Zermatt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1865, the British mountaineer Edward Whymper became the first person to scale the Matterhorn.  This feat turned Zermatt from a small agricultural village into a Mecca for climbers, skiers, and hikers.  For me, the objective was to photograph the iconic, pyramidal peak of the Matterhorn.  Geologists call this unique shape a glacial horn.  Originally, when collision of the African and European tectonic plates created the Alps, the Matterhorn was a dome shaped mountain.  Subsequent ice ages covered the dome shaped mountain with glaciers.  These glaciers eroded cirques on three sides of the mountain creating the unique shape of today’s Matterhorn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 14,690 feet, the Matterhorn creates its own weather and is often shrouded in clouds.  We were fortunate during our five-night stay in Zermatt with the photogenic mountain being visible about half the time, mostly in the mornings before obscuring clouds would form.  From Zermatt, there are several ways to traverse higher up the mountain to obtain different views of this glacier formed horn.  Not all the lifts were operating yet during our stay, so some of the photo locations I wanted to visit were not available.   However, the Gornergrat cogwheel railway was available to take us up to 10,000 feet in elevation.  We used this unique train several times to take us to different trailheads along the route.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane had gotten us a fantastic accommodation in Zermatt, a two room suite, with balcony, at the Perren Hotel, very close to the train station.  Some of our best views of the Matterhorn were from the balcony.  Lifts going up the mountain did not start running until about 8:00 AM well after sunrise at 5:30 preventing alpenglow photography.  Early on several mornings, however, we watched sunlight descend on the rocky face of the mountain from the comfort of our room.  Of course, I was out on the balcony with my camera.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From Zermatt, we trained back to Zürich for a five-night stay at the Marktgasse Hotel in the city’s historic old town district of  Niederdorf.  We explored much of old Zürich on foot.  The hotel was near the Zürichsee, a large lake in Zürich, where throngs of people gathered to stroll along the waterfront and frequented sidewalk cafés. The opera house was also located near the lake and provided free performances on an outdoor screen where people gathered with folding chairs and spread blankets to watch an opera.  We actually had tickets for an indoors performance of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Ballet at the opera house.  It was a non-traditional, avant-garde, production with colorful costuming, great choreography, and superb dancing.  During our stay in Zürich we also enjoyed a day-trip by train to Bern, the capital of Switzerland.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our time in the Swiss Alps ended when we packed our bags, boarded a tram to the bahnhof (train station), trained to the Zürich airport, and flew via Swiss Air to Venice to start the next phase of our European excursion.  At the Venice airport we rented a Fiat 500, stick shift, compact car with just enough trunk space to hold all our bags.  With the help of Google maps Jane navigated us through the maze of airport roads to get us to the autobahn and on our way to Cortina d’Ampezzo, our first destination in the Italian Alps.  Jane had rented us an apartment in Cortina d’Ampezzo for five nights and we day-tripped from there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dolomites are part of the Southern Alps and are uniquely different from the rest of the Alps due to the lighter color of the dolomite base rock.  When the Alps were formed, millions of years ago, this area of uplift had been coral reefs in a tropical see.  Like the Matterhorn, ice age glaciers eroded the uplifted mountain range into the spectacular peaks, pinnacles and escarpments visible today.  Elevation wise, the highest peaks in the Dolomites only range just over 10,000 feet or so.  At approximately 5,500 square miles, the Dolomite area is about one and a half times the size of Yellowstone National Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had done my research and developed a detailed itinerary of places to photograph in the Dolomites.  We drove to some of location, including some picturesque lakes, but mostly we used cable cars and chair lifts to reach the higher alpine valleys where the bare Dolomite peaks and massive cliffs were impressively close.  Although the trails are well marked, the trail markers are not always easy to spot.  We found ourselves turned around and going somewhat it circles at times, but we were never really lost.  The trails were well groomed and easy to navigate but I found that, no matter where you started or what your destination was, there was always an uphill grade to conquer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our stay in Cortina d’Ampezzo, we moved to Ortisei for a five night stay at the grand Hotel Stetteneck.  We found the Stetteneck more conveniently situated than the apartment in Cortina for walking into the village.  Ortisei is a very popular destination and we observed many groups of hikers, young and not so young, walk through the pedestrians-only village to the chair lifts.  The age range of hikers we passed on the trails was amazing, from young families with toddlers and baby-carrier backpacks, and a dog, to men and woman obviously at least my age, or older.  The Dolomites are riddled with cable cars and chair lifts.  Every high alpine meadow we visited had numerous lifts going in all directions on the mountain.  I told Jane that if we were to ski here, we would need a GPS to find our way off the mountain.  We enjoyed Ortisei a lot and had some wonderful day-trips from there with amazing mountain views.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From Ortisei we traveled to Corvara for our last four nights in the Dolomites.  We stayed in the Hotel Italia where we also had a two room suite but the décor was very stark and we did not “warm up” to the suite.  One of the longest and steepest cable cars we rode was in Corvara and the views at the top were spectacular.  I spent a lot of time working on panoramic compositions there.  Also, there was a regional “Bike Day” while we in Corvara where cyclists were given free reign and roads were closed to vehicular traffic.  That day we embarked on long hike and ended up in the village of Colfosco where we took a cable car to an alpine rifugio for a much needed lunch break.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like the Swiss Alps, the recreational infrastructure in the Dolomites is exceptional.  There are cable cars and lifts everywhere.  Trails are well maintained and signed.  Signage in the Dolomites, however, can be confusing.  A trail or roadway sign may appear to indicate direction to three different locations when it fact it is only one location in three languages, German, Ladin, and Italian. At the top of every lift there is a café or rifugio offering food, drink, and often rooms.  Roads throughout the Dolomites are steep, narrow and winding.  They are a magnet for speeding sport cars and daredevil motorcycles.  We encountered those continuously as we traveled to our photo destinations, not to mention cyclists slowly peddling up the steep grades or coasting extremely fast downhill.

On our fifteenth day in the Dolomites we left Corvara, turned south, and headed back towards Venice.  That night we stayed at the Marriott Hotel at the Venice Airport.  We repacked our bags again for the journey home.  On the morning June 28th we boarded our American Airlines flight back to Albuquerque, again enjoying our business class cubicles, and arriving in Albuquerque near midnight after a twenty hour travel day.  It is always good to be home again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see some additional photos of the Matterhorn and Dolomites, return to the homepage and go the Europe Gallery to Switzerland and Italy.

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/7/europe-2022 Wed, 13 Jul 2022 17:33:17 GMT
SPRING 2022 https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/4/spring-2022 Our travels for 2022 started in February with a fantastic private photo adventure of Costa Rica that exceeded expectations (See previous Blog).  This spring, our travels continued first with an attempt to escape Albuquerque’s cold weather followed by a trip to actually embrace the cold.  In mid-March we ventured south hoping for warmer temperatures. That did not happen but the conditions were much better than in Albuquerque where it snowed while we were gone.  One of our “Friday Happy Hour” neighbors, Jim Barnes, had gone out after the snowstorm to take some pictures around the neighborhood, including one of our house. 

The objective of our trip south was to photograph spring wildflowers at various locations.  Unfortunately the continuing drought in the southwest spoiled that. We did stumble upon some early blooming trees that were host to swarming pipevine swallowtail butterflies feeding on the blossom’s nectar.  During our random motoring along country roads we were also able to photograph some unidentified flowers growing along the shoulders of the road along with some birds and a field of cultivated bright yellow flowers that we assumed to be rapeseed.  So, all was not in vain for this short trip south.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continuing our Spring 2022 travels, in early-April, Jane and I ventured to Fairbanks, Alaska, to observe and photograph the Aurora Borealis. We knew it would be cold and it was very cold.  Fairbanks had endured more snowfall this winter than it had for several decades and massive drifts of snow had been plowed along sides of the roads.  I had signed us up for three consecutive nights of aurora watching. As it turned out I did not need the “insurance policy” of three tours as we watched in awe at the spectacular display of the aurora each night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For three consecutive nights, the routine went like this.  Dinner around six (fortunately there were several restaurants to select from around our hotel, including a Japanese restaurant where we had dinner several nights), then back to the hotel where we would receive an email around seven each night letting us know at what time we would be picked up by the tour guide.  The pickup time was usually sometime just before ten o’clock.  We would grab a short snooze between seven and nine each night before bundling up in our cold weather gear.  And bundle up we did with multiple layers of warm clothing topped with heavy parkas and chemical warmers in our gloves and boots.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Each night there were ten clients in the van heading out for the aurora.  Before starting, our guide would check the weather cams located around Fairbanks to find where there were clear skies.  Then we would set out driving about sixty miles or so out of town where there was no light pollution from Fairbanks.  The aurora is most vivid when the night is darkest and that was normally around one to two in the morning.  At that time, with clear skies, temperatures ranged from 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit making us very happy with our extreme attire.  We would get back to the hotel close to 4 AM each morning where we would unbundle ourselves and crawl into bed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane and I rated this trip a most definite success.  Images from the trip have been added to the Aurora Borealis gallery.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/4/spring-2022 Tue, 12 Apr 2022 14:37:00 GMT
COSTA RICA 2022 https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/3/costa-rica-2022 It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  It was supposed to be simple, a routine winter getaway to warm Costa Rica. Bags were packed and we were ready for an early morning departure.  But then, much to our surprise, Winter Storm Landon appeared on the scene and everything became complicated.  As we were getting ready to retire for the night, a text message from the airline informed us that our morning flight had been cancelled.  Complication after complication followed that initial text.  Eventually, in the middle of the night, we were able to purchase tickets on another airline for the next day, the day after our originally scheduled departure.  But we made it to Costa Rica even if it was a day late.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In preparation for our trip, we had arranged a customized itinerary with a local tour company Costa Rica Focus, which also included a private naturalist guide/driver.  The itinerary consisted of extended stays at three different locations, Manual Antonio National Park on the southern Pacific Coast, Arenal Volcano National Park in the highland rainforest, and the Sarapiqui region of the Caribbean lowlands.  At each of these locations, Costa Rica Focus had arranged for private wildlife viewing and photography at various ecological reserves and private biological conservation sanctuaries.  This was a twelve day, all-inclusive tour for just the two of us with Minor Hidalgo, our guide/driver, taking care of everything.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all the turmoil dealing with airline issues it was a relief to settle in at the Hotel Playa Espadilla adjacent to Manual Antonio National Park.  We were more than ready to enjoy the warm humid air, appreciate the remote jungle setting, and marvel at the diversity of wildlife.  Most of Costa Rica’s wildlife consists of birds with 850 species.  During our travels, Minor Hidalgo helped us locate and identify 155 species and I was able to photograph more than a hundred of those, with about half being species I had not photographed before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arrangements for this Costa Rica adventure were made well in advance of the actual trip.  So it came as a bit of a surprise to us that the trip coincided with my 83rd birthday.  We celebrated with dinner at El Avión, a very unique eatery at Manual Antonio where a C-123 Fairchild cargo plane had been converted into a pub and restaurant.  Now the pressure is on me to contrive a similar birthday experience for Jane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Manual Antonio, Costa Rica Focus’ itinerary included a private mangrove boat tour.  This excursion was tide dependent and required a pre-dawn departure from the hotel.   Jane and I had kayaked through a mangrove before in Baja California but that was nothing like the Costa Rica mangrove.  Here the various mangrove tree species were huge with a dense jumble of tangled roots reaching up from the water.  The narrow water ways gave the impression of boating through a jungle.  We encountered several new bird species including the diminutive American pygmy kingfisher and the very large bare-throated tiger heron.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next destination was Arenal Volcano National Park where we stayed four nights at the Arenal Observatory Lodge.  Outings from here included Ecocentro Danaus, a private ecological reserve, Mistico Hanging Bridges, with its 16 bridges suspended through the rainforest canopy, and Arenal Natura, where we were able to photograph tropical frogs and reptiles.  All these were private visits for just the two of us and our own guides.  We also spent a lot of time searching for and photographing birds around the Arenal Observatory Lodge.  Playing birds songs recorded on the Merlin app on his smart phone, Minor was able to entice small songbirds to approach close enough to be photographed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ara Ambigua Lodge, a friendly family run hotel, was our last accommodation.  In addition to photographing birds feeding on melons and bananas provided by the lodge staff, Minor also led us on explorations of area pastures to locate other Costa Rica birds including macaws, parakeets, tanagers, woodpeckers, and flycatchers.  One morning was spent at the La Selva Biological Station, a world renowned research facility.  La Selva was the first private ecological conservation area in Costa Rica.  The trails at La Selva meander through origin old growth rainforest where we encountered a variety of exotic, colorful birds, including trogons, motmots, and woodpeckers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our final stop on this truly amazing Costa Rica adventure was Cope’s Garden not far from the Ara Ambigua Lodge.  Cope’s Garden was created by wildlife artist José Albert Pérez as a retreat for birders and photographers.  From the garden, we followed José into the surrounding forest where he cleared a trail for us with his machete.  The purpose of this foray was to locate spectacled owls and white bats, both of which José successfully found for us.  Photographing the white bats proved to be a challenge.  These bats are very small, white fluffy mammals about the size of a ping pong ball.  They are nocturnal and roost during the day under large plant leaves that are folded into a “tent” shape.  I had to lay supine on my back while Minor illuminated the bats with a flashlight in order to photograph them.  I would dare say that was the highlight of the trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The ending of an outstanding adventure is bitter sweet.  To mitigate this nostalgia is to have reason to return.  I have a reason to return.  My primary goal for undertaking this Costa Rica trip was to photograph a mother sloth with her baby.  That did not happen.  Sloths were seen and photographed, even sloths with a baby were seen, but they were not photographable. So, happily I have a reason to return to Costa Rica and try again to attain my goal of photographing a sloth with baby.

To see more of the pictures from this trip to to the "Costa Rica 2022" Gallery on the home page of the web site.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/3/costa-rica-2022 Sun, 06 Mar 2022 21:33:04 GMT
First Road Trip Of 2022 https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/1/first-road-trip-of-2022 A year ago, on January first of 2021, Jane and I were ringing in the New Year with bubbly mimosas while watching the Tournament of Roses Parade on television.  Then and there we vowed to attend the next parade in person and spend some warm days away from the cold winter temperatures of Albuquerque.  A few days later Jane got us tickets to the parade and reservations at the Pasadena Sheraton.   As the new year approached, however, we became more and more anxious that the new Covid-19 Omicron variant would cause the parade to be cancelled.

The parade was not cancelled and we enjoyed our first road trip of 2022 to Pasadena, California.  It’s a comfortable two day drive from Albuquerque to Pasadena with an overnight in the Phoenix area.  For the holiday week, freeways were busy but not overly congested with lots and lots of eighteen-wheeler, big rig trucks.  You wouldn’t think there was a driver shortage with all the semi-trailer trucks on the freeways.

We arrived in Pasadena on a rainy December 29th .  The plan had been to spend time in the LA area sightseeing.  But the weather prevented that and we ended up spending the stormy weather channel surfing the TV in the hotel room.  After the storm system moved on, the rest of our stay was southern California sunny, but on the cool side.  The Omicron variant hadn’t stopped commerce in Pasadena.  On New Year’s Eve restaurants were busy and crowded.  Fortunately, Jane had the foresight to make dinner reservations well ahead of the holiday.

On the first day of the new year we were up at the crack of dawn for the half hour walk from the hotel to our grandstand seats along the parade route.  Masked up with our N-95’s, we walked past sleeping parade enthusiasts who had spent the night camped out along Colorado Boulevard.  Even in the early morning, vendors were already set up selling souvenirs and greasy, beacon wrapped hot dogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The parade was marvelous, everything we had expected.  The floats with their vast array of colorful flowers were beautiful and ingeniously engineered and constructed.  Among the many creative floats, the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom float was my favorite.  Marching bands from around the country, with their skimpily dressed, baton twirling, majorettes performed John Phillips Sousa favorites.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the parade we maneuvered back through the throngs of people to the hotel to pack up, check out and head for San Diego where we had arranged to meet up with old friends.  In San Diego, in addition to reuniting with our friends, we spent several delightful days visiting familiar sights including a stroll along the Embarcadero and Sea Port Village, a ferry ride across the bay to Coronado, and lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, The Prado, in Balboa Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2022/1/first-road-trip-of-2022 Mon, 10 Jan 2022 20:28:54 GMT
Year's End https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/11/years-end This travel year has come to an end.  For the last few remaining months of 2021 Jane and I have been staying close to home.  In early October we ventured out to enjoy the annual Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  This year we did not get tickets for the event, but watched the mass ascension from the “side lines” east of the venue that provided a different perspective.  There were some special shape balloons this year that we had not seen before.  It was a different, more distant, view but we didn’t have to deal with traffic and crowds getting to the balloon park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In mid-October we were getting “cabin fever” and opted for a short road trip to Ruidoso, a small town located in the Sierra Blanca Mountains, in central New Mexico.  With peaks at nearly 12,000 feet, the mountains around Ruidoso provided a pleasant respite from the low lying Rio Grande valley back home.  Before starting on this outing, Jane had found that there was a very nice and modern theater, the Spenser Theater for the Performing Arts, located near Ruidoso.  This $25 million gem was just fifteen minutes from our hotel and we enjoyed a performance by the Brothers Four, singing old favorites from the distance past.  The Spenser Theater also hosts a collection of colorful Chihuly glass sculptures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were three nights in Ruidoso and spent some time exploring the surrounding area with a brief stop at historic Fort Stanton.  The fort was established in 1855 to control the then warring Mescalero Apache Indians.  Eventually the Mescalero Apache were relocated to a reservation just south of Ruidoso where we enjoyed a lunch and beer at their Inn Of The Mountain Gods Casino.  During our forays around town we discovered that Ruidoso is home to herds of elk that roam the back roads and like to forage on grasses at the golf course and school play fields.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon returning home from our short trip to Ruidoso, we found that the cottonwood trees along the Rio Grande had started their fall display of brilliant yellow foliage.  Jane and I took the opportunity to make several trips to the open space corridor along the river to hike among the colorful trees.  Overhead we heard the gravelly calls of the sandhill cranes as they migrated back to their winter stomping grounds along the Rio Grande.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/11/years-end Sat, 06 Nov 2021 22:15:20 GMT
Armendaris Ranch https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/9/armendaris-ranch  

In the early 1800’s New Mexico, and most of America’s southwest, was still part of New Spain with the governor of the Northern Provinces of New Spain located in Santa Fe.  It was the custom at that time for the governor to award land grants as a favor for political or military service.  In 1918, Pedro Armendariz applied for a land grant, citing his military service and loyalty to the King of Spain and in late 1919 was awarded the Armendariz Land Grant consisting of 397,235 acres.  During the ensuing decades, first Mexico in 1821 and later the United States in 1848 controlled the New Mexico territory.  Throughout these governmental and subsequent ownership changes, the Armendariz Land Grant remained pretty much intact.  In 1990, the last owner of the land filed for bankruptcy and in 1994 Ted Turner purchased the property and established the 362,885 acre Armendaris Ranch. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The huge ranch, with a landmass greater than the city of Phoenix,  is located along the Rio Grande River in south central New Mexico near the quaint town of Truth Or Consequences (T or C).  The landscape is semi-desert grassland of the northern Chihuahua Desert. Since 1994 Turner has allowed the previously overgrazed land to regenerate and has established a number of environmental initiatives to restore native species.  One of those initiatives was protecting the Mexican free-tailed bat population at the Jornada Bat Caves located on the Armendaris Ranch.  I convinced Jane that we needed to photograph these bats and that is how we ended up at the Sierra Grande Lodge in T or C for a two night stay.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About 761,000 years ago a shield volcano erupted and spewed out a large basaltic lava flow.  As streams of hot lave flowed, the top crust cooled creating lava tunnels.  Centuries of erosion later, some of the crust lava, the roof of the lava tube, gave way and collapsed into the tube creating caves.  Some of these lava caves are on the Armedaris Ranch and from June to September, several hundred thousand female Mexican free-tailed bats migrate from Mexico to utilize the lava tube caves as their nursery. 

When tens of thousands of bats emerge from the cave each evening around dusk, Swainson’s hawks gather in the sky to prey on the bats.  This was a wildlife event I wanted to try and photograph.  I scheduled two tours to the bat cave to maximize the opportunity to capture some keeper images.  The bat tour departs from the Sierra Grande Lodge, a Ted Turner Preserve property, at 3:30 PM and requires a two and half hour drive across the ranch on dirt tracks to the bat cave.  We left home around noon in order to check into the lodge well before the 3:30 PM departure.  Our guide for the tours was Ken, a retired biologist and accomplished photographer.

Unlike last year, this summer New Mexico is experiencing a more normal monsoon season with clear skies in the morning transitioning to huge cumulus clouds with extensive lightning and dark ominous cumulonimbus clouds by late afternoon with cloudbursts following in a random pattern.  That was the scenario when we arrived in T or C that afternoon.  By the time Ken picked us up for the drive to the bat cave, threatening clouds were all around.  Ken checked his weather app that showed the storms were concentrated to the west and east of our trajectory and we pressed on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The contrast between the lush grassland vegetation on the Armendaris Ranch and the overgrazed conditions we had seen in southwestern New Mexico during our trip to Silver City was astounding.  By not grazing cattle or sheep on the ranch and allowing nature to restore the land, a healthy diversity of thriving plants and grasses abounded.  As we traversed the extensive ranch property there was a sense of isolation and returning to nature.  Along the way, we encountered a number of desert species I had never seen, let alone, photographed.  The western desert tarantula was one that Jane discovered as we were waiting for the bats to emerge.  The white lined sphinx, a type of hummingbird moth, we found pollinating and feeding on evening primrose flowers.  Ken nearly ran over a prairie rattlesnake that was sunning itself in the middle of the dirt track.  I also give Jane credit for spotting a tarantula hawk, although Ken had to tell us what it was, a spider wasp that preys on tarantulas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photographing the bats, however, proved problematic. The bats normally emerge from their roosting cave around dusk, a half hour before sunset.  We arrived at the cave at 6:30 PM and storm clouds to the west were obscuring the sun creating early dusk conditions.  The bats must have sensed that conditions that night were different and decided not the leave their shelter until nearly sunset.  We did see a string of bats fly out to forage for insects on the prairie but by that time it was too dark to attempt photography. That is why, as a form of insurance, I had scheduled two tours to the bat cave. 

The second night we arrived a bit earlier, but the weather was also a bit more threatening.  Ken had brought folding chairs so we would be more comfortable while waiting for the fly out.  We had barely set out the chairs and gotten cameras ready when it started to rain.  By the time we reached the shelter of Ken’s truck, a hundred yards off, we were pretty much soaked. This time the rain cells were right over us and Ken had to drive two hours on the water logged dirt track back to the paved road with torrential rain pelting down.  We made it back without incident but it was a scary ride.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, photographing Swainson’s hawks preying on bats was a bust but we experienced other photo ops during our two tours into the pristine grassland prairie of the Armendaris Ranch and the stay at Sierra Grande Lodge with its friendly staff was most enjoyable. Jane and I made a pact to return again to The Armendaris Ranch in the future to do more sightseeing in the area.  Of particular interest is a tour of the New Mexico Spaceport located not far from T or C and, of course, another chance to photograph Swainson’s hawks going after Mexican free-tailed bats.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/9/armendaris-ranch Thu, 02 Sep 2021 16:16:00 GMT
Glacier National Park In 2021 https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/8/glacier-national-park-in-2021 The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicted a robust return of vacation travel this summer with nearly fifty million travelers forecast to take to the roadways and skies.  Jane and I were willing participants in this enormous bubble of holiday travelers.  Our destination, along with throngs of other vacationers, was Glacier National Park.  In anticipation of record high visitations, the National Park Service limited visitors to the park by instituting a new ticket requirement for access to the Going-To-The-Sun Highway, the primary entry into the park.  We did not learn of this restrictive entrance requirement until it was too late for us to obtain a special ticket.  The only way for us to gain entry into the park by way of the Going-To-The-Sun Highway was to pass the park entrance station before six AM.  That meant getting up at 4:45 AM and hustling out of the cabin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were a week at our time-share cabin at Glacier Wilderness Resort and only made the super early run into the park twice.  Each time the objective was to reach Logan Pass in time to obtain a parking spot before rangers closed the parking lot.  The Hidden Lake Overlook trail that starts at Logan Pass has always been a good location for spotting the park’s varied wildlife.  This time was no exception as we enjoyed watching and photographing bighorn sheep, mountain goats, hoary marmots, Columbia ground squirrels and the ubiquitous golden mantled ground squirrel.  Being on the Hidden Lake Overlook trail in July provided us the chance to observe some animal family interactions.  I was photographing a large, adult hoary marmot when I noticed one, then two and eventually three pups cavorting around the area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are two areas on the east side of Glacier National Park that can be visited without the special ticket required for the Going-To-The-Sun Highway. So, after checking out of our time-share, we moved for a couple of days to the Glacier Park Lodge, built in 1913 by the Great Northern Railway, on the east side.  Two Medicine and Many Glaciers on the east side were inundated with visitors, who like us, did not have a special ticket.  We were turned back by park rangers during out first attempt to enter the park at Two Medicine because there were no parking spaces left.  It was suggested we arrive at this entrance early in the morning and that is what we did the second time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the scenic locations at Two Medicine is the Running Eagle Falls, a short walk from the parking pullout.  We made that our first stop and because we had arrived early, there were only a couple of cars there.  While photographing the falls, I noticed an American dipper flying along the water flowing from the waterfall.  Dippers are somewhat difficult to find because of their high elevation, clear stream habitat.  Obviously, I had to spend some time locating and photographing this bird.  It was “eagle eye” Jane, however, who spotted them first and had to point me in the right direction.  Eventually I was able to get some good images of the dipper, including a recently fledged immature bird being fed by an adult.  By the time we left Running Eagle Falls the parking area was full and numerous cars were parked along the shoulder of the road.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Glacier Park Lodge to Many Glaciers is normally a little over an hour’s drive.  This year, however, the entrance road from Babb to the park entrance station, an eleven mile stretch, was under construction, making this section of the route dusty, bumpy and slow.  When coming to Glacier National Park, we usually include a visit to Many Glaciers because we have had fairly good luck in finding large mammal wildlife there. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishcap Lake, a short hike from the Swiftcurrent Lodge parking area, is where moose are frequently seen and that was our objective.  We checked out Fishcap Lake for moose twice.  The first time, we got there mid-morning and it started to rain shortly after we arrived.  We were not prepared for rain and settled ourselves under the protective canopy of trees along the shore of the lake and waited, and waited.  We were far from being the only moose watchers along the edge of the lake.  Other likeminded visitors were practicing patience waiting for one of the big animals to appear.  Finally after more than an hour of waiting, the call “moose” went out from somewhere among the spotters along the lake. A female moose and calf had come out of the forest at the far side of the lake.  She and her newborn scurried along the edge of the lake for a few seconds and disappeared from view among the willow bushes.  Only if you happened to have your camera pointed in the right direction could a shot be obtained while the moose was in the open.  Fortunately, my camera and I were looking where the moose appeared and was able to get an image of the adult and calf trotting along the edge of the lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We arrived in the early morning for our second visit to Fishcap Lake.  It was a gorgeous sunny morning with brilliant reflections in the lake water, just the kind of morning you would love to have a moose walk into the lake.  Well that did not happen.  I waited and waited for more than three hours before my patience ran out.  Jane had the good sense to leave long before I did to relax at the Lodge.  The only distraction that occurred while waiting for a moose to appear was that a large spotted frog had jumped into the lake right in front of us.  It had been startled by a hiker passing by and offered some photographic relief during an otherwise boring morning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glacier National Park is a special place and we enjoy every visit.  This July visit was unique.  Most of our visits to the park have been in late September.  Turned out that one of our neighbors also has a time-share at Glacier Wilderness Resort and we traded our time in September for their time in July.  This visit provided us a different view of the park with colorful wildflowers, instead of the golden aspen trees of fall, and young baby animals, instead of the larger grown up animals intent on bulking up for the winter hibernation.  I would be remiss, however, if not mentioning that this visit in July was hampered by extremely smoky conditions from the many wildfires in the west.  We felt sorry for first time park visitors who were not being able to clearly see the grandeur of the peaks and valleys of the great Rocky Mountains.

Other images from this trip have been added to the Glacier National Park sub-gallery in the National Parks and Monuments main gallery.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/8/glacier-national-park-in-2021 Thu, 12 Aug 2021 19:18:14 GMT
Crested Butte https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/7/crested-butte After our nearly two-week, high desert adventure in May, Jane and I set our sights on a shorter, cooler trip to the Colorado Rockies.  At the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains, spring wildflowers arrive in late June so we planned this new adventure to coincide with the wildflower bloom in the Rockies.  We chose Crested Butte, “the wildflower capital of Colorado”, as our destination and rented a condominium apartment for five nights to serve as our home-base for exploring the high alpine meadows of the Elk Mountains.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crested Butte, established in 1878, was historically a coal mining town.  With the decline in the need for coal, mining operations closed down in the early 1950’s and in the 1960’s Crested Butte re-emerged as a ski destination.  During the summer, Crested Butte is a haven for dirt bike enthusiast with dozens of bike trails through the Gunnison National Forest.  Of course, we were there for the wildflowers and were not disappointed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colorado Highway 135 dead ends at Crested Butte and from Crested Butte there are only dirt roads leading west and north.  I had consulted a guide book to Colorado’s best wildflower photography locations around Crested Butte by Andy Cook, a well known Colorado photographer.   So, Jane and I traversed all these roads in our quest to locate wildflowers locations mentioned in the guide book.  Each day we selected a different track to explore and we discovered the vast aspen forests and scenic backcountry of the Rocky Mountains around Crested Butte.  Jane’s favorite was the Ohio Creek Road with its stunning vistas and majestic mountains.  My favorite was Gothic Road that yielded vast alpine fields of wildflowers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the colorful displays of wildflowers, we also encountered a variety of wildlife, including mule deer, yellow bellied marmots, the ubiquitous golden mantled ground squirrel, a lone sandhill crane, and a fox.  Since my selection of camera equipment was based on flower photography, some of the wildlife, particularly birds, was too far away for my shorter focal distance lenses.  Nevertheless, some good images were acquired.  I will place the photos from this trip in a new gallery titled “Crested Butte, Colorado”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane and I so enjoyed the beauty of these high alpine mountain settings that we are committed to returning to Crested Butte for a future fall foliage photography expedition.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/7/crested-butte Sun, 18 Jul 2021 16:45:18 GMT
Déjà Vu https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/5/d-j-vu One of Yogi Berra's famous quotes is, “It’s déjà vu all over again”.  In 2008, Jane and I had traveled to Page, Arizona, and now thirteen years later we were back, " all over again".  This was our third road trip of 2021 and I had developed an adventurous itinerary for this return to Page, including tent camping, hiking and a scenic flight.

The adventure began with our drive to Page through the Navajo Nation.  At more than 27,400 square miles, it is the largest reservation in the U.S. and bigger than ten states. We stopped at Window Rock, the capitol city of the Navajo Nation, and made a short visit to the Window Rock Tribal Park and Veteran’s Memorial.  We then followed Highway 264, the Navajo Code Talkers Highway, past the Hubbell Trading Post where Jane and I had stopped in 2008.  It is now a National Historic Site and, unfortunately, we found it closed due to covid restrictions.  Highway 264 changed to the Hopi Code Talkers Highway as we entered the Hopi reservation.  The Hopi reservation is totally surrounded by the Navajo reservation and only about a tenth its size.  In 2008 we had toured Second Mesa, the center of Hopi culture, with a Hopi guide.  This time we merely reminisced as we drove through the reservation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our destination for this first travel day was the Cliff Dwellers Lodge near Marble Canyon in Arizona.  The Cliff Dwellers Lodge was the launching place for a three day photo tour of White Pocket in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.  This was no run-of-the-mill photo tour.  To reach White Pocket, there was a two hour ride from the Cliff Dwellers Lodge with at least half of that on unimproved House Rock Valley Road and other 4-wheel drive dirt tracks with deep sand sandstone slick rock.  When Jane and I were at White Pocket in 2008 it was only for a few hours.  This time it was two whole days and that meant camping out on the remote Paria Plateau.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photo tour was sponsored by Arizona Highways PhotoScapes and the camp outfitter was Kanab, Utah, based Dreamland Safari Tours.  They set up our camp, provided tents, sleeping bags, mats and meals.  It had been literally decades since either of us had slept on the ground in a tent.  In anticipation of this adventure, camping out under the stars far from civilization was expected to be an incredibly exciting experience.  In real time, however, we found it to be a struggle squirming into sleeping bags in the confinement of a small tent.  Mother Nature also dealt us a nasty blow by offering night time temperatures well below normal.  We were pretty uncomfortable that first night.  The second night was much better because Dreamland had communicated with their office in Kanab to dispatch extra blankets to the camp.  All in all, however, camp life was enjoyable and we had seven other good-natured photographers to share the ambiance of camp life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Pocket is an intriguing photographic destination of multicolored Navajo sandstone formations.  A grayish white sandstone layer covers red sandstone creating cross-bedded, twisted, swirling, multicolored formations creating a fantasy landscape. The whole colorful outcropping is only a couple of miles long and the sandstone provides a gritty surface for boots to cling to making traction easy on the undulating terrain.  Camping out provided the opportunity to photograph the fascinating White Pocket formation at sunrise and sunset.  As a bonus, I was also able to practice some night sky photography, with mixed results however.

Images of White Pocket are located in the National Parks and Monuments Gallery under Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photo tour ended at the Cliff Dwellers Lodge where it has started.  After gathering our gear and bidding adieu to our fellow photographers, Jane and I headed to Page for a good long shower and a much needed nap.  I had scheduled three nights in Page and Jane had made reservations for a king room at the Hyatt Place hotel, a smart, modern, new facility.  We thoroughly enjoyed the space of a king room after two nights in a small tent.  The next morning was a sleep-in and the day was set aside for some shopping in Page.  The pandemic, however, had caused many shops to close or go out of business.  We did manage to do some browsing and found the same Mexican restaurant, Fiesta Mexicana, where we had dined thirteen years ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That evening, around sunset, I had scheduled a scenic flight over Lake Powell with American Aviation Air Tours in Page.  A scenic flight was something we had not done on our previous trip to Page and something new to look forward to.  It was an old, well worn, Cessna that transported us upward and around Lake Powell.  Covid protocol imposed by American Aviation prevented Jane from occupying the co-pilot seat and required both of us to sit in the narrow back seats.  That meant that I could not move back and forth between windows in order to have the sun at my back for proper photographic lighting.  For this flight, however, photography was a secondary consideration and enjoying a scenic flight over an extremely scenic lake was the prime objective.

Images from the scenic flight can be found in the National Parks and Monuments Gallery under Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My diverse itinerary had us up early the next morning for a hike into Buckskin Gulch, reportedly the longest and deepest slot canyon on the Colorado Plateau.  I had arranged for a guide with Seeking Treasure Adventures, out of Kanab, to lead us to the slot canyon.  There are two primary trails to Buckskin Gulch, the Middle Route and the Wire Pass trail that was described as the moderate approach.  We met our guide, Hunter Bell, at Big Water, Utah, and he drove us to the trail head.  I had assured Jane that the Wire Pass trail would be easy and that we could always turn back when we had reached our hiking limit.  What I failed to understand was that the two trail heads do not start at the same location and that Hunter, not realizing that we had opted for the easy route, had taken us to the Middle Route trail head.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After some discussion about the difficulty of the Middle Route, Hunter assured us that we were in good enough condition to take on this more challenging approach.  Of course how Hunter could tell we were in good enough shape, I don’t know.  In the end, we trusted his instinct as a guide and proceeded toward Buckskin Gulch.  In actuality there is no defined “trail” and Hunter guided us across open desert terrain.  The Utah tourist office web site describes the middle route as “a short, no-nonsense approach to the lower reaches of Buckskin Gulch – a cross-country and wash route - good route finding ability required - very strenuous - Class 3 and Class 4 down-climbing to enter Buckskin Gulch”.

After about an hour and half of hiking cross country we reached Buckskin Gulch.  The slot canyon appeared right in front of us one hundred feet below.  This is where all of Hunter’s encouragement, enthusiasm and guiding skill was needed to get the two of us down that last, extremely steep, one hundred feet.  He helped us find hand and foot holds carved into the sandstone centuries before by indigenous people that had used this exit from the slot canyon as an ancient trade route.  I don’t know how we managed, but with adrenaline flowing Jane and I both made it to the bottom and into Buckskin Gulch.  After spending some time exploring and photographing the slot canyon we returned to the dreaded one hundred foot cliff to start our ascent back up.  Our hearts were still beating by the time we returned to Hyatt Place.  We were full of excitement about what we had accomplished and surprised that we had the stamina and courage to do it.  Hunter had been correct that we were in good enough shape.

Images from this adventure can be found in the Buckskin Gulch Gallery.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortunately my itinerary called for a late start the next day and we savored relaxing as we packed our bags.  Early that afternoon, the plan was to meet guides from Action Photo Tours at Big Water for an overnight trip to Alstrom Point on the north shore of Lake Powell.  In 2008 Jane and I had driven the 4Runner to Alstrom Point but only stayed a few hours.  We did not want to traverse the four-wheel drive track to return to Page in the dark.  This photo tour would allow us to be at this popular scenic location overlooking Lake Powell at both sunset and sunrise.  The downside was another night in a small tent.  We were rewarded, however, with the classic panoramic view of Gunsight Butte and Navajo Mountain at sunset.  I also got some good tips from the guides about night sky photography.  All I have to do now is learn Photoshop, not an easy task.

Images from Alstrom Point can be found in the National Parks and Monuments Gallery under Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alstrom Point photo tour returned us to Big Water mid-morning the next day. From Big Water we drove back to Hyatt Place to retrieved our stored bags, had lunch at our now favorite Mexican restaurant, and started our way back home.  On the way home, just before reaching Farmington, New Mexico, we achieved yet one more significant travel milestone.  To be correct it was the always faithful and dependable Toyota 4Runner that achieved this milestone as it clocked 225,000 miles on the odometer.  Since 2004 the 4Runner has been our companion on many memorable adventures.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/5/d-j-vu Fri, 28 May 2021 14:17:44 GMT
Exploring Southern New Mexico https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/5/exploring-southern-new-mexico An excursion to the southern part of our new home state was a pre-covid idea that finally became a reality.  On April 15th, Jane and I embarked on a long delayed nine-day road trip to southern New Mexico.  We journeyed from Albuquerque to Silver City, in the southwest corner of New Mexico to Carlsbad in the southeast corner.  Along our route we observed how severely New Mexico’s drought has impacted the landscape.  Vast areas of open range had only sparse stands of drought tolerant creosote bushes with little other vegetation growing in the bare desert ground.

The primary destination for this exploration was Silver City in Grant County.  During my research I had learned about several rock art sites in the Silver City area that I wanted to photograph.  However, I was unable to find any specific directions on the internet to locate these sites.  The general information I did find would have me searching a vast area of desert terrain without any assurance of success.  Eventually I stumbled upon the web site for the Grant County Archaeological Society and contacted them to see if one of their members would be willing to guide me to the rock art sites.

In a favorable response, Kyle Meredith, the Society’s president, indicated that he would be willing to guide me.  After several email communications, Kyle and I had decided on an itinerary and time frame to visit several rock art sites.  Best of all, it turned out that Kyle had a guest house where we could stay during our Silver City tour.  We arranged to lodge in Kyle's guest house for five nights giving us four whole days for exploration.

On our way to Silver City, Jane and I first stopped at The Very Large Array, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, located on the Plains of San Agustin, about 50 miles west of Socorro in central New Mexico.  This astronomical observatory consists of 27 radio antennas, each 82 feet in diameter.  The science about this facility is way, way over my head, but suffice it to say that the radio antennas can look into deep space and have enabled scientists to make many profound discoveries about the universe and our own Milky Way galaxy.  Due to covid the visitor center was closed but we could drive up to the gate and observe the antennas from the entrance road.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From The Very Large Array, we traversed along U.S. Highway 60 to New Mexico Highway 12 and on to U.S. Highway 180, the long way to Silver City.  We made a slight detour to check out an alleged ghost town.  In the late 1800’s rich gold and silver veins were discovered in the area leading to the establishment Mogollon (pronounced mo-gie-yon), a wild-west mining town.  In its heyday, Mogollon hosted a population of several thousand.  Today only a handful of people reside in Mogollon and most of its wooden and adobe buildings stand abandoned.  We did not linger long and continued to our next objective, the Catwalk National Recreational Trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Catwalk was something we just had to see since our route to Silver City went right by it.  In the 1890’s an ore processing mill was constructed at the head of Whitewater Canyon.  To generate power and operate the mill a water pipeline was constructed down Whitewater Canyon and a wooden-plank boardwalk, was constructed over the pipeline.  That was the original catwalk.  As the mines ran out and the mill fell into ruin, the catwalk also disintegrated.  In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps was assigned the task of rebuilding the catwalk as a recreational attraction for the Gila National Forest.  The CCC catwalk was destroyed by a major flood down Whitewater Canyon in 2012.  Today’s catwalk is a modern, structurally sound, steel reconstruction that is cantilevered out from the steep canyon cliffs over Whitewater Creek.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we hiked back down Whitewater Canyon we noticed some lady birders with field glasses searching the distant trees for birds.  I could not help but ask what they had in their sights.  At the moment they were observing a yellow warbler but had recently seen an American dipper just downstream.  After getting directions to where the dipper had been seen Jane and I searched for it without success.  As we headed back to the parking lot, one of the birders called after us to say that the dipper was back.  We followed her back but I could not see the bird until she let me look through her binoculars.   Then I saw it but could not believe than an American dipper would be in this desert environment.  But there it was and I took several pictures.  Later, I checked the distribution of this bird and found that it is a year round resident in a few higher mountain locations in southern New Mexico.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We arrived in Silver City around 5:00 PM where we met Kyle and were introduced to the guest house, Casa Otra, and to Kyle’s partner Josh.  Casa Otra was a comfortable, extensively modified, mobile home jam packed with a vast variety of knickknacks accumulated by Kyle and Josh over many years.  To welcome us, Kyle had prepared a chicken curry dish that the four of us enjoyed while getting to know each other. What a great way to start a four day exploration of the Silver City area. 

Our first outing was a day long trip to rock art locations in Frying Pan Canyon and Pony Hills in the remote China Draw area north of Deming.  Kyle and Josh had been out in these areas a number of times and they scouted ahead locating the best petroglyph panels for me to photograph.  It was at Pony Hills that Josh got the surprise of his life.  Leaning over one of several deep mortar holes ground into the bedrock by ancient people, he came face to face with a hissing rattle snake.  With an instant startled reaction, Josh bounded backward, high into the air, landing on a boulder several feet away.  Lucky for Josh he kept his balance but he was physically shaken by sight of the rattler.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next day was very windy so we decided to head north forty miles on Highway 15 to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.  These cliff dwellings were built in naturally eroded alcoves around 700 years ago by the Tularosa Mogollon people.  Due to covid social distancing restrictions, we could not enter the dwellings and could only photograph them from the trail below.  That was a bit disappointing but gives us reason to return post-covid.  I did not add any images from the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument to my galleries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following day was still windy and we decided to spend the morning roaming the galleries of Silver City’s Historic District.  Most galleries were open, with capacity restrictions, and we enjoyed the variety of arts and crafts displayed.  Of course, you can’t view all this creative work without some temptation to purchase and, needless to say, we gave in to that temptation.  Later in the afternoon we headed south on Highway 180 to New Mexico’s City of Rocks State Park.  The “city” is a geologic formation made up of large, eroded volcanic rock columns separated by trails mimicking city streets. Millions of years in the making, the City of Rocks was a fascinating place to visit and photograph.  Images from this “city” can be found in the State Parks gallery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last day in Silver City was again devoted to rock art photography.  This time Kyle and Josh guided us to Apache Flats and Apache Tank north of Interstate 10 along Doña Ana County Road 001.  Although there are some historic Apache petroglyphs, most are attributed to the Mogollon culture, one of the major prehistoric cultures, who occupied this region of New Mexico for over twelve hundred years.  Jane and I concluded that without Kyle and Josh’s knowledge about where to find the petroglyph panels we would not have found them by ourselves.  We treated our hosts to a farewell dinner at the Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery where we savored some locally crafted brews.  The rock art images from this trip can be found in the Rock Art gallery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carlsbad Cavern National Park was our next objective.  From Silver City, the drive to Carlsbad is a reasonable six hours.  We chose to break up the drive with lunch in Cloudcroft, a small pioneer village nestled in the pine trees of the Sacramento Mountains at an elevation of 8,700 feet.  Dave’s Café was the only choice in Cloudcroft, so we munched on a tasty lunch there and then browsed some of the gift stores where Jane was able to replenish her supply of bulk teas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historically, the city of Carlsbad had an agricultural economy with the Pecos River providing needed irrigation water.  Today, the city’s economy is boosted by oil and natural gas production from the Permian Basin that underlies southeastern New Mexico.  The famous Carlsbad Caverns are located about thirty minutes south of town and provide a substantial tourist trade.  Much of what you see driving the main drag into Carlsbad has an older, industrial look.  So, Jane and I decided to take a spin off the main highway and discovered some affluent neighborhoods with very large, beautiful homes along the Pecos River frontage.

The caverns are spectacular and worthy of national park status. Current restrictions required that time specific entrance tickets be obtained on a first come first served basis.  I got our timed tickets in advance, on line, before leaving home.  To ensure sufficient time for photography in the cave, I had purchased tickets for two separate days.  Jane joined me for the first day but opted out to relax instead in our Candlewood Suites hotel room the second day.  I had plenty of time to photograph because once in the cave you could stay as long as you wanted, up to closing time.  Getting good images in the dark cavern with only scattered accent lighting was difficult.  Fortunately, tripods were permitted in the cave and that allowed me to take long exposure as well as HDR (High Dynamic Range) shots.  Still, the results were not great.  You can see images from Carlsbad Caverns in the National Parks & Monuments gallery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before leaving Carlsbad, we made the one hour drive to Sitting Bull Falls.  The waterfalls and pools in this, U.S. Forest Service managed, recreation area are fed by springs and are a very popular attraction during the heat of summer.  In contrast, we were the only visitors in late April and I was able to photograph the falls without having to dodge kids playing in the pools.  The Sitting Bull Recreation Area is located in the Guadalupe Mountains area of the Lincoln National Forest. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The approximate five hour drive home from Carlsbad took us through Roswell where we stopped for breakfast at the local Denny’s.  Roswell has actively created interest in the alleged crash of an extraterrestrial spacecraft in 1947 and is home of the International UFO Museum.  We didn’t take time to visit the museum and we did not see any unidentified flying objects.  We did pass the Roswell International Air Center, however, where we observed hundreds of aircraft tail sections poised above the horizon.  I learned that the Roswell International Air Center was developed after the closure of Walker Air Force Base. In 1967 this base was the largest air base of the Strategic Air Command, covering 4,600 acres. Today, the Air Center is used to store, refurbish and dismantle airliners. Airline companies from around the world now store, repair and obtain parts from other aircraft at the Roswell International Air Center.

After breakfast it was Jane’s turn at the wheel and she had to buck strong head winds most of the way home.  We reached the house around 1:00 PM and by 1:30 Jane was soaking in a hot bubble bath.  Sorry, no pictures.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/5/exploring-southern-new-mexico Thu, 06 May 2021 00:28:48 GMT
Finally A Road Trip https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/4/finally-a-road-trip Yes, finally Jane and I broke with the Covid-19 travel restrictions and ventured out for our first road trip of 2021.    We hadn’t prepared for a road trip in such a long time that packing for this trip took a bit longer than usual and required the use of an old packing list so we wouldn't forget anything. We headed south from Albuquerque to southern Arizona early on a Sunday morning in late March and it felt good to be on the road again for more than a few hours.  Our destination was The Pond At Elephant Head, a bird photography retreat owned and run by Daniel Grayson.  The Pond is situated about 30 minutes south of Green Valley, Arizona, where we met up with our San Diego friends Dali and Neil Solomon.

Early Monday morning the four of us met Daniel (who prefers Dano) and were shown around The Pond.  The pond is actually a small, shallow depression dug into the earth filled with water that attracts birds in the arid southern Arizona desert. In addition, around the circumference of the pond, Dano has placed numerous feeding stations and perches, mimicking the natural habitat of the Sonoran desert.    So this small desert watering hole, with its food and shelter, has been transformed into an oasis for birds.  Photography is accomplished from comfortable, although well used, blinds. 

One memorable photographic highlight was an encounter with a Cooper’s hawk.  This raptor preys on birds and was well aware that birds congregated at the pond.  According to Dano, this Cooper’s hawk makes routine visits to the pond.  We noticed that whenever this predator made an appearance, all the birds immediately disappeared into the undergrowth and a silent hush settled over the pond.  This happened several times while we were in the blind but we never actually saw the hawk.   One time, when all the birds vanished from view, in my periphery I observed some movement.  It was the Cooper’s hawk sitting on a stout branch in the brush next to the blind.  Apparently the hawk was so intent on looking for prey that it was unaware of me moving my camera around to grab a few shots of it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

During my research about The Pond I had seen some really amazing roadrunner images that were taken there.  I asked Dano about the roadrunner and he very positively assured us that he could entice the bird with some wormy morsels to come within camera range.  I did not know, but roadrunners are monogamous, so when Dano called the roadrunner in, there were actually two of them, a mated pair.  We got some very nice frame-filling shots of the quick birds as they ran in for their worms.  Dano even got one of them to fly, and that it very unusual for a roadrunner.  By placing a worm high on a perch, the bird had to fly up to fetch it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The four of us departed The Pond late afternoon to caravan two and a half hours east to our next destination, the Battiste Bed, Breakfast and Birds, a B&B in Hereford, Arizona.  The B&B is hosted by Tony and Julie Battiste and is located in the lower Miller Canyon area of the Huachuca Mountains, famous for its spring and fall bird migrations.  Tony is an avid birder and an accomplished photographer and, like The Pond, has created a bird friendly environment in his garden with a water feature, plenty of feeders and perches.  For photographers, he built a blind from where migrating birds could be easily photographed.

At Tony’s, I tried capturing birds in flight with a special setting on my Olympus camera.  When my efforts proved futile I mentioned it to Neil.  After checking the camera manual and going through the camera’s special menus, we concluded that I did not have the camera’s latest firmware.  I aborted using the camera’s special setting, reverted back to using a fast motor drive, shooting in anticipation of the bird taking off or landing, and hoping for some reasonable results.  Upon returning home, downloading updated firmware became a high priority.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After four nights at Tony’s B&B, we four intrepid travelers backtracked to the Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon just southeast of Green Valley.  There we spent two more days photographing birds.  In theory, at the lodge, being situated at a higher altitude in Madera Canyon, there should have been a different variety of migrating birds.  We noticed, however, that the birds were pretty much the same and that, in general, the spring migration was not as plentiful as normal.  The variety of species and numbers of birds were far less than we have experienced at other times photographing in southeastern Arizona.  To make up for the lack of bird species, a coati came foraging through the cabin area where we were staying and moved just slowly enough for me to get a snapshot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rather than staying in Madera Canyon photographing the same birds, Jane and I decided to drive to Tucson, about an hour north, to do some exploring there.  Neil had told us about Reid Park in Tucson where vermillion flycatchers were frequently seen and photographed.  We were told to look for flycatchers by the parking areas near the dog walk.  Of course we had no idea where that was.  The park is very large and includes the Tucson zoo.  We asked for directions to the dog walk at the zoo entrance and eventually found the dog walk area.  We sat in the car looking out the windshield a bit befuddled not knowing where exactly to start looking.  Then, there it was right in front of us, a bright red vermillion flycatcher foraging in the grass.  In addition to the flycatcher, I also happened upon a very small, pretty verdin darting around in an acacia tree.  The trip to Tucson turned out to be more rewarding than staying in Madera Canyon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way home we made one more stop.  I had read that late March was the time for wildflowers in the Organ Mountains and Las Cruces was the logical place to stay. We spent a day looking for wildflowers.  Unfortunately, there had been no late winter rain to germinate the seeds.  We did see a few scattered Mexican poppies along the shoulder of Aguirre Springs Road but not the blanket of color in the foothills that could be expected in a normal water year.  After a couple of nights in Las Cruces we turned north on I-25 for home and so ended our first road trip of 2021 with lots of bird pictures but not wildflowers.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2021/4/finally-a-road-trip Wed, 14 Apr 2021 15:41:38 GMT
THE YEAR THAT WASN'T https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2020/12/the-year-that-wasnt The shortest day of the year is quickly approaching end temperatures along the Rio Grande rift valley have turned chilly.  The holidays will shortly be upon us.  Yes, 2020, the year that wasn’t, will soon be over.  Jane and I have come to grips with the travel constraints imposed on us by the pandemic.  Optimistically, we have re-booked our cancelled 2020 trips and have fingers crossed that we can travel to our chosen locations in 2021.  In the meantime, we have also started to prepare for the holidays.  We have assembled our artificial Balsam Hill Christmas tree and decorated it with many of the ornaments we have collected from our travels.  Jane has also decorated the house with all kinds of joyful yuletide displays.  Santa’s mail order gifts have started to arrive and are being colorfully displayed under the branches of the Christmas tree.

During New Mexico’s avoid-crowds-advisory, we have been day-tripping by ourselves to explore more of New Mexico’s diverse scenery.  We felt safe from potential Covid-19 infection with just the two of us confined in our own car.  Our destinations were to remote areas where we encountered only a couple of other people and were able to stay yards, not merely feet, away. With the help of several guide books, we scouted out several potential photo locations.  Early winter, with brown and dormant desert vegetation, is not the most scenic time for landscape photography, however.  My plan was to accumulate a list of places to return to in spring when new growth should make the desert appear green again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One location Jane and I scouted was the Ojito Wilderness area about an hour and half from home.  There are two established trails in this wilderness set-aside and we explored both.  Both trails were about two miles round trip with modest elevation gains.  The first trail led to some ancient petroglyphs situated on the edge of a mesa with a magnificent view of the surrounding terrain, eroded with deep washes and arroyos.  The other trail terminated at an area of colorful sandstone hoodoos.  The scenery and photo opportunities were compelling, so we went back for some photography a few weeks later.  Images from these trails can be found in the Ojito Wilderness Area gallery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Ancestral Puebloan PetroglyphsAncestral Puebloan PetroglyphsPanoramic Composition Of Ancient Ancestral Puebloan Petroglyphs Located In The Ojito Wilderness Area Of Sandoval County, New Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

The next area we explored was San Lorenzo Canyon, also about an hour and half from home but to the south.  The San Lorenzo Canyon hike was mostly in a wide, sandy wash with high, sloping escarpments on either side.  The guide book advised that this trail was about 4 miles round trip, but we encountered a substantial rock fall about half way that we did not attempt to scramble over.  There were some interesting rock formations along the section of the trail that we did hike and San Lorenzo Canyon is on my list to return to in the spring.

Cabezon Peak is a large, steep sided neck of volcanic rock, rising nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, and a well know landmark in northwest New Mexico.  This giant volcanic plug is visible for miles in all directions as it towers over the low lying Rio Puerco valley.  This was an obvious landscape feature for me to investigate and explore.  During my internet research, I discovered that there were also ancient pueblo ruins and petroglyphs in this area.  So, travel to Cabezon Peak became another day-trip away from urban crowds.  This trip was a bit longer, about two hours northwest of home, with an extensive stretch of dirt track.  Cabezon Peak was impressive but a cloudless sky and scarce winter foliage did not make for good picture taking.  This landscape was also added to my spring location list.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jane and I next ventured a bit further on this dirt track to the Guadalupe Ruins.  These ruins, constructed about eleven hundred years ago, are the easternmost outlier of the Chacoan culture that flourished in the southwest at that time.  The Guadalupe Ruins are situated on the edge of an isolated mesa about 200 feet above the valley floor.  The only access is along a short, but very steep, trail that we traversed with some difficulty.  The top of the mesa offered an amazing view of the Rio Puerco valley with its myriad gullies, ravines and volcanic plugs penetrating the horizon.   Since there were no clouds to add drama to the scene, I will have to return to this site and again climb to the top of the mesa in order to capture more compelling images.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After taking a refreshment break and resting our legs from the steep descent, we attempted to locate the petroglyphs in Tapia Canyon a short stint further down the dirt road.  I had found longitude and latitude coordinates for the trail head during my research into this remote area of New Mexico.  The trail to the petroglyphs, although not strenuous, was a long two miles in.  After about a mile in, however, our legs started to complain and realizing how far we still had to go, and return, we aborted our attempt to reach the petroglyphs.  So, Tapia Canyon is definitely a location to return to next spring.

 

Bosque del Apache is a world famous New Mexico wildlife refuge that Jane and I had visited a number of times while living in San Diego.  Now this popular refuge, with its innumerable sandhill cranes, snow geese and other water fowl, is only a two hour drive south from home.  To continue our avoidance of crowds, in early December we decided on a day trip to re-visit Bosque.  Based on our previous excursions, we had high expectation about the wildlife photography opportunities.  Unfortunately, our optimistic outlook was not realized.  Whether a result of drought or refuge management, many familiar roosting ponds along the access road were dry.  Consequently the dramatic mass of snow geese ascending from these ponds that photographers yearn for did not occur.  The only mass ascension I was able to capture was one of red winged black birds, not snow geese.  Photo opportunities along the loop road were significantly less than on our previous visits to Bosque.  We toured Bosque for several hours and did manage to get a “keeper” or two before returning home.  These new shots can be found in the Bosque del Apache sub-gallery in the Wildlife Refuges main gallery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although all our foreign travel was aborted in this coronavirus dominated year, Jane and I have managed to safely get out of the house.  Our recent local explorations have resulted in a list of photo sites to visit next spring.  We are optimistic about travel in 2021 and in the meantime we will be celebrating this year’s holidays with chilled bubbly from California.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2020/12/the-year-that-wasnt Sat, 12 Dec 2020 17:56:46 GMT
Visiting Familiar Places https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2020/10/visiting-familiar-places Long before this year, dominated by the coronavirus, began, Jane and I had planned and organized an incredible travel schedule for 2020.  Of course, none of those journeys materialized as we sheltered at home, wore masks and practiced safe distancing.  When we realized that our most anticipated trip to Europe was off the table, we anxiously explored other potential options.  We eventually settled on and patched together a long road trip to our timeshare cabin in West Glacier, Montana.

The cabin is a long 1,275 miles from home and we broke the twenty hour drive into shorter segments with stops in Moab and Brigham City, Utah.  The layover in Brigham City was planned to allow a visit with my 93 year old sister, Neli.  Traditionally, Jane and I have stopped to visit with Neli and her husband, Fred, on our way to or from the cabin.  Since we had not been to the cabin for many years it was a welcomed pleasure to visit with them again. We were both amazed on how sharp and witty both Neli and Fred were at their advanced age.

We arrived at the cabin only to find Glacier National Park and surroundings shrouded in smoke from the inferno of fires in Washington and Oregon.  We found ourselves for several days again “sheltering at home”.  The cabin is situated in the "satellite shadow" of some high mountains with very spotty internet access, so during those smoky days our time was spent reading and relaxing.  I had brought some bird feed that I spread along the wooden railing of the front porch and entertained myself with photographing small critters and birds that came in for the easy pickings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jane came up the excellent idea to see if I could line up something with Triple D.  Triple D Game Farm, located in Kalispell, Montana, about 45 minutes from the cabin, provides “wildlife models” that keepers bring to natural settings for photography.  I was able to schedule a photo shoot and selected some small mammals to photograph, including a young wolf, bobcat, fox, badger and a couple of playful bobcat kittens.  The shoot at Triple D made up for the lack of picture taking in the park due to the smoky conditions.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankfully, after several days, rains came and cleared the air.  So during the last week of our two week stay we were able to venture out and enjoy the national park.  We had not been to Glacier National Park for about four years and were amazed at the number of people in the park.  In the nearly twenty years that we had been coming to Glacier, we had never seen so many visitors.  Perhaps it was a Covid-19 phenomenon with more people wanting to get out of the house and driving to national parks.  In Glacier, the result was that by about ten o’clock in the morning all the roadside pull outs, trail head parking areas and the large parking lot at Logan Pass were full.  Typically, Jane and I had to hustle out of bed at six in order to ensure parking at the trails we planned to hike.  Barring smoke and crowds, this alternative to our European trip was a welcomed two week respite from sheltering at home in Albuquerque.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the cabin we extended our road trip with a sojourn to the Slippery Ann Wildlife Refuge near Lewistown, Montana.  During the rut, the Slippery Ann Refuge is a popular elk viewing area along the Missouri River.  Jane and I had stopped here four years ago on a previous road trip. As in Glacier, there were many more “elk viewers” than we anticipated, but arrived early enough to obtain a parking area on the dirt track adjacent to the primary viewing area.  The elk wander out from the dense groves of cottonwood trees that line the Missouri River to graze in the meadows where they can be viewed.  In mid to late afternoon, the cows emerge first followed by the bulls who have gathered the cows into small harem herds for eventual mating.  The bull elk’s primary objective is to protect his cows from being pirated by other bulls.  As a result, skirmishes and clashes among the dominant males occur and those are what I hoped to photograph.  I was only able to capture one such joust.  It was a long distance from the car but I was able to create a descent image.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next road trip stop was a three night stay in Jackson, Wyoming, a place dear in our hearts.  On August 31st in 1997 Jane and I were married at Schwabacher Landing in Grand Teton National Park.  We had not been back to the park since 2007 when we returned for our tenth anniversary.  We celebrated this return by staying at the Wyoming Inn, an upscale lodge in town with an outstanding and convenient in-house restaurant.  I had some specific photo locations in mind for this stop in Grand Teton National Park, including Schwabacher Landing.  One clear night I ventured out for some night sky photography while Jane stayed warm and cozy in our very comfortable hotel room.  Although the sky was clear there was also a full moon making it the least desirable night for star photography.  The long exposure required to capture dim star light made the moon illuminated foreground look like a day time shot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Moab, Utah, with easy access to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks was our last three night road trip stop before heading back home.  At Arches, I practiced some more night photography with similar results as those in Jackson.  Crowds were excessive in the national parks and weather did not cooperate for sunrise or sunset photography.  To escape the multitudes, Jane suggested we drive to Goblin Valley, a Utah state park about ninety minutes from Moab.  I had wanted to photograph at Goblin Valley and enthusiastically endorsed Jane’s suggestion and we added this location filled with sandstone hoodoos to our road trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grumpy Old ManGrumpy Old ManGrumpy Old Man Hoodoo, Goblin Valley State Park, Utah Grumpy Old ManGrumpy Old ManGrumpy Old Man Hoodoo, Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Discussions on the drive home were highlighted with the possibility of returning to Moab to enjoy the parks when less crowded.  About a six and half hour from Albuquerque, returning to Moab would not be a huge undertaking.  We will see.

          Images from this road trip are located in the following galleries:

          Animal Models > Mammals

          National Parks > Grand Teton

         State Parks > Goblin Valley

         Wildlife Refuges > Slippery Ann

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2020/10/visiting-familiar-places Wed, 14 Oct 2020 14:59:17 GMT
Escape https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2020/8/escape I call it an escape.  The “it” I refer to being a short, three day road trip to Taos, New Mexico, a few hours north of Albuquerque.  After months of home isolation, with only a few forays out for groceries and other necessities, going on an overnighter really did feel like an escape.  Jane and I had been itching to get out of the house for a few days and exploring New Mexico to the north of Santa Fe had been on our minds for some time.  We settled on Taos, a small village in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.   Neighbors had told us about a quaint B&B that they had enjoyed and we decided to make the Old Taos Guesthouse our home away from home for three nights.  Of course there were Covid-19 restrictions such as face masks, social distancing, and eating our gourmet breakfasts from take-out boxes in our room.

We packed our overnight bags, hustled up some picnic snacks for along the way, and headed out.  I had put together a route and itinerary that included several potential photography stops during our three days of exploration.  From Albuquerque we traveled north and east on I-25 to the Pecos National Historic Park; then further along I-25 to the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge; from there to Fort Union National Monument; and then on to the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge. I had wanted to check out these wildlife refuges to see if photography at these would be as rewarding as at Bosque del Apache where Jane and I had been several time before.  I concluded that Bosque was a much better location for photography and much easier logistically. 

Pecos Mission ChurchPecos Mission ChurchOld Ruins of Pecos Mission Church at Pecos National Historic Park, New Mexico Pecos RuinsPecos RuinsOld Ruins of Pecos Mission Church at Pecos National Historic Park, New Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Old Wagons In Front Of Remnants Of Adobe Wall at Fort Union National Monument, New Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Maxwell, a very small community with no visitor amenities, we continued back west over the Cimarron Range of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains through the twisty and curvy Cimarron Canyon to Eagle Nest Lake and U.S. Highway 64.  We followed Highway 64 through more mountainous terrain and canyons to the Old Taos Guesthouse.  As our neighbors had described, the Old Taos Guesthouse was a quaint, picturesque converted hacienda in a very rural setting with eleven guest rooms.  Our room was spacious with the décor and charm of historic Taos.  We enjoyed our three nights there very much and savored breakfasts each morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grounds of the guesthouse were filled with a variety of trees and plants.  Among the plants were sunflowers with an abundance of interesting looking insects foraging among the yellow flowers.  I decided to practice taking close-up pictures of these bugs with my macro lens.  I don't get many opportunities to shoot with the macro lens, so this was a great time to use it.  I had no idea what bugs I was photographing and had to Google search to identify them.  These two are an Ambush Bug and a Soft Winged  Flower Beetle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next two days we made day-trips from the Old Taos Guesthouse to scenic locations around the Taos area.  One day we ventured up to the Taos Ski Valley high on the north side of Wheeler Mountain, New Mexico’s highest at 13,159 feet, and also toured the mountainous Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway that circumnavigates around the Wheeler Peak wilderness areas.  The Rio Grande River flows just east of Taos and we spent time photographing the deep gorge resulting from the Rio Grande Rift that the river follows.  To the north we toured the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and to the south the Orilla Verde National Recreation Area where we encountered some bighorn sheep on the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that we have had our taste of traveling again, we look forward to visiting our “place in Montana” this fall.  Since we have cancelled our Europe travel plans we have decided to drive up to Glacier National Park to spend two weeks at our time-share cabin there in September.  There will be a blog about that trip, for sure.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2020/8/escape Sat, 08 Aug 2020 19:54:48 GMT
May 2020 https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2020/4/may-2020 There is not much to “blog” about when one is sheltered at home.  So far this spring all travel plans have been aborted so there are no photo journeys to share.  Instead, Jane and I have been keeping busy with home projects.  I have been printing and framing some of my images to decorate the remaining bare walls in our new home while Jane has been working on long neglected sewing projects. 

Warmer spring temperatures have led to the revival of the plants in our new garden.  We thought many of our plants were pretty much goners, but no, new growth is all around our yard.  As spring slowly manifests its self, our brand new back yard has metamorphosed from a drab and bleak setting to an inviting ambiance.  Our current daily routine now includes checking rose bushes for aphids (very exciting).  For me, a special treat has been to watch our small hedgehog cactus plants sprout buds and develop bright red claret cup flowers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a garden that could now be enjoyed we would love to spend time on our patio.  Unfortunately, we ordered new patio furniture just as stay-at-home and social distancing rules went into effect.  Although ordered in early March, we don’t expect delivery until late May or early June.  Oh well!!  On the brighter side, Jane and I were able to day-trip to some local national monuments before sheltering at home became the norm.  At Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument we hiked the two-mile round trip Canyon Trail through a slot canyon and then scrambled up rock falls to reach the top of a plateau for some spectacular views.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another short day-trip brought us to Bandelier National Monument west of Santa Fe.  Thinking that I could get a better perspective for some pictures, we ended up hiking one of the monuments steeper trails.  It was a good workout and also provided for some interesting shots.  Bandelier National Monument is a fascinating ancestral Pueblo village.  Here the ancient ones built their pueblo style community adjacent to cliffs of tuff, a relatively soft volcanic rock, in which the ancestral Pueblo people hollowed out caves for additional living quarters and storage areas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Images from these day-trips are located in the National Parks and Monuments gallery under Tent Rocks and Bandelier.  Hope you enjoy them.  Now, of course, we are patiently waiting for travel restrictions to be lifted so we resume our journeys near and far.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2020/4/may-2020 Thu, 23 Apr 2020 20:45:42 GMT
First Trip https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2020/2/first-trip In mid-January, Jane and I ran away from the wet, cold winter weather in Albuquerque to escape to the warm, humid climate of Hawaii.  Through some unanticipated circumstances it appeared that I had several weeks of time-share trades available that I did not know about.  Fortunately for us, the time share trading company alerted us and we were able to book two weeks in Hawaii and a third week in San Diego on our way home.  So, 2020 started off with a relaxing two week get away to the Aloha State and a week visiting friends and hanging out at old haunts in San Diego.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our first week was spent at The Cliffs Resort in Princeville at the north shore of Kauai.  We had a second floor, corner unit with lots of windows for great views.  We slept with windows open to enjoy the warm island trade winds and were entertained by the early morning crowing of chickens that seemed to dominate the island.  Quickly we acclimated to the relaxed tempo of the Garden Island and felt the cares and woes of Albuquerque fade away.  With top down we toured Kauai in our rented red Mustang convertible visiting the Kilauea Lighthouse and Hanalei Bay.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The concierge at the resort assisted us in finding other entertaining ways to spend our days.  Arrangements were made to sail to the Na Pali coast on a large catamaran that also offered snorkeling, although we declined that option.  We also joined a small tour group that explored some of the island’s ancient, but severely deteriorated archaeological sites.  The record breaking rainfall in 2018 damaged much of the public access to Ke’e Beach and Limahuli Botanical Garden and we had to avail ourselves with a public shuttle service to those remote areas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A week later we found ourselves on the Big Island with another rented Mustang convertible, this time white.  The Big Island is big, almost twice as large as all the other Hawaiian Islands combined.  Because of this great size, we spent a lot of time in the white convertible touring the island.  From our base at the Wyndham Mauna Loa Village, on the Kona side of the island, we pretty much circumnavigated the Big Island.  We crisscrossed among the three great volcanoes that created the island and visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  Tops of the volcanoes are well over 13,000 feet in elevation and it got a bit chilly driving at high altitudes with the top down.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After two weeks of sun worshiping, sightseeing, and many “happy hours” in Hawaii we made our way to San Diego.  Although much warmer than Albuquerque, San Diego was not as warm as Hawaii and we did not rent a convertible.  It had been just over a year since we moved from San Diego to Albuquerque and we enjoyed visiting with friends and going back to some of our old stomping grounds.  It seems that progress does not slow down.  Even after just a year we could see additions to the downtown skyline, not to mention cars on the freeways.  Oh, and by the way, I celebrated my birthday with dinner at Benihana's.  It was my 81st, for those of you who were curious.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all this first vacation of 2020 turned out to be a great trip.  We had enough time to decompress, forget about the unfinished work on the new house, and enjoy just being tourists.  I will have to confess that pictures were taken and some of our time was focused on photography including an outing to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  I did not create a gallery of images from this trip on the web site but most of the significant pictures are included as part of the blog.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2020/2/first-trip Tue, 11 Feb 2020 23:28:11 GMT
Festival of the Cranes https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2019/11/festival-of-the-cranes Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is known worldwide for the winter migration of greater sandhill cranes and snow geese.  Thousands of these photogenic birds spend the winter months at the refuge where there is plenty of food and protection from predators.  Jane and I have traveled from San Diego to Bosque del Apache several times to enjoy and photograph the spectacle of these birds on the refuge.  Now, residing in Albuquerque and the refuge being only about a ninety minute drive from our front door, we decided to join the Friends of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  So this November we participated in the 32nd annual Festival of the Cranes that is sponsored and managed by the Friends.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Festival is a five day celebration with more than a 130 events, including tours, seminars, hikes, workshops and entertainment choices.  We picked 18 events and spent the next five days thoroughly absorbed with activities on and around the refuge.  Our memories of Bosque from prior visits included fiery sunrises and sunsets with tens of thousands of birds.  During the Festival, however, we were a bit disappointed with the weather and the number of birds.  We had overcast skies that prevented a night photography workshop I had signed up for.  Then we had a hard, cold rain to cope with.  And one morning we were greeted with a dense fog that prevented any meaningful photography.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All was not gloom and doom, however.  We had a great time and enjoyed ourselves tremendously at the Festival.  Highlights included:  lectures on birding and bird photography; a night time owling expedition; several photography workshops; watching a falconer fly his raptors; and some night sky photography workshops.  The great thing about having this world renowned resource so close to home is that we can visit again and again whenever we want.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Images from the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache are located in the Wildlife Refuges gallery.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2019/11/festival-of-the-cranes Wed, 27 Nov 2019 22:12:56 GMT
October's Whirlwind Trip https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2019/11/octobers-whirlwind-trip After enjoying a very scenic trip to Colorado’s San Juan Mountains in September, Jane and I spent only a couple of weeks at home before venturing out again.  This time, however, we took separate journeys.  Jane entertained her New York City girlfriend, Gigi, for about a week, including a short trip to Santa Fe, while I entertained my photo buddy, Bruce.  Bruce arrived in Albuquerque after Jane and Gigi had departed for Santa Fe and he and I left on our whirlwind photo tour before they returned.

I had developed a multi-stop itinerary for our photo trip that included some of northwestern New Mexico’s photogenic locations.  Our first objective was Valles Caldera National Preserve in the pine covered Jemez Mountains.  We arrived shortly after the Preserve’s 8:00 AM opening with the intent of photographing the colony of Gunnison's prairie dogs that reside there.  Checking in with the ranger we discovered that temperatures at the higher elevations of the Jemez Mountains had been unseasonably cold and that the little critters had started their hibernation early.  As a consolation, we did manage to photograph some distant coyotes and I managed to step into a camouflaged prairie dog burrow and ended up on my face in the prairie grass.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After swallowing my pride for having stumbled so badly, we ventured forth to the Chaco Culture Historical Park where we photographed the ancient ruins of Pueblo Bonito and its iconic series of doorways.  From there we traveled to the Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness Study Area.  This is a remote area of New Mexico badlands that invokes a fairyland feel with its numerous eroded hoodoos and mudstone spires.  We arrived at Ah-shi-sle-pah by late afternoon and photographed there till near sunset.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farmington, New Mexico, became our home base for various day trips over next few days.  However, the late October weather that had turned bitter cold was not kind to us.  The itinerary called for a very early departure the following morning to photograph the eroded volcanic remnant of Shiprock at sunrise.  When we peered out the window at 4:00 AM it was snowing and that cancelled our plan for a sunrise photo shoot.  It did, however, allow us snuggle back into bed for some more shuteye.  Eventually the day warmed up a bit and the sun broke through the clouds and we ventured out to photograph the Chaco outlier ruins at Aztec National Monument with its restored kiva. 

Then, after lunch at the appropriately named Aztec Restaurant, we decided to locate some Navajo rock art that dated from the 16th and 17th centuries.  I had found out about the petroglyph during my on-line research for this trip.  We were a bit concerned about driving the dirt roads after the snowfall.  However, by afternoon when we turned off the pavement the snow had all but disappeared and the dirt track was just moist enough to keep the dust down.  The Navajo petroglyph panels were particularly well executed and distinct.  As with most rock art Bruce and I have photographed, there was evidence of damaging graffiti scratched into the sandstone around the Navajo art work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the next day I had arranged for a guided tour of natural arches around the area with Larry Beck, the current vice president and former president of The Natural Arch and Bridge Society.  Larry is far and away the local expert on arches and their locations.  He guided us to many of his favorite arches in the Aztec area and we finished our journey with him at sunset photographing Arch Rock.  Bruce and I agreed that without Larry guiding us we would never have found many of the beautiful arches we photographed.

Gracefull Heart ArchGracefull Heart ArchOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cox Canyon ArchCox Canyon ArchOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arch RockArch RockOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My alarm was set for an early start the next day.  Our target was the De-Na-Zin wilderness section of the Bisti badlands.  This was another remote and desolate area an hour’s drive south of Farmington.  The objective was to take advantage of early morning light on the eroded formations.  From my research we selected two areas of badlands to photograph, the “egg nursery” and “hoodoo city” for which we had GPS coordinates.  Needless to say, when traversing heavily eroded arroyos and steep sided washes, following a GPS direction can lead to much backtracking.  We explored the De-Na-Zin wilderness for nearly five hours and, according to GPS, hiked around the weird and bizarre formations for about six miles.  We started this trek bundled with multiple layers and a temperature of 20 º F and we returned to the 4Runner five hours later, just as bundled, when the temperature had reached all of 30 º F.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next objective was the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park where we had arranged for several Navajo guided tours into the private areas of the park.  On the way to Monument Valley, however, we stopped first at Canyon de Chelley National Monument.  We arranged for a Navajo guide to take us into the canyon.  Because Navajo people still live in the canyon, access can only be obtained with a local guide.  One of the popular photo locations is Spider Rock, an enormous eight hundred foot tall sandstone spire, at the very head of the canyon and that was where we headed.  In addition to being an iconic geologic feature Spider Rock is also a cultural attribute.  Mythical Spider Woman lives on spider rock and she has a long history in Navajo folklore and oral traditions.  Our guide told us of stories his grandfather used to tell that Spider Woman would catch him in her web if he misbehaved.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At Monument Valley Bruce and I faced a dilemma.  We wanted a dynamic cloudy sky to accent the landscape during the day and clear skies at night for star photography.  Of course we could not have both.  Mother Nature decided.  We had clear skies both day and night.  Our Navajo guided tours included two nights of star photography as well as a sunrise and sunset tour.  Since there was no drama in the sky, we opted to skip the sunrise tour.  Photography can be a fickle hobby. During the first night of star photography there was a crescent moon that illuminated the foreground but obscured the Milky Way.  The second night we departed a bit later so there would be no moon light and the Milky Way was observable but the foreground was much too dark.  Oh well!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To sum up, this seven day, eight stop whirlwind tour started at Valles Caldera and ended up at Monument Valley via Chaco Canyon, the Ah-shi-sle-pah wilderness, Aztec ruins, Navajo rock art, natural arches, the De-Na-Zin wilderness, and Canyon de Chelly.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2019/11/octobers-whirlwind-trip Thu, 14 Nov 2019 20:53:30 GMT
October 2019 https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2019/10/november-2019 It is the first week in October, 2019.  Mornings in Albuquerque have turned brisk.   I enjoyed an early morning cup of coffee watching the sun come up over the Sandia Mountains in our nearly completed backyard.  We have now been living in our new home for two months and are loving it.  It has been a bit frustrating waiting for a lot of the finishing touches to be completed.  But now we are pretty much done.  Hurrah!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We have not let completing the house keep us from having some fun, however.  Last week Jane and I enjoyed a marvelous trip to the colorful San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado.  We stayed in the small community of Ridgway and day-tripped from there to explore the fall foliage that had reached its peak in color while we were there.  As a reminder, our move to Albuquerque was partially motivated to avoid southern California traffic when we traveled by car.  Well, to reach this breathtakingly beautiful area took all of six hours on uncongested roads.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We started this little get-a-way by enjoying a morning ride on the historic Durango to Silverton narrow gauge railroad.  This was an excursion we had often talked about making and now, merely four hours from Albuquerque, it was a cinch.  This National Historic Landmark was originally constructed in 1881-1882 to support the lucrative gold and silver mining interests in the San Juan Mountains.  We opted to ride in the last car of the train that offered individual reserved seating areas from which we could admire the passing scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another recent wildlife event we have witnessed was the emergence of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats from one of the lava tub caves in El Malpais National Monument.  This national monument is a mere hour and a half from our front door.  During summer months, at dusk, these bats leave the cave in swarms of thousands to forage for insects in the surrounding hills.  During the winter these bats migrate south into Mexico.

Bats Leaving CaveBats Leaving CaveEmergence of Free-Tailed Bats From a Lava Tube Cave in El Malpais National Monument, Cibola County, New Mexico

During the summer months we have also participated on a number of outings with the Enchanted Lens Camera Club.  These jaunts have been helpful in learning our way around the Albuquerque area and getting to know other photographers.  Perhaps the most photographically interesting location was the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area in the high desert of northwestern New Mexico.  This is an area of badlands that is riddled with fascinating hoodoos. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have some more adventures planned to end the year, including: a hot air balloon flight during the famous Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and participation in the Bosque del Apache Festival Of The Cranes. 

To view images from the fall colors in Colorado open the Autumn Colors in the San Juan Mountains gallery, for images of the badlands open the Ah-She-Sle-Pah Wilderness gallery, and for a couple of bat images open the El Malpais National Monument sub-gallery in the National Parks and Monuments main gallery.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2019/10/november-2019 Thu, 03 Oct 2019 16:11:20 GMT
A Very Active April https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2019/5/a-very-active-april As construction of our new home continued during April, Jane and I took the opportunity to do some exploring.  Early in the month, we drove to Hereford, Arizona (near Sierra Vista) for some bird photography at Battista’s Bed, Breakfast and Birds.  We met Neil Solomon, an avid bird photographer from San Diego, at the B&B.  Tony Battista, the proprietor, experienced birder and photographer, has built a small water feature on the grounds of the B&B that attracts lots of local and migrating birds.  We spent many hours in the photo-blind next to the small pond photographing visiting birds.  Tony also guided us to some other birding hot spots in the area where we were able to photograph Harris’ hawk, elegant trogon and scaled quail.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After returning to Albuquerque from this short jaunt, we prepared for a more extensive trip to southeastern Oregon to photograph greater sage grouse.  Photographing this iconic threatened bird of the western prairies had been on my to-do-list for a long time.  Planning the trip was more difficult than I had first imagined.   Greater sage grouse males congregate on leks and perform courtship displays to attract females and it is critical to select an active lek for photography.  I got a lead from Ken Archer, the photo guide that Jane and I had met on our trip to Nome, Alaska.  Ken put me touch with Andrew Shields, a biologist in charge of studying active leks on the Roaring Springs Ranch in Oregon.  This operating cattle ranch is huge, about one million acres of sage covered hilly terrain, and contains several remote greater sage grouse leks.

 

Like so many areas in the west, the Roaring Springs Ranch had received a lot of snow this past winter and early spring.  So, the lek Andrew had originally planned to take us, when we first made our arrangements, was still covered with two to four feet of snow when we arrived in April.  Fortunately, there was another active lek that Andrew had been monitoring as part of his research.  Getting to this lek, however, was problematic.  We had to be shuttled on all-terrain-vehicles (ATV’s) on a very boggy track.  In order not to disturb the birds, we had to hike the last quarter mile or so over soggy and rocky sage brush covered ground.  All this was happening in total darkness around four o’clock in the morning.  It was a total adventure!

 

 

The lek was very active with around twenty male birds performing their mating rituals and half a dozen females looking them over.  We also performed our ritual that consisted of rising at three-fifteen in the mornings, driving twenty minutes to meet Andrew, driving another forty-five minutes to where the ATV’s were parked, then fifteen minutes on the ATV and then a twenty minute hike to the blind.  The goal was to reach the blind around 5 AM, well before sun rise.  Each morning, the birds were already strutting and vocalizing on the lek when we arrived.  However, we had to wait anxiously for sufficient morning light to develop before we could commence with our photography.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The Enchanted Lens Camera Club is a large club of photo-enthusiasts.  I joined the club shortly after arriving in Albuquerque.  During this very active month of April, Jane and I participated on a couple of the club’s field trips as part of our effort to explore New Mexico.  One field trip was a long weekend to the northwest of the state to photograph Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, the Bisti Badlands and Shiprock on the Navajo reservation.  These were all locations that had been on our minds to visit and it was great to be with others who knew the way.  

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If that were not enough, Albuquerque was host to the Gathering-Of-Nations Pow Wow at the end of April.  This is the largest pow wow in North America with nearly 800 tribes participating and it was an event Jane and I could not miss.  What an experience!  Lots of competitive drum music, singing in native languages, and dancing in elaborate feathered costumes.  Also, it was very much a family affair for the tribal participants with a tiny tot’s category of competition.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the month, Bruce Hollingsworth and I attended a night scape photography conference in Moab, Utah.  We had both been looking forward to this conference because some of our photographic attention had started to focus on landscapes under starry skies and the milky way.  The conference was a sell out, so obviously we were not the only ones interested in milky way photography.  During the conference, however, it became very obvious that the two of us were novices at night sky photography.  We absorbed a lot of useful technical information and processes needed to pursue this part of our hobby.  But when it came time to practice our night sky photography, late at night in the national parks surrounding Moab, my skill lever was severely lacking.  I'll have to adhere to the adage, practice, practice, practice!  We were able to obtain some reasonable day-time images at Dead Horse Point state park under cloudy skies.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d say that was enough activity for April.  May, however, will also be a busy month, but this time most of our activities will be planning, selecting and coordinating custom touches for our new home.  Selections for window coverings, closet and office designs all need to be finalized in May so that the work can commence immediately after we take possession of the house.

 

You will find images from the Oregon greater sage grouse trip as a sub-folder under the Birds gallery.  Images from the Gathering-Of-Nations Pow Wow has its own gallery and images from the Arizona bird photography trip are in the Birds Of Arizona sub-folder under the Birds gallery.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2019/5/a-very-active-april Thu, 16 May 2019 20:38:47 GMT
News Update https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2019/4/news-update It has been several months since my last blog entry.  The delay is not because nothing has happened since our return from Madagascar.  On the contrary, too much has happened.  So here is the latest news update.

January 6, 2019

This morning we hitched a pre-loaded U-Haul trailer to the 4Runner and, with Jane in the Green Machine (our apple green Toyota Camry), the two of us started out for a grand, new adventure by moving lock, stock and barrel to a new domicile in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Our departure for Albuquerque had been preceded by a chain of events that culminated in this exodus.

Although Jane and I had on previous occasions mulled over the idea of leaving San Diego, it was not until we visited the Del Webb 55+ retirement community at Mirehaven, in Albuquerque, that a conclusive decision was made.  We made an exploratory trip to the Del Webb development in November.  We totally liked what we saw and entered into a purchase agreement that was contingent on selling our Mesa Madera house.

Making this extraordinary decision to purchase a home in a retirement community solidified our resolve to seek new adventures and signing the purchase agreement initiated an intense chain of events.  We had to (1) wire an earnest money deposit, (2) interview and select a realtor, (3) interview and select an interstate moving company, (4) return to Albuquerque to select design options for our new home, and (5) arrange to rent a furnished house to live in during construction of our new home.  Oh, and by the way, we still managed to spend a relaxing, long Thanksgiving weekend in Idylwild.

We selected Jennifer Blake, with Sotheby International, to be our real estate agent.  That turned out to be a wise choice.  Jenn guided us professionally through the stressful process of selling our house without a glitch.  She knew the Scripps Ranch real estate market and what selling strategy would garner the best sales result.  She recommended that we list the house shortly after the yearend holidays when there would be fewer competitive houses on the market and that the house be “staged” to attract the most buyers.

Those decision set off another chain of events.  Staging the house required that we would have to move all our belonging out in order for the staging to occur.  In order to be ready to list the house in early January all decision making had to go into high gear.  Allied Van Lines, our selected moving company, was notified and packing and moving was scheduled for January 3rd and 4th.  In the meantime, Sean Blake, Jenn’s husband and “operations manager” arranged for and supervised needed small repairs and painting.  Jane and I took care of last minute details, cancelling cable service and packing what we needed for the rental house in Albuquerque into the Green Machine and U-Haul trailer.  That brings the chain of events to January 6th when we departed Mesa Madera Drive for our new, exciting life in Albuquerque.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 18, 2019

All minor repairs, painting, cleaning, staging, and marketing photography at the Mesa Madera house were completed and the property was listed and ready for its open house reception.  Multiple listings information had been submitted the previous Monday and by mid-week, several days before the scheduled open house we had received a bona fide offer.  Our counter offer was accepted and by January 18th, the theoretical sales kickoff, we had already opened escrow.  And, by January 18th Jane and I had also officially become New Mexicans with new driver’s licenses, car and voter registrations.

February 15, 2019

Today escrow closed and sales proceeds were wired into our bank account.  Now there is no turning back.  We now live in Albuquerque.  We have been living in our furnished rental for over two months and have become familiar with our new neighborhood.  Construction of our new home has been started.  Underground utilities are in and concrete foundations poured.  We make periodic trips to Mirehaven to check progress and are thrilled to see the slow emergence of our new house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 26, 2019

Construction of the house continues.  Framing has been completed and it is starting to look like a house.  Interior plumbing, electrical and HVAC have been installed the structure has been “wrapped” and windows installed.  Today we conducted an official inspection with Chris, the Del Webb construction coordinator.  The inspection was to ensure that pluming, gas lines, electrical outlets, cable outlets and other specifics were in conformance with our selected design options.  This was a milestone inspection, for now insulation can be placed and dry wall installed.  It now appears that construction may be a bit ahead of schedule.  Chris was not willing to give an estimate, but Jane and I speculate that we may be able to move in around end of July or August, about a month earlier than we had previously thought. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is much more yet to be accomplished and many details for us to take care of.  Those details are sort of fun to work out, like selecting window coverings, ceiling fans, home office details, new furnishings, and in general just getting very excited about the prospect of moving into a brand new house.

That completes the news update for now.  There will be more blogs as we explore our new home state and visit its natural and historic attractions.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2019/4/news-update Mon, 01 Apr 2019 19:06:08 GMT
Another Trip Of A Lifetime https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2018/11/another-trip-of-a-lifetime  

Jane and I have often wondered exactly how many trips of a lifetime someone can have.  We most definitely have had several and the most recent was our photo safari to Madagascar.  For two weeks (sixteen days actually) we were totally immersed in a uniquely different, foreign culture and environment.  Jane and I were two of the six travelers guided by Mike Byrne of Joseph Van Os, a worldwide expedition company from Vashon Island , Washington.  From San Diego, we flew to Atlanta, then on to Paris to finally land in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, where we started our adventure.

During our safari, we visited nine of Madagascar’s national parks and private reserves to photograph iconic lemurs and reptiles.  In Madagascar, one of the world’s least developed countries, roads are poorly maintained and on many occasions we flew on charter flights between locations.  Although shaped more circular, Madagascar is about the same size as Texas, and our tour concentrated on parks and preserves on the southern portion of the island.

Before heading off to our first preserve, we spent some time exploring around Antananarivo where about twenty percent of Madagascar’s twenty six and a half million people live.  Antananarivo is a high density, congested city with narrow streets packed with street vendors.  Mike guided us to a brick factory, an artisan metal shop and flower market.  At the brick factory we watched male workers pack clay into metal molds by hand to form bricks that were then stacked and air dried.  When these raw bricks were dry, young women and girls would carry them, stacked ten to fourteen at a time on their heads, to the kiln for hardening.  Various metal curios for sale in tourist gift shops and to decorate business lobbies were being created by artisans at the metal shop.  Small metal parts were cut and twisted by women, often assisted by their young children, to be welded and polished by men into artistic objects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first charter flight was from Antananarivo to Morondava on the island’s west coast where the photo safari began.  Not far from Morondava we photographed the iconic baobab trees and survived our first harrowing drive on Madagascar’s unpaved, unmaintained, potholed, deteriorated road to the Kirindy Reserve.  The bumpy jolting ride to Kirindy was rewarded with our first encounter with lemurs, a chameleon, mongoose and Madagascar’s only predator the fossa.  Excitement ran rampant through our small group as we jostled for positions to photograph these endangered and endemic species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After traveling to several other preserves to photograph lemurs, we happened upon an open street market in Fort Dauphin along Madagascar’s south coast.  We wandered the crowded streets marveling at the diversity of fruits and produce displayed in the stalls by the numerous merchants.  Many villages are without electric power requiring that rural dwellers make almost daily trips to the market to obtain perishable foods, making the market a busy and congested place.  For a photographer not inhibited to take people pictures, the market provided a potpourri of opportunities.  I, on the other hand, am not so inclined and was challenged to get keeper people pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More national parks and reserves were visited after leaving Fort Dauphin, the last of which was Akanin’ny Nofy on the island’s east coast.  Here we were treated with very close encounters with a variety of lemurs.  Lemurs are a species of primate all of which are endemic to Madagascar.  We photographed about eight or ten of the many species that roam Madagascar’s forests.  By far the most difficult to photograph are the nocturnal lemurs, in particular the aye-aye.  The aye-aye is a bazaar creature, reminiscent of a star wars character.  The aye-aye has evolved to feed at night on larvae and grub found under tree bark.  In order to photograph this unique lemur guides have to lure this naturally shy animal to spots were photography is possible.  Guides do this by placing coconuts among low tree branches to temp the aye-aye and then shine flash lights on them so there is sufficient light for photography.

Akanin’ny Nofy nature preserve was our last stop before heading back home.  The journey back to San Diego was an arduous thirty hour ordeal.  Although pretty exhausted, we made it home without any major issues on route.  Our photo safari to Madagascar was fantastic and definitely another trip of a lifetime for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images from the Madagascar trip are located in the Madagascar gallery.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2018/11/another-trip-of-a-lifetime Fri, 30 Nov 2018 23:53:27 GMT
An Historic Road Trip https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2018/8/an-historic-road-trip Sometimes you have to go with the flow.  That’s what Jane and I did this summer.  Normally we would arrange a road trip before or after the summer break.  This year, because I wanted to photograph spring flowers at the high elevations of the Cascade Range, we traveled to Oregon and Washington during the high season.  Naturally, we paid the price in both congested highways and lots of people traversing the same trails we were hiking.  But what made this trip momentous and historic is that our faithful 4Runner turned 200,000 miles on the odometer and is still running strong.  When we returned home I treated the vehicle to a much deserved day at a car wash spa for full exterior, interior and engine detailing.

                                                                                              200,000 MILES

The itinerary for this road trip included visits to some of the major volcanic peaks of the Cascades.  We started at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon where Jane was able to reserve, nearly ten months in advance, the last available room in the park lodge.  From there we traveled to Mount Hood where we stayed at the Timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark.  We continued our tour north to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in Washington.  There are no accommodations in the Monument but Jane was able to secure a simple, but delightful little cabin at the Silver Cove RV Resort with all the comforts of home.  From Mount St. Helens we continued north to Mount Rainier National Park.  Unfortunately the Park lodge was being renovated and the only rooms available were with shared bathrooms.  We opted, instead, to stay at the Nisqually Inn in Ashford about a twenty minute drive from the Park entrance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As most of you know, all the western states have been plagued with wild fires this summer.  Oregon and Washington were no exceptions.  We encountered smoke most everywhere we traveled.  At Crater Lake the smoke was so severe that the lake water was frequently not visible from the rim trail.  Photographically, the smoke and haze was problematic only when composing distant landscapes of the volcanic mountain peaks.  For close subjects, like the many waterfalls we hiked to, the air was sufficiently clear for nice images.  I must admit, however, that I was disappointed with the adverse conditions and that I was not able to get nice clear images of Crater Lake or Mount Rainier.

To avoid the long, tedious drive south on Interstate 5 through Portland, Sacramento, the central valley and Los Angeles, I had planned a route that took us more easterly through Boise, Idaho, and then south on Highway 93 to Las Vegas and home on Interstate 15.  Along this obscure route home, on U.S. Highway 93 through Nevada, in the little hamlet of Alamo, we discovered a most auspicious and pretentious B & B, the Cowboy’s Dream.  Built by an extremely wealthy widow, this lodge and its décor are truly awesome.  Our room, the Duke Room, named and decorated in honor of John Wayne, was larger than our own living room.  We spent two delightful nights at the Cowboy’s Dream decompressing from our tour through the Cascades before heading home.  It was still a long, hot and hectic drive through Vegas, Victorville and the L.A. basin to reach San Diego. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images from this momentous road trip can be found in the National Parks Gallery under Crater Lake, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier.  Mount Hood and many of the waterfall images are located in the Oregon Coast and Waterfalls gallery. 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2018/8/an-historic-road-trip Wed, 29 Aug 2018 21:25:27 GMT
Above the Arctic Circle https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2018/7/above-the-arctic-circle  

The best way to start this blog is to be upfront and just say that the weather was challenging.  Our trip Above the Arctic Circle was a long one and as is usually the case, the adventure started out very innocently.  A fellow member of the Photo-Naturalists Camera Club had shown me images of a very unique and unusual bird, known as a ruff, he had photographed in Norway.  I was very impressed with the photographs and thought that I would also like to get images of these very picturesque birds.  So I asked Neil if he would ever consider going back to Norway for another chance to photograph these birds.  Neil didn’t hesitate one second in providing an affirmative response.  And that is how it all started, very innocently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working out the logistics for this excursion above the Arctic Circle took time and careful consideration.  As options for flying to Norway were evaluated, it was decided to use Iceland Air because this airline offered a seven day stay-over in Iceland on any ticket from the U.S. to Europe.  We liked the idea of spending time photographing Iceland’s famous waterfalls and landscape on our way to Norway.  So we enthusiastically added a week to the duration of the trip. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane and I were aware of a ferry system that serviced the inaccessible villages along Norway’s northern coast.  In the past, this ferry service was the only lifeline to these remote fishing villages that dot the Norwegian coast.  Today, there are roads, bridges, tunnels and minor airports to support these small communities.  The ferry system still exists, but it has become primarily a tourist attraction and has turned into a lucrative cruise business.  Jane, during her trip research, found that the northern terminus of this ferry/cruise voyage was Kirkenes, the very town where we were going to be photographing.  It didn’t take us long to decide to add the voyage from Kirkenes to Bergen onto our itinerary, adding yet another week to our trip.  So this trip that started out so innocently to photograph the ruff in northern Norway had become a month long excursion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that you know the innocent genesis of this photographic sojourn, let me get to the challenging weather.  Our primary objective was photography and photography, in general, requires reasonably good weather conditions.  Instead, throughout the trip in Iceland, Norway and on the cruise, we encountered very challenging conditions, including heavy overcast skies, high winds, rain, hail, freezing temperatures and snow.  But let me not cast a negative aura over this adventure, which was, in fact, most exciting with lots of new experiences.  Just to see and photograph the ruff was sufficient reward for all the weather challenges we encountered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ruff is a smallish shorebird related to sandpipers.  It winters throughout much of Africa and comes to northern Eurasia, including the northern most areas of Norway, to breed in spring.  The male’s breeding plumage is extraordinary.  This extravagant plumage includes feathered head tufts, orange facial skin, and an elaborate array of feathers that create an ornamental ruff around its shoulders similar to those worn by nobility in the seventeenth century.  It is truly a bazaar and wondrous sight to behold.  We photographed the ruff from a blind at a lek where the males meet to show off their colorful costumes and compete for the opportunity to mate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regardless of the challenges of weather, we had some great and marvelous experiences photographing.  In Iceland we happened upon a large arctic tern breeding colony.  Although Jane and I have seen these amazing migratory birds before, we had never seen so many, so close and totally involved in the breeding process.  Also in Iceland, we photographed at a wetland preserve where we found a variety of birds including the very beautiful red-throated loon.  And, of course, we did find and photograph waterfalls during breaks in the weather.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above the Arctic Circle, in northern most Norway, the bird photography was awesome.  Neil had done his research well and we visited several sea cliffs hosting colonies of gannets, puffins, kittywakes, cormorants, razorbills, and a variety of guillemots.  Song birds were also sought out and one of the most difficult to locate and photograph was the bluethroat, a small, colorful bird in the flycatcher family.  Driving to and fro our bird photography locations, I was able to get in some memory shots of the Norwegian country side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our cruise from Kirkenes to Bergen was a singular adventure of its own.  The ship was very nice and the cabin compared favorably to those of cruises we had taken to the Arctic and Antarctic.  I tried very hard to obtain “keeper” shots of the various fjords we traversed but mostly the weather did not cooperate.  In fact, the captain presented us with a certificate authenticating that we had survived a summer arctic storm of hurricane proportion with 30 foot waves and wind gusts approaching 100 miles per hour.  Do I need to say more about the weather?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm still working on titles for the pictures, but in the meantime images of this month long adventure Above the Arctic Circle can be found in the Europe Gallery under Iceland and Norway.

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2018/7/above-the-arctic-circle Tue, 10 Jul 2018 19:45:21 GMT
April Madness https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2018/5/april-madness The end of April was a bit hectic at our house.  Jane and I had both planned separate, but concurrent, trips.  But then, plans changed.  So I left a week prior to Jane’s trip and got home in time to take her to the airport for her journey to New York.  The day after dropping Jane off, I left for a second short a jaunt while she was having fun in New York City with her friend Gigi.  A week later all was normal again and life was back to its usual routine.

My first trip of April took me to Wisconsin and Minnesota to photography two different species of prairie grouse.  This trip was suggested by Neil Solomon, a Photonaturalist Camera Club friend, who had arranged for us to photograph from blinds set up at leks, specific locations where the male grouse come to display and compete to mate with females.  In order not to disturb the birds during their mating ritual, we had to be inside the blinds well before the birds arrived.  That meant getting up well before dawn in order to be in place as the birds gathered in the predawn twilight.

We first photographed sharp-tailed grouse in the Namekagon Barrens of Wisconsin.  The sharp-tailed grouse is a threatened species and their numbers have declined significantly as native prairie habitat has transitioned to agricultural fields.  The Namekagon Barrens has been set aside as a wildlife area by the Wisconsin Department Of Natural Resources and the blinds have been placed at the lek by the Friends Of The Namekagon Barrens specifically to facilitate viewing of the sharp-tailed grouse mating behavior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharp-tailed grouse were photographed on two successive mornings.  Only about twelve males appeared to compete and we only observed one or two females.   In general, there was not a lot of activity among the males on the lek.  Most of the interaction was limited to bluffing and intimidation with little combative behavior typical among competing males. The lake of females may have accounted for the low turnout of males.  Or, perhaps we simply missed the peak time of mating behavior for this specie.

 

The second photo stop was at the Bluestem Prairie Scientific and Natural Area, in Minnesota, a preserve established by the Nature Conservancy.  There, again we photographed on two successive mornings.  Here we photographed the greater prairie chicken, another species of prairie grouse.  Activity was much greater with an estimated 50 or more birds, including numerous females, on the lek.  Competition was much more intense among the males as the females strutted through the lek making their decisions as to whom to mate with.  Among the younger males there were continual challenges to obtain access to the more central portion of the lek where the females congregated to select mates, resulting intense sparring and jousting with combatants flying into the air.  Consequently, the viewing and photography at the Bluestem Prairie Reserve was much more intense and challenging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After returning home from this short bird photography sojourn, and taking Jane to the airport, I departed early the next morning for another short trip to the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.  This trip was made with another photo friend, Bruce Hollingsworth.  The Petrified Forest National Park had been on my mind for some time as a photography destination.  I had never photographed there and it is reasonable close to home, about a day’s drive, and April is a good time, temperature wise, to be in the desert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the Petrified Forest Field Institute I had made arrangements with a local guide, David Behar, to show us the more photogenic location in the Park.  Bruce and I spent our first day with David becoming familiar with the Park’s attractions.  The next few days we explored the Park by ourselves re-visiting areas David had shown us as well as other locations we discovered on our own.  The weather turned rather nasty on us with cold temperatures, rain and extremely strong winds that was not conducive to photography.  After the cold front passed we did enjoy a final day of photography with balmy conditions and puffy clouds in the sky.  On this last day we also discovered a little visited section of the Park, with lots of petrified wood, right below the Jasper Forest view point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see images from the these two short April trips, go to the Prairie Grouse gallery sub-folder in the Birds gallery folder on the home page and go to the Petrified Forest National Park gallery sub-folder under the National Parks and Monuments gallery folder on the home page.

 

ENJOY !!!

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2018/5/april-madness Wed, 16 May 2018 23:08:51 GMT
Five Days In The Desert https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2018/3/five-days-in-the-desert My latest jaunt was to explore the Borrego Badlands in Anza Borrego Desert State Park.  Again, for this exploration my friend Bruce came along.  Bruce has more experience navigating with GPS instruments than I have and that proved to be indispensable.  We headquartered in Borrego Springs at the Oasis Inn.  When Jane and I had stayed there a few months ago, when we were in the desert to photograph the Orionid meteor shower, we had a mouse in the room that kept us on edge most of the night.  This time, Bruce and I were not bothered by a mouse but instead a noisy ceiling fan kept us from a restful slumber.

From the Oasis Inn, we day-tripped to various locations in the Park.  Typically, we left before sunrise, returned during mid-day, and ventured out again to capture sunsets.  Photographers are an odd lot.  For sunrise and sunset we want high, wispy cirrus clouds to capture the sun’s color, but at night we want clear skies to capture dim star light.  The rest of the day we want dramatic cumulus clouds to intensity arid desert scenes.  Well, of course, we could not have it all go our way.  Star photography was spoiled by dark layers of low, stratus clouds and some days the desert sky was devoid of any clouds.  There was sufficient variety in cloud cover, however, to make the exploration worthwhile.

In preparation for this trip, I had made a list of the areas in the Park I wanted to photograph.  We were able to find all the sites in the north portion of the Park but will have to revisit the Borrego Badlands to photograph sites in the southern portion.  A mix up with our reservations at the Butterfield Ranch RV Resort caused us to miss that part of the explorations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the sites we visited to photograph were in remote areas of the Park, accessed by way of unimproved, dirt trails.  We had good maps and for many locations also had coordinates.  That is where Bruce’s experience with navigating with global coordinates was essential.  With his GPS device he was able to not only point us in the right direction, but could also keep track of our route so we could find our way back.  Irrespective of this technology, at times we struggled big time to find our way.  This was especially the case when we decided to take a short cut to the Pumpkin Patch from Split Mountain Road through the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area.  This is a vast area of the desert where ATVs, quads and dune buggies can drive wherever they want and as fast as they want.  The entire area has been traversed by recreation vehicles and established trails only exist on paper, like our map.  Since we could not discern an actual dirt road, we just followed the most likely tracks and that got us a bit lost.  Thanks in part to some helpful campers, we eventually found our way but could not really vouch that we found a short cut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So not only was this an exploration of the Borrego Badlands it was also an adventure in navigating the dirt tracks and always being grateful that we found our way.  Some of the off-the-beaten-track locations we photographed were The Slot, Rainbow Wash, Hills Of The Moon Wash, Pumpkin Patch, Split Mountain, the Elephant Tree, Seventeen Palms Oasis, and the dry lake bed of Lake Clark.

Images from this trip can be found in the State Parks gallery under Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2018/3/five-days-in-the-desert Fri, 23 Mar 2018 22:22:38 GMT
First Trip Of 2018 https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2018/3/first-trip-of-2018 Twenty-eighteen is off to a fantastic start.  I just returned from my first photo trip of the year.  Some time ago, perhaps a year or two, I came upon a description of a very unique and interesting location to photograph.  Located in a very remote and desolate area, in the far southeast section of Nevada, near the Arizona strip, and two hours south on dirt roads from Mesquite, is a section of red, eroded Aztec sandstone called Little Finland.  The name is derived from the way the sandstone has eroded into many fin like features.  I had wanting to venture out to this area after learning about it and seeing images by other photographers.  So in mid-February my photo-buddy Bruce Hollingsworth and I set forth to explore Little Finland.

Armed with maps, written directions and GPS coordinates, we started out from Mesquite full of enthusiasm and great expectation.  At the outset, the road was paved but so full of potholes it was rougher than the subsequent dirt tracks we followed.  Have you ever noticed how, in an unfamiliar setting, the way out always seems longer than the way back?  Well that is what we experienced.  It just felt that we had gone for miles and miles without reaching a recognizable waypoint on the map.  Little Finland is situated in a recently created national monument, so when we came upon the large Bureau Of Land Management sign indicating we had entered the Gold Butte National Monument, we knew we were on the right road.  It was a long, bumpy two hours, however, before we reached our final destination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is difficult to describe the intricate and bizarre sandstone shapes we found in Little Finland.  Mother Nature really demonstrated some of her most creative erosional work here.  With a little imagination, we could see all sort of creatures, some rather ghoulish, emerge from the sandstone.  Another name for Little Finland is Hobgoblin’s Playground and that more aptly describes the area.  Bruce and I enjoyed our foray into this strange and fantastic playground.

To find images from this trip, go to the National Parks and Monuments gallery and look for Gold Butte National Monument.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To cap off this trip, we also spent a couple of days photographing at the Valley of Fire Nevada State Park.  Bruce had not been there but Jane and I had photographed there a couple of years ago.  You can see images from the Valley of Fire in the State Parks gallery.  I have only included a few shots from this trip to add to the images already on the site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, on January 31 of this year, there was a lunar trifecta, a full moon, blue moon and blood moon (as a result of a total lunar eclipse).  The phenomenon was observable in San Diego, so Jane and I got up very early that morning in order to be in position to photograph the event.  The image below is the result of that early morning effort.  Only the first half of the eclipse is shown, from full moon to blood moon.  The second half of the eclipse, from blood moon to full moon, occurred as the sun was rising and images from that portion of the eclipse did not blend well with the others.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2018/3/first-trip-of-2018 Thu, 01 Mar 2018 18:46:10 GMT
Last Entry Of The Year https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/12/last-entry-of-the-year It is the last week of 2017 and I’m composing my last blog about our adventurous travels for the year.  This narrative is about our very exciting trip to New Zealand. It has been nearly a month since we returned and I’m finally putting my memories down on paper (so to speak).  The trip to New Zealand was such an amazing experience that, even now after nearly a month, Jane and I will stop what we are doing and reflect on the wonderful time we had.  So let me begin this tale at the beginning.

New Zealand had been on our unofficial “bucket” list for some time.  There is just something mystical about New Zealand.  Anyway, about a year ago I happened upon a New Zealand photographer’s website that offered a fifteen-day guided photography tour of New Zealand’s south island.  After some discussion and a review of our finances, Jane and I decided to go for it.  The entire trip, from when we left home and returned home was 22 days.  New Zealand is a long way from San Diego.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our tour started in Christchurch.  We arrived a day early, in case of unanticipated travel delays, and enjoyed sightseeing around Christchurch.  There was still plenty of residual earthquake damage to be seen around town although much reconstruction has occurred since the devastating earthquake of 2011.  We sauntered about town to take in the sights and spent an enjoyable afternoon in the botanical garden, after all we were in the southern hemisphere and it was late spring in New Zealand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our photographer guide was Petr Hlavacek, an immigrant from the Czech Republic, who has made New Zealand his home.  Petr resides on the west side of the south island and specializes in panoramic landscape photography.  Since landscape photography has been a challenge for me, this tour was a perfect opportunity to both savor the scenic beauty of New Zealand and attempt to capture it in photographic images.  Jane and I were not disappointed!  Petr guided us to some of the most amazingly scenic locations on the south island and helped me tremendously in visualizing panoramic compositions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We photographed at six of the south island’s nine national parks.  Even though all the parks had stunning landscapes, Petr let us know that there were three outstanding locations which he referred to as the “three jewels” of his tour.  The three jewels were a stay on Fox Glacier, an overnight on Doubtful Sound, and a visit to Mount Cook Village.  Mount Cook (renamed Aoraki/Mount Cook) is the highest mountain in New Zealand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox Glacier

The sojourn to Fox Glacier involved a helicopter flight and was totally weather dependent.  Fortunately for us, New Zealand was experiencing a warm dry spell and we experienced no inclement weather during our entire stay.  So, the helicopter flight to the Fox Glacier was on.  Briefly, this first “jewel” of the trip involved an afternoon flight up to a mountaineering hut on Fox Glacier, an overnight stay at the hut, a flight the next morning to a lower portion of the glacier, and then a final flight back down the mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flight up the mountain was an exciting experience as the helicopter hugged the mountain side on its way up the glacier.  After only a few minutes of noisy flight, there was nothing but snow and ice below us.  The Fox Glacier icefall (where the underlying bedrock steepens causing the glacial ice to flow faster and chaotic crevasses form on the glacier surface) was a majestic and unforgettable sight.  All too soon we arrived at our destination, the Pioneer Hut, situated on a steep ridge high atop the Fox Glacier névé (the snow field at the ahead of the glacier).

Pioneer Hut is a Spartan mountaineering shelter at the head of Fox Glacier operated by the New Zealand Alpine Club.  The hut has bunk beds that can accommodate up to 16 people.  Counting our party, the hut was fully occupied with mountaineers.  Some of the men were eating, or studying their maps, and others sleeping in preparation for their treks onto the glacier.  Going onto the glacier was not a simple matter, as we learned firsthand.  You don’t traverse the glacier on your own.  Even hiking the short distance from the helicopter landing area to the hut, we needed to fit into climbing harnesses and be tied to each other with ropes.  Snow shoes kept us from sinking into the snow as we trudged, single file, to the hut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside, the hut was austere with an outer anteroom for storing boots and hiking gear, a long cooking counter, a small eating area with a table and bench seats, and taking up most of the space were the bunk beds.  The bunk beds, however, were not individual bunks.  They were bunk platforms with each platform having space for four people to sleep.  So Jane and I found ourselves huddled together sleeping with two other mountaineers on our shared platform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is difficult to describe the sense of isolation and awe generated by being on top of a living glacier.  Jane and I were enthralled with the experience and captivated by the scenic beauty of shear mountain peaks protruding above the glacial snow.  In the afternoon we were harnessed, tied together, and shod with snow shoes by our mountaineer guide and led onto the glacier for sunset photography.  The sun cast long shadows of our small group that were mere specks on the vastness of the Fox Glacier névé.

As a glacier is slowly pulled down a mountain valley by gravity, the snow that caps the glacial ice is slowly melted away at the lower elevations.  This results in hard, glistening, blue ice being visible at the surface of the glacier.  That is where we were transported to next.  After some early sunrise photography at the hut, the helicopter returned to relocate us lower on the glacier to photograph ice caves.  This time we were shod with steel crampons to secure our footing on the hard and slippery ice.  Our mountaineering guide shepherded us cautiously around dangerous crevasses and weak arches in the ice.  Keeping our footing, even with the steel crampons securely fastened to our boots, was a challenge as we attempted to photograph the colorful blue ice caves.  After a couple of hours scrambling over the hard ice, the helicopter returned to take us back down the mountain ending our unique adventure on the Fox Glacier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doubtful Sound

The second adventure in Petr’s jewelry case was an overnight expedition on Doubtful Sound.  This was a more civilized “jewel” with an all-inclusive menu and bar.  This adventure began at a small village on the eastern shore of Lake Manapouri where we boarded a ferry to transport us across the 55 square mile lake.  At the western side of the lake, we disembarked and were loaded onto coaches that carried us some thirteen miles, over the Wilmot Pass, from Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound.  There we boarded the Fjordland Navigator for our overnight expedition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, Doubtful Sound is not a sound (arm of a sea) at all.  The waterway is a deep and narrow glacier-formed fjord.  Our ship navigated through these steep, u-shaped, canyons quietly.  The canyon walls were densely covered with rain forest vegetation and rose abruptly from the calm waters of the fjord.  Clouds of mist shrouded the high peaks, adding mystery and drama as we ventured farther and farther towards the Tasman Sea.  Calm winds and mild temperatures made our trip, and photography, most enjoyable.  The food was good, the wine tasty, and this time we only had to share our cabin with two others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we neared the end of the fjord at the Tasman Sea, we encountered a small colony of New Zealand fur seals basking and frolicking on some rocky outcrops.  Here photography was more difficult as the swell from the sea was more severe and the seals were some distance away.  And, on our way back to the head of the fjord, the on-board naturalist announced the spotting of the rare and endangered Fjordland Crested Penguin.  Fortunately, I had the proper lens on my camera and was able to get a few images before the birds wandered into the dense undergrowth where their burrow was hidden.

Mount Cook

Petr’s third tour jewel was Mount Cook.  Mount Cook is New Zealand highest mountain at just over 11,200 feet and is where Sir Edmund Hillary honed his climbing skills prior to ascending Mount Everest.  Like Mount Denali in Alaska, Mount Cook is frequently hidden from view due to storm clouds coming from the Tasman Sea.  Mount Cook is a sacred mountain in Māori culture.  So, like Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) the mountain’s name has been changed to Aoraki/Mount Cook.  For us, the good weather we had experienced so far in our trip held and we able to see and photograph Aorkaki/Mount Cook from afar and close up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only was Aoraki/Mount Cook one of Petr’s jewels, this majestic mountain is also the crown of New Zealand’s Southern Alps.  During most of our photography tour we traveled along the west side of the south island parallel to the Southern Alps.  Aoraki/Mount Cook and the Southern Alps, though not extremely high compared to the Rocky Mountains, are snowcapped and very rugged.  The Rocky Mountains are, in geologic terms, rather old and eroded.  The Southern Alps, on the other hand, are geologically very young and erosion has not rounded their peaks or filled their valleys with sediment.  Glaciers left over from the last ice age are still present in large numbers in the Southern Alps, unlike Glacier National Park in Montana where glaciers have almost totally disappeared.  For anyone who loves mountains, the Southern Alps and Aoraki/Mount Cook evoke a deep sense of wonder and awe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the photography tour with Petr Hlavacek, Jane and I rounded out our New Zealand adventure with a short side trip to Dunedin on the southeastern side of the South Island.  We had learned from friends in San Diego that Dunedin was the location where some of New Zealand’s most unique wildlife could be photographed.  Before leaving home, we arranged with Elm Wildlife Tours in Dunedin to visit an albatross colony and observe endangered yellow-eyed penguins on the Otago Peninsula.  Sunny skies again favored us as we boarded a sightseeing boat, sailed past the Taiaroa Lighthouse and into the calm water of the South Pacific Ocean.  From the boat we were able to photograph several species of ellusive albatross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-eyed penguins spend most of their day foraging for food in the ocean, coming ashore only in the evening to spend the night in their burrows.  Our Elm tour naturalist brought us to a permanent wooden blind from where we could see the penguins, one by one, waddle up from the ocean onto a sandy beach and make their way slowly to the grassy slopes where their burrows were hidden.  Penguins are a delight to watch and the yellow-eyed ones were no exception.  Just the way they sway side to side while strutting across the sand makes me smile.  Negotiating an obstacle, or jumping among boulders, with their short, stubby legs, the penguins seem totally uncoordinated, yet they always manage not to fall over.

With the frolic and humor of watching rare and endangered yellow-eyed penguins, our New Zealand adventure pretty much came to an end.  All that remained was the long, long flight home.

Images from our New Zealand adventure can be viewed in the New Zealand gallery.

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/12/last-entry-of-the-year Sat, 30 Dec 2017 00:50:02 GMT
A Consolation Trip https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/10/a-consolation-trip Normally, around the end of September Jane and I would find ourselves up north in Montana enjoying the grandeur of Glacier National Park.  This year, however, we were forced to make a last minute decision to cancel that autumn trip due to the devastating wildfires in and around the Park.  The consequence of that unfortunate cancelation was that we now found ourselves in the unaccustomed situation of being at home for a bunch of weeks rather than traveling and photographing.  What was I going to do with all that unexpected time on my hands?  I’m not terribly good at being at home for too long.  Not that there are no “projects” to be done around the house, it is just that I’m not a handyman and rather good at procrastination.  So, as Jane watched me get more and more bored and restless, she came up with a brilliant suggestion.  Why don’t I try and get a timeshare trade somewhere so we can take a bit of a trip?

That is how our consolation trip to Sedona, Arizona, came about.  Turned out we were able to get a last minute timeshare trade to Sedona for the first week of October.  The long way to Sedona, up U.S. Highway 95 from Yuma and over the mountains through Prescott and Jerome, is only about a day’s drive from San Diego.  So the consolation trip to Sedona was an easy one week vacation and, needless to say, I was a happy camper to be on another journey.  Sedona is surrounded by picturesque red rock formations and I looked forward to making some panoramic landscape images.  In addition, it turned out that the 2017 Harvest Moon, the full moon nearest to the start of fall, or autumnal equinox, was to occur during the first week in October.  That meant some more moon photography practice for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a consolation trip, this short hop to Sedona turned out to be a truly astonishing junket. The timeshare unit was spacious and homey, there was a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, and numerous trails to hike.  We enjoyed all of it, eating sleeping and hiking.  We also explored some of the backcountry on dirt tracts to ancient Hopi cliff dwelling sites.  All in all, we much appreciated this last minute consolation trip to Sedona.

I have not made a separate gallery for this trip to Sedona, so don't worry if you can't find any additional images from this trip.

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/10/a-consolation-trip Thu, 12 Oct 2017 23:03:36 GMT
Solar Eclipse https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/8/solar-eclipse What can be said about the great American total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, that hasn’t already been voiced all over the internet, television and printed media?  This spectacular astronomical phenomenon, visible across the entire nation, from coast to coast, was indeed all it was forecast to be.  Jane and I traveled from San Diego to Rexburg, Idaho, to be in the middle of the “totality” experience.  The accolades expressed by the pundits from NASA, the Science Channel, and NOAA for this unique interaction between the sun, moon and earth were confirmed by us for the two minutes that we observed the magic of the sun’s corona erupting into space.  Being awash in the darkness and chill of a total solar eclipse, while captivated by the dancing light of the sun’s coronal flares discharging from behind the moon into the atmosphere, was an exhilarating and exciting event.

2017 Solar Eclipse2017 Solar EclipsePanoramic Composition of the 2017 Solor Eclipse Photographed at Rexburg, Idaho

Astronomers predict another solar eclipse will travel through the middle of the country, from south to north, in 2024.  Who knows, perhaps we will travel to Texas to catch that one also.

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/8/solar-eclipse Sun, 27 Aug 2017 23:36:01 GMT
Denali National Park & Preserve https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/8/denali-national-park-preserve August found Jane and me in Denali National Park and Preserve.  We took advantage of an Alaska Airlines two-for-one ticket deal.  I had wanting to go back to Denali National Park to try for some of the iconic wildlife to be photographed there.  The last time Jane and I were in Denali I was still photographing with film, so you can imagine how long ago that was.  Anyway, after the high peaks of the Colorado Rockies and Ancient Puebloan sites of Mesa Verde, we packed our bags for a short trip to Alaska’s premier park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From previous trips to Denali, we knew that access to the interior of the park was restricted to busses only, no private vehicles beyond Mile Marker 15.  There are a variety of bus tours available and our strategy was to use the Shuttle Bus that allowed passengers to get off and then get back on another Shuttle Bus, provided that there were seats available.  We purchased Shuttle Bus tickets that allowed us to travel to the end of the line, some 85 miles and five hours one way, into the park, on three separate days.  We left on the early morning bus each day but our strategy of getting on and off did not work out as anticipated.  For one, the weather was always threatening and it rained pretty much every day, although not continuously throughout the day.  Then, even though the bus left each morning with plenty of empty seats they were quickly filled by campers picked up along the way.  We feared that once we got off the bus, it would be difficult to get back on another without having to wait a long time, potentially in the rain.  So we pretty much rode the full busses from beginning to end each day, photographing from the bus as best we could.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since the Shuttle Bus rides took all day, we had allowed a couple of days for exploring on our own.  Those explorations proved to offer some fairly good photo opportunities.  At Horseshoe Lake we encountered a beaver that had just felled a branch from a birch tree and was dragging it from the forest to a small pond where he commenced eating the fresh green leaves.  We found a colony of pika near the Savage River Loop Trail head and spend lots of time watching and photographing these small little rodents as they foraged among their rocky habitat.  Further along the Savage River Loop Trail we noticed arctic ground squirrels digging for roots and eating seeds from wilted flower stalks. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though we had gotten glimpses of Mount Denali from the bus, the high mountain peaks were obscured by clouds and overcast skies most of the time.  Consequently, we decided to treat ourselves to a scenic flight thinking that the plane would be able to fly above the overcast and allow us to experience the grandeur of Denali.  Our thinking turned out to be correct.  Taking off under cloudy conditions, with not much prospect of clear skies at all, when we approached the mountain we were above the clouds and Mount Denali appeared in all its glory as if floating on billowing cushions. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To view images from our Denali trip go to the National Parks and Monuments gallery and then find Denali National Park and Preserve.

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/8/denali-national-park-preserve Thu, 24 Aug 2017 23:10:53 GMT
Toot My Horn https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/7/toot-my-horn It is not often that I get to toot my own horn, but here goes.  Nature Photographer magazine, my favorite for finding great photography locations, has recently published three articles I had written about great photo locations in Wyoming, Utah and Nevada.  The Wyoming article featured the wild horses of McCullough Peaks near Cody, Wyoming.  The Utah article highlighted the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument established in 1996. The Grand Staircase is often overlooked by photographers in favor of the more famous parks in Utah, but it has some really outstanding photo locations.  Finally, Great Basin National Park was the topic of the Nevada article.  It is a wonderful park to visit in the fall when the aspen trees are in blazing colors.

You can probably find the magazines at Barns & Noble, or perhaps online. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/7/toot-my-horn Mon, 31 Jul 2017 21:37:16 GMT
Rocky Mountain High https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/7/rocky-mountain-high Jane and I, along with our photo buddy Bruce, spent the last week of June in the rarefied air of Colorado’s high Rocky Mountains.  Since there were three of us traveling, and since it was a photography journey, there was too much luggage for the back of the 4Runner.  This trip required use of the “Thule”, a rooftop cargo carrier.  The Thule had been patiently waiting in the garage for the next trip it was needed.  We last used the Thule on our Alaska Highway adventure in August 2013.  So the Thule and the three adventurers were looking forward to another great sojourn.

We stayed at a vacation rental cabin just outside Idaho Springs along Chicago Creek.  Doesn’t sound like Colorado from these names, but we were definitely in the high Rocky Mountains.  From the relatively low elevation of 7,600 feet at the cabin, we made day trips to the top of Mount Evans at 14,000 feet.  Why, you ask, would we deny ourselves the dense, thick air of sea level?  The answer is to photograph mountain goat families that forage near the summit of Mount Evans.

From our rental cabin, the trip to the top of Mount Evans takes about an hour along a paved, winding, steep and narrow, two-lane, roadway.   The scenery along the way was stunning with dense, healthy stands of conifers.  Above timberline, the road traverses subarctic rocky tundra with a myriad of delicate, small wildflowers.  Above timberline, the road also becomes steeper with numerous switchbacks, limited sight distance, and no guardrails along the steep downhill side of the road.

We typically made this trip early most mornings in order to be at the summit of Mount Evans with good morning light and to maximize the possibility of sighting wildlife.  We were not disappointed with these early departures.  Every trip to the top resulted in our being able to photograph mountain goat nannies with young kids playing along the boulders, yellow bellied marmots soaking up the warm sun, and small pika, the most elusive of our targets.  When not looking through the camera viewfinder, we were entertained by the antics of the energetic young mountain goat kids.  At this early age of their lives, they were already pushing and shoving to show who was boss.  Their favorite game was to play “king of the boulder” with as many as five or six of the lively white fur balls vying to be the last one remaining on top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As can be expected on top of a 14,000 foot mountain peak, the wind was ubiquitous, cold and blistering.  We had to seek shelter in the 4Runner on several occasions.  We were also not alone on the mountain top.  Other photographers and wildlife enthusiasts were there to appreciate being so near to these wild animals.  During one of our forays to the protection of the vehicle, Jane engaged a fellow photographer in some shop talk.  She found out there was a lake some distance north of Idaho Springs that was a sure bet for photographing moose.  That night we Googled the location, found directions and decided to head there the next day.

Brainard Lake was nearly a two hour drive from the cabin.  In order to ensure good lighting for photography, we were up at 4:30 AM, out the door at 5:00 AM and at Brainard Lake at 7:00 AM.  Of course, we had no idea where to look for the moose.  After parking the 4Runner in the day-use parking area, we just headed towards the lake.  Not knowing where to go, we turned right at the lake’s edge where we ran into another photographer we told us we were heading in the wrong direction.  We turned around and hustled over to a dense area of willows behind a stand of pine trees.  Jane, our premier spotter, was first to see the moose.  We crept through the stand of trees and counted four big male moose with outstanding racks covered in velvet browsing on willow shoots.  By about 8:30 AM the sun was getting hotter and the moose wandered off into the cool, dense forest.  What an extraordinary experience that was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To complete our Colorado adventure we spent the first week of July at Mesa Verde National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Although over 7,000 feet in elevation, Mesa Verde is far enough south to result in temperatures much higher than the cool atmosphere of the high Rockies.  We changed to cooler attire and put away the long telephoto lenses in favor of the shorter wide angle ones.  The popularity of this unique archaeological area has resulted in the Park Service limiting access to the most outstanding cliff dwellings only by Ranger led tours.  Fifty tickets are available for each tour and could only be purchased up to two day in advance.  We were in the Park long enough to be able to get tickets for all three of the Ranger led tours.

 

Photographing the Ancient Puebloan ruins was a challenge.  It is not like photographing wildlife where the unique characteristic of the animal carries the image.  This is landscape photography where the need for a dynamic composition, exceptional lighting and a dramatic sky are mandatory.  All I can say in my defense is that I tried.

You can be a judge.  The images from Mesa Verde are located in the National Parks and Monument gallery.  Images from Mount Evans and Brainard Lake are located in the Mount Evans 2017 gallery for the time being.  I will probably be moving them to the Hooves, Antlers and Horns gallery and the Young Animals gallery in the future.

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/7/rocky-mountain-high Tue, 18 Jul 2017 23:54:34 GMT
A Tropical Adventure https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/6/a-tropical-adventure How can one possibly describe three weeks in the highlands of the Central Andean Mountains and the low rain forests of Amazonia, other than simply unforgettable.   Over a year in planning, this unforgettable adventure turned out to be ever so much more than Jane and I had envisioned.  It started out simply enough as a two week bird photography tour to Peru, but then we extended the trip with an additional week of bird photography in Ecuador.   We rationalized the additional week to maximize the adventure since we would already be in South America.  All in all, we were gone nearly a month when you throw in travel time.

We commenced our travels by flying from San Diego, via Dallas/Fort Worth, to Quito, the capital of Ecuador.  As is our custom, we arrive a day before the start of the photo tour and experienced a hasty exploration of Quito’s historic district, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Founded in 1534 by Spanish conquistadors, on the ruins of an ancient Inca city, Quito has one of the best preserved historic centers of Spanish America, according to UNESCO.  Situated at over 9,000 feet in elevation, we experienced our first signs of breathlessness as we wandered along the steep, narrow streets of Quito.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Monday morning there is a changing of the guard ceremony in front of the presidential palace in Quito.  This ceremony includes a lot of pomp and circumstance with a military band and mounted soldiers in elaborate, historic uniforms.  We stumbled upon this festive celebration during our exploration of the old city center.  The Plaza Grande, filled with locals and tourists alike, was inundated with scores of street vendors hawking their trinkets and treats.  After the ceremony, and away from the crowded plaza, Jane consummated some intricate negotiations with a street vendor for several colorful scarves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we met up with David Hemmings of Nature’s Photo Adventures (www.naturesphotoadventures.com) to start our Ecuador bird photography tour.  Our first destination was the Tandayapa Bird Lodge located about 70 kilometers (43 miles) northwest of Quito.  By car, this trip took about 2 hours and that should give some idea about driving conditions in and around Quito.  In general, streets in all metropolitan areas we visited are narrow, with limited sight distance, and extremely congested with people and cars.  Streets are aligned in a random, haphazard grid system dating back to a time when there were no cars.  Drivers compete fiercely for any space between vehicles, much like bumper cars, particularly as multiple cars and buses attempt to make turns onto the many one-way streets.  That is why you need a local driver who knows the rules of engagement and shortcuts to avoid the most congested areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived frazzled but without incident at the Tandayapa Bird Lodge to enjoy our first foray into photographing the unique hummingbirds of Ecuador.  The Tandayapa Bird Lodge is located in the rain forest and we certainly had our share of rain during our brief visit.  Several times we had to retreat inside to avoid the worst of the rainy weather.  We surmised that we experienced more rain during our two days at Tandayapa than during the entire San Diego rainy season.  The chef made up for the inclement weather by creating some extraordinary deserts for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Tandayapa, we traveled to the Cabanãs San Isidro, located about 187 kilometers (115 miles) to the southeast.  Unfortunately, that meant we had to go back through the labyrinth of streets in Quito again.  Scenery along the way, however, was fantastic and more than made up for this inconvenience.  We journeyed through narrow, winding canyons with high, steep towering mountains, covered with pristine, verdant rain forest vegetation.  Gigantic waterfalls were encountered dropping hundreds of feet from the steep mountain sides.  We also crossed over one of Ecuador’s highest Andean mountain passes, Papallacta, at over 13,000 feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of the lodges we visited in Ecuador, Cabanãs San Isidro was by far the most luxurious.  Our room was like a large sun porch, spacious with a huge bed and tall, floor to ceiling, windows on three sides.  Lodge facilities were some distance from the main, dirt track leaving us with the feeling of being absorbed into the rain forest.  The grounds had abundant, vividly colored native flowers, hosting butterflies that fluttering from flower to flower collecting nectar.  We also encountered some unique bird species at this lodge that were a challenge to photograph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Cabanãs San Isidro we backtracked about 50 kilometers (30 miles) along the paved highway to the Guango Lodge.  This time we did not have to traverse all the way back to Quito.  Guango is a large property and we ventured out on several trails along the Rio Quijos looking for birds to photograph.  Although the lodge is popular with birders we were the only overnight guests at Guango during our two day stay.  We did have a few birding groups stop by to share the spectacle of feisty hummingbirds competing for sugar water at the many feeders scattered throughout the property.  Jane added a few new species to our bird list while we were at Guango.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guango Lodge was our last bird photography location in Ecuador.  From there we traveled back to Quito and then flew to Lima, Peru, for the next phase of this unforgettable adventure.  In Lima, we met Dali and Neil Solomon who joined us for the two-week Peru portion of the photography tour.  We did not dawdle in Lima but continued on to Cusco the gateway to Machu Picchu.  Far from being the quaint and charming small village we imagined, Cusco was a sprawling, bustling city with nearly half a million people and its own congested maze of streets and byways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Cusco we continued on to Machu Picchu.  That excursion turned out to be a unique adventure of its own.  By car (with a driver guide) we maneuvered through the hectic traffic jams of Cusco and through the high and dry Andean highlands from an elevation of over 12,000 feet down to the small village of Ollantaytambo at 9,000 feet where the habitat begins its transition to rain forest.  At Ollantaytambo we boarded a train that follows the Urubamba River down to an elevation of 6,700 feet at Aguas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Pueblo).  The train ride was a pleasant, relaxing break from the tense, “back seat driving” along the busy, two-lane highway from Cusco.  All in all, by car and train, it took most of the morning to arrive at our destination in Aguas Calientes even though the overall distance is only about 120 kilometers (75 miles).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aguas Calientes is a hodgepodge of buildings built on steep mountain sides.  There is no vehicular traffic in the town.  All provisions, supplies and construction material arrived by train and are transported by hand, mostly in wheelbarrows, from the train depot to final destinations.  The town subsists on tourism and is crowded with inns, hostels, B & B’s, lodges and restaurants of assorted price range and quality.  Our lodge, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel was one of, if not the, best in town.  It was a pleasure to stay there, removed from the hustle and bustle of the main village.  The gardens are well tended with hummingbird feeders strategically located throughout.  We were able to photograph some very colorful species of tanagers that were feeding on bananas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To get from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu requires a bus ride from town up to the citadel. Bus tickets and departures are carefully monitored to control the total number of people entering this historic icon of the Inca civilization.  We visited the Inca ruins twice, once on the afternoon of our arrival in Aguas Calientes and again the following morning.  Each time, the entrance gate was crowded with visitors queued to gain access.  Once inside the historic site, however, the crowds quickly dispersed into the vast area of this ancient Inca city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Machu Picchu did not disappoint.  Even after seeing many published pictures of the ruins and reading about the Inca civilization, being there and seeing this magnificent edifice with its many buildings, temples and terraces was indeed a gratifying and humbling experience.  Sitting quietly on the same bedrock that the citadel is built upon and contemplating Inca life at this remote location, deep in the rain forest jungle, it was not difficult to develop a deep appreciation for the ingenuity, creativity and vision of the people living and worshiping here.  Visiting Machu Picchu had been a long time “bucket list” item that has now been realized.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the majesty of Machu Picchu and the ambiance of the Inkaterra Hotel, we continued with our Peru bird photography tour.  We journeyed back to Cusco and then on to Peru’s Manú National Park and Biosphere Reserve.  According to our guide Steve Sanchez (www.perubirdingexpeditions.com), the park is as large as Switzerland.  To put that in a context familiar to us, Manú is twice the size of Yellowstone National Park and about three times larger than the state of Delaware.   It is a big, remote, rugged place! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We approached the park from the south, a long 150 kilometer (93 mile) drive from Cusco.  Most of the approach to the park was on a rough graded, dirt track that became even rougher, muddier and slower as Juan, our driver, maneuvered the many switchbacks and drainage dips within the park.  Rain also hampered our progress as we were blocked by a substantial mud slide that has washed out a portion of the track.  Fortunately, we were able to backtrack to our first accommodation in the park, the Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station.  That is when we came to appreciate how remote and primitive lodges in Manú National Park are.  The room was small, rustic with few amenities, but in general adequate.  The downside was the lack of hot water and electricity.  The biological station created its own electric power with a generator, but only ran the generator for three hours in the evening from 6 to 9 PM.  During our stay, there was a generator failure and power did not commence until about 7 PM, about an hour after sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time we left the Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station, the mudslide area had been sufficiently restored to allow us to slowly and cautiously pass over the damaged roadway, and we proceeded to the Cock-Of-The-Rock Lodge, just 35 kilometers (22 miles) further into the park.  Here our room came equipped with candles to light the cabin when the generator was not operating.  Hot water, however, continued to elude us when we learned that the water supply to the water heater had been damaged by recent, heavy rains.  Regardless of these little setbacks, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Cock-Of-The-Rock Lodge.  In addition to hummingbird photography, this is where we encountered a Woolly Monkey troop that liked to raid the dining hall at the lodge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The national bird of Peru is the Andean cock-of-the-rock and only a 15 minute drive on the Manú Road from this lodge was an Andean cock-of-the-rock lek, a traditional place where male Andean cock-of-the-rock birds assemble during the mating season and engage in competitive displays that attract females.  The best time to observe this display ritual was during the late afternoon hours, which in a dark rain forest is not the best for photography.  We visited the lek twice and observed the birds perform their competitive displays from a crudely built, wooden blind.  It was most fascinating and intriguing to watch.  Several males would swoop in from the dense forest and perch on tree branches where they could be observed by females and competitors.  The birds would then proceed to show off their bright red plumage by bowing, jumping along their perches, spreading and flapping their wings, all the while vocalizing loudly with sharp calls.  Then, as if an alarm had sounded, they one-by-one disappeared back into the dense forest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just as we assumed our adventure had reached its peak, we departed the Cock-Of-The-Rock Lodge for the Amazonia Lodge.  This required not only another 45 kilometers (28 miles) of navigating the treacherous Manú road but also a 20 minute ride in a long, narrow, wooden boat on the Madre de Dios River.  Just this voyage was sufficient reason to rate this trip as an unforgettable adventure.  The photography at the Amazonia Lodge was challenging but had its rewards with some unique species, including the rufous crested coquette hummingbird and the prehistoric looking hoatzin, added to our bird list and portfolio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Amazonia Lodge, it was a long haul back to Cusco where we dropped David Hemmings off at the airport for his flight back to British Columbia, Canada.  Dali, Neil, Jane and I spent another day and half in Cusco where we enjoyed some guided tours provided by Tours By Locals (www.toursbylocals.com).  After that, it was a flight back to Lima and then home via Miami.  Nearly a month from start to finish this will always be remembered as one of our incredible journeys.

Images of the many birds photographed can be viewed in the Ecuador Birds and Peru Birds galleries.  Images of Machu Picchu are in that gallery.

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/6/a-tropical-adventure Fri, 16 Jun 2017 16:41:32 GMT
Spring Break https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/4/spring-break Following the March Madness of Death Valley, I looked forward to Spring Break.  For our spring break Jane and I traveled to Tucson, Arizona, for some photography in the Sonoran Desert.  My primary objective was to find and photograph the fragrant white blossoms of the saguaro cactus.  By all accounts, I knew that it was early in the season for saguaro blossoms, but early April fit into our overall travel schedule.  So we packed our bags (mostly my bags stuffed with photo gear) and headed east to Tucson where Jane had found a quaint, out-of-the-way casita to rent.  The location, like the casita itself, turned out to be perfect.  We were only ten minutes from the Saguaro National Park visitor center and about fifteen from the Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met some friends from the Photonaturalists Camera Club, Neil and Dali Solomon, who had been photographing birds near Sierra Vista, and spent our first day with them.  Together we toured the Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum in the morning and enjoyed a night sky program at the Kitt Peak National Observatory.  Neil is an avid bird photographer and his images can be found at www.nsolomonphoto.com.  The program at Kitt Peak was fascinating and was highlighted with night sky observations through a telescope.  Pretty neat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were definitely too early in the season for saguaro blossoms.  The forest of tall, tree-like saguaro cactus with arms growing in all directions, displayed many buds but no flowers.  Many other cacti, however, were in bloom, particularly at the desert museum cactus garden.  There we found some extraordinary hybrid cactus varieties with huge, colorful flowers.  Although disappointed that there were no saguaro blossoms to photograph, Jane and I discovered a tall saguaro with nesting northern flicker woodpeckers.  Best of all, this saguaro was located only about a quarter mile from the casita, along the dirt driveway to the main road, and we visited that cactus on several mornings.  Another serendipitous discovery was a single blossom on a saguaro located right next to the casita.  This blossom was a favorite attraction for gila woodpeckers and we spent a lot of time watching and photographing, with coffee mugs in hand, the comings and goings of these striking birds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saguaro SilhouetteSaguaro SilhouetteVertical Composition Of Saguaro Cactus Arms Silhouetted By Orange Sunset Sky, Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona

 

                                     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One afternoon we made a day trip to two local, old Spanish missions.  The first mission we visited was Tumacácori, a National Historic Park, about an hour south of Tucson.  The mission was originally founded in 1691 by a Jesuit missionary from Spain.  By 1848, after decades of hardship the mission was abandoned.  On our way back to the casita, we stopped at Mission San Xavier del Bac, a historic landmark.  This mission was founded in 1692 by the same Jesuit missionary as Tumacácori.  The current church was completed in 1797 and has been in continuous operation since.  Mission San Xavier del Bac is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona.  The inside of the chapel is exquisitely decorated.  The original mural paintings are beautiful and the altar and statues amazingly detailed.  Our visit to these old, original national historic places well worth the effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This spring break trip was also planned to coincide with the full phase of the moon.  I wanted some more practice with night sky photography after only mediocre results in Death Valley.  My ability to locate where the full moon would appear in the sky was accurate, but the timing between moonrise and sunset was off.  The location I selected had a high mountains ridge in the foreground that resulted in the moon showing its face much later than I had anticipated resulting in a foreground too dark for proper exposure.

 

Even so, we had a great time and on the way home we decided to put the casita in the pending travel file for a possible future visit.  From the casita we were able to make early morning visits to the Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum where we were rewarded with some outstanding photo ops with only a few visitors to contend with.  One morning, we had the hummingbird aviary almost to ourselves.  The woodpeckers flying back and forth to the saguaro next to the casita gave me plenty of opportunities to photograph birds in flight.  And last, but not least, was the relaxing atmosphere of this quaint, out-of-the-way casita where we watched the sun come up from the front patio with our morning coffee and go down from the back patio with our glass of wine.

Images from this spring break journey can be found in the National Parks, Monuments & Historic Landmarks gallery.  Look for the Mission San Xavier del Bac, Saguaro National Park and Tumacacori National Historic Park sub-galleries.

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/4/spring-break Tue, 18 Apr 2017 18:53:25 GMT
Two Short March Trips https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/3/two-short-march-trips My March “madness” consisted of trying, for me, a new aspect of photography.  I traveled to Death Valley, during the full moon, to try my hand at “moonscape” photography, that is, photographing iconic locations in Death Valley by moonlight.  March is high season in Death Valley and I had made reservation at Furnace Creek Ranch far in advance of my trip.  It was good I did.  The valley was filled with tourists, speaking a wide variety of different languages, and Furnace Creek was totally booked.  Many of these visitors were also photographers that I ran into as I attempted my moonlight photography. Perhaps the most iconic landscape location in Death Valley is Manly Beacon at Zabriskie Point and that is where I concentrated my efforts and met fellow photographers from as far as Germany.

I was accompanied on this new adventure by Bruce Hollingsworth.  We like to travel and photograph together and he was also game to try something new.  I had researched the internet for information about how to go about this unique type of photography.  What I discovered was that reading about how to obtain well executed moonscape photographs is so much simpler than actually implementing the process during the dark of night.  Although my planning and preparation for obtaining moonscapes was good, my ability to create “keeper” images left a lot to be desired.  Obviously, much more practice will be needed before I can brag about my moonscapes.  I also attempted photographing the full moon.  Looking at my results from that endeavor, full moon photography is also a skill I will need to work on.  It is not that my attempt at this night time photography was a complete bust.  The resulting images were just not up to my expectation and standard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All was not lost, however.  There was a killer sunset in the valley that I was able to photograph and get some decent images.  Also, during a telephone call with Jane, I learned that the Anza Borrego Desert State Park was experiencing the best spring wildflower display in ten or more years.  So a short jaunt to Borrego Springs was called for.  The wildflower bloom was pretty impressive with flower displays in areas I had not seen any flowers before.  Of course, with this kind of colorful flower exhibit, and the associated publicity, hundreds of other people had also ventured to Borrego Springs to experience the remarkable phenomena.  I did manage to obtain some images without extraneous people in them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My two short trips in March provided ample photographic challenges and demonstrated the need for more practice.  That means more trips!

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/3/two-short-march-trips Fri, 17 Mar 2017 16:51:49 GMT
Hawaiian Vacation https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/2/hawaiian-vacation Jane and I started twenty-seventeen with a super “vacation”, two weeks in Hawaii.  Jane and I have a special definition for “vacation”, it is a trip without any photography gear and all photos are taken with either a cell phone or small snap shooter camera.  We have lots of other trips in store for this year, but these two weeks were a “vacation”.  We were fortunate in being able to arrange a time-share trade for two consecutive weeks, the first week on Maui, the Valley Isle, and the second week on Kauai, the Garden Isle. 

 

We flew non-stop from San Diego to Maui and enjoyed the first week of our vacation in a one bedroom condominium at the Maui Schooner Resort in Kihei.  Jane was able to score a great price for an off-airport car rental.  Anyway, that is what we thought.  The price was really good, at least one hundred dollars less for the week than a convertible from the major car rental companies at the airport.  But the good price was not because of the location, it was because the cars were old and a bit beaten up.  Before departing the rental agency, we thoroughly inspected the vehicle and noted all the dings and scratches on our rental form.  You know how it is with car rental companies, they will charge through the nose for any little thing they can get away with.

So we were more than a bit shocked and concerned when a large, fresh ding appeared on the driver side door.  It was really bad looking, deep and with paint from the culprit vehicle embedded on our door.  Then, as I pulled out of the parking space at the resort, we heard a loud scraping sound coming from the front of the car.  We quickly got out of our seats to inspect what was causing this horrible noise. Turns out the front bumper assembly had become dislodged and the entire fiberglass unit was hanging down and scraping on the ground.  Immediately we could see the insurance deductible becoming part of our vacation cost.  We were able to, sort of, wedge the unit back into place, although we had to do that several more times over the next few days. 

Before returning the vehicle to the rental company we cleaned up the ding with cleaning solvent from the condo to where it looked as old as all the other dings on the door.  We also manipulated the bumper assembly back into place as best we could and started feverishly thinking of ways to avoid paying for damages.  When we got to the rental place we were hyped and ready to do verbal combat with the agent.  When we explained about the bumper, the agent casually told us “you should have called and we would have replaced the car.  These are old cars and we know things can go wrong”.  What a relief that was!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otherwise, our week on Maui was very relaxing.  We had a pool-side unit and spent a fair amount of time in the Jacuzzi and lounging around the pool.  One of the other guests at the Schooner Resort told us about Polo Beach and the ocean front walk in the area.  We enjoyed that hour-long walk along the swanky hotels and apartments several times.  We also followed up on suggestions from friends at home and snorkeled around Molokini Island with Trilogy Sailing and watched a slight-of-hand magic show in Lahaina.  Of course we could not return home from Maui without having made the drive up to the Haleakala volcanic crater (although we did not do the sunrise thing).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next week was spent at the Cliffs Resort in the planned community of Princeville, along the north shore of Kauai where we enjoyed the comfort and space of a large one bedroom, two bath unit.  Princeville is a bit remote from other population centers on Kauai so we planned most of our activities in and around very upscale Princeville.  For Kauai, Jane had arranged much better transportation.  We enjoyed top-down touring in a new, bright yellow Mustang convertible.  No problems with this vehicle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to exploring the beaches at Hanalei Bay and Wainiha Bay we also imbibed happy hour drinks at the Hanalei Bay Resort, about a half hour’s walk from the Cliffs.  We toured the entire island of Kauai via Sunshine Helicopters right from the Princeville airport.  The flight included Waimea Canyon, Na Pali Coast, and now famous Manawaiopuna Falls, aka “The Jurassic Falls”.  The bird’s eye view of the island’s steep, vegetation covered terrain from the comfort of the helicopter was very cool! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another very cool experience was our three hour tour of the Princeville Botanical Gardens.  The botanical garden was actually developed by a couple from San Diego, Bill and Lucinda Robertson, who had intended to retire on Kauai and instead spent years creating a fantastic garden.  Our guide, Harald, a former children’s book publisher from New Mexico, was extremely knowledgeable about all the various varieties of trees, plants and flowers encountered along the tour.  One of the tour highlights was a presentation of how cacao beans are processed into chocolate that included tasting samples of chocolate with varying cacao amounts.  We also found, by word-of-mouth, a five mile hiking trail through a mahogany plantation.  The area had previously been a sugar cane plantation and the trail took us past an old stone dam and canals built to float the cane to the processing plant.  Rain pelted us as we hiked back to the canary yellow convertible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The concierge at the resort offered us a two-for-one price for a very expensive, all inclusive (open bar and shuttle service to and from), luau for agreeing to sit it on a timeshare presentation.  The sales person tended to be a bit narcissistic and talked mainly about himself and that he did not care whether or not we purchased a timeshare since he was retired and did not need the commission.  So after a half hour we let him know that we were not interested, and since he didn’t care, we should cut the sales session short.  That proved to be a very profitable half hour for us as we had a lot of fun at the luau and enjoyed several Blue Hawaiian cocktails (with Vodka instead of Rum).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a wildlife enthusiast like me, one of the more fascinating experiences in Princeville was our encounter with the Laysan Albatross.  It seems that the cliffs along the north shore of Kauai are the ancestral nesting sites for the Laysan Albatross and other sea faring birds.  Now, these birds instinctively continue to come to these cliffs to raise chicks even though the area is covered with million dollar homes.  The albatross have adapted well to their new surroundings.  We observed them exhibiting their natural behaviors in people’s front yards as we strolled through the neighborhood streets.  In addition to the albatross, we added several new bird species to our list.  The most common bird encountered was the red junglefowl, ancestral to the domesticated chicken.  They were everywhere on Kauai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, all great “vacations” must come to an end and after our week on Kauai we headed back to San Diego.  Upon arriving back on the mainland, we learned that San Diego had experienced more rain during the time we were gone than in any other similar period in the city’s recorded history of rainfall.  That news made our two weeks in Hawaii even more special.

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2017/2/hawaiian-vacation Fri, 03 Feb 2017 17:11:55 GMT
Year End Blog https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/12/year-end-blog December saw the last of my 2016 photography trips.  Jane had work commitments, so I traveled with my photo friend, Bruce Hollingsworth.  Bruce had wanted to return to the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico for another opportunity to photograph the migrating sandhill cranes and snow geese.  Jane and I had traveled to Bosque several times in the past and, in fact, Bruce and I had been there several times as well.  Since this was about my fifth or sixth trip to Bosque del Apache, I didn’t want to return with images that I already had in my portfolio.  So, this time I planned on obtaining some new, unique images by concentrating more on environmental compositions using shorter range focal length lenses rather than close range images using long telephoto lenses.  I also attempted to obtain more abstract images using a slow shutter speed while panning birds in flight. 

Normally, birds in flight are photographed at pretty fast shutter speeds, over 1/1,000 of a second.  I was attempting to photograph the cranes and gees at around 1/50 to 1/100 of a second.  When successfully executed, the image should result in the bird’s head being in focus, its wings slightly blurred, and the background an abstract blur of colors.  Sounds easy, but it is not.  Thank goodness for digital photography and an infinite supply of pixels.  I made several hundred attempts for each image that approached the standards I expected to achieve.  I had to sort through thousands of totally out of focus shots to find the very few keepers I was satisfied with.  Hope you agree with my choices.  You can view them in the Wildlife Refuges gallery and then clicking on Bosque del Apache.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our way home, Bruce and I stopped for more photography at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.  Rather than wildlife as at Bosque, White Sands is a landscape photography location and I have always found landscapes to be extremely difficult to compose.  Landscape photography requires a serious amount of scouting to find an interesting combination of foreground, middle-ground and background.  My lack of landscape photography experience showed as I wandered aimlessly among the white gypsum sand dunes looking for that perfect landscape combination.  By the time the soft light of sunset arrived, I just ended up doing the best I could.  Same thing occurred the following morning.  It was dark when we arrived so finding a perfect location was out of the question.  Again, I reverting to doing the best I could with the potential compositions I stumbled upon.  My saving grace was a beautiful sky with colorful light and great clouds.  Images from White Sands are located in the National Parks and Monument gallery under White Sands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                            WISHING ALL WHO READ MY BLOG

                                                                     A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

 

 

]]>
(Rinus Baak Photography) https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/12/year-end-blog Fri, 23 Dec 2016 19:31:13 GMT
Autumn Road Trip https://www.rinusbaakphotography.com/blog/2016/10/autumn-road-trip This blog is a bit longer.  Our autumn road trip turned out to be over four thousand miles and traversed the length and breadth of six states, not counting California.  It was an invigorating and, at times, exhausting month long excursion with stops at nine separate accommodations along the way.  Since the blog is long, let me say at the beginning rather than the end, that the images from this trip are located in the “2016 Road Trip” gallery.

To avoid some of the heavier commuter traffic in Los Angeles County, Jane and I left San Diego at 4:30 in the morning bound for our first destination, Great Basin National Park in Nevada.  After the, now routine, six boring hour drive to Las Vegas, we left Interstate 15 and headed north on U.S. Highway 93, the Great Basin Highway.  Approximate 18 miles north of Caliente, we stopped at Cathedral Gorge State Park.  On previous trips, we always bypassed this small Nevada state park due to time constraints.  But on this road trip, we had time to investigate this off-the-beaten-path attraction.  Just a short mile or two off Highway 93, and hidden from view, was a spectacular geologic display of erosion carved cliffs and spires.  We did not spend a lot of time at Cathedral Gorge, but enjoyed very much marveling at the intricate features eroded into the soft rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Baker, Nevada, gateway to Great Basin National Park by mid-afternoon.  We stayed with Magaret Pence at her “bunkhouse”, a rustic but charming and cozy accommodation (www.greatbasinbunkhouse.com).   Staying at the “bunkhouse” turned out to be far more than just a nice place to sleep.  It was like an affable family affair as we enjoyed Margaret’s hospitality.

Great Basin National Park is situated in the southern portion of the Snake Mountain Range and contains Nevada’s second highest mountain, Wheeler Peak, at just over 13,000 feet.  Jane and I were hoping for our first glance at fall colors here.  We were not disappointed as we hiked park trails through great groves of golden, quaking aspen trees.  The Wheeler Peak Scenic Highway was ablaze with color as the sun backlit the aspen leaves into a luminous glow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a couple of days hiking and exploring Great Basin National Park, we packed the 4Runner, hugged Margaret farewell, and started the drive to our cabin at West Glacier.  Our selected route through Idaho took us past Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.  Again, we had passed this landmark on previous trips and not stopped.  So, with time on our hands, we made a short detour to enjoy this unique landscape.  This area of small craters and black fields of lava started forming only about 15,000 years ago when lava issued from a series of deep fissures, the last eruption occurring about 2,000 years ago.  That is pretty recent in geologic time.