Week 28 … #23 Balance … Waiting for a Bite

_NIK7472-4Snowy Egret, Anna Maria, FL

This fellow had a challenge on a breezy day balancing on a pier piling hoping to snatch some discards from a fish being cleaned on Rod and Reel Pier in Anna Maria.  He was never lucky, though, as the fisherman tossed the remains to the pelicans below.  For this week’s theme of “Balance” where the left and right halves of an image draw the eye equally, I used this image as an example of an ‘imbalanced’ image where the visual weight of the egret is on the left where your eyes are drawn primarily, with nothing on the right to counter the ‘imbalance’ of the photo.  Had there been a fish in the egret’s mouth or another egret’s head popping up from the right lower corner would have helped put this image into a more balanced pose, making the difference of a great shot versus an average one as is this one.

Week 27 … #18 Door …Enter Into a World of Possibilities

“How To Turn Anything Into Something Else”, Mural Arts of Philadelphia

Having been a Philadelphia resident for 11 years prior to moving to Lakewood Ranch, I would frequently come upon one of the over 1,300 murals that paint Philly’s downtown landscape.  The Philly Mural Arts Program is an anti-graffiti mural program bringing professional artists and graffiti writers together to create new murals in the city along with involving and educating children in the arts.

With some free time this past weekend while in Philly, I took a tour of some of the works in Center City.  The image above particularly stood out with its bold colors and background story.  I thought it served as a perfect illustration for a metaphorical “Door” theme, where one can open it into “an ever-changing world.”

The mural development paired 13 artists and students ages 10 to 15 over the summer of 2011 to develop the concept.  Below are some excerpts that explain the design:

“Though the images in the mural appear strange and whimsical, they hold a mirror to the world the kids inhabit in real life –  there are systems of travel, places of danger and places of rest, spaces of darkness and of light.  There are factories that pollute the water, and there are portals that hold new possibilities. A dragon’s back turns into tracks and supports a freight train, a lemon transforms into a bird taking flight, a boat becomes a whale, and scissors’ arms break apart to sprout separate individuals.  This was aptly summarized by 10-year-old Marquis Fabii, (ultimately becoming the title of the mural), How to Turn Anything Into Something Else.

“Together we made a world that is at once a version of the one we inhabit, the one of which we are afraid, and the one for which we hope.

“Towering over everything in the top-right corner is the many-muscled Kira, a direct representation of a drawing by Big Picture student Shakira Lowery.  Kira is the strongest woman in the world, has flashlight eyes and sees through darkness. She casts a guiding light on this new, uncanny place. We decided to use Shakira’s image as a welcoming beacon for folks on the sidewalk and as a tribute to the strength and creativity that is demanded of us all as we set out into an ever-changing world.”

 

Week 26 … #51 Rule of Odds … Towering Above the Plains

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Reticulated Giraffe at Water Hole, Lewa Wilderness Conservancy, Kenya

Before our safari, I was unaware that there were different varieties of giraffes.  To me, they were all the same …  beautiful, long-necked creatures.  As I was searching for an image for this week’s ‘Rule of Odds’ (where an image is more appealing when there is an odd number of subjects), I thought this image of a mother, daughter and baby were a good example versus had it only been mother and baby.  These are Reticulated Giraffes with their striking and crisp geometric patches, with males being darker as they age.

Below, although a nice image, I find not as interesting as the one above.  But it does provide an example of the difference in giraffes.  These are Masai Giraffe, whose irregular brown patches are on a yellow-buff background whereas the Reticulated Giraffes’ pattern is much more crisp.  Just another little interesting fact I learned from our wonderful guides in Kenya.

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Week 25 … #11 Golden Ratio … A Spotted Beauty

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Cheetah in the Masai Mara, South Western Kenya

We saw a number of these beautiful cats during our visit to Africa.  The Cheetah, the world’s fastest land mammal, stalks its prey alone, getting as close as possible before attacking with a burst of speed, eventually tripping its prey and seizing it quickly by the throat in a suffocating grip.  They immediately try to drag the carcass into cover to avoid scavenging hyenas, lions or jackals who will steal it from the cheetah.  An interesting fact I was unaware of is that the cheetah’s tail terminates with a series of black rings and a white tip and that the tail rings are as unique as human fingerprints!

I used this image for Week 25’s Golden Ratio category which placed the cheetah’s head in the exact location of the beginning of the Fibonacci Spiral with the four squares.  I actually use the Fibonacci Spiral frequently in the crop guide overlay in Lightroom.  It is always helpful but sometimes I just go with my gut!

Week 24 … #24 Wild Card … Taking Flight

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Vultures in Serengeti Sunrise, Tanzania.

When on safari, one doesn’t consider African vultures worthy of photographing when there are more beautiful creatures to capture.  But one early morning at our mobile campsite on the Serengeti, there were a number sitting up in the trees, resting before the day began.  They were a beautiful sight against the sunrise.  I learned to appreciate these barbaric looking birds for their importance on the plains of Africa.  Their ability to fly over 60 miles a day patrolling the plains plays a vital role in keeping the wild areas free of disease and rotting carcasses.  They are incredibly efficient scavengers, leaving just bones, providing yet another meal for their competitors – the jackals, hyenas and feral dogs who will remove any remaining evidence of death.

 

Week 23 … #46 Fear … Circle of Life

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Cape Buffalo and lionesses battle over calf, Masai Mara, Kenya.

Cape Buffalo are fiercely protective of their young — and of each other — despite the fact that they have few predators.  Also known as Black Death, the Cape Buffalo can be extremely dangerous, and have a tendency to attack humans.  They are to be feared!!  It is said Cape Buffalos have killed more big game hunters than any other animal in Africa.  But then, I have little sympathy for big game hunters!

We came upon this scene of a young buffalo mother trying to protect her several day old injured calf.  She was alone which probably meant she had been there for a while as the herd had moved on without her.  Buffalo herds are very protective of each other and stick close together, even engaging in mobbing behavior when fighting off predators.  In this case, it would appear that the herd was aware of the futility of saving this baby calf and moved on without her.

The scene was filled with a dozen or so hyenas, two lionesses and a jackal, all surrounding the mother and the calf, waiting for her to walk away.  Each time that she attempted to leave the calf, the lions or the hyenas would approach the calf, biting at it or trying to drag it off.  The calf would cry out, she would run back and chase off the predators.  At one point, the lions attacked the hyenas, pushing them back, but overtime, they inched their way closer.  We must have watched this scene for over an hour with the mother torn between staying with her calf or leaving.

We decided to pull out of the area and find a spot for our mid-morning coffee and breakfast, a nice perk to early morning game drives.

IMG_0898When we returned to the site an hour later, the mother’s struggle to stay or leave still continued as the predators attempted to take the calf.  After another forty minutes watching this scene, the mother ultimately, but hesitantly, continued walking away from the calf as he no longer cried out when the lions were upon him.  She had made her decision to leave.

And so did we.

It’s a sad scene for any animal being attacked or killed but in this wild African kingdom, I came to accept the fact that one animal’s death may mean the survival of another.  Birth, survival and death … in its most raw form in Africa.

Week 22 … #49 Portrait with f/8 … The King

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The King of Masai Mara, Kenya.

We came upon this big guy in an open field around dusk on our game drive, just laying there, sniffing the air casually.  We had no idea where his pride was or even if he was part of a pride.  Young males are forced out of the pride around 2 years old.  They form bachelor groups and follow migrating herds until they are strong enough to challenge male lions of other prides.  A group of males stay in power in the pride for around three years before another bachelor group takes it over.  

He was just one of a number of lions and lionesses we viewed while staying several days at Richard’s River Camp, a private conservancy bordering the Masai Mara in Kenya.  Being set in a conservancy means contributing revenue to a conservation area, which has fewer other travelers, and the option to do bush walks and night game drives which are not possible inside the main Mara.

We stopped and watched him for a while.  He seemed quite content all alone.  It still unnerves me when these wild animals lock eyes with you when they are only 10 or 20 feet away.  But at that moment, it was a perfect time to capture a portrait of this majestic wild animal.  Captured with a Nikon D810, Tamron 150-600 lens at 350mm zoom, f/8, ISO 1600, 1/250 sec.