Tag Archives: Nature

Ducks in a Row

Ducks in a Row
Ducks in a Row

It has been quite some time since I have had an opportunity to visit the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, NY.  And, at the first opportunity to do so, I leapt at the chance. I had always enjoyed the zoo visits I made when I lived in Syracuse, as it allowed me the opportunity to explore a bit of the exotic.  Further, it allowed me to bring a slightly different flavour of content to my images. So, at the suggestion to visit the zoo with some friends, I quite literally got my ducks in a row, jumped into my car and hit the highway.

Without fail, the trip to zoo filled me with excitement and wonder and I couldn’t keep my camera from my eye. It was a joy to be among the various aquariums, and underwater life, among the birds of the aviary, the primates, and other species of animals. I am certainly no Tarzan, but I am pretty sure as I made my way through the twists and turns of the zoo, the animals were all whispering to themselves — boys, and so as to not sound politically incorrect,  girls, he is back,  strike a pose! At least, that is the thought which consumed my mind when I shot the photograph in this post — Ducks in a Row. Though it may appear so, the composition was not posed. I literally walked upon two ducks roosting in and on a log, one atop the other. Thankfully, they were not bothered by the sound of my shutter release going off nor my indulgence in trying to to organize the elements in the frame both vertically or horizontally. Thus, I was able to accomplish the photograph shown here.  Although, I took numerous other photographs while meandering through the zoo, that stands out as one of the more outstanding images i shot that day simply because of its idiomatic undertones.

In all it was a good day at the zoo, and I can’t recommend the Rosamond Gifford Zoo enough as it never fails to delight. But, as most start to get their New Year’s resolutions together and to focus on what needs to be accomplished, I am probably the only one who can argue figuratively as well as literally, I got all my Ducks in a Row.

 

Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts
Bleeding Hearts

Memorial Day was established as a day of reflection for those who died in the U.S. Civil War. However, it has expanded to recognize the soldiers who have lost their lives in other confrontations that the U.S. has engaged in.  Of course, for every soldier lost there is a grieving family. And, I could thing of nothing else which quickly and symbolically communicates their loss than the Bleeding Hearts flower.

As depicted in this post, the Bleeding Hearts is a flower which has an uncanny shape like a heart. And, as it matures, the pointed end of the flower peels back to expose a white, pointy, bud-like shaped part of the flower which resembles a tear drop. Thus, we have the bleeding heart.

Normally, these flowers can range from red to pink in colour and may have variations in between. Contradicting its otherwise upbeat mood, I selectively chose to remove the colour to communicate otherwise. Instead, I chose to emphasize the sadness of Memorial Day in recognition of the fallen.

So, in a less festive and more spiritual recognition of Memorial Day, I have made two variations of the Bleeding Hearts available free for download as desktop wallpapers – Bleeding Hearts Black & White and Bleeding Hearts Colour.  If you wish to receive a signed and dated print feel free to contact me for details. I only plan to produce 25 prints of either variant – colour or black and white.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

April Showers Bring May Flowers
April Showers Bring May Flowers

April showers bring may flowers or so the saying goes. It is a common saying among persons in the English speaking world that marks the transition from April to May, from a month of rain to a month of blossoms. That is the thought that came to mind when I took the photo of this tulip right after the heavy rainfall experienced on April 30.

I had just arrived at work a day after some of the heaviest rainfall I had ever experienced on Long Island; I would say about three inches. Things were still pretty damp and the sun had not risen yet.  I took the time to walk the grounds with camera in hand and noticed a bed of tulips outside the office window.  The excessive rains from the previous day had weighed down the tulips causing them to lean over into the leaves at the bottom of their stems. Some had become contorted, and others had lost some of their petals, while others drew a beautiful contrast between their bright colours and the deep green folds of their leaves. The later was the concept I tried to capture in my photograph.

I chose to avoid the focus on the colour of the  elements in the scene but instead communicate the texture and form of those elements.  The folds of the leaves provide a somewhat painterly, dark backdrop to the light areas of the tulip’s foreground. The beads of water from the rain not only draw interest but emphasize the tulip bud as it is the only element in the scene which has it. The bud itself draws interest due it is brightly coloured, and almost fragile appearance. Collectively, they form a tapestry of contrasting yet, complimentary textures of that experience.

Indeed, April showers do bring May flowers as stated by the poem excerpt –

April showers bring May flowers,
That is what they say.
But if all the showers turned to flowers,
We’d have quite a colourful day!

There’d be bluebells and cockleshells,
Tulips red and green,
Daffodils and Chinese squill,
The brightest you’ve ever seen.

And, It was also apparent in the tulip bed outside my office window.

Through My Window

Through My Window
Through My Window

It is amazing the small things we miss because we are so wrapped up in the business of the regular day-to-day – the falling rain, the blossoming flowers, the small shaft of sunlight as the clouds part. I am just as much a culprit of that as well. I often times get so wrapped up in programming at work that I forget to observe the things outside. Well, I broke away from the monotony and observed, through my window, tulips blossoming in the sunlight behind a pane of wet glass.

The act of using the texture made by the streaking water droplets on the glass was very deliberate as I wanted to bring attention both to the water and the flowers in the background. I could think of no other way to present it that would illustrate those elements together and on par. In fact, the water provided something more akin to a texture to the overall image.The lighting played its part in making the image what it is, lightly kissing the flowers helping them emerge from the surrounding dark green vegetation.

Could I have made the image sharper? Sure I could. But, the purpose of the image was not about conveying a surgical copy but to convey a mood. A mood that is often felt when observing the rain fall. It is more of a feeling of being purified as particles are washed away and everything seems to burst with renewed vigour. That is what I felt when I saw the scene and what I wanted to convey when I shot this image through my window.

Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn
Breaking Dawn

This is not the final installment to the Twilight saga – far from it. This is to introduce the real “Breaking Dawn”. The photo in this post was taken at Robert H. Treman State Park in Ithaca New York. And, to me, is a much accurate representation of breaking dawn.

This is one photograph that I could not possible convert to black and white because if I did, I would loose the effect of the warm sunrise over the crest of the waterfall. The warm, golden yellow color seen here is indicative of the soft glow seen from the sun as it slowly creeps its way into forest areas. The atmosphere at the top of the falls was a sort of hazy mist filled with the moisture liberated by the splashing water of the falls. The lit area to the left of the photograph define the contours of the  jagged, rocky terrain lining the falls and provide depth to the image. The sun rays almost split the image in half creating an equally sized shadow area where the milky, white water of the falls cascade down to the pool below.

In contrast to the well-lit, warm, sunny area, we have the cooler parts of the falls where the water runs through. The falls cascade no less than three times, zigzagging, carving its way through the terrain until it finally terminates at the pool. The white water of the fall is indicative of the motion of the water as it descends through the rocks.

Indeed the serene scene evokes a mood of tranquility and in some ways a mood of refreshment – not only because of the cool, flowing waters of the falls but also because of the directional light cast by the rising sun. A mood which is further emphasized by its title – “Breaking Dawn”.

Winter Berries

Winter Berries
Winter Berries

Thanks to the acute attention to detail of fellow photographer and instructor, Joe Inzalaco, I was able to capture something I rarely take notice of – winter berries.

We were both assisting some students at the Rozamond Gifford Zoo, taking them through the paces of adjusting their camera to take photographs manually. Upon leaving the pond where ducks and flamingos are frequently on exhibit, we paused at the primate park exhibit. There, Joe pointed to a berry plant which had lost almost all its leaves.

Thanks to thick fog and dense cloud cover this morning, the lighting was flat. There were no deep shadows and this allowed me to emphasize the small amounts of light which would break through the clouds occasionally  In this case, there was a small amount of light which shone on the right side of the berries bringing drama to the image.

The leaf shown in the image was the last leaf I observed on this branch; And, I used it to counter balance the berries on the opposite side of the frame. I also used a shallow depth of field to further isolate this singular branch. The photo was taken such that the branch ran diagonally through the frame to add a dynamic feel to the image. Although I had considered converting the image to black and white, I thought the colors were rich and added more to the image than taking away. Further, the purple blurred patches in the background add to the context of the image and makes for a nice smooth background.

For a completely spontaneous image, I thought that various elements came together to make the image work. The soft lighting, the leaf, the shallow depth of field, the color all converged in making an image which emphasized depth, drama and the beauty of these “Winter Berries.”

Fall Daisy

Fall Daisy
Fall Daisy

Thanks to hurricane Sandy, there were many other photographs I had celebrating Fall but had not published. I was much more concerned with following the weather and the developments as it pummeled the east coast. One such photograph is the one included in this post – Fall Daisy.

I had taken numerous photographs of this daisy which could only be regarded as boring. It was boring because it seemed like any other photograph of a daisy. That is, until I decided to break some conventions of photography.

One particular convention that I have always heard of is to never place your subject too close to the edge of your frame – broken. Yes, in experimentation I decided to jettison this convention in an attempt to draw attention to the subject. But, I decided to go one step further in breaking convention.

I also decided to shoot the photograph such that the daisy is facing the edge of the frame. It is convention to provide some space to your subject to allow it to face into the frame – thrown out the window. Here, I did just the opposite allowing my subject to face outside the frame. Indeed, I could have shot this daisy in such a way that it would provide more space to the left. But, It would have taken away from the mystery and interest I wanted to draw to my subject.

The combination of the tight framing and breaking the convention by having my subject look out of the frame made for a photograph that not only broke with convention but created interest. The composition creates a lot of tension encouraging the viewer to question what lies beyond the daisy’s left side, why such tight cropping and negative space. This, however, helped transform this image from an average daisy to one which calls attention to itself.

Two of a Kind

Two of a Kind
Two of a Kind

It is amazing sometimes to observe some of our human like qualities being reflected in other species. In the same way we care for our young, that behavior is exhibited in other species; In the same way we may groom each other, that behavior is exhibited in other species; In the same way we  cuddle when it gets cold, that behavior is exhibited in other species. These characteristics are observed in numerous species beyond our own and in this photo I have titled “Two of a Kind.”

On a rather windy day, I visited the zoo and upon passing the primate enclosure, I noticed two monkeys huddled together near a viewing area of the enclosure. The wind was not whipping, but it was certainly cooler than it had been for a couple of days and these two monkeys had huddled together, embracing each other to keep warm.

It was not just the huddle that caught my attention as this is quite common among monkeys. But, it was the addition of the stare. The stare which was directed right back at me through the window pane of the observation area. In one instant, it humanized that moment. For that one moment, I no longer felt that I was looking at an animal at a zoo, but a species that was capable of caring and sharing. To be frank, words are not needed to describe how they may have felt and what they were trying to do as this was already conveyed through their actions and their eyes. It was a warming embrace that is expressed through nothing short of love and concern for the other.

In all species of animals, there are certain behavioral characteristics that resonate with us as we exhibit the same characteristics given certain situations. Consequently, their behaviors also communicate, without words, certain things that we ourselves do. Things that are expressed in this photograph of two monkeys, “Two of a Kind.”

Grazing Reindeer

Grazing Reindeer
Grazing Reindeer

I will be the first to admit that the photograph of this grazing reindeer looks a lot like something straight out of a fairy tale book or some wildlife photography shot. And, I will not deny that this was the look I was going for.

As stated, the scene looks like something out of a story book. With its gentle sloping hills, its green pastures, the ground littered with the golden and yellow leaves of Fall, and a soft sunny backlit area, the scene looks almost staged – but it wasn’t. This is yet another photograph from my visit to the zoo last week. I started early and had decided to make my way around the Rozamond Gifford Zoo but from a different direction. I choose to start of from the pond entrance rather than the bird exhibit where the kookaburas reside. As I made my way around the winding path, I came across the open pen of the reindeers. It was still early in the morning and the sunlight was more directional than it was overhead creating long streaks of yellow light in the areas where it penetrated through the leaves and branches. The gentle slope of the land helped to accentuate the fallen leaves which littered the grounds of the pen. The reindeer, with its solid brown, white and black colors, anchored the photograph illustrating that it was the subject. Had it not been for the reindeer in the shot, the scene would have been plain and would lack interest. But with the reindeer in the shot, and the including of all the other elements working together, it creates a photograph which is memorable.

Although the photograph looks staged, it wasn’t. In spite of this, however, the combination of elements which make the photograph  work – lighting, gentle sloping hills, reindeer, leaf littered landscape, green pastures – give the impression of a scene straight out of a story book; A story book of a grazing reindeer in a meadow.

Golden Lion Tamarins

Golden Lion Tamarins
Golden Lion Tamarins

Golden Lion Tamarins are one of the more active simians present at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, next to the Squirrel Monkeys. Being one of the New World Monkeys, it is lighter, faster and smaller than the Old World Primates which tend to be larger and heavier – apes and humans. It is this combination of characteristics along with the lighting conditions of their enclosure which made them a challenge to photograph; Let me explain why.

One of the bigger attractions of the Golden Lion Tamarin exhibit at the Zoo is the tamarin itself. Golden colored, small and agile, the tamarin is usually a very active primate which jumps from branch to branch, often hiding behind leaves and branches. The small size and active nature makes them pretty difficult to track even with the autofocus system of most modern cameras. I have walked away with many blurred shots because they were so active.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that the lighting conditions in the pen is very low. To the human eye, the change in light is not all that significant as our eyes have a higher dynamic range than that what is achievable with digital cameras. However, for a photographer on a budget who does not have the money to invest in the next 2.8f 200mm lens, having a significantly high ISO capable camera with low noise can be your best friend. Otherwise, one can suffer from slow shutter speed which again results in blurred pictures. Now, blurry photos are not a bad thing, as long as they are done deliberately and with reason.

Thankfully, on my visit to the zoo earlier this week, I arrived at a time when the tamarins appeared to be still sleepy. It may be that they are just adjusting to the cooler weather of Fall. However, this was the first I had visited and seen them so lethargic hanging from the branches within the pen. This gave me the opportunity to really think through my shot and compose the best way I could. Consequently, I took this photograph labeled Golden Lion Tamarin. This photograph is one in probably three or four that I took of the tamarins. Of all of the photos, this is the only one where the tamarin in the foreground raised its head and looked forward. In the others, it merely laid its head on the branch and slept. I choose to stick with this image because I thought it carried the most interest, compositionally.

Further, I chose to stick with color on this shot as there is no other way I can illustrate that the tamarins are golden color without showing them in color. The hair growth on the tamarins is also interesting as the hair on the head appears like a mane on a lion. I guess this explains the name.

Tamarins are always a pleasure to watch because of their color, agility and general active nature. However, they are difficult to shoot because of their very active nature. The problem can be further compounded by the lighting conditions of their enclosure. But, if you are lucky, there are times when you can capture them when they are still. And, that opens the door for more creativity in shooting them.