Two for the Furry Critters (Pt 1 of 2)

If you read my last post, this one should not be a surprise at this content. I was just relaxing a bit before my race in Chicago tomorrow. This will be the first race since experiencing an injury on the right (inner) side of the left knee back in July (during the Bix7 race). It has been a pretty long journey back to this point with an MRI, x-rays, two-a-week therapy sessions and a regiment of 1.5 hours a night of stretching and strengthening. I will not be pushing the pace, but still hoping everything makes it through alright. The flexibility has definitely improved, but unfortunately, the cardio has taken a hit being only able to crank out 2-3 miles every couple of days. As a lesson to all the kiddies out there, don’t be taken by the latest BS articles against stretching.

As you can tell by the title, this is a two part series focused on the rather cute looking squirrel/chipmunk families. We came across a number of these critters during our vacation and they always seemed like they were living the Carpe Diem. There didn’t appear to be intimidated by my constant picture taking and in some cases it seemed like they were actually posing for the camera. Of course, they are probably all cute and cuddly on the outside while plotting world domination at night in their dens. First step: act cute, second step ehhhhh, third step, world domination.

In all honesty, I had a difficult time actually distinguishing the various types of squirrels and chipmunks so ended up making some educated guesses on what was what.  This particular post will focus on the dominant grouping call Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrels.  There appears to be some similarities with other species, but the stripes all appeared similar on this set and the similar critter (White -Tailed Antelope Squirrel) had white underneath the tail.

Essentially, if they had the dual colored stripes on the side and the white outlines of the eye they were labeled golden-mantled.  If you see any images that are incorrectly identified, please make a comment so that can be corrected.  Of all the pictures we took during the trip, a shot of the Raven and the following shot are my two favorites.  We also had these images blown up for entries into photography contests and are now proudly displayed in our house.  You know the drill, the image here isn’t nearly as nice as the non-reduced version, but hopefully you will appreciate the coloring and the cute pose.  This is also one of the few pictures that I didn’t follow the thirds cropping rules.

Well, to be honest, I did follow thirds since the floral in the lower left and the texture and coloring in the log in the upper right were the features that really make the image appealing to me.  The living, the dead and the cute all rolled together in a nice package.  Just to give you a better feel for why I like this particular photo so much, I cropped another version for you.  This one is closer to real size of the photo.

A smile crosses my face every time I pass by this picture.  With that said, the critics apparently hated it probably due to their overly rigid rules about only good pictures are taken in the morning or night and the thirds violation yada yada yada.  Rather than get myself lathered up on that topic, I’ll just let it go and let you decide for yourself.  I love opinions on any of my photos so feel free to let me know what you think – don’t worry, I’m a big boy and can take the bad.  While we are there, let’s toss out a similar picture.

This picture has essentially the same subject, the same background and foreground setting with on exception.  The foliage was cropped out in the zoom.  As a result, it is still pretty cute, but just doesn’t seem as appealing as the full shot above.  You will be happy to know I did follow the thirds for that crop and it does honestly help in this particular picture.   I probably should have reduced the light some on the little one’s head to pop it a tad more, but overall I have taken a lot worse… and yes, I know it was not taken in the morning or the late afternoon.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the shots featuring this furry critter.

Just to continue this little study of contrasts, here is a third shot with a similar subject material.  Again, the squirrel is the same (at least as far as I can tell), the setting is similar, but consisting of a more uniformly colored dead tree and with a dose of vegetation.

So, what’s your impression?  less appealing or more appealing than the last two?  If you are like me, you fall on the less appealing vote.  I think there are a number of reasons for this.  The subject positioning is not optimal (unless you happen to really like squirrel butts), the log is somewhat monotonous with the consistent coloring compared to the various textures and rustier highlights of the first shot.  Lastly, the living vegetation is too sparse and gets dominated by the death feeling from the tree.  One thing for sure, it is difficult to really get a feeling for a picture out in the field.  the little LCD screen doesn’t give a good representation of the colors or allow you to step back and experience the shot.  Of course, my attempts to get the wildlife to behave and pose has been less than fruitful.

Wow, look at the time.  I need to wrap this up and get some sleep before the big race.  Let me close out with a few more.  The following shot is kind of funny.  I get the impression he was sizing me up the whole time and deciding whether this was a good opportunity to start the grand domination plan or not.  More likely planning on how he can draw me in close, scratch my eyeballs out and scurry off with the camera.

“okeez, nowz Iv him withtin range”

“keepz yuz ey on de tail… nuttin tu cee heerz”

“nowz I STRIKE LIKE FURRY NINJA”

[sorry, your usual programming has been interrupted – we apologize for any inconvenience and will notify you once we assess the damage!]

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