The Cute and the Pissed

My apologies, this post was suppose to go out yesterday – you know, the whole Valentine’s Day and the “Cute” theme.  Unfortunately, some unplanned issues came up that required me to spend extra time on the phone discussing  flight schedules from Florida.  For the record, I can’t believe the price of air travel these days.  So basically you get to be treated as public enemy #1  and have the pleasure of paying a premium for it. (To keep my spirits up during air travel I mentally replay Tracy Morgan’s SNL skit on profiling.)  Figured it would be prudent to get this post out while there was some free time.

This set of pictures  is from our Yellowstone vacation (assuming you were not surprised about that) but they were not actually taken at the park.  Instead, they were shot at a stop off on our way there and another one on our way back.  Need to make the most of the photo opportunities when you are heading out West.  Since the VDay theme doesn’t really apply anymore, let’s start with the “Pissed”.  Spearfish south Dakota is a favorite stopping point for us when we are heading to Yellowstone.  Beyond the cool name, this small little town has some gorgeous waterfalls in relatively easy walking distance from parking lots.  Linda’s nature photography specialty are the “silks” and she once again produced some very nice shots – guessing she will be putting these head to head with my wildlife shots during the competition season.  While she is off playing with the shutter speeds, I generally entertain myself by stalking the local wildlife.

Well, to be honest the word stalking is better served by “annoying the living crap out them” in this case.  Imagine the insane racket reserved for raccoons protecting it’s young packaged up in a large golden brown hamster with a long fuzzy tale.  Rather than simply state displeasure and carry on with the comfy life of a forest rat, this squirrel would come running at me (in full rant of course) and take up a defiant posture in the nearest tree.  10 seconds later it would scamper off into the trees only to repeat the cycle as I continued walking along a trail.  Thanks to confidence from earning 2nd degree black belts in multiple martial arts discipline I stood my ground against this upset furball.

Hit the jump to view the rest of the pictures… and commentary

This ended up being a mistake.  I had underestimated his Squirrel Fu skills.  In a high pitched squeak I heard the words “You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here!”  Yikes, this squirrel means business and my best means of defense (the monopod) was back with Linda.  Slowly I backed away, but not before hearing “Let me introduce you to my little friend”  If this continues, it is not going to bode well for the human race.  As a note, there was some serious disappointment when this shot came up in post processing.  Somehow the intruding branch was missed when the original shot was snapped.  After taking it in for awhile it eventually grew on me just the way it was.  The unplanned composition gives the feeling that the squirrel was moving the branch out of the way to get a better look.  I did manage to get another one with the branch out of the focus point of the shot.  It looks a little less annoyed in this shot but the chatter continued the entire time!

During the course of the trip I came upon a couple more squirrels… translated Linda discovered more waterfalls.  This one was keeping its eye on me while it climbing the large evergreen but for the most part it kept the chatter down to a whisper.  The shot begs the question, was this a very young squirrel or a gigantic evergreen trunk”

The below shot was actually taken on a trail in Yellowstone.  With the poor eyesight of many predator animals (such as wolves), the “go statue” survival instinct is more than adequate to avoid a deadly encounter.  Humans, however, have exception ability to see a large focus depth (according to Wikipedia, about 20 fstop dynamic contrast range for you camera buffs) so it was pretty easy to isolate.

To be honest, I struggled with the crop for this particular shot.  The original approach was to leave forest background on the left side too. Eventually a coin was flipped and I went with this version. With the left side on, the eye was battling to find the real focus of the picture.

Shall we move on to the “Cute”!  On our way back from Yellowstone, we stopped by Custer State Park to see what picture opportunities were available.  They were experiencing a beetle outbreak in the park that was killing a large swath of evergreens.  To combat this infestation, the park rangers were busy taking down trees to create protective buffers.   Guessing the noise from the cutters were pushing the wildlife deeper into the park because there was very little to photograph … until … I spotted a tiny eyeball.

I made Linda stop the car so I could jump out and take some shots – you never want to leave a photo outing without at least one picture!  Most of the time was spent with the 200mm glass since that was already on the handiest camera.  With the animals easy escape route, the assumption was the opportunity to shoot was going to be brief.  20 minutes later I was still photographing this rabbit, trying out different settings and compositions.

To Peter’s credit, he remained pretty calm and seemed to exhibit equal curiosity.

Having exhausted the options with the 200 glass, I switched over to The Beast.  Heck, if the model is going to cooperate, why not throw everything you have at it.  Environment adaption has always intrigued me so the following shots were processed with more of an earthy tone to show their natural camouflage.

Another lesson learned to validate the composition before leaving the scene – the shot below would have a better feel if the twig was not positioned to tickle the very tip of  its nose.  All I needed to do was to make a quick zoom on the LCD, validate the composition and move a mere foot to the left to remedy the problem.  Twenty minutes to read the manual, a lifetime of experimenting and learning.

That’s all for now folks, hope you enjoyed – may there be more bunnies on your trail of life than pissed off glorified bird food stealing hamsters.

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