What Big Eyes You Have

Based on the recent feedback from the Wildlife Prairie Park shoot, it appears that Badgers are not that appealing to my readers.  In addition, what I thought was simply a collection of cute and cuddly goslings conjure up images of horror that have been unsuccessfully suppressed.  Well, there is only one thing left to do and that is to bring out the big boys.  I am actually torn between deciding what was more exciting that day at the park.  The rare sighting of the Badger was definitely a highlight, but the time we spent at the Wolf exhibit is tough to beat.  Compared to all the times we have been to WPP and all the times we have experienced other captive Wolves, nothing stacks up against the awesome setting one of the Wolves chose to pass away the day.

This is one of those shots I could stare at all day.  Truth be told, I’ll get that chance since almost all of the shots in this set were sent out for prints based on the results out of the digital darkroom.  It was pretty sunny out that day and the Wolves were pretty lethargic having had their big meal for the week.  For those new to the Park, they tend to feed them on Sundays – guessing that consists of deer roadkill and other raw meat based on the bones the Wolves  keep a very protective watch over.  The Wolf above decided to help us out a bit and walked over to the tree line out of the harsh light.

Pure gold from a photographer’s perspective.  The observation platform sits above the enclosure giving us a means to shoot through the foliage.   The specific spot it picked to take a rest filtered out the harsh light but left enough ambient light to easily pull out the fur details.  Further benefiting the shoot, it remained alert providing a variety of facial expressions and head position.  After awhile, I became to question exactly who was watching who.

Be sure and hit the jump to see even more shots of the WPP Wolves

Continue reading What Big Eyes You Have

Goslings Lounging

Looks like our wonderful 67 degree weather day is going to transition to rain pretty soon.  Good thing I got my run in earlier.  if you recall, I’m in the midst of a Project Austin and today marked the first time on the road since three visits to Accelerated Performance.  Today was all about working on the list of things I need to change in my running form (and that list is long).  The good news is the tweaks resulted in very little pain in the hamstring – definitely a plus since that area usually flairs up during every run.  Maybe those torture deep tissue messages are going to pay off or it is simply terrified that if it makes its presence known it will get the hell gouged out of it again.  With the good news is a little bit of bad news.  Apparently these changes are engaging a different set of muscles that have been neglected due to the injury compensating.  At about mile 4 started feeling the effects and ended up backing down to only 5.5 miles today.  This wasn’t meant to be a quick journey so not concerned yet – real test will be next week to see how quick those neglected muscles are going to take before they kick in.  For now it’s just all about the rest.

Speaking of resting, that is the theme of today’s post.  Apparently my last post scared some of our readers (okay, some being ONE but she has some power over me).  Who wouldn’t want to curl up next to a badger? all fluffy for comfort and you know, NO ONE will mess with you if you are sleeping next to a BADGER (especially a Honey Badger because those are just bad-ass).  Instead I get a plea for a more pleasant looking animals.  Sigh, figured I get kudos for bringing something new and intriguing but instead I get a fear response – not unlike when your lovely wife finds a mouse in the car.  Fortunately, the badger wasn’t the only wildlife we captured that day.  Rifling through the shoot I decided on something more cute and plushy but added some contrast to it by taking it in an icky setting.

This isn’t the first time we’ve featured Canada Goose goslings here at LifeIntrigued (link here) but this is probably the nastiest setting I’ve bothered taking them in.  We had just arrived at the park and was caught off guard by the crowd of visitors.  Generally there is not problem parking in the close lots, but that day we were parked way out on a back road.  On our trek to the entrance these goslings caught my eye – yes, I did say goslingS!

Hit the jump to read more about these cuties

Continue reading Goslings Lounging

What Big Claws You Have

It’s April and that can only mean one thing.  That’s right, the post counter has been reset.  Figured tonight was a good night to start seeing as how I’d rather be sitting for an hour rather than working on a project.  This is due to having started my 50th round of rehab on the body.  This time I finally broke down and opted for the complete overhaul of my running mechanics combined with professional recovery and rebuilding of the body.  The constant injuries was definitely a catalyst for this decision – figured if I’m ever going to get in any condition to potentially tackle a marathon I better make sure the foundation is correctly built.  What I wasn’t expecting is how hard this was going to be.  After my gait assessment this week I have a LOT of changes to make.  Words of wisdom for you runners out there, when you manage to damage yourself pretty good.. take time off to get it fixed.  Apparently my body decided it would start compensating for its stupid owner which is likely the root of the problem.  Coupled with that is some serious torture they cleverly disguise by calling it message therapy.  Let me tell you, what it really means is warming up your leg with ultrasound (which actually feels good) and then digging the hell out of your leg to break up a 3.5″ band of scar tissue imbedded in your hamstring – god please don’t let me cry in public!  I got to thinking about this torture and immediately thought of the perfect post to compliment it.

Let us all welcome a new animal to the blog.  Just in case you prefer to hang out in the urban jungle, this here is a Badger.  While I was looking for the set of pictures that was supposed to be April’s theme, I discovered a shoot at Wildlife Prairie Park taken back in May ’12.  Somehow this had slipped through the crack on my post processing.  As the Yang and the Um goes, the bad of being unable to locate the original post has allowed for the discovery of an entirely new set for your pleasure.  The other set has been found, but we’ll get to those after a few posts from our favorite local wildlife sanctuary.

We have been visiting Wildlife Prairie Park since the day we both arrived in Peoria (when we were just two wide eyed kids out on a secret date).   From those initial visits up to this one I can’t remember a single time that this Badger ever showed itself.  The Badger enclosure is somewhat off on its own and has a few clay drainage pipes situated throughout giving it ample places to hide.   Based on the number of holes this boar (or sow) had dug it must spend sometime in the open.  To say I was surprised to see both of their Badgers out and about is an understatement.  Immediately the shutter was in full snap.

Hit the jump to read more about this interesting creature!

Continue reading What Big Claws You Have

Wildlife Elements

Once again I’ve been hit with the Peoria Plague. I am really getting tired of this, seeing as how it puts all my well laid plans into chaos – especially my running cycles which I cannot afford to be impacted at the moment.  The silver lining is I have to take it a little easier than usual which means … more time for posts!  Warning, this post is under the influence of cold drugs.

Today’s topic is more of a creative adventure than my typical wildlife shots. I’ve been seeing a lot of photographers going down the “Elements” path (add Peter Lik into that category). My take on elements is a breaking down of a shot to the bare essentials. An example may be just a leaf pedal, a single snowflake or some isolated pattern that is representative of the whole. This seems intriguing to me, but I do not shoot leaf pedals, snowflakes and just started exploring patterns – couple weeks back shots some ice plates that did not come out the way I’d envisioned. What I do shoot a lot of is wildlife. Although the overall composition does play into the overall picture, there is one “element” I focus on more than anything else. This would be the one point my focus point is always sitting on.

Yep, the eye.  The shots at the Indianapolis Zoo provided ample opportunity to try out what I refer to as Wildlife Elements.  The goal was to make the eye the focus point of the shot, but show enough overall pattern of the animal that it is instantly recognizable.  Full disclosure, in some cases I did manipulate the eye in the digital darkroom but kept to some basic rules.  I did not change the overall color of the eye staying true to the basic coloring native to the animal.  What I did do was apply some amplification to any color that was already there to.  I still wanted the eye to be focus of the picture and this allowed me to force more attention to it.  The zebra picture below is a good example of it – the sunlight was hitting the animal from the side giving a nice yellow highlight to the black and white striping.

At first I had the white balance adjusted to make the stripes more white than they are, but decided to dial it back to the “as shot” tone so it didn’t overwhelm the eye.  Those first two shots are probably my favorite of the set.  I find it interesting how different the “feel” is between the two elements.  The zebra almost has a calming effect to the point where you almost want to pet it.  Likely due to the non-aggressive nature of the composition – head down, submissive.  This is not the feeling I get from the first photo.  The wide open forward positioned eye immediately signifies predator.  Add to that the tight framing and the urge of flight starts coming to mind.

Hit the jump to view a few more Wildlife Elements!

Continue reading Wildlife Elements

A Moving Icon

For the obvious reason, February is the bane of all bloggers with a quota. Rather than take the extra time for the prep on some projects I’ve been working on, figured we’d just close out this short month with the last set of Indianapolis Zoo birds. Don’t think you are out of the woods (err the zoo) yet. There’s one post left based on some elemental mammal experimentation, but for now… let’s go with the pinks.

There is no mistaking these birds and I’m pretty sure they are universally known. They can be seen at a majority of zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and even Vegas if you look hard enough.  They have even been known to show up in the yards of unsuspecting new homeowners. In case you have your head in the sand, we’re talking about the Flamingo.  These aren’t just your everyday Flamingos either.  No sir, these are Flamingos that have been shot in harsh light.  That would be a clever way of stating these shots are not going to be making it into competition anytime soon.  I threw all the recovery I could at it, but the conditions were just not the greatest when we made our way to their little pond.  The thing about shooting Flamingos is they are relatively skinny and can be very long.  Good characteristics for a model, but this forces some creative composition decision.  You can choose to go close and draw out detail in the head by cropping down as in the image above.  Rather than just throw a decapitated head out there I kept some of the body to provide a foundation for the shot – see, I’m learning from all those composition questions I keep asking you about.  I actually like how that shot turned out – yeah, I followed the rules of thirds which is pretty common for me.  In truth it is more about giving the subject room to breath in the frame – tight crops put a virtual cage around animals which tends to grate on us wildlife photographers.

If you are feeling a little cruel, you can relax your composition a bit to provide a sense of height.  Pulling back a bit you can incorporate some of the leg structure into the shot.  Now you have more of a visualization on the tall stature of the bird, but at a cost.  You lose some detail in the face and it starts to get lost in the vastness of the surroundings.  The other downside… is it essentially whacks off the rest of the bird’s legs.  The unwritten rule is you never crop a person’s legs above the knee – trust me, it just looks wrong. Although this is not as severe, it still bothers me a bit.  I will say, having a small part of the knee helps some.

Hit the jump to read more about this pink birds … and you get a BONUS!

Continue reading A Moving Icon

Birds of the Desert Biome

As promised previously, it is time to start rolling out the birds from the Indianapolis Zoo trip back in 2011.  Now that most of the mammals and the lizards have been sufficiently covered, it is time to feature our feathered friends.  The downside of this is once again I’ve become extremely frustrated with the resources available for bird identification.  It is becoming almost comical how little information I am able to obtain from the web for what seems like the simplest tasks.  For example, there are aviary identification sites out there that allow you to do identification based on attributes.  It will seem promising at first since it lets you pick some easy body geometry but then you become less than enthused when the all knowing database comes back and says it could be … and then shows at best one or two options.  Does it have long longs?  well then you have a Heron.. what about Stilts.. no, you have a Heron.  Does it sit parallel to the tree? then it is a Woodpecker…. what about Flickers … I said it’s a Woodpecker now leave me alone.  This even holds for what appears to be easily identifiable birds which I’ll get to in a bit.  Now, there is blame to go around here.  Clearly this would have been an easier task had I found a resource at the zoo to ask or found a placard on the habitat that gave the name of the contents.  Lesson learned for future zoo trips that might have a collection of birds more rare to the continental Americas.  The counter to that argument, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to ask the Zoo to list the names of their animals on their web page – Indy has a few listed, but again, one of them has gone unidentified.  Sorry for the continual gripe about identification, but it is frustrating to page through thousands of pages or image query results and come up empty on a bird I’ve captured. (feel like my brother and his frustration with Costco!)

The good news is only one of this set is nameless.  One that was identified is the Gambel’s Quail.  Or, as the Indy Zoo website calls it – Gamble’s Quail (link here) – pretty bad when you can’t rely on the zoo to get the names right.  These birds are actually pretty odd looking with their head protruding plumage.  This bird, along with all of them actually, came from the Desert Biome exhibit.  This is the same location all the lizard shots came from in the previous posts.  Apparently birds and lizards tolerate each other pretty well.  There were a few other shots taken of this bird, but it was spending much of its time hanging out in the back-lit windows – not a good setting for getting real detail in a bird.  Eventually I worked myself around to get a decent headshot.

A very distinctly featured bird don’t you think?  This is a male specimen easily identifiable by its blacker beak and eye coloring.  They are a sport bird but Wikipedia does list them as Least Concern on their conservation status.  This may be due to the fact they lay a lot of eggs at once – 10 to 15 eggs at a time giving them a higher survival rate.  Common to the Quail family, the Gambel’s prefer the ground over flight but they can utilize those wings if they choose – short distances.  They do indeed prefer the desert even though that surprised me when I saw this in the biome exhibit.  In case you are curious, they are named after naturalist William Gambel (my apologies for the zoo in screwing up your name).  He died of typhoid back in 1849, but not before discovering this bird, the Mountain Chickadee and the Nuttall’s Woodpecker.

The next bird was also easily identified.  The zoo site referenced them by their third name – the Owl Finch, but they are also referred to as the Double-Barred Finch and the Bicheno’s Finch. So loved they gave it three names.  Guessing they have the Owl name thanks to the coloring around their eye mimicking their larger brothers.  It is almost as if an artist took a standard finch and decided to dress it up a bit – kind of like what they do with those cow and pig statues you see littered about larger cities.

That shot gives a really good perspective of the Beast’s depth of field.  The finch (a small bird) is perfectly centered in the band of focus – as any bird photographer will agree, the focus  target is always the eyes so compositions like these tend to extend the focus past the bird.  I had to laugh at the next shot – clearly a day of shooting the mammals had influenced my composition choices on the birds.  Always the sucker for head across the body shots.

You are probably wanting a shot from the front to see what this bird looks like.  That is an easy request because there were a few of these birds in the exhibit.  The one below was a little more active than the one simply hanging out in the rocks.

Hit the jump to read more about the Owl Finch and two more of its colorful brothers.

Continue reading Birds of the Desert Biome

A Few More Snakes with Feet

Hi all! – hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day.  Once again I had another bizarre experience trying to purchase Linda one of her gifts that will definitely make its way to an upcoming post.  Not sure what it is, but buying jewelry in this town is a trip to Bizarro World.  Part of the problem is the experience has become equally pleasing as a trip to a car dealership – … stay tuned for that entertaining post.  So, speaking of Valentine’s Day we have more lizards!   What, you do not think of lizards around V-Day?.. yeah, me neither – I just needed a lead in to today’s topic so went with it.

As mentioned in the previous post, the Indy lizard series is a two parter – lizarrific if you will.  I figured we’d start with the unidentified lizard.  Like the last set there was extensive research done on this shots in a desperate attempt to provide an informative post… and as discovered with the first set it’s damn hard to classify these scaly creatures.  You would think with a Google image search there would be at least one similar picture in the 10,000+ images being waded through.  Two of the three specimens had a hit, but this one … no clue.

Pretty interesting coloring and would probably merge right into a darker rock setting.  The claw positioning was intriguing as well.  Kind of gives the impression it either just finished a a giant leap onto the rock and still bracing from the impact or possibly showing off his claws in defiance to the biped with the scary looking glass pointed at it.  Before you ask, I really have no clue if it is a male or female so just went with a he.  Once again, a complement to the Beast for throwing the background into creamy goodness.  This is due to the tight depth of field in the 200-400 glass which you’ll be able to see even better in the upcoming shots.  Definitely a plus to be able to create that effect in-camera rather than having to artificially produce it in the digital darkroom.  Let me know if any of you have a guess to what this thing might be.  Until then “I shall call him spiky and it shall be mine and he shall be my spiky”.

Okay, now on to what turned out to be a cruel joke by our friends at the Indy Zoo.  For a long time in the heat of their Desert Biome I took shot after shot of this particular lizard.  I’d snap off a bunch of shots, he’d transition into a new interesting position, I’d snap off a ton of shots and then he’d move into another position… I felt like yelling out “work it baby work it – vogue strike the pose”.  To save Linda the embarrassment I opted to keep that inside hehehe.  Needless to say with the big glass I was up there all close and friendly like.

Hit the jump to see my scary discovery

Continue reading A Few More Snakes with Feet

Snakes with Feet

So one of the reasons I take the time to write these posts is to allow me the opportunity to look back and see what I was interested in or maybe what the state of the world happened to be in at a given point in time. In essence I have a backup plan when the o’l memory starts to go. Crap.. what was I leading into…. Oh yeah. Every once in awhile someone comes out with a statement that I NEVER want to forget. Typically these are statements made by individuals in the entertainment business that feel obligated to proclaim their stupidity. Last week we were blessed (er.. subjected) to two examples of this. Figured I’d just put them here in case I ever want to reference them in the future.

Chris Rock:
I am just here to support the President of the United States. President of the United States is our boss, but he is also, you know, the President and the First Lady are kinda like the Mom and the Dad of the country and when your Dad says something you listen and when you don’t it will usually bite you on the ass later on. So, I’m here to support the President. Note to self: be sure and point this comment out during future administrations – something tells me this position will change.

Tony Bennett:
It’s the kind of turn that happened to the great country of Germany where Nazis came over and created tragic things and they had to be told off. And if we continue this kind of violence and accept it in our country, the rest of the world is really going to take care of us in a really bad way. Note to self: A big thank you for fighting in the Battle of the Bulge now go read history and figure out where the Nazi’s “came over” from and take special note on their stance on gun control.

There, now I only need to go to my blog and search for stupid reptiles and poof there will be the two “entertainers” that are now on my list.  That reminds me, the main topic of this post is Reptiles at the Indianapolis Zoo.  Yes, this is a continuation of the Indy Zoo series, but now that the mammals are out of the way, it’s time to move to those scary “snakes with feet” as Linda likes to refer to them.  This will be a short series primarily because I know absolutely ZERO about lizards.  They have a long heritage, their typically scaly and for some reason there are people out there that think they are cool pets.

Personally I find that identifying snakes and lizards about as hard as distinguishing one sparrow from another.  Translated… damn near impossible.  Since I like to go the extra mile for my millions of readers I did take a stab at it.  A check of the Indy Zoo website did provide a small list of animals on display in their Desert Biome (link here).  Apparently putting their picture or at least a link to the animal is asking way to much from an educational organization.  So, next step was to search individually for each of the names on the list – with exception of the turtles which are clearly not in play here – a shout out to my Biology teacher for getting that in long-term memory.

Hit the jump to read more about these scaly creatures.

Continue reading Snakes with Feet

If He Hollers Make Him Pay

While I sit here and do battle with what we’ll simply refer to as the Plague of Peoria, it seemed like a good time to whip out another post.  This could be a sad time or joyful moment depending on your feelings towards the Indy Zoo mammals that have been bombarding you as of late.  If you can’t get enough of them and sit there continually refreshing your browser until the next post arrives.. you are going to be on the disappointment side because this is the last of the mammal shots – well technically not the last because there is one more but that will be a little bit different than these.  Now if you are sick and tired of these and are looking for the Hank William’s Jr. concert post well, you can start dancing now (how about an endurance test – you stop dancing when the HW Jr. post is actually made hehehe).

There are a lot of similarities in this post to the last one.  First off it is again about the big cat family.  Secondly, it contains a head to head competition with a certain someone else.  That certain someone else is in a bit of a pickle at the moment due to having difficulty navigating around the house with that giant ego inflation she received in the last set of comments.  Unlike the last post, I am going to make it more objective – not going to tell you who shot the pictures – you pick your favorite one or two and we’ll let the chips fall where they may.  In the meantime I’m interviewing for new brothers just in case.

If you didn’t get the topic from the title, how about now..

Yes folks, we are talking about the cute but oh so deadly Tiger.  This is one of the sets of shots that need some background to get the feel for the difficulty involved.  This specific enclosure has a visitor viewing area that consists of thick glass – possibly plexiglass – hard to tell at the time, but clearly difficult conditions when you are trying to get enough light through and not produce the shadow images as it passes through the glass.   Linda did impress me with being able to pull this off having only recently been taught by yours truly how to shoot on Manual mode (she doesn’t bring that up much does she?!).  She’s like my little Padawan.

As mentioned before, it was good and hot out and this particular specimen was doing its best to remain cool.  This must be serious business when it comes to cats because this one seemed to be only thinking ONE thing – what would it take to make it through that glass and snack on these idiots with their cameras. It is possible that the Tiger coloring just makes it appear pissed but Tony the Tiger doesn’t look that threatening.

Hit the jump to read more about these bad-ass killers

Continue reading If He Hollers Make Him Pay

I Shall Call Him Spotty and He Shall Be Mine and He Shall Be My Spotty

Owwwe bad Spotty, bad Spotty.  Sorry, I just wanted to complete that movie quote.  I happen to remember this quote from the day I heard it basically because it was so off the wall stupid – note, I did modify it slightly to fit the post topic.  Tonight I finished another project (foreshadowing) and decided to relax with a little Winter X Games.  Of course, just sitting and watching the boob tube is a colossal waste of time so I’m going to crank out a post at the same time.  Eeeeeshh – sorry, some dude just about killed himself on snowmobile jumping.  He had a whopping 4 hours of practice on the machine and figured that was all it would take.  Gravity says… NOPE.  He flew off at the top, snowmobile lands hard sticking the throttle, nearly hits the former rider and then flies off into the parking lot.  I predict a rule change coming.

Back on task.  Today’s focus is somewhat of a mascot for all us runners out there.  More for the sprinters, but I don’t know a distance runner who wouldn’t at least once go the speed of this animal.  Yes, I am talking about the Cheetah.  The gold medal champion of the plains track and field games clocking in at the 65 mph mark.  Say it with me .. Sixty Five Miles Per Hour.  I am not aware of any way to tell the sex of this specific specimen (well, from the picture angles I have) so let’s just go with a female.

Clipped a little bit of her tail but you can see some of the stripes that circle the tip of the tail.  Other than that, it’s all spots.   There was a slight confusion while prepping for this post.  While doing the customary research on the animal, it mentioned that the Cheetah is sometimes confused with the Leopard.  That actually resulted in some second guessing which required a little deeper dive into the description.  But, all for not.  I do indeed have a Cheetah.  although they have the same basic coloring, the Cheetah can be distinguished by the black eye-line from the edge of the eye down to the mouth.  According to Wikipedia, this allows them to cut the sun glare down and improve their vision – same principle for athletes putting black smudges under their eyes.  The other easy way to tell them apart is the spot coloring.  Cheetahs have solid black spots where Leopards are more like irregular circles.  Oh, and Leopards have the fuller facial features more like their bigger brothers (tiger, lions, jaguars).

Hit the jump to see a couple more super fantastic shots and one other (hehehe)

Continue reading I Shall Call Him Spotty and He Shall Be Mine and He Shall Be My Spotty