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

Fruit Stripes and Milk – A Snack of Indy Zoo

It’s time for another post and true to form so far this year we’re sticking with the mammals from our Indianapolis Zoo Trip from (hang head low) back in 2011.  But first a quick moment for some back patting.  Last post was a bit of a milestone here at LifeIntrigued.   Second guessing myself, maybe I should have gone with “Kudos to Me” for the title.  What milestone do I speak of?  Well, with the release of the last post I’ve now officially made 400 posts over the last 5 years and some change (..crowd goes wild, balloons fall from the sky, t-shirts shot into the crowd).  Kind of makes me chuckle thinking about a certain brother proclaiming to the blogosphere how he was beating me on the post count for this year.. trust me, that little issue has been remedied.

Okay, enough fanfare.  Time to get to the subject of this post.  Correct that, the subject’S’ of the post.  It’s a bonus day for our readers who get TWO mammals to look at.  The first one is an animal that always brings me back to my childhood.  Anybody out there remember Yipes?  If so, you will understand the title.

For those that do not know, Yipes is the mascot for Fruit Stripes gum.  Technically it is a zebra but those clever marketing people over at Beech Nut gave it colored stripes.  These same stripes were replicated on the gum itself.  Once again I learned something interesting from our friends over at Wikipedia.  They state the gum was actually wrapped in edible paper.  I do not remember that at all.  What I do remember quite readily is a) how flavorful the individual pieces were and b) that flavor lasting about 3 chews.  A deep psychoanalysis would probably reveal this being the source of my current compulsion to always chew two pieces of gum at a time.  Yipes pretty much makes our specimen pretty boring.  Plain old black and white.  In case the suspense is killing you, I firmly believe that it’s black stripes on a white body but this is opposite to the current scientific evidence – this being a clear government conspiracy to hide the truth.  The picture above shows the reason for this belief – the underbelly has large white sections that look more like a canvas (see back of leg and the section right below the neck).  During post processing I decided to leave the bird in- gave the impression it was standing it’s ground against the behemoth.  Although, would have preferred to have taken the time to get the whole bird in the original shot.  The Zebra ears also mimic the “I’ve got my eyes on you” look.  While I’m at it, what is your take on this head shot? –  this one has the full head, one complete leg and enough body to make the connection from the neck to the start of the leg.  Does the single leg give an odd feeling .. like something is missing or is it quirky enough to be captivating?

And then we have the wall mount shot.  With the ears pulled back a little more it gives a less sad feeling.

Hit the jump to read more facts about the Zebra and see the bonus mammal!

Continue reading Fruit Stripes and Milk – A Snack of Indy Zoo

Kudus to You

It’s Mammaltastic around Lifeintrigued these days.  Unlike the last two, this particular animal may not be familiar to you.  I say that because it was definitely not something I could name off the top of my head and confirmation why I need to get these shoots posted sooner.  After a year and half I had completely purged my brain of what this antlered thingy was.  That means hours of surfing the internet trying to find a similar image or at least a lead on what family it belonged to.  I recommend not starting out your search with “Horny Mammals”.  You just might blush at the results…or at least give you a chuckle.  A few refined searches narrowed it down a bit but having only the head and a little bit of torso really doesn’t give much to go on.  Eventually I came across this very helpful website called Buzzle (link here).  To be honest, that site has a wide variety of topics – seems to be an answer-all for any of your questions.  My question – “what animals roam around Africa?”  Sure enough, they had a very nice list with … wait for it … PICTURES.  At least now I could narrow it down. At first it looked like it was a Waterbuck but they lacked the hair down the spine and under the neck and chin – would have been tougher to think up a clever title for that one anyway.

About half way down there it was!

Want to take a guess as to what it is?   If you said Antelope I’ll give you an ‘A’ for effort.  It is actually one of the largest in the Antelope family.  This species is called the Greater Kudu.  Once again, The Beast was bringing the animal front and center causing me to work to get the composition the way I wanted it.  The most interesting aspect of this animal is the unique antler formation and therefore wanted to make sure that was captured in the shot, but leaving enough of the body so it didn’t look like a trophy room mount.  It took me awhile, but I think I pulled it off.  Thanks to the large aperture the background was thrown somewhat out of focus (could have blurred that out a little more in the digital darkroom, but decided it wasn’t worth the risk of screwing up the sharpness of the Kudu.

How about some facts.  This particular specimen is older than 6.  How do I know this?  Turns  out (ha pun) the Kudu does not develop its full two and a half twists in the antlers until at least that age.  Wikipedia also points out they get their first twist around two.  That must help on the dating front – my generation had to use the smallpox vaccination scar to get a rough idea of someone’s age (note, the US stopped giving that in the ’72 time frame having eradicated the disease).  Oh, and I know it is a male since the females are hornless.

Hit the jump to read the rest of the post!

Continue reading Kudus to You

Bear in Mind it was High Sun

It seemed appropriate to go with this topic for today’s post in light of the fact that our 2nd Amendment is under attack by clueless liberals who do not even bother to understand the intent of our Founding Fathers before pushing their own ridiculous agendas. The right to BEAR arms is not about how many bullets it takes to kill a deer (I am especially intrigued by the congressman – talking to you Franken – who give this asinine argument for why we only need 7 bullet magazines) The 2nd Amendment isn’t about hunting and it isn’t about sport and if you think it is then you are not qualified to be setting policy. Want something to think about? Consider what these pro-gun control advocates would do if their precious 1st Amendment was under scrutiny.

On a much lighter note… Hey look at the cute bear pictures!

Yes, we are once again back at the Indianapolis Zoo.  Unlike the elephant, this time we bring you a true carnivore – in fact one of the top carnivores in the animal kingdom food chain.  Okay, if we are splitting hairs they are technically omnivores, but I doubt they go around commenting on how much they prefer berries to the taste of raw meat and fish.  I’ve had the privilege of seeing these creatures in the wild and it is quite breathtaking (link here).  They exude a true sense of power as they lumber along that commands a high degree of respect.  I felt a little remorse watching it simply pace back and forth within its exhibit knowing their brothers were enjoying freedom in one of or Nation’s most beautiful parks – one must admit we have come a long way in our treatment of animals  in captivity and clearly this one was not outwardly suffering.  I am not a bear psychologist but guessing there is a call to the wild buried deep in there somewhere.  My utmost appreciation for letting us experience what it is like to be around one but out of harm’s way.  You will never catch me this close to one out in Yellowstone!

Hit the jump to read and see more pictures of the Grizzly!

Continue reading Bear in Mind it was High Sun

Sporting Some Junk in the Trunk

How’s the new year treating ya’ out there?  I’ve been busy as hell thanks in large part to my wife.. which will, of course,  ultimately become a future project post.  The good new is some of my time has been spent doing processing work for this month’s posts… and the next month’ s and the next and th.. you get the point.  Damn thee convictions, damn thee.  As a result of going back through last year’s posts for the year end summary it became very apparent that my photography outings were significantly outpacing my posts.  This backlog tends to weigh on me heavily.  With the new year comes a renewed emphasis to get this back under control  First on the platter is the Indy Zoo trip we took back … uh hmm July 2011.  I hope you like animal pictures, because you are going to get a healthy dose in the upcoming months.  I’ll try to sprinkle in some other topics as  relief.

Let’s start with the mammals – laaaarrrggge mammals.  Interesting enough, I’ve never really had an affinity towards these creatures and after years and years of analysis it suddenly clicked “why” while prepping these pictures.  How about I leave some suspense there.   This happened to be one of those posts where the title came before the content!  I thought it was clever but that left the challenge of finding something that made it cohesive to the subject layout (again, probably goes unnoticed but we do think about the presentation around here).  Luck would have it, we have a winner.

This folks is the one and only picture in the shoot that actually showed junk in the elephant’s trunk.  Redeemed!  We had the Beast with us on this shoot which was quite handy for some of the animals, but there is a downside to the Beast.  It does a great job of pulling the smaller animals into the frame, but on the huge animals, you have to start picking and choosing what you want in the composition.  I guess the other option is to foot zoom half  way across the zoo but forcing that many people to keep out of your shooting angle is quite the chore.  With the exception of some helpful angles on the little ones, all of these pictures only have a portion of the animal in the frame.   On a pure guess, the following specimen looked the oldest of the group.

It is also the only one that had the more brown coloring but not sure that really plays into the identification game.  Based on what I can tell from our friends over at Wikipedia, there are really only two types of elephants.  There are the Asian elephants an the African elephants.  The Asian ones have a more of a crown above their heads where the African species have more of a gradual slope.  Survey says… this is an African elephant.  In fact, all of my pictures turned out to be of African elephants.  Note, these also appear to have longer trunks than their Asian brothers – come for the pictures, stay for the gray matter filler.  Check out the caps on the tusks.  I have no idea if that was a result of poachers before it made its way to the zoo, a result of age or a safety precaution.  Let’s not rule out the option of just elephant bling – they’re not exactly the prettiest things to look at.

The next picture is probably  my favorite of the group.  Sure, everyone has seen the standard ham shots of elephants – looking all cool-like with their trunk, tusks and floppy ears.  What you don’t see much of is the camera shy shots.

On second thought, that might actually be elephant sign language for “Hey you with the obnoxiously big glass, take a hike or I’ll call my big shoe’d friends”  Harsh!

Hit the jump to see more pictures read the rest of the post!

Continue reading Sporting Some Junk in the Trunk