No One Bites Back as Hard

No one knows what it’s like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

I saved the best for last which is quite fitting since this is the last post of the month and the last in the three part Wolf series. Continuing on with the shoot at Wildlife Prairie Park, this particular entry brings closure on the after treatment study.  If you recall, the first post in this series was the traditional color version with some amped up contrast (link here). The resulting benefit of that is the conversion to Black and White was pretty impressive (link here). In fact at the time it was a definite candidate for this season’s contests. There was still one more effect to experiment with….

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That’s never free
No one knows what it’s like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you

What do you think? Admittedly, I was very very pleased and ranking these series as my best yet. Granted the purists are going to have some hardship with the degree of post processing, but at this point I could care less. Whenever this particular argument comes up (purist vs processing) I always fall back to one simple question – “What is your impression of Ansel Adams’ work?”. I do not think there are many photographers out there that have a bad opinion of his work and some out there (as in Linda) consider the pinnacle of the business. Guess what folks, he did major manipulation in the darkroom – granted before the age of digital, but the concept of dodging and burning was in full use in his workflow. I am no where near the caliber of Ansel and the other greats in the photography world likely post processing their work (perhaps Mr. Lik falls into this category), but what is good enough for them is good enough for me. I tell no lies, I do use Lightroom and Photoshop… and why do I do that… because these are the results.

Hit the jump to read more about the treatment done on this set of pictures.

Continue reading No One Bites Back as Hard

Aftertreatment Sweetness

Here I sit at another dog show trying to figure out how to pass the abundance of downtime that comes with these agility events.  Working in my favor, for a change, is I still need to get some posts in to close out the month.  Knowing the show was coming up gave some security that as long as the post processing was done on the images and the upload to the Smugmug gallery went without a hitch only thing left to do was find time to spew out some words – maybe even in readable sentences!  Processing done – check, upload successful – check – some free time … crap loads.

Keeping with the theme of all the barking dogs crated around me, today’s post returns us to the ancestry of the domestic dog.  Not sure if it was mentioned in the previous Wolf post (link here), but that post was really a three parter. A trifecta if you will since that specific shot resulted in three very distinct post processing opportunities.  The previous shot was the standard color treatment, but likely unnoticed by you, there were some subtle differences in the final processing of those.  Specifically the contrast was amped a little more than usual to darken the background.  This provided better separation between the wolf and the foliage in the background.  Although it does make a slightly better image in terms of color, where it really makes an impact is when you convert it to …

Welcome to my new favorite set of photographs.  Although there were a few sample tests during the color processing I wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to turn out.  Admittedly a very biased opinion, but I really really like them.  My favorite shots are the one above and below (and one a little further down) – can’t decide between these two which I like more for sure, but leaning to the first one due to the more symmetrical ears.. at the cost of the wolf staring directly at the viewer in the one below.  Hit the comments section and give me your thoughts.. which as always are valuable input into the upcoming competition season – Linda’s already beginning to worry but the Yellowstone trip is coming up and that is a rich environment for her preferred subjects.  Some photobombing may be in order hehehehe.

Hit the link to see more of these B&W wolf shots!

Continue reading Aftertreatment Sweetness

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

My What Sharp Teeth You Have… I Think

In honor of tonight’s MEGA MILLIONS Lottery drawing I bring you your very own jackpot if you will.  That jackpot being a bonus post for the month!  I know, I know, a cheap replacement for the millions you could have won with the real drawing, but hey, the likelihood of getting this post was a whole lot better than your odds of actually winning that thing anyway.  Truth be told, one of the reasons for the extra post is due to the quality of this particular set of pictures.  One of the professional photographers Linda and I enjoying listening to has a podcast we play on our longer road travels.  In this podcast, Rick Sammon is always fond of saying “One blurry picture is a mistake, a hundred blurry pictures is a style”.  Generally I laugh this off, but in this particular case I’m going with wholehearted truth.  In a slight variation, these images are in the STYLE of high grain hand painted mural.  Here is a perfect example of this.

What do you think, captivating brush strokes, complimentary colors and that “stand back 20 feet” appeal common in many classic paintings in art history.  Any chance you are buying that?  thought so.  Now a little background.  The first time Linda and I visited Yellowstone, we did not get the opportunity to see a single wolf while we were out there.  Part of that is due to not making it out to Lamar Valley which is where these wonderful animals tend to hang out (or rather where they are most often viewed).  This trip out we had a bold goal to leave with at least one sighting and if a miracle occurred, some photos.  On the very first morning we headed out to Lamar Valley with our friends David and Dr. Giselle.  There we were met with lots of people with spotting scopes trained on a far distance cluster of trees on the banks of the river – just below the confluence.  Thanks to a friendly lady from the UK we learned that the Druid Pack had been in a 2 day standoff with an cow elk who had sought safety in the middle of the river.  I cannot give you a good estimate of the distance that was from where we were at on the side of the road, but it was way too far for the Beast to pull in any detail at all.  Some other visitors around us were more than happy to give us a look through their more powerful scopes (quite friendly people out there by the way).  Sure enough, we could see the cow elk’s head and top of it’s back along with a couple of wolves taking random passes along the banks.  I can’t imagine how stressful this was for the participants in the standoff not having eaten in two days in a struggle of life and death.  I do not usually take sides in the natural wildlife food chains but it turns out that a group of ignorant tourists decided they have the right to.  Later in the day, these idiots decided they would walk out near the standoff and have a bite to eat while watching the event.  Well, guess what, both the elk and the wolves freaked out at this intrusion causing the end of the skirmish – the wolves abandoned the hunt and the elk made off.  Now one would say that those people saved an elk, but those of us who understand that predators have to kill to feed themselves and their cubs consider this as even more days without nourishing the pack.  While were making our final scans, a park ranger came by and informed us that this had happened and he was looking for the morons that walked out there… so we’re not the only ones upset about this (the UK lady wanted them banned from the park immediately).

So one of our goals had been met, we actually saw wolves – Yeah!   But the story does not end there.

Hit the jump to read the rest of the goodness and the explanation for the shot above !

Continue reading My What Sharp Teeth You Have… I Think

Book Recollection: Rare

I decided to pinch the Yellow stream for a quick post on a book recollection.  This is mainly due to something that arrived in the mail just a few days ago, but more on that later.  Today’s post is on a book called Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species by Photographer Joel Sartore.  Like the previous book recollection post on Decisive Moments (link here), this photographer’s work is one of my favorites (to be honest, he is probably tops in my list).  As you can guess, he is a photographer for National Geographic and has a focus on bringing awareness to endangered species.  There are wildlife photographers that can capture a shot by getting all the technical details right such as lighting, focus, aperture and shutter speed.  There are also photographers who are able to illicit emotion from the viewer by capturing the mood and feel of a situation.  Without a doubt, Joel is one of the few people who is able to produce a shot with both of those qualities.  As an example, just take a look at the Red Wolf in the cover shot.  The 2 subjects reside at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  This proud species is fighting for their survival with only 330 of them left (at time of publication).  As Joel states in his book, their relationship at the top of the predator food chains makes them susceptible to lead poisoning thanks to intolerance.  To be honest, this is not a book you put down feeling good about your place on earth.  Sure, there are some bright spots like the success stories on American Alligator recovery and the banning of DDT in 192 which was responsible for devastating the populations of our proud American symbol, the Bald Eagle as well as the Peregrine Falcon.  Having just come back from Yellowstone, let’s not forget the progress of the Gray Wolf recovery.  But for all those triumphs, there is the losing side of the battle.  This includes the last Dusky Seaside Sparrow whose final resting place is in a jar at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville Florida or the fragile Mississippi Sandhill Crane population of 155 birds residing in Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refugee that was put at great risk by Katrina.

I am not in a position to preach to anyone and I certainly have my biases, but if you get the opportunity, just take a look at this book.  Even if the message doesn’t hit a personal chord, simply enjoy the stunning photographs.  Joel does a nice job of capturing the subject in a black or white setting (intentionally done to illicit more emotion).  The book is organized by population sizes with a description of the plight of that particular animal, insect or plant and in some cases he includes a little background on where and how the shot was taken.  If nothing else, it will push the bar up a little higher on your own photography output.  The book was also published on high quality paper giving it almost a gallery feel that you can put on your coffee table.  If you like his photographs, keep an eye out for his other works.  For starters, his image in the Simply Beautiful Photographs (see recollection here) was quite stunning.

So, back to that mail delivery mentioned at the start.  As a wolf enthusiast, I feel obligated to help in their recovery.  As a member of the National Wolf Foundation based on Ely, Minn), a member of the local Wildlife Prairie Park (who have a very nice wolf pack) and a new member of the Yellowstone National Park Association I like to think in some small way I am helping make a difference.  A few months ago I was made aware of another effort to help my four legged friends.  Will Burrard-Lucas and Rebecca Jackrel (whose photography blog Lind and I actively follow) started a project to document the struggle for survival of Africa’s wolves – you can find more about the project at their website (link here).  They were asking for financial assistance to get the project off the ground and I jumped at the chance.  Since that time, I had slowly forgotten about it as the stress of the holidays began to set in.  Low and behold we received this postcard in the mail.  A handwritten postcard from Rebecca and Will from Ethiopia.  How cool is that!  Needless to say, I am excited to be a part of this and cannot wait to see the shots upon their return.

Hit the jump to see my takeaways from Rare

Continue reading Book Recollection: Rare

Hollow Words and Gutless Actions

Look into the eyes of another political victim.

I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog that we have a true treasure near our house.  That treasure is the The Wildlife Prairie Park which is located in Edwards, IL.  Linda and I have been to many parks and zoos around the country and when it comes to the smaller budget outfits WPP stands heads and shoulders above the others.  Their environment is well maintained, their animals are placed in natural habitats and when it comes to wolves in particular, there is not a more lively and accessible pack.  They have plenty of area filled with trees and prairie and tend to stay visible most of the time, always providing great opportunities to snap a few pictures for your pleasure or portfolio.

It is actually very enjoyable to sit and watch the pack interaction from an overlook built off the side of their habitat.  Give it enough time and you will be able to distinguish the alpha from the subordinates and although it is difficult at first to tell all the wolves apart, you can actually start ordering them by their rank in the pack by who bothers who, who has first dibs at the food and which ones are willing to intrude on another’s kill.  Eventually Linda will drag me away from their area to go check out the other occupants of the park, but I always try and stop by before I leave to say goodbye.  Up to now, that has been acknowledgment of a temporary parting with an expectation that I’ll be back soon to check on their progress and take some pictures for the walls.

But now things have changed thanks to our wonderful Illinois politics which has managed to not only become a disgrace compared to the rest of the states but put us on the brink of financial ruin.  I will not go into the history of illegal activity by our past governors and you have probably seen stories on the recent one that was impeached and now awaiting a jury decision on ethics violations.  Instead, I would like to highlight the recent actions of the individual who took over for the impeached governor with promises to right the titanic.  Before the impeached governor decided to make a public mockery of himself on wiretaps, he cut funding to a large number of parks which included our very own Wildlife Prairie Park as well as Jubilee Park that I do most of my training runs in.  It was downstate so what the hell did he care and besides his wife thought all the roads to the hick cities were ugly and wanted wildflowers planted to keep her eyes from having to look at the filth (note to politicians and their spouses, I never forget).  However, when our temporary governor was sworn in, he promised to restore the funding gaining the trust and appreciation for all of downstate hicks.  Finally, a governor with more in the skull than a hair mop.  As of this week , this promise has become as hollow as the rest of the governors’ statements.

Continue reading Hollow Words and Gutless Actions