Eyes of the tiger – resting in his den and watching visitors at the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa Florida.
Neither place is intended to be a good photo-op (lots of fences and obstructions) – you have to be lucky to get a good image. The geometry and light in the scene above worked well, but it’s the only animal photo I made that day that I like.
Volunteer caring for residents at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary
So why am I writing about these if they’re not good photo ops? This is supposed to be a blog about photo ops, right? Well, we met several volunteers at each place and learned a great deal from them about wildlife in captivity. If you care about wildlife then there are things about captives that you should know.
Killer whales are captured or bred in captivity and separated from their families. They spend their lives in small tanks performing for audiences.
Seeing wild animals such as whales in their natural habitat is exciting and inspiring. Seeing them in captivity, knowing some of the background on how they’re captured, bred, and kept is depressing. The tiger in the photo above was well cared for and kept in nicer conditions than many others. Although sometimes big cats can be returned to the wild, this tiger will never be released. Wouldn’t it be better if they’d never been captured at all? Places like the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary and the Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary are doing their best to care for large, wild animals that can’t be returned to the wild. But there are so many of these animals that they’ll never be able to keep up.
I know you don’t come to this site for editorials and commentary, but thanks anyway for stopping by and reading this. And if you care about this subject, you should click on the links in this post to learn more.
First, I want to wish all readers of this humble photo blog a very
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Second, this year your devoted author has decided to join the growing tradition where photo blogs post a collection of their favorite photos from the year.
To accomplish this, I’ve gone through the photos I made in 2009 and used Lightroom to rate them from 0 through 5 stars. The rating system I’ve adopted is as follows:
1 star – The photo is interesting
2 stars – The photo is worth showing to others
3 stars – The photo is the best of (or one of the best of ) a given shoot
4 stars – My favorite photo of a year
5 stars – My favorite photo (ever)
Photos without stars are seconds or not so good versions of other photos. I’ll keep them, but they probably won’t get any more attention. Since adopting this rating system, I’ve tried to use it consistently. Before this I would rate images, but the meaning of the ratings would vary. As far as what they mean now, it’s all subjective and my opinion only. Feel free to disagree, but I hope you’ll enjoy looking at the ones I’ve chosen.
I was really blessed in 2009 with a huge number of photo opportunities. On my hard drive in my 2009 folder, I have about 16,000 images, taking up 164GB of space (I shoot mostly in RAW). Of these:
3804 of the images have been cataloged in Lightroom. Many of the remainder are source images for multi-shot panoramas or HDRs, or high rate bursts that I selected from.
1084 are rated 1 star or higher
692 are 2 star or higher
75 are 3 star or higher
1 is 4 star, and
None are 5 star (I’m not done taking photos yet!)
Of the 692 that are 2 star or higher, I’ve selected 44 (mostly 3 star) images to include in a gallery of my favorite 2009 photos. You’ve seen many of these photos in this blog, already. But where it made sense, I re-processed them to try and improve them. Here are the top ten. You can click on each of these to go to Flickr, where you can see a larger version.
My #10 favorite photo is: Great Blue Heron in flight. This heron didn’t like me aiming my camera at it. It’s making a lot of noise as it leaves the area. I was able to pan with its motion to get a sharp shot.
My #9 favorite photo is: Ketchikan harbor. The trawler Isis, a house in the background, and the parked float plane are very representative of Alaska.
My #7 favorite photo is: Glacier Bay Sunrise, A dawn panorama heading in to Glacier Bay National Park.
My #6 favorite photo is: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck in flight. We saw this unusual and photogenic duck at Orlando Wetlands Park.
My #5 favorite photo is: Lake Lily Park tree and bird at dawn. Sometimes you go out specifically to photograph. Other times you go out just carrying your camera. It’s exciting to me when I find a photo like this one while I’m just out carrying my camera. The light on this Cyprus tree caught my eye as we walked around the Lily Lake one Saturday morning looking at their flea market. The bird in the middle distance was a bonus.
My #4 favorite photo is: Black Point Wildlife Drive: Wide angle, winter dawn. On this particular morning, it was hard coming up with any good photo inspiration for the sunrise. There were no clouds, not much color in the sky, not a lot of interesting landscape detail, no cooperating wildlife, the wind was blowing pretty hard, etc. This palm tree had an interesting vine growing in it that was pointing back toward the road, so I made it the subject of the picture and violated all the composition rules by putting it way off too one side. To me, the road leading past the tree could represent the last part of the long journey of exploration and learning that led to being able to make this photo in this place at this time. The road is empty because each person’s journey is unique. Oh, and BPWD just happens to be a one way road – toward the photographer. The somewhat surreal colors come from a program called “Photomatix” that will “tone map” multiple, bracketed exposures. Anyway, I liked it too.
My #3 favorite photo is: Gorilla watching people, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, Disney’s Wild Kingdom.
My #2 favorite photo is: Breaching humpback, off shore from Juneau, Alaska. In the full res version, the two white dots in tree to the upper left behind the whale are bald eagles.
And … my #1 favorite photo of the year is: Ship, water, glacier, rock. A multiple shot panorama showing Johns Hopkins Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park from the cruise ship MS Westerdam. The full res version of this photo is 7747 x 4716 pixels = 36.5 megapixels.
I’ve posted a gallery of all 44 images on my website at www.edrosack.com/BO09. I’ve also uploaded them to this Flickr set, and you can click this link to watch a slide show at Flickr. When you watch the show, you might want to click the “show info” link.
Lynn and I have talked for a long time about taking a cruise to Alaska. Since we’re celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary this year, we finally decided to book on Holland America’s MS Westerdam. We did this early in the year and it seemed like forever before we departed Seattle on September 6th for Glacier Bay, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria. We spent some time before boarding with our good friends, the Sullivans who cruised with us in the next stateroom with a shared balcony.
It was our first visit to the US northwest and Alaska, and we saw spectacular things that we’ve never seen before except on TV. Coming up with words to do justice to what we experienced will be hard. We came home already talking about plans for our next trip. I hope I’ll be able to share some of the feelings of being there through the photographs I made. Although far away and expensive, this vacation most definitely qualifies for the “Must do list” .
Instead of a day by day description, I’ll break this up into subjects. This will help me organize my editing efforts. I’ll talk first about the wildlife. We spent a bit of time on the balcony and were rewarded on occasion with whale sightings, like this killer whale.
North Pacific Killer whale from the MS Westerdam; NIKON D90,300 mm,1/320 sec at f / 5.6
We also saw humpback whales and I was grateful that Chuck loaned me his 80 – 400mm lens, since these were quite a distance away – every millimeter helped.
In Juneau, Sully and I went on a “Photo Safari by Land and Sea”, which was a guided whale encounter and glacier trek run by Gastineau Guiding. Our guide Rick, and boat captain Gary, were both extremely knowledgeable and helpful in finding whales, seals, and sea lions. Also eagles were quite abundant, feasting on the remains of the salmon run, which was still ongoing although according to locals slower than it had been. Here’s a few photos:
Breaching humpback; In the full res version, the two white dots in tree to the upper left, behind the whale are bald eagles.; NIKON D90,300 mm,1/1600 sec at f / 5.6
The whale in the first photo is an adult female. Her calf was also with her. He/she seemed to jump upside down or do barrel rolls most of the time. It’s hard for me to imagine they were not having fun doing this.
Humpback whale calf breeching; NIKON D90,300 mm,1/1250 sec at f / 5.6
Humbolt Sea lion and gull watch two male Sea Lions arguing; NIKON D90,300 mm,1/1250 sec at f / 5.6
Rick also took us to Mendenhal Glacier in Juneau, where there were reports of black bear sightings. Sure enough, as we descended to the lake by the glacier, a bear was seen napping under a bush. I didn’t get a good photo, but here’s one that Sully made. The bear had more sense than us. It was sheltered from the rain taking a nap. We were out in the rain trying to make pictures of it. When we got back to the ship, another couple we ate lunch with told us about encountering bears on a different path than the one we took at Mendenhal. I wonder how common they are?
Bear in the bushes (photo by Martin Sullivan); Canon EOS 40D,135 mm,1/30 sec at f / 5.6
Clicking on one of the photos above will take you to Flickr, where you can see it in a higher res version. I made many more photos than will fit on a blog page and I’ll post them two different ways. You can look at them all together as a time ordered single set here on Flickr. I’ll also post them as galleries on my website, organized by subject: