Friday, December 30, 2011

The whales and dolphins of December

The day after Christmas our daughter and I went on a whalewatch naturalist training cruise. The cruise introduces new whalewatch naturalists on what they may be asked to do on a cruise during the upcoming whalewatch season. These would include a "dock talk" (give a little lecture about what passengers may see during a cruise), speaking on the ship's microphone, and show pictures of various whales, dolphins, and other animals that live or pass through Santa Monica bay.

This year's trip was particularly amazing for the number of whales we saw during the three-hour-plus trip: 1 fin whale and 11 gray whales. This may be due to the record number of southbound gray whales seen this December. And you could not ask for better conditions under which to go on a whalewatch cruise: the sky was bright blue; the seas were calm; there was very little wind.

Within 45 minutes of our leaving the dock, and just two-and-a-half miles off the coast, we spotted a fin whale headed away from the coast. It first appeared close to our starboard side, then dove, and reappeared far on our port side. I was on the wrong side of the boat when it first appeared; I had to settle taking a few pictures when it reappeared:


I should note that we (and anyone else, for that matter) must not approach it and get closer than 100 yards; if it had approached us and we ended up being closer than that distance, that's permissible. So no chasing them in your jetski, kayak, pleasure craft, or whatever -- keep a respectful distance away.

We soon spotted pods of common dolphin ahead of us, so we steamed in their general direction. They will come and ride the boat's bow wave, or swim alongside.


To be honest, while one can't help but be impressed by a whale's size, dolphins (for me) are much more fun to watch. We noted that there appeared to be a large number of dolphins calves in these pods.

We headed south towards Point Vicente. Once there we saw a mother gray whale with her calf very close to shore where the Interpretive Center stands.


They were swimming south at a very leisurely pace. Knowing the characteristics of their swimming behavior, and provided you're close enough, you can easily get a picture of their flukes:


We motored just off Point Vicente for awhile looking for the next whale. At one point, there were so many common dolphin and gray whales around the boat that it was a problem trying to decide what animal to look at. We had a TV reporter, his cameraman, and press photographers from two different newspapers looking in all directions and taking it all in. Bernardo was interviewed by the TV reporter; the story was later broadcast on the 5pm news.


At this point it was time to turn around and head back to the dock...whereupon we shortly came across more common dolphin:






At the end of the trip we all agreed that it had been a fantastic way to start off the 2011-2012 whalewatch season. In the future I'll be posting more photos from the trips I take as a naturalist.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 18-200mm zoom; shutter-priority mode; shutter speed set to 1/1250 second; matrix-metered; daylight white balance; normal JPG.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Katie runs in my in-law's backyard


(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 18-200mm zoom; shutter-priority with shutter set to 1/2000 second; camera chose aperture of f/5.6; ISO 200; auto white balance; normal JPG.) 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Loud not want.

Sadie is not particularly fond of loud conversations. When she hears them she usually thinks she's being scolded for something she did -- even though we're not talking to her -- and oftentimes runs up to us smiling. Then we tell her she's not in trouble and she feels better.

As we were busy preparing food and cleaning the house for our Christmas visitors we'd sometimes find ourselves talking to each other with a room separating us. Not liking the volume of the conversations Sadie disappeared into our bedroom, followed some time later by Katie.

When I realized that they had both made themselves scarce I went into our bedroom and was greeted by this:

Katie and Sadie 

They were just going to hunker down until things settled. I could tell that Sadie was more uncomfortable (not surprisingly) with the noise than Katie was, although it did bother Katie to a degree. It was just a little unusual seeing them lying so close together that they actually touched.

I had to get a picture.

So, kneeling down on the floor and pressing my back against our dresser I took a couple of center-weighted snaps of Sadie as she looked at me:


I vacillated between cropping closely to discard extraneous stuff and not cropping at all to give a sense of context of Sadie's surroundings. I settled for cropping closely, but am not yet convinced that was the "right" thing to do. But, on the other hand, I am happy to see how the detail in her graying face and paws came out (it is all too easy to overexpose the white hair and lose what few black hairs remain). I added a bit of sharpening, dodged her eyes to make them stand out more, and added a vignette.

I really love photographing Sadie, but I know I could do a better job of it.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 50mm lens; top photo: spot-metered; aperture-priority; aperture set to f/8, camera chose shutter speed of 1/30 second at ISO 900; bottom photo: center-weighted; aperture-priority; aperture set to f/2.8, camera chose shutter speed of 1/30 second at ISO 450; +0.7 exposure compensation; both photos used auto white balance; normal JPG.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lights in the sky

Earlier this month there were some news stories written about a newly-discovered comet, Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3), that was predicted to come perilously close to the sun and not survive the encounter. Much to the surprise of many of those who follow and study such things, not only did the comet survive but as it moves away from the sun it now appears to be the finest comet seen since Comet McNaught in 2007 (C/2006 P1, also known as the Great Comet of 2007). If I was in Australia I could possibly see Comet Lovejoy looking like this:

Image copyright Lester Barnes

As for Comet McNaught it looked like this in late January from Australia:

Image copyright Robert McNaught

What an awesome sight that must have been!

About a week or so earlier in January Comet McNaught was visible in the northern hemisphere. It was so bright that it was visible during daylight hours. I tried looking for it using a building to block out the sun but I never saw it. I did try my luck photographing it at dusk. I managed to get a few pictures before it disappeared behind an advancing wall of low clouds:

Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1) 

Not a very awe-inspiring sight compared to how it appeared over Australia just a few days later. Still, comets that get this bright are uncommon, so I appreciate what I saw nonetheless. C/2006 P1 won't be back again in about 92,600 years.

(Shot with the Nikon D200 using the Nikon 300mm f/4 lens; program mode; camera chose 1/100 second at f/5; matrix-metered; -0.7 exposure compensation; ISO 800; normal JPG.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sadie asleep on a late fall afternoon

Lately I have not been having much success in photographing Sadie and getting anything I liked. This afternoon however, as I walked into our bedroom to fold some laundry, she, Katie, and Tooey were asleep on our bed. It's not unusual for dog and cat to share like this. With sunlight spilling in through our wood shutters I noticed how it backlit Sadie's ear, and I liked the effect. So I left the room to get my camera and hoped that I would not get Sadie's attention. When I returned I took a few snaps.

I liked this one the best -- it happens to be the first frame I shot:


I was hoping I wouldn't overexpose too much the fur in front of her ear. I played around with different color and black-and-white presets in Lightroom just to see what I'd get, but I ultimately left it in color and just added a bit of fill to bring out the shadow details. A vignette was also added to make you look at her.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 50mm lens; aperture-priority, with aperture set at f/4; camera chose shutter speed of 1/160 second; auto white balance; ISO 200; normal JPG.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The last retirees for 2011

Last Saturday afternoon I watched the last Fastfriends dog haul for 2011 arrive from the Caliente racetrack. There was a majority of brindles in this batch of 17 (a friend of mine who volunteers for the Greyhound Adoption Center commented that they too had gotten a majority of brindles in their last haul from Caliente).

Here are a few photos of some of the newly-retired houndies:

20111210_0057 20111210_0063 20111210_0066
20111210_0067 20111210_0071 20111210_0079
20111210_0076 20111210_0077 20111210_0088

It's pretty hard to not want to hug every hound:


Or to just admire them:


I didn't spend much time watching the hounds being bathed. Instead, I ended up talking to a few people who were new to me and just chatted about greyhounds. But I did get this picture of one brindle getting a bath:


On an entirely different topic, I'll mention that two other dog bloggers (jcp of A Dog's Journey and Karen of Tricks for Treats nominated me for the Liebster blog award:

I'm supposed to suggest five other blogs that I read; I'll have to come up with that. I certainly didn't expect this -- I mean, all I'm doing is just sharing my pictures of greyhounds and hope people enjoy seeing them. My thanks to the two aforementioned dog bloggers.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 18-200mm zoom and SB-800 flash; program-mode; ISO 400; shade and/or flash white balance; normal JPG.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Katie waits for a pizza bone


(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 50mm lens; aperture-priority; aperture set to f/2.8, camera chose shutter speed of 1/50 second; ISO 800; auto white balance; converted to black-and-white in Lightroom; normal JPG.) 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Grace and Tess

My final two customers at Dewey were Grace and Tess, two very beautiful brindle girls. Grace has a case of pannus, so many of the pictures I got of her shows her with her eyes closed. But it was possible to catch her when she wasn't squinting:


Tess, on the other hand, was very easy to get some good head shots:


The highlight of this session came when we were halfway through when Grace ran on the beach alone:




Note that I got the same facial expression on all three frames. That's fine by me -- that crazed look on a greyhound face always makes me smile. And note that her feet are in similar positions. I was shooting at about 3 frames/second, which can be a problem if you're photographing running greyhounds at certain speeds. If you catch them in an unattractive pose (like where both front feet are on the ground while both hind feet are in the air) then you can end up with a number of pictures with slight variations of that pose. So I should've upped my frame rate to its faster setting (6 or 7 frames/second, I think) before I had Grace run.

But I got lucky this time. She changed directions and speed enough to catch her in a different position:


And then just before she flew by me I caught her in mid-stride:


(I'm amazed I even caught this.) Having run past me she then stopped by her owner, who was standing behind me and to my left. Aimee and I were really impressed.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 18-200mm zoom lens; shutter-priority mode; daylight white balance; top two pictures: ISO 200 at 1/250 second; running sequence: ISO 800 at 1/1250 second; shot in RAW.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Berry and Ziva

Friends of mine from Massachusetts asked me to photograph their two hounds, Berry and Ziva, on Sunday morning. I had met Berry and Ziva at Dewey the year before, and at that time they were accompanied by a third greyhound (Marco). Marco was not doing well, so my friends asked me to stop by their motel room and try to get a few pictures of him. I was more than happy to do so, and I thought I got a few that they would be happy with.

Marco passed over the course of the year, and when Dewey came around they wanted Berry and Ziva photographed. For whatever reason Berry was harder for me than Ziva. I just couldn't seem to get an angle that I liked for Berry. More of a problem about me than about Berry, really. But here are a couple that I was okay with:



Ziva was much easier for me. I suppose being younger and more energetic worked in my favor. She would go zip! to the right of my viewfinder, then turn around and go zip! in the opposite direction:

Martha and Ziva 

But she would pause long enough for me to get a head shot or two:



Ziva's furry neck reminds me very much of Nik's, as does her color.

Surprisingly there were few people out on the beach that Sunday morning. But that completely changed before my final session that afternoon.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 18-200mm zoom and SB-800 flash; program mode; camera chose 1/250 second at apertures ranging from f/13 to f/18; ISO 200; daylight white balance; slow-sync; shot in RAW.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Asher (? - 2011) and Mr. Murphy (1999 - 2011)

I find that I'm writing another remembrance entry all too soon. This one is about Asher and Mr. Murphy.

I met Asher and his pack mates Taylor Rose and Quinn at GIG. To be more precise, we met in the parking lot of the outlet mall off of Highway 15 just outside of Gettysburg. I had their owners follow us over to the Irish Brigade monument (after having made several trips there we were good at finding it quickly) and parked across the road from it. I took several pictures of Asher near the monument.


As I had done in earlier sessions, we walked up a footpath that cut across a U-shaped bend in the road. At the end of the footpath, where it rejoined the road uphill from where we parked the cars, we took more pictures along one of the numerous wooden fences that can be found everywhere on the battlefield.


He was beginning to tire as it was a warm afternoon, so I snapped a few more while he laid down to rest.


After a while he got up and I took the opportunity to grab a few group pictures, which did not turn out as well as I had hoped. But then he laid down in the grass once more, so I took a few more of him.


I learned later that he had gone to the bridge a couple of months ago.

Mr. Murphy was introduced to me during my first trip to Dewey in October 2009. I met him and his companion Bailey when I visited their owners Mo and Sean's store at the Sea Esta III motel. Bailey was a shy fawn girl, and Bailey turned out to be this big, tall male. I knew Bailey was going to be uneasy while I took a picture of them, but I tried to be as nonthreatening as possible.

Mr. Murphy and Bailey 

He sat for me on Mo's command; Bailey hung behind him.
Mr. Murphy sits 

The next day (Sunday) we met again on the beach at sunrise. I snapped a couple of pictures of Mr. Murphy which, because of his popularity with many girl greyhounds, became known as his "come-hither" looks, and looking so good in his Long Dog Leather collar:

Mr. Murphy Mr. Murphy 

Last year we dog-sat Mr. Murphy and their new adoptee, Molly (Bailey had passed away several months after our '09 meeting), on a late Sunday afternoon. Mr. Murphy loved running up and down the beach with Bill (who I first met on this visit):
Bill and Mr. Murphy

and with Bill, and Aimee and Molly:

Bill and Mr. Murphy, Aimee and Molly

He spent some time with Donna after the running was over.

Donna and Mr. Murphy 

What a handsome, beautiful boy Mr. Murphy was. He passed away unexpectedly late last week.

Mr. Murphy 

You two will be missed by your family and friends.