Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy New Year & Favorites of 2009

I'm back in Northern California after our very busy but great holiday travels, and I wanted to wish you all a (belated) Happy New Year! I still have a handful of images from late 2009 that I haven't had the chance to post yet (including probably two more sets from the San Diego Zoo), but I thought I would start off a new year with a recap of my favorite photos that I took in 2009 (as inspired by Jim Goldstein's annual Blog Project). Last year was a really fun year for me photographically, as I had some of the best wildlife encounters I've ever experienced, as well as upgrades to both a longer lens and a new camera.

In no particular order, here's my Fine Fifteen from 2009.

Without a doubt this was one of my favorite shots from last year -- it even appeared as an editor's choice in the Autumn Issue of The Nature Conservancy's magazine.
Photograph of light streaming through a foggy forest in Tomales Bay State Park

When I went to Ano Nuevo State Reserve in January, we opted for a late day tour, since we had done an early one the previous year. It turned out that we were always facing into the sun when viewing the elephant seals, which made for poor photo conditions. However, we luckily decided to walk one of the other beaches in the park for the sunset, and were treated to great light on three spectacular giants.
Photograph of a northern elephant seal posturing at Ano Nuevo State Reserve

As I wrote about when I posted this one, I am still searching for my 'perfect' shot of the bridge in the fog, but this one did turn out nicely.
Photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge draped in fog at sunrise

My Halloween outing to Point Reyes was one of my favorite wildlife experiences I've ever had (posted as a four part series, see part one here). I had never before spent time with a wild coyote up close, and the deer gave some great poses too. This was one of those times that the experience makes the images better in my mind than they may actually be, and I had to limit myself to picking just two.
Photograph of a mule deer doe on the alert

Spending this much time with a coyote is something I won't soon forget.
Photograph of a coyote on a foggy morning in Point Reyes National Seashore

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to get a nice series of this willet in the overcast early morning light.
Photograph of a friendly willet in Point Reyes National Seashore

This shot was an attempt on my part to make the conscious effort to get out of my comfort zone and take images that were not wildlife based. There was something attractive to me about this tumbleweed shape in the sands of Point Reyes.
Photograph of beach tumbleweed in Point Reyes

A classic pose of a dowitcher preening from the ponds at Radio Road.
Photograph of a dowitcher standing tall while preening

This was the closest I've ever been able to get to oystercatchers, as a trio of them were quite relaxed along the rocks at Point Lobos State Reserve. The overcast skies made for some dreary scenery, but also for a great exposure of their black plumage against the sandstone.
Photographic portrait of a black oystercatcher at Point Lobos State Reserve

Taking a friendly charge from this guy was quite a thrill, and he gave me this awesome pose as my prize for not ducking under the bench I was sitting on.
Mule deer buck in Point Reyes National Seashore

I'm a sucker for both preening birds and Northern Shovelers -- so put them together, and this had to be one of my favorites.
Photograph of a northern shoveler drake preening

This great blue heron was kind enough to allow me to work my way in quite close for some full-frame portraits.
Photographic portrait of a great blue heron

After finding very few birds along the beach at Limantour Spit, this sparrow was waiting for me in the parking lot when I returned to the car.
White-crowned sparrow in Point Reyes National Seashore

It was a pleasure to watch a small group of godwits feeding in the surf at Drake's Beach in Point Reyes.
Photograph of three marbled godwits in Point Reyes

A small waterfall on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands, WA.
Photograph of a waterfall along Cascade Creek

Here's to hoping that 2010 gives all of us even more memories, and some stunning photos too.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Predators at the San Diego Zoo -- Part 2


Another set of shots from our trip to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. In an attempt to post these in some sort of logical fashion, I've put up a set of predators.

This magnificent lion was camped out on top of an old SUV that is part of its territory in the Wild Animal Park. Each time we passed him by he was sound asleep, but for a brief moment he lifted his head to look around, and quite thankfully, I had my lens on him at the time!


The eyes on this beautiful cat just pull you in:

It was raining while we watched the otters, but clearly, they could care less.

While not as charismatic as the above predators, I've always been fascinated by our largest living lizard species. This guy was quite large, and happy to pose for shots behind the glass.

Isn't this guy cute? Not a baby, this is a dwarf crocodile. Taken by my darling wife, who was manning the wide-angle camera at the zoo.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Charsimatic bears, that aren't really bears -- San Diego Zoo, Part 1

Panda portrait

My true passion as a photographer is to try to capture an image of wild animals that can get an emotion to stir within a viewer, and up to this point, I've only posted truly wild animals both on this blog and on my Flickr stream. However, our recent trip to the San Diego Zoo was just too much fun to not share.

What're you looking at?

Two of the highlights of our zoo trip was to see the pandas and koalas at the San Diego Zoo. These guys were really cute to see in person, and a pleasure to watch. Two pandas were on display while we were there, and there was a live video feed into the den of a baby. The first time we stopped by the exhibit, the pandas were both napping, and while cool to see, it wasn't necessarily a highlight.


However, when we came back a second time one of the bears was up and active, and we got to watch her move around the enclosure and snack on a lot of bamboo.

Looks delicious



The koalas were a real treat too! There were a surprising number of them sprinkled throughout the exhibit.

Cuddled Koala

Snack time

Koala Profile

Wild hummingbird at San Diego Zoo

Hummingbird lunch

There was a surprising amount of wild birds spending time in the zoo. We saw beautiful hummingbirds like these all over the place, running from flower to flower, as well as a ton of egrets and herons in all of the ponds. I used to think it was special to get to see a night heron up close, but after this trip, I'm pretty used to them!

Wild hummingbird at the San Diego Zoo

It was overcast with occasional rain showers while we were at the zoo, which meant I was shooting wide open and still had fairly long shutter speeds. I think in the end, it made these shots a little interesting with just the impression of those incredible fast wings.

Wild hummer

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunset at Torrey Pines State Reserve

Sunset at Torrey Pines State Reserve

We had a really nice short trip to the San Diego area at the end of last week to finally check out the world-famous Zoos down that way. It rained a fair amount, but we did have a fantastic sunset the first night we were there, as we explored the beach at Torrey Pines State Reserve. I took an awful lot of pictures at the San Diego Zoo & Wild Animal Park and at SeaWorld, and I'm hoping to find the time to make a few picture-filled posts here this week.

The sky was really quite dramatic throughout the sunset:

And we were treated to some of the local wildlife as well. It was great to see this young California sea lion come ashore at this really well used beach. We saw him hopping through the breakers for a few minutes before he came out to check things out.