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cub with driftwood

There was no way a bear cub could pass up this tempting piece of driftwood, despite the repercussions for not staying close to mom as she walked along the beach.  After all, it had cub-height branches to hang from and climb up on and bounce around on…it’s as if it was custom-designed to keep bear cubs entertained for hours!

Mom was having none of it, however.  She never slowed down as she was crossing the beach.  The cubs snuck in a few seconds of play, then had to run to catch up with mom again, who was in an unusually bad mood today, and not tolerating her youngsters’ mischievousness…much to the disappointment of both the cubs as well as the photographers!


grizzly bears with scat-2

After she finished taking a bath, and rounded up her cubs, this grizzly sow made a beeline to these scat piles she found on the beach which were left by another sow.  She spent several minutes looking at and sniffing the scat, and ensured that both of her cubs did so as well.

What can a bear learn from another bear’s calling card?  Probably the most important information is what the other bear’s been feeding on.  The leaver of this scat has obviously been eating a lot of grasses–you can see the partially digested blades in the scat–but that’s these bears’ primary food source in late July.  Notice how the lumps of scat are well-formed, like that from a horse?

If a bear has been feeding on a lot of berries, that’s also evident in the scat.  If you look closely, you may even be able to tell what type of berries.  In addition to berry seeds, some leaves and stems from the berry plant are often present as well.  A personal observation is that the scat of berry-feeding bears is, um, runnier than the scat of grass-feeding bears.  Come to think of it, when I eat a lot of berries…well, never mind.

The bears in this area also eat a lot of razor clams, and evidence of that would be in the scat as well.

Finally, if a bear has been feeding on fish, that would also be obvious–at least to another bear–from looking at and/or smelling the scat.  Since late July and early August is right when the salmon start running in this part of Alaska, noticing that another bear has already begun feeding on salmon would tell this sow to head for a good fishing spot on the river.  Salmon is the most nutritious and calorie-rich food these bears rely on to fatten themselves and their cubs before winter.  Instead of “wasting” a trip to the river to find the fish aren’t running yet, checking another bear’s scat on the beach will give this bear that information “long-distance,” as it were.

So the next time someone tries to tell you “You don’t know s***,” you can tell them they’re wrong:  you DO know s***.  Or at least you know bear s***, and that’s no bulls***!

cubs on beach

What kid–or cub–doesn’t love going to the beach on a summer day?

beach 4

This is the last in a series of night beach scenes I shot last December on The Big Island (Hawai’i).  Today’s image, as well as those from the last three posts, were all shot on one night by moonlight.  For the record, it was not a full moon, but roughly about half-full.  These were all 30-second exposures.

I didn’t really set out to do night photography per se that particular night.  Rather, a friend who lives on The Big Island and I were going to hike out to see and shoot the lava.  When we got to the end of the road, we couldn’t see much of a glow from the lava, and rather than “waste” a hike out and back, we decided to try again the following night.

So there we were at 3:00 AM, all dressed up and nowhere to go.  My friend decided to drive along the coast to show me some pretty beaches that visitors seldom find.  Since I had all my camera gear with me in anticipation of shooting lava, I shot some beach scenes instead.

Some people think there’s some trick to shooting these scenes at night.  Honestly, the adage of “90% of success is just showing  up” holds true here.  A tripod is a must.  It helps to have an eye for landscape composition.  Exposure is a little trial and error at first to get a well-exposed image with as slow an ISO as possible to minimize grain.

I’m partial to 30-second exposures because I like very blurry water.  But you can certainly try a 10 or 15 second exposure and see if you like the results.

beach 3

Another image of a moonlit beach on The Big Island (Hawai’i).  This is the third in a series of four images.  Tomorrow I’ll explain how I found myself doing night photography at zero-dark-thirty on these beautiful shores…

beach 2

A 30-second exposure in the middle of the night is enough to give plenty of detail to this beachscape on The Big Island (Hawai’i).

beach 1

See if you can guess what’s unusual about this image I took on The Big Island (Hawai’i) last December.   The graininess is a clue…  

lava cliff

Multiple rivulets of lava cascade down the cliff and into the ocean below.  Jagged chunks of basalt, broken off the cliff face, lie scattered at its base.  Every time a wave hits the lava, it sends a huge plume of steam billowing skyward.  The ocean begins to erode the cliff literally the second it is formed.  The waves pound the cliff relentlessly, continuously…

In several thousand years, this may become a beautiful black sand beach.  But for now, it’s best to stay out of the water.  Not only are there falling rocks, strong surf and dangerous currents, but the water may be a bit warm for your liking in some spots…

Last week I took advantage of a sunny morning after several days of rain, and visited a few beaches to see what the storm surf had tossed ashore.  On one beach I found an impromptu “sculpture” that someone had made recently.  I’m guessing it was made that same morning, since the strong winds of the previous few days would have most likely blown it over.

I made the above image with my smart phone, since I didn’t have much time to linger that morning.  Despite my laziness, I’m happy with the way the image turned out.  There’s plenty of detail in the wood and rocks, and the background is also adequately sharp.  I love the play between the foreground and the background, the softness of the lighting and the sky, the contrast of the textures of the wood, stone, sand and water.

The whitewater in the surf is too “blown out” to make this more than a snapshot, but as snapshots go, it’s a keeper.

Meanwhile, approximately 3,200 miles northeast of where the above image was taken by the Pacific Ocean in California, I took the image below by the Atlantic Ocean in Maine.  It was on Isle Au Haut, which can only be reached by boat.  A friend who lives in Maine and I took the first morning ferry to the island, and spent the day hiking miles of beautiful trails through the forests and along the shores.

Maine is one of my favorite states, and if you’ve read my blog from the beginning you may remember me rhapsodizing about the heavenly concoction known as a lobster roll.  Besides having great eats, Maine also has an abundance of photo-ops.  Since I’m passionate about photography, food and travel, Maine is a favorite destination.

I built the cairn in the image below, and must admit that I was very pleased with my engineering skills as well as my artistry.  I wanted a pleasing variety of sizes and shapes of rocks, and most of the Maine coast has rocks in abundance.  I also wanted the sculpture to have a bit of a whimsical air, almost like a fairy tale castle.  I believe I achieved that goal.  I think my construction is a bit more creative than the one at the top of the page, where the sizes and shapes of the rocks are much more uniform (and thus balance more easily upon each other).

Like the image above, the image below is a snapshot and not fine art.  The lighting is harsh and the focus is soft.  However, it memorializes a fine day spent with a fellow photographer in a spectacular setting.  But it has more meaning for me than the image above, since I created both the cairn AND the photograph.

Rock on!


Last week I was at the beach, walking amid piles of driftwood that recent winter storms had scattered from the high tide line to the cliffs, and enjoying a respite from several days of heavy rain.  I returned to my car to find that a gull had decided to soak up some warmth from the engine compartment. My camera equipment was locked in the car, but I did have my smart phone with me, so I grabbed a few quick shots.  The gulls along these beaches are pretty fearless, so I was able to get quite close.  When I went to get into the car, the gull flew away, only to land on the hood again as soon as I had closed the door.


Once I was in the car, I was able to grab my camera equipment and do some more shooting from inside the car.  The gull obliged me with a variety of poses.  For the record, it did have two good legs, but chose to only stand on one to conserve heat.


I played around with a number of compositions, and in most of them decided that I wanted to show the car and the fact that I was shooting from inside it.  Rather than just having images of the gull without the context of  its surrounding, these images tell the story of it taking advantage of beach visitors and their warm car hoods on a cool and cloudy day.

Since the gull was being so cooperative, and I didn’t have any place I had to be for a while, I decided to switch over to a telephoto lens for some close-up shots (final image, below).  I used a 180 mm lens, which only allowed me to capture the head and neck of the bird, and that was only possible if I pushed the seat as far back as it would go, reclined it, and then slithered halfway up the back to have enough focusing distance.  Despite my less-than-graceful contortions shaking the car to and fro, the gull wasn’t bothered in the least.

As for my part, despite the cramped quarters, I have to admit that this was one of my most comfortable bird shoots ever.  Unlike during many of my bird-shooting forays, I was warm, dry, had food and drinks, and my equipment was protected from the elements.  And I even had a pretty clean windshield through which to shoot!  I continued to shoot in these deluxe surroundings until the light faded away.  The gull didn’t fly off until I started up my car and began to drive away.

I guess both the gull and I enjoyed being in the Right Place at the Right Time!