Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Puppies

After this rather grief Conservation Tip, here is something to cheer you up!

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to photograph a litter of 12 adorable Labrador Retriever puppies.

They were so much fun to photograph, since...

..they are easygoing,



sometimes stoic,


make good stocking stuffers, at least at this age,

and of course, like to chew on everything.

With this I wish you all Happy Holidays 
and a wonderful New Year!

click on the image for a full view of this panorama

Monday, December 19, 2011

December Conservation Tip

The Cove

I know it's the time to be merry, and most of the time I am enjoying the festive spirit, the yummy food and the time together with friends and family.

Ever since I know about "The Cove" though, between September and March a thought pops up in my mind every so often as I follow the daily reports from volunteers in Taiji, a little coastal town in Japan.

What is going on there, that I would mind?

Since centuries, the Japanese hunt marine mammals for food. Since the late 1960's though they catch and slaughter dolphins and other small whales here en masse.
They go out with a group of boats and wait on the known migratory dolphin routes until they spot a pod. The hunter/fishermen then try to interrupt the dolphins' echolocation by banging on metal poles. The goal is to drive the now confused dolphins in a cove, that then can be closed in by nets. Out of the captured dolphins a few nice ones get selected to be sold for a lot of money to dolphinariums around the world, the other ones unfortunately don't get released, no, they get slaughtered and then sold as food. Notwithstanding that the mercury levels in most of these dolphins make it unhealthy to eat, the meat is sold for human consumption and even distributed as lunch meat for school children.
The estimated number of dolphins that meet this fate is about 2000 a year.

As I read the following blog entry today, I decided to do my part to make this more widely aware. It just has to stop, it doesn't make ANY sense!

"The Hardest Day of My Life
December 18, 2011 by Ric O'Barry, Earth Island Institute

By Heather Hill
Cove Monitor
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute

NOTE: Today, Japanese police raided the hotel in Kii-Katsuura, near Taiji, where Save Japan Dolphins’ Heather Hill and volunteers from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society were staying. The raid was apparently prompted by the arrest last week of Sea Shepherd volunteer Erwin Vermeulen, who allegedly was involved in an altercation with an employee at the Dolphin Base hotel. While Heather was detained briefly while her room was searched and her computer and cameras were checked, all her equipment was returned to her after it was clear she had no connection to Sea Shepherd. No arrests were made. Earth Island's Save Japan Dolphins and Dolphin Project do not condone violence of any kind in Japan and have never broken any laws in Taiji. We are very grateful for the work of Heather and other volunteers like her who, under very difficult conditions, keep us informed of what is happening in Taiji with the dolphin hunts.

Today was, and will probably always be, the longest and hardest day of my life. Last week we saw five slaughters in six days. The dolphin killers of Taiji took yesterday (Saturday) off, so we had one day of peace, but today they were right back at it. My hopes were soaring high when we spotted several banger boats headed back in this morning, but suddenly the boats turned and sped off to meet others that had apparently located a pod of striped dolphins.

From the lookout on Takababe Mountain, I could see that this pod still had a lot of energy, despite being chased towards the shores of Taiji. Unlike the striped dolphins caught a few days ago that were all too exhausted to panic in the shallow Cove, these ones were quickly frightened by their ever-tightening world. The fishermen had already prepared nets in the Cove to try and keep the dolphins from throwing themselves out of the water and getting stuck on the rocks, but it made no difference. Once the final net was drawn, terror broke out amongst the dolphins. Skiffs tried to position themselves between the rocks and dolphins, and divers sat on the rocks to push and kick the dolphins that slammed their bodies into the wall, tearing their skin open and staining the water with blood. One dolphin made a mad dash into the net and became entangled, wrapping itself tighter and tighter as it thrashed, trying to get a desperately needed breath of air. A diver jumped in to set it free, knowing we were watching with our cameras. The chaos ensued for what felt like an eternity, and we tried in vain to put our cameras between the situation and us, hoping to make it seem less real and therefore easier to document. I later had to clean the dried salt off of my camera from all the tears that had dripped down the view screen.

Finally the skiffs were able to push the frightened dolphins underneath the tarps. They could hide the sight of what happened next from our eyes, but we could hear everything. The 34 or so dolphins continued to thrash in the shallow water of the Cove. Blood seeped into our view. After what felt like forever, the thrashing began to be reduced, and finally ended altogether. The dolphins were all dead, having suffered right up to the very end. I felt dead inside. I thought it was over, until I heard a loud thud, followed by another, and another. The fishermen were tossing the dolphins' bodies into skiff to transport them to the slaughterhouse. I have never been affected by a sound so much in my life. This is a day that will be with me until the day I die."

Please take the time during the winter break to watch the movie "The Cove", which explains and shows! much better what is going on in Taiji then I could ever do it here.

If you agree with me, please help spreading the word!

Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Lunar Eclipse

As most of you know, this last Saturday morning we had a total lunar eclipse. It started around 4:45 am and was to end around 8 am, but by this time the moon had already set. As I was looking at the charts, I figured out, that the moon would set more or less fully eclipsed. In front of my inner photographic eye I imagined a copper colored, eclipsed moon setting in the ocean in the first light of the day, ahh, what a picture....worth crawling out of bed at 3:45 am!

It started out sufficiently clear, some clouds were predicted, but that should just add to the drama, or so I hoped.

Long exposure of the full moon scene, right before the eclipse started. The long exposure makes it look almost like daylight.

I had set up two cameras on two tripods. The first camera was equipped with a telephoto lens to show the details.

Here the results:

@ 4:45 am

@ 5:03 am

@ 5:26 am

@ 5:49 am

@ 6:03 am

And then all of a sudden, the moon disappeared in a low cloud cover, this was the last I saw of it....

@ 6:15 am

With the other camera, this one equipped with a wide-angle lens, I took an image every 10 minutes or so. I then put all the images together to show the course of the eclipse (click on the image to see a bigger version):

Frozen to the bone, after not enough sleep and being out on the oceans edge for hours, it was rather disappointing to see the moon just vanish in the clouds...but a beautiful sunrise and a nice hot cup of coffee later at home made it all good again. Next time then.....

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

McWay Falls

The McWay Falls, about 36 miles south of Carmel on the California Coast, were on my "to do list" for quite some years. I had seen awesome images and of course wanted to take some myself. But how things go with "to do lists", I never got around to really do it....
Until now!
A few weeks ago my friend and Cherie I spontaneously decided to take on the 3+ hour drive down to the waterfall.
Alone the drive along Highway 1 is worth the effort. Although spoiled through living on the coast, we had to get out several times to take pictures and ahh and ohh.

After a long and windy drive, at last we made it:

As planned, we arrived shortly before sunset and could watch the light playing in the cove before the sun finally disappeared in the ocean.

McWay Falls, named after Christopher McWay, an early settler, is not only called the "most beautifully situated waterfall on the California Coast" by the "World of Waterfalls", the park it is located in also has an intriguing history.

In the 1920s Lathrop and Helen Brown purchased McWays Saddle Rock Ranch and built two houses in the area where today the waterfall overlook is situated. The main house supposedly was rather fancy with black marble and a huge panorama window overlooking the ocean. Quite an accomplishment for that time.
Helen Brown became good friends with Julia Pfeiffer Burns, a pioneer woman homesteading on an adjacent ridge.

In 1961 Helen Brown donated the 1800 acre Saddle Rock Ranch to the state under two conditions, it was to be named after Julia Pfeiffer Burns, her admired friend and that the land to the west of Highway 1 should be "unmarred by further construction or out-of-place man-made improvements" and that the Waterfall House should be made into a "museum for the custody and display of indigenous Indian relics, flora and fauna of the California coastal area, and historical objects pertaining to the Big Sur country." But, if the house was not made into a museum within five years it was to be torn down......and so five years later the Waterfall House became history...

After the sun had set, the cove seemed to glow in pink. We photographed like maniacs until the light was almost gone and our exposures got so long, that the water took on a fog-like appearance.
A truly magical place!


Pelican Network

Hiking in Big Sur

World of Waterfalls

California State Parks

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November Conservation Tip

Well, we survived Halloween and the pumpkin invasion, and more holidays are on their way. Next on the list is Thanksgiving, but most everywhere the Christmas decoration is in full swing. Starbucks offers it's holiday drinks and soon we will hear Christmas carols from every speaker.
And with that the yearly quest of of finding just the right Christmas presents starts all over again....

Mid September a facebook page called "Indexed" posted the following "index card":

Somehow that strung a cord with me and now as the time comes to think about presents, I was wondering, if it would be possible to "create" presents instead of buying them.
It's not for everybody of course, but if you can bake, cook, sew, photograph, woodwork, knit or are handy in any other way, I'm sure there are projects that could make some of your friends and family happy.

For the knitters among us, I came up with a project that is easy and rather quick to accomplish, useful and trendy.

And here it is,

The Two Hour Beanie

You will need 1-2 skeins of Spud & Chloƫ Outer Super Bulky wool (60yds(55m)/100grams), this is a wool and organic cotton mix, that is so soft you won't want to stop knitting, and a set of #11/8mm double point needles. Both are available at the super friendly Princeton Yarn shop here in Half Moon Bay. If you are not living in the area, check out the Spud & Chloƫ website for a store locator, or just get similar wool.

The beanie will be rather stretchy and fit most adult heads.
Cast on 48 stitches, 12 on each double point needle. Knit K(knit)4, P(purl)4 to end of round and join. Repeat until piece is about 6 to 61/2 inch.
Decrease as follows:
1. R(round): K1, K2tog, K1, P1, P2tog, P1
2. R: K3, P3
3. R: K1, K2tog, P1, P2tog
4. R: K2, P2
5. R: K2tog, P2tog
6. R: K1, P1
7. R: K2tog 6 times, cut yarn and threat on tapestry needle, draw yarn through remaining 6 stitches and pull the beanie close, weave in yarn ends.

Fuer meine deutschen Freunde: K = rechte Masche, P = linke Masche, 2tog = zwei Maschen zusammenstricken, decrease = abnehmen

Monday, October 31, 2011

Horse Heaven

...or maybe rather horseback riders heaven....

Riding in Central Oregon

Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to spend three days in my version of paradise, on the back of my horse!
I went up to Bend, in Central Oregon, to stay with my friend Kathy, and to hit the trails as long as our horses would carry us.
For all our trail rides we consulted:  Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails  by Kim McCarrel

The first day we rode along the Deschutes River, on the Lava Island Trail.

While this trail is swarmed by tourists and mosquitoes alike in summer, fall is the perfect time!

Great footing for the horses and a splendor of fall colors contrasting with the lava as well as with the green-blue river made this trail to one of my all time favorites.

The second day we had planned a longer and more strenuous ride, 13+ miles and over a 1000 feet elevation up to the Green Lakes plateau.

For a while we climbed up a rather steep single trail, but soon got rewarded by stunning views:

After crossing lots and lots of creeks,

a few plateaus and more climbing we finally reached Green Lakes:

The weather was not quite cooperating, overcast to a light drizzle, ideal material to play a bit with some filters...;-)

Here applied to South Sisters:

But nothing so serious, that it would keep me from shooting.

Taking photos while mounted on a horse is not the ideal starting point, getting down and back up every time one wants to take a picture is not really feasible either. So I apologize in advance if not all images are in the quality you would expect. This time capturing the spirit of a great time in the saddle was more important to me than the ultimate image quality.

After a short break, we left the Green Lakes area to start our descent, which seemed to be much faster than the way up...

The last day I pledged for a shorter ride, since my seat bones started to protest. But my request got simply denied. Luckily!

As long as the trail to Green Lakes, but no elevation, we started the Cultus Lake trail in the early afternoon. We did not plan to ride it all the way to the end, just two hours in and then back. We started off by letting the horses play a bit on the shallow shore of the lake.

After we passed our turning point, an old homestead shelter in Muskrat Lake,

we had so much fun, we decided to go just a little bit more, and more, and more...until we actually reached the end of the trail at Winopee Lake. We realized that we would have to do quite a bit of trotting on our way back, if we wanted to get back to the trailer in daylight.
But easier said than done, since the fun of this trail were the many obstacles we had to overcome:

But since our horses are real troopers, we made it back in time. After another quick stroll into Cultus Lake for a sip of cold water,

we loaded the horses in the last rays of yet another wonderful day spent in the saddle.

Thank you Kathy, Chyrise and Alyssa for showing Fin and me your gorgeous back country!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October Conservation Tip

Back to the Roots...or seeds
 heirloom fruits and vegetables

Now, what exactly are heirloom fruits and vegetables?

"heir·loom  n.
1. A valued possession passed down in a family through succeeding generations.
2. An article of personal property included in an inherited estate.
3. A cultivar of a vegetable or fruit that is open-pollinated and is not grown widely for commercial purposes. An heirloom often exhibits a distinctive characteristic such as superior flavor or unusual coloration. [1]"

Superior flavor sounds good, doesn't it. So as I picked up a flyer on our trip to the Solar Living Institute back in August, advertising the :

National Heirloom Exposition
The World's Purest Food Fair

in Santa Rosa, I decided I had to check that out!

I was not disappointed, the fruits and vegetable and even livestock varieties were mindboggling.

And lovingly displayed:

I knew that heirloom tomatoes are having a come back,

but the diversity was just beyond words,

vegetables I had never even heard about before

and a refreshing assortment of NOT genetically modified corn!

One of my non vegetable favorites: The dark chocolate brown eggs from the Marans

But not only edibles were showcased, a lot of vendors with related topics had booths at the expo, from seed exchange and books, to garden tools and bee keeper supply and even:

So when you are getting ready to order your seeds for next spring, give some heirloom varieties a thought. If appropriate for you climate zone, you might be needing less fertilizer and pesticides and might yield a crop that is not only "superior in flavor" but will for sure envy your neighbor...;-)

Helpful links:

The National Heirloom Exposition

Peaceful Valley

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Seed Savers Exchange

Comstock, Ferre & Co.

See you next year at the