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.....