It’s -21F (-29C) and the temperature is still dropping. My kitchen window is completely covered with “fern feathers”. The ice crystals have grown from single stalks to full fledged sheets of ice as the temperature outside the window drops.
We spent a lovely sunny afternoon at Ano Nuevo state park watching the elephant seals, but on the way to marvel at these gigantic beasts, we passed a pond with some Brown Pelicans, flying from fresh water to the nearby ocean. It was too good an opportunity to photograph these majestic flyers to pass up.
Now and then I get in a rut. Time to try something new, with the added bonus of trying out the latest camera technology (a mirrorless camera) and a chance to reduce the weight of camera plus telephoto lens package. What better time for experimentation than a parade down a local street for the “Slice of Shoreview” celebration. Here are the results of the experiment, using the newly released Sony a7iii model with a Canon 24-105 mm lens.
Wow, Sony’s focusing system is fast and accurate; there are lots of features to assist the process, and I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what the camera has to offer. So, I’ve got new motivation to get out in the backyard for more photo shoots with the new system.
One of the wonderful things about our trip to Peru was the interesting people we met everywhere we went (“oh, the people you’ll meet”… to copy from Dr. Seuss).
Peru is home to over 30 million people, the largest group of which (over 50%) are a Mestizo blend of native Indian and European (mostly Spanish). The next largest group (about 30%) is comprised of the indigenous AmerIndians, mainly the Quechua and Aymara people of the Andes, and the dozens of Indian tribes who still live in the Amazon basin. Immigrants from Europe, Africa, and Asia make up the remainder of people currently living in Peru. The population is a multiethnic blend of ancient and recent inhabitants that look quite different from each other, depending on where in the country you are. You would think with all the internal migration that goes on from rainforest village to city, and Andean highlands to coastal lowlands, there would be less distinction between sites — and of course, I had to wonder why that was.
Yagua communities are often remote, deep in the rainforest away from the main tributaries of the Amazon. They live on what the forest provides, fruit, game, roots and seeds, fish from the rivers, and grow some crops for their own consumption but do little trading with others living on the rivers.
Like the Yagua, riverside villagers harvest fish from the river and game, fruit and nuts from the forest, but they expect to grow and harvest more produce than they can consume so they can take it to local markets to sell in exchange for what they need to buy. There is not enough electricity in riverside homes to run a refrigerator, so fresh food must be harvested or bought each day.
Six hundred miles south and 9-10,000 feet up in the mountain villages of the Andes, people look and dress quite a bit differently, partly because it is much colder here and because their diet is quite different as well. The early inhabitants of this area of Peru were the Quechua (northern Andes) and Aymara (southern Andes) people, some groups of which traded with indigenous people in the Amazon basin. So, even though there might be genetic mixing of lowland and highland inhabitants, their different outward appearances may be more strongly influenced by diet.
The Andes plateau is the home of the potato, and over 4000 (not a typo) varieties are grown in Peru. Prepared and even preserved in a number of ways, this is a primary staple of the highland diet.
A high starch diet (potato, quinoa, and corn) with less meat and fruit than is typically consumed by people living in the Amazon basin produces a characteristic body type in Andean residents, especially in women, with weight concentrated in the central core.
And the change in body shape begins in childhood…
Interestingly, even with such high starch diets that drastically change body composition, Aymara people show low incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A medical journal article published in 2016 found that 69% of their 276 study subjects were overweight or obese, yet only 18% exhibited hypertension and only 7% were diagnosed diabetic. Lack of refined sugar in their diet and perhaps a higher level of physical activity might contribute to the reduced risk of disease in these people.
Another year draws to a close, and I’m looking back at the highlights through the “back yards” we visited this year.
A busy year of photographing the wonders of the global “back yard”, and a promise of more exciting stuff to come in 2018.
The backyard is quiet again, as the snow falls, temperatures drop, and the wildlife roam less far and wide (meaning, less likely to be seen in my backyard at least). So, I’ve dug through the collection of “best birds of 2017” to bring you my 12 favorites from our treks around the U.S. this year.
Texas (near Brownsville)
South-eastern Arizona (Tucson and Portal areas)
You don’t really have to go too far to see some special birds, not found in your own backyard. The trick is not just finding them, but getting them to cooperate for a photograph!
i hope you enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family.
You have to be in exactly the right light to catch the beautiful iridescence of the male hummingbird’s gorget of feathers around his neck and the top of his head. It’s almost as if he knew what I was trying to photograph and purposely turned away from the sun.
and then he took off from the branch…
Iridescence is believed to be caused by multiple reflections from semi-transparent surfaces where interference between the reflected light paths modulates the color observed. In fact, microscopic studies of hummingbird feathers reveal that their surface is constructed of layers of elliptical plates resembling a tiled floor. These reflective surfaces produce the interference optics that results in the shimmering colors of iridescence.
A common sight in the marsh: herons and egrets stalking their prey.
This part of the marsh is flooded from all the recent rain, and the foraging area is congested with once weedy vegetation that has since died. This might be fine for foraging on critters hiding in the mucky bottom, but it makes flying to an observation perch challenging when the bird tries to navigate through the dead sticks.
These big feet are meant for something else entirely — wading. Long toes that distribute the bird’s weight evenly on an enlarged surface area prevent herons and egrets from sinking into the muck, as they stride along the marsh looking for anything moving.
So, big feet may be disadvantageous in perching on small stems, but of great advantage in wading along mucky marsh beds.
I’ve been wanting to try some night photography. What a great time to get started…with the fabulous color displays of tonight’s fireworks. I think the colors and patterns are actually more vivid when captured in a 1 second exposure than when they are viewed in real time.
Camera settings, for those that are interested: ISO 200, f8, 1-1.5 sec, using a remote release and manual focus.