Sunset and Stars at Deer Park

The day before my birthday was unusually clear, with views across the Strait of Vancouver Island and to the east of Baker Mountain. It was also a night with no moon, and so I greeted my partner in crime at the door with great excitement–clear sky! bright stars! milky way!–and a packed picnic dinner. We drove up to Deer Park, a campground and lookout point in Olympic National Park, WA, and meandered the trail up to the top.

The view was indeed spectacular, and though we were joined with other photographers and hikers for the panoramic sunset, they all cleared out with the end of the light, and we had the starry night all to ourselves. Well, and one late-night buck who wandered in front of my camera, and paused long enough for my night picture set up (40mm equivalent lens, and a 4 second exposure) to catch his visit.

This was also my first time playing with combining multiple images together in different ways, using a couple of different softwares. There are panoramas, which are multiple horizontally adjacent shots stitched together (using Lightroom 6’s included merging). I tried one HDR picture where three shots were taken at dark, medium, and bright exposures, and then combined to get more out of the range of lights and shadows (in Affinity photo). And a couple of the Milky Way photos are also composites, with multiple 20-second exposures taken one after the other, and aligned to keep the stars bright, reduce background noise, and remove streaks from airplanes and satellites (using the Starry Landscape Stacker). I’m pretty happy with the early results, although I know there’s a lot more to learn about how much digital software can do–and how to make it look good.

More Mpala Mammals

On my first few game drives at Mpala, I saw more wild mammal species than I can remember seeing in the rest of my life combined. The later weeks did not disappoint, with a longer drive to the northern, drier areas of the reserve, different antelope species, the elusive straw-tailed whydah bird, charismatic reptiles, broad-shouldered raptors, and multiple elephants with young babies, including one that we watched nurse!

Backyard Birds at Mpala

Just over halfway through my trip to Kenya, my camera’s shutter broke. This is the murphey’s law well-known to professional and travel photographers, that cameras are most likely to break on big international trips when they’re not possible to fix or replace–and the missed photo opportunities are priceless. For this reason, many photographers will carry a second full-size camera with them when they travel. However, I am not a professional photographer and my second camera is a reliable but simple waterproof point-and-shoot, and while it takes pretty good landscape and macro shots, it doesn’t have much of a zoom.

Around this time, the rainstorms started, and all the birds changed their behaviors as they began nesting and breeding patterns. I was surrounded by stunning birds, but without my camera.

These pictures were taken with a friend’s camera, loaned to me for one day, and almost all of them were in the bushes around my house–and even perched on a string hanging between the porch columns! I’m so grateful to her for letting me borrow her equipment, and glad I had the time to sit and watch these beauties. Seeing a weaver bird build his nest from start to finish put me in awe of the complexity of creation. The paradise flycatcher was one of my favorite birds of the whole trip, and I was charmed he came to visit my porch on that day. Also pictured are a go-away bird, purple grenadiers, swallows, sulfur-breasted bushshrike, and a sunbird with incandescent feathers.

I hope you enjoy seeing these pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Yosemite in snow

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Yosemite many times, and especially often since I moved back to California a couple years ago. Despite two previous January trips; however, I had yet to see the valley in the snow. A recent visit during this winter’s storms finally solved that, and it was incredible to see the Merced River in full flow, and the ice and snow on the valley floor and mountain tops.

The snow had spent a couple days melting and re-freezing, creating stunning ice crystals on branches, rocks, and blades of grass. We were treated to two colorful sunsets and a gorgeous early morning rainbow in Upper Yosemite Fall. It was amazing to see mist forming and disappearing throughout the day as the snow warmed and cooled with the passage of the sun.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Our final stop was the city of Copenhagen, Denmark. The city was vibrant life intertwined with layers of history–it seemed that everywhere we turned there was another oxidized copper spire reaching into the sky, and a stone church or museum around every corner. I loved all the bikes and brightly-colored buildings, and of course the canals and houseboats.

Rundetaarn

The Rundetaarn (round tower) in Copenhagen, Denmark was originally built as an astronomical observatory in the 1600’s. Because of its purpose, it was designed with a eight-plus story spiral ramp, rather than a staircase, to allow for horses and carriages to pull heavy equipment to the top of the tower. The top features a museum of some of the old pieces as well as stunning views of the old city.

Bergen, Norway

Time has gotten away with me on these summer photos, especially as my fall months were packed busy with re-establishing my experiment in the Sierras, helping host a research and management conference at my university, and passing my qualifying examination (the last big hurdle on the way to my PhD before the dissertation itself). I’ve finally finished going through the last two stops on our beautiful whirlwind travels through Europe, the first of which is Bergen, Norway.

 

Bergen is a city established by German merchants in a country ruled by Scandinavian kings, a cultural and economic division that led to centuries of trade and occasional conflict. The old town of Bergen is a labyrinth of multi-story wooden buildings, all in shades of red, yellow, and orange, and the waterfront hosts restaurants with cuisines from all over the world–including Louisiana cajun-style seafood. The backdrop to all of this bustle is the dark green forests and fjords of the Norway coastline.

Reykjavik, Iceland: Midnight Sun

We were fortunate enough to be in Iceland over the summer solstice, where the sun is visible above the horizon even at midnight. On the night we spent taking pictures from evening until the wee hours of the morning, we were graced with “golden hour” light that lasted for hours and hours, shifting between warm glows and cool dusk as the clouds shifted and fog rolled in. These sunset photos are in fact taken near midnight, and the photo of the lake around 2am.