Monday, December 08, 2008
I know, I know. You're scratching your head going "What the...? Why would I want to learn how NOT to do something?!?!?!"
Let me 'splain. But first, a little proof that this might be worth a read:
Is he a cutie or what? Just a few hours old, his umbilical cord is still pink and pretty soft. So now are you interested? Read on my friend.
I have done a decent amount of wildlife photography but honestly, I'm a little rusty. I haven't lived in Alaska for 5 years and the largest wild animal in the Azores was the Least weasel I believe, unless you count feral goats. England has bigger game but with so much going on I haven't had a lot of time to keep the edge on my field craft. When I heard that one of England's largest populations of Grey seals birthed just a couple of hours north of where I live, I was ready to go... immediately. I actually had to wait a week but I was eager to get out there. I researched the site, printed maps and checked road details, plotted routs on the sat-nav and gathered gear from the shed containing boxes of gear I haven't used in a dog's age. I used to use a checklist when packing for a day like this but hey, I'm old and wide. Normal stuff for an outing, feels somewhat familiar. I'm ready to go.
So finally, the big day. Alarm goes off at 4am. Coffee maker perking away as I gather my gear scattered throughout the house. Poke my head outside and the weather has occurred just as forecast: 32 degrees, freezing fog. But this is probably my one chance to make it to the seals, the holiday season is crazy. A little fog won't slow me down too much. Car's packed, not my usual van-load as it died and I'm taking my wife's lovely BMW held together by the finest German rust. (Can you see it coming, can you??)
Half an hour into my slip-slide through Norfolk county on black ice roads my beloved Betty (the SatNav) decides to conk out. No problem, I reach to the right for my trusty map except... there's a door there. My map is back in my dead van. No problem! I remember when I was looking at a route that I needed the A1031 or something and it was to the east of Louth. I think. More slow driving and dirty water on the windshield from the gritted roads (known as sand in other parts of the world) and now my washer fluid isn't coming out. Broken connector tube from the cold (perhaps). Great.... luckily I have a bottle of window cleaner and I can just stick my hand out of the window to squirt it on the window. A this point I had a small thought that a sane person might consider packing it in at this point, but nooooo.
Two hours later I'm getting close to where I think I should be when I notice a big nasty ROAD CLOSED sign. "Oh yeah, I remember now." Now I'm on a detour through the skinniest, slipperiest back roads I've seen and I've seen a LOT. Solid ice, departed my planned route twice (ran off the road). Once I experienced a validation of my pucker function as I was headed to a drainage ditch that would have easily swallowed a bus, let along this little car. I reach for the maps I printed off of the local area... and get nothing. "Oh yeah..." I had taken them into the kitchen to get a bag to keep them dry and got distracted by the coffee pot making a funny noise. I sure they were safely still there. So I drive up and down roads until I find a bigger one,. then a bigger one, the lo-and-behold a sign. NO ACCESS TO SEALS Too bad I can't see anything to see if there's another sign around. More driving and I see the sign for the parking lot at Donna Nook. An hour and a half late I pull into the lot. Sun's not up yet but I'm going to have to hump it to get to the beach before it gets too light. Ah, optimism.
After a quick snack and a steamy cup o' coffee I'm ready to hit the beach. The area I'm headed to is a 40 minute walk from the car park, the beach/mud flats are very broad. Camera bag out, wellies out, waders... waders... WADERS?!?!?!?!? I had laid them on the radiator to dry the feet out after fixing a small hole in one foot and there they were still. I had not brought my rain pants because I was going to wear my waders, I had hosed out my wellies for the same reason and removed the insoles from my boots as well. All because I was bringing my waders. All I had for my legs was a thin part of thermals and a pair of fleece trousers. It was 34 degrees, thick fog, stiff north wind. Perfect setting for hypothermia. So I pressed on... like a dumbass.
Over the sand dunes I went and within 20 feet I saw my first seal. I knew they would be there, but I wanted to get out to the surf line where the images would be more of a challenge. I saw people dispersing in different directions so I split the difference and went into the fog, heading for the distant sound of crashing waves. No waders, a pair of poorly-fitting hiking boots and very chilly legs.
I had hiked in fog before, but usually on a trail. I had heard about the confusing nature of fog, but had never experienced it. Well, until then. After an hour and ten minutes and getting my feet soaked I ended up approximately 40 yards north of where I started. I was not happy. I may have momentarily lost my temper. Had I not started to rub the skin off the back of my heels I might have stomped like a big baby. So, a scant 2 minutes from my warm car and a reasonable excuse to bail, I set out again, bound not to walk in a giant circle again.
Ignoring the fog, I relied on my ears to keep the surf in front of me. Walking across the mud flats I noticed footprints going in every direction. "Misery loves company." After the predicted 40 minutes (plus another 15 for my blistered feet I arrived at the surf.
"Hmph. Where's all the seals?"
Not north, not south. So I stood and watched. Well, I tried to see the surf I could hear right in front of me but I sure couldn't see much with the fog. Soon a pair of figures emerged from the mist and quickly informed my that the seals definitely weren't north. So they took off and I walked slowly, quickly realizing that this was not exactly the best position to be in. And then I saw him. A few more steps and I saw THEM.
No light to speak of. Darn near ten o'clock and it's dark. But I take my pack off, pull out my bivy sack to lay it on and start my stalk. Crouch, ten steps, wait, crouch, 15 steps, wait, check for seals, adjust track, ten steps, crouch, wait. This is how I was taught to stalk game and so I did for the next 30 minutes. Then I watched a group of people walk right through the colony and they barely moved. The seals barely moved I mean. The seals get enough traffic to not be too wary of people. Hmph.
For the next two and a half hours I crouched among the seals of Donna Nook, watching newborn pups call out for momma and learn to crawl on the sand. Bulls would contort into odd Yoga-like positions that made me giggle and the cows would flip you away if you got too close, not a problem with the gear I was carrying. And suddenly the adrenaline wore off and I realized I was cold. Real cold. Dangerous cold. I thought "I'll just crawl in this bivy sack and take a little nap to get warm." and I knew I had to get back quickly. Taking a nap on a very flat tidal beach with mud flats to cross was NOT smart thinking, a clear sign of impending hypothermia. So I packed up my bag and after a short conversation with another photographer we decided to walk back together. Richard was "kind" enough to photograph me as I was taking a photo of the only bit of sun we saw for most of the day. I had packed up my main gear and used Jill's camera and I don't care if it looks pink.
Richard has some cracking shots, drop by his web site to take a look please.
Coming back the fog cleared and looking back I couldn't understand how I could have gotten turned around. Now that I've been there, it's so easy.
So from this experience I hope you can see that there are a lot of little things (OK, some big things as well) where a little more time spent checking would have made the day much more enjoyable. Had I not been as prideful as I can sometimes be I would have relied on a checklist to be properly equipped. Now to be honest I'm pretty pleased with the images which you can see over on my Flickr pages. But here I am more than a week later and I'm still wearing ill-fitting shoes to keep the pressure off of my heels. The water, cold and hiking just chewed 'em up. You can also keep track of your important events (like photo shoots in the wilderness) with the Grey Seals on the English Coast calendar available now and featuring our cute friend in the first photo on the cover.
So listen to all those guides that tell you about what you need to accomplish amazing photography, but also remember that little things can make it go wrong real quick. So just like this seal I'll blow you a kiss and wish you the best of luck.
Monday, November 17, 2008
OR you can scroll down a little and and watch my embedded shows of select images from the latest additions to the catalog and available for license or print purchase. Either way, I hope you enjoy.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Yes, it is good to be home. Here's an image I captured while doing a little aerial vehicle spotting near the Anchorage airport. Enjoy and look for more images in the next few days.
Monday, September 01, 2008
Not one to be content with the current offerings at the corner store, I decided this year to produce a line of holiday greeting cards with my own little style added to them. The first batch is out featureing a poor little eagle in a Santa hat waiting for the first glimps of morning in Alaska, scrumptious cookies, brilliant poinsettia (growing outdoors in the Azores of all places) and a couple of others.
My favorite is probably the single aurora image. When we were in Alaska the wife of our pastor saw this photo and called it the "baby Jesus" photo as once could imagine the sky looking like that on that very special knight. So Dar, THANK YOU!
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Now since I'm one of the "powers that be" I don't enter the competitions, but you have got to check out this current round of entries into the MACRO contest. Last count there were over 80 fantastic entries and my guess is that it will top 100 by the deadline of 31JULY.
So jump on over and take a look and feel free to cast your vote!
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Well, out of the blue, Ken sends me a link to one excellent article in the Globe and Mail explaining what causes the aurora borealis to erupt in the winter skies over the poles (actually, they always happen but you can't see them in the summer). Oddly enough I just posted an entire gallery up of my aurora photographs for everyone to look at, there's also a pretty cool slideshow feature to use as well.
So enjoy the article, get a little ed-ju-ma-ka-shun while you're there then pop on over to the gallery and "oohhh" and "aahhh" at what happens in Alaska's night skies.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
We parked in a huge field and as we approaced the main event area you could see plumes of grey sooty smoke rising from numerous locations, the smell of sulfurous-coal thick in the air. As we rounded a huge white tent we saw example on example of huge, lumbering machines. What a fantastic sight, some of these monstorous vehicles were 100 years old but looked as if they rolled out of the shop only last week. You have never seen or smelled so much Brass-o in your life!
At one engine we stopped to talk to a very nice gentleman named Rob who kindly took the time to explain what a traction engine was, what they were made for, and how they worked. The children were even asked to step up onto the platform and shown the controls. What a fantastic learning experience. He would explain how the coal fire heated water in the boiler and as he did, a lumbering 8-10 ton machine would go by, gigantic masses of cast iron spinning and stroking about with a speed that nearly defied belief. The ground shook, flecks of coal soot invaded every inch of body. It was grand.
I'm going back tomorrow with my serious gear to get even more images. Enjoy Weeting as seen through the Lensbaby, you can view more and larger images at my print order website.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
And as you might have noticed, they have a nifty little widget just to the right that will loop what is available for licensing. There is a whole pile of files in the works to be uploaded, many of which haven't been seen before so keep your eye on that little box. Cool stuff awaits.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Heather Williams over at Ide'e just sent me another cool demonstration of how TinEye not only locates an image across the internet but also variations (from mild to wild). I've posted the link below which will show you what I mean. Cool, very cool.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Friday, June 06, 2008
TinEye is a search engine. For images. Based on their unique pixel "fingerprint" and not metadata or watermarks or any of the usual means of tracking a photo. Oh, did I mention that it takes into account crops, changes in size, stuff like that? ARE YOU WHOOPING AND HOLLERING YET?!?!?!?!?!?
Well, maybe not at first. Lots of us are and let me give you a couple of reasons why.
Currently in the US there is something called the Orphan Works legislation (OWL) that, simply stated, will allow someone to use an image without the creator's permission if the creator can't be found by a "diligent search". What THAT is currently isn't clear. But TinEye's image identification technology could link up the prospective user and creator, allowing a legal and properly credited (better yet paid) useage of that image.
Another use would be that of a stock image company looking for images they represent being used after being obtained by a publication. A current use for TinEye's technology scans numerous publications and compares those images (some even placed into collages or greatly altered) to those listed in a database. Monthly reports can show you where your client's images are, allowing more efficient invoicing on their behalf.
Here's an image of a very famous A-1 Skyraider photographed by my father Frank O'Rear that was part of the first Air Force Medal of Honor mission flown in the Vietnam conflict. TinEye found it and with great joy, it is exactly where it is supposed to be and nowhere else.
Multiple upon multiple other uses but these are, for obvious reasons, the ones that excite me the most. There's even a cool Firefox plug-in that will let you right-click an image and search the TinEye database. For more information on TinEye jump on over to their website here. Watch the short video and prepare to go "cool".
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
St. Mary's church was built somewhere around 1066 some 400 years before "the colonies" were just that. Sporting a massive round tower it sits just off of the main coastal road in north Norfolk county. As usual, the bridal party was full of charming children and stunningly beautiful women. Handsomly-dressed men also abounded and the occasion was one filled with joy and gaeity. The Vicar was most helpful even to the point of showing me where the really good locations were and exactly when I should be there. What a joy.
I was simply overcome by the thought that for nearly a thousand years this very site has been the focus of song, prayer and tradition. To stand next to the organist as he played and hear, no, feel the hymns reverberate throughout the structure made one feel quite small. Small, but not insignificant. It was a great event and one location I would be quite happy to visit again.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Recently we decided to brave the "way back" and open it up. One could hear my heart sinking when the slats of a small section were removed only to reveal that the green we previously witnessed was in fact 4-foot tall stinging nettle plants. The whole thing was nettles; a nettle farm so to say.
The boys and I entered the forbidden domain of the "way back" with weed whackers (strimmers in the UK), saws and intent to do harm. We began at 9am and for the UK it was a hot day, graced by a breeze ever-changing in direction. As we peeled back the layers of nettles we discovered an amazing array of, well... crap. The remains of multiple burn piles, a 55-gallon drum, what could have been a toaster and a large amount of glass and aluminum containers. Please note in the following photo the height of the nettles as they're cleared by our industrial strength trimmer. The fencing section behind the patch is 8-foot if that helps.
By 4pm the entirety of my face was stinging and I had lost most of the feeling on the left side of my tongue. Coated with the juice and remains of many a nettle plant we had beaten the "way back" into submission. We discovered a section of concrete pavers that made the perfect base for a burn pile, as well as some ruined remnants of a Japanese-style garden that once inhabited this place.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
There has been shift in priorities here so I no longer carry my camera with me every waking moment, but I assure you there are images on the way.
Monday, May 05, 2008
Here, we're concerned with de-nettling the yard and I have the skin rash to prove it! Despite being much smaller that the farmhouse yard, this one has been in a state of neglect for some time. Almost everyday we pull out 2-3 bags of weeds from the beds as well as from the lawn itself. We even have a fenced-off section that was once a Japanese style garden but now is pretty much a refuse crop with a sprinkling of waist high nettles. We'll tackle that beast later in the summer I think.
New images are coming soon. There are just a few more little issues to resolve in the chapel (like telephone, television, fuel oil leaks, etc.) and then I can swing my full attention to working through the Scotland images as well as completing the Altered States series of books that have been promised ages ago.
Thanks for your support AND your patience. Should you have a message you want me to forward to Jill please pass it on to me at here.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
One of the best days was Sunday where we did... nothing. No agenda, no plans, nothing. We did start a puzzle it took us the week to finish and my youngest daughter proved to us all she is an UNO shark in the making but other than that, we were lounging by the fire. Wonderful.
Our cottage DID afford us some spectacular views of Loch Ness and the town of Drumnadrochit. The photo below is just one of many I took suring a snow storm building across the Loch from us. We did eventually get out and visit Fort George, Urquhurt Castle (2 minutes from our cottage) and the Culloden Battlefield. I was also able to get a day away to focus on my photography by driving around Loch Ness. In case you're interested in finding out more about our cottage an others offered by our gracious hosts, please visit their website.
But, work calls. We arrived back home at Sparham Hall on Satudrday evening and have spent Sunday packing up preparing for our move into the Old Chapel starting on Monday. Hopefully the weather will co-operate and we can get settled quickly (so I can finally LOOK at my Scotland images).
Thanks for hanging in there, will post more when I'm able.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Forgive any lapses of posts that may follow, I'll post as I'm able until we're settled in the new location. Wherever that may be...
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Well, point proven again.
Jill and I were taking a one-day trip run by the base to visit the historic town of Bruges, Belgium. This meant of course that we would have to cross the Channel and traverse a small part of France to get there. Seems the French dock workers are having a strike, sorry... industrial action as they call it, and have parked their boats in the harbor at Calais preventing the timely movement of passengers, cargo and the like in and out of the port. The result? Three hour delay. COMING AND GOING! Like I said, every time I go...
Nonetheless we arrived in Bruges and has a great (albeit short) visit to this wonderfully preserved city. Renowned for the varying styles of architecture throughout the city center (and from building to building in some cases) it was a real treat to visit. Jill had a grand time shopping and although it was a bit on the chilly side with the sharp wind it was an enjoyable day out. Our bus driver from Fun and Sun, Gordon, provided the greatest running commentary during our trip and I even learned a few French jokes I didn't know.
This image was taken outside of the Belfort (belltower) with the stature celebrating two 14th century guildsmen who led a revolt against the French in the foreground. Perhaps they were also delayed by industrial action?
Thursday, February 28, 2008
So, over the next couple of days I'll be migrating the aviation posts to the new aviation blog and let the two sites stand on their own.
An upgrade you might be excited about is that I'll be featuring larger photos. There will be a very subtle watermark across them because there are idiots in the world who feel anything on the Internet is fair game to take without asking (or in my case paying a licensing fee). As always, I appreciate your input and comments and hope to continue to hear from you in the future.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
It didn't take long once outside my door to see how a thin deposit of ice crystals had transformed my plain old yard into something special. There was just a hint of wind (thus the very shallow depth-of-field in this series) but otherwise all was still. No birds flying about, even the farm animals were surprisingly quiet.
And my prize of the morning was a single rose that had been frosted, almost painted as if by Jack Frost personally that sat at the far end of the garden. One could almost see thousands of tiny jewels reflecting the scant light of the early morning. It was simply stunning.
A complete gallery of images from this morning are available for viewing at my ImageKind gallery and co-incidentally is the first gallery to utilize the newest ImageKind product line of greeting cards from within this gallery.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Flights at both military and civilian airfields were disrupted as you might imagine. At one point I was parked just outside a field that was an airfield during WWII and if you strained to listen, you could almost swear you heard a bunch of young cocky kids joking about their last flight over Bremmen or Munich or the like. It was just plain spooky a couple of times. As the day wore on the sun tried to burn off the fog and along one stretch of road it almost succeeded.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Here's to more equipment tests!