Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

The Gull Guard

September 16th, 2010

Gulls standing to attention.

I made these frames in Hyde Park, London earlier this year, each in a different location.

Gulls: Hyde Park’s last line of defence against the evil dastardly … fish? … the massing forces of which threaten the peace and harmony of the park’s waterways.

Who’d have thunk it?

More coming soon!

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Greyhound at Play

September 10th, 2010

I’ve recently fallen in love with greyhounds.

Now, I’ve always had a thing for dogs. But greyhounds are special. They’re sleek and beautiful to watch in action. They’re gentle, quiet (read also lazy) and sensitive creatures with a heart for mischief.

I came across a number of greyhounds during my Camino, and I got see just how special this breed of dog is thanks to a member of my Camino family, King Jimmy.

So, a few days ago I was perusing my archives and came across these shots, made in a park in Brussels earlier this year.

Hail to the King.

More coming soon!

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Flight of the Pigeons

June 19th, 2010

I was wandering down a street at one point, when I noticed a large flock of pigeons flying overhead. They were circling and swooping in tight arcs, round and round. Someone was pigeon flying! Naturally, I paused to watch and snap a few pictures.

The art of pigeon flying remains quite popular in the Arab world. I’ve often see flocks of pigeons circling over the rooftops in Cairo, Beirut and Amman, for instance. But the shot above wasn’t taken anywhere in the Arab world. Can you guess where?

Brussels, Belgium. Yep.

Some say the use of pigeons to carry messages can be traced back to the ancient Persians (some 2800 years ago). The ancient Romans also used messenger pigeons in their military campaigns over 2000 years ago (for example, Julius Caesar was reputed to have used them in his conquest of Gaul). Use of pigeons to carry messages outside of a military setting – in a postal system – goes back to the late 10th Century at least in the Arab world, where it was developed under Fatimid rule.

The use of homing pigeons by the French during the siege of Paris in 1870-1871 gave new breath to their use in the military in Europe who used them extensively during World War I and again in World War II. You can find out more about war pigeons here.

There’s a memorial to those messenger pigeon trainers who fell in service to Belgium during World War I at one end of the garden at the far side of the Quai au Briques. Here’s a shot of it below.

All this may be interesting but it doesn’t explain why someone was flying pigeons in Brussels.

Turns out that the (modern) sport of pigeon racing was developed and gained immense popularity in Belgium in the middle of the 19th Century. The sport has since spread all over the world, though it seems to be suffering from a lack of interest by the general public. You can find out more about pigeon racing here.

More coming soon!

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The Salamander

June 7th, 2010

I caught this salamander when I was visiting my uncle at his farm in Normandy, France (it had snuck into the house).

I figured it’d make interesting shooting material. So before releasing that beautiful amphibian into the wild again, I grabbed some white paper, placed the salamander delicately upon it, fitted my macro lens to my camera, setup my SB900 flash and, well, here are some of the results.

It was remarkably difficult to shoot as the salamander l decided it would be a particularly petulant model and refused to sit still for a moment.

It was constantly shifting this way and that, occasionally making a dash for the edge of the paper and freedom from the apparently terrifying glare of my lens.

More coming soon!

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Dibba Underwater

October 29th, 2009

Before get on to the pictures from my Lebanon and India trips, I suppose I need to finish what I started.

As I’d previously mentioned, the water was so very crystal clear – and just the perfect temperature. The night we arrived, the moon was full and shining so very brightly. So brightly in fact, that you could see unaided 8 meters below the surface of the water.

Who could resist? So I grabbed my snorkelling gear and my diving torch and led my friends in two different snorkelling trips around the rocky point near to which we were camped.

Those night snorkelling sessions were among the most extraordinary snorkelling/diving sessions of my life. This was thanks in great part to the strong “fluorescence” which wasn’t overpowered by the moonlight. I understand this bioluminescence is due to microorganisms – plankton and such – which react to movement (of the water), such as when a human swims along, by lighting up.

This basically means that you end up swimming in a sea of stars. It’s an absolutely beautiful effect.

The fluorescence was so strong that you could spot someone swimming a fair distance away from the light his movement was giving off. We could also spot fish underwater in the same way.

That first night, we found the sea bed littered with crabs. They were out en masse, it seems, to find mates. We’re talking fairly large crabs, by the way. The majority measured some 30cms in diameter, at least. And a fair few were even bigger. Beautiful blues and yellows and other colours (as revealed by torchlight). I saw most at about some 6-9 meters below the surface, although there were a few in the shallows.

The Makeout Session

Crabs have very very distinct personalities, I discovered. Each crab I approached displayed a very different reaction. Some danced in circles around me, pincers raised, trying to run away but semi ready to fight if they had no choice. A small number stood their ground, and aggressively raised their pincers, opening and shutting them in warning. One even actively chased me away. I tested their reactions in other ways, too. For example, I placed the blade of my diving knife in the open pincer of a few, to see what they’d do. Most just got annoyed and moved away. One did absolutely nothing. Just stood there. Even after I tapped him on the nose with it. One snapped his pincer shut on the blade so very tightly I had to fight with it a fair bit to get him off. He only released my blade after I’d shaken him dizzyingly and dragged him along for a goodly number of minutes.

There must have been some crab-fights too, along the way, or some crab predator had himself a feast, for the next morning there were crab carcasses littering the sea floor, and crab limbs floating haphazardly about.

A carcass...

When I woke in the morning I was itching to get into the water. So I quickly snapped me a few shots and then got in the water. Some of my pals had woken by then and I took one of them with me.

We saw 5 sea turtles, 2 giant sting rays (one as long as me, and the other a bit smaller), loads of cuttlefish and squid and small and big fish.

It was an absolutely beautiful session lasting over 3 and a half hours. And the bonus was that I’d made it completely across the point I’d been wanting to for more than a year now.

Eagle Rock

After crossing what we dubbed Eagle Rock (just above) we broke past the point and into a wide open stretch of sea which many kilometers away led to the beautiful fjords of the Mussandam. The moment we turned the point we were assaulted by an incredibly strong current taking us out to sea, and we had to fight so very hard for every inch to go back the way we’d come until we crossed the point again.
View Larger Map

We started in that little bay at the bottom left, and made our way to the tip at the right corner of the satellite picture above.

The view beyond the point...

The sight we were greeted with on crossing the point was simply breath-taking. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate as well as I’d hoped in picture.

Ray the ray

A ray, about 9 meters down.

Squid!

Squid!

A turtle

A turtle. One of the ones we saw proved very playful and swum around with me a few turns until I ran out of air. The rest made a break for it when they spotted us. All were juveniles, no bigger than 50-60cm in diameter.

Fishies!

Itty bitty fish just below the surface.

Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming...

My friend, Luca, seen from 6 meters down, and being chased by a wall of tiny fishies. Now he’s a very tough cookie. A real-life He-Man. He swam over three and a half hours without fins (flippers) and wearing only those tiny swimming pool goggles, as opposed to a full mask and snorkel like me. And he fought the super-strong current like that. And won.

Puffy

A pufferfish. Seen about 9 meters down.

We even had the unique experience of witnessing two local snorkellers, a father and son, while they were spearfishing and trident fishing for their food.

The Catch

This was their catch when we’d caught up with them.

The squid they’d hunted would release blotches of ink every time they banged against the snorkeller trailing them, or against the other catches. The way back was peppered with strips of ink.

Inky

Some of the ink they left behind.

All pictures above taken with my old FinePix Z100 in its underwater housing. The Z100 is an ok point and shoot, but unfortunately its batteries are a nightmare – they run out of juice far too quickly.

More pictures coming very soon!

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The Jerboa Has Landed!

October 27th, 2009

Right! I’ve returned from my trips to Lebanon and Bangalore, India with a sizeable wad of pictures.

I still have to sort through them all, but hopefully I will have lots and lots of great pictures to share with you in the coming weeks – including pictures of: abandoned hundred-plus-year-old Lebanese houses; ruins of age-old temples; the last day of the harvest and vintaging at a vineyard; a traditional Indian wedding (which totally blew my mind – probably the single most colorful and extraordinary wedding celebrations I have yet had the privilege to attend); and my other (non-wedding-related) impressions of the very beautiful, chaotic and noisy Bangalore.

With luck, I will have something substantial to share in the coming day or two. Meanwhile, I will leave you with a shot of the very first snake I have yet seen in Lebanon. In the wee hours one night I found this beautiful and colourful specimen lying in the middle of the road by my family house in Baabdat.

It was quite dead and being munched upon by a cute tar-black kitty, which unfortunately made a break for it as I approached. Oddly enough, try as I might, I couldn’t roll the snake over to take a better look at (and maybe picture of) it… Whatever I did, it invariably flopped back onto its back… It wasn’t too long, about 50cm in length, give or take, and 2cm or so at its widest point.

And no, no clue what type of snake it is.

Floppy

While you’re waiting for the coming posts, check out the first instalment of the awesome bullet-time-esque results of a very cool experiment undertaken by the one and only Trey Ratcliff.

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Cats!

September 9th, 2009

Stripe sniffs a leaf

A few days ago, I decided to capture a few shots of my cats,Gizmo and Stripe (can you guess which is which?), as I haven’t really shot them since they first veni, vidi, vici-ed my home as kittens.

Gizmo sunbathes

The shots were taken over the course of one morning with ambient lighting, fill lighting was courtesy of one flash.

Stripe is Curious

Gizmo lazes

Later that same day, I visited a friend of mine and their beautiful persian, Bazooka, was kind enough to pose for a portrait.

Meet Princess Bazooka

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