Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Diego, the Stud Muffin Tortoise

Diego is a Galapagos Tortoise at the Charles Darwin Research Center in Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos, Ecuador. The Galapagos Tortoise is the world's largest tortoise and lives only on the Galapagos (and in zoos). Initially numbering over 200,000 when the islands were "discovered" by traders and pirates, they are now endangered and some of the sub-species are extinct. Sailors from passing ships would take the tortoises to use as food. Tortoises could survive for up to a year without food or water, so they were stacked in the hold of the ship to be used as needed for food. Another reason for the decline in their numbers is the introduction of non-native animals which steal and eat their eggs.
The Darwin center has a breeding program in an attempt to increase the success of turtles hatching from eggs. The baby turtles are then re-introduced to the islands where they belong. "Lonesome George" the most famous of the Galapagos tortoises, is the last of the tortoises from Pinto Island showed no inclination to reproduce. Diego was one of the 15 remaining tortoises from Espanola and was located at the San Diego zoo. He was brought in to service female tortoises-- and has single handedly contributed to ensuring that the Espanola tortoises will not become extinct.
This photo is an infrared photo taken with my IR converted Nikon D70, f 4.5, 1/125 sec, 105 mm. The lighting was challenging because it was early morning and foggy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Diabillos, originally uploaded by Cocoabiscuit.

In Ecuador, instead of mardi gras, they celebrate a hybrid of Catholic and Huarangas traditions. What results is a four day weekend celebration where families go to the beach and in small villages, children referred to a diabillos or little devils chase each other with water. In the original huarangas tradition, people throw water and flowers were tossed to show admiration, but the updated version is more about water balloons and shaving cream. Older teens drove to a nearby river and filled large tubs of water which they would then douse people with from the backs of pickup trucks.
I shot this photo from inside a car (with closed windows) in a small town, Cotacachi,as we drove by these two girls and the youngest one was trying to decide whether or not to spray us with shaving cream. Settings were f 6.0, 1/640 sec, 60 mm, ISO 400. Because I was shooting through a car window, I cleaned it up in Photoshop.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Trying Something New

Angelfish, originally uploaded by Cocoabiscuit.

Today, I combined two things I love-- swimming and photography to a good effect. Yesterday, I learned to snorkel and was dying to take my camera but decided I should work on the breathing through a tube and navigating through the water first. Today, I tried out a point and shoot camera, the Olympus 550WP designed to be waterproof up to 10 feet down that I got on clearance mostly to have something take out in when it's raining. It seems to have worked. This set of photos is from underwater off Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos and are of schools of angelfish which were everywhere. There was also a shark sleeping in a cave that it was too dark to photograph and I didn't want to wake him up with flash. The guide assured us that he was harmless, but I didn't want to push it.

The camera does everything automatically, even has a "underwater" settings, so the camera did all the work of calculating exposure of f 1.3, 1/60 sec. The conditions weren't optimal because there wasn't much sun and the images were washed out looking, so I cleaned them up in Photoshop.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Capturing a Moment in Time

Mother and Child, originally uploaded by Cocoabiscuit.

Sometimes, you just get lucky-- you witness an incredible scene and have a camera in your hand. Today, we set out by boat for a 2 hour ride from the main island of the Galapagos, Santa Cruz, to the island of Santa Fe. The entire island is a national park. We spent some time on the beach watching the Galapagos sea lions that are everywhere and very friendly. There are no predators here for most of the animals, so they don't show any fear despite people wandering around them snapping their pictures. There were newborn sea lions (pups) nestled in the rocks and this slightly older one was trying to get the mother to lie still so he could nurse. He won and she started nursing him a few minutes later.
We then went back to the boat and donned snorkeling gear and then went swimming with them. Underwater, they would swim right up to you and then quickly turn after being only inches from your face. I think they were fascinated by the mask.(The difference between sea lions and seals is that sea lions have ears.)
There was nothing very complicated about the photography today-- lots of sun, so could shoot at a fast shutter speed and have a reasonable depth of field. This photo was shot at f 18, 1/250th of a second, 180mm (using a teleconverter). Tomorrow, I'm going to try underwater photography now that I have the basic of snorkeling figured out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Chase

The Chase, originally uploaded by Cocoabiscuit.

Balancing aperture (f stop) and shutter speed can be tricky. Shutter speed stops the action (or conversely slows water down to make it look more velvety). Aperture determines how much of the scene is in focus-- narrow depth of field will have sharp focus on one plane of the scene with the rest blurry while a wide depth of field keeps everything in focus. F stop is represented as a reciprocal, so a high number (16) is 1/16th of the shutter open and provides everything in focus, while a low number (4.5) is 1/4th of the shutter open and therefore spreads the image of a wider area of the lens and makes only a small amount in focus. The more light available, the higher number f stop you can use and therefore have more options for choosing depth of field.
In this shot, "The Chase", I wanted to stop the action of this Ecuadoran boy reaching for the birds in the Plaza San Francisco. I also wanted to keep him, the birds, and the wall behind him in focus. Because it was fairly sunny, I had good light I chose depth of field f 13 and sacrificed a little bit of motion with a shutter speed of only 1/200th of a second. I stopped the boy's motion, but not the pigeons'.

Monday, February 8, 2010

It's all about perspective...

Flight Delay, originally uploaded by Cocoabiscuit.

One could view having ones vacation delayed and foreshortened by a day by snowmageddon or one could view this as an opportunity to visit Miami and wait there for the next available flight to Ecuador-- and live vicariously through all the elated Saints fans who are everywhere. This isn't the worst option and now we're finally on our way for the last leg of the trip.
This shot, Flight Delay, shows more about relative sizes and composition. One knows that the plane is bigger than a palm tree, but in this shot, the plane almost looks like a toy. Having the tree cover a portion of the plan tells the eye that the plane is behind the tree and at some distance in the background.
Infrared photo from a Nikon D70, f 10, 1/400 sec at 66 mm, ISO 200.