A case of right place, right time, looking in the right direction. This is Emma, a barn owl. Emma wasn’t quite satisfied with the perch that they had placed her on, so she opted for a bit of higher ground. She took flight and landed on the roof. Of course, she was tethered, but that didn’t matter. She got to spend a few seconds on the roof, certainly less than a minute, before they coaxed her down again. I just happened to be looking in that direction and was able to get off two shots before she left her throne. Thankfully, the Nikon P510 decided that there was enough contrast to focus. Of the two shots that I took, only this one was usable.
I will admit that when I got the invite for Photo Wild, I blanched a little at the $90 price tag. It was just a little, certainly not enough to deter me from going. Leading up to the event, the weather was not looking very promising. After a few e-mail exchanges about the weather between Amber, the Raptor Center’s bird curator, and the photographers, we decided to brave the elements. The forecast was for somewhere between 60 – 70% chance of rain and temperatures in the lower 40s; however, rain accumulations of only 1/100 of an inch. We figured we’d be safe.
Tom, Earl, and I arrived at the Carolina Raptor Center at about 7:30 AM, signed in, and waited for the photography to begin. It was cold, right around 40, overcast with a bit of drizzle. Fortunately for us, it remained that way for the entire 5 hours that we were there. It never really rained, just misted and drizzled. The three of us left our camera gear uncovered, some had their gear covered in plastic bags, others in plastic ‘gear’ made specifically for the purpose, custom fit and all. Earl was shooing his D600, I the D700, and Tom has Canon 5D Mark III. The crowd was about equally divided between Nikon and Canon shooters, with one guy shooting an Olympus OM-D, EM-5.
Throughout the morning, on half hour intervals, they rotated the birds. The handlers/trainers were very helpful, giving us the bird’s name as well as how they came to be there. There were all sorts of stories from injuries to seizing of birds who were illegally raised by hand. In other words, a bird fell out of the nest during a storm or just by being curious and going a bit too far, someone finds it, takes it home, ‘imprints’ it, and begins raising it. First, it is illegal, but also they don’t know who to provide the proper diet and care. Other birds were hit by cars, particularly owls. One of the falcons sheared of his left wing while hunting for food. He was on dive, after some prey, and hit a power line, severing his wing. I learned that Peregrine Falcons have been recorded diving at 250+ MPH!
Luke, the bald eagle, pictured here, was electrocuted and the exit of the electricity burned off half of his right wing.
We learned, also, that the money collected from the Photo Wild sessions, of which there are a few more, is used to provide food for all of the birds. Lots of little rat and mouse morsels to go around. After spending nearly 5 hours, having access to such great looking birds, hearing their stories, and knowing that the money was being put to good use, it was worth even more than the price of admission.
Finally, much thanks to Earl for loaning me his 28-300 mm lens for the day. Many of the shots that I got could not have been had without the loan!!!
Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy and popularized by a play written by John Guare.
Those of you who have been visiting for a while know of my travels to meet other bloggers. Of course, it is always rewarding to meet new, interesting people. That’s how I got to San Miguel de Allende, as fellow blogger, Niels, invited me down to show me the town. While I was there, I received the following e-mail from Chuck, another fellow blogger that I’ve met and even stayed at his house:
Hey Paul, You’re in the ONE town in Mexico I hear about a LOT!
A fellow staff photographer – in the 1960s in San Diego – Jerry Rife retired and has a home there in San Miguel.
https://mail.google.com/mail/ca/u/0/#inbox/13d39ab594bfb785 Here is the link to today’s newsletter that features Jerry and some other of his ice cream photos. See if you can look him up and say “Hi” for me.
Last saw him about 50 years ago. Yikes! Please try to make contact. Thanks and safe travel.
I thought, sure, I’ll give it a shot. Niels seems to know everyone, so I sent him the e-mail and he replied that not only did he know Jerry, but that he had taken his photo as part of his hat series. You can view the series here. Niels was able to forward the e-mail to Jerry, and Jerry responded to Chuck, connection reestablished! That was very cool. A total 6 degrees of separation moment, or in our case, about 2.
One morning, the three of us, had breakfast at Juan’s cafe, pictured here. Jerry told us stories about his an Chuck’s days as military photographers as well as a pool shooting contest that, if memory serves me correctly, left Chuck and Jerry as the final two contestants. I think that Chuck won.
It was a great time and I was glad to be able to meet Jerry as well as hook up two old friends who’d not seen each other in 50 years. Well, they’ve still not seen each other, but at least they are now in contact!
This blogger visiting stuff is fantastic!
It was my last night in San Miguel de Allende. Niels and I were standing atop an overlook, taking photos of the city. A few people came, had a look, stayed for a short while, then left. Eventually, a newer model Volkswagen Beetle pulled up. These two ladies got out of the car, the younger one made a beeline for me, her camera photo thrust out and asked me to, in Spanish, to take their picture. She even pointed to where to press the button.
I lined up the shot, using gestures, took a couple of photos, let them see, they were pleased. They got back into the car, admired the photos, laughed a little bit, then took off.
I must be an approachable guy because I seem to always end up with someone else’s camera in my hand, taking their photos, which I love to do. Who needs to understand the words?
Abuelo y Nieto (Grandfather & Grandson)
Today is my last full day in SMA. Quite frankly, I loved it here. There is a big expat community of both Americans and Canadians. I’ve found everyone, regardless of nationality to be friendly, open, and accommodating. I’ve enjoyed this international journey so much more than I did to Australia, where, as I mentioned, I found the people rather stand-offish. Anyway, different cultures. Of course, I had someone to show me around, introduce me to other people, etc; however, when I ventured out on my own, I noticed that people were just as friendly. I met complete strangers in the Jardin (The central garden in town were people come to hang out.), had conversations, etc.
I met one lady, Ci-Ci, in the internet cafe around the corner. We’ve run into each other 3 times, so far. This morning, we met again at the Mercado Organico, a weekly organic market where, it seems, most people in town come. I was greeted with a hardy hello and a nice, long hug. This is my kind of place. I’m greeted several times per day, on the street, with: Hola! Qué tal? (What’s up?).
This morning, during my walk, I noticed this grandfather and grandson walking down the street and it just spoke to me about what it is about here. It’s about family, not getting ahead. It’s about community. Over and over, I’ve heard the same story by expats. “I came here _____ years ago, and never left.” or “I came here _____ years ago, now I’m here every year 3 – 6 months”.
Even as I type this, I’m thinking about my return visit. I’ll probably come back, perhaps later in the year, or early next year, stay a month, or so, and work from here. I like this place. Besides, I need to work on my Spanish!
The other day, Niels invited me to take a trip with him to Queretaro, Mexico, a little over an hour away from SMA. While there, we walked around and did photographer things. You know, take pictures. While Niels and his wife, Claudette, were getting maps of the area, I looked across the street, saw this beautiful, yellow building. I framed it up, but there were only 1 or two taxis in front. I thought, how great would it be to have a whole line of taxis in front. Light change.
The next stop light, my wishes were answered. Add to that, as I was about to take the photo, Niels noticed me framing it and said: Wait! There are some people in red shirts about to walk into the scene. I waited a beat, saw them, and clicked the shutter several times.
I love the shot. The only thing that got to me was the drab, green trashcan in the lower left; however, as yellow and green go together, not an issue. I just didn’t have time to get in front of the can, but that’s OK. Better to have gotten the shot with the can, than to have missed the shot entirely.
I tried cropping the trashcan out, but that removes too much of the street, so, I just left it the way it is.
Sunday, I had an opportunity to see some Azteca dancers perform in the Jardin. From all around town, you could hear the drumming. Niels and I decided to check out, and I’m glad that we did. We saw them at around 11:00 in the morning. At that time, the sun was pretty intense, and the shadows deep. Most of the shots that I took were, as one might expect, not exactly dazzling, especially the far away shots, lots of hard shadows. However, I was able to come away with a couple of ‘keepers’, by getting closer, such as this dancer, framed between two observers. I like the vivid yellow headdress.
Later, I came back by the Jardin, and they were still there. This time, the street was in shadow, so no problems with shadows, but it lacked contrast. All of a sudden, I got the idea to try to photograph motion and get the ‘feel’ of it, rather than just static photos. That’s a hit-and-miss proposition, mostly miss, but I was able to get a few that I really liked. The rest of the time, I just watched and had a great time!