Tag: travel

Namibia

I returned from Namibia less than a month ago and I can honestly say I’ve never had a better trip. The country is trying to grow environmental tourism in such a way that everyone benefits. Their goal is to create a win/win for people AND animals, especially predators. It is a long term goal, one that will take a generation to really grow strong, but already there have been some positive stories. Not to mention the fact that the infrastructure construction is booming.

The good news (for me) is that the experience was amazing. There are still large swathes of the country that are uninhabited, mostly because they are uninhabitable. The sand sea of Namib is an immense section of land that has been evolving (and dying) for millions of years.Water is more than scarce, it is practically nonexistent. And yet some lifeforms do exist. The recent drought (how can you have a drought in such a dry country?) have made it even harder for them to survive.

Because of this, my experience in Namibia was much different than many visitors to Africa. There were no plains, there were no huge herds of anything. There was an enormous amount of sand. Each time I encountered an animal it was magical and exciting. (Except for Oryx, there are lots of them. No wonder they are the national animal.)

Here are some things I learned on the trip.

  1. Elephants do actually listen to humans. I found this out when an adolescent elephant began leaning on our vehicle while we were standing looking out the top of it. Instead of turning the truck on and scaring it away, the driver just said calmly “No, don’t do it”. The elephant stopped leaning, thought about it one more time, then walked away.
  2. Watching seals is not fun when there are newborns around. The newborns are not protected and often die by being squashed, especially if the seals get spooked and exit quickly to the water.
  3. I know exactly how big and heavy the horns are forester kudu. I also know how tall kudus are compared to me.
  4. I am a better photographer than I give myself credit for. That being said, there is still room for improvement. (Auto focus does not always know what it is you are trying to focus on. I will not show you the thousand blurry pictures that I took.) I thought I would be out of my league on a photography tour but it was actually extremely helpful and I learned a lot.
  5. There are few actual “wild” places in Africa. Even in the bush, animals are often collared in order to monitor them. Sometimes I felt like I was in what I call a “natural zoo”. In other words, the predators and other animals run free…until they get to the fence. The fact that there are miles in between fences does not take away from the fact that they can’t go wherever they want. The good news is that they are protected from local farmers who have a desire to kill any predator that might take away their livelihood. The bad news is that it creates an unnatural ecosystem that constantly has to be monitored. One place had so many lions that they were regularly catching giraffes. However, if it weren’t for these places, I would never have had the amazing experiences that I had.
  6. Even seasoned trackers get excited when they actually find the animal they are tracking. I will never forget when I heard our tracker say “I got them!” in an excited tone when he found the rhinos.
  7. White rhinos are less persnickety and mean than black rhinos.
  8. Rhino horns are made from the same materials as our fingernails. If you know of anyone taking Chinese herbs that contain rhino horns, shoot them. No, wait, I mean explain to them that by taking those herbs, they are killing off an entire species.

Of course there is tons more stuff I learned but I see your eyes glazing over. So I will move on to the visual part of today’s lecture. Enjoy looking through this group of photos! (If you are viewing this on the WordPress Reader, visit the actual blog site in order to see the slide show. It’s definitely worth it.)

a walk through the zoo

I was on vacation last week. That feels a little funny to say because my daily life would be considered a vacation by many people. So I will revise it. I spent a week in a totally different location, spending my days with friends by the pool, drinking those kinds of drinks that taste better with umbrellas, going to the zoo, the botanical cactus garden and hiking into the Living Oases that were up in the hills. Then I spent more time at the best zoo in the world, walked along the beach at sunset and had some awesome sushi with my nephew. If you guessed Palm Springs and San Diego, you would be right. I thought I would share some of my pix with you.

I’m pretty sure when you read that you thought that I would be posting beautiful pictures of animals like this:

p1140450p1140563p1150408p1150091p1140198

But here’s the thing. While I enjoy taking fabulous pictures, I was actually on a mission. I was doing research for future sculptures and as such, I need more information than a pretty picture could give me.

For instance, I needed to know what the butt, the foot, the skin and the side of an Indian rhino looks like. Look at how much the spine is ridged. Believe it or not, the skin is not armor-like, it is soft…rhinos can feel when a fly lands.

p1150350

p1150173p1150161p1150103

And while I didn’t see the skull of the Indian Rhino, I did see one of a black rhino. Isn’t it fascinating? It doesn’t even really look like a skull. No wonder they are sort of funny looking! ( I picked the brain of this docent for a while, he was very informative.) The opening under the horn is not the mouth, this skull is actually missing its jaw so you can see the top teeth at the bottom of the skull. It makes sense though, the rhino smells and hears way better than it sees. That is some huge sinus cavity.

p1150255

For the Greater Kudu, it was great to see what the feet, the back of the neck, the back of the head and the underbelly looks like.There is a hump on top of the animal, but there is also one under its chest.

p1140589p1140579p1140588p1140463p1140504

But of course the horns are what intrigue me the most so I was thrilled to see them in person.

p1140459

It was a special treat to see cheetahs in both locations, for I am going to the cheetah preserve in Namibia next month and will see them close up and personal. They are fascinating creatures, very thin, very muscular. And, as you can see in these pictures, they have very small ears and beautiful feet.

p1150064p1150065

The orangutans will have to wait for another post, I did not get many good pictures of them for various reasons, the most important one being that I foolishly only took one memory card and filled it up before I got to the exhibit. Quite honestly it was a surprise to see them, and since I have some down in DC that I can go see, I didn’t mind too much.

You can be sure that there will many more animal pictures coming. I will be spending 10 days in Namibia on the Skeleton Coast and at Etosha National Park observing the wildlife and trying not to die of the heat. I am super excited about it (and yes, super nervous as well). It has been on my list of things to do for a long time and I can’t wait!

 

power surge

ice abstract
ice abstract

One day we went out in Zodiacs and motored fairly close to the glacier. As we were driving towards it we were able to get really close to the floating icebergs…i.e. the chunks that “calved” from the glacier. Despite the movement of the Zodiac, the wind and the rain I was able to get this really cool abstract of the ice. If you want to see what this picture came from then check this out…

floating iceberg
floating iceberg

Once again I am trying to use these pictures to cool down. It is not really all that hot, we have the windows open and there is a nice breeze. But forgive me for whining for a moment…you see, I am of an age where power surges/hot flashes/inner thermostat malfunctions happen with alarming frequency. Sometimes I can grit my teeth and bear it. But when they happen just as I am getting all my welding gear on (long pants, long shirt, gloves, ear plugs, mask, hat and welding helmet) it is just plain brutal. I am not fond of intense heat as it is so needless to say I kind of wimp out on days like this and find other things to do. Okay, whining is over…back to my regular scheduled perky self. (?)

However, I am happy to report that the kangaroo is coming along nicely. I have been finishing up sections that were a little bare of metal and adding the ears (again). I rally like the way she is looking, and I will be starting the joey some time this weekend. But maybe first thing in the morning when it’s cooler.

manga head and ears
manga head and ears

well traveled musk ox

cold, rainy, and other-wordly
cold, rainy, and other-wordly

This is a picture from Glacier Bay National Park. You can see the Glacier on the left…the small dark dot next to it is the big-ass cruise ship that has chugged up the Bay to give its 2,000 guests a closer view of the Glacier. This picture shows the typical blue/gray/white landscape that we got used to seeing every day, rain coming down here but not there, blue sky up ahead but not behind and fog on the left but not the right. (I mean port and starboard naturally.) The next few posts will take you closer to the glacier and show some details that are really cool.

In other news, the musk ox came home last week! I have been waiting ever-so-patiently for him to return, I feel like my sculpture garden is complete…at least until I get the kangaroo finished. It has been beastly hot and HUMID and welding is not so much fun in those circumstances, despite the AC that I have turned on. So, for now, we will enjoy the musk ox’s return. I have placed him at the bottom of the hill from the kitchen door so that I can see him first thing in the morning and when I sit out on the patio to eat or read. He seems to be quite happy down there and Izzy has already welcomed him home, in her own way. You might notice the difference in the colors between the previous picture and the next ones…it was quite a shock (and a pleasure) to come home such lush surroundings.

If you or someone you know (and like) are in the Baltimore, MD area and want to come visit the animals, give me a call! The gardens are open by appointment. Just hop on over to my website to get all the information…

muskox-2 muskox-4 muskox

a good day

hiding under the docks

These anemones were living under the docks in Petersburg, Alaska. I learned it is possible to take pictures of things under the water without getting my camera wet. This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.

So why was today a good day? Because for the first time in over two months, my list of things to do had one word on it…”studio”. Between the residency in NYC and the trip to Alaska (not to mention the interment of my mother-in-law’s ashes and the influx of my husband’s family last week) I have had an enormous amount of things that have stopped me from working in my own studio. This makes me grumpy. The funny thing is, I didn’t create a single thing today.

No, instead I spent the entire day cleaning. Well, cleaning is too simple a word for the epic rearranging that went on. I took old pictures off the walls and archived them, recycled/threw out decades of bad art, made piles of pictures to be donated, vacuumed up dead flies and stink bugs (I work in a barn, remember?) and moved furniture and books to new spots. As a result, my upstairs sanctuary is quickly becoming a refreshed and exciting place to be. I will have room for all the new work I have been doing, and, hopefully, a place to play with the weaving/installation work I started in NYC.

Of course it’s a multi-day process, I still have tons of work to do and storage containers to buy so I won’t show pictures yet but it already is giving me a whole new perspective which is a good thing when you are creating. It’s almost like I am clearing the cobwebs out of my brain and allowing fresh new ideas and images to enter. Stay tuned!

“cap’n thar be whales”

If you are a Star Trek fan you will recognize this quote from one of the movies. We kept saying this during the trip. We saw humpback whales and orcas, the latter of which evidently are not always to be seen in that area. The do exist but they don’t always show their faces. I did get to see their faces but you won’t. I more often got pictures of tails or the mist of air as they breached. As I stated in the last post, I am not the patient kind of photographer who waits with my eye to the viewfinder just to get “that” picture. You know, the picture that produces the oohs and aaahs in the slide show at the end of the cruise. No, I would rather just experience the magic first hand, the sounds of the humpback whales breathing (which you can hear and see from a great distance if the ship’s engines are turned off), the beauty of the orcas surfacing in groups and the last flip of the tail before the great beasts go back down to get some more food. And there really was a magic to it, one that I happily shared with the group on the boat.

I have started to figure out lightroom, so here are some of my pix of the whales after I have worked on them a bit. I still am annoyed at the “noise” which no matter what I do will not go away. Lesson learned. Sigh.

breaching
breaching
dorsal fin
dorsal fin
on its way down
on its way down
bye bye
bye bye
waving its fin
waving its fin
swimming together
swimming together

south eastern alaska

We have returned from our 30th anniversary ex-po-tition (to borrow a phrase from Winnie the Pooh). An Alaskan cruise has long been on our collective bucket list and now we can cross it off. I have to say, it was a magnificent experience, different and better than what I had imagined.

I think there is a reason why Alaska shows up as an island in most US maps. Even though it is technically connected to the mainland, it is, for all intents and purposes, totally separate from the lower 48. For instance, in Juneau there are cars, roads, McDonald’s…even a Walmart. But the roads lead out of town and then…stop. There is no way to drive from Juneau TO anywhere, everything arrives and departs by plane or boat. Evidently when the McDonald’s opened, there was a line one mile long. They ran out of food in two hours, then had to close for two weeks until they were able to restock.

Alaskan “taxis” are little float planes that can take you from a small town to a remote lodge to have a quiet week fishing or hunting. It is definitely a different land up there, one which the Alaskans are trying hard to preserve, although they aren’t always so successful.

There was so much to learn about the wildlife and because we were on a Lindblad/National Geographic tour, we learned an enormous amount about bears, whales, birds, otters, see lions, glaciers…the list goes on and on. I was also able to learn a lot more about photography, some of which will come in handy for my future photo expeditions. Unfortunately, this was the kind of expedition that shows up my weaknesses as a photographer. Evidently I am not good at taking photographs of wildlife from a moving zodiac. Nor am I very good at being patient enough to get that perfect picture of a whale breaching. But I did get some decent pictures of some interesting things and some okay pictures of some awesome things so I will just shut up now and start showing you a few of them. I think I’ll take few posts to share them all. Oh, and I am starting to figure out Lightroom so if they are not edited very well, it’s because I’m still learning how to do it.

Things I learned:

1.Sea lions are very photogenic.

2. Never use the digital zoom, it will ALWAYS be grainy and can ruin a perfectly good picture.

sleeping on their rock
sleeping on their rock
grainy but one of my favorite pictures.
grainy but one of my favorite pictures.

The next lesson, what I learned about whales…stay tuned!!!