Tag Archives: Animals

How to take really cute photos of a dog

Step 1: Start with a really cute dog. (This isn’t rocket science after all)

Step 2: Add a neutral to nice background. (Hint: check weather forecasts)

Step 3: Get the dog to do really cute stuff. (Helps if the dog will actual do what his/her pets (humans) say)

Step 4: Have impeccable timing. (This step is all on you.)

Really, I’m not actually kidding about step 1, 2 and 4.  Step 3 is optional depending on how cute the dog is.  My friend’s dog is really cute (see evidence below).

Adorable just standing there

Adorable just standing there

Adorable even when sitting

Adorable even when sitting

So, Step 1 is covered.  We chose a nice off leash park and this was our 3rd attempt at the weather. It was the tail end of winter, so lots of browns and greys – pretty neutral. But even then, it can work against you:

Watch out for the Tree!

Watch out for the Tree!

At first glance, Chubby looks great – wonderful shot in mid lunge. But there’s the tree. So, Step 2 was partially covered.

However, Chubby was aces at Step 3:

Shake, Chubby, Shake!

Shake, Chubby, Shake!

There was a reason we chose to do this photo shoot BEFORE Chubby got his hair trimmed.

However, I didn’t forget Step 4. You can get some great action shots if you are in the right place, at the right time, and the dog listens to his owner.

Action Shot

Action Shot

And, the piece de resistance:

Bet I can make you smile!

Bet I can make you smile!


Spring is coming! Spring is coming!

That MUST be why my horse is shedding like crazy. Oh the joys of owning a horse. Not only does he masquerade as a llama with a big bushy mane and fuzzy neck just like in this picture; he insists on losing all the hair on the rest of his body in the middle of winter. So, all I can think is that he knows something I don’t and spring is coming.

Larry's unwanted hair

In the meantime, I am his shedding support. I stand ready with implements to hasten the process before we all drown in his hair (this is the amount of hair on a good day).Larry, his hairy blanket and pile of hair If it were clean (he hasn’t had a bath since fall last year), I would collect it and make yarn. If it were any dirtier, I’d worry about what I was ingesting everytime I breathe in while grooming him.

It will be over soon though, and until then, I have his undying gratitude for the extra tummy rubs (yes, he’s shedding there too).

In the meantime, he’s not the only one who’s furry at the barn.

Another Hairy Barn Creature

Hawaii: Favourite Fish

Ok, this took much longer to put together than I thought. There’s very little I could think to say about the fish I saw in Hawaii. It would be a pretty boring blog of “really, really, pretty!” or “ooooh, love the colours!”, or “hmmm, reminds me of so and so at work”, etc, etc. So instead, I’ve labelled the fish I have photos of, in latin AND Hawaiian AND English (brownie points for me!) and put my comments in the captions! (you have to click on them to see the comments) All photos courtesy of my uncle who wouldn’t give up his camera even thought it refused to take pictures of fish in motion….. Note that the identification would not be possible without the well worth it purchase of “The Ultimate Guide to Hawaiian Reef Fishes” by John Hoover. It really was the ultimate and I recommend it if you are even a little bit curious about what you see in the ocean. It is so ultimate that the biologists recommended it to me and the bookstore staff knew it immediately even though I couldn’t remember the title or author!

Hawaii: TURTLES!

I love animals – usually fuzzy ones …. but thought it would be cool to see aquatic ones on this vacation. The first turtle I saw was actually while I was snorkeling for the first time and saw it in the water, at a reef, feeding on the rocks and it was amazing! Here was an animal so different than anything else I had ever seen; so close that I had to work NOT to touch it and completely not caring that I was right there.  Despite the ungainliness of the turtle on land and let’s face it, this animal is not known for agility and grace, but it is very agile and graceful in the water.

To photograph the turtle in the water…well, I have no idea what to tell you. The  underwater cameras that we tried are too slow and the turtles tend to come to feed later in the afternoon when the tide is coming in and the water is not calm. Additionally, the water tended to be murkier at these times and then you throw in all the sand that people were kicking up watching the turtles and the amateur cameras could not handle the low light. So, if anyone knows of some underwater photography tips in less than ideal conditions, let me know! What I did is take a lot of pictures out of the water.

Out of Water experience #1

What I did notice is that in the rougher water, when the waves got big enough to BE a wave at the shore and not just rough water, the front of the wave creates a looking glass effect and if the turtle is there, you can get a shot from out of the water. I showed one such shot in this post and here’s another one. (I absolutely promise you that there is a turtle there and not something else)

Through the looking glassOut of Water of experience #2:

Photo tip #5: know your animal. Turtles need to breathe air and so they pop up every once and awhile and you can see their little heads above the water. Sounds easy, right? Well, even though turtles need to breathe, they don’t need to breathe as much as we do so you may be waiting a loooonnnggg time and then SNAP! be ready to take the photo quickly. If you can do that, you end up with cute periscope photos.

It's a nose!Periscope!


Out of Water experience #3

OR, you could just take the easy way out and catch ’em on the beach!! Please respect the rules though – stay well away from the animals (they may not look upset, but they may be just hiding their ninja personalities, remember?) and be mindful about letting them do what they do (even if they are just sunbathing, that’s their relaxation time, no?)

Different angle Yup, definitely done. Ahhhh, sunshine Wave chasing turtle ok, I think this one is done!

oh, and it looks like my uncle did capture ONE photo underwater!  (trust me it really is just one out of hundreds and hundreds!)

One of a thousand shots

Review: Blue Sea Cruises and a Night out with Ray

Was I crazy?

The setup: I had just learned to swim (see here) and had just snorkeled out too far and scared myself (see here) by running out of breath about, oh, 200 metres from shore.

The adventure: Get in the water, at night, with a giant Kona manta ray.  This is apparently, one of the highlights of visiting the Big Island – you can swim with a weird and wonderful sea creature (there are diving trips too).

My thought process: “wow! I’ll never have this chance again! This is so cool, I have to do this! Surely they haven’t lost anyone yet!? And these rays don’t have stingers or barbs, right?” Obviously, my priorities might be different than some people’s.

The verdict: yeah, maybe just a bit crazy. I apparently don’t mind putting myself in situations where the risk-consequence factor is high (as opposed to the risk-probability factor), but I still will detour around big spiders and cockroaches who are more afraid of me than I am of them (or so I’m told – I never really believed that one)

Best quote (from the Captain in an attempt to reassure us): “There’s nothing in the ocean at night that wasn’t there during the day.” I’m not sure if that made me more afraid of snorkelling in the day or more interested in seeing the ocean at night……

Yes, I did it. I got in the water with my safety floating noodle and entrusted my life to a couple of college kids and some plastic piping framework. And it was totally worth it.

I chose to go with Blue Sea Cruises after researching the whole thing. Just like the whale watching boats, I’m afraid that the industry has taken off and you will always have those that play fast and loose with the rules. Blue Sea Cruises avoids all that by going out later – after most of the others have gone out and taking less chances with their guests and not crowding the animals. Once company lets you paddle around by yourself which sounds exciting at the time, but when there are up to 10 boats all clustered around the same area and a ton of people in the water, it starts to get a bit sketchy. Blue Sea really took care of all of us beginners and I felt totally confident with them and I had a great time.

We’ll skip the bit where I was nervous and the bit about people getting seasick (only one person) and the bit about suiting up in a wet suit (something that simply cannot be done elegantly) and move on to the interesting bits. As we were getting into the water, I’m looking at the plastic frame that the lights are on and that we all hang onto around the edges. I see a white spot under the light which I think is a reflection. When I put my head down, I see that’s no light! That’s a flipping 10 foot manta ray! (the Captain said it was probably over 10 feet)

When you put your head in the water to snorkel, your world changes. And when that new world is filled with a creature that is bigger than you, moves quicker than you and is far more powerful than you, that is an awe-inspiring sight. It’s not quite the same when you are standing on dry land looking into an aquarium.

The Manta would swim up to the surface where the light was and gracefully arch it’s back and do a loop-di-loop, showing us it’s underbelly with a little remora fish hanging on.

Once or twice it would go to the bottom and pivot on a wing tip so we could see the grey shadings on its back. A few of us got bumped by its wingtip (my uncle almost lost his camera! thankfully, he didn’t so that I could get these photos for you to see!) which was considered getting “kissed”!

If you’ve ever gone on safari or encountered a large wild animal where they are clearly in charge, you may have felt the same things I did. We are puny little physical things and there are forces ever so much bigger than us….how you choose to greet those forces is what will make you just that much bigger. Happy Adventuring!

First Hawaii Goal – Snorkel (and Don’t Drown)

Hawaii, specifically snorkeling in Hawaii, was my goal for taking swimming lessons (that, and not drowning).  Two months before my vacation, I couldn’t swim. Two weeks before my vacation, I could technically swim; or, as I liked to say, I took a lot longer to drown. However, I succeeded! By success I meant that when I got to Hawaii, I wasn’t afraid to go into the water up to my neck even when the lifeguard kept calling out when a strong wave would break over the barrier and be coming towards us. I put that rented snorkelling gear on and dunked my head into the water. Yay! What was even MORE fun was that I actually saw fish!!!! I saw so many fish, I had to get a book. The one I really remember that day was the bright yellow one and the black ninja one. The 4 months of very expensive swimming lessons in a cold condo swimming pool pushing little kids (and the occasional adult) out of the way was totally worth it.

Snorkeling, for those of you who haven’t tried it, is like going on safari with wild animals who are less likely to bite and eat you. If you haven’t gone on safari, it’s like being in a zoo without cages while flying. Not everyone loves it. When I went night snorkeling with the manta rays, I met 2 people who were very uncomfortable with knowing exactly what was under them. But the combination of fish body shapes, colours, behaviours and species is astounding!

The “don’t drowning” part came into play as I recognized my limits. You don’t actually have to know how to swim to snorkel – because when snorkelliing, you just float. You can even use the floating noodles if you like. So as I merrily floated and paddled my way out to where there were actual coral (and therefore, more types of fish), I didn’t realise that there was still loads of effort involved and even if you could breathe while under water, it was still possible to run out of breath! At that point, I turned back and saved the lifeguard a trip out to get me.

Snorkeling rules:

  • don’t feed the fish (for a whole load of reasons, but mainly because they are WILD animals)
  • don’t stand on the coral (we’ve killed enough by now, don’t you think?)

The photos below were taken by my Uncle R who needs a much better underwater camera

Travel: Africa animals, lions, tigers, bears!

Ok, so I stole the line from the Wizard of Oz and there really weren’t tigers or bears, but you get the idea. There we were, our first day in the Serengeti. I had not yet learned the trick of peeing behind cars with strangers as we drove past an acacia forest. Having a past interest in the relationship between the acacia tree and ants, I asked the driver if we could get out and look at them. All 3 of us were shocked for about a millisecond when the driver said sure! And then we surged to the door beside me (it was the only one working). No sooner than the last of us put foot outside on the ground than we heard the driver say “Leave the door open in case the lions come”. No matter how calmly he said it, we all came to a dead stop and started scanning the horizon (as if we would be able to see them sneaking up on us!).  Not to fear however, all the lions we met were from the safety of our jeep with the top off and the windows down (gulp!). Lions are basically lazy cats. There was only one time we saw them moving and that was a lioness moving away from a kill with her cubs in the EARLY morning. (Safari tip 78: be prepared to wake up early to see the good stuff – if you want to sleep in, go to the beach.) The lions knew that we were no threat really. Staring at one who just didn’t care if you were there puts you in your place! Enjoy these photos…..

These cubs were no more than a couple months old. So very cute.

Our jeep had a window in the top that we could stand on the seats and look through the roof, but for this, I think I had my window down and was sitting in my seat. Probably not the best idea.

The Lionesses (there were 3) were all very relaxed with us no more than 20 feet away

Mmmmmm, milk

Just because they are so cute

Larry is one of the cutest horses in the barn, but this is the most interesting shot when he’s in his stall and that’s not saying much!

I already posted about the barn kittens (see post here), so really this post is a review about better photography techniques for small, fast moving, furry creatures – at least that’s what I keep telling myself. The truth is, cats are often more photogenic than horses in a stall. There’s not much to a horse in a stall – they eat, they poop and sometimes they stick their heads out – more on that another time.

Bear’s (relatively) big head. There is no good angle for Bear. In the 10 years I’ve been photographing him, I still haven’t found it!

Cats, however, they play, they hunt, they don’t trample you when getting really close with a camera….so many more advantages! It doesn’t mean that you can just snap away and expect to come up with a good shot. And it doesn’t mean that every cat fits the bill. Take Claws (aka Bear) for example. He is the “it” cat. He’s at least 12 or 13 years old (ancient for a barn cat) and everyone does what he wants – he’s so cool, it’s hot. But he’s a horrible subject. He holds his head down all the time and it’s a little too large for his body so all his pictures come out looking kind of …. odd. (Sorry, Bear, you’re still my fave).

However, both Ally and Carson were cooperating with me on this day and they thought that hanging (literally) around was fun to do; allowing me to get under them to get these shots. Ally just sort of hung there on the fence doing her best impression of a kitchen towel drying….with fur. Carson found his tail and succeeded in catching in (well done, Carson!)

Ally doing her best dishrag impression

Carson’s tail is his fuzziest part so you may have to look closely to tell the difference between his paws and his tail.

The combination of their antics and the frequent pauses to look at something helped me get these shots. They are still kittens (almost 1 now) so they still move pretty fast. And unless you’re in full daytime sunlight or the equivalent indoors, getting the shot can be tricky. The shot taken indoors under fluorescent lights is not my finest moment but it would have been so cute. The shot outdoors is better as it allowed me to get Carson’s head in focus even if his paw descending rapidly on his sister’s head was too speedy for the twilight shot.

If I had gotten Simon’s head in focus it would be ok, but really, I had no idea he was so industrious in his cleaning. Maybe Carson really needed a bath?

Brotherly love

However, all good things come to an end and I just got this last action shot before the cats went off for their evening hunt.

Meow! Here kitty, kitty, kitty.

Switching it up a bit today. This is another of my favourite pictures from my portfolio and it’s not of a horse. Note, I had to zoom way out to get this short, hence the vignetting. Let’s just say I was praying that the windows of the car could roll up fast!


Velvet Brown Horse

Continuing on with resurrecting my old portfolio, here’s a favourite of mine. Another friend’s horse who looks so beautiful and velvety in this shot.