Monday, December 26, 2011

Favorite 10 of 2011

For the first time, I thought I would publish a post with our favorite images from 2011. The idea came from an excellent local photographer named John Wall. Just like John did, I will add our favorites to Jim Goldstein's best photos of the year project which you can view here.

To me, photography is about more than getting the perfect shot. It is about preserving a memory of a great place, subject, or moment in time. In fact, it's about the "story" behind the shot as much as it is about the shot itself. So, with that said, here are our favorite photos in chronological order.

Thanks once again to John Wall's blog and his posts about bobcats, we were on a mission to find bobcats all last winter and we saw many in Marin county just north of San Francisco. However, most were far away and the pictures weren't anything to be too proud of. That changed when we took our first trip to Point Reyes National Seashore in March of 2011. We did have quite a few bobcat sightings there and the best one was of this bobcat sunning itself in a pasture right off of Pierce Point Road. I stopped the car in the middle of the road for this shot and we were on a blind curve with no place to pull over so I only got a few shots in before we had to press on. We turned around and came back only a couple minutes later and the cat was gone. But the memory will live on.


Later on that month we returned to Marin county looking for bobcats but the day was cold and dreary and the cats were seeking shelter somewhere warm which is what we should have done. Luckily, two male turkeys gave me something to photograph. They were showing off for the ladies and started to strut around each other testing to see which could boogie the best.

This picture was taken in May at Bosque Del Cabo in Costa Rica. It was our 3rd visit there and was another fantastic experience. During one of our walks, a troop of spider monkeys swung in overhead through some mango trees and into a nearby palm tree. We really enjoyed watching them lean and stretch to get to the palm nuts with little to support them except for their wonderfully strong tails. There were a total of four monkeys in this tree eating the nuts at one point but we like the symmetry of this pair.

Spider Monkey Pair Eating Palm Nuts

Also in Costa Rica we had some of our closest encounters with Scarlet Macaws. They are gorgeous birds and we were lucky enough to have them feeding in the trees right outside our cabana at Bosque Del Cabo one afternoon. They hopped from branch to branch oblivious to my presence intent on finding food. Scarlet macaws mate for life and this pair talked back and forth the whole time as if they were having intent dinner conversation. It was fantastic spending quality time with these endangered birds.

Scarlet Macaw

Favorite picture #4 was taken again at Bosque Del Cabo. One morning after breakfast we set out intent on hiking our favorite trail to look for puma. An unfamiliar bird call caught my attention right before we had gone 50 yards from the lodge. I peered into the dense foliage looking for the bird but I couldn't find it. Just as I turned to walk away a slight movement caught my eye. There in the trees not 10 feet off the ground and 15 feet in front of me was a small juvenile Three-toed sloth. It was the cutest darn thing we had ever seen and we got to watch it for close to an hour as it came down to the ground, took care of it's weekly business, and climbed back up into the trees. It was truly an incredible experience and looking at this photo brings it all back.

Juvenile Three-toed Sloth

This next favorite is once again from Costa Rica. In the bushes around the pool at Bosque Del Cabo were some newly hatched Green Iguanas. I would stop by multiple times per day to find them sunning themselves on leaves or sleeping peacefully under them. They were so well camouflaged that you could know what bush they were in but still not see them. One morning after a night of rain, I found one out drying itself right on top of a leaf and I couldn't resist taking this picture which is our favorite from the dozens that we took of these little guys.

Juvenile Green Iguana

After visiting Central America on five different occasions, we had never seen monkeys on the ground. So, when this White-faced Capuchin climbed down to the bottom of a tree and looked longingly across the driveway we were standing on at trees on the other side, we figured that we would get out of it's way and let it cross. We watched it hop very human-like across the driveway and up into a bush, grab what looked like a dead stick and proceed to munch on it. I got some decent photos of the whole encounter and we were both pretty excited about it. When I got back to the US and processed the photos I realized that this was no ordinary dead stick. It was actually a live Walking Stick and a big one at that. I am still kicking myself that I didn't see the walking stick first because it is such a cool insect and this one was really big. Had I known that these were in the area, I would have left no bush unturned trying to find one. Just one more reason to go back I guess.

White Faced Capuchin with Walking Stick Snack

We could easily have picked all 10 favorites from Costa Rica, but this is the last one. One of the things we love most about the rain forest is the the night time. So many interesting creatures come out at night and frogs are surely our favorites. This picture was taken of a Gladiator Frog that posed nicely on the side of a tree. It didn't move at all so I was able to take a series of nice shots from different angles. When I was done, I turned away to fold up my tripod and move on. Just as I bent over to grab the legs of the tripod I felt a thud on my left shoulder and I knew that something had landed on me. Luckily, I fought my initial urge which was to scream like a girl. Instead, I whipped my head around and got sight of this Gladiator frog sitting on my shoulder looking right at me. Obviously I thought that it had taken exception at having its photo taken and was seeking out some kind of amphibian revenge. Well, as likely as that sounds it wasn't true. It was just using me to get closer to the pond because it stayed for only about 10 seconds before leaping off of me, onto a nearby bush, and into the safety of some cover. Needless to say, my heart was beating pretty darn fast.

Gladiator Frog

In September, we made our second trip to SE Arizona. During our first night walk, we spotted all sorts of winged creatures darting around the hummingbird feeders. While we surely don't consider ourselves birders we did know enough to realize that hummingbirds typically don't feed at night. As we got closer, we realized that they were bats and I knew I needed to get some pictures of this phenomena. As you can imagine, bats are pretty quick and they didn't feed for more than a millisecond at a time. But, thanks to an extra flash and multiple shots per second, I was able to get a few action shots.

Lesser Long-nosed Bat

Our last favorite of the year is also from Arizona. We passed this particular Greater Earless lizard on our way out on a loop hike. It was in good light and I was able to get some nice photos of it. On our way back, we walked really slowly up to the area in which we originally spotted it. So slowly in fact that I think we disturbed the little guy. If I didn't know better, I would think that it was caught in the act of doing something bad since it looks a little guilty to us in this photo.

Greater Earless Lizard