Great Gray Portrait

Great Gray Portrait
Great Gray Owl

Friday, June 26, 2015

Painting Dall Sheep

Dall Sheep are the version of Big Horn Sheep that inhabit the far north. They haunt the mountain slopes all around this part of Alaska. The photo above was taken by Bart Quimby, a friend from my Eagle River days. He gave me permission to use his photos in my paintings.
I knew right away that I would end up using this photo in a painting someday.
This was my first attempt. A nice enough little painting although it is not much like the photo.
Bart managed to get much closer to Dall Sheep than I have gotten. At least on the occasions when I had a camera with me.
This is another photo that I wanted to use in a painting.
The fog caught up with this ewe. That sparked an idea in my head that took years to fully mature in my mind.
In the meantime I did a few other Dall Sheep paintings. This 9x12" study was painted in black and white.
This 11x14" canvas was the very first Dall Sheep painting that I did in 1997.  I did this painting before I ever saw Bart's Dall Sheep photos.
A different 11x14" version of the previous painting.
A much more ambitious canvas followed a few years later. It is 24x36".
A better attempt at 16x20".
Finally I decided that it was time to use the photo of the fog enshrouded ewe in a new painting. I gave it a younger sister for good measure.
I gave her two more sisters just out of the fog. The ewe on the right is actually the same fog enshrouded ewe, taken before the fog arrived.
Next I added a ram to complete the composition. I kind of like this 24x18" painting that incorporates three of Bart's photos. It only took a little over a week to complete. It was a fun challenge to paint the increasing intensity of light, color and detail from back to front. The working title is, 'Upslope'. Can you think of a better title? Let me know.
I am already about half way done with a new 11x14" painting of Parakeet Auklets.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Back to Ship Creek

It has been a few weeks since I went to Ship Creek so I made a quick trip back there with the desire to photograph Dippers. There is a fish hatchery next to a man made salmon ladder where people go to watch migrating salmon. I'll try to remember to go there when the salmon start showing up in a few weeks.
Dippers nest next to the salmon ladder pretty much every year and I got this photo of a fledgling patiently waiting for its parents to come and stuff food in its face. The parents darted in and out too fast for me to get a photo in the short time that I was there.
Nearby the Harlequin Ducks were still around.
It would have been nice to get closer and thus, sharper photos.
I appreciate the photos I did manage to get.
I like this shot of a Green-winged Teal showing its head under the water.
Another view.
Later I went to Westchester to see a Snow Goose. It is unusual to see a Snow Goose in Anchorage.
On a different day I photographed this Barrow's Goldeneye at Spenard Crossing.
I got close to this pair of shovelers. Too bad the light was so dim.
Since painting the 11x14" swan photo I have been busy painting Dall Sheep. The new 24x18" painting is coming out well and I should have a photo of it in the next post..

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Hill Tribes


Dan and the mob took advantage of the opportunity to visit Thailand's distinctive hill tribes above Chiang Rai. These peoples manage to retain an independent identity in spite of strong pressure to assimilate into the greater Thai culture.
There are many Hmong immigrants here in Anchorage. I just stopped at a stand in a nearby park run by Hmong to buy a wonderful bowl of homemade Capria? It is a kind of spicy red curry, $3.00 for a generous portion. I try to stop by there every Saturday when they are open during the summer months.
Someone gave this village dog its own distinct identity.
Although the hill tribes practice subsistence farming, their main livelyhood depends upon tourism and selling hand crafts.
The most visually unusual of the tribes are the Karen people with their exaggerated neck rings worn by the women.
As they age the women gradually add more rings. This cannot be a healthy activity. This woman is spooling a ball of yarn.
Another Karen woman works the yarn into fabric on a hand crafted loom.
They create their own entertainment.
A flowering tree. Do you know what it is? I do not although it could be the tree that produces capers..
A magnificent, Blue-crested Lizard.
Back in the city Dan's wife Julie took a nap and dreamed that Dan had turned into a real tiger.
Dan tries the patience of the poor beast even further. Tourists, what can I say?
A disturbingly sensuous Buddha.
Another one. I wonder what the living Buddha would have thought about all of this?
This post wraps up Dan and the gang's trip to Thailand. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

An Asian Vagrant and a New Painting

On Wednesday, my day off I went to Spenard Crossing, Westchester Lagoon and the Coastal Trail following up on a report of a Blue-winged Teal being seen in the area. Blue-winged Teals are seldom seen in Alaska.
No teal but I did see this Short-billed Dowitcher.
Later I also managed to get the best photos of a Sandhill Crane that I have ever gotten.
This guy was incredibly close to the Coastal Trail and completely unconcerned about passers by.
These photos were shot with my HS-50 on a tripod.
About month ago I got good photos of a Sandhill Crane near the same area. I thought that this must be the same bird but that crane had red eyes. This crane might be last year's offspring of that earlier crane.
The bird came incredibly close to me.
I went home very satisfied with the photos that I managed to get but I later learned that a sharp eyed birder saw a vagrant, Terek Sandpiper in the same area just after I left.
Yesterday after work I went back there and found a small crowd of birders looking at the Terek Sandpiper. It was after 9:00 pm when I got this distant photo. Believe it or not I shot this photo from the exact same spot that I was standing in when I photographed the cranes in the previous photos. The cranes were shot from about 15 yards/ meters, and the sandpiper from well over 100 yards/ meters, possibly double that distance.
You can almost see its characteristic upturned beak. It was also vigorously pumping its tail end up and down which is typical of the species. It is not a lifer for me but a nice addition to my US and Alaska bird lists.
Afterward I managed to get my best shoveler photo yet, at Westchester.
Next I went to Spenard Lake, (not Spenard Crossing) with Betty to look in the new location for the Blue-winged Teal. We found it right away. It was after 10:00 pm when I shot this photo.
There were also several Spotted Sandpipers. I needed to get home and to bed because I was going to have an early start at work today.
I finally finished the swan painting, Drizzle Swans, 11x14".


Friday, May 29, 2015

Gibbons and Elephants etc

Finally I am getting back to Dan and friends in Thailand. They headed to northern Thailand where they climbed into the treetops in search of White-handed Gibbons.
They crossed from one tree to another on a zip line. It was certainly a highlight of the trip.
Their quarry was waiting for them in the tree canopy/ Younger gibbons like this individual tend to be lighter in color than adult gibbons.
Two adults swing effortlessly from the tree limbs in this photo.They seldom descend to the ground. Gibbons have a very loud call that can be heard echoing through the forests, especially in the early mornings.
I wonder what they think about humans joining them in their lofty home?
Once they made it back to terra firme they climbed up again, onto the backs of elephants. This is their friendly mahut whose name I do not know.
.They happily undertook their elephant trek through the tropical forest. I do not know whether the elephant enjoyed the excursion.
The whole group traveled across forested hillsides north of Chiang Mai.
The photo above makes me believe that this elephant is probably thinking, "just kill me now". Actually for all I know the elephant loves the whole experience. It's certainly better than standing around in a zoo compound somewhere.
Dan and co. enjoyed seeing some exotic butterflies.
I do not know the species, but I like the blue spots.
Thailand has Green Peacocks, a different species than the Blue Peacocks of India. Green Peafowl are a little bigger than Indian Peafowl.  They come in three different sub-species and all are endangered. The males have taller crests than blue peacocks and light brown rather than orange primaries. Female Green Peafowl are more brightly colored than female Indian Peafowl.
More to come from Thailand.