A Big Ol' Bear

A Big Ol' Bear
A Big Ol' Bear

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Brooks Camp

Our saga continued with our arrival at Brooks Camp on the shore of Naknek Lake. We were led from the shore into a small log cabin for orientation.  The rules were; no food inside our packs, nor inside the guest cabins. All meals were to be eaten inside a picnic area behind an electric fence. Stay at least 50 yards, (meters) from all bears, 100 yards from bears with cubs.
.There were at least a dozen park rangers placed in strategic locations around the camp. The young woman in the photo above was gesturing for us to hurry and catch up with this bear before it got away.
Actually she was warning us to get back and give the bear more space. Notice the bear spray on her hip. I left mine at home because I never remember to take it anywhere.
The first bear soon left and we continued on down the path which paralleled the lakeshore before it turned inland. There was another distant bear fishing in the lake.
The path led for about three quarters of a mile before we came to Brooks Falls. They are not too impressive from this vantage but they are world famous. I believe that almost everyone in the developed world has seen photos of the bears catching salmon from these falls.
There are two viewing platforms overlooking the falls. Unfortunately there were well over 100 people there when I arrived. The upper platform, which is closest to the falls, has a 40 person limit. I waited for an hour and a half for a turn before I gave up on the idea of photographing bears from the upper platform. All of my photos are from the lower platform, 100 yards away from the falls.
It was a hot day by Alaska standards and most of the bears were absent. There were only two dominant males at the falls during my stay, and one of them stayed out of view from my angle.
I was too far away to get spectacular shots of salmon leaping into the jaws of hungry bears. This fat bear just stood below the falls and would casually reach down and grab a salmon at its feet.
The bear would hold the fish in one paw and gulp it down in a few bites. I must admit that I was disappointed by the lack of drama and my inability to get close enough for my satisfaction. I shot these photos over the shoulders of shorter people. It was like a busy day at the zoo.
Soon enough I left the falls and walked back to the lakeshore. That is where the less dominant bears were found. This sow with her cub came swimming to the shore from somewhere in the lake.
There were about a dozen other people next to me and one ranger, but at least I had unobstructed, if distant, views of these bears. Much better than the madhouse at the falls.
I shot many photos of this pair.
The bears were slowly moving closer and I was happy for the photographic opportunity.
More photos to come from Brooks Camp in the next post.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Journey to the Katmai


 Early in the morning last Wednesday I arrived at the float plane airport of Lake Hood in Anchorage. That is where I climbed into the co-pilot seat of a De Havilland, Beaver that was built in the early 1950's. The pilot was a seasoned bush pilot called, 'Hennie". The seats behind us were taken by a pair of young lawyers from Miami, two women who were friends, one from Seattle, the other from Anchorage, and the back seat was occupied by an Israeli man who barely spoke English. We were all excited to get into the air.
We were off and over the city. Then we headed West, over the mudflats, ( light green strip in the photo above) and across Turnagain Arm.
Shortly we were across Turnagain Arm and flying over the boggy flatlands of the Kenai Wildlife Refuge.
We pointed the floatplane in the general direction of Mt. Iliamna as we headed across Cook Inlet.
On the way we passed Mt. Redoubt, an active volcano that frequently coats Anchorage in a layer of ash.
A little over an hour later and we were getting close to Ilamna, which is also an active volcano.
The light brown color in the center of this photo is evidence of a recent lava flow.
Soon we were passing by Ilamna and headed into an immensity of wilderness.
There was no evidence that humans had ever traversed this grand landscape. The pristine mountains went on forever.
We stayed close to Cook Inlet, and its deep blue waters.
You cannot help but wonder about what lies hidden within the folds of these rugged  mountains? I could not tell where the boundaries of Katmai National Park began, or who owned the surrounding lands?
The pilot was not lost as we turned inland, away from Cook Inlet, and reassured us that soon enough, we would be arriving  at our destination. Did we dare to set down anywhere in this inhospitable land?
After about three and a half hours the rugged mountains receded and we could see our touch down point, Naknek Lake.
You will have to wait until the next post to see what we were doing at Naknek Lake. We were not there to fish even though the fishing there is considered to be world class.



Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Solitary Day

Today is another wasted Saturday where I should be doing something fun but I'm sitting around the house instead. I am even skipping a big BBQ that I was invited to. Sometimes it's just too much trouble to be sociable. I had a bowl of soup for lunch instead of the abundance of good food that I could have gotten at the BBQ.
Anyway I managed to finish, (tentatively) the Solitary Sandpiper painting that I have been working on. Not my best work; not by a long shot.
If you compare this post with the last post, you can see the many refinements that I made on the painting.
The painting is 11x14", and called, A Solitary Day.
I will fill up the rest of this post with photos of some paintings that were recently returned by an art gallery because they did not sell. I have been looking at these paintings with a critical eye to see if there is something I could do to make these paintings look better.
This Snowy Owl painting is 11x14". The only real improvement that I could make would be to either make the foreground grasses taller, or remove them altogether. I will think about it some more.
A 14x11" painting of, Black-headed Parrots. The original painting actually has a darker background color than the photo indicates. There are many changes that I can make, but I question whether any of them will actually improve the painting. Tropical subjects are not popular compared to more familiar North American wildlife. That is too bad. I would love to paint more tropical scenes.
Traditionally, Elk have always been one the most popular of subject matter. I have sold many Elk paintings that were far worse than this. I just need to make some structural changes to the Elk's body. This painting is, 16x20", called Thick Timber Elk.
This painting is my favorite of the bunch. I cannot see anything wrong with it. Cool Cat, 16x20". If I do anything to it, I will add more moss encrusted branches in the foreground.
Now I am getting ready to depart for my big Summer adventure. If everything goes according to plan, my next few posts ought to be more interesting than normal.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Solitary Progress


If you remember my last blog post, this is where I left off from the painting that I am currently working on; even if it is at a near geological pace.
This Short-billed Dowitcher is one of the main sources of inspiration for the painting. I like the setting and the lighting of it.
The pose of the Solitary Sandpiper in the painting is based upon this photo.
Here is as I have gotten on it so far. As you can see, this painting still requires a great deal of refinement and definition. Both on the bird and in the grasses. But at least it looks like something now.
 For one thing, the bird's eye needs to be bigger and the barring of the bird's pattern needs to be enhanced. I am not discouraged; I believe that I have overcome the biggest obstacles that I am likely to encounter with this painting. There are many flourishes that I still want to add to the composition, especially in the foreground.
A detail photograph. There are many other things going on in my life this Summer so it might take me awhile to finish this painting.
 I have sold many paintings lately and I am lagging way behind in my efforts to rebuild my inventory. This has been a good Summer so far. Even the weather has been exceptional.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Some Recent Happenings

One of my co-workers showed me where a pair of Merlins was nesting near his home. The nest was well hidden but I got a few mediochre shots of an adult against a bright, volcanic ash filled sky.
The distant volcano has since calmed down and we have no more ash to contend with. I believe that this is the female, but who knows?
The Arctic Terns are still at Westchester and various other places around town.
Seriously elegant birds.
A simple portrait of a Red-necked Grebe.
For about the last month or so I have been experiencing one of my frequent creative dry spells. I took one of my old paintings, 'Otter Lake Trumpeter',18x24", that sat unsold in a gallery, and decided to remodel it.
I had a few ideas for changes to make. First I thickened the neck a tad. Then I put in some atmosphere to create mood. That part did not improve it. I intended to add tall grasses in the foreground that will partially overlap the swan.
Before I got to that, I got burned out on this painting and decided to set it aside for awhile.
A detail shot of the head.
Last Wednesday I had the urge to paint something else. I got an idea for a Solitary Sandpiper. This is as far as I have gotten on it so far. I know that it does not look like much, but it actually is proceeding well. I have the advantage of knowing what the painting is intended to look like. You can only see these foundational layers to judge it by.
The head that I sketched before applying paint.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Beauties From Southeast Arizona

All of the photos on this post were taken by Maggie who lives in Tucson. This Red-faced Warbler was on Mt. Lemmon, which is a Sky Island above the desert city of Tucson.
Red-faced Warblers are different from most other species of warblers because they nest on the ground. This photo reminds me of an experience involving Red-faced Warblers that I had on the slopes of Volcan de Fuego in the Mexican state of Colima. I was with Scott and Jean and we saw some Red-faced Warblers in a small ravine. There were Painted Redstarts with them which occupy similar habitats. We also saw a red breasted, Slate-throated Redstart with them. (incredible bird)
A little further up we saw the near mythical Red Warblers on the same day. Four of the most beautiful of all warbler species right in the same area. I remember asking myself which of the four was the most beautiful?
In my mind, the Painted Redstarts take the prize; not only for their looks, but also for their magical dance. They must be seen to be believed.
Another warbler from Mt. Lemmon, the Black-throated Gray Warbler.
Like the Red-faced Warbler, the Yellow-eyed Junco has a restricted range north of the border. Only occurring on the Sky Islands, (isolated mountains surrounded by desert) of Southeastern Arizona.
Going back down to the desert; the rest of the photos of this post were shot by Maggie in Sabino Canyon outside of Tucson. This is a Black-necked Garter Snake. 
An adult female, Desert spiny Lizard.
This is a younger version of the photo above. Just look at those beautiful scales.
A big male, Desert Spiny Lizard.  These guys can display some incredible colors in the right conditions.
See what I mean? This is a pair of Desert Spiny Lizards. They belong to a large family of New World lizards, (sceloporus) also called fence lizards or swifts. They are known colloquially as 'blue-bellies'. Not all species have blue bellies, some have, pink, orange, or yellow bellies. Spiny Lizards are the largest of the bunch.
Another interesting lizard, Greater Earless Lizard. That's right, no ears. just incredible speed. It also has a strikingly marked underside.