Great Gray Portrait

Great Gray Portrait
Great Gray Owl

Friday, October 2, 2015

More From Iran

In the last post I thought that I had uploaded all of the photos that I had set aside from Maggie's adventure in Iran. Yesterday I stumbled upon some more of her photos. Above is the Zoroastrian Tower of Silence. It certainly looks like a good place to go to seek silence.
A Zoroastrian Fire Temple. It is important not to let the fire ever go out.
I looked up a little information about Zoroastrianism. It is considered to be possibly the first monotheistic religion. Its founder, Zoroaster aka Zarathustra lived in Iran many hundreds of years before Christ.
He taught that Ahura Mazda is the supreme being; the Lord of Wisdom. There are also two opposing spirits; Spanta Mainyu- the righteous spirit, and Angra Mainyu- the destructive spirit. They influence the deeds of us mortals.
In the afterlife we will be judged for our deeds and the righteous will receive a happy eternity while the wicked will inherit eternal damnation.  Zoroaster taught that we should think good, speak good, and act good. It is very difficult for converts to be accepted into the religion.
Nowruz, the new year celebration is their main holiday and is celebrated by both Zoroastrian and non- Zoroastrian people in several countries throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.
Some rugged and stark desert. Lots of that in Iran no doubt.
There are some high cool mountains in Iran also.
A proper sandstorm.
Vakil columns. A good place to escape the sandstorm.
Iran also has its own version of Whole Foods. It does not look much like a health food store. It looks more like a convenience store to me.
Are these burka clad women looking at all this colorful cloth with longing? I guess they wear more stylish clothes under their burkas or at home. Maybe this cloth is for making curtains?
The school girls at least get to wear a little more color. The truth is that women in Iran are allowed to wear colorful and stylish though modest clothing as long as they cover their heads.
Iran would experience a lot more foreign tourism if not for the overbearing influence of these guys.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Colors of Iran

Islamic architecture and art is aesthetically very pleasing to the eye. Islam forbids the depiction of figures, (animals, people, deity) in their art so they rely heavily on geometric patterns instead. I guess that taboo does not apply to religious leaders like the ayatollahs.
To me the Kashan Shrine above is undeniably beautiful.
Maggie shot many great photos of intricate tile work in the various shrines and mosques like the Esfahan Mosque above.
The Faience Mural is a masterful blend of agreeable colors and shapes.
Another masterful blend... of spices in the marketplace.
An arcade in Nasir al Molk. A study in pinks.
Also at Nasir al Molk. The dome over the tomb of the poet Hafez.
A lovely stained glass window at Nasir al Molk.
Another view.
Ancient Persian stone relief at Persepolis. I hope that the mindless, Islamic State thugs from Iraq and Syria never get near these treasures. It breaks my heart to think of the outrages that they have done at places like Palmyra, Syria. What profound ignorance and arrogance.
A ram procession at Persepolis.
This is a good photo to end with from Maggie's adventure in Iran. She says that it is a perfectly safe place to go. Who would have thought?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Maggie in Iran

 Nobody goes to Iran, especially Americans. There are still American citizens being jailed there on trumped up charges and held hostage for years on end. The US government does little to help them. Who would want to go there?
 BTW, this is a place called Meybod.
Maggie went to Iran. By herself! She is afraid of bears but not afraid of Iran. I certainly admire her courage. I'll take the bears any day.
She did not travel around the country by herself. Such a thing is not permitted in Iran. This is her guide Malid. They are enjoying a fine lunch in the mountains.
The hill town of Masuleh. 
Anchorage birder extraordinaire, Aaron Bowman once lived in next door Iraq. He talks about a mountain range in Iran, (I forget the name of it) but it is a great place to see some hard to get birds. He dreams of going there.
Khaju Square.
She stayed in an old caravanserai.
Her spartan yet elegant room.
I do not know if she did her own cleaning, but an interesting broom. Probably the same style of broom that has been used to clean the caravanserai floors for centuries.
Her colorful dinner. Looks yummy.
A sandstorm is brewing.
I wonder if the colonel would approve of the chicken here? It is probably better than KFC.
Naqsh-e Jahan Square.
There is more to come from Maggie's trip to Iran.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A New, Sort of Christmassy Painting

Been awhile since I got serious about painting. Not really discouraged, just busy with other things. This photo of a female Pine Grosbeak was taken about 15 years ago at the Eagle River Nature Center.
This male Pine Grosbeak was photographed about 4 or 5 years ago. I shot this photo on the same day that I got an excellent lifer in Anchorage, a Dusky Thrush, (Asian species). I only managed a few wretched photos of the thrush.
The new painting is much paler than the reference photos. I did'nt plan it that way, but paintings have a way of following their own course. It is 8x10". Maybe I'll call it, 'Sort of Christmassy'.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Strange Duck, An Old Mine, and a New Camera

First the duck. It was at Spenard Crossing. Right now ducks are going through their annual moult. This is clearly a Mallard Drake. It is unusually pale. The other Mallard Drakes are much browner. I wonder what it will look like at the end of its moult.
On Wednesday Dan and I took advantage of what probably is the last really nice day of the Summer. We went up to Independence Mine State Park near Hatcher Pass.
There are some pleasant hiking trails around the mine that was abandoned in 1962.
I brought my brand new camera, (behind Dan). It was a pain to lug around.
If you look real hard, you can see part of Knik Glacier in the far distance. The small town of Palmer lies out of sight, in between.
The mine is nestled among some rugged slopes. We were hoping to spot some, ptarmigan, Hoary Marmots, and Collared Pikas but we missed them.
We did see a few Arctic Ground Squirrels. The camera focused on the Fireweed instead of the squirrel.
This time I got the camera to focus on the right thing. The light was very harsh with the stark contrast. I did what I could to fix it.
An extreme crop, (compare to the first, un-cropped photo). The high megapixel CMOS sensor of the new camera makes it look pretty good.
Regular readers of this blog will remember that I purchased a full frame Canon 6D several months ago. I wanted to make a jump from my point and shoot, Fijifilm HS-50 to a nice DSLR. 
It was 20 megapixels as compared to the 16 megapixels of my HS-50. Turns out that the higher megapixel count was just about its only advantage. The HS-50 has a more powerful zoom and is so much more versatile. Built in flash and tiltable lcd screen are two important things the Canon lacked.
My main complaint was the heavy zoom lens that requires a tripod to use. It wears me out to carry it for any distance.
When I read the impressive reviews for the brand new Canon Rebel T6s I went down to Best Buy to check out this top of the line Rebel in person. It was truly impressive to me. Far superior to other Rebel models.
So I sent the 6D back and picked up the much less expensive Rebel. It features 24 megapixels, Wifi, GPS, pop up flash, a top lcd screen like the 6D and much more. It can only shoot 5 frames per second in burst mode, ( my HS-50 shoots up to 16 fps). Oh well. I seldom use that feature anyway.
I am still reading the instruction manual but so far my favorite feature is the  tiltable touch, lcd screen with 'touch shutter'. This is a wonderful thing that other cameras lack. Touch Shutter enables you to touch the exact spot where you want the camera to focus. The camera then focuses and snaps the photo.
You can enlarge or shrink the focus area with your fingers. If you put the camera on a tripod in poor light  then you touch the spot, drop your hand and let the camera focus and shoot. That eliminates camera shake.
You can also access the menu and change the many features with a touch or swipe of the screen, no fumbling with dials and buttons. If you want to use manual focus you can spread your thumb and forefinger to enlarge the exact spot you want in focus and then manually get a very precise focus. Theoretically I can operate the camera with my smart phone using the camera's Wifi. That however is well beyond my technical abilities.
I still have to lug around the heavy zoom lens but I am starting to really like this new camera. It is an APS-C camera that makes my 600mm lens into about 850 or 900mm.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Death and Pinks

Let's start with the death of some trees. These are Black Spruce,( Bog Spruce). They look dead even when they are still alive. They are so combustible that they can catch fire even when their roots are saturated with water.
Earlier this Summer a wildfire got started near the town of Willow. No one died but about 50 homes were burned to the ground. These burned trees are part of that fire.
On Wednesday Dan and I headed past Willow out to Goose Creek for some fishing. Dan fished, I wandered in the woods looking for interesting things to photograph.
Dan landed some Pink Salmon, also called, Humpback Salmon. They are not actually pink. They are called pinks because of the color of their flesh. The quality of their flesh is 4th out of 5 for Alaska salmon. I hate them all; fish are not my favorite food.
You can easily see why they are known as 'Humpies'. They are the smallest species of salmon. At this stage in their lives salmon do not eat and wont bite at the fishing lures. Fishermen snag them instead. 
Getting the hook out of the back is safer than getting the hook out of the fish's mouth.
Dan released the fish he caught even though they only had days, or even hours left to live.
Late in the breeding cycle salmon have very mushy flesh. Not too appealing.
This is not a koi. During the process of spawning salmon transfer all of their energy to the business of reproducing. They no longer produce the slime that protects their skin. That makes them vulnerable to the fungus that coats their skin. Yuck!
These poor fish are all used up.
The end is not a pretty sight. Be happy that you do not have to endure the smell.
Following up on the death theme. This poor Moose also added its decomposing flesh to the general stench along Goose Creek.
I don't know what kind of mushrooms these are; but they look like death to me.