Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Stark Beauty of Nazca

Most of the western slope of Peru and Chile is desert that is every bit as barren as the Sahara. The area around the small town of Nazca, Peru gets less than 1/8th an inch of rain a year. Outside of the valleys connected to the Andes, there is no vegetation at all. As inhospitable as it looks, the desert is not nearly as hot as Phoenix or Las Vegas.
Nazca is famous for the mysterious lines in the desert that were made by pre-columbian peoples. Many researchers have postulated on the purpose of these designs that cannot be viewed from ground level. Why would they make a monkey hundreds of yards,(meters), in length? My guess is to send some kind of message to dieties in the heavens.
This spider impressed me for it's aesthetic style.
The same goes for this hummingbird.
The figure that is the subject of the most speculation is called The Astronaut. These figures were made by scraping the top layer of the sun-scortched soil to reveal lighter layers underneath.
I decided to try out the technique, so I borrowed a shovel from the hotel, and hired a taxi to take me out to the lines. It took hours to scrape the soil and the taxi driver helped me. How do you like my contribution?
This is really only the work of the cloning tool on my photo editing program.
The common sparrow in much of Latin America is the Rufous-collared Sparrow. They occur from the coast up into the high Andes.
 Blue and White Swallows are the commonly seen swallows in much of Latin America. This pair was nesting in a bank next to the runway at the small Nazca Airport.
The particular race of Streaked Saltator that occurs around Nazca lacks streaks.
White-crested Eleania is a type of flycatcher.
Vermilion Flycatchers occur all the way up to the Southwestern US, and even on the Galapagos Islands.
Croaking Ground Doves really do croak.
 The town of Nasca had more in common with Mexico than it did with the Andean towns. I thoroughly enjoyed the place even though there is little to do other than fly over the Nazca Lines. The desert was breathtaking in it's purity.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Visiting Incaland

Cusco, Peru is the ancient capital of the Inca empire. It lies at about 11 or 12,000 ft in altitude. The place is cold, even in the summer, which is opposite the northern hemisphere's summer.
The fortress of Sacsayhuaman overlooks the city. It was the sight of a major battle where the Incas defeated the Spanish Conquistadors, who were led by Fransisco Pizarro. His brother was killed in the battle.
The Incas are famed for their precise stonework. This fortress was onse about twice the size that remains today. The Spanish colonists raided the fortress for a few centuries. Using the stones in many of Cusco's buildings. I could not get anyone to accompany me on this trip, from a year and a half ago, so I went by myself. It was a wonderful trip, but I really suffered from altitude sickness for the first week.
Chiguanco Thrush is a dull colored version of a Robin.
About 30 kilometers outside Cusco is a semi-famous wetland called Huacarpay Marsh. It is a good place to see Andean waterfowl like this Puna Ibis. It is most famous as the best place to find the Bearded Mountaineer, (hummingbird), which I missed. I did get Great Sapphirewing, and Giant Hummingbird.
Another major battle was fought between the Spaniards and the Incas here in the fortress of Ollantaytambo. The Spaniards were almost annihilated, and Pizarro lost another brother in the battle. It shows the iron determination of the Spaniards that they never abandoned their conquest. I was too sick to climb to the top.
Heading toward Machu Picchu the terrian turns into cloud forest as the elevation drops to about 9000 ft.
The rivers here are the headwaters to the Amazon. It is all very wet.
All the tourists stay at the tiny gateway town to Machu Picchu, called Aguascalientes. There is hardly a flat spot in the whole area. The local men are superb soccer players.
A common bird in the area is the Golden-crowned Flycatcher.
The Black Phoebe ranges all the way up to the Southwestern United States.
The non-descript Green and White Hummingbird is endemic to the Peruvian cloud forest. This individual was snatching gnats around this spiderweb.
My favorite birds around Aguascalientes were the friendly Torrent Tyrannulets.
The morning that I visited Machu Picchu was the first day in a week that I started to feel better. It was the first time in a week that I was able to keep down more than a few bites of food. I was too weak to clamber around the ruins, so I had to be content to photograph it from the road. At least I avoided the $50.oo entry fee.
The 10 minute bus ride from the town to the ruins cost $12.oo. Some people have enough stamina to climb the steep switchbacks, but those youthful endeavors are behind me. At least I got photos of the place from an unusual angle.
Huayna Picchu looms above Machu Picchu. The Incas farmed the terraces on the precarious slopes. Can you imagine climbing up and down these slopes all day? It was hard enough for me just to look up there.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


My nephew Danny and I were canoeing far off the road system when I photographed these adult, and imm. Common Loons on Pepper Lake, on the Kenai Penninsula here in AK.
I was thinking about a possible loon painting when I shot this photo at Goose Creek earlier this summer.
The rock outcrops in this part of Goose Creek are above a hole where many salmon congregate. My friend Dan bought the property on the opposite bank and built a cabin/vacation home well back in the trees.
It's a simple painting and maybe I should have come up with a more interesting composition, but it is what it is. I have'nt come up with a title yet, but the paining is 9x12".

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hiking in Reverse

Today I took the usual Coastal Trail route, only in reverse. I started at the Chester creek Greenbelt, and walked down to Westchester Lagoon, and on to the coast.
From left to right are two Greater Scaup, a Green-winged Teal, and a mallard. I'm not sure if These are adult females, or immature birds, or just moulting adults of both sexes. They were at Spenard Crossing, which is between The Chester Creek Green Belt and Westchester Lagoon.
A scaup stretches it's wings. I was anxious to photograph some birds with the new camera, but today was heavily overcast with light rain. So I could not get much in the way of action, or very sharp images.
I was very surprised to see such young scaups this late in the season.
A Widgeon with slightly older young.
She had five babies in all but they would'nt stay close together for a family portrait.
A colorful island on Westchester.
I like the texture of the water surrounding this Red-necked Grebe.
There were hundreds of Short-billed Dowitchers on an island in Westchester. Along with Canada Geese, and a few scaup.
I could not get as close as I would like so I had to content myself with various group shots.
This is an idyllic scene with all the flowers.
What I really wanted to do was photograph terns in flight but there were none on Westchester. There was also very little to be seen on the coast.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


If you read this blog on a regular basis, you will know that I bought a Fujifilm S1800 about two months ago. I was attracted to the camera because it had an 18x optical zoom, and it was on sale. As I have stated before, I lamented that it lacked manual focus and manual zoom. It also proved to be excruciatingly slow. I tried to give it a chance to win me over but that did'nt happen. I think I have a buyer for that one.
About three weeks ago I got my latest issue of Audubom Magazine. There was an add in there for Olympus binocs and cameras. Olympus just came out with a superzoom camera earlier this year that has an astounding 30x optical zoom. I went on the internet to read some reviews of this amazing new camera. It turns out that it is not so amazing after all.
It not only lacks manual focus/ zoom, but it does'nt even have a viewfinder. Why would any camera manufacturer omit such a thing? When you try to look into an lcd screen in bright sunshine, it's like looking into a mirror. It becomes impossible to see what you are trying to photograph.
The internet reviews I read kept mentioning another superzoom with a 30x optical zoom. It is a Fujifilm HS10. 10mp and it does have an adjustable viewfinder, and both manual focus/ zoom. Lots of other nifty bells and whistles to boot. I could,nt pass it up so I ordered one through Amazon. It came today, finally.
The new Fuji HS10 is on the right, the wimpy Fuji S1800 on the left. I took this photo with my trusted workhorse camera that I have used for years. It is a Panasonic Lumix FZ-50. It has 10mp, and a wonderful 35-420mm, 12x optical zoom made by Lieca. I would be loyal to Lumix, but the FZ-50 was the last decent camera model they have produced, and they quit making that. They dropped manual focus/ zoom. Shame on them. It's very difficult to do any decent wildlife photography without manual controls.
The next few photos are a comparision between the Lumix and the new Fuji. This photo was taken from my balcony at the camera's widest angle 35mm, with the Lumix.

This photo was taken from the same spot with the fuji at it's widest angle, 24mm.
This photo was taken by the Lumix at it's greatest magnification, 420mm, 12x. The electric company is in the process of burying the power lines and they have made a mess.
This photo is the Fuji at it's maximum power, 720mm, 30x zoom. So it has a wider wide angle, and a stronger zoom. The following photos are just a few macro shots from around the house taken with the new Fuji. There is also little or no delay when the shutter button is pressed.

Grass seed head.
I dont know what these are.
A four leaf clover.
Flowering moss. I like using superzooms better than Dslr's because there is no lens changing nor lugging around a bunch of camera equipment. They keep getting better, and I have no delusions about becoming a professional photographer anyway.
Weather permitting, I will take the new camera to the Coastal Trail tomorrow to see what I can photograph.