Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Friday, July 29, 2011

Shades of Gray, Again

I painted this 16x20" wolf painting in 2009. The name I chose for it was, Shades of Gray, Wolves. I'm pretty sure I did another wolf painting called, Shades of Gray, earlier, but I can't quite remember for sure.
 At first I was pleased with the painting except for two things. The back end of the pale wolf was too squat, and once again I went overboard with the grass in the foreground. This is another of the paintings that got set aside for a facelift.
I spent as much time reworking this painting as I did painting it in the first place. The difference in color is due to differences in light conditions, more than any changes in color.  There were a million, little alterations I made until I decided it was good enough.
I'll probably make more changes someday although it is not so bad.
The painting's name will have to be changed, but I'll worry about that later.
Last evening I took a long, liesurely walk through Russian Jack Park, looking for something interesting to photograph. I could'nt find much so I concentrated on capturing the mood of the verdant, summer forest.
The predominate, or most noticeable, plant is Devil's Club.
I intentionally underexposed these photos in an attempt to add a little mystery to the scene.
These are the delicate, lace-like, Horsetails that grow in deep shade.
These flowers were growing along the edge of Chester Creek. The blue in the background is the water. I'm too lazy to look up what species they are.
A Red Squirrel scolded me for straying off the path.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bathing Beauties and More

No, not voluptuous women. I'm no voyuer. These are just beautiful shorebirds. When you can't find anything new and exciting to photograph, then try to get photos of mundane things doing something interesting.
Today I went back to the coastal trail, and Westchester Lagoon. It's a good escape from traffic and city noises. In a small slough next to Westchester, there were lots of shorebirds like this bathing, Greater Yellowlegs.
It was really enjoying itself.
There were also some bathing Lesser Yellowlegs, but I'm not sure if this is one of them.
Whether Greater, or Lesser, it sure is a cute little guy.

I'm almost certain that these are Lesser Yellowlegs. There were plenty of both species present, but it's hard to tell the size from a photograph. The beak length is also not an obvious field mark in photographs.
There was also a cute, little Green-winged Teal sifting through the mud. It's been a month or two since I've seen a Greenwing.
Along with the Greenwing, there was an American Widgeon family, sans the father. A Short-billed Dowitcher is in the background.
A nice portrait of a fat, Short-billed Dowitcher in non-breeding plummage.
A preening yellowlegs with a Least Sandpiper in the background.
Today was the first day this year that I have seen Least Sandpipers. They are the smallest North American shorebird.
There was a single, Spotted Sandpiper in Fish Creek, already in winter plummage. Spotted Sandpipers are almost identical to the Common Sandpipers of the old world.
These are fingerling salmon I believe. They were right at the meeting of Westchester Lagoon and Chester Creek.

A juvenile, Bonaparte's Gull.
A Common Redpoll in bad light. There were many other good photos I wanted to post, but I'll stop here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Brown and Gold

This is a third generation photo. Originally a color slide of a Grizzly Bear I photographed in Denali NP about 10 years ago. I had the slide made into a 4x6" print, and photographed the print with my digital camera. The original slide really looks great.
Most visitors to Denali are restricted to either riding in park buses, or only driving in the first 10 miles of the park. Most of the wildlife is much deeper into the huge park.
A fellow Alaskan artist, Shane Lamb had a special permit that allowed him to take a private vehicle into the park, and get out and walk wherever he chose to go. He invited me to come along.
 We saw many bears, and got very close to some of them. None were the least bit aggresive.This particular bear was slowly making it's way toward the road. We got out of the van and stood next to it with cameras at the ready.
A park bus pulled up near us, and we all got great looks at this bear as it crossed in front of us from about 15ft away. It never even looked at us. I have used this bear as a model for many paintings.
I painted, Season of the Bear, 18x24", in 2007. Although I was initially very pleased with the painting, there were a few nagging defects in it. First, it was too gloomy overall. The bear's face could have been better, and I overdid it with the grass in the foreground. The Caribou in the background did not look so great to me either.
The painting hung unsold in a gallery in Anchorage until that gallery went out of business. A real shame because that gallery was a landmark Anchorage business. This was one of the paintings that I recently set aside for a facelift.

I really went to town with the new revisions. First I lightened the background with a couple of light washes. That really does'nt show in the photo. The Caribou went away. Next, I added another bear, then completely repainted the original bear. Sometimes it's easier to drastically change an old painting than it is to start one from scratch.
Finally I repainted the entire foreground. I think I'll rename it, Brown and Gold. Which name do you think is better? It's still too gloomy, but it's typical Alaska weather.
A detail of the 'new' first bear.As usual, the photo just does'nt show the subtle details and colors of the painting.
For now I am well pleased with this new and improved version. I think it is one of my better bear paintings.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yesterday's Harvest

It was a harvest of photos only, too many good shots to include in one post. Like this photo of a hen, Greater Scaup with her two surviving babies. I suspect a grebe or a gull got the rest of her brood.
This Red-necked Grebe was still on the nest. Very late in the season.
I never could quite see what this grebe was catching.
Four of about 50 Canada Geese in one group.
There were also a few baby geese around as well.
American Widgeons.
These Gadwalls are newly independent young. The siblings still remained close together. There were four of them in all. Where were the parents? I did'nt see them.

This young Mallard was catching, (presumably aquatic insects) in the turbulent water where Westchester Lagoon empties into Chester Creek. It's mother hovered nearby just downstream.
I'm not sure if this is another young Mallard, or an eclypse drake.

Another shot of a very confiding, Greater Yellowlegs.
Not all the birds were aquatic. This is a cooperative, White-crowned Sparrow.
I got dozens of shots of this bird, and only quit when the light changed and became too harsh.
I'll end this post with some more random photos of young Mew Gulls.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Wild Coast

The coast around here is wild only if you share the perspective of an ant. The waves along the shore average about 4 inches high. Many lakes have bigger waves. It is wild because instead of beachgoers, there are lots of birds. At least in the summertime.
The midsummer coast. Most of it is closed to people because it is so dangerous to walk across the mudflats. Many people have been lured to their deaths by the harmless looking ground. On my first visit to the coastal trail I took one step from a boulder beside the trail onto the mud. My foot sank to my knee. It took all my strength to pull it back out. If I did'nt have that boulder for an anchor, I would have been trapped.
Today the mountains across the inlet were very visible. The snow never melts on those high peaks.

The mudflats are full of southbound shorebirds right now. There were thousands of them widely scattered across the mudflats. Most of them were Short-billed Dowitchers and Hudsonian Godwits, also yellowlegs. I also saw some Black Turnstones and lots of peeps too far away for my sorry eyes to make out.

Alaska has really great wild roses. These were growing beside the trail. They may be a domestic variety gone wild, I dont know too much about plants.
I tried my hand at photographing hovering, Arctic Terns.
I got better results than I usually get.

These photos may have been even better if there was brighter light, and if the terns had been a little closer. I am happy with the results that I got anyway.

There were a number of nearly independent baby, Mew Gulls.
I like the look of them so I shot many photos.
A protective parent warns me to keep a respectful distance. For a Mew Gull that means about an arm's length or so away.

I could'nt get quite so close to this mama Greater Scaup on Westchester Lagoon.
I did get pretty close to this Red-necked Grebe fishing just offshore. I like the water droplets.
When a subject is this cooperative, I just keep on taking photos. I'll probably post more photos of this bird later.
Another bird that could'nt be more cooperative, this Greater Yellowlegs. I got so many great photos today that I'll have to post more of them soon. I'm also going to try to visit the mudflats again this week, hopefully during high tide. That way I can get closer to more shorebirds.