Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Back in the Saddle?

Several weeks ago I was flipping my way through old reference photo albums; hoping to find something to inspire a painting. As I have stated many times in the last year or so, I have been struggling through a serious creative drought. I just don't have much enthusiasm to paint.
I went out and got a real job, and tried to find some inner tranquility with the decision to abandon my life's main passion. This is not the first time that I tried to quit painting, but it is the most profound dearth of artistic desire I have ever experienced. Anyway, this photo of a Torrent Tyrannulet in Peru struck me as a potential subject for a modest painting. One minor quibble I had was the bird's lack of color. I felt that a tropical subject ought to be more colorful.
Since it was a type of flycatcher, I realized that I could use the same pose on a different species of flycatcher, like the above Ornate Flycatcher from the Ecuadorian cloud forest.
I have painted Ornate Flycatchers before, this was an 8x10" boring little painting that I eventually painted over. The birds are not so bad, but the setting of the painting is lame, especially the leaves. Ornate Flycatchers come in two forms, those with rufous tails from the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains, and the darker tailed birds from the west slope of the Andes. My photo is a west slope bird, while the above painting depicts east slope birds.
This is the painting that I have been working on for the last few weeks when I could find the time. It is an 11x14" acrylic on gessoboard, so far untitled.

The difference between this painting and others that I have tried to paint in many months is that this one felt so natural. I was almost back to my old self while I did this, mostly in just two days.
Do you remember this 8x10" Colima Pygmy Owl painting that I posted a few months ago. It was the first painting that I managed to complete since last summer sometime. The owl was passable, but I hated the setting it was in.

I struggled to come up with a better composition but ran out of enthusiasm with this version. Any better? No. Time will tell if I ever come back to it again.
I'll end this post with a last close-up of the Ornate Flycatcher that I completed today.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Snow Birding

Today, Saturday, Feb 23, was the annual Anchorage Audubon field trip to Seward. The photo above is the best photo that I have been able to get of a Song Sparrow so far. I'll take what I can get-with gratitude. It was near the alley where I saw the Brambling and Siberian Accentor on the last day of January. See the Skipping Work post for that story. If only I could have gotten equally good photos of those two Old World vagrants.
I could not get a photo of the Siberian Accentor, but Seward birder extra-ordinaire Carol Griswold managed to get the Siberian Accentor and the male Brambling, (along with a Varied Thrush) in one photo. She graciously gave me permission to use her photo when we met up with her today. To see more incredible close-up photos of these birds and many more, see her wonderful blog; Sporadic Birder, here. She is a very good writer as well.

This is my humble photo of a Varied Thrush and Common Redpoll from today. We saw both the Siberian Accentor, and I believe both the male and female Bramblings but my photos were dismally bad.
There were plenty of Common Redpolls everywhere.
This photo compares the difference between two closely related species; Common Redpolls and a Pine Siskin in the lower left.
One more photo of a drowsing redpoll.

Today was only the second time that I have seen, Gray-crowned Rosy Finches.
After checking out the small passerines in town, we headed down to the beach. As you can see, today was a snowy day, (most of it anyway). This is just a few of the many birders who showed up.

Resurrection Bay was dead calm, and most of the seabirds were very far away from shore.
This might be a terrible photo, but it is the only time that I have been able to photograph Black Scoters. They are by far the least common of the three Alaska scoters.
Like usual for Winter in Seward, there were many Barrow's Goldeneyes like these three males. There were also lots of Common Goldeneyes, Surf Scoters, Common Mergansers, some Marbled Murrelets, And only a few Common Murres. Other stuff too.
We also saw lots of Harlequin Ducks and I was able to get my best photos of them so far. Too bad the sky was so heavily overcast.
I think that these photos could be the basis of a decent future painting.

There were also a lot of Bald Eagles loafing about. I did'nt try very hard to get a good photo of them. This one seemed to be sunning itself when the sun briefly emerged from the clouds.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Living Rocks

A few weeks ago I did a post about Prince William Sound with superb photos taken by my friend Dan Holayter. Check it out if you missed it. This post features more excellent photos that Dan shot in Northern Arizona. The photo above displays the rich colors and well preserved petroglyphs of the rocks along the Green River.
At least some of these must represent the local Desert Bighorn Sheep. It's anyone's guess as to what the meaning of it all may be. Many different pre-columbian cultures made petroglyphs in the Southwest. They are easily found in numerous places in Arizona.
Who would expect to see nesting Great Blue Herons in the desert? They usually nest in small colonies.
Exploring the slot canyons of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah are truly a surreal natural experience. Dan's son Danny and daughter Tara are preparing to take a magical mystery tour of Antelope Canyon, without the music of the Beatles.
Words are inadequate to describe the visual rhapsody of sculpted rock and glowing tones inside the canyon.
I'm trying to avoid the cliche' of comparing these scenes to a cathedral. No cathedral comes close to the majesty of this place anyway.

I guess that people who suffer from claustrophobia would have difficulty relaxing inside a slot canyon, especially if they had ever experienced a flash flood. This is not the place to be after a rainstorm during the summer monsoon season.

Moving on from the intimacy of Antelope Canyon to the overwhelming spectacle of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Isis Temple, the Battleship, and the Colonade are the names of three of the formations in this photo. I used to know the names of many more of them. I have painted a scene from virtually this same perspective. Alas, I have no photos of that colorful painting. Regretfully I misplaced nearly all of my own photos of the Grand Canyon long ago.

Notice the trail leading out to Plateau Point in the shadowy, lower left hand corner of this photo? It's a relatively easy stroll to walk out to the point if you have good knees. Getting back up is a bear. I have hiked down to the bottom of the canyon in three different places. I'll never have the stamina to do that again.

Dan heard rumours of there being California Condors somewhere nearby, but he can't find them no matter how carefully he scans the distant horizons.
Sub-adult condors are much easier to find in the canyon than adults. I used my cloning tool to remove the annoying wing tags in this photo.
Condors had not yet been re-introduced into the canyon when I left Arizona. I have never seen a wild condor, but I did reach into Topo's cage and touched it when he was the only captive condor, back in my teenage years. He tried to remove my finger but I was too fast for him.
I'll end this post with a parting shot of the canyon in all it's splendour.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Maggie in Tibet, er Nepal

Maggie teaches school in Oman. She spent her Christmas vacation in Nepal. She is in South Africa as I write this. The photo above is Christmas morning sunrise, high in the Annapuma mountain range of Nepal.
Nepal, like Tibet, is a high elevation country in the Himalayas, squeezed between India and China. Bhutan is another small country nearby. Maggie is used to the heat of the Arabian desert. She was cold in Nepal. The photo above is a view of Maccha Puchre, (Fishtail Peak).

A nice shot of the Christmas morning mist.

This is a photo of her guide, Ganga. He led her to his home village. A well composed photo, IMHO.

My favorite photo of Maggie's trip. This is Ganga's wife fixing lunch in her very modest kitchen.
Fishing boats on Lake Phewa, near Pokhara. Maggie is an art teacher. As you can see, she is also a helluva good photographer.
If I read her report correctly, Maggie's lodging was along this narrow alley. What a lovely atmosphere for  making pleasing photographs.

The ancient, or at least old, buildings of Durbar Square in Bhaktapur. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A low tech pottery factory. All done by hand.
All is not low tech in Nepal. Here is a Bhuddist Monk studying his scriptures with an iPad.

                                        Incense carrier.
Making garlands for a local festival.
Maggie captured a real slice of life with this photo of a young street urchin staring wistfully at a happy group of school boys.
A young monk being distracted from his devotions by the strange foreign woman with a camera. Notice the prayer flags in the background. I can't wait to see Maggie's take on South Africa.