Pictures of Jellyfish

Last weekend I went on a road trip to Omaha and visited the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.  Since it was a quick trip and I was there to see “The Book of Mormon” I didn’t bring the “good” camera, the Canon 7D.  I only brought my Canon S95 point & shoot camera and of course I was regretting not bringing the 7D once I got to the zoo.  But I did the best I could and I think I did get some OK photos.

Among other animals, I ended up taking a lot of pictures of jellyfish.  For some reason, I love to take pictures of jellyfish, even though they’re pretty much the same no matter what zoo or aquarium you’re at.  I love the way they move and their tanks are usually lit so that they glow bright against a pretty blue background.   They are almost constantly moving and end up either bunched in interesting formations or stretched out by themselves.  I just never get tired of shooting them.  Here are a few I took with the S95 in Omaha.

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Changed colors on this one to make it more interesting

Changed colors on this one to make it more interesting

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Dog Day Afternoon

The St. Paul Parks & Recreation Dept held its 2nd annual Bark & Rec Day a couple of weeks ago at Harriet Island Regional Park.  We dressed up our dogs Mikey (Pomeranian) & Lilli (mutt) as a cop & robber (Mikey looks good in black & white stripes being a gray & white dog) and headed out for some doggie activities. The event was really fun – we got swag bags for each dog full of bowls, treats, food, and toys.  There was a dog parade, an agility course where you could try out the various stations, an off-leash area, a fashion show (yes, for dogs!), some games for both dogs and people, and a very energetic demo of the Minnesota Disc Dog Club.  Our dog Mikey ended up winning 3rd place in an underwater hot dog eating contest (the hot dogs were underwater, not the actual dogs) in the small dog category and his prize was a ribbon and a toy.  Several vendors were there also, including some people who sell beer for dogs (Mikey had 2 cups!) and our friends from The Woof Room who were excited to see Lilli & Mikey again.  I wish we had stayed long enough to get some fashion show pictures but I did enjoy trying to get some good shots during the disc dog demo.  Those dogs are fast and some can jump so high that it’s amazing.

Mikey enjoys some beer for dogs

Mikey enjoys some beer for dogs

Lilli in her police costume

Lilli in her police costume

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The dog is so high, he's barely in the frame

The dog is so high, he’s barely in the frame

Flying dog!

Flying dog!

Animals Two by Two

Recently I made the annual summer visit to the Fawn-Doe-Rosa animal park in St. Croix Falls, WI. I don’t always get great shots there so I always take my camera but don’t count on anything.  This visit I actually did OK and got some nice shots of the deer and especially the fawns, which are pretty skittish since they’re so young and not yet used to people feeding them.  When I went through my photos, I noticed that I got a lot of shots of animal pairs, which is of course breaking a “rule” in photography that says you should have 1 or 3 or 5+ subjects in a shot, but never 2.  Here are some of the animal pairs photos, and the rest of the images from that visit can be seen on Flickr here.

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Snow Dog

My Pomeranian, Mikey, loves the snow and cold.  This is really good for me, since lately I’ve been letting him out in the backyard and then FORGETTING ABOUT HIM.  Seriously, what is wrong with me???  It’s happened several times in the past week.  The other day he was out there for almost 90 minutes because I let him out and then left to go out to lunch.  I even told myself he was in the house before I left because I thought I’d remembered seeing him.  The high temperature that day was 17 degrees with a windchill of 0.  Yikes!  Fortunately, he hasn’t been harmed and doesn’t even usually start to bark to be let in until he’s been out there for quite a while.

Today we had a snowstorm and I took my camera outside in the backyard to see if I could get some shots of Mikey in the snow.  It was a little bit difficult at first since he was having too much fun running around the backyard at top speed.  But eventually he got tired and I was able to get some portraits.

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Cat Portrait Collage

Back in October, I was at a pumpkin-decorating party and met our hosts’ 2 giant grey cats for the first time.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember the cats’ names.  But of course I had to get photos of them so I took just a few pictures while they happened to be sitting still.  I’ve been wanting to make some better collages than what I can do in Picasa and yesterday I found this free site called Fotor and starting playing with it.  Came up with this very small collage which isn’t really the best but I was rushed for time.  I ended up using the “stitch together” technique (which is not the same as panoramic stitching) since the pre-built collage templates had odd sizes for the photos.  Still need to play with everything on the site a bit more and I did like some of the features, such as being able to make rounded corners.

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Goodbye Pogo

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December 1999-September 2012

Two weeks ago, we put down our 12-year-old rat terrier, Pogo.  He had cancer in multiple places in his body that was growing quickly.  We spent about a month thinking about it so it was a little bit tough on all of us, knowing that he didn’t have much time left.  This picture was taken on his last day with us, actually right before my husband took him to the vet.  My daughter wanted to do certain things before he went, so we gave him a bath, changed him out of his regular collar into this red one so we could keep the other one, and went out in to the backyard to take some last photos.

Of course, I immediately decided that I would do a photo book of Pogo pictures where I could also record our favorite memories of him.  I started one on Shutterfly but the project has briefly halted because I need to dig up all my pre-digital photo prints and get them scanned.  Pogo was 9 months old when we got him in the summer of 2000 and I was still over 2 years away from getting my first digital camera.  Seems like such a long time ago when you think about it in technological terms.  I also discovered the limitations of my date-based photo organization system, as I spent quite a bit of time searching through 10 years’ worth of digital photos for any that I had taken of the pets.  I haven’t yet found a more efficient way to tag or organize photos so maybe I need to think about redesigning my photo processing workflow a bit.

Mikey – his tongue is sticking out a bit so in this photo it looks like he has really big human-like teeth.

We miss Pogo a lot, and we’re grateful that we have our other dog, Mikey, to cheer us up.  Mikey is so cute that I would love to take more photos of him, but he isn’t very good about sitting still unless he’s asleep so I need to work on trying to get more shots of him.  I’m thinking that a fall leaf pile photo shoot is in order and also one in the winter since Mikey loves snow.

 

Lucky Tiger Portrait

My husband’s family was visiting us a couple of weeks ago and we took them around to places such as the Renaissance Festival and Como Zoo.  Of course I’m always up for a trip to the zoo and wanted to see if I could get a good picture of the tiger since my daughter has decided tigers are her favorite animal.  The problem with this zoo is that the tiger’s outdoor enclosure is far below the viewing area and the tiger is often pacing around so it’s difficult to get good shots (or she’s asleep).  However I got lucky and she decided to climb up to the rock right outside the glass window and take a nap.  I was able to get a shot decent enough to put on a canvas for my daughter’s room and got another picture to add to my animal portraits photo book.  Win-win.

Polar Bears Up Close

I’m very lucky to live close to Como Zoo, a small, free zoo right in the middle of the city of St. Paul.  The zoo has had polar bears for a long time but just finished a large project remodeling their enclosure to make it much bigger and more natural.  I was at the zoo last weekend and was able to get very close to the polar bears so captured some shots I’ve never gotten before, even in the middle of the large crowds of people packed into the smallish viewing area.

I had to deal with the usual dirty, thick glass issues but was able to stand right at the window for a while and snapped away as the bears walked around, played with each other and drank water.  One polar bear is visiting from the flooded Lake Superior Zoo while repairs are made – she escaped her enclosure briefly during the flood and was brought down to Como Zoo to live temporarily, along with 2 sea lions.  Below are some of the best shots – I cleaned them up as well as I could but the glass was definitely an issue.  Still I’m glad to have these shots since I’ve never gotten any like this before.  This is why I don’t mind going to the same zoos over and over – you never know what new behaviors or animals you’ll capture.

Nice side profile. Their heads are so much more bullet-shaped than brown bears’.

Two bears hanging out by the pool edge. They kept tussling with a third bear that was off in a training area through an open door.

Drinking from the pool – basically 2 feet in front of me (behind glass).

 

 

Photo Book Project Update

This year our photo club launched an individual photo book project.  We kicked it off a couple of months ago and brought in a variety of photo books to show the other members and discuss ideas for making books.  Since it’s an individual project, everyone who wants to participate will be making his or her own book but at the end of it we’re going to bring them in and share.

I was able to decide on a subject pretty quickly: animal portraits.  I have a book of animal portraits by a wildlife photographer named Andy Rouse which was my inspiration.  Although instead of traveling all over the world photographing mostly wild animals like Mr. Rouse did, my photos will be largely from zoos and other local places.  I’ve started going through my collection and have already pulled over 30 photos that could reasonably be considered portraits.  I’m not sure how many I’ll include in the book – doesn’t feel like enough yet but who knows?  I’ve added several new ones that I’ve taken this year and hope to add more new ones before I’m done.  I’m also not sure if I’ll leave the photos processed as is, or try to reprocess them in a more uniform style.  Once I have everything collected, I think I’ll experiment a bit to see what works the best.

I love making photo books but I’ve only made them through Snapfish before and they’re usually just yearly recaps of my family & vacation photos.  So I’ve looked at them more as a documentation function and not as a more artistic work, although I do love how everything looks so much nicer in an interesting and fun layout.  This time I’m going to try laying out the book in Lightroom 4 which uses Blurb to print the book.  I’ve never done this before but saw several Blurb book samples during our photo club kick-off meeting and was impressed with how nice they were.

In the meantime, I’ve been buying discount coupons for Shutterfly and have been making some books through there documenting my daughter’s first years.  I of course already have photos from those years, but they’re in the “old-fashioned” albums when I used to actually get the prints and stick them in the books.  So I’m using the coupons to make some fun books of her as a baby to catch up to the years when I actually started making the online books.  At the end of this year, I’ll have made at least 4 photo books in total, possibly more if I can.

Kitten-Sitting

Last weekend we got to cat-sit our neighbors’ new 7-week-old kitten, named Violet Shadow.  She is so tiny and cute and is just full of energy.  My own cat is 5 years old now and I’d forgotten how intensely they play as kittens.  Violet never walked anywhere – she always ran, jumped or scampered.  I took my camera over to try to get some photos of her but wasn’t too successful since the light was low and Violet never stopped moving.  I did have to resort to using flash a few times but didn’t have my good one so it came out a little harsh.  She’s so adorable though and my daughter had a great time taking care of her.

Fawn-Doe-Rosa Animal Park

Last weekend I visited Fawn-Doe-Rosa, an animal park in St. Croix Falls, WI.  I’ve been there a few times and it’s a great place to get up close to a lot of different animals.  The park is very well-maintained and all the animals have a lot of space and seem well cared for.

My favorite animals to feed are the white-tailed deer who roam the property freely.  While we often see deer around here, you don’t usually get to feed and touch them.  This weekend the deer were all very friendly, even though many of them had recently had fawns.  The fawns mainly stayed behind the fenced areas – they’re very skittish at first.

We also got to see a wolf “puppy” who was only 4-5 months old (see previous post).  The young man handling him kept calling him a “timber wolf” which isn’t an actual species (it’s just a basketball team here in Minnesota).  Most likely he is a gray wolf, perhaps a Mexican Gray Wolf.

Whenever I visit Fawn-Doe-Rosa, I’m always torn between wanting to take photos and wanting to feed and touch the animals.  So I end up doing a little of both and trying to get new shots of the same animals each time.