Puma, Torres del Paine National Park

Not a care in the world

“Time to get up, I guess.”

This is the same female puma I posted recently.  She napped a lot and occasionally yawned.  Life is good for pumas in Torres del Paine National Park.

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Badger Cubs, Yellowstone National Park

Two badger cubs play-fight.

“I’m toughest. No you’re not.”

I spent  lot of time photographing these badger cubs and their mom in the spring of 2014.  I kept waiting for all three of them to show their faces to the camera and do something interesting.  This photo is the best I got.

I think these little guys were enjoying their little fight.  It’s more than just fun though. When their mom sends them into that big world away from her and the den site they’ll need to be able to defend themselves.   When I’ve observed a mother predator with only one offspring, the mother always take the place of a sibling and play-fights with the little one to teach it that life-saving skill of defending itself.

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Secretary Zinke Completes Review of National Monuments

This is a photo of a part of the Temblor Range in the Carrizo Plain National Monument. The San Andreas Fault runs through it.

Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Well, after waiting all this time, all we learn is that Ryan Zinke didn’t recommend the elimination of any of the 27 monuments to President Trump, but that he did recommend the down-sizing of an unknown number (above and beyond Bears Ears National Monument) and removing use restrictions for some or all of them.  I guess it could have been worse.   (Actually, it could still turn out to be worse.  It’s in Trump’s hands now.)

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Puma, Patagonia

Puma finishes a nice yawn.

“Back Off”!  No, I’m just kidding.  

This puma may look menacing, but she is just finishing off a nice long yawn.  She is called “Sister” and the few times we saw her she was very relaxed.  In fact, she did a lot of sleeping when we saw her, just like my cat, Rosie, here at home.

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Raven Nest, Yellowstone National Park

Young ravens scream for more food.

“Feed me”!

I was driving through the Golden Gate area of Yellowstone on May 24, 2015, scanning the cliffs for mountain goats as I drove.  I didn’t see any goats (as is usually the case), but did see this nest of ravens.  The babies were small (and with few feathers), but I made a mental note to check on them every time I drove through there for the rest of my stay in Yellowstone.   The last time I saw them was June 14, a few days before I headed home.  This photo was taken June 3.  Believe it or not, there are six of these little ravens in the nest.  These three just happened to be the most hungry when I shot this photo.  Note the blue eyes common to young animals.

I don’t enter photo contests very often because it is hard to win when there are thousands of entries, at least in the most prestigious ones, and judging is, understandably, very subjective.  However, I decided to enter the 2015 Yellowstone Forever Photo Contest put on by Nature’s Best Photography Magazine and the Yellowstone Park Foundation because Yellowstone is my favorite place and I have lots of images from there.  There were 11,000 entries from 31 countries.  This raven nest photo was awarded an Honorable Mention as was the black bear spring cub below.

Black Bear Spring Cub, Yellowstone

“Hey, I’m pretty big when I stand up”!

Two friends, Max Waugh and Daniel Dietrich, were also awarded honorable mentions.  In fact, Max won seven honorable mentions!  Click here for a list of all the winners and honorable mentions.

There are several reasons I tend to not enter many nature photo contests.  The first reason is that entering takes a lot of time and the odds of winning are very low because there are thousands of entries.  The odds are also low because of the subjective nature of judging. Art can’t be judged objectively.

Another reason is that some (but not the Nature’s Best contest) are designed to be rights grabs.  By that I mean they charge you to enter and they provide in the fine print that they can use your photos for any purpose with no compensation to you.  Think about that.  Instead of you getting paid by for the commercial  use of your photo, you in effect pay them to use it when you enter the contest!   What a great way for a magazine to get many years’ worth of photos without having to pay for them!  Read the fine print before you enter a contest!

Yet another reason I pass on most nature photography contests is because they strictly follow photojournalism standards.  In other words, the photo has to be a faithful representation of the original scene, except dust spotting, cropping, exposure changes and color balance are usually allowed because they were practiced in the film/darkroom days.  I have had to pass on entering many photos I like because a little twig is in the way of a clear facial shot.  I wish the dust spot exception were expanded a little to allow the removal of the twig that crosses an animal’s face.  Another solution would be to have an “artistic” category in contests where some manipulation is allowed.  After all, we are way past film and darkrooms.  Photoshop rules and I think nature photography contests need to recognize that.  If an artist were painting the same scene, you can be sure that little twig would never make it onto the canvas.

There are other concerns I have about nature photography contests, such as use of captive subjects and baiting, but I’ll save those topics for another day.

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Brown Bear Cub, Lake Clark National Park

Brown Bear Cub, Alaska

Looking Like a Pika!

When this two year old brown bear cub lifted its head and stared at me, it reminded me of a pika.  If you’ve ever seen a pika with its mouth full of grasses to be stored for the winter, you know what I mean.-

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Guanaco, Patagonia

A guanaco stares at an exotic species.

A guanaco in Torres del Paine National Park

When my two friends and I went to Torres del Paine National Park to photograph pumas in May of 2016 the animal we saw most often was the guanaco.  The guanaco is a camel-like animal.  It stands 3 to 4 feet at the shoulder and weighs 200 to 300 lbs.  It is the primary large prey species of the puma in Patagonia.

Guanacos live in herds composed of females, their young, and a dominant male.  When they see a puma, they alert the herd to flee with a high-pitched, bleating call.  We were always listening for those calls and we heard them fairly frequently.

In writing this I paid a quick visit to Wikipedia.  I knew that in addition to guanacos there are similar camelid animals called called llamas, vicunas and alpacas in South America.  However, I was surprised to learn that guanacos are the wild parent of the domestic llama.  Likewise, the vicuna is the wild parent to the domesticated alpaca.  In that way they are like the wild caribou and its domesticated descendant, the reindeer.  At least I knew that relationship.

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