Saturday, September 30, 2006
It always amazes me how artists can freeze moments in time so vividly (ah..., to be so talented). This bronze of a hula dancer was one of many stunning bronzes in the lobby and on the grounds of the HiltonWaikaloa on Maui. I can almost hear the Hawaiian chanting and drum beating when I look at it.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
I so totally hate being caught in one of those incredible photo moments without my camera. I used my camera phone to snap this picture of tonight's sunset from the parking lot at work. It does not even come close to the true, jaw dropping glory of that moment. I stopped and just stared at the incredibly bright blues and oranges in the sunset which you almost never see in that combination (a true hand holding opportunity, wow). I suspect the awesome orange clouds are a result of the fires going on in Los Angeles that put up particulates into the atmosphere creating the fiery orange clouds. I guess there really is a silver lining to almost everything.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Oh yeah, Sumatran Rhino's are herbivores aren't they? That's why this little Sumatran Rhino was having such a fabulous time munching on hay. He was admittedly very photogenic, walking the Rhino runway with lumbering Rhino grace. If any of you animal lovers out there are an expert on Rhino's, could you tell me what the purpose of all those layers of wrinkled, plated skin are for? They apparently still get sunburned, so it's not armor per se although it's probably pretty tough. Perhaps it's just Shar Pei envy (grin).
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
You think you had a bad day? This little turtle is about to make that sunbathing turtle think twice about hanging in his favorite parking spot. Just when you thought people had a corner on road rage, in comes the raging turtle! The little turtle not only chased the much bigger turtle off of his sunning spot but proceeded to chase him across half of the pretty sizeable pond. The little turtle didn't subsequently take the sunning spot and appeared to give chase for no apparent reason other than perhaps a general case of "cantakerosity." Last I saw him, he was chasing around yet another turtle. Do you suppose turtles have cranky days too...or was it just a case of some bad turtle food at the last feeding?
Monday, September 25, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
I found this Gulf Fritillary Butterfly flying around my passion fruit vine this morning. I believe that the Passiflora vine is a typical host plant for the Gulf Fritillary although I didn't know that their range extended to Southern California. It like the vine so much that I had time to run in, get the camera and snap a good dozen photos of it flying around the vine before it finally flew away.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Probably my biggest disappointment about Baja, Mexico was all of the trash and grafitti. The pond that this egret, a duck and a small grebe were swimming in was full of old beer bottles, plastic bags and other sundry trash. Oddly enough, I don't know if the trash is a result of Americans with their careless habits coming down to the Baja or if the Mexican Citizens just don't care about what would otherwise be a stunningly beautiful wildlife habitat. I suspect that it is a bit of both. The birds appear to survive in spite of it and their resilience is pleasant reminder that nature manages to get by even with our plastic bags and old beer bottles.
Some people manage to make careers out of the things they enjoy! We went out on a team building trip to Baja, Mexico with a company that runs ATV and dirt bike trips through the sand dunes and back roads of the Baja. The guides run tours and on off days, hang out and surf. Now there's a life for you. We did 30 miles in what can best be described as suped up lawn mowers on tractor wheels. It was fairly fun once you got used to the steering and up/down shifting with your feet. They actually haul derrier pretty good!
Thursday, September 21, 2006
In the midst of the dry Baja California desert, there are occasional streams trickling out of the mountains. Where there are streams and bogs, there is all kinds of life. That includes my one of my favorite subjects, dragonflys! There were huge green ones and bright red ones as well as tiny turquoise dragonflies that glinted in the sun. There were also waterbirds and ducks that seems oblivious to the trash and pollution festering in some of the ponds. Overall, it was in amazing contrast to the dry scrub and wild grass.
We went down to Baja to do some team building. We were riding all terrain four wheel vehicles all day and I'm pretty sleepy by now but managed to take a nice shower to get rid of all of the sweat and dirt.
On the way, we stopped at a little Mexican restaurant for some quick fish tacos. The Restaurant next door had a huge pile of discarded clams, oysters and cockle shells. When I went to Baja some 5 years or so ago, I remember the same clams being positively huge (perhaps 8 inches). They were still huge at about 6 inches but time does appear to have taken a toll on the clam population.
Monday, September 18, 2006
In the South of France, towns celebrate athletic town rivalries. In this case, Nimes (the host town) was hosting the competition at Les Arenes (the Roman Arena); and, hence, the Arena was closed to passing tourists (such as myself) in favor of the festivities. While the team from Nimes, dressed in red, looked fairly serious about the whole thing, the team from Mont de Marsan (a town in the Southwest of France) was truly having a festive time. They had painted themselves blue and paraded in front of the Nimes entrance beating on little home-made drums (old buckets, mostly), taunting the rival town before marching to their own entrance to raucous cheers. Overall, it appeared that a good time was had by all.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Santa Monica boulevard has got to be one of the gayest places in the states. They have rainbow flags flying in the median and even the luggage stores put out rainbow displays. Hmmm... Where did that rainbow come from anyhow? Was it from the Wizard of Oz and the Friends of Dorothy?
Friday, September 15, 2006
This is the town of Albion. The South of France has many small towns, a good percentage of which have nearby ruins of large castles and manors. Most were built out of huge blocks of stone. Some fortresses were even carved into the mountainside itself.
As opposed to the United States, where large cities sprawl seemingly forever across flat expanses of land, many of the towns in the South of France were built on the tops of hills and moutains where they commanded protective views of the surrounding countryside. The farmers would go down into the surrounding lowlands to tend to their fields and livestock during the day but spent the nights in the safety of tightly packed, often walled towns.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The last warm days of Summer are slowing fading into Fall and everyone, even here in La Redonne, France along the Mediteranean, is trying to get in some sun and oudoors activities before heading back to a dreary Fall/Winter of work. This photo was taken on the last day of the 6 week French Summer vacation. This group of divers at La Redonne, France were, waiting for a scuba boat to take them out to the dive spot.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
This one is for you science buffs. Remember that Darwin discovered an orchid in Africa (an Angraecum) with a long nectary. He had predicted, based on this nectary that there existed a moth that had evolved a similarly long proboscis to reach down into that lengthy nectary for food.
This moth (in Carry le Rouet) was buzzing around like a hummingbird, hovering from flower to flower. In the picture, you can see that it had a long, coiled proboscis that it would unwind to sip nectar from the bouganvilliae flowers. In similar fashion, there is probably a flower in the south of France that has a similarly long nectary that this moth regularly feeds on for which it evolved the long proboscis.
Friday, September 08, 2006
This old man was trying to get his dog to come into the ocean with him. Admittedly, the water at Carry Le Rouet (in the South of France, along the Mediteranean) was pretty nippy. That didn't stop this older gentleman from trying to go on a swim with his dog. The big furry dog, however, wanted nothing of it.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Fish are hard to take pictures of in the wild unless you can find one that's curious enough to stay close to the camera. Not so in the Seaquarium in Camargue where the fishes have nowhere to run. However, they ask that you not use a flash so it helps to have a digital camera that is capable of taking low light pictures. This picture is of an Apogon kuderni.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Seaquarium. Of course, I enjoy most aquariums. I wanted to see what the native mediteranean fish looked like. Ironically, there were many of the same fish genera that I've seen in the Pacific including things like goat fish, morays and trigger fish. They're not as flashy as their Pacific cousins but are still quite pretty.
I had thought that Europe, after thousands of years of civilization, would be jam packed with people. Cities would be butting up against each other and wilderness would be all but gone. However, what I found in the South of France was huge expanses of rugged, mountainous terrain, large tracts of whispering pines, wild flowers, waterfowl and all sorts of wildlife. Beyond the castles and the people, the countryside was very lush and beautiful.
This huge powder-blue dragonfly cooperated, albeit briefly, by posing on some dry kindling. There were also golden-yellow dragonflies that shimmered in the sun, deep rich red dragonflies and more butterflies than you could shake a stick at. If you go to Europe, by all means see the castles, but save time to hike in the forests and wetlands as well. You will be glad you did.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
There is a Provence hiking trail called Sentier des Ocres where the sandstone is banded in amazing shades of red, yellow, white and orange. The sandstone has eroded over the years and leaves the pathway covered in red-orange sand. As for me, I left with sneakers full of red-orange sand and orange toes on my white athletic socks. The path is lined with lush pines, chestnuts and wild flowers and is an easy hike from the parking area, providing some very dramatic and colorful views.
Friday, September 01, 2006
At one of the beaches, a woman in a wet suit had been diving for mussels and turbo-snails. The operculums gleamed a beautiful orange-brown in the sun. She told us they were called the Eyes of St. Lucy (les yeux de St. Lucy) and were used to ward off the "evil eye." The snails, she said, where great boiled and served with aiole (kind of a garlic mayonaise sauce).
We went to Carry Le Rouet, a small town along the Mediteranean coast, with a nice harbor. There are a few beaches further along the coast all of which were very popular today. I'm told that they get much more crowded in the Summer although they seemed quite full as it was. The water was fairly cool, perhaps in the high sixties, and was a beautiful, clear blue. A cool ocean breeze kept the air very comfortable in spite of the cloudless skies.