Archive for July, 2013

Red Ibis

Red Ibis

Well, given that this is a zoo bird he is a little more pink than red or scarlet.  Like flamingos they get the red coloring from the crustaceans they eat so zoo birds tend to be a little less brightly colored than their wild counterparts.

The color comes about because they digest the shells, the chemical that turns your lobster bright red when you cook it is the same one that accounts for the coloring of ibis and flamingos.  It travels through the body and gets deposited in the feathers as they grow, so the pigmentation is not from a dye process like some might assume.

Interestingly enough there is a similar process in humans that has been fairly well documented. There are people who drink a liquid solution of colloidal silver  thinking that it will help prevent infections (pro-tip, it doesn’t), too much taken over your life span will result in gray-blue skin, it is a condition called argyria and this article explains the process.  People are weird.

Masked Lapwing

It is common knowledge that Australia has a wide ranging selection of venomous critters who can cause death in many nasty ways.  In this case we’re going to take a look at a bird who is equipped with a spur on its wing that many believed was venomous (because what animal in Australia isn’t?) but has been proven to not be.  It is, however, a pretty funny looking bird in a land of beautiful birds.

Meet the Masked Lapwing.  They are a common bird found all over wetland areas, with heaviest population in Queensland, Northern Territories and New South Wales

Masked Lapwing

It is reported that this wetland dwelling insect eater is shy, but my contacts in the Land Down Under report that  during breeding season it is a fierce defender of its nest and chicks to the point of driving off cats and small dogs with a barrage of attacks using that wing spur I mentioned.  It will try the “I’m injured over here” game to lure a predator away from its nest, but if that predator goes closer all bets are off and the lapwing will attack.

If they were a little more discriminating about where they nest this might not be such a terrible thing but from what I gather they will nest pretty much anywhere, including along sidewalks and in parking lots.  This had lead to a slight decline in populations in urban areas where outdoor cats are more common and predation of the chicks happens a little more frequently.  However overall they’re still pretty common, and about as silly looking as a bird can get.  Why did nature decide this bird needed a yellow robber’s mask?  I’m afraid to know.

Hell On Wheels

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to put together a post or two on the subject of women’s roller derby. I’ve been dragging my feet on doing so because quite frankly, my shots have been crap. My experience with photography up until now has been with subjects that are not moving or poorly lit; shooting a sport has felt like a completely new endeavor. What I’ve decided to do is to post the (admittedly mediocre) material I’ve got so far, because I’m excited to have a new and very different subject to blog about, and I would welcome any feedback on becoming better at this kind of photography.
What brings me to the topic of derby is my wife, who has been involved in rollersports for several years now. At first, it was mostly for fitness, but last year she tried out for and was accepted onto the Chicago Outfit, a local team.  I started attending bouts and found I really enjoyed watching the sport; and, after all, what’s not to like about women in hot pants trying to knock each other down? What  really sold me on the sport, apart from the spectacle, was the camaraderie I witnessed among the players, and the abandon with which they quickly throw themselves into their sport.
I won’t get into the minutia of the rules here; the basic gist is that the girls, five to each team, skate in a pack around a track. One on each team is designated the “jammer”, and scores points for each opposing team member she laps. The girls in the pack want to help their respective jammer through while blocking the other team’s, and there is where the fun happens. That is a gross simplification, but it will work as an introduction, and those wishing to dig in deeper can find a great Youtube video on the rules of roller derby here.
These, then, are a few shots from last Saturday’s bout between the visiting Chicago Outfit and the Ann Arbor Derby Dimes. (Chicago got trounced, but in derby there’s always an afterparty where you can drink your cares away.) Chicago’s in yellow. Mouseover on each picture provides additional commentary.


Hard Block


Hard Block 2


The Tractor-Trailer


Through the Pack

The Truth About Flamingos

Flamingos, are ridiculously colored, fluffy featherballs with stick legs and an angry looking curved beak, they remind me of  those ladies who wish they were high society and make every attempt to give the appearance of it, but they aren’t.  I suspect this is why hideous plastic versions of this creature adorn the yards of people who think tacky plastic lawn ornaments are classy and will make the place look spiffy.

Unlike the common depiction of flamingos, they are loud, quarrelsome and ungainly critters.  Which makes watching one bathe extra funny.

Flamingo bath time

Then you get that magical moment when all dignity is utterly abandoned and one falls over on its side.

flamingo down

Hey JimBob, how about a little help here?

I’ll be gracious here and mention that most creatures tend to squabble on a regular basis, especially when they are in large social groups that have nothing to do with how much the individuals actually like one another.  I will point you to the corporate office dwelling sub-species of Homo sapiens as proof of that.  With that said, flamingos are masters of being argumentative.  Here we have a three way argument between birds that were all initially upset at other birds that were not even involved in this rather loud argument.  Let me set it up for you:

3 way squabble

Nesting flamingo was actually mad at one of the birds behind her for stepping too close to the nest.  That bird retreated immediately but nesting was feeling cranky so she bit the foot of the next closest bird (on the left) who was squabbling with another bird outside of the shot.  He turned around and yelled at the nearest standing bird (on the right) all while nesting bird yelled at both of them.

Conclusion:  Flamingos are jerks.



It only takes one little crack in the cement to provide a toehold.  I suppose this is a fox grapevine’s version of mountain climbing.

Dirty Pig

dirty pig

He is just a low down, dirty pig.  A happy dirty pig.  A friendly dirty pig, and he wanted to be petted.



Simple geometries of symmetry and shadow to provide the receptive reader with a not-unpleasant sense of melancholia.


Classroom Gothic.




Green Door

green door exit

Top, Middle, Bottom



Floors, that is.

The bottom floor main stair way of Emerson High School.  This was once a building to be proud of.





emerson front stairs


Somewhere in the middle I found the boy’s gym, which was converted into a dance hall since this was an arts school.

Emerson Dance Hall

Up to the top.  Well, almost to the top, more to the top that the general populace was allowed into.

Emerson Main Stairway


Hopefully one day I’ll get the chance to explore this location again, but given how closely it is guarded I’m not holding my breath.



Iceland: Finale and Coda

I haven’t really wanted to get to this point, as finishing this series on Iceland would feel like the experience was finally lived and digested, truly over. But all things must pass, no? These are the remaining pictures I wanted to share, in no particular order. Mouse over each shot for additional commentary.





Glacier in Fog.


Snafelsnes Farm


Gulfloss Waterfall.






Rugged Western Cliffs.


Going Nowhere

bad stairs

I’m still tired from yesterday, and sore.  I had a couple of tumbles though thankfully didn’t injure myself  and no, these stairs were not involved.  Still, it was a day of going no where, the one new location we hit up was pretty much a bust.  We went back to Grief Brothers (above) and Edison School (below) as we had someone new with us.  They were suitably impressed with the ghost town status of Gary, but at this point Tabula Rasa and I are looking to new neighborhoods to explore in.


Random Moment

I’m preparing to head out on adventure, since I won’t be online tonight I figured I’d give you guys something to look at while I’m away.

Here is a horse pretending he is a tree.

dash is a tree

Reykjavik, Part II

The remaining shots of Iceland’s capital are a grab bag of whatever I thought was interesting. First, and most striking in my opinion, is the sculpture of a stylized Viking ship on the oceanfront.



Viking Ship.


Many buildings are made from corrugated steel, though that is not as sad and crappy as it sounds. They are uniformly well-tended and clean, and often painted in bright colors.





Reykjavik Kremlin


An homage to mariners further up the coast.




Finally, a panorama of the city from The Pearl, a striking building atop a hill that has a terrace which offers 360° views of Reykjavik.






With all the running around and socializing for summer time I haven’t had much time for running around abandoned buildings.  I miss it.


Emerson Hallway

There is certain peace that comes to me in the quiet of an exploration.   To be outside of the realm of the every day grind and to be off the radar of the constant surveillance you endure in a big city.  There is a freedom to be outside of the rules and regulations that are there to ‘protect’ you and constrain your curiosity.  I miss it.




Emerson Hallway 2


Tomorrow we’re going back out for another explore, we have yet to pick a destination but I am feeling impatient.  It has been over a month(!) since we were last out,  everything I have done since our last trip has involved either large crowds (the zoo) or close contact with people I hardly know (visiting the horses and goats).  I’m pining for the long hours of exploration in quiet disorder with only a trusted friend as my companion.  Tomorrow can’t come fast enough.


Did I ever mention that I like goats?  I think I may more than once.  Either way goats are awesome and recently on a little trip to the vast expanse of corn and soybean that is known as the rest of the state of Illinois I got the opportunity to play with some very well behaved goats.

goat herd


I was visiting a coworker’s family because she wanted some good photos of her two horses, they will be featured in another post.  While there we asked the neighbors if I could photograph the goats and they readily agreed.  It was an amazing experience as I am accustomed to either unsocialized goats that are mostly decoration for the barn, or the ill mannered bullies you find in petting zoos.

goat in grass

These little goats are ladies through and through.  They were very curious as to what we were up to but they didn’t jump on you or steal from you.  They just wanted to be petted and scratched, something I was happy to do in between taking photos.

young goat


Then there was April.  She has the goofiest personality of any goat I’ve ever met and given that they’re not exactly the most stoic animals to begin with that is saying a lot.  Many of my photos have her sneaking around in the background, checking things out.  She was terribly impressed with the camera, and while she wasn’t too sure about it she just had to make sure that she was the center of attention at all times.



Not that April has a monopoly on photobombing the other goats, mind you. goat photobomb

Reykjavik, The World’s Northernmost Capital

Reykjavik, far and away Iceland’s largest city, is home to a third of the island’s population. Pretty as it can be, it seems from a distance to be an aberration, a very colorful infection that has sprouted from a stretch of volcanic plain. The capital is not the reason for a trip to Iceland, but there is definitely a unique charm to a town that strives for cosmopolitanism in a country where the same families have lived on the same farms going back a thousand years. I wasn’t attempting to be as photographically thorough here as I was in the countryside; some of these shots are iPhone pics. Nonetheless, I think I got enough to present a little overview of the capital at the end of the world. This post, the first of two, will be pictures of, from, and in Hallgrimskirkja, a towering church that dominates Reykjavik’s skyline.


Lief Ericson guards the church.


The massive organ.


Overview of the city.

Green Naped Pheasant Pigeon

Green Naped PheasantBecause if you’re not sure what it is, name it for two different types of bird!  This fella decided it wasn’t hot enough and he needed to warm himself in a patch of sun.

Punk Rocker

Crested Wood Partridge

Meet the Crested Wood Partridge, also known as a Roul-roul.  He is the punk rocker of the partridge family, and you should see him dance!


Iceland Animals

One thing I knew before going on this trip was that I might get killed by a volcano or fall into a crevasse, but at least I didn’t have to worry about any predators. There aren’t any. This isn’t Australia, after all. (Apologies to Aussie readers, but y’all’s animal life is scary. It’s like God is trying to get the Pharaoh to let you people go.) All mammals in Iceland, as far as I know, came over with the Vikings and are primarily livestock. The sheep, especially, seem innumerable and roam wherever they please; it’s hard to see how the farmers keep track of them. Add in some goats and the singular Icelandic horse, and I figured I should devote one post to the animals found roaming the roads.


Happy Goat is Happy.


Biting Horse


Ram, Unfenced.




Media Room

Emerson Projector

Even after all these years I still want to call it the school library and not the “media room”.  In this school it was easy to remember the correct name, most of the books were gone but there were overhead projectors, film projectors, record players and cassette recorders laying around.  In one store room I even found an old video editing set up, for VHS.

How technology has moved on.

Emerson Library



The hammerkop is an African wading bird, one of its most notable traits after its hammer like head (hence the name) is that it is an obsessive-compulsive nest builder.  A pair of hammerkops will often build 3 to 5 nests a year, even if they are not breeding.

You might think that isn’t a big deal, it isn’t like bird nests are that complicated.  If that is what you’re thinking then you’ve never seen a hammerkop’s nest.  They are massive, sometimes approaching 5 feet across, have dense walls and a domed roof that they decorate with bright objects and sometimes other birds (such as weaver birds) will attach their nests to the exteriors.  The nest itself is so strong it can support the weight of grown human, all this for a pair of birds that combined weigh about 2 pounds.


amb 222reworked

I don’t know, something tells me these stairs may not be safe for use.

The Morning Blah

Tiger sleepy face-paw

Sleepy tiger doesn’t want to wake up.  I feel his pain.

Abandoned Farms of Iceland

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that the Idiot Photographer and I are quite fond of ruined and abandoned buildings. That said, I wasn’t expecting to find many abandoned factories in Iceland. So it was a bit of a surprise to come across many abandoned farms across the country. What they lack in size and scale they sure make up for in background, and I found myself in the familiar position of documenting ruins on a trip where that had been the furthest thing from my mind.



Seaside Ruins



Farmhouse Ruins