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.