Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On Madeira

Pride of Madeira flower close-up, Madeira
Just home from a month overseas, lecturing on photography aboard the National Geographic Explorer on a voyage from Madeira to Bergen, Norway with stops in the Azores and around the UK.  Interesting trip, but God-awful weather - some of the worst in 50 years.  (Just lucky, I guess.) I had hoped to maintain this blog from the ship, but I either didn't find time, or a decent internet connection.  Instead, I will try and post some images and stories now that I am home (albeit briefly).

I had never been to Madeira before, and although warm and sub-tropical, the island has very little native habitat left. It has produced at least one showy native flower - now transplanted all over the world - known as the "Pride of Madeira."  I spent some time photographing it here - only to find out that it is a weed along the California coast...

I also made a pilgrimage to the small scraps of native laurel forest, known as the Laurissilva - a World Heritage area. I only had a few hours in secondary forest, but enjoyed the antidote to the expanding ex-pat suburbs of Funchal, the main city.  Here, I shot a Lobaria lichen growing on the forest floor.
More to come.

Lobaria, Madeiran Laurissilva

Nikon D3,  60mm macro and 14-24mm lenses

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dancing Pheasant

Chinese Golden Pheasant, Tresco Isle
I have simply not been able to post regularly these past few weeks, for although we have internet access on board the National Geographic Explorer, it is both spotty and expensive.  I have another week to go, and will try to keep up, but it may have to wait until I get home.

Wildlife has been elusive this trip – a few whales and dolphins at sea, and some seabirds on offshore rocks.  But on the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast, I had an encounter with a surprising bird – a Chinese Golden Pheasant. Not native to the UK, this gaudy bird roams free on these islands, presumably to brighten up the landscape. (or maybe for hunting…)

Either way, I spent about an hour trying to get a shot of  the pheasant, with its almost impossible array of colors – and eventually got this one, a moment of bizarre behavior that shows off the birds extravagant plumage. What’s he doing? No idea – maybe reaching up to have a scratch. But it was the best shot of the day.

On to Scotland tomorrow.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm lens

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Into Blue Water

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins, Madeira
We boarded our ship, the National Geographic Explorer, on the island of Madeira today - and set off into blue water. It didn't take long for a pod of dolphins to cross our path, anxious to play under our bow.
This is always a delight to see, but often a challenge to photograph. I know the drill : use a polarizer to cut the surface glare, darken the image using compensation to match the dark water, and shoot like mad, hoping to get something exceptional.  It didn't happen: the dolphins were there, of course, but there was just enough chop on the surface to break up the dolphins into almost unrecognizable shapes.  This one worked the best, but it is hardly a knockout.
I will have to content myself with a few decent, if unmemorable,  shots - but a fine memory, and an exhilarating day on the water. Not all bad. And there is always tomorrow,  as we sail towards the Azores.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm lens with polarizer