Saturday, February 26, 2011

Big Cat Rescue

   Today I toured Tampa's Big Cat Rescue for the first time. I learned a great deal about the exotic animal trade and the abuse that is dealt these animals by some of our fellow human beings. Whenever I hear about this type of thing it breaks my heart, be it dogs or tigers, what is wrong with people? Have the people involved no hearts? It is just so difficult for me to understand what goes on in their minds.  Big Cat Rescue is doing their part to help out animals abandoned by owners who thought it would be cool to have a an exotic cat as a pet-only to discover they couldn't handle it.

  Animals come to Big Cat Rescue for a variety of other reasons as well. The following is copied from their website and tells you who they are and what they are about:

Who is Big Cat Rescue?
  • Big Cat Rescue is the largest accredited sanctuary in the world dedicated entirely to abused and abandoned big cats.
  • The nonprofit sanctuary began in 1992.
  • The sanctuary is home to more than 100 exotic big cats
  • The cats at Big Cat Rescue are here for a variety of reasons, including:
    • Abandoned by owners who wrongly thought they would make good pets
    • Abused by owners in order to force them to perform
    • Retired from performing acts
    • Saved from being slaughtered to make fur coats
    • Rescued as babies after hunters killed their mothers
  • Big Cat Rescue has 16 species of cats, many of whom are threatened, endangered or extinct now in the wild, including:
    • Tigers, Lions, Leopards, Cougars
    • Bobcats, Lynx, Servals, Ocelots, Caracals
  • Big Cat Rescue’s mission is to provide the best possible home for the animals in our care and try to stop the flow of exotic cats needing sanctuary by educating the public about the plight of the animals and supporting stronger laws to protect them.
  • The non-profit organization is:
    • Accredited by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries
    • Certified by Independent Charities of America as a “Best in America Charity”
    • Member of the World Society for Protection of Animals
    • Rated 4 Stars (highest rating) by Charity Navigator for sound fiscal management
  • The sanctuary is situated on 55 acres in the Citrus Park area of north Tampa.

  To visit Big Cat Rescue you must arrive at a pre-scheduled time for a tour, which lasts about 90 minutes.  Taking photos was a bit of a challenge as all of the animals are behind fences like this one. Their enclosures are large and they have a good life here but they are unable to survive in the wild where they really belong because they were in most cases bred to be pets and have never lived in the environment they are supposed to.

  Yes there was a cage in the above photo, somehow by putting the focus point on the cats eyes it was made to disappear-I am not sure exactly why this but I am not complaining!

  In this one I decided to simply try to get both eyes within the same square opening in the fence, worked out pretty good!

  I will wrap up this post with my favorite photo of the day, how I love it when an animal appears to look directly into my camera! I find it hard to stop looking into those eyes an the B&W treatment makes it all the more striking. Big Cat Rescue is located at 12802 Easy Street Tampa near Citrus Park Mall and can be reached at. 813.920.4130.  The cost of the tour goes to hope a great cause and is well worth it!



Thursday, February 24, 2011

Out of the Darkness-Ybor Practice Shoot

  Last night I traveled to Ybor City to practice night photography with off camera flash-I have limited experience in this area and interested in learning as much as I can about it. I started off a little frustrated but ended up with a few images I really like. All photos wee taken with Canon 580 flash mounted on a monopod with a Gary Fong Lightsphere diffuser attached to it.  I am amazed to see how powerful one 580 Flash can be in the dark!
I love taking jumping photos, or just freezing motion in general as I am able to capture moments that go too quickly for the human eye to appreciate.  Here my model for the evening, Charles jumps up in the air in and alley very popular for photographers in Ybor.  There was some visible light and walls in the background which I blacked out in Photo Shop to make this shot into what I wanted it to be from the start.

  Okay believe it or not Charles was sitting in total darkness here. I mean, it was so dark that I could barely see him much less his expression as I took a series of photos here-the flash was about 8 feet from him and the Diffuser produced a beautiful and even wash of light. 

  I have no idea what this thing Charles is sitting in/on was! It was round and had four legs and was wobbly just sitting in the alley.  I really liked the silver sheeting propped up against the wall behind it. I did not intentionally make everything besides his skin Black and White here, it is simple the way it really was!

  This is I think my favorite taken at the end of the night. I positioned the flash along a wall to the left of Charles. When he looked straight at me his face was in split lighting,half lit, half dark. I asked him to turn his face toward the light a little and got just what I wanted, Rembrandt lighting!  I really enjoyed this practice shoot and am eager to learn more about this area of photography. There is always so much more to learn!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Florida State Fair

  Yesterday I went to the Florida State Fair for the first time. I have never seen so many rides or concession stands!  It put any carnival I have ever been to to shame that is for sure! I did not eat any of the many deep fried offerings but have to admit some of them smelled pretty good!  For some reason the most poplar prize at the fair seemed to be these Jamaican looking bananas!

  I really don't get it! Here are a few other photos I took during the day-it is the night photos however that I am really excited about!

  It was a beautiful day and a wonderful night as well.  This was my first time photographing lights like this at night and I had a lot of fun learning how to get it right!  The best subjects were the ferris wheels.

  These were all taken using my tripod at shutter speeds of 2.5 or 3 seconds. Results differed based on how fast the wheel was moving. I did very little with these in Lightroom/Photoshop except to increase the brightness and vibrance.

  Later I captured the shot below of the same wheel from across the festival grounds.

  It is so fascinating how the camera sees 3 seconds of movement as opposed to how our eyes do! 

  It was so much fun to set the timer, let the camera do its thing and then see what popped up on the screen, usually I know what it should look like, here with lights and so much movement each exposure was to some extent a surprise!

  This is one of those rides where you sit in a swing and are whirled round and round. The lighter swirls you see are the swings believe it or not! I love the way this looks pretty much like a crazy mushroom about to blast into space!

  Same ride but during this exposure the lights were red!  This was so much fun!  Below are another set of Ferris Wheel photos, a different one this time.

Finally I leave you with a photo I did play with in Photo Shop, I used the HDR toning filter on this one and really like the effect I was able to achieve!  

  Looks like I was walking around in some kind of crazy futuristic sci-fi movie!  I can see from now on I will showing up at whatever carnivals pop up in the area to capture more images like these!  The Florida State Fair at the Fairgrounds off of I-4 runs through this coming Monday!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Dreary Day, Funny Photos

  Last Saturday I wanted to go to the zoo to take advantage of the promotional $5 admission for the day and get some more shots with the 70-300 L lens I had rented. It was a very cloudy and gloomy day and I almost didn't go. In fact when I got there it was over crowded and soon to rain. I didn't take too many photos at all. Cloudy and bright is great for photographers but cloudy and dark-not so good!  Yet I am glad I did go because I did end up with these entertaining shots of one of the orangutans! They are always fun to watch and usually I find myself trying to get good photos of the babies but on this day it was an adult putting on a show. I believe all of these photos are of the same animal but check out the many different looks and poses I was treated to!

  This resembles a lot of humans who spend too much time staring at the television lol!

  Ha ha! So glad I happened to be in the right position to capture this moment. I have never seen one make this particular face before.

  Enjoying some hay.

  Decided to try a black and white treatment with this one and it took it to a whole other level! I love that she appears to be looking right at me!

  Finally this may be my favorite as she is looking a little sassy and I love sassy! Great expression in the eyes!
I love photographing animals, you never really know what they are going to do and it is so much fun when they surprise you and you capture moments that would otherwise be forgotten!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Myakka River Park/Venice Beach

  Back as promised with a few more photos from my mini trip this week. Friday I went to Sarasota's Myakka River Park. It is a huge park and is quite nice but I was disappointed in the lack of wildlife I encountered. Still I was able get at least capture a few nice landscape shots from the parks 'bird walk' which featured very few birds when I was there :( I dont get the chance to take these kinds of shots too often and the sky was beautiful so I am really happy with these!

  Beautiful isn't it?

  Now the above photo is not beautiful, nor is it of the best quality but it is interesting and bizarre. I saw this bird up in a tree eating something. I was kind of afraid to see what it might be when I zoomed in on it-expecting a bloody mouse-instead I saw that he had a fish head! Don't think he got much to eat off of that!

  The only other animals I was able to get close to were some buzzards hanging out on the side of the road. They sure are ugly! At this point I decided to drive to the nearby town of Venice, Florida. The main street there features a nice array of shops and restaurants and right down the road is Florida's version of Venice Beach-check out the view:

  Felt pretty nice to be standing here on an 80 degree day when it is 12 degrees up north :)  Fortunately there were some cute and funny birds hanging out here.

  These guys seem to do this looking down thing a lot. I like them they are cute.

  He looks a lot happier here!

Big mouth small tongue lol!

  Finally we have this little guy. I had never seen birds like this before moving here. At first I had to hunt for where their eyes were! They are called Black Skimmers-I was hoping they would have a more interesting name than that they remind me of clowns.  This is the only photo I could get of one by itself as they were tightly grouped together. They are more shy than the the other birds who didn't seem to mind me getting too close.  I tried and failed to get the kind of quality photo I want of a sandpiper-those little dudes really can run! They must sleep very well at night :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sanibel Island

  This week I rented a high end Canon 70-300L lens and drove to Sanibel Island, FL to try it out and to go in search of giant White Pelicans. These pelicans migrate to Florida in the winter. I have seen some at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary where injured birds are taken, but never in the wild. I read that they cold be found at the 
J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island.  This was my first trip there. It didn't take as long to get there as I thought-2 hours to nearby Fort Myers and an additional 30 minutes to the island.

  Well the good news is I found my pelicans, the bad news though was that I could not get nearly as close to them as I wanted to!  There is a 5 mile wild life drive at the refuge, you can pretty much pull over wherever you want to look around. Flocks of these pelicans were located in two locations on sand bars like this.  Sanibel Island is a beautiful place! I drove all the way up and down it and parked at a few of the beaches.
Here are some other photos I took on my trip.

  I really love using this 70-300mm L lens-I think it is the sharpest one I have ever used. Even though it is a bit heavier than the non 'L' lens I own of the same length and is fatter I find it easier to hold still hand held. Most of the these photos were shot at f5.6 and look at the beautiful blur or 'bokah' behind this flower!

  I thought this photo looked best in Black and White-the sun was bright on the water but the reflection of the bird and lines on the water just looked really nice.

  As it grew later in the afternoon the light turned golden and beautiful. I love the way it makes these shore birds on the beach practically glow!

  Just before sunset I headed to Lighthouse Beach which features the Light House seen on the first photo on this post.  Here I found some of the 'regular' pelicans I regularly see in St. Petersburg.  This lens does a fantastic job of capturing them in flight!

  This little pump was a part of the fishing pier there. I loved the way it looked with the setting sun shining upon it!

  After spending the day at Sanibel I drove about an hour north to stay the night in a hotel in a town called
Punta Gorda. The next day I drove to Myakka River State Park near Sarasota before driving home. Sanibel is a wonderful place and I would love to spend a weekend there soon. The Thomas Edison/Henry Ford estates are in nearby Fort Myers and there are a lot of intriguing shops and restaurants I did not have the chance to check out. Tomorrow I will share some photos I took at Myakka river.