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Vapor Tales

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NC Zoo

Several of my more recent posts are about our adventures in North Carolina. It seems we found a way to make everything interesting. One place I know weíll both miss, however, is the North Carolina Zoo. This is the largest natural habitat zoo in North America and the second-largest in the world. It splits the attractions into two distinct sections, North America and Africa. The North America side is slightly smaller and feels more traditional, while the Africa side is vast, with one of the largest open areas Iíve ever seen at a zoo. That gives it a unique feel. Both Ashley and I prefer this side.

Ashley absolutely loved the baboon exhibit. There were a few very small babies in the mix which captivated her and many other zoogoers. For a while, we were also fortunate enough to see a few baby gorillas. Ashley always gravitates toward the primates. They're her favorite. All of them were within a few shorts walks of each other in the Africa side and we spent most of our time bouncing among them during each visit.

We noted how active the animals seemed. Weíve made a point to visit zoos and wildlife preserves every place weíve visited and lived, as much a possible at least, and without question, the animals at the NC Zoo were the most active weíd ever seen. The cougars prowled back and forth and played together. The grizzly bear was very active, playing for hours through the afternoon with barrels, plastic balls and a variety of other toys many of us would struggle even to lift. The black bear was always on the move. Certainly the primates were busy climbing, running, rolling and playing and the otters were always good for a show. We never really got to see much of the polar bear, but I canít blame her for hanging inside, on account of the weather at its worst, not coming close to bordering her natural habitat. I believe they now have a second polar bear. Perhaps they spend more time outside now.

The first photo below shows a young girl, standing on the glass at one of areas designated for viewing the gorilla exhibit. She had her hand on the glass. I absolutely loved how she was viewing the gorillas with such curiosity and intrigue and the gorilla, on the glass at the bottom, was doing the exact same thing in reverse. The pair faced-off for a couple minutes and I felt it almost criminal not to capture that moment. Cartier-Bresson would have been proud. I had certainly found the decisive moment. I love animals, a lot! This photo is a great reminder to everyone that animals have personalities, can express emotion and add up to much more than the sum of their parts.

The second photo shows the grizzly bear, playing in the water in his environment. I think this was during one of his attempts to retrieve a leafy green vegetable from one of his toys. This is a tip-of-the-iceberg shot, because his head, while huge, accounts for only a small part of his massive body. It extends below the waterline forever. Heís probably touching the bottom.

The animals here are happy, playful and well cared for. To those who find themselves in the neighborhood of Asheboro, NC, visit this zoo!

NC Zoo
NC Zoo

Idaho Moments

The first trip Ashley and I had made back to Idaho since our first Christmas in Austin came a couple years ago when we were living in North Carolina. We were headed back to the Gem State for my sisterís wedding.

In my life I have taken exactly five wedding jobs, no more, no less. Thatís a number I will likely take to my grave. They were all successful and I captured many wonderful photos, but I donít enjoy those shoots. I remember looking forward to attending a wedding without the responsibility of handling the photography. As it turned out, the photographer my sister and brother-in-law hired was the sister of a friend of mine. I wasnít even aware she was in the business, but I had reviewed her work, recommended her from the pool of photogs my sister sent me and ultimately liked what she produced.

That said, knowing I hadnít been back to my old stomping grounds in a while, I thought it would be fun to take one of my cameras. I brought my 35mm Canon Elon II and I want to say a cheap 50mm lens, pejoratively referred to as many things, including the fitty, the nifty fifty and the plastic fantastic. Most photogs have one of these lying around somewhere because of their relatively low cost and sufficient low-light capability. Mine was the f/1.8, but a very expensive f/1.4 is also available.

I took a photo here and there, when I saw something I liked and had my camera at the same time. I came home with about a roll and a half of photos. I scanned a few and sent one or two back to my sister then left the rest in my archive. When I was scanning the photos from our hikes, I thumbed through some of the contact sheets and found a couple photos from that trip which I hadnít scanned. So, I made some high-resolution scans, toned them and posted them here for you.

The first is of part of the main lobby of Red Lion Templins Hotel, the only three-star hotel in Post Falls, Idaho. I have fond memories of this hotel from childhood. For one, it sits right on the river near the largest, and one of only a few, boat launches on the river. Most of the other boat launches are dirt, very small and, in many cases, private. We drove past Templins all the time on the road and motored by it just as often on the river, moving to and from the launch.

The hotel itself is nothing amazing, but it works. The rooms are standard and the bar is underwhelming, but the dining room is fantastic. I say that because one entire wall is glass and offers a view of the boat slips below, adjacent to the short, sandy beaches near the hotel, across the often-busy river from a pine tree-covered hillside with million-dollar houses scattered among the trees. This view is amazing at all hours of the day and should it ever approach mediocrity, a walk down to the shore in the fresh Idaho air reignites the spark for weeks.

The second photo shows one of my sisterís dogs, Hero. He is the nicest dog one hopes never to piss off, not because of a history of violence, but because the thought of his potential should he feel the need to become a threat escapes few, and I submit a stupid few.

This was the first time Hero and I had met in person, though I had seen photos and we had Skyped a few times so he knew my voice. I love the way this photo shows him in a fierce light, with a sweet expression. Itís the perfect pair for a dog named Hero.


Ansel Rasmussen

I dragged out my Bronica for a couple hikes. I had some expired film I wanted to burn and thought I could probably find something to shoot along the way. I scanned in a few of the better shots yesterday. Theyíre nothing amazing, but they do show the landscape well. Thatís one important quality of black and white photography -- it makes exploring the shapes and textures of a photograph easier. Sometimes color can be distracting.

That said, I promise to get some color back up here really soon, hopefully, some color shots of the this beautiful land. Colorado has some of the most vibrant colors on Earth and they appear at all times. Sunrises and sunsets are naturally brilliant, but Iíve seen similar shows of color at other times throughout the day and theyíre often accompanied by snow-capped peaks or jagged, tan-shaded slopes, adorned with blankets of pine trees. Do your best to visualize this, or Google it, and Iíll see if I canít wrangle a few photos of my own to post in the next month.

The first three photos are from Eagle Wind trail at Rabbit Mountain. It's a relatively short hike, but fairly dynamic with several different views, changes in terrain and a variety of wildlife. We've seen deer, come across bobcat tracks and during certain months, bald eagles fly near part of the trail.

The final three are from Button Rock Preserve. The reservoir here, in combination with the streams leading from it along the trail, make for excellent fishing, but require a specific license and are only open for a few spring and summer months. Early in the hike, which is an easy walk along a wide, dirt road, we passed a couple groups climbing the rock faces. Iím guessing the climbs were in excess of 100 feet, but the climbers appeared well in control. Once we reached the reservoir, we had to hike from the bottom, where the water was blasting out, filling the system of streams below, to the actual reservoir above. There, we found rocky shores, picturesque points, a trail that leads around water and pine trees that stretch up the mountains in every direction.

Colorado Hiking
Colorado Hiking
Colorado Hiking
Colorado Hiking
Colorado Hiking
Colorado Hiking

Turning Art Into Art

Once in a while, I open Photoshop and play around. Usually I'm just killing time between activities, or while waiting for my hard drive to finish backing up, or allowing a large file to finish downloading. On rare occasions, I get sucked in. This happened not too long ago, when I had open an HDR image I had fashioned from a few shots I took of the Haw River in North Carolina right after we moved there. For some reason, I started creating and modifying some of the brush sets I had loaded to resemble different features in the photo. Before I knew it, I had a sketch layer, a canvas, and was well on my way to painting this photograph. After a couple hours I called it good. I never meant to make this and Iím sure itís not my best work, but I thought you might find it interesting so I decided to post it here. Enjoy!
Haw River
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