Photography: Flowers in my Garden

 

I am fortunate enough to have a really pretty garden. Even though it is now almost mid-winter in Johannesburg, the Aloes, Strelizias, Daisies and even the Clivias are flowering!

It hasn’t been a particularly cold winter so far – none of those bitingly cold evenings, and no frost as yet. I’m sure the bad weather is ON ITS WAY!

I grabbed the opportunity to snap some photos this afternoon. First a gorgeous yellow Thistle:

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Double Glass Optic 50mm,  f/4, 1/400th sec, ISO 3200

My husband the Landscape Architect tells me this is called a Crocosmia – I believe him, because I don’t know any better…

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Double Glass Optic 50mm, f/4, 1/50th sec, ISO 200

This shot of a Strelizia is quite abstract – I love the contrasting colours:

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Double Optic 50mm, f/4, 1/125th sec, ISO 125

The Clivias are flowering way too early. (The Plastic Optic lens gives them a glowing, ethereal look which I find quite interesting.)

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Plastic Optic 50mm, f/4, 1/500th sec, ISO 100

This beautiful specimen is not growing in my garden. My dear Husband gave me two dozen red roses for our second wedding anniversary (he CAN be romantic when he tries…)

I took these two photos this morning as the sun came up:

Canon60D, 50mm prime lens, f/1.4, 1/60th sec, ISO 640

Canon 60D, 50mm prime lens, f/1.4, 1/60th sec, ISO 500

Some blooms from earlier in the year: first a magnificent Barberton Daisy:

Canon EOS 1000 at 263mm, f/5.6, 1/200th sec, ISO100

And an Agapanthus head, up close. The series of photos had an incredibly 3-dimensional “popping” effect. If you have these flowers in your garden try photographing them from above with a wide-angled lens. Get as close in as you can to achieve the same effect:

Fuji Finepix S9500 at 29mm, f/3.9, 1/150th sec, ISO 200

Photographing flowers can be very rewarding. Here are my tips, based on my experience:

  • Fill the frame with the flowers, edge to edge
  • Use a wide aperture so the background is blurred.
  • You can use either a wide-angled lens, or a macro lens. Both will give great results
  • Don’t photograph in bright sunlight – the best times are early morning, late afternoon, and on cloudy days – avoid strong shadows, unless it’s for effect
  • Bright sunshine on red, yellow or orange flowers totally blows out the detail. It really is best to shoot them in the shade if you’re after sharp details.
  • Use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze movement – flowers move unpredictably even in a slight breeze. If you have to hold the stem to keep the bloom still, make sure your hand is not in the shot!
  • Be aware of the composition. Diagonals will make the picture more interesting
  • Look out for strongly contrasting colours and make the best of them.

 

If you have any tips for shooting flowers, I would be delighted if you would share them with me 🙂

 

Photography: (Lion)sex – Rated PG

 

Okay, I know some of you may have found my post (Lion)sex in the city(zoo) a bit of a let-down in the end – a bit of an anti-climax, you might say 🙂

I’m sorry about that – I didn’t want the blog to be in bad taste.

However, friends and family who have seen the photo of the lions actually doin’ it don’t think it’s so terrible…. and I don’t want to be accused of false advertising!…..so here goes….

(if you have a six-year-old sitting next to you, perhaps you should put your hand over his eyes about now….)

Naughty beast!

 

Photography: (Lion)sex in the city(Zoo)

 

A blogger once told me that if I wanted more hits on my blog, I should write about sex!

Does writing about a couple of lions having sex count? If I include pictures?

We have a lovely Zoo here in Johannesburg; Sunday was warm and sunny, so we took the kid, the camera and a couple of sandwiches and had a pleasant day wandering around, looking at animals and of course taking photos.

I hope you will like these. Yes, there are some (tasteful)photos of lions having sex 🙂

Not this one – this is an alert suricate (or meerkat),  guarding his burrow. These are sociable little mammals found only in southern Africa. The name “meerkat” is Dutch for “lake cat” – strange, because they don’t live near lakes, and they are not cats!

Canon 60D, 70-300mm @ 225mm, f/6.3, 1/800 sec, ISO 160

Meerkats are quite comical – their expressions can be quite human… I wonder what those two on the right are thinking?

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 300mm, F/6.3, 1/800 sec. ISO 500

A pair of ducks:

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 275mm, f/6.3, 1/800 sec, ISO 320

What can you say about a couple of ducks….? Not much really…. I liked the symmetry of the photo, that’s why it’s here 🙂

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 300mm, f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 5000

Nile Crocodiles. Very common, very dangerous. It is NOT a good idea to take a dip in a river in many parts of Africa – these 5 to 6 metre long reptiles are infamous for leaping out at the water’s edge, grabbing an unsuspecting animal (or human) and dragging it down into the depths, never to be seen again. They wedge the dead carcass under a log or stone, wait for it to rot, and then tear it to pieces…..They have very strong jaws, but they can only bite, not chew….

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 225mm, f/10, 1/800 sec, ISO 6400

A much happier picture! This old female African Elephant has been at the Jo’burg zoo for many, many years. She is one of the main attractions.

And now, as promised, the sexy lions!

These two were “playing” under a bush…

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 200mm, f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 3200

When they walked out into the open, the male was nuzzling the female’s hind quarters, and then he took her tail in his mouth. I had never seen or heard of this behaviour before…. but it could obviously only mean one thing…

Canon 60D 75-200mm @ 220mm, f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 1000

Note the huge scratches on his nose! The lady must have put up a good fight at some stage….

I believe lions mate up to 40 times a day for the four days the female is on heat, so it’s probably just as well each  mating lasts only about half a minute.

Canon 60D 75-300 mm @ 165 mm, f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 1000

Magnificent beasts!

 

Will Global Warming cause the Earth to Explode?

Global warming is certainly a “hot” topic at the moment ( 🙂 silly pun….sorry…)

We have the scientists on one side, laying out the facts as we understand them, presenting the research, and calling for action before the harm we’ve already done to our environment becomes irreversible. We are all familiar with those arguments – we see them in the news, in the scientific publications and on Discovery Channel every day.

On the other side, we have the deniers, flatly refusing to accept that the climate is changing, or that human activity is causing these (probably permanent) changes. Some even claim that their god would never allow the climate to change, because their holy book tells them so:

Genesis 8:22, ‘while the earth remaineth seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease,’

(Nobody is saying that climate change will result in the cessation of cold, heat, summer, winter, seed time or harvests anyway, so I don’t see the relevance).

Climate CHANGE is not climate ABOLITION – perhaps these people need to get their heads out their backsides and read something OTHER than the bible?

They were wrong about THIS too!

I was very amused to read this article which claims that global warming will cause the entire earth to EXPLODE!

“Bioresonant” claims that there is a nuclear reactor at the core of the earth, and it requires cooling (as all such devices do). Unfortunately, the anthropogenic warming of the atmosphere is preventing the cooling of the reactor – and pretty soon we will have a runaway nuclear explosion, which will destroy the entire planet!

Doctor Tom Chalko, MSc PhD,  published his theory in the NU Journal of Discovery in April 2001. (Chalko appears to be the only contributor to this “Journal.”) He maintains that life on Earth is only possible because the core is efficiently cooled; there is a balance between the interior heat, the heat received from the Sun, and the heat radiated away into space.  If the atmosphere becomes too polluted, too much heat from the Sun will be trapped at the surface,  the interior cannot cool down – and the result?

The most serious consequence of such a ”meltdown” could be centrifugal segregation of unstable isotopes in the molten part of the spinning planetary core. Such segregation can ”enrich” the nuclear fuel in the core to the point of creating conditions for a chain reaction and a gigantic atomic explosion.

He claims that the polar icecaps are melting from underneath (increased volcanic activity due to the rising temperature of the core) not because the air around them, and the water they’re floating in, is getting warmer. (That’s why an ice block melts, floating in a glass of white wine, on a warm day – it’s the nuclear fission reaction at the CORE!)

Do you doubt that an entire planet can explode? No, really it can! Greek mythology confirms it! The planet Phaeton disappeared “in a flash” – that must have been a runaway nuclear fission explosion at its core, caused by alien-induced atmospheric warming, right? What else could it have been?

(According to Wikipedia, in Greek mythology, the name Phaeton was the personification of the planet Jupiter.  I know from my own personal experience that Jupiter can be incredibly bright sometimes – perhaps it was hit by a large comet and became temporarily even brighter? Jupiter tends to attract large objects entering the Solar System because of its mass…. the comet Schumacher Levy strike is a perfect example.)

Dr Chalko goes on to claim that earthquakes are becoming more frequent and more violent as a result of the increasing heat of the nuclear reactor within our planet. He also claims that the core is spinning 4% faster than the earth spins on its own axis. And, the centrifugal force of this spinning is causing the radioactive isotopes to accumulate in the centre and they will soon reach a critical mass and we will have a NUCLEAR MELTDOWN! There will be nowhere for that heat to go —- volcanoes will explode, the atmosphere will be darkened, we are all going to DIE!!!

Not.

Anyone with half a brain can see right through this argument, but apparently not everyone HAS half a brain…. When the theory first popped up, some people actually took it seriously!

So, let’s look at the facts:

  • The earth has a solid ( mostly iron) core, surrounded by a molten mantle and a thin, solid crust.
  • The solid core is hot – hotter than the surface of the Sun – but that is only about 6 000 degrees C. (The Sun’s real heat is not at the surface, but in the centre (15 million C) and  the corona surrounding it which reaches 1 to 3 million C)
  • The Earth’s inner core is rotating slightly faster than the outer core, but it would take more than 1000 years to “lap” the planet (not 20 – 25 days, as it would if it were rotating 4% faster than the rest of the planet!)
  • Most of the earth’s heat is stored in the mantle, which is still cooling from when the planet first formed 4.5 billion years ago or so.
  • The inner core is cooling down, and this is causing it to expand by about 1cm every 1000 years. This expansion releases heat which is also warming the mantle.
  • Most (about 90%) of the heat of the earth’s interior is the result of the radioactive decay of isotopes such as Potassium 40, Plutonium 235 and 238, and Thorium 232, contained within the mantle and the crust.
  • In several billion years the earth will have cooled completely and will be cold like the Moon – but the Sun will probably have expanded into a red giant star by then anyway, so we don’t need to worry – we’ll all be toast. (So much for Genesis 8:22)

I’m sure you are relieved to hear that there is NO nuclear reactor accumulating fissionable amounts of unstable isotopes at the centre of our fair planet  🙂

As for the atmosphere – global warming has so far caused a relatively small overall increase in global atmospheric temperature. Yes, it is sufficient to cause accelerated melting of the ice caps and glaciers, but it is not enough to prevent the cooling of the mantle.

Has volcanic activity increased recently? In the last four decades, between 50 and 70 volcanic eruptions were recorded per year. Since 1790, the average number of large eruptions per year is between 1 and 4. There is no evidence that inefficient cooling of the mantle might be causing a greater number of volcanic eruptions. (There is some research available that suggests that melting glaciers remove pressure on the mantle, and this may cause increased up-welling of mantle material, and  increased volcanic activity).

Vatnajokull Eruption

Global warming is a threat to the way humans and animals currently live on earth. Rising sea levels will flood coastal towns and drown small islands. Many species will no doubt become extinct unless they can adapt to a warmer environment, and those that DO adapt will become more plentiful.

The threat is to the inhabitants of the Earth, NOT to the Earth itself. “Mother Earth” will continue to exist – she has survived meteor strikes, strikes by minor planets, blasts from supernovae, magnetic field reversals, solar mass-ejections, super-volcanoes and more. She can survive the loss of our greedy, violent species, along with many others, and continue on in her orbit about her bright yellow star, for many millennia to come.

Global warming is a HUMAN problem. WE are the ones who will suffer, and it’s up to US to do something about it. The alternative is to adapt, along with the other animals….

* * * * *

P.S. Tom Chalko’s ideas are the wierdest Global Warming-related ideas I’ve ever come across.

If you have heard of any other strange ideas about the changing climate, please leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you 🙂

 

 

Photography: Clarens, Free State.

When I first started writing this blog, I planned to include some of my favourite photos, taken over the past year…. So, here they are!

My family likes to holiday in Clarens, a small town in the northern Free State, in South Africa. It’s a lovely little place, jam-packed with art shops, family restaurants, quaint curio shops, antique clothing shops… all the stuff I love to look at. As an added bonus, the town in nestled in the mountains, and is a stone’s throw away from the magnificent Golden Gate National Park.

Oh yeah, they also brew their own beer – a delightful light lager you can drink all day, and then still find your way home without falling in a ditch.

The place we normally stay in is on a golf course. They have the most beautiful little dam where I love to go at sunrise and sunset, and am often rewarded with shots like these:

1. I was up before sunrise, taking photos in the very soft pre-dawn light. As the sun was rising, I was facing the other way…then turned around and saw THIS beautiful sight!

2. This is taken later in the morning – a favourite spot for a bit of lazy fishing….

 

Image

3.  The same day

4. Six months later, in the same spot. Taken in the evening. I love the colours of the sky and water!

Just to the south of Clarens is the magnificent Golden Gate National Park. Absolutely pristine Drakensburg area, and a wonderful place for photography.

I’ll show you those pics next time 🙂

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For those who enjoy the technical details:

  1. Fuji Finepix S 9500   f/3.1 1/70sec ISO200  8mm focal length
  2. Fuji Finepix S 9500   f/3.1 1/150sec ISO200 8mm focal length
  3. Fuji Finepix S 9500   f/3.4  1/100sec ISO200 11mm focal length
  4. Canon PowerShot SX30 IS f/4 1/400sec ISO160 4mm focal length
By cathywagnerblog Posted in Nature

Dolphins are People too!

Do dolphins and whales deserve the same rights as humans?

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has proposed a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans. They believe that many years of research into dolphins and whales has shown that they have sufficient intelligence to justify them receiving the same ethical considerations as human beings. In other words, we should treat them as “non-human persons.”

I find this idea fascinating! We have learned a great deal about the intelligence of whales and dolphins:

  • they appear to understand how things work, and how to manipulate objects
  • they recognise other members of their species, and recognise individual behaviour
  • they recognise themselves, and parts of their own bodies, in a mirror – an ability we thought was limited to apes, elephants and humans
  • they have good auditory, visual and spatial memory
  • they learn easily, often without explicit instructions, but through gestures and body language
  • they can imitate sounds and behaviours – one of the highest forms of social learning

Whales, dolphins, orcas (Killer Whales) and other cetaceans are highly social mammals. They live in complex groups, with long-term relationships, and co-operative networks that rely on learning and memory.

Orcas live in very stable family groups, whose basis is a matriline – mothers and their offspring. Male orcas never leave their mothers, but female orcas may leave to form their own matrilines if they have many offspring of their own.

They have a culture, in that they have regular breeding sites, feeding strategies, as well as a complex language with vocal, visual, tactile and chemical communication. Orca families can be identified for generations by the calls they use. They use these calls to prevent in-breeding in the pod.

There are many observed cases of cetaceans behaving in ways we would consider decidedly human:

  • in Patagonia, an elderly orca with a damaged jaw was fed and kept alive by members of its group
  • in Iceland, fishermen and orcas have been known to work together – the orcas guiding the fishermen to the best catches, and receiving part of the catch as a reward
  • in captivity, dolphins who were rewarded with fish for keeping their tank tidy deliberately ripped up a paper bag, and used the pieces one at a time to make a mess, tidy it away and get a reward!

I’m sure you can add to the list of things you’ve heard about dolphins and whales that make you go “Huh?! That’s amazing!”

Here are a few more facts that you should know before you make up your mind whether cetaceans really are worthy of the title of “non-human persons”:

Cetaceans have large, complex brains – comparable in mass, relative to body mass,  to those of humans, elephants and apes. A greater brain to body mass ratio may mean there is more brain available for functions other than running the body..

Dolphins are voluntary breathers, even when asleep – as a result, they sleep with one half of their brain at a time – the other half stays at least partially awake to breathe and look out for predators. That seems to me to be a very highly evolved feature that we humans could use!

At birth, a human brain is 28% of its eventual weight as an adult brain – elephants are 35%, bottle-nose dolphins are 42.5% and chimpanzees are 54% of their adult brain weight. This is an indication of how much learning the animal accumulates while young.

The discovery of spindle cells (neurons which play a central role in the development of intelligent behaviour) in some cetaceans (humpback, fin, beluga, sperm and killer whales, and  bottle-nose and Risso’s dolphins) suggests convergent evolution between them and the only other species known to have spindle neurons – humans, elephants and the great apes.

Doctor Lori Marino, of Emory University, says:

“The discovery of spindle neurons in cetaceans is a stunning example of neuro-anatomical convergence between cetaceans and primates. The common ancestor of cetaceans and primates lived over 95 million years ago, and such a highly specific morphological similarity as the finding of spindle cells is clearly due to evolutionary convergence, not shared ancestry,”

“This is consistent with a growing body of evidence for parallels between cetaceans and primates in cognitive abilities, behaviour and social ecology.”

If we do recognise the “personhood” of cetacean mammals, a few things will have to change:

  • Whale hunting will have to be outlawed, because it will be considered an act of murder
  • Dolphins and orcas will no longer be kept in captivity and made to perform tricks for our amusement – Dolphinaria around the world will have to be closed and the inmates released back into the ocean
  • The ocean environment of cetaceans will have to be protected
  • The Japanese practice of herding dolphins and pilot whales into bays and slaughtering them en masse to sell their meat will have to cease
  • Likewise, this Danish slaughter will have to stop

Personally, I think this Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans deserves support. There is a wealth of good, scientific evidence to back it up, and I would love to see these obviously intelligent mammals treated with more compassion and respect.

 

The full text of the Declaration issued by the AAAS:

Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins

Based on the principle of the equal treatment of all persons;
Recognizing that scientific research gives us deeper insights into the complexities of cetacean minds, societies and cultures;
Noting that the progressive development of international law manifests an entitlement to life by cetaceans;
We affirm that all cetaceans as persons have the right to life, liberty and wellbeing.
We conclude that:

  1. Every individual cetacean has the right to life.
  2. No cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.
  3. All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
  4. No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual.
  5. Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.
  6. Cetaceans have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
  7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.
  8. Cetaceans are entitled to an international order in which these rights, freedoms and norms can be fully realized.
  9. No State, corporation, human group or individual should engage in any activity that undermines these rights, freedoms and norms.
  10. Nothing in this Declaration shall prevent a State from enacting stricter provisions for the protection of cetacean rights.