Cuddling Lion Brothers

Two lion brothers sleep side by side in the fading shade of a tree, Etosha National Park, Namibia

On my first evening in Etosha National Park (and third evening in Africa), my traveling companions and I came across two lion brothers snoozing away the afternoon in the shade of the only tree for miles. Although it was still early in the afternoon, we decided to hunker down and wait them out. We were somewhat close to a waterhole, and wanted to see if the lions would wander that way as dusk settled. While we waited, we were treated to many poses as the restless lions moved around.

Two lion brothers sleep side by side in the fading shade of a tree, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Armed with both my 100-400mm and 800mm lenses, I had plenty of options for focal length (especially given that I couldn’t get out of the vehicle and move around!) As the lions were more or less stationary, I was able to combine my 800mm lens with the fantastic 50 megapixel Canon 5DSr for maximum reach.

A lion stands in the shade of a small tree, escaping from the hot afternoon sun, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Based on the length of their manes, these lions were definitely young, and seemed to enjoy each other’s company. At time ticked by, their main reason for movement was to get up and walk a few feet when the shadow of the tree had moved sufficiently to no longer provide enough shade.

A lion stands in the shade of a small tree, escaping from the hot afternoon sun, Etosha National Park, Namibia

As often happens with wildlife photography, we waited patiently for something to happen. Although the lions lazed about with no intention of getting up to go to the waterhole, we were eventually presented with a beautiful sunset over the grasslands of Etosha. To capture the landscape, I used my 100-400mm lens zoomed out to 100mm.

Two lions sleep in the fading shade of a single tree as the sky lights up an sunset, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

After a few more minutes, it grew dark enough that wildlife photography at any great focal length became impossible. I packed up my gear in anticipation of a long, sleepless night at the floodlit Okaukuejo waterhole (photos coming soon!)

Gear I used to create the photos in this post:

Sunrise Sunset, Hawaiian Style

Okay, so I’m REALLY behind on my photo editing. I try to keep up to date with important photo shoots, but that often means that my less important photos fall into my backlog for later processing. Here is a set of images I shot in Kauai in 2013. Like I said, I am very behind!

Clouds billow over the water at sunset, Kauai, Hawaii
Clouds billow over the water at sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

Often when I’m shooting landscapes, I create images that has a foreground, middle ground and background, to create depth and lead the viewers eye into the frame. However when I was in Hawaii, I found myself simplifying ocean images into nothing but clouds, colors and water. These images are really all about the colors and texture of the clouds, and most are shot with longer lenses.

Pastels color the northern sky at sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii
Pastels color the northern sky at sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii

While I was there, I had a mixture of dramatic sunrises and sunsets. As I was situated on the north shore of the island most of the time, I had similar side-lighting on each end of the day.

Clouds billow over the water at sunset, Kauai, Hawaii
Clouds billow over the water at sunset, Kauai, Hawaii

However, sunrise gave me the most dramatic clouds and lighting. When shooting into the rising sun, I used silhouetted tree tops to give a sense of scale.

Dramatic shadows play across the thick clouds at sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii
Dramatic shadows play across the thick clouds at sunrise, Kauai, Hawaii
Palm trees are silhouetted by sunrise clouds, Kauai, Hawaii.
Palm trees are silhouetted by sunrise clouds, Kauai, Hawaii.

And when appropriate, I included a bit of shoreline to the east and west, depending on sunrise or sunset.

Clouds to the east light up over Kauai's north shore at sunrise
Clouds to the east light up over Kauai’s north shore at sunrise
The sun sets behind the northern cliffs of the Napali coast, Hanalei Bay, Kauai
The sun sets behind the northern cliffs of the Napali coast, Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Overall, the colors and lighting of the Kauai sea were spectacular enough to hold their own without a strong foreground. When seen together, they paint a picture of the drama that can play out between light, clouds and ocean.

2014 Round-up – Top 40 Photos Of The Year

After a bit of thought, I have compiled my top 40 picks from the last 12 months. I selected from a variety of outings and types of photography, ranging from landscape, to wildlife, to pet photography. Unfortunately, 2014 was not the year I caught up on my backlog of photos waiting to be processed, so this list was not selected from all of my 2014 photographs (you’ll have to wait till next year’s round-up for those!)

This year included a fantastic fall color photo trip to the San Juan mountains in Colorado, as well as visits to the Sierra Nevada and of course many bird photographs, including some previously unpublished.

Please enjoy the gallery below. For best viewing (especially if viewing on a mobile device), please click on the following photo:

Gem lies on the floor, fast asleep
Gem lies on the floor, fast asleep

Or, just enjoy the gallery here on the page. To view larger photos in the embedded gallery below, click here to enter full screen mode.


If you are interested in compilations from previous years, please see the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 lists.

Black And White Challenge

Two weeks ago I was challenged by friend and photographer Jerry Dodrill to post 5 black and white photographs on social media over 5 consecutive days. As I am not known for shooting much black and white, I dug back into my archives to see what I had. From that selection, I chose five photos from a variety of subject matter (landscape, wildlife, and architecture) that spoke to me more as fine art than editorial photos. Here is my selection collected together, along with a short synopsis of each.

Day One

Dawn breaks over Banner Peak and Thousand Island Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness
Dawn breaks over Banner Peak and Thousand Island Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness

I shot this last year on my attempt at the John Muir Trail. Thousand Island Lake is a beautiful location in the heart of the Ansel Adams Wilderness. This was a dark, moody, stormy morning, and during a brief pause in the torrential downpour, I braved the elements and scrambled out of my tent to capture Banner Peak with the lake below. In order to convey my feelings at the time I shot it, it seemed like a perfect candidate for a B&W conversion.

Day Two

Death Valley's Mesquite Dunes are a study of form and lines
Death Valley’s Mesquite Dunes are a study of form and lines

This shot is of the Mesquite Dunes outside of Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley National Park. I shot this fairly wide (21mm) as I was standing on the foreground dune. Those who have photographed a lot of sand know that you can’t just back up to reshoot – you’ll end up with a photo full of footprints! Black and white allowed me to add contrast into the sand ripples along the crest of the dune.

Day Three

Four american white pelicans line up, all of them fishing at the same time. There was a nice symmetry to this image, which was calling very strongly to be rendered as a black and white fine art photograph.
Four american white pelicans line up, all of them fishing at the same time. There was a nice symmetry to this image, which was calling very strongly to be rendered as a black and white fine art photograph.

With this photo, I’m switching focus to birds (hey, birds can make great B&W too!) I was shooting a group of American White Pelicans and was waiting for that perfect, synergistic moment. Finally they all ducked down for fish at the same time (the white pelicans tend to be much lazier when eating as compared to the California Browns who are constantly dive bombing their food). I caught the moment and new it would make a nice pano crop – a conversion to a high-key black and white was icing on the cake.

Day Four

Church and cemetery, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Church and cemetery, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This image is a little different from my usual fare. Quite a few years ago, a friend and I were hiking through the woods of Great Smokey Mountain National Park. It was a still, crisp November day, and we were utterly alone with the trees. Throughout the day, we had been getting a very creepy vibe. Unlike the wilderness of the west, these forests are littered with remnants of past civilizations – small mountain villages linked to other settlements only via walking paths. It almost felt like the ghosts of the past were watching our progress through their woods. Suddenly our trail opened up into a clearing with an old church, complete with cemetery and 100+ year old headstones. When I took this photograph, I knew I wanted to try to convey that feeling that we’d been getting all day. A black and white, high contrast conversion was in order.

Day Five

Soft light across the dunes adds a milky texture to the wind carved lines, Death Valley National Park
Soft light across the dunes adds a milky texture to the wind carved lines, Death Valley National Park

My final shot is another B&W dune photo from Death Valley. This time I kept the contrast and the clarity low, to emphasize the soft buttery texture of twilight. What first attracted me to this spot was the three tall dunes in the background. I think they reminded me of pyramids off in the distance. I set about looking for a foreground. When I found layer upon layer of sand “waves” stacked up in front of the dunes, I knew I had my shot. I fell in love with the way the light moved across the sand like it was a living thing. In order to remove all other distractions from the photo, I subtracted all color and let the interplay between the shadows and highlights define the photograph.