Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Favourite Pictures, part 1

I got one of those digital picture frames for Christmas, and promptly loaded it with a few hundred of the pictures that appear in my Picasa web albums. Today, having not too much to do, I decided I should pick out some of my favourites and at least say something about them. Because, let's face it, not many people are going to prowl through three hundred pictures of a herd of wildebeest to get to the head shot of the lion.

I'm no Ansel Adams, but occasionally I get lucky and come home with a shot that, to my untrained eye, looks purdy damn good. These tend to be the ones I like the best. And so, as much for my own pleasure as yours, here are a few of my favourites.

This is a shot taken with a long lens on the main street of the city of Beni, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, late on a Sunday morning. The streets were filled with people going to church, and there's just something about this woman's look that interests me. Maybe it's the hat; maybe it's the sadness I imagine in her expression, a sadness I saw in the faces of many of the people there, until the camera came out. (From a private web album.)

Paris is a city full of stunning views, with grand buildings at every turning. But there's something innately charming to me about this picture, of Rue Suger, near St.-Germain. (From the web album, "Paris") The area around it bustles with traffic and pedestrians, but this winding little street, despite being entirely paved, is like a park in the midst of trench warfare.

This is a view from the base of the dome of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart -- itself one of those grand buildings mentioned above -- toward the iconic grand building. Yes, it was that hazy in Paris that day, but all the pictures I have when it was clear in Paris were taken before the advent of the digital camera, and I don't own a scanner. (From the web album, "Paris")

I don't know what kind of bird this is, and in many ways it's not that good a picture; but I was so pleased with myself to actually be able to get the camera out, change the lens, and focus on the bird for a change that I include it as a favourite. I also kind of like the way the surrounding vegetation seems to be shimmering. (The picture was taken, by the way, in a pullout in Medina County, west of San Antonio; from the web album, "Critters from All Over")

This is the picture I was looking at when I decided to make this blog post. It's an okapi in the San Diego Zoo. I remember reading an article in Natural History magazine, probably 30 years ago, about the search for the okapi, which wasn't found by westerners until about 1905, making it the last large land animal to be "discovered." The natives in the jungle where the okapi lives, near the Congo River, knew about it, of course, though it is a shy animal; but their descriptions tended to be disbelieved, because it made the animal sound like an accretion of parts from other animals. I just think this picture looks really good in the digital frame, mostly because of the angle of the late-afternoon sun.. (From the web album, "San Diego Zoo")

This is my favourite of all the pictures I took in Africa in 2008, when I went to the DR Congo, Uganda, and Kenya. To me, this image captures the loneliness, the vastness, the seeming emptiness of the savanna. I have a couple of other pictures of a lone tree on a ridge, with a single back-lit wildebeest standing in the shade like guards; those pictures give a sense of the constant danger of the savanna to prey animals, but I think this image is more poignant. (From the web album, "Maasai Mara Wildlife Reserve")

This isn't that good a picture, but it reminds me of the most beautiful thing I saw while in Africa. This giraffe stepped out into the road in front of us, keeping an eye on us (wife and the kids were off to the left). When we started forward slowly, he turned away and ran up the road, then off to the right. The motion of a big giraffe running is stunning. He seemed to just float above the ground like a big silk banner, and even though we were going about 20 mph, he hardly seemed to be moving yet stayed well ahead of us. (From the web album, "Maasai Mara Wildlife Reserve")

I like this picture because all these wildebeest were lined up as though at attention, and three others paraded in front of them as though inspecting the troops. (From the web album, "Maasai Mara Wildlife Reserve")

This is a field in the southern Ozarks, photographed near sunset on a Saturday afternoon. There's something about the quality of the light that just makes this picture. Much like in the okapi picture. If I ever doubted that the best pictures are taken early in the morning or late in the day, these pictures would prove it to me. (From the web album "Trip to Maine, part 1")

This picture, at the moment, isn't actually in a web album. I was looking at the files on my computer and found that I never put up an album for my trip to Kentucky and Michigan in 2008. I'll get around to it, now that I know. Meanwhile, this is one of many pictures I have of my favourite toy ... well, okay, my second-favourite toy, in a scenic spot. This one happens to be in the Cumberland Gap. I just love this car. Even when it's not running. (They say a Jaguar is the prettiest car you'll ever see ... broken down on the side of the road.)

I'm not going to try and explain what these people are doing in the parking lot of a dam overlook along the Apache Trail in Arizona. Maybe I know these people ... maybe I don't. I'm not saying.