Friday, June 8, 2012

Congrats to the Class of 2012!

Can't believe another school year is drawing to a close... A huge thank you to all of those seniors who entrusted me with their senior portraits this year. We wish you all the best as you continue on the next part of your journey.

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." - Thoreau

Friday, April 27, 2012

Buffalo Springs Reserve

On leaving Samburu, we visited Buffalo Springs Reserve, which is to the south on the other side of the  Ewaso Ngiro river. The two parks were originally one large park but were divided along either side the river in 1985. Animals can range throughout both parks with no limitations. It is a small reserve, 131 sq. km. but has over 350 types of birds and a large variety of animals.
White Headed Buffalo Weaver
Superb Starling
As I was searching for the names of these birds, I came across a funny quote. The only way you couldn't see a Superb Starling in Kenya would be if you kept your eyes closed the whole time! They were quite plentiful. Them, I came home with a lot of photos of, unlike the poor warthogs!

We left Samburu via the highway, and within 15 minutes crossed the Ewaso Ngiro and entered Buffalo Springs. We couldn't believe the difference in the topography. We hadn't seen water for a couple of days, being the end of the very long dry season, it was, well, dry. We'd seen holes dug by the elephants searching for water and everything covered with dust. All of that changed when we entered Buffalo Springs. 

The first thing we saw was a large well type structure, filled with water. Our guide, Marcos, told us it had been created when Italy was trying to bomb the English in Nairobi (about 200 miles away) during WWII but missed. Their bomb created this large crater which happened to be right over the natural springs and this water hole was created. Locals even swim in it I was told. There is no way I'd have swum in it, ever. Nope. So here's the thing. This was only day 3. What I learned as we went along, is that sometimes Kenyan truth is not always truth as some of the rest of us would tell it. So I'm unable to find anything, anywhere, which corroborates this story, but I'm sticking with it, I like the story, I definitely wouldn't quote me however!!!! Apologies if you're Kenyan and take offense, but more likely you're agreeing with me, 'ndiyo, we do have our own versions of things, and those crazy tourists, they will believe anything...'  Personally, I'm a fan. Of everything about Kenya, the people, the stories, the birds, the animals, the smiles, the singing.... well, you get the idea!

The grass was so green, the vistas were new, the entire feeling of the park was completely different from what we'd just been traveling in a literal stone's throw away. Even the soil was different, it was white instead of the red we'd been seeing and much more alkaline. It was funny to see the termite mounds in the white soil, they looked like sandcastles made out of cement!! We totally weren't expecting such a difference!

We didn't spend long in this reserve, but our first viewing was a little family of warthogs that are so funny when they run off, they put their tails straight up in the air like little antennas and can move very quickly. Their first instinct is to run, and then when they reach what they must feel is a safe distance, they turn and stare at you. Turns out I mostly watched them in amusement, because although we saw literally hundreds during our trip, I have very few images of them! Guess I was 'in the moment'.

We then saw a lovely family of elephants grazing in the bright, lush green grass joined by white herons. Gorgeous. All of those young elephants were a joy to watch. These were definitely enjoying themselves, intertwining trunks, and interacting quite a bit. 

...and although we saw more, very fresh, lion tracks, we are still searching for that elusive King of the Jungle.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Samburu - Kenya part 1

I recently went on safari to Kenya. Safari means journey in Swahili, and what a journey it was. I will truly never be the same.

We arrived in Kenya after dark, and I desperately tried to make out something, anything through the windows of our vehicle, but was unable to see much. We did see some birds roosting, what I learned in the morning was that they were Marabou Storks and some of the trees they were roosting in were Jacaranda trees. Both will be in upcoming posts, in the dark, I had no idea what I was looking at. (As a teaser, Marabou storks are enormous gnarly birds that look like they should be in a cartoon, and the Jacaranda is covered with gorgeous purple blooms). We spent the night at the famous Norfolk Hotel, the earliest hotel in Nairobi and full of history, you felt guilty not ordering a gin and tonic.

Our first stop was Samburu National Reserve, and within moments of entering the park saw a Beisa Oryx, and although none of us had ever even heard of the animal before the excitement was truly palpable. A reticulated giraffe came next which took our breath away, and as the road sign pointed towards ‘Elephant Bedroom’ there was a herd of elephants. Quite appropriate. Truly breathtaking. At the entrance gate there were masses of swallow nests in the ceiling so the birds were constantly coming and going flying right over your head into their nests... way cool... the start of the video are those swallows...

(as a note, please let this slideshow load before trying to watch it, I think I put too many video clips in it and it's a little frustrating if you don't give it time!!!)

I was amazed by everything, felt I could barely breathe most of the time out of the sheer joy of being in the most beautiful place I’ve truly ever been. One of the (many) things I was astounded by was the Weaver bird nests. They hung from the trees like ornaments on a Christmas tree. As days went on, I learned more and more fascinating facts about these bright and beautiful birds, the entrances to their nests always face west, so if you’re lost out in the midst of Africa and you still have the presence of mind to look at nests at least you’ll know which way is west. (I’d think you’d have a few more issues that may concern you at that point though!) The male weaver bird makes the intricate nests, which are fairly large, and then awaits the approval of his mate, she can decide whether or not she approves of his creation, if yes, I guess they move in and make the weaver babes, if not she tears it down and he has to start all over again. Slightly rough. Totally fascinating. Guess it’s mostly working out okay in Samburu for those weaver boys because the trees are covered with all of these magnificent creations.

Our first evening we had a lecture on the Samburu tribe by a young Samburu warrior whose name is 34 letters long, and means ‘doesn’t like horned animals’. You could call him his shortened native name, Tilas meaning ‘proud one’ or Steve, but I’m totally not sure why one would call a Samburu warrior Steve. Seems slightly disrespectful to me. I went with the shortened version. He shared so much information about how the tribe is trying to retain its culture and tradition while still keeping the younger members invested and involved in the tribe. Seems a very fine line, but if Tilas is any indication of the health of the tribe, I think they will be just fine.

We spent a couple of days exploring the 164 square km Samburu National Reserve, hunting for a lion, finding only his enormous, very fresh footprints teasing us. The area is one of the places where the Adamson’s raised Elsa of Born Free fame and delighted us with both its beauty and variety of animals. One day an elephant crossed in between our vehicles, as he got right in front of us he wagged his ears, as if saying, thanks! Outstanding!!!

The special five animals in Samburu are the Beisa Oryx (which greeted us), the Gerenuk or Giraffe Necked Antelope which stands on its hind legs to reach higher branches, the Reticulated Giraffe of which we saw many, the Somali Ostrich we saw the male and female with their family of little chicks, and the Grevy’s Zebra which is endangered. There are only 2500 left in the world. How amazing to see one happily grazing with not a care really in the world.

Our lodge was the Samburu Intrepids a gorgeous eco lodge with luxury tents that were so fabulous. When we went to our tents we were shown where everything was, how to work varying things like the shower, and then told to make sure we secure the tent in exactly the way they showed us so that the monkeys don’t get in. I’m sorry, the what? So the what don’t get in? Well, of course, my roommate and I were the only tent lucky enough to have the monkeys try to break in, in the dark while the generator was off and we were sleeping, and it was pitch black, I thought I was being awoken to tell me the elephants were passing by, or it was our morning wakeup call and my coffee and cookies had arrived, but no, seems there was a monkey trying to get in. We screamed and yelled and told him to leave us alone, and then secured our tent the way we’d been told. From then on we called it ‘monkeying up’ the tent!!! Did you monkey up the tent? If you try, sure you sing it as we did to the Bob Marley tune, ‘Lively Up Yourself’. Those little vervet monkeys look so sweet, but boy they’re cheeky little suckers.

I walked around the lodge with one of the guards, a delightful man named Hussein who shared many aspects of the lodge and its eco friendliness with me as we explored. He also told me stories of the elephants that visited at night searching for a favorite plant of theirs which grows along the banks of the river in front of our tents (the ones I was hoping were visiting when it was actually a crazed monkey looking for a little sugar). He and I had the most amazing experience together, while looking at this fantastically coloured lizard, we startled him so he went to find shelter under a bush. He was paying no attention other than running from us though, to his detriment as it turned out, because as he ran at top speed to get away from us he failed to notice the bush cat watching the entire thing unfold and literally ran right into him. The cat swallowed more than half of him in one fell swoop. We were both amazed. Jaw dropping in the literal sense! Hussein pulled my leg that I wasn’t fast enough to photograph it (the entire thing was over in less than 2 seconds) but I told him it was okay as I had a witness! Totally National Geographic right in front of our eyes.

That night, Tilas gave a program on the animals of Samburu as well as a star gazing program. The stars were among one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. We were out in the utter darkness no ambient light from anywhere for hundreds of miles looking at this sky that just held so many stars it didn’t seem real. The Milky Way was so bright it seemed as if it had been painted on the sky with a big, wide brush. A shooting star made its way across the sky as if to say, yes this is stunning, let me make it even better for you. I literally had tears in my eyes as I gazed upon the beauty of my first African sky. We had a break in our program for dinner, and when we went back for the continuation, Hussein spoke quickly and seriously in Swahili to Tilas. I looked at them, and said, “oh no, we can’t go back out to finish the star viewing because the elephants are around over where we’re going?” They both looked at me in amazement, “You speak Swahili?” I was asked incredulously. I had to laugh (if you know me, you know that’s a fairly common response from me) as I told them I’d just deduced it from my earlier stories from Hussein about the elephants and the seriousness of the conversation. Not totally sure they believed me! So we weren’t able to be out in total darkness, or sadly take the photos I'd been planning on, but stayed in the camp to view the Southern Cross the highlight we’d been too early for at the first session. Inspiring. I never want to see the stars anywhere else, and wished my telescope had made the journey with me!

 Jambo Kenya, nakupenda already. I think it was about day 2 I started telling everyone I wasn’t going home, ever. Don't go anywhere, there's more...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Photography of newborns

Cole is 11 days old in these photos. Eleven days. Yikes. A tiny little bundle of true joy. I am always amazed at how tiny these babes start out, silly I know, but they are just so small. Although I adored his little outfit, we thought he looked a little like a sweet gnome! I couldn't wait to get him out of it! The little diaper cover was one of my earliest attempts at crocheting (okay so I'm still in my early attempts at crocheting, have only a handful of projects to my name) but at that point I'd never even read a pattern before. So I used the wrong sized hook, the wrong yarn, my stitches were not consistent, they were way too tight, I had no idea how to drop or add stitches, think you may be getting the picture, but I just kept going. At the end of the day, I had this teensy, tiny little diaper cover that's slightly wonky. And obviously way too small for any baby. Along comes Cole, and I think to myself, 'why not try it on him, looks like it may fit...' and fit it did. How sweet it looks. Made me so happy. Photographing Cole made me so happy. I photographed his parents wedding, one of the last I photographed, and was so thrilled when they let me know he was on his way... I can already imagine the adventures they'll have with this little lad, how they have no idea the absolute true joy he will bring to them. How every little milestone becomes the center of your existence for that moment in time. How being a family is just such an amazing journey. You may have heard this before, but how lucky I am to be a photographer. To get to be a part of people's families and watch them start and grow, what a gift. Having a baby? Give me a call, I'd love to talk with you about photographing (before and) after the big event!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Shining Star

Happy Valentine's Day! This morning I got invited to the Barnstable Community Horace Mann Charter Public School's All School Community Meeting to receive an appreciation certificate for my support. What a delight it was. I used to love going to all school meetings at my daughter's elementary school and I felt the same way about going to this one. The children were adorable, mostly dressed in reds and pinks to celebrate Valentine's, singing their opening song, sharing their community service projects, and then finishing energetically with their school song. Can't think of a better way to spend a part of my morning!! I was impressed by their projects, the kindergartners collected mittens, the first graders pennies, the second graders books so that each student could start their own libraries at home and the third graders made fleecey hats for the babies at the Baby Center. The third graders were wearing their fleecey creations, they looked fabulous, and so, so proud. Ms. Cantelmo, the Principal, spoke of them learning to have heart so that they too could give back to their communities, and anyone can see they are definitely being taught well. I am proud to be a community supporter of BCHMCPS. They are indeed Shining Stars in our community.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


A new baby, what fun! Makenna is just lovely, arrived a few days after Christmas and is my great niece. Great Aunt. My goodness. Of course I couldn't wait to go to meet her, she'll be completely different next time I see her, I just hope she's not walking and talking!!!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Wild Things

Wild Things, I think I love you... (how could one resist?) This year's offering from the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, the 6th annual exhibition, is Wild Things: A Safari of the Imagination. It is fabulous. Over 50 really amazing artists have been chosen to be part of this exhibit which is truly breathtaking. Every year I can't imagine the show being better, and somehow, every year I am blown away. I felt better about my collection of found objects that I just seem to keep collecting and never seem to do anything with (my husband often turns on Hoarders if I'm in the room as he feels I'm a very, very, fine line away from that!) after speaking with a couple of the artists who use found items. One offered to take all of my collection, site unseen! Thank God I didn't marry him, could you imagine? I've also found some new quotes to keep me inspired... "Nobody succeeds beyond his or her wildest expectations unless he or she begins with some wild expectations". -Ralph Charell among them... The show is at Cotuit Center for the Arts, and runs today through February 10th. Go find zebras, and sparkling fish, and crazy faces, and Little Miss Muffet, and elephants and Cows jumping over the moon, and prepare to be delighted. Visit the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod for more information. "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild & precious life?" - Mary Oliver