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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wintering Shorebirds of Oakland's Arrowhead Marsh

Wintering shorebirds are plentiful in Arrowhead Marsh, located at Oakland's Martin Luther King Junior Regional Shoreline Park.

I've been developing a technique of photographing subjects and then shaping each image into a blend of photography and painting styles. The four images here were all shot this month, January 2013.

After working with the image in Photoshop Elements to achieve something I like, I then save the edited image and reopen it in a program called Dynamic Auto Painter (DAP). I use a pastel setting, and allow DAP to wipe the "canvas" clean and "paint" the image from scratch, laying down more than 500,000 individual strokes before I stop the program. Then, I save this image separately. Finally, I open both images in Elements and overlay one atop the other. I blend the two images, bringing out more photographic detail in some places over others, as well as highlighting or darkening areas to my artistic taste.

It is a time consuming process, but one I find artistically satisfying. Enjoy the images. Critical comments are welcome.

All Images Below Copyright by Tom Debley, 2013

All Rights Reserved

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in Flight -- This large wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae is common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North and Central America as well as the Caribbean and the Galápagos Islands.

Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus) -- This short-billed bird is one of three different Dowitchers, which each are medium-sized long-billed wading birds.

Canada Geese Take Flight -- The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is a wild goose that is native to arctic and temperate regions of North America.
Willet (Tringa semipalmata) -- The Willet is a large shorebird in the sandpiper family.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Peace Corps Reunion for Mary Jane

My wife, Mary Jane, and I will be joining her Peace Corps friends for an August reunion of their group that was in Western Samoa in the 1970s.  Last year, we went to the Smithsonian Institution's salute to the Peace Corps on its 50th Anniversary.  Here's a short video from my photographs that I put together to celebrate the upcoming reunion.  Enjoy!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Images from the Galápagos Islands

Some birds were harder to photograph than others!
Dramatic. Beautiful. Unusual. Raw. Unique. Pristine. Isolated. Each of these words holds meaning when you visit the Galápagos archipelago. There are more than 50 volcanic islands scattered over 4,500 square kilometers on the equator. You are about 1,000 kilometers off of the coast of Ecuador. We had the rare opportunity to visit the Galápagos Islands from April 22 to 29 on a Road Scholar educational program. These islands are a well-protected National Park of Ecuador, with all visitors required to be with a trained naturalist and no one allowed on land between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.. We lived on a 118-foot yacht with about 30 other people.  Twice each day we would board a dinghy to take us ashore with our naturalist guides for hiking, animal observation, swimming and snorkeling. The isolation of the Galápagos, as Charles Darwin observed in his famous visit, has permitted life forms to evolve into species found only here. Words are hard to find to describe my experience of this.  So I will just let some of my photographs tell the story.

All Images Below Copyright by Tom Debley, 2012
All Rights Reserved

Galápagos Whimbrel photographed at a small
lagoon on Isla Floreana.

Galápagos Sea
Lion pup on
the beach at
Gardner Bay,
Isla Española.

A juvenile Galápagos Hawk
came within a few feet,
as curious about us as
we were of him at the
top of a volcanic cinder
cone on Isla Bartolome.

The Lava Heron is a
unique Galápagos
species that made
for an interesting
photograph in flight
on Isla Santiago.

Tortoises, of course,
are synonymous with
the Galápagos Islands.
These images were
captured at different
locales on Isla Santa Cruz.


No set of images would be complete without the Blue-footed Booby, such as this one I photographed on Isla Española.

This Booby is taking off from Isla San Cristobal.

Another of the Boobies
in the Galápagos Islands
is the Nazca Booby,
one seen here perched on
a rock on Isla Española.

A "nursery" of
Nazca Booby chicks
was another thrilling
sight, offering an
chance to see them
from only a few feet
away and for
photographs like this one.

One of the most colorful of all of the critters
in the Galápagos is the Sally Lightfoot Crab.
One of these was among the specimens
collected by Darwin.

Yellow Flycatcher
Smaller birds are plentiful, among them the Galápagos Mocking Bird, which had the greatest influence on Darwin’s theory of evolution. It was the first species he noticed that had distinct differences from island to island.

Yellow Warbler

Ground Finch

Ground Finch Perched in a Tree

Galápagos Mocking Bird

Waved Albatross in Flight

The Waved Albatross, a medium sized albatross with a wing span of seven feet, is among the largest birds we saw. They breed primarily on Isla Española in the Galápagos archipelago. We were there for mating season.

Waved Albatross Courting Ritual
Waved Albatross Pair Mating
Waved Albatross on Her Egg

A final set of photographs for now is of the every popular Iguanas -- Land, Sea, Lava and Arbor -- found in the tropics of the Galápagos and on the Ecuadorian mainland.

 (Special Note: The photograph of me at the top of this blog post was taken by one of our Road Scholar group, Linda Getman.  Thanks, Linda!)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Elephant Seals of Año Nuevo State Park

Over the last weekend I went with a group of people who support the California State Parks Foundation to visit Año Nuevo State Park to see the elephant seals -- adults and pups -- on the beach there. Here's a slide show of some of the photographs that I took -- each a great reason to support our California State Parks. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Memories of Bosque del Apache 2012

All Images Copyright by Tom Debley, 2012
All Rights Reserved

A hint of winter sunlight appears over the New Mexico mountaintops to the east as our van pulls quietly into a dirt parking area next to a flooded plain to the northwest of the highway.  We speak in hushed tones. The predawn air is a crisp 29 degrees. We silently set up tripods and mount cameras in anticipation of the morning fly-out.

In the dark, we see outlines – large, gray, feathered humps of perhaps a thousand or more Greater Sandhill Cranes. They are sleeping, heads and long necks tucked under their wings. They stand in the shallow water that helps protect them from marauding coyotes in the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, New Mexico,

I’m bundled in layers, gloved fingers clumsily fiddling with camera settings, prepared for action. The sun gradually begins its ascent, and the dim light slowly glows brighter and brighter as minutes pass.  A lone crane raises its head, standing its full height at about four feet. Its long, pointy beak opens as the rolling, rattling trumpet-like sound of its unique call emerges.  The first is joined by another, and another and another. The calls are now a noisy chorus.

To the southwest, we hear the honking of hundreds of Snow Geese. They glide across the sky, turning toward us and settle onto the pond just beyond the cranes. As daylight continues to spread, the white of the smaller geese is a contrast with the gray of the cranes.

Thousand birds are gathered to winter at Bosque del Apache. The cacophony is almost deafening as the Snow Geese, followed by the Sandhill Cranes begin to take flight, heading out for a day of feeding. First just a few take wing, then dozens, then hundreds and then a thousand. The sights and sounds are incredible.

I repeat this ritual of photographing these and other wildlife for three days in early January – out before each sunrise, and returning to my hotel only when night has fallen. Skies are crystal clear and the moon is nearly full, rising each evening at sunset.

I’m filled with joy, happy to be living my dream.  I knew I wanted to do something very different when I reached retirement age.  I wanted to spend time pursuing my avocation, photography. But I couldn’t define it until one day a couple years before retirement day when I announced, “I know what I want to be in retirement.  I want to be an artist.”

I celebrated my first anniversary in retirement at Bosque del Apache, living that goal with a group of 16 other amateur photographers under the tutelage of wildlife photographer Robert Winslow through the Mountains & Plains Institute of Lifelong Learning and Service out of Fort Collins, Colorado, and Road Scholar, the educational travel program.

Bosque del Apache Sunset Silhouettes (Tom Debley, ©2012)

Portrait of a Sandhill Crane in the Wild (Tom Debley, ©2012)

Fly Me to the Moon (Tom Debley, ©2012)

Sandhill Cranes Take Flight Against the Sunset (Tom Debley, ©2012)

Snow Goose in Evening Light (Tom Debley, ©2012)

Sandhill Crane Preens at Sunrise (Tom Debley, ©2012)

Sandhill Crane in Flight (Tom Debley, ©2012)

Snow Geese During Morning Fly Out (Tom Debley, ©2012)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Magnificent Polar Bears of Subarctic Canada

Polar bears move closer to Hudson Bay each fall.

All Images Copyright by Tom Debley, 2011
All Rights Reserved

Churchill, Manitoba – The Hudson Bay polar bears of this Canadian subarctic region are magnificent creatures. A grown male can stand 10-feet tall and weigh 1,400 pounds. These belong to one of 19 subspecies that is endangered by global warming.  And as much as some people deny the scientific evidence of global warming, on a recent visit we learned that the polar bears here are 22 percent fewer in number than a quarter century ago.  Local scientists say that this subspecies could be extinct as early as 2035.

Understanding why these polar bears are in trouble does not take a rocket scientist to understand.  

Young male polar bears spar, practicing for mating fights.
Polar bears live by eating ringed seals, which live under the ice of Hudson Bay in winter. When the ice melts and breaks up in the spring, the polar bears are forced ashore until the ice forms again in the fall.  They do not eat during this time, living off accumulated fat from the hunting season. However, the Hudson Bay ice is melting earlier each year and freezing later.  This shortens the hunting season. Polar bears don’t store adequate fat reserves, and then have to live without eating for longer periods of time once on land.  Thus, fewer cubs are being born. More cubs, adolescent bears and older bears are dying. The population today is estimated at 935 bears.

We had five wonderful days at a Road Scholar™ program called “Lords of the North: Ecology of Hudson Bay's Polar Bears” at the non-profit Churchill Northern Studies Centre, which offers independent “learning vacations” as well as courses for Road Scholar™.  My wife, Mary Jane, and I went with some close friends and learned a great deal about the polar bears.  It also gave me a chance to get up close to polar bears to photograph them.

Not much more need be said except to enjoy the photographs I am posting here.

Polar bear walks along shore of Hudson Bay waiting for ice to form.

Polar bear with a mouthful of ice to quench his thirst.
Two young males begin a sparing match.

Bears, looking like dancers, become more animated.
The show become much more aggressive as sparring continues.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Whimsical 'Found Art' of Remote Baker, Nevada

Meet Barb Wire

All Images Copyright by Tom Debley, 2011
All Rights Reserved

This blog post celebrates the "found art" of Baker, Nevada. Baker has a population of 68. And its "Post" Impression "art gallery" is a wide-open spaces collection of works on Highway 488, the five-mile-long road that leads into Great Basin National Park from Baker. Okay, it’s not really an art galley. It’s a whimsical collection of "found art" that is literally scattered along Highway 488 in the high desert of far eastern Nevada, often on fence posts.

According to various sources, it all began in 1997.  It is said a man named “Doc” Sherman of Baker, partially paralyzed by a crippling stroke, found artistic endeavors were amazing therapy. The first work in the “gallery” was his “Permanent Wave,” a plaster-filled glove mounted on a fence post. The idea caught on and, if you can an eye out, you can spot any number of castoffs that have turned one person’s junk into another person’s art as property owners have taken up the fanciful task of creating “Post" Impression art, the post referring to the fencepost that held Doc’s early work.

I never spotted Doc’s “Permanent Wave,” but found numerous other fence posts, fences and fields decorated by named and unnamed pieces of art by fun-loving residents.

Here’s “Too Tall Tony,” for instance, whose grave can’t hold him.

Nearby is the skeleton of an unnamed denizen presumably rising from another grave?

Of course, you want to be sure to meet       
Barb and Bob Wire along the roadside.       

Then there is the alien head
in his (her?) current headgear.
In photos a few years back, this
alien wore a National Park
Service ranger hat.

O-1 is another alien figure, presumably named for the O-1 visa” that is a temporary work visa available to aliens who have “extraordinary abilities.”

Don't miss the 1918 Essex: "Horse with No Mane."


“Anywhere But Here” features a man whose face is made from an old “Lean Mean Fat Grilling Machine.”

This one causes headaches trying to figure out the pun.  The figure is "washing a ton," thus a title of "Washington."

Okay, this guy is untitled, but it is clear he is manning his post. Note a fresh bullet hole at the center of the base.

 Jet ski? I dunno.

Hmmmmm.  Again, I dunno.

"Lamp Post?"  But what’s the chimney-like thing about?