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The wildlife photography of Vincent Munier

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Award-winning French photographer Vincent Munier specialises in cold-weather photography, capturing ethereal monochromatic imagery reminiscent of Hasegawa school Japanese paintings.  Mr. Munier is exhibiting his work in Canada (for the very first time) at Montréal’s État Sauvage photo exhibition, which runs from August 6th through September 7th at the Bell Centre.

In an interview with the Montréal Gazette‘s Kathryn Greenaway, Mr. Munier discusses his work and, humorously, the genesis of his career:

Munier grew up in the Vosges region of France. His father was a teacher and a hobby wildlife photographer and passed on his love of photography to Munier.

“When I was 12 years old, I would take off with my backpack and bike into the wilds for weeks, alone,” Munier said. “My parents were very supportive, but my schoolwork … oh, my goodness, what a disaster.”

I can relate, except my works were much more ephemeral in nature, being executed primarily via the high score lists of 1942 and Tiger-Heli.

RELATED: A small collection of État Sauvage images, via Canada.com.  And of course Mr. Vincent Munier’s own online portfolio.

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The fine art wildlife photography of Nick Brandt

Nick Brandt.  Lion family portrait, Masai Mara, 2004

Nick Brandt. Lion family portrait, Masai Mara, 2004

Nick Brandt.  Zebras turning heads, Ngorongoro Crater, 2005

Nick Brandt. Zebras turning heads, Ngorongoro Crater, 2005

Nick Brandt.  Wildebeest arc, Masai Mara, 2006

Nick Brandt. Wildebeest arc, Masai Mara, 2006

As a (very) amateur photographer, I will admit that when photographing wildlife it is tempting to try and catch them in the midst of something spectacular, some moment of supreme action.

Nick Brandt, however, moves in the opposite direction, capturing impossibly dreamlike images of the wildlife simply being.  This is wildlife photography elevated miles above the usual constraints of the genre.  The serenity and majesty of his images speak for themselves.  Apparently a big part of the magic is that he doesn’t shoot telephoto, and thus is able to a) capture a large expanse of sky and b) has to get very, very close to his subjects.

I highly recommend a look through his whole portfolio.  Yet another set of books I am going to have to track down and acquire.

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Launch every ‘Zig’ for great justice

cyborg_beetleAlthough this has just brought our world one giant leap closer to an enormous insectoid apocalypse (as envisioned in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers), there is something kinda cool about a big scary cyborg bug.

Give it a theme song full of wailing guitars and you’ve got the makings of a kickass Saturday morning kids cartoon.

If I see that thing in the kitchen though, I’m killing it.  Jus’ sayin.

(Via Instapundit.)

Camera + elephant dung = nice pics

lion_cubsadult_male_lion

Oh, and ten years of following the same lion prides around, so that you know their habitual den spots/watering holes/hunting grounds, et cetera.

Still, terrific pictures.  Many more at the Daily Mail.  I might have to buy the book (The Lions of Mara) when it’s released, two years hence.

(via Gizmodo)

Category: That all men may know His works  Tags:  Comments off

Weddell seals: Nature’s electronic synthesizer

weddell_sealsImage: Weddell seal mother and pup swim near a breathing hole in the ice.  Source: TIME.com

Just watched Werner Herzog’s 2007 documentary Encounters at the End of the World, and learned some amazing things.

First, Werner Herzog has a really annoying voice.  If you ever wanted to hear a middle-aged German doing a poor impression of Peter Lorre, he’s your man.  That wasn’t particularly amazing, though.

No, the amazing thing was hearing recordings of Weddell seals.  A scientist at the seal camp described it as “non-organic”.  That’s putting it mildly.  Go to this page, scroll down to the bottom, and have a listen to a male Weddell seal

1. mating call     
.  Apparently on quiet nights, you can actually hear them broadcasting away, even through the 6-foot-thick ice shelf.

Now the obvious question is, why hasn’t an enterprising animal behaviorist trained a bunch of Weddell seals to perform Peter Howell’s version of the 1980-1985 Doctor Who theme?

Progressive is as progressive does

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Russian President (now Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin,
fishing on the Khemchik River in the Republic of Tuva. August 15, 2007.

Action hero to a certain breed of recalcitrant leftist, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is now collecting worldwide accolades for convincing the Russian Cabinet to ban seal hunting.

The dewy-eyed innocence of baby seals has prompted a rare burst of environmental activism in Russia that has moved Vladimir Putin to end their slaughter. The annual spring cull in the northern White Sea region has been scrapped after Mr Putin condemned the clubbing of baby seals for their fur as a “bloody trade”.

The Natural Resources and Ecology Ministry said that it was responding to public concern, but the Prime Minister’s words appeared to have been decisive.

Yuri Trutnev, the Natural Resources Minister, reacted swiftly, outlawing the cull of harp seals younger than one year old after Mr Putin told a Cabinet meeting that “it’s clear that it should have been banned long ago”.

— Tony Halpin.  “Slaughter of the seals in Russia is stopped by Vladimir Putin“, London Times, March 20th, 2009.

Predictably, tyrant-loving Western celebrities, Canadian journalists and the soft-headed are tripping over each other in the rush to award Russia laurels for its belated discovery of an eco-conscience, while completely ignoring the nation’s long list of environmental catastrophes—including nuclear contamination of the Barents Sea and Sea of Japan, raw sewage pollution of the Baltic Sea, the almost complete dessication of the Aral Sea, chemical pollution of Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega, not to mention numerous incidents of health-damaging air or water quality throughout the federation.  Putting radioactive waste water into the harp seals’ prime habitat is no biggie; all is now forgiven because Russians will no longer bash seals about the head once a year.

Harp seals are somewhat exotic creatures to us inland-dwellers in the Centre of the Universe; like earwigs, only with fewer nasty-looking pincers. I wouldn’t go out of my way to bash a seal in the head, but if I spot one crawling around a darkened kitchen, it’s a safe bet it’s going to die.  You let these things breed and eventually they’ll displace the city’s natural flora and fauna, like silverfish and raccoons.

To my mind it seems profoundly stupid to laud a guy for refraining from seal-bashing when, at the same time, he’s busy dumping thousands of litres of radioactive poison into the very place where the seals live.  But then I’m not a celebrity or a journalist.

One small step for a bat, one giant leap for batkind

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A bat that was clinging to space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank during the countdown to launch the STS-119 mission remained with the spacecraft as it cleared the tower, analysts at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center concluded.

Based on images and video, a wildlife expert who provides support to the center said the small creature was a free tail bat that likely had a broken left wing and some problem with its right shoulder or wrist. The animal likely perished quickly during Discovery’s climb into orbit.

— Siceloff, Steven. “Bat Hung onto Shuttle During Liftoff“, NASA/John F. Kennedy Space Center, March 17th, 2009.

bat_sts_external_tank02But oh, what a death.  A free-tailed chiroptera, immortalised forever in the annals of spaceflight.

Interestingly, this is not the first attempt by the flying mammals to get into orbit. A previous bat-astronaut landed on the shuttle Columbia during the countdown for STS-90, but aborted his ride-along when the engines ignited.  This latest hitchhiker apparently stuck to his mission profile, at least past the launch gantry.

NASA was not able to confirm whether the bat made it into space, or was sloughed off as the shuttle accelerated through supersonic and hypersonic flight on its climb to low earth orbit.

What is clear though, is that on that glorious day of March 15th, 2009, this bat went higher, farther and faster than any other chiroptera.  And for a brief moment, he became the greatest bat-pilot anyone had ever seen.

UPDATE:

“In the hours before Discovery’s liftoff, NASA’s Final Inspection Team (called the “ICE team”) investigated whether the creature would pose a risk to the shuttle if its body impacted the orbiter’s sensitive heat shield tiling. Ultimately, NASA officials signed a waiver confirming that the bat was safe to fly with.

“The bat eventually became ‘Interim Problem Report 119V-0080’ after the ICE team finished their walkdown,” the memo said. “Systems Engineering and Integration performed a debris analysis on him and ultimately a Launch Commit Criteria waiver to ICE-01 was written to accept the stowaway.”

This isn’t the first time a bat has attempted to travel into space. Another bat was seen clinging to the side of the external tank attached to the shuttle Endeavour on its  STS-72 flight in 1996. That one maybe have been a bit more cautious, though: It flew away to safety right before launch.

Coincidentally, an astronaut aboard that flight, Koichi Wakata of Japan, also flew on Discovery this week, making him the first spaceflyer to share two rides with bats. Discovery’s STS-119 mission is headed to the International Space Station to drop off the final segment of the lab’s backbone truss and set of solar array panels.”

— Clara Moskowitz.  “Bat’s fate after shuttle launch appears grim“, MSNBC/Space.com, March 18th, 2009.

Go with God, 119V-0080.

What do you want, a hero cookie?

The pax on US Airways Flight 1549 are being upgraded to preferred status for a year, in addition to getting $5,000 for lost luggage and full reimbursement of their airfare.  Wonderful PR, and a smart move.  But not enough for some passengers, according to the WSJ and New York Post:

Some who were on the plane – brought down by a flock of geese after takeoff from La Guardia Airport on Jan. 15 – said the temporary tease of first-class perks is for the birds.

“I think if you survive a plane crash, being upgraded permanently is a good gesture too,” said Fred Berretta, 41, of Charlotte, NC, where the Airbus A320 was headed.

Manhattanite Tess Sosa, who escaped the sinking plane with her husband and two small children, thought the airline was too focused on self-congratulations – and “they want to exonerate themselves as much as they can.”

“They are happy they had such amazing results, and they applaud themselves, and then give us a small token?” she said. “That’s how I take it.”

…At La Guardia yesterday, other US Airways travelers were shocked by the airline’s lowballing.

“You’re going to crash me into the water, and you’re going to tell me all I get is an upgrade?” asked Antonio Sales, 20, who was traveling with the University of South Carolina’s track team. “That’s more of an ‘OK, you’re not dead, I’ll give you something to hold on to.’ It’s not enough at all.”

Teammate Gabrielle Glenn, 20, was more blunt: “That’s it. They should sue.”

— Ana Maria Alaya.  “Survivors Gilt: Give us more, US Aiways passengers demand“, New York Post, February 3rd, 2009.

This is what happens when you raise a few generations of kids with enormous self-esteem and absolutely no sense of responsibility.  Or perspective.

In order for the airline to owe anybody anything, they would have to be at fault.

In order for them to be at fault, they would have to have been negligent in their duty of care to the passengers.

Geese getting sucked into an engine nacelle is not negligence.  It is an accepted risk.  Your acceptance of that risk is spelled out in the terms of your ticket, if you read the fine print carefully.

There are something like 10,000 bird strikes in the US alone every year; 4,000 and change reported by the Air Force, and the remainder reported by civil aviators.

Airports and aircraft manufacturers alike do what they can to make the airport grounds less attractive, and the aircraft better at withstanding impacts.  Nonetheless, hitting a 4-pound body at 250kts or greater will do some damage to the aircraft.  Hitting a heavier bird, or multiple birds, will do a lot more damage.

Aircraft-mounted TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system) has a very limited ability to identify birds.  TCAS is mainly geared toward detecting larger, faster-moving targets, like other aircraft.  Hitting another plane can often be fatal, as you might guess.

Additionally, wild birds are horrible pilots.  They routinely fly without clearance, without Mode C transponders, and without keeping an ear tuned to the local ATC or CTAF frequency.  They change course and altitude without advisories to neighbouring traffic, and they have runway incursions every other day.

If you really want to make a difference in bird strike hazards, fund the hell out of the ABL program.  There is no bird strike hazard that an appropriate number of laser-armed 747s cannot handle.  Given the number of geese, gulls, and hell, squirrels and raccoons in this city, I’d say Toronto alone needs a fleet of about fifteen.  Being able to handle ICBMs as well is just icing on the cake.