Tag Archives: vacation

A Shield Bug – Looks Like a Stinkbug

I was out in the garden of our place in Stockbridge and was surprised by how many ladybirds and flies I saw on the leaves.  Then I saw something a bit different.  I reminded me of the stink bugs we see in Washington.  According to Ian, who was in the yard shortly afterwards, it is a shield bug.  In all my years in the UK, I had never heard of or seen one of these.  Now I have.

Some Ted Lasso Tourism

On one of our days in the UK, we made a trip to Richmond.  It is over 30 years since I have spent time in Richmond, and it was nice to go there again.  A first for Nancy too.  We were having lunch with family but got there a little early to walk around.  One of the things we wanted to do was check out the area around Richmond Green.  This was a location for many of the scenes in the TV series, Ted Lasso.  It was on our way anyway, so we stopped to have a look around.

Looking like a tourist is never too appealing and I imagine plenty of people come by because of the show.  The pub that they feature apparently has fan memorabilia for the show’s imaginary team.  Some of the shops also have “Believe” signs above their doors.  TV does a good job of cutting together unrelated spaces, but you can easily recognize some of the places.  We did struggle to identify one or two other spots, though.  There is some demolition and construction underway now, so I wonder if that took out any bits that were previously used.

Another Chance to Photograph the Hovercraft

During our trip to the UK, my mum came across to spend some time with the family.  She used the hovercraft to make the crossing and we went to Southsea to pick her up.  Regular readers will know that I love hovercraft so it would have been churlish not to get some shots of its arriving – I mean her arriving!  I skipped the long lens shots and instead focused on the approach and arrival.  Here are those shots.  Her return journey was frustrated by high winds, so we didn’t get a second chance to photograph the hovercraft when taking her back.

How Low Will the Light Be for My Robin?

The Airbnb that we rented in Stockbridge had a grass area out front that had a steady stream of birds in and out.  That included some robins that would show up under the bushes and find themselves some food.  They clearly liked the shade because they would either be under the bush or come on to the grass in the areas shaded by the bushes.  Never in the sunlight on the grass.

The evening improved things a lot.  The shade was now over the whole of the lawn and they would hop about finding their latest meal.  However, if I wasn’t already by the window, moving into position would spook them and they would be gone.  I consequently spent a bit of time sitting by the window with the camera in position waiting for another one to appear.  When they did, it was getting pretty dim.  However, high ISO is worth a go these days and there are going to be good options in post so why not?  I used the tilt screen to frame the shot to avoid moving the camera much and scaring them off.  It also provided a lower angle which helps.  Much hopping around and then eventually it was right in front of me.  How cute European robins are!

Market in Tanzania

Our travels did include some opportunities to experience life beyond just the protected areas in which the wildlife lived.  When you are on an organized trip, you know that any experience you are given has an element of artificiality about it, but you do hope to see something of the real lives of people.  We stopped for a visit in the town of Mto wa Mbu.  We took a tuk tuk ride into the town through the streets as people went about their business.  In many of the previous towns we had passed through, I felt very unwilling to photograph people as I zipped through their home.  However, this visit was an organized event and involved a contribution to the community, so I felt slightly more relaxed about taking images.

We left our vehicles and were led through the market.  The stalls were stacked with goods and there did seem to be people that were there shopping as our group meandered through the narrow alleyways.  We stopped at a couple of places to learn more about the various commodities that were being traded.  There were certain approaches that would not sit well with people with western sensibilities, particularly when it came to the meat, but everywhere has their own way of doing things.  It might have been a bit of a prepared version for the tourists, but it was still good to see something a little closer to real life for people.

Some of My Rides on Safari

We took three internal flights while we were in Kenya and Tanzania and all three were interesting aircraft.  Better still, they were all different types.  One was a new one for me to fly on, but you might be surprised as to which that was.  Our first trip was on a Let 410.  It took us from the Serengeti to a short strip just short of the border with Kenya.  This wasn’t my first ride in a 410 but it was my first landing.  Previously I jumped out of one as part of a tandem skydive.  This one had far more comfortable seating.

Once we crossed the border, we took another flight into the Maasai Mara.  This was on a type that is ubiquitous in the area – the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan.  I have never been on one of these.  They were very densely configured and getting through the cabin to a seat was quite an effort.  I don’t care to think what getting out in a hurry might be like!  We saw so many of these with different operators over the course of our visit.

The last type we flew was a Dash 8 100 Series.  A far larger type than the others, this flies some heavier routes, and these might involve multiple stops along the way picking up and dropping off customers.  Ours picked us up in the Mara and took us direct to Nairobi.  No intermediate stops for us.  It has been a long time since I flew in an early generation Dash 8, and I hadn’t thought of them as doing rough field ops.  However, supporting remote communities is part of their history so of course they are fine on these strips.  Unfortunately, heavy rains at the strip 90 seconds from our camp meant we had to drive for forty minutes to another strip to make this flight.  It was a good trip, though.  This part of the world was great for people like me that like close up encounters with aviation!

Can Pictures Explain the Space Appropriately?

When I was first explaining to Nancy how amazing Yosemite was before we went there, we looked at pictures, but it was not possible for her to appreciate the scale of the place until she saw it for herself.  I think the same is true of our trip to Kenya and Tanzania.  The wildlife was a wonderful part of the trip and the reason for being there, but I should not avoid pointing out how wonderful the scenery was too.  The vast expanses of open plains, the mountains in the distance, the hills surrounding where we stayed – all of these were quite breathtaking.

Sadly, 1600 pixels across a single image is not really going to give the true impression of these locations.  I have shots to share and here they are, but I doubt it will have a significant impression on someone looking at these versus any other shot of open space.  Indeed, wide open plains look pretty weak on a small image.  There is nothing to focus on to give you a sense of scale.  Despite this, I do think it is fair to say that the landscapes we saw were quite amazing.  They won’t have the impact the animals have on people looking at the blog but, if you do go, be ready for some stunning locations.

Baobab Tree at Lunchtime

One thing that I didn’t really get good shots of during our time on safari was the baobab trees.  There are many varieties of them and some of the most distinctive are in Madagascar, so they weren’t the ones we saw.  However, we did see a bunch of the local varieties and they were pretty cool looking.  The only one I got a good shot of was this one that someone pointed out to me behind the area where we had stopped for lunch.  It was quite a beast of a tree.  I did think about wandering closer to it but, unlike when at home, I was not so sure of the wisdom of wandering away from our guides.  There were some rather substantial predators out there somewhere.

How I Misjudged Hyenas Before Seeing Them

There were many animals I was looking forward to seeing when we visited Kenya and Tanzania.  One that I hadn’t thought much about and, if I had, it wouldn’t have been positive, was the hyena.  They have a pretty bad image since they clean up all of the debris that is left and will also do their own hunting in the pack.  While this is no different to many other animals, they seem to have been given a more negative image.

When we arrived, we immediately saw loads of hyena.  They were out walking alone and moving in groups.  They are not the sleekest looking animal, but I found myself surprisingly interested in them.  When one would come into view carrying a trophy from a carcass, I would see this as a positive when others were focusing on the negative.  We saw one hyena limping across the road with an obvious wound on its leg.  This reminded me of just how perilous life is for everything in the wild.

Later in the trip we came across a den for the pack.  One hyena was walking back in with a wildebeest leg in its mouth.  This was going to feed some hungry mouths.  There were some cubs in the den, and we could hear them before we could see them.  They were fighting with each other between sessions suckling from their mother.  It was really fun to watch this whole pack of animals in their social setting.

I’m not expecting anyone reading this to suddenly love hyenas.  Some of the pictures will probably reinforce thoughts that yo might already have had about them.  However, I will say that I saw them in a very different light over the time I was in Kenya and Tanzania, and I will never think of them the same way again.

Layers of Hills South of Kelowna

As we were walking around the winery in Kelowna, we had a lovely view to the south across the lake and to the hills beyond.  The weather was quite clear but there was same haze in the air.  This did a nice job of distinguishing between the hills based on their distance with the farthest hills getting obscured the most.  With the warm winter light on this haze, it made for a very attractive view of the terrain in the distance, and I grabbed a longer lens for a quick shot.