The guy behind the lens

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Favorite Images of 2017

As we all prepare to say goodbye to 2017, I want take time to share my favorite images of 2017. Looking back, this year has been one of much excitement as I have had chances to expand my work in what I am calling "Sciencetelling" to new audiences thanks to presenting at several science education conferences as well as joining up with the great folks at National Geographic Education where I am contributing to their blog on a regular basis.  You can find my updated author page HERE

These exciting additions to my life resulted in fewer opportunities to get out and shoot images this year, but I still had a great time on vacation this summer in Utah and Colorado where I fell in love with the Red Rock Country of the intermountain west! In addition to shooting nature as I have done for years, I have begun to explore shooting local theatre productions in North Texas where I live. In particular, Allen's Community Theatre, where my wonderful wife, Robyn both acts and directs. You can expect to see tidbits of both of these in my year end retrospective as well as some images I took on a final walkthrough of the science building I worked in for the past 27 years - it's was demolished in June as we replace it with a new, state of the art science center. 

Thanks for visiting and I am looking forward to utilising this space for a wider range of sciencetelling and photography in the coming year!  HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

Western Landscapes (click to view high res versions

Black Canyon National Park
View from top of Grand Mesa

Lone Pine at Colorado National Monument
Balanced Rock at Colorado National Monument
"Weathering Sentinel" at Colorado National Monument 
The Coke Ovens - Colorado National Monument

"Verticality" at Colorado National Monument
The Long & Winding Road
The Long & Winding Road"  - Canyonlands NP
Animals (click to view high res versions

Utahraptor stalks a small child - Moab Giants -, Utah
T. Rex at Moab Giants - Utah

Yellow Bellied Marmot
Yellow Bellied Marmot - Colorado
"Sharptooth" at Colorado Gators Reptile Park

Surreptitious Swimmer
Camouflaged Gator at Colorado Gators Reptile Park
"Cruisin'" at Colorado Gators Reptile Park

            The Old Science Building (click to view high res versions)
Warning sign in the Science Lecture Hall
"Break it Early...."

Faucet & Nozzle
"Impossible is Nothing"

Theatre (click to view high res versions)

Victor Von Frankenstein - from Young Frankenstei  
Reanimating the Monster - Young Frankenstein

"Ride in Ze Hay" - Young Frankenstein
The Monster - Young Frankenstein

King Henry and Alais - Lion in Winter

Queen Eleanor & King Henry - Lion in Winter

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Rising Star (Homo naledi) Interviews

During July of 2015 I was fortunate to be able to spend two weeks at the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa with a remarkable group of scientists and explorers. As followers of this blog know I have been following and supporting the work of the Rising Star expedition which discovered and recovered a huge collection of hominin fossil bones starting in November, 2013. Indeed the open access nature of that excavation allowed my students and I to follow the hour by hour updates on Twitter which led to he creation of what's become known as the "Twitter Play by Play" of the excavation - you can access that resource HERE.

My recent visit allowed me to get to know many of the Rising Star team members and I was struck by the immense dedication and teamwork these varied researchers and explorers shared with me. That has led me to interview members of the team so that you can get a taste for how a great team can work cooperatively in a complex endeavor to make the most of what is a groundbreaking fossil discovery. All interviews were conducted by me either in the entrance chamber of the Rising Star cave, at the Evolutionary Studies Institute, or via Skype.  With the PBS/NOVA/National Geographic documentary about this discovery ("Dawn of Humanity") set to air on September 16th, I hope these interviews will allow you different and possible deeper view into the people and personas that made this expedition such a success.

This page will be continually updated with new interviews as they become available so please bookmark this page and come back often for updates!

Dr. Lee Berger & Dr. John Hawks discuss the discovery and significance of Homo naledi 

Interview #11 - Matthew & Megan Berger - Fossil photography and caving support

Interview #10 - Marina Elliott - Lead excavator

Interview # 9 - Hannah Morris - Primary excavator

Interview # 8 - Alia Gurtov - Primary excavator & Rising Star Workshop Member

Interview # 7 - Lindsay Hunter - Primary excavator

Interview # 6 - Becca Peixotto - Primary excavator

 Interview #5 - Elen Feuerriegel - Primary excavator and Rising Star Workshop Member

Interview #4 - Maropeng Ramalepa  and Dirk Van Rooyen. - Exploration Technicians

Interview #3 - Nompumelelo Hlophe - Exploration Technician

Interview #2 - Rick Hunter  - Exploration Technician and one of the original "discoverers" of the fossil chamber.

Interview #1 - Steven Tucker  - Exploration Technician and one of the original "discoverers" of the fossil chamber.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

nThambo Tree Camp Day 6 – A Legendary Morning!

Day six of my bush adventure at nThambo Tree Camp started as usual with the 5:30 am wake up, but there was a special urgency to get out quickly as word had come to Luan and Issack that we had a “Surprise” awaiting us. A fast drive away from camp, which we called the “Ferrari Safari” brought us to a true highlight of the trip. In the overnight, a leopard had made a kill of a male kudu not far from a waterhole. 


As is often the case in the bush, possession is NOT 9/10 of the law when hyenas are around. After a tussle, the hyenas took control of the kill and fed on it for a while until the two Breakaway Ross Pride lionesses arrived to take it away from the hyenas. 


We arrived in time to see the lionesses working the last parts of the kill and were honored to spend an hour watching these lionesses finish off the carcass before wandering off to rest and get a drink at the waterhole.  


As if that was not enough excitement, news broke that there was another very special surprise brewing. Word came over the radio that a wild dog den had just been discovered on the far side of the reserve. Time for another Ferrari Safari! After a fast and bumpy (but fun!) ride, we went off road and worked our way over hills and through brush and found the wild dog pack in an appropriately dense area of mopane trees and grasses – perfect for keeping their den well hidden. We did not see the pups, but many of the pack members were wandering around for us to see. Wild dogs are the second most endangered predator in Africa after the Ethiopian Wolf, estimates have less than 6000 of these amazing creatures left in the wild. They are endangered due to ongoing habitat fragmentation, conflict with humans, and infectious diseases.

We enjoyed getting such a special treat, but knew that wild dogs will move their dens if they attract too much attention. This is a bad thing for the survival of the pups, so we left them alone and on our way back to camp plans were already in the works to limit visits to the den by the safari camps in the Klaserie so that the dogs would not relocate the den. It was encouraging to see such care for these amazing carnivores! 

Only moments before arriving back at nThambo, we were treated to yet another unexpected treat when we came across a tree with a pair of Tawny Eagles (Aquila rapax) in it! 



They were wonderfully patient models and even gave a show when they took off and the female revealed the scrub hare in her talons. A fantastic end to a legendary morning! 

Monday, July 20, 2015

nThambo Day 5 – New Sightings and Old Friends

Day 5 at nThambo Tree Camp proved another special day in the bush. Despite the wintry chill of the 5:30 am wake up, the sights I experienced were once again heartwarming. The morning game drive was highlighted early on with a nervous heard of impala drinking at the waterhole as their reflections peered back at them. A pleasing surprise was a great spot by Issack our tracker – an African Barred Owlet!

As we continues we were happy to encounter our friends the two “Ross Pride Breakaway Females” There two lionesses had left their original pride of 20 + lions to go it alone. There have proved themselves great hunters, but had sadly lost several litters of cubs over recent years. Having a healthy pride to help raise and protect cubs is critical as many other animals will kill young lion cubs if they encounter them unattended.


A hearty breakfast was followed by a nice bush walk where we got to learn more about tracking , animal scat, and the smaller things to be found in the bush. It was a very nice treat to wind up walking alongside a journey (or tower) of giraffe for over half an hour. My friendly Lilac Breasted Roller even visited us as we returned to camp.

The first part of the afternoon drive was highlighted by being in the midst of a relaxed breeding herd of elephants. To me the coolest part was to see the two elephants below “greet” each other in a most unique way! Has anyone ever seen this behavior before in the wild or in captivity?



The day concluded with another up close encounter with our by now well-known lionesses. Their expressions here show it all. Notice the condition of her teeth – close examination shows her to be missing a canine tooth and two incisor teeth. Life in the bush is not for sissies!


Cheers – come back to see the WOW factor that day six brings!