For this week’s challenge, I first thought of boats. Picturesque boats, like the one on the harbor (or is that harbour?) in Dingle, Ireland.
One of the best times I’ve had on a boat was our tour of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. We spent about a week on the ship, traveling from island to island, even crossing the Equator. There were about a dozen of us university students, plus our professors, sharing a charming little yacht called the Coral I.
As zoology students, we were of course interested in sighting animals on the water. We saw sea birds, turtles, penguins, sea lions…and lizards. Yes, that’s right, the Galapagos have a swimming lizard, called the marine iguana.
Marine iguanas mostly spend their days sunning on the shore, but to feed they dive down and use their blunt teeth to scrape algae off rocks. They have some really cool adaptations for this lifestyle, including bradycardia or slowing of heart rate while under water, and “sneezing” out excess salt when back on land.
The Galápagos Islands, about 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador, are rather isolated volcanic islands, whose flora and fauna famously inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection (“survival of the fittest”) as a mechanism for evolution. I visited there for a week in 2007 as part of a university course.
There are parts of the islands that are so recently volcanic that even vegetation barely grows.
The islands manage to support a wide variety of animal life, including sea birds, Darwin’s famous finches, giant tortoises, and marine iguanas. Only a few islands are inhabited by humans, and they have historically only been visited periodically by sailors, so the animals do not really have a fear of people and will allow you to get quite close.
One of my favorite professors in college was an ornithologist, and one of the few reasons I would willingly get up early on the weekend was to go birding with him. He led our class on a trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos islands, where we saw pelicans, oystercatchers, herons, frigatebirds, and three different kinds of boobies, as well as Darwin’s famous finches. Here’s one of my favorite shots of a male great frigatebird in flight.
We use the mnemonic “green is great” to distinguish the great frigatebird, which has greenish feathers, from the magnificent frigatebird, which is more purple-ish. Females have white patches at their throat instead of the males’ red throat pouch.
My parents bought me my first camera, a Canon Powershot A500 series, when I was a college student spending a semester in Spain. We paid a ridiculous amount of money for a 512 MB SD card, which helped me take a lot of photos and not worry about film. This was the start of my photography journey! I have no formal training whatsoever, I just like to have fun and record memories.
Next I got a crash course in wildlife photography with a week long trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos. It was a great place to learn because the animals on the islands have no natural predators and will just stand there next to you while you photograph them. During this trip, I started to think more about channeling my grandfather, who was an avid amateur nature photographer.
I really got into photography because I am a scrapbooker. I came back from the week-long Galápagos trip with hundreds of images, which I then made into a beautiful scrapbook.
We were gifted a Canon Powershot SD870 for our wedding, which I used to take pictures on our vacations for many years. Returning to Europe was particularly fun because I could practice what I’d learned since Spain, with slightly nicer equipment.
Starting in 2015, I’ve stopped using digital cameras entirely and just use my phone to take photos. The convenience is worth the relatively low quality (funny considering that my phone has a better camera than that first Powershot did). Since I’m not traveling anywhere at the moment, I’m trying to find inspiration around my home (not hard with two kids to photograph!)
So, here I am, meandering along on my photography journey, learning more from my fellow Lens-Artist participants every week. I have grown a lot as a photographer since that first camera and trip to Spain; someday I hope to find time to make scrapbooks for all these photos I am taking!
I’m so sad to say goodbye to the Weekly Photo Challenges. I’ve been doing them since March 2014, and it’s been such a wonderful way to share my trips to the Galápagos Islands and Ireland. I had never thought about sharing my photography, or even really calling it “photography” as opposed to just some photos I took on vacation.
Until I saw some of the bloggers I follow posting weekly photos based on a theme, and I realized that I could do that, too. And do it in a nerdy way.
The Weekly Photo Challenge has helped me learn a lot about photography, and I’ve enjoyed doing research so I could explain a little about the photos. It also has given me an easy, regular source of popular blog posts. I always get a huge bump in views on days I post those photos. So, it’s been good for my blog, and it’s been good for me, too.
From Santa Cruz.
I’m sure I’ll still post some photos, maybe even weekly, but it won’t quite be the same. I’ve found so many cool blogs through the challenges, and I love seeing all the different takes on the theme.