These beauties are Icelandic horses which are enjoying some afternoon sun during a short break in the relentless wind that seems to dominate each day. These unique horses are bred in Iceland and more closely resemble ponies from which they were developed. They are the only type of horse you will see in Iceland and are generally seen huddled together, eyes closed and grumpy looking. Although I would be grumpy too if I had nothing around me to shield myself from the unforgiving wind, as there aren’t even many trees around, if at all. You may have noticed that they are furrier than regular horses because they have a double coat to keep them warmer in cold temperatures. They come in a wonderful range of colors from very light to silky black and are definitely worth saying hello to if in Iceland.
This photo was taken on a trip to Iceland in March, the season of the Northern Lights (Sept to Apr). I learned many things while practicing my night photography on this spectacular display.
Firstly, the lights themselves look brighter in a photo than in real life. This is because to take a night photo you will use a long exposure, so the photo is a collective of multiple seconds of light put together.
Due to the long exposure of a night photo there is plenty of time to accumulate blurry movement into your photo. Essentially a tripod is your best friend so that your camera is as still as can be. Not wanting to travel with a tripod, I found a table to rest my camera on.
The lights are in the North. This may seem obvious enough to most people, but the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. So when you see stunning photos of Northern Lights over a mountain or lake, that landscape must also be to the North of you.
They aren’t around every night or all night and to see them best, the sky needs to be mostly clear of clouds. This mysterious light display comes and goes at will, popping up and disappearing whenever it chooses. They are higher than the clouds, so clouds will obstruct your view of them. This means that to take the ultimate Northern Lights pic you needs a bunch of patience to sit up all night and watch the sky in a freezing cold environment.
Conveniently we stayed in a hotel which gives you a wake-up call when the night security person sees the lights appear. Great for us to get some sleep, but this means that the landscape you are photographing the lights in wont be as impressive as camping on the south aspect of a gorgeous mountain or lake.
This tiny little beauty is a type of strawberry dart frog from Costa Rica. They call this particular variety a blue jeans poison dart frog because the red bodied frog has blue arms and legs. The bright colors of these frogs is a signal to any predators that they are extremely toxic and should be left alone. The poison from one individual frog is enough to kill 10 adult humans. When I saw this frog it shocked me how tiny they really are, as they are generally about the size of your big toenail. It’s also amazing to me that such tiny frogs can create so much noise!
This little anole is a type of lizard native to the Bahamas and Cuba. However, it is easily spotted on many other Caribbean Islands. It is a highly invasive species and easily outcompetes other small lizards and frogs because it will eat anything that can fit into its mouth. Like other lizards, they will communicate through mostly visual displays. When angry or threatened they expand the flap of skin on their throat to display an orange and yellow warning and perform some push ups. If the threat continues, they will bite, urinate and defecate, but also have the ability to detach their tail as a moving decoy to facilitate their escape from a predator. These traits are what makes this little lizard a very skilled survivor.
During a recent trip to the west coast of the US, we couldn’t have missed this bird if we’d tried. They are out in numbers around Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park where conifer forests are prominent. Having spent time around Blue Jays (a close relative) in New York I think Stellar’s Jays are by far the noisiest of the two and make their presence known. In addition to numerous distinct vocalizations, they are also known mimics of the calls of other birds, animals and can also produce non-animal sounds.
I’m sure I’ve said in the past that all reptiles are beautiful, but I think this Iguana might just be the exception. I think he might have even been the inspiration for Gremlins (and not the cute furry one). He seemed like the king of this particular paddock, so it seems that looks don’t matter in the Iguana world and size definitely does!
For more Iguana’s that are easier on the eyes click here.
It is said that Yosemite National Park is home to only one type of rattlesnake, and I was honored to meet him. This is the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake which is patterned with grey and white markings. I might be the only person that would call this the highlight of their trip to this spectacular national park. My friends were understandably horrified when I told them that this was the perfect snake to photograph – not frightened and running away nor aggressive, just happily working it’s way through the tree roots and occasionally stopping for a photo. What a treat!