Archive for the ‘Activities’ Category

Viewing The Ocean From Afar

May 14th, 2010 at 12:06 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

About 10 years ago, working with my college friend Dan Senie, we installed the world’s first permanently mounted WebCam in a reef system. We called it the Bonaire ReefCam, and there was a Bonaire ReefCam of some sort in operation (even two at one point) until the Fall of 2008, when Tropical Storm Omar severely damaged the Bonaire Pier ReefCam.

Over the last decade the various WebCams I have installed on Bonaire have allowed millions of people to experience Bonaire above and below water from afar via the Bonaire WebCams web site. But top-side WebCams apparently only go so far – people have really missed watching marine life under the water’s surface, and have made sure to let me know that fact.

Well, now that I’ve been home for a long enough stint (9 weeks), I have had a chance to install a brand new replacement Bonaire ReefCam. This one too shares the name of its predecessor – the Bonaire Pier ReefCam, since it is located under a pier. I installed it two days ago and it’s been working great ever since. The images you can see on the Bonaire WebCams site update internally every minute, and every 1-4 minutes for viewers (frequency depends on your membership level at the site).

Jake on the Bonaire Pier ReefCam right after it was installed

Jake seen on the Bonaire Pier ReefCam right after it was installed

Because I was installing the camera very close to land and in shallow water (it’s only 2-3 feet under water), I was able to design a very simple underwater camera system, which involved a high quality NTSC bullet camera, a couple of pieces of PVC pipe (one big, one small), clear resin, a UV filter, and about 60 feet of heavy garden hose to run the thin cable through and provide good environmental protection. Once the camera was potted, I attached it to a small two-by-four wood chunk, and then used cable and tie wraps to attach it to one of the pier pilings. I worked very hard to avoid damaging any of the orange cup corals on the piling during my installation efforts, and ran the cable and tie wraps between the small coral heads.

The Bonaire Pier ReefCam with school of silversides

The Bonaire Pier ReefCam with school of silversides

Once I verified the orientation was good, I used underwater epoxy to cement the camera and wood to the piling. This morning I went back for a quick snorkel inspection and I was pleased to find that the epoxy had set very well – I wasn’t sure it would because it was very soupy when I applied it (and the small bit of surge at the time didn’t help) – I ended up wearing a fair bit of the epoxy during the application attempt.

Close-up of the Bonaire Pier ReefCam - not pretty but very functional

Close-up of the Bonaire Pier ReefCam - not pretty at the moment but very functional

The end result is not particularly attractive at the moment, but marine growth should cover up most of the epoxy and wood in the coming months.  As long as the lens is kept clean, it will work just fine.

Below are a few more photos related to the new Bonaire Pier ReefCam, and you can find larger versions of all of the photos in this post on my Flickr pages.

The pier at Eden Beach on which the Bonaire Pier ReefCam is mounted. It is on the second piling from the left, under where these people are sitting. The garden hose protected cable goes under the pier into the gray box on the Eden Beach sign, and from there, the signal goes into a small server room where it is digitized and uploaded every minute.

The pier at Eden Beach on which the Bonaire Pier ReefCam is mounted. It is on the second piling from the left, under where these people are sitting. The garden hose protected cable goes under the pier into the gray box on the Eden Beach sign, and from there, the signal goes into a small server room where it is digitized and uploaded every minute.

Silversides on the Bonaire Pier ReefCam

Silversides on the Bonaire Pier ReefCam

A happy parrotfish poses with the Bonaire Pier ReefCam

A happy parrotfish poses with the Bonaire Pier ReefCam

 

Another Richter With a Camera

March 25th, 2010 at 12:35 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

One of the pleasures we enjoy during our varied trips is photography – both the act and the art of taking interesting pictures, and then later the reminiscing that occurs as we review and apply our imagery in various ways after our trips.

It appears that the youngest member of The Traveling Richters is now also looking at photography more seriously. While we have tried to engage him with both point and shoot cameras as well as video cameras, his enthusiasm for them waned quickly. He said that the point and shoots were too small and boring, and he didn’t want to deal with editing video after he shot it.

However, when I lent him one of my DSLRs on the very last day of our voyage into the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic, he became captivated with using the camera, and kept at it for a couple of hours, working the angles, the subjects, and lighting.

Bas working the angles while taking photos of moss on a post

Bas working the angles while taking photos of moss on a post

We were on New Island, in the West Falkland Islands area, visiting a rookery featuring Rockhopper penguins, King cormorants, black-browed albatross, as well as caracaras and turkey vultures.

Bas with camera in hand at New Island

Bas with camera in hand at New Island

I helped him sort through his images later in the evening so we could submit three shots to use as part of the cruise slide show. Below are those three final images – all of which are very nice shots.

A rockhopper penguin in the rookery at New Island

A rockhopper penguin in the rookery at New Island

Some of the splendid scenery on New Island in the West Falklands

Some of the splendid scenery on New Island in the West Falklands

A striated caracara sits atop a wreck at New Island

A striated caracara sits atop a wreck at New Island

Bas now says that New Island was the best part of his entire trip, mainly because he had a real camera in hand. I have promised to let him use one of my DSLRs at home so he can practice with it some more. It will be curious to see if his interest remains stronger with the better equipment.

 

Super-Large Panorama of King Penguin Colony

March 14th, 2010 at 4:52 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Now that I’m back in the world of real Internet connections I can upload another panorama I created during our recent trip to the Antarctic region.

While at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia, we witnessed a King penguin colony numbering in the many hundreds of thousands of penguins. I already uploaded one panorama from that day, but have an even larger (and more astounding) one to share today. If you look at the image closely, you can even see skuas flying above the colony looking for easy prey.

Click on the image below to get to the full panorama. Warning – it is 42,043 pixels wide, and nearly 20 megabytes in size. No guarantees that your browser will allow you to view an image that large, but give it a try.

A close-up panorama of the King penguin colony at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia

A close-up panorama of the King penguin colony at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia

Once (and if) the larger panorama image appears in your browser, you may want to right-click on the image and save it locally to your hard disk and use a better image viewer to look at it in detail. You can also use the “Download the Original Size” link to accomplish this.

 

The Black Penguin

March 11th, 2010 at 5:48 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

It figures that something remarkable was seen on our trip, but I completely missed it. Fortunately my daughter Krystyana did see it – and she also managed to take several photos of this unusual critter. I’m speaking of the Black Penguin, a flightless bird with unusual coloring that appears to have taken the world by storm.

Black King penguin next to normal King penguin

Black King penguin next to normal King penguin

Fellow traveler and National Geographic Traveler contributing editor Andrew Evans posted a photo of the melanistic penguin on his blog, which led to another post in the Intelligent Travel blog, and from there it seems to have spiraled into a major news story.

So, to help prove that Andrew’s photo was not an anomaly, below are a few more photos of the Black Penguin.

Black Penguin in the foreground with a regular King penguin in the background

Black Penguin in the foreground with a regular King penguin in the background

The Black Penguin

The Black Penguin

Larger versions of the above images, along with additional photos can be found on Krystyana’s Flickr pages.

 

Slide Show From The Antarctic Expedition

March 9th, 2010 at 2:01 am (AST) by Jake Richter

We had several photo pros on board the National Geographic Explorer, including Lindblad staff photographers Michael Nolan and Eric Guth and National Geographic photographers Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson. This photo “team” was always readily available to provide guests with tips and critiques, as well as technical assistance.

Some of the ways they used to help improve the quality of the photos taken by guests was to lead seminars on photography and photographic techniques, as well as have open critiques of submitted photos. There’s no question that general photo quality improved as a whole over the three weeks we were traveling the seas.

The culmination of the photographic experience was a computer-based slide show put together by Mike Nolan, including most of the submissions from the first two critiques, plus a final set of photos, all contributed by a large number of guests and staff alike. There are many amazing photos from our trip included in the slide show, including wildlife, landscapes, abstract works, and even ones of various people you might or might not recognize.

While the slide show was distributed to folks on memory cards on board the ship the last day at sea, I offered to Mike that I could also post it here on our site for on-line access by our fellow guests and their friends and family, and that offer was gladly accepted.

The link below leads to a .MOV file containing the slide show, which can be played back via QuickTime, iTunes, or any of a number of other video players. You can download Apple’s QuickTime here in case you need it.

The .MOV file is just over 50MB in size, and takes about 32 minutes to play through (there are a lot of photos there). There is no sound in the file, so don’t be alarmed if you hear nothing when you start the slide show. I would suggest playing some Jazz or Classical music in the room you view the slide show in to add a nice aural ambiance.

To play the .MOV file, click on the link below, and then save the .MOV file in a local directory on your system. Once it is fully downloaded, and assuming you have QuickTime or another compatible player installed, you can double click on the file to play it. You may also have to click on the “play” button in your video player to start the slide show.

NatGeoExplorerSlideshow.mov

Enjoy the show! And special thanks from all of the guests (including us) to the National Geographic Explorer Photo Team for all their advice, comments, and support!

 

GPS Tracking – A Day In And Around Ushuaia

March 4th, 2010 at 8:21 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Our unexpected full day in Ushuaia turned out quite nice. We started with a visit to the Maritime Museum of Ushuaia, located in the former prison which had been the core of the foundation of Ushuaia as a penal colony a long time ago.

We then wandered through the main shopping and restaurant portion of downtown Ushuaia – lots of tourist goods, a large number of restaurants offering all you can eat buffets (we didn’t partake), and tour companies offering trips to see penguins (been there, done that).

Lunch required busing to Patagonia Mia, a restaurant near the entrance of the Tierra del Fuego national park. While not bad, the meal we had there was perhaps the most disappointing of the trip – they only offered fish (cod) as a main course (we managed to get a breaded beef filet for Bas), and it was bland and uninspired. Quite a contrast from the diverse and almost universally great food we’ve enjoyed aboard the National Geographic Explorer.

After a quick stop at the ship, we took a two hour bus ride to Estancia Harberton. Estancia means “ranch” or “farm”, but while Estancia Harberton used to be a sheep farm and place where firewood was harvested, today it’s more of a historic site. On property is also the Museo Acatushun Aves y Mamiferos Marinos Australes, the Museum of Birds and Marine Mammals, which features the world’s best collection of marine mammal skeletons and skulls. Pretty impressive, although we had limited time available to truly appreciate the collection.

Our final dinner aboard the Explorer awaited our return.

We’re now just about thoroughly packed and ready to get up before dawn so we can leave Ushuaia just after dawn. We hope to be in Miami late Friday night at a hotel Lindblad has arranged for all of us on the charter. On Saturday we move to a nice hotel in Coconut Grove, a trendy area south of downtown Miami.

The GPS track for our day in and near Ushuaia is below.