Tropical PNW

 Some say that dog owners eventually end up resembling their pets. If that is the case, then aspiring wildlife photographers transform into their subjects, too, a little. Annoying the latter during the process is somewhat akin to waking a bear out of hibernation. (I'm Russian, and I prefer to live up to the stereotype.)

So, i
f you ever see a person gripping their giant telephoto lens with both hands and intently staring into the great beyond, chances are that this person is, gasp!, photographing.  Evidently, the amazing Captain Obvious has yet to visit these parts, since it is precisely  in this very moment--teeth clenched and brow furrowed in fear of getting camera shake--that I often get approached by curious strangers. 

This time around, curiosity (it killed  the cat, I'll have you know!) actually worked out to my advantage. Scared off, the robin I was photographing flew deeper into the grove, and instead of getting terrifying closeups of its eyes again, I captured imagery that makes the Pacific Northwest look like a tropical paradise.

Bless your heart, annoying stranger! ;)


Corvus: the Definitive Collection

To be more precise, I should've called this blog "Pretty Decent Photos of Ravens and Crows I've Taken so Far in the Rocky Mountains and throughout Japan." But the latter lacks a certain literary quality as well as an inflated sense of self-importance so typical of the blogosphere. Peer pressure!

I've always considered crows and ravens to be quite mysterious. Of course, mythic systems from around the world are filled with references to these creatures: from the Scandinavian Huginn and Muninn to the Japanese Yatagarasu, not to mention Russian fairy tales about Voron Voronovich (that's Raven Ravenson to you!), on which I grew up. But to me, this is also about the uncomfortable tension between their noble, majestic appearance and their somewhat morbid, scavenging function, which I occasionally get to observe whenever a local deer turns into roadkill.  

Every time I accidentally get too close with my camera, little robins flutter their wings and fly off, whereas mallards simply walk away, awkwardly swaying from side to side. Crows, however, don't leave: unfazed by my presence, they slowly examine me. In fact, sometimes I can't help but feel that they're reluctantly humoring me with an iota of their condescending attention because I'm a nosy avian paparazzi.  

How can you not take these birds seriously?


The Heroic Quest to Tame the Wild Melanistic Hellbunny

Venturing out of its Beastly lair

Venturing out of its Beastly lair

I have been following this wild, elusive, and, above all, dangerous beast since early autumn, which is what tells me it's not an escaped pet, owned by an all-powerful wizard. After all, life in the harsh Northwester terrain, filled with wolves, mountain lions, and birds of prey, is hard for dark-colored animals--without any natural camouflage, to boot. And unlike the fluffy white rabbit that tried to take Alice (the one who visited the magical Wonderland) down a rabbit hole, this particular specimen nearly took me to the mouth of hell itself! 

The images below are from my third attempt to document its existence. Third time's the charm, they say. 

As I walked my hound earlier in the day, he, being a highly skilled hunting canine, and I, being an incredibly observant person, noticed this mythical creature feasting on some fiber-rich dry grass (and possibly some small children) in the woods. With the basset safely stored at home to avoid a massacre, I switched camera lenses, and ventured back into the wilderness, endangering if not my life, then certainly my pretty purple scarf repeatedly getting caught on all the branches. After about a half hour of chasing the hellbunny through thickly growing aspen, a miracle happened! 

This apocalyptic monstrosity allowed me to get so close that my telephoto lens now provided excessive zoom! Indeed, the beast's eye in one of the high-res versions of the attached images contains a reflection of me. It was at this very moment that it realized all resistance was futile, and a photoshoot was in order! Then ANOTHER miracle happened: this Book-of-Revelations-worthy critter not only began to snack on some grasses with leftover seeds that I gave it, but even allowed me to pet its viperous, but, I admit, rather snuggly and soft fur! In fact, I had to continue offering it sacrificial seeds and grasses that I pulled out from the half-frozen soil, because it began to follow me everywhere I went! It was either the seeds or me! Then, as it got distracted by a single green leaf (and possibly some rotten corpses of its earlier victims beneath the snow), I managed to make my escape and bring you these hard-won images. 

Overall, I consider the risk of this historic encounter to be the equivalent of the attempts to tame dragons on the part of our ancestors.