She Lied, People Died

13 Hours

I’ve decided it is time to give you a break from the Yellowstone pictures. The new year brought a renewed interest in getting through my ever growing reading backlog. First book out of the gates comes at a perfect time as are country is in of the midst of assessing the integrity of politicians competing for the White House. Obviously integrity wasn’t a criteria in the previous two elections, but one can only hope people will do the diligence expected out of participants in one of the greatest rights (and duties) we have living in a democracy. Against the liberal media’s best attempts, the story of Benghazi made it to print and even a recently released movie. 13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff is the account from the heroes that took matters into their own hands to defend their countrymen from an attack at our US Outpost in Benghazi, Libya. Specifically it is the account of Mark “Oz” Geist, Kris “Tanto” Paronto, John “Tig” Tigen, Tyron “Rone” Woods, Jack Silva. Dave “DB” Benton, Glen “Bob” Doherty, David Ubben and Scott Wickland who came to the aid of the outpost while it was being attacked and then eventually the attack on the CIA Annex. Rone, Doherty and IT expert Sean Smith gave the ultimate sacrifice that night while politicians schemed against and lied to the American people. It was bad enough with what little came out in the news at the time, but downright disgusting after reading this account. Hillary so famously quipped “What difference does it make” when questioned on Capitol Hill. I only wish they would have allowed the family of those three killed to answer… to answer why it matters that a politician decided it was more important to lie to the American people as to the cause of the attack … of course, the media failed to latch on to that little tidbit on the basis she told her daughter the real story that night.

From a book perspective, I thought as a whole it did not live up to the other military books I’ve read in the past. When you read Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell or any of the Dick Couch books on the special forces, you get the feeling you are there with the subjects of the book, feeling what they feel, assessing the same inputs and wondering what you would have done in a similar situation. The first part of the book is filled with odd tangential statements that felt more like filler than message carriers. This feeling carried for about 2/3rds of the way through the book at which point our heroes made their way back to the Annex. There was actually very little about Ambassador Stevens due to them losing contact with him in the burning safe haven. Even the tragic death of Sean that night was handled in a subdued manner – again.. the narrative just didn’t bring me into the situation well. This changed when the story made its way to the Annex conflict where Rone and Doherty lost their lives and Oz was badly injured. I was not aware of the details of the Annex, so Mitchell brought me up to speed on that – even on the whole “stand-down” concept which everyone stateside has been trying to deny. Call it what you want.. they were ready to help, they were in the car to head into harm’s way and they were told to wait to the breaking point when they opted to take decision making into their own hands. The other scary part of the recount was the 17 February Brigade – from what I can tell a local militia that was contracted to provide security for the Compound. I do not recall whose brilliant idea that was, but it was clear the heroes did not trust them, nor could they readily tell them apart from the terrorists that were attacking them – a dangerous combination for sure!

Most of the pictures didn’t really add much to the book, with the exception of one picture of Stevens’ body being hauled out of the burning build – truly haunting. All said, see the movie or read the book. You owe it to yourself and to the CIA operatives, security protection agents and others whose lives were forever changed that night – some giving the ultimate sacrifice and others suffering physical and emotional debt.

Hit the jump to see what I took away from the read!

Continue reading She Lied, People Died

Itty Bitty Wapiti

In honor of my birthday, I th0ught it might be fitting to add another chapter in the “Newborn” series.  I’ve covered newbies from a number of the animal kingdom over the last two months including Bison (link here), Pronghorn (link here) and even Bear (link here).  Today I get to add these..

Elk shot at Yellowstone National Park in May 2013

Isn’t she .. well to be honest, it could be a he but “it” just sounds too cold for such a cutie.  This young Wapiti (or Elk depending on your preference) was photographed while on our trip out to Yellowstone National Park back in May 2013.  I am not studied up on these creatures beyond what is available in Wikipedia and such, so it is impossible for me to tell you how old she might be for sure.  A quick search on the web indicated they give birth in late May and early June.

Elk shot at Yellowstone National Park in May 2013

Our trip out there was the end of May and first few days of June so this one was at most a week and likely less.  They will lose their spots at the end of Summer.   To be honest, this shoot was at first exhilarating and then gave way to some serious concern.  I had climbed up a small hill off the side of the road hoping the higher vantage point might give way to some interesting subjects.  After looking around for bit, a rustling sound came from 50 or so yards away.  After about 5 or 10 minutes of trying to stand as still as possible, this newborn came walking out from among the brush.  That is the part that fits the exhilarating aspect – heart rate goes up, the camera goes up and the finger goes down on the shutter.  5 minutes later my brain kicked in and reminded me this could be a dangerous setting.  Heart rate goes up, finger comes off shutter head swivels.  Wildlife is no different than us – get too near the babies and the moms get understandably anxious – there are plenty of lessons to be had just checking out the Bear tragedies that occur out there from unexpected encounters with cubs.  The fact I was alone only added to the concern.  A few parting shots and I got the hell out of there! (never did see the doe, but can’t imagine it was too far away).

Hit the jump to see more pictures of the Elk of Yellowstone – and even shots of a younger calf!

Continue reading Itty Bitty Wapiti

Icy Drizzle or Shine, That Grizzly’s Mine

Remember when I mentioned the BIG bears were going to be coming up?  Well, I get to make good on that promise!  Yep, today I bring you the heavy hitters in the Ursus category.  As of late, I’ve focused on the American Black Bear because that has been the primary bear encounters we have had in the wild.  The Grizzly below was the only one we encountered on our May 2013 trip

Grizzly Bear Shot at Yellowstone National Park in May 2013

That folks, was one big Grizzly.  It definitely rivals the previous Grizzly we saw out there (link here) and definitely closer.  From a picture perspective, these shots have an odd grainy grey  shine to them.  There is a reason for that – it was SLEETING at that time these were taken.  Not just a bit of sleet either – it was an all out ice downpour that made it quite difficult to get a decent shot.  The Beast doesn’t mind the harsh shooting conditions, but my fingers were freezing and my eyes were taking a beating – a few shots into it I decided to just enjoy the moment.  For those that have seen the remake of the Walter Mitty movie, remember the point where Sean O’Connell declares that he doesn’t like to have the distraction of the camera – that part of the movie always brings me back to times like this.  The point where you stop concentrating on all the technical camera details and focus instead on all the wonders nature has to offer.  The world tends to get distorted looking through the tunnel of big glass.

Grizzly Bear Shot at Yellowstone National Park in May 2013

For those that may not be up with their Grizzly trivial, you might be surprised to know that the term Grizzly  Bear isn’t the term used by the wildlife scientists.  Nope, those hoity-toity elitists use the clearly more boring moniker of North American Brown Bear – dud.   According to our friends over at Wikipedia, the Grizzly name was actually given by Lewis and Clark – referring to it as grisley in reference to the golden/grey hair tips.  Apparently this just had to be corrected in 1815 – could have at least named it something like the Humpty Bear or maybe the much more accurate Skaryazshit Bear.  Did I mention these beasts have males ranging in the 400–800 lb range and females in the 300-400 range?  For reference, Black Bear males have a high end of the scale at 550 and the females are a little closer topping out at 375.  Honey, where is that bear spray!

For snicks I processed out the sleet to give a better view of how these majestic animals look under normal conditions.

Grizzly Bear Shot at Yellowstone National Park in May 2013

It is officially time to close out the bear posts from Yellowstone.  We were blessed with a number of sightings while we were out there and was excited to finally get them posted on the blog for all to share. Don’t worry, I still have a number of different posts coming from Yellowstone.  I need to get through these so I can get to all those other shoots I’ve fallen woefully behind on.


Bear With Me

As foretold, I am back with another post featuring a Black Bear.  I am changing it up a bit.  This is not a Bear we encountered at Yellowstone National Park back in May of 2013.  Nope, nothing of the sorts.  This fine specimen was actually taken at the Grand Tetons.
Black Bear shot in the Grand Tetons May 2013

We headed down to the Tetons after our Yellowstone visit on our homeward leg of the vacation.  From a wildlife perspective, the Tetons have never really given us much to put in our tins.  We did get a Moose during one of our visits, but beyond that, that park has rarely offered up anything in the mammal category worth talking about.. much less adding to our gallery.   That changed in a significant way on this trip.

Black Bear shot in the Grand Tetons May 2013

Hit the jump to read an interesting story about this encounter!

Continue reading Bear With Me

That Be a D-Bag

Did I mention I have a lot of bear pictures? No, oh, guess what? I have a lot of bear pictures from our trip out to Yellowstone National Park. So many pictures that it has taken me since May 2013 to get them processed and suitable for viewing. No picture shall be served before it’s time.

Black Bear shot at Yellowstone National Park in May 2013

Just kidding, I didn’t get to processing these shots until the recent holiday break. I ended up getting overwhelmed with other projects that caused the backlog. To help make up for that, I’m trying to blast through these Yellowstone posts as fast as I can – as if you didn’t already noticed this based on the flood of posts that came from that trip.

Black Bear shot at Yellowstone National Park in May 2013

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this bear encounter

Continue reading That Be a D-Bag

More New Year Babies

Today marks the last day of our holiday vacation.  Back to the grind tomorrow morning .. at least until the 18th.  Decided it was probably prudent to get posts out while I still had some free time.  New year, new job role, new organization likely means a lot of time spent getting up to speed on new responsibilities while putting a bow on previous efforts.  All that has a way of digging into my free time – couple that with new Arduino, 3D Printing and Halloween projects and you have a recipe for missing post quotas.  So with that, I bring you another post in the current theme of wildlife babies.

Black Bears shot at Yellowstone National Park May 2013

See that Black Bear in the shot above? – hint, it is the one sporting the cinnamon coloring, but still classified as a Black Bear.  That would be a female (that is my guess based on my memory of the situation in which the shot was taken).  As with the previous batches of posts, this shoot came from the Yellowstone National Park trip back in May 2013.  Things have started to cloud a bit but almost certain that is the female (for reasons that will be apparent in a minute).  Notice how she is intently scanning the woods – very similar to the alertness the Pronghorn doe was employing to keep a watchful eye for her fawn predators (link here).

Turns out she wasn’t the only Black Bear in the area.

Find out how this turns out by hitting the jump!

Continue reading More New Year Babies

2015 – The Year In Review

Welcome to 2016 everyone!  It is hard to believe that another year has passed already and even harder to imagine this little offramp on the World Wide Web is now officially 9 years old.  As is tradition around here, the dropping of the ball signals a time to reflect on all the hard work that goes into this labor of love.  I tried to expose you to a variety of topics through the course of the year but I will admit the focus has clearly shifted to more of a photography outlet than a world commentary.  To compensate, I’ve tried to sprinkle various comments and opinions within those posts and every once in a while you’ll get a post devoted to some complaint or observation that strongly intrigued me in one way or another .. usually as of late with this this administration it has not been in a positive direction.  The focus on photography has allowed me dive a little deeper into my art and pushed me to get better in the field knowing that my products will be put on display for all of you to critique.  Your comments throughout the year have been thoroughly appreciated and invaluable when it comes times to selecting the entries for the UB contests.  Last year also brought a new family challenge as my brother Ron fully immerse himself in the birding world cranking out new bird after new bird.  That friendly competition drove a lot of bird posts this year due to my birding rule that requires me to devote a post to a new bird before I can officially count it on my Life List.  I think it would only be fair if Ron also started up a blog to even out this competition a bit don’t you think? hehehe.  I do find it personally satisfying to know he is falling way behind on his processing based on all the grief I get on my backlog – a backlog that drove all the bonus posts in December.  For the fifth year in a row I managed to hit my minimum 6 posts per month self imposed quota.  Oh, and I should point out the new challenge I gave myself of at least TWO images for each non-general post .. well that was shredded like the Constitution under Bumbles.  This required a lot of posting from the road this year thanks to a running schedule that left little time for slacking.   Speaking of the running load this year, you probably noticed there were plenty of new runs last year including several half marathons.  One major running event went unfulfilled this year for a number of reason that might show up in a future post.  Needless to say, missed goals are a solid kick in the nuts around here and there is very little in the way of excuses that takes the sting off when that happens.  With that said, it was not entirely my fault and the journey to prepare resulted in setting a personal record that is likely never to fall.  I owe a lot of that to my two good running friends Sung and Ryan that helped me get through the year in the cold, the wind, the sleet, the snow, the rain, the hills and the injuries – a teaser for the future post.

There were several projects this year – some completed, some progressed like the one you are probably sick of hearing by now – Project Aaarrrnnnuuulld.  That project is nearly finished now – only ONE more phase to go and that multi-year project will be in the books.  Book recollections were woefully undernourished this year but a lot of that time was impacted by the increased running schedule.  If it wasn’t directly eclipsed by late night runs it fell victim as a result of being too tired to crack open a book before crashing on the bed.  The Posey’s made their debut in our Halloween Trail this year along with several new Halloween related projects which rounded out a number of the November posts.

Every year I have to give complete credit to my readers for making the blogging commitment worthwhile.  This year is NO EXCEPTION.  Once again the drive to make my post commitments and the desire to make the images that appear here they best they can be is directly influenced by your commitment to reading my efforts and expressing your thoughts and opinions in the comments. Thank You!

And now, the annual stats for the year’s worth of blogging.

Hit the jump to see the 2015 stats!

Continue reading 2015 – The Year In Review