Wednesday, October 3, 2018

In search of the Aguara Guazu

Searching for the Aguara Guazu or Maned Wolf, I ended up in The Sanctuary of Caraça  in Catas Altas, Minas Gerais , Brazil.  I first learned about this wolf from a photograph I saw in Argentina 3 years earlier which started the chase.  The Aguara Guazu is nocturnal and rare so it is a big challenge to photograph.  First arranged to go to a national park in Brazil where it is found but was not assured that I would even see and even less to photograph so opted to go the Sanctuary. The painting below was done by a German artist George Grimm at the request of the Brazilian Emperor Don Pedro II who visited here in 1881. The following image is a close-up of the church and the area looks now very similar to the painting.

 Going to Caraça was in search of the Aguara Guazu or Maned Wolf (Chrysocyion brachyrus) whose images are below.  Due to darkness good quality images were not obtained and the ones below, the first one was taken with an iPhone6 and the next one with a Canon 5DIII. These animals are fed every night in the church yard that has become a tourist attraction, a practice beginning in the mid-1980s’. Honestly the fact that I was not able to get an image of this majestic animal in a natural setting was not a disappointment, just watching it was a great reward.

 Aguara Guazu means large fox in the Guarani language and is also called red wolf but is not closely related to either as well as dogs and coyotes. It is the taller than those mentioned before. They prey on small mammals, birds and fish but largely feed on fruits and vegetables. Avoids man, it is usually solitary and are a threatened species.

 The Sanctuary was a surprise as to how in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Brazil, it came to be erected beginning in 1774 by the efforts of Brother Lourenço who died in October 27, 1819, about 96 years old. He arrived at the site in the early 1770’s and started construction of the original hermitage which was demolished in 1876 and the new Gothic Style Sanctuary consecrated in 1883. The tower is about 160 feet in height and the cross on top is said to contain slivers of wood taken from the Christ crucifixion cross. The interior of the church is impressive and below the altar (next image) is the body of St. Pius who was martyred in Roman times; the body is covered with wax and was sent by Pope Pius VI. I wander what caused these remains to end up here.

 After Lourenço’s death, a congregation of Portuguese priests arrived and established a boarding school resulting in additional expansions to the complex. The School teachings resulted in various prominent students, two of those eventually ended as presidents of Brazil.  It ceased as a school in 1968 due to a fire.

 The dining hall that survived the school fire brought back ancient memories of my youth that I spent in a Catholic boarding school. The hall was very similar in the lay-out and I recall marching into it and not allowed to seat until prayers.  Then the battle started for the food on the table; if not fast enough in grabbing the grub, one may have to be content just with bread and milk. At the end and far right of the hall is a painting of Don Viçoso whose photo is below. That  face is the stereotype of some of the priests that maintained law and order in the school of my youth.  The scowling look implied that you were going to hell.

Overall the visit to Caraça brought me not only finding the Aguara Guazu but youthful memories that fifty years later are not so somber, the bars were broken.

 The Sanctuary is located in a nature preserve with plenty of opportunities for landscapes and wildlife pictures.  The variety of flowers is amazing with lots of orchids and birds. There large forests in the complex with trails with excellent opportunities that reward with a variety of birds.

 The birds below are the saffron finch, the southern house finch, the chestnut bellied guan and the ferruginous pygmy owl followed by a Brazilian chipmunk.

Time to move on and write the Pantanal blog.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Graffiti or Street Art Exhibit 2018.

I have not done a public exhibit since back in 1998 and it was mostly about wildlife photography. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s I did several at various art centers, bank lobbies and others but retired from public life and dedicated just to roam the world in search of wildlife. I have visited about 100 countries but continue to return to a few. Travel photography has become a big business and there are very few places left to photograph, and the crowds spoil the landscapes and harass the wild animals.  Below is the flyer for my exhibit opening 9/7/2018.  For those that are unable to attend the work displayed is below the invitation postcard.

 Graffiti has been defined as illegal or illicit writings, paintings in buildings or public transportation surfaces and can be found dating back to ancient empires. It is mostly considered as vandalism but recently has been attaining acceptance as street art.  Graffiti are expressions of political and social protests or just plain artistic expressions. In certain cities such as in Brooklyn, New York, there are programs protecting and preserving these images. Most of the photos below depict art created with spray paint cans except for Image 3 that was made with ceramic shards and Image 8 with charcoal.

Description of Images.

1 and 2.  These are shown first since they are the oldest ones.  Photographed in April 2018 in the Cuevas de las Manos (Cave of the Hands) near the famous Route 40 in Patagonia, Argentina.  They were created between 8-9000 years ago consisting mostly of hands stenciled on the cave walls by blowing the pigments with hollow bird bones. Most of the hands are left ones since the artist held the spraying pipe with the right one.  I observed that the hands are more numerous close to the ground where the walls were more accessible to short people and diminish in numbers at the higher levels. Illustrations also include animals, hunters and geometric patterns. In Image 1 there is a hand with 6 fingers; can you find it?

 3.  This colorful image of an Indian woman is from the Northern area of Argentina’s Route 40 closer to Bolivia. It is different because instead of pigments, shards collected from a nearby ceramic factory were used to make the elaborate composition. Route 40 is about 3000 miles long paralleling the Andes; so far I have covered 1/3 of the route.

 4.  A wall in Lujan, Argentina.  Has vivid in colors and introduces a figure of an extraterrestrial. It was in a state of deterioration and who knows what was in the mind of the creator.

 5. The Blue Woman was photographed in 2017 in Guatemala City; I found it striking and kind of reminded me of the 1970’s hippie life styles.

 6. The Two Winged Monsters also came from Guatemala City and found not far from the previous image.  It appears to be influenced by India’s religious paintings.

 7.  The store front image comes from Nice, France.  It is possible that although it looks like graffiti, it may a mural.  I define the difference between Graffiti and a Mural in that the former is illicit and the latter probably contracted and paid for.

 8.  The Horses also differs from the others in the collection in that it is black and white on a wall inside the famous Carrara marble mines in Italy. These have been mined since ancient Rome and as to when these horses were created are hard to determine.

 9.  My favorite comes from the Bridge arch closer to the shore of what is left of the Pont Saint-Benezet over the Rhone River in Avignon, France. The colorful composition and the simple drawn lines remind me of a Picasso. 

 10. This one comes from Louisville, Kentucky, in an alleyway between a restaurant and a garage; the graffiti was on the wall of the latter. It was very large and about half of it is depicted here. I just happened to stop at the restaurant for lunch; otherwise, I would have never seen it. So I got an eye and a stomach full from one stop.

 11. This image and the following ones (12, 13) are from Bushwick, an area Brooklyn, New York where the highest concentration of graffiti in the USA may be located.  The anatomical representation of two hearts connected by blood vessels is most unusual and beautiful done.

 12.  It is the most intriguing since it includes graffitoed truck parked on the street in front of a business also covered by graffiti. As to the real origin of this combination, it appears to be intentionally done and who knows whether the truck moves at all.  In this case, the question is really an illicit creation or rather a composite mural.

 13.  This image is a heavily edited HDR image of a corner building.  Although the heavy concertina wire on top of the walls makes it appear as a jail, it is really a business.

 14.  The Shark is from Manhattan and probably a mural rather than graffiti; wonder if the shark was drinking an Indian IPA.

 15.  Finally the end…this graffiti of a woman with an owl on the head was found in one of the narrow alleys in Barcelona, Spain.  Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Argentina and Chile, the camera version, 2018

The previous blog of this trip was done with an iPhone, much faster than using a digital SLR full size camera.  I am transitioning from mirror digital cameras to the mirrorless and you won’t be able to tell the difference in image quality, just that the mirrorless are smaller, faster and quiet.  And what you see in the viewfinder is what you get.  Starting in the Peninsula de Valdez. This is the place when you see orcas attacking and eating the seals on the beaches and had been there before but never saw the show.  This time was 20 minutes late and missed again.  The orcas cruise the shoreline and capture the prey by rushing into the beach.  This time they were training the young ones. 

The armadillos are common and usually not concerned with humans so are easy to approach.
They live in burrows and usually can be seen followed by the children.  Foxes are also very common and not averse to human proximity.  And then the maras, these resemble rabbits but are not related.  They are diurnal and monogamous for life. They use communal dens and are very vocal among themselves - sorry, don’t speak the language.  Foxes are very common and hunt maras; this one was not far from one of the dens. There are birds too; this one looks like a North American mockingbird and behaves like one.  This is called a calandria morada and it seems that it had a bad hair day.

After leaving the coastal area of Argentina moved west to the famous Ruta 40 that runs the length of Argentina mostly bordering the Andes. It appears that the same bird followed me to El Chalten, a massive rock formation in the Argentine section of the Andes similar to Torres del Paine in Chile.  In my opinion is easier to access than Torres and friendlier to the visitors.  The village of el Chalten offers a variety of accommodations and eateries at reasonable prices.  Torres has a very limited and expensive Hostels and entrance fee.  And if you are a foreigner, you pay more than the locals although this also applies in Argentina particularly when you make reservations from overseas. The image below the bird is of the Rio de las Vueltas meaning the River of Many turns or in geological parlance “meandering”.

El Chalten is Tehuelche name meaning Smoking Mountain due to be covered with clouds most of the time. It offers extraordinary photo opportunities that are constantly changing as seen below.  Some of the images are presented in Black & White and Color. The first and second are both versions but the third one was a rare opportunity in which an opening in the clouds led the sun create a line of fire. The dominant peak is also known as Mount Fitz Roy in honor of the Captain of the Beagle, with whom Darwin sailed around South America and to the Galapagos that resulted in his book the Origen of the Species.

The trails inside El Chalten offer variety of stress rewarding with various landscapes particularly in the fall when the leaves of the trees are changing. Really a single camera with a quality extra-wide to wide zoom is needed as well as a tripod for the finicky photographer. Rain/cold protection gear and water will be required since the weather changes are fast.

 Continuing south in the Ruta 40 deviated from the main road to visit La Cueva de Las Manos. Below, the canyon of the Pinturas River where the petroglyphs are found.  As always, for humans to survive there must be water. These in my opinion are the best I have seen in my travels.  Consider that they are between 8-9000 years old and the colors are still vibrant

Most of the hands painted are left ones and that is because the painter used the right hand holding a hollow bird bone to blow the pigments. There a few right hands too and there is one with 6 fingers!!!  Most of the hands are closer to the lower section of the rocks and I imagine that this was because these were more accessible because there may have more short people than tall or to the work of the children.  Animals are also represented with the guanacos the most abundant as well as people, symbols and insects.

Continuing down Ruta 40 deviated again towards Calafate to visit the nearby glaciers.  On the way there a fox eating a dead rhea offered some entertaining as well a young black chested buzzard eagle not familiar with the danger of humans.

Perito Moreno Glacier is the only one that is advancing while others around the world are retreating.  This is my third visit and as in all parts of the world global tourism had a detrimental impact.  The first time I was able to walk to the shoreline but now, there is a system of elevated steel passages to which one is limited.  This not only limited free roaming but destroyed the landscape integrity.  It was named after Franciso Moreno, an Argentine explorer and perito just means “expert”.  He had an interesting life once caught by the Teheulche Indians and condemned to death but escaped and was also attacked by a puma and survived.

Nearby in the Lago Argentino one can take a boat tour to visit other glaciers not as impressive but still worth of a visit since one can encounter interesting passengers as well as icebergs. Images are of the glaciers Upsala and Spegazzini glaciers.

 Returned to La Ruta 40 and again deviated to the town of “Los Antiguos” that used as a staging place to close the border into Chile to visit the Marble Cathedral in Lago General Carreras.
More details about the Marble Cathedral can be found in my previous blog where the iPhone was used as the camera.  Below are more images of the same place using a full size digital camera.
Notice the last image looks like a skull emerging from the water.  This was one of the places I always wanted to visit as well as “La Cueva de Las Manos”.  

Trip ended in Torres del Paine in Chile, one of the most photographed places of the world and not just because of the landscapes but because of the pumas.  As in Iceland, the weather changes every 15 minutes. I visited there 18 years ago and several times since then and it has changed -not for the best in my opinion.  One year I was not allowed in because of the great fire that cause great damage and will take decades for the park to recover.  All parts of the park were affected.

There a variety of animals such rheas and guanacos that easy to photograph and as previously mentioned great landscapes.  There is no other place where place the pumas are so accustomed to humans, allowing great photo opportunities. The puma photographed is known as “la Hermana”, sister of “La Mocha” whose whereabouts are not known.  I met both in 2015 and had a great close encounter resulting in images that I will probably not be able to replicate in the future.

Finalizing the great adventure, a view of Torres del Paine from Lago Pehoe but in Black and White; not as often seen color ones.  Until I return.