October 2011 Archives

University of Minnesota - Campus Club Kitchen

Today I started a long-term project: to photograph behind the scenes at the University of Minnesota, in the kitchens, shops, offices, etc. where people work to support the academic life of the university. My first set of photos is in the kitchen of the Campus Club, on Monday morning when a lot of prep work for the beginning of the week is going on.

I took these photos in color, but converted them to black and white, which may work better (or is at least more traditional) for this type of subject matter.

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Fall in New Mexico - Intensity

I feel that these last two photos from our hike on the 4th of July Train in New Mexico express the ideas of intensity, plenitude, abundance of nature. The colorful leaves and vegetation ebb and flow seasonally, but the density and growth potential remain.

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Fall in New Mexico - Stumps

Along the 4th of July Trail near Albuquerque.

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Fall in New Mexico - Leaves

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Fall in New Mexico - Rocks and Leaves

On the Fourth of July Trail near Albuquerque, last Sunday.

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Fall in New Mexico - Colors

Vivid fall colors along the 4th of July Trail SE of Albuquerque. Yes, the sky really seemed that blue.

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Fall in New Mexico - Shadows

We went hiking Sunday on the Fourth of July Trail, near the little village of Tajique, about 50 miles southeast of Albuquerque. The fall colors, though a bit past their peak, were still vivid, as I'll show in subsequent posts. However, I found the mid-afternoon shadows, combined with the dark shapes of the back-lit trees, to be particularly striking. (Click photos to enlarge)

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Macedonian Women's Clothing

The Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe has a splendid exhibit of Macedonian women's clothing:
Young Brides, Old Treasures: Macedonian Embroidered Dress.
The color, richness, and craftsmanship of these costumes is astonishing. Here are a few examples. (Click photos to enlarge them.)

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Santa Fe - Museum Hill Sculptures

Yesterday we drove up to Santa Fe for some museum viewing. Even without going inside, the plaza of Museum Hill has some fine sculptures to view. (Click photos to enlarge them.)

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Paris Scenes

October 5. We have a day in Paris before returning to the Twin Cities. A few parting images:


The restaurant of the Musee d'Orsay, where we enjoyed a stylish lunch.


The Metro


Near the Opera

Madagascar - The Last Day

October 4: We take the long bus ride back from Isalo to Tulear, there to board a plane to Antananarivo and then to Paris.

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Children besieging our bus as we pass through Ilakaka

We arrive in Tulear a couple of hours before our flight is scheduled, so spend an hour in the Arboretum. I was taken with the tangles,

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the spines on flora and fauna,

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and the strange shapes against the sky -

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Suitable last images of a wonderfully strange country.

Madagascar - Isalo National Park

October 3: Today we took a couple of long, fairly strenuous walks through the varied terrain of Isalo National Park. In the morning:


Driving a car into the river to wash it seems to be a common practice. Water is hard to come by, and expensive, in Madagascar.


Tending zebu in the dry grasslands


An interesting combination of old and new



Our morning goal: The refreshing greenery of the Canyon des Makis



In the afternoon we embarked on a hike past dramatic rock formations to the Natural Swimming Pool.


The rock-sealed tomb of a tribal ruler


Pachypodia (elephant foot) plants



Reaching the Natural Swimming Pool after a hot, tiring hike was a relief. The water was refreshing, and the spot was beautiful. A half hour here made the hike back seem much easier.


Nearing sunset, the rocks blazed with color.


Madagascar - Tulear to Isalo National Park

October 2: After a short overnight in Fort Dauphin, we took an early-morning flight to Tulear and boarded a bus to drive to Isalo National Park, remarkable for its sandstone formations and a wide range of other terrain. The road was good, but it was a long drive. Seen along the way:


Many rice fields are being turned into brick manufacturies.


A village woman carrying some sticks (for firewood?)


One of the many large and elaborate tombs that dot the landscape.


Village market


Chameleon held on a stick by a boy, who earned a half-euro for positioning it against the distant hill


Waiting, probably for one of the overcrowded but functional bush taxis, while a pedicab driver hopes for a fare.




Panning for sapphires (and washing a car) in the river that runs through Ilakaka, a boom mining town near Isalo National Park


We stayed for two nights at the Relais de la Reine neighboring the park. Elaborate, finely done stonework adorns every surface, echoing the spectacular rock formations in the park.




Brightly colored lichens paint the sandstone surfaces.

Madagascar - Berenty to Fort Dauphin

October 1: In the morning we took a walk through the Berenty Private Reserve.

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We observed flying foxes (large fruit bats) roosting in trees

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and flying around on courtship missions,

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and had our last glimpses of the Verreaux's sifaka

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and ring-tailed lemurs.

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After lunch we boarded our bus for the long ride back to Fort Dauphin through the sisal plantation, passing a zebu-drawn cart

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and a village market.

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These women must think we're as exotic as we think they are - and they have much better posture from carrying water and most everything else on their heads.

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Zebu graze in the sisal fields, tended by a young man with a spear (off stage left).

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Bringing in the sisal leaves for processing. This is one of the few tractors we saw.

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Green buds on one of the plants in the spiny bush.

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Vendor at a road-side craft stand.

Madagascar - Berenty Spiny Forest

September 30: In the late afternoon, we drove from Berenty to the nearby Spiny Forest, embedded in the large sisal plantation. The spiny plants are much more various and denser than in an area like the Saguaro National Park in Arizona, evidence of the evolutionary fecundity of Madagascar. I enjoyed photographing the strange tangled shapes and fierce edges.









A couple of critters nestled deep in the vegetation were spied by our guide, Benoit:


Malagasy Scops-Owl


Mouse lemur


A vivid end of the day

Madagascar - Berenty

September 30: We began our first full day at Berenty with an early morning walk.


Our extraordinary tour leader, Herilala Jonah

The announced aim was to look for birds, but I was more interested in the vegetation.


An old and majestic tamarind tree


Fallen leaves with sisal spears


Cactus fence


Fog-shrouded sunrise over a dead tree by the river

Returning to the lodge for breakfast, we meet the stars of the show: Ring-tailed lemurs that appear at every meal. They're a wild troupe (maybe more than one, contending for territory), but they're sufficiently habituated to people to try to scavenge from the table.



This male doesn't really have two tails.


Mother and child

We took several other walks through the forest during the day, with lots of good lemur sightings.


Brown lemur grooming a newborn


Red-fronted brown lemurs


Verreaux's sifaka


Sifaka leaping across the ground - a quintessential Madagascar sight.

Madagascar - Fort Dauphin to Berenty

September 29. We took an early morning flight from Antananarivo to Tolagnaro (formerly Fort Dauphin), a port on the southeastern edge of Madagascar, and then bused along a very bad road to Berenty, a private reserve that's one of the best wildlife places in the country. Here are some shots along the road. Click photos to enlarge them.

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Mortuary monuments, examples of the strong Malagasy emphasis on honoring and caring for the dead.

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Kids mobbed the bus wherever we stopped. Some were trying to sell things, some wanted a handout, some just were excited by the novelty of strangers.

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Driving zebu - the major indicator of wealth among Malagasy - back from market.

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Net fishing in the rice fields.

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Passing a roadside village market.

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Waiting for a bush taxi

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We stopped for a while to admire the flora and fauna in the spiny bush, including this panther chameleon in a tree

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and some pretty flowers.

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Baobob tree

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How the spiny forest gets its name

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After besieging the bus for a while, kids return to their normal pursuits.

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About to cross the Mandrare River, with the Berenty Private Reserve on the opposite bank.

Madagascar - Hell-Ville Street Scenes

Here are some more street scenes from Hell-Ville, the main city of Nosy Be in Madagascar. Click photos to enlarge them.











Madagascar - Hell-Ville Street and Market Scenes

September 28: Before flying back to Tana, we spent a couple of hours in Hell-Ville, the administrative center and main port of Nosy Be. I was much taken with the colorful street life and central market, the costumes and adornments, and the general vividness. I'll post photos from Hell-Ville today and tomorrow.

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Madagascar - Lokobe Nature Reserve

On September 26 we flew to Nosy Be; photos from that day have already been posted here.

The next morning we bused from our hotel to the small village of Ambatozavavy where we would take pirogues (wooden canoes with outriggers) to the Lokobe Nature Reserve, the last remaining rainforest in northwest Madagascar. Since it was low tide, we had to walk quite a way to get to water deep enough for the pirogues, which we paddled for nearly an hour through a calm, pretty bay to reach our destination.


Mangrove swamp at low tide

We entered Lokobe through the small village of Ampasipohy, where the inhabitants depend on tourists for most of their livelihood. I paid this woman a euro (probably less would have sufficed, but that's the coin I had in my pocket) to take her picture making mango pickles.


Black lemurs (the females are dark brown) are in the trees around the village, ready to be tempted into photographic poses by pieces of banana.


A ground boa in a tree.


A tiny frog


and an almost equally small gecko


One of Madagascar's major exports is vanilla, and this village - we were assured - grows high-quality stuff. Here's a young plant.


In the rainforest itself we saw strangler fig vines


and a leaf-tailed gecko, which is almost perfectly camouflaged against the gray tree trunk.


On the beach about to start paddling back, we saw this boat unloading logs.


As we paddled into the Ambatozavavy harbor (now at high tide), kids were frolicking in the water.


On our ride back to the hotel, we passed a kapok tree (whose fiber used to fill life jackets and is a substitute for down in mattresses, pillows, and stuffed toys)


and a ylang-ylang plantation, a plant used as a base for perfume.


We also encountered a funeral procession with hundreds of celebrants. Death, funerals, burials, and exhumations are a very big part of Madagascar life.


Madagascar - Lemur Island and Crocodile Farm

September 25: We began our last day in Perinet with this sighting of a tiny frog on a big sisal plant.

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Then a jaunt down the road to Lemur Island, a small island owned by Vakona Lodge where lemurs climb on your head and shoulders to get at pieces of banana that the attendants put in your hands. Sounds hokey, but it's great fun.


Here they come!


Mary Ellen








This sifaka seemed bewildered by the goings-on.


A brown lemur with baby holding tight to her belly fur.

We then went down the road to the associated Crocodile Farm, where we saw


Nile crocodiles


Fosa (pronounced "foosa"), Madagascar's largest endemic carnivore - about the size of a medium dog.


Ground boa


A cuckoo-roller that flies free but takes food from the attendant's lips.

We then got on the bus for the long ride back to Tana. Seen along the way


Charcoal sellers


Patterns in the bright green rice fields.

Madagascar - Andasibe National Park

September 24: We went from our lodge to the Andasibe National Park, part of the same complex yesterday's Mantadia. Our main goal was to see the indri, the largest lemur still in existence.

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They are fast-moving, acrobatic, and playful. "The indri is well known for its loud, distinctive songs, which can last from 45 seconds to more than 3 minutes." (Wikipedia). We can testify to the validity of this description.

Also seen, a few other creatures endemic to Madagascar:

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Brown lemur

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Parson's chameleon

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Giraffe weevil (for the long neck).

We took a walk in the nearby Orchid Garden.

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Finally, some shots of the ordinary vegetation along our path. I usually try to take photos of "perfect" plants in the peak of condition, but here were a couple of specimens that reminded me that decay is part of life, and has its own beauty.

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Madagascar - Mantadia National Park

On September 23, we drove for about 1 1/2 hours over a rough dirt road from Vakona Lodge to Mantadia National Park, a tropical rain forest area (though this was the dry season). Click photos to enlarge them.

The vegetation was lush:

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We saw a red-bellied lemur with a beautiful chestnut coat,

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a troupe of diademed sifakas, including a mother with a baby,

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and a black and white ruffed lemur.

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We also encountered some other striking animals, including a pygmy kingfisher,

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a small but beauriful butterfly,

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and a green gecko on a fence-post.

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It's often harder to find (and certainly harder to photograph) animals in the wild than in a zoo or private reserve, but it's also more exciting and rewarding.

Madagascar - Antananarivo to Perinet

On our fourth day in Madagascar, September 22, we took our bus from Antananarivo on the central plateau to the Perinet (Andasibe) Reserve in the humid rainforest near the east coast of Madagascar.

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At first we passed rather dry-looking rice fields (rice is the staple food of Madagascar)

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and eucalyptus plantations where families harvest the young trees to eke out a living by turning them into saleable charcoal - a major fuel in the country, but a practice that has contributed to wide-spread deforestation and environmental degradation.

Further on,

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the rice fields became more distinct and fertile

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as we passed a village situated in the foothills of the mountains separating the plateau from the coastal region.

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This woman, with two of her daughters, talked to us (through our guide/interpreter) about her life as a farmer and mother.

We reached the Valkona Resort in the Andasibe-Perinet Reserve in early afternoon. After a couple of hours rest, we went on an evening walk along the road through the forest. Our skilled local guide was able to shine his flashlight on a variety of critters.


Leaf-tailed gecko


Tree frog


Orb-weaver spider


Nose-horned chameleon


Panther chameleon

Madagascar - Lemur Park

We're back in Minnesota, with reliable Internet access, so I'm able to resume posting photos from our trip to Madagascar. Picking up on September 21, 2011, our third day in the country, we took a morning bus ride from Antananarivo to Lemur Park. This is a private reserve with a conservation mission that claims nine species of lemurs - 37 individuals, all formerly unwanted (and illegal) pets - of which I was able to photograph six species.

(Click on a photo to enlarge it.)


The habitat is natural and open, and the animals are free to leave; but they are well-fed and cared for here, and the property is bounded by a river that the lemurs are loath to enter.

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Crowned sifaka, Sifakas, a genus of lemur, move by jumping on two legs, while other lemurs walk on four legs.

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Black and white ruffed lemur

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Mongoose lemur

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Coquerel's sifaka

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Bamboo lemur

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Black lemur. Lemurs are often reminiscent of cats - this one particularly so.

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The park (like others in Madagascar) also houses some tortoises. The radiative tortoise has a particularly attractive shell.

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A hillside near the entrance to the park is planted with baby baobob trees and other endemic flora.


This view reminds me of a surrealist painting by Tanguy.

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