Saturday, August 29, 2009

Azores v. 4.12

The perfect flying machine. It's amazing how Cory's shearwaters are able to "surf" every ripple of the ocean's surface (which this image fails to show), without touching the water, and using all the energy for their flight. This image is a small tribute to a run over Cory's shearwater I saw yesterday...

Common dolphins and Cory's shearwater chasing a "ball" of fish. Notice the baby-dolphin just next to mama-dolphin.

Another common dolphin says hi...

A 15 minute exposure with some cows preparing to sleep and Pico mountain in the background. I used a flashlight to "paint" the cows.
Got a plane to catch...
I can't wait to see the underwater shots... this film-age waiting thing is agonizing, I missed it :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Azores v. 4.11

Today was a particularly uninspired day behind the camera. Missed all the good moments and ruined almost all shots. A sperm whale waving goodbye and saying hello to some poor squid on the bottom.

Another sperm whale.

A tough striped (?) dolphin exhibits his scars.

Going back home, road to São Roque do Pico from Lages do Pico.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Azores v. 4.10

No dolphins today :( :( :( ... and a lot of wind and some swell out in the ocean.
I guess they were right, the first day was unusually good... let's hope today was unusually bad.
However, in sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) terms, it was great! The photos came out too bad because of the rocking of the zodiac (a great excuse, eh, eh), the following two images made the cut though :)

Notice the single blowhole on the sperm whale's left side and, on the left of the image, that white speck over the hill is the watch tower from which whales and dolphins are sighted and their locations radioed to the zodiac.

"Whale watchers usually say aaaaah when I do this"

I spent the rest of the day trying to dodge the rain on the south coast of Pico... When I returned to São Roque it was sunny...
I like this image, even though it looks like it was taken in Ukraine.

Two kids take their laser class sailboat out of the water in São Roque. In the background, that's right, Pico Mountain.

Local kids discuss ice-cream flavors in São Roque docks.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Azores v. 4.9

Difficult conditions today, choppy sea... and each group of dolphins we encountered seemed determined to avoid us changing direction every time. It was thus very nice to stumble upon this group of pilot whales. I don't know if they are short or long finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus or Globicephala melas, respectively). They swim rather slowly, at least in comparison with the dolphins we've seen so far.

"There, I had told you I had to breathe!"

Whale or human watching?

A nice little church with Pico's mountain in the background near São Caetano.

Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture, a world heritage site. Faial and Ilhéus da Madalena in the background.

The Atlantic pounding some "biscoitos" near Criação Velha. Faial in the distance.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Azores v. 4.8

After many, many years dreaming about it and seeing The Deep Blue I don't know how many times, today was THE day! Went swimming/floating with dolphins!!!!!!! Soft encounters, as they say, since you enter the water and, without actually swimming towards the dolphins, you wait for them to approach you... if they feel like it.
This was not the case. Although there were many dolphins, they seemed to be heading somewhere in a big hurry and, so, we just saw them going by, basically.
It is an overwhelming experience.......... one I would enthusiastically recommend... and I really cannot express what I felt and still am feeling...
I'll have to wait for the film of my underwater camera to be developed, the good old fashion way... I just hope the photos are not completely ruined. I'll be more than happy with one good frame, as I have the whole video still very vivid in my mind.
Next, my above-the-water-shots. All the featured dolphins, the "same" we floated with, are atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis; golfinho pintado in portuguese).
Last, but not certainly least, swimming in the BLUE is in itself almost too much.........

A Cory's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea; Cagarro in portuguese) glances himself in the surface.

"Hi there!", "Hellooooo!".

This is a soft encounter. Two persons at a time, floating. I was next!

This is a different kind of Cory's shearwater. It is darker and has a nice beer-belly which it drags clumsily in the water when taking off.


So many... and the BLUE.

"Say, your fins are kind of weird"



Sunday, August 23, 2009

Azores v. 4.7

This fisherman was just coming from the sea and proudly unloading his catch in Santo Amaro's little port. He then quickly returned for more.

I can't remember the name of this place, but it's near Santo Amaro. You can see roofs like this one, reinforced with lava rocks, throughout the Azores. I guess the tale of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf goes on a little bit different around here :)

I struggled to get the BLUE of the ocean right and this was the better I managed to. I kept changing camera settings but to no avail... grrrrrr...! It then started pouring. Typical. To give you an idea of how clear the water is, the rocks you can see underwater are at least 4m deep. Baía de Engrade.

Calheta de Nesquim is a picturesque little village on the southeastern coast of Pico very much worth a visit. I'll surely get back there sometime this week.

This was taken on a dark, dangerous path on the edge of earth, leading somewhere... I'll be back with a machete, bear traps and mountain boots instead of sandals.

Injured animals keep coming at me... I couldn't understand why Bugs was unable to run, he was just happily walking on the tarmac when I saw him.

He's this big... I left him in a sunny patch of grass, hoping for the best...


... and, tomorrow is the big day! I won't be able to share the images, as they will be in slide and b&w film (!!!), but I will try and put together some words about the experience, eh, eh, eh!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Azores v. 4.6

This is São Roque do Pico, as seen from São Miguel Arcanjo.

At the end of the day, the omnipresent Pico mountain looked like a nuclear blast.

A common tern (Sterna hirundo), garajau in portuguese, shows how to lick the elbow.

I bet these are all females ;)

I like this image as it shows the common tern lit by the sun and a dark cloud looming behind it. This is rather typical in the Azores, the weather changes every minute.

I found it very hard to keep their flight within the frame, they are lightning fast!

Azores v. 4.5

I still remember some postcards I bought back in 1993 when I first came to the Azores, picturing a family of sperm whales underwater close to Lages do Pico. Since then, I keep saying "You've got to go there" year after year.
With great expectations, I boarded one of Espaço Talassa's whale watching zodiacs today. Although what I really wanted to see were sperm whales, none showed up. But that's the way it goes. Maybe some other time ;)

Engine, ok; flaps, ok; control tower, ok. A Cory's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea; Cagarro in portuguese) takes off.

Some common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) and, I believe, at least one striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba, on the right), gracefully swimming between our zodiac and Pico's mountain.

Another Cory's shearwater.

This is a fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus; baleia comum in portuguese), which is a rare sight this time of year as she (?) should have traveled through the Azores back in May. Let's hope she (there's no turning back now) catches favorable currents!

"Okay, guys, let's go, flight formation Fox 2 Delta 9!"

An atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis; golfinho pintado in portuguese).

"Guts out!"

A group of atlantic spotted dolphins escorted our zodiac when we left the area where they were feeding...

This is the view halfway through (I was told) to Pico's mountain top... that was the farthest I went :(
Made my usual mistake whether I'm running, riding the bike or trekking by starting on full throttle. The result: no more water... and the fact that I would have to descend alone in the dark made me abort the mission. Lame enough?

On my way down: Horta (in Faial) and Madalena.