Wednesday, March 9, 2016

victoria adventures PART II

After our trip to the Victoria Zoo and our delicious lunch at the brewery, we decided to drive around downtown Victoria in search of more adventures. I'm the type of person who thinks photographing cool buildings and getting coffee warrant the word "adventure", so that could mean anything. I'm flexible in my sense of wonder.

We drove around downtown and found something amazing.

This abandoned bank was entirely COVERED in beautiful graffiti. It wasn't tagging or turf war remnants, it was legitimate ART. And if there's anything I love, it's bright, colorful, fun art.

We drank in the murals coating the brick around the entirety of the building, me clicking furiously in my quest for photos and Drea pointing out the smaller pieces I might have otherwise missed in my thirst to capture this strange and wonderful building in the heart of a tiny, Texas town.


This one was my favorite - it reminded me of Adventure Time!

We also found Jack Skellington!

Along the street, there was a wall with gradients of color - from electric pink to turquoise spotted with cardinal red bubbles. What better for portraits and jumping photos??

We really utilized the hell out of that wall.

Over an hour was spent at this spot, at which point the light was waning from Golden Hour, so we decided some coffee was in order, and then the drive home. On the way out of town, we also saw this additional rainbow mural - Victoria is a surprisingly colorful town.

Bonus photo of Drea sitting moodily on some steps.

I was really happy with these photos and this magical location. I would definitely use any of those backdrops for portraiture ANY DAY. I want to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone, which includes taking more photo of people, expressions, and actions. I will still take many-a-photo of food, animals, and scenery, but I also want to include more creativity, out-of-the-box, adventure shots!! And I feel like these photos can be included in that category.

To conclude the most perfect day ever, we stopped by one of our favorite pizza places to get a beer and then headed home for an episode of SVU.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

catch the raves

Our facility recently launched a staff campaign where staff members could send in their best photos of their animals paired with a "rave review". Bonus points if the review was as punny as possible. Here were my entries.

"A unique experience"


"Two paws way up!"

"Owl-ways a hoot!"

"Otterly adorable!"

I REALLY struggled coming up with those reviews. Sometimes competition does the opposite of bringing out the best in me, it can actual hinder my creativity.

I can't believe my rave review for Kogi was "personable". WELL HE IS

Monday, March 7, 2016

2015 favorites

You might have noticed that I stopped posting my 365 project on here (or maybe you haven't, either way it's cool). I realized I was only really halfway through posting it here while in "real life" I was done and moving onto other things.

I loved my 365 project and was so proud of myself for keeping up with it; it pushed me out of my comfort zone in taking photos, taught me about my camera and photography style, and also helped me realize what I wanted to learn more about or shoot more photos of.

If you ARE interested in seeing more of my 365 project, you can see the rest of my photos here. I'm currently looking into making them into a book - a pictorial story of my 2015.

My desire for 2016 is to expand my photography skill-set; purchase a new lens, take more photos of people, work on my night photography, and continue to be unafraid of backlash for taking out my camera in any situation.

Here are a couple of my favorite photos that I took in 2015 (out of the 200 outtakes/favorites I recently edited).

The Hope Outdoor Gallery in Austin, TX. I caught this particular artist in the act of attempted disguise

A gorgeous sunset over the silhouetted freeway

He watched while you eat your pizza - also in Austin, TX (I could take photos there forever, I feel)

Arrie is "otterly adorable" (hides in a cave to escape the shame of the pun)

I really like it when my brother wears blue - it brings out the ginger tones in his beard PERFECTLY and really works the contrast between those ginger tones and his eyes. Thank you, Gabe, for your gingery beardness AND for finding a cat that matched this aesthetic so well

A sucker for sun flares, the golden fields of autumn, and long light

A faithful guardian and companion, Madilyn Leah, and my Oma with a rare, blissful smile in the background

Maeby is an adorable creep and wanted to know what I was up to in the confines of my room one time

Black swan at the San Antonio Zoo

A pretty set-up in Austin, TX (surprise, surprise). The textures, colors, and composition of this photo all please me

Hunting with falconers; we watched this gyrfalcon lose a pigeon and then head back to the car for some promised tidbits

Beach camping and bonfires

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

day trip, play trip!

This year I want to use free time to explore and go on even more adventures! I of course will still spend the occasional day watching Netflix or playing video games (aka what I did today, Undertale is SO FUN!), but the other day both my roommate and I were off AT THE SAME TIME! This is a rarity for anyone who works in the animal field since we have to take care of the creatures on the weekend. So both Drea and I decided to use this mutual Saturday to visit the town of Victoria.

Victoria is about 1.5 hours away from where we live, so it was the perfect day trip. Though Victoria doesn't have much, it does have a zoo, which was our main target. One of my friends used to work there, so we were scheduled to meet up with one of the senior keepers to see behind the scenes!

But first, BREAKFAST! We even woke up semi-early and got out of the house "on-time". Whataburger was acquired (honey-chicken biscuit=YUM) and we were off on our trip to Victoria. We listened to 90s alternative rock and gushed about how much we loved Mariska Hargitay as a storm rolled in from the north. Soon there was a torrential downpour and lightning streaking across the sky.

Drea tentatively wondered if the zoo would even be open in this kind of weather as the window wipers struggled in overdrive to clear the windshield of the buckets of rain assaulting it. I assured her that the zoo would most definitely be open; zoos don't close unless the earth has split open or a volcano has erupted nearby. We arrived at the zoo in one piece and ran inside beneath Drea's umbrella. There were luckily umbrellas that could be borrowed up front, so even though we did get DRENCHED we at least didn't end up looking like we went swimming in a local pond. We met up with Colton, the animal care manager, and he showed us every single indoor space he could think of since the deluge continued outside. First off we sauntered into their back office area, which was important BECAUSE there was a baby javelina in there. A BABY. JAVELINA.

We stroked her straw-like fur and tickled her pink snout and she snuffed at us before wandering around the back area, nipping at peoples' shoes. There was also an Eastern Screech Owl perched on a windowsill, surveying us with slanted eyes as his trainer prepped diets.

Next up was the education classroom, where we met a little groundhog ambassador that loved having his cheeks scratched.

And then we met the giant fuzzy BEASTS that guard the zoo at night.

They are a pair of Great Pyrenees that chase away raccoons at night! Apparently the male has a crush on the female Red Wolf, and vice-versa. Ah, love.

At this point, we decided to brave the downpour to walk around the zoo. We stood outside the tiger's exhibit and discussed the different animal care aspects of our facilities, attempting to wait for the rain to let up. It didn't. My shoe choice of flip flops was both genius and idiotic as I slogged through puddles, though did not have to worry about wet feet after the rain did eventually fizzle out. We visited the male jaguar and the two female lionesses, who were HUGE. I work with a 30 lb "big cat" who doesn't hold a candle to their size and intimidation factor. One of the females literally glared at me the entire time Colton talked to us; he even pointed it out and said, "Oooh she is giving you evil eyes." After we walked away, they stalked out from under their previous shelter to play in the rain, flicking droplets from their fur and yawning to display their giant canines. Lions are amazing, but not the animal I necessarily need to work with at any point in my life. Nearby their exhibit was an open air aviary with a couple of different birds, so we parted the heavy chains hanging from the ceiling to dissuade avian escape to enter.

Andrea was very into the fancy fantail pigeons cooing in the eaves above us and I was obsessed with this single scarlet ibis. As rainwater dripped down from the ivy covering the ceiling, I acted like a diva and asked Colton to hold an umbrella over me as I took shots of the hot pink bird.

We continued our tour of the zoo to find the coyote exhibit. There were two of them in a large yard, a male and female, who immediately displayed greeting behaviors as we walked up. Their tails wagged desperately and they trotted over to the fence to see Colton. He allowed us past the outer barrier so we could say hi.

Despite my absolute adoration for birds, I started off as a canine person who was obsessed with wolves and coyotes. I love their earthy, desert coloring and their wild eyes, so it was awesome to see them up close; we even got to pet them through the fence. I will admit, my heart stopped when Andrea put her hand up for the female to "sniff" in the same fashion one would with a dog. Colton immediately laughed nervously and stated that they were not dogs and the female had actually bitten our co-worker's hand when he worked there. Luckily, both coyotes were quite friendly and no blood was spilt. Next door to the coyotes were the red wolves, who were infinitely more feral than the coyotes. Their SSP protocol states that they are to have no human interaction to maintain their wildness, so we watched them from a distance for awhile before heading to the "deer yard" aka the hoof stock and other random animals yard. We met Lynard and Skynard.

And these sweethearts. I may or may not be obsessed with deer because they are magical forest sprites.

You can see how soaked we got from the storm, which had luckily dissolved. Also that goose was a-creepin'

Colton gave us craisins to feed to them, which was so sweet. Their tongues are soft and dog-like and they nuzzled into my hands, wanting chin scratches. Ginger was the loveliest of all, she would not leave my side. There were also adult javelinas in the yard rolling around in the massive lake-like puddles that had resulted from the thunderstorm. One of them kept following another deer, Cherry, around the yard and would give her kisses. It was one of the most adorable things I had ever seen. Then Cherry would paw at her face and the javelina would gently chew on her back leg; it was a strange relationship.

It was hard to pull me away from the hoofstock yard, considering how in love I was with the deer, but Colton told us we could do a primate encounter if we wanted. The obvious answer was YES! We were able to go in with the lemurs on golden-handed tamarins.

This was Diaz, he was a little feisty ball of energy. We became "those people" who just loose their minds at the sight of a cute little animal and want ALL THE PICTURES. We got pictures of him on our shoulders, our hands, on his perch…unfortunately the lighting was horrendous since it was noon and the sun was directly overhead so that equals washed out photos. But at that point in time, all you can do is take photos for the memories and try to edit the shit out of them in Photoshop.

We were also able to go in with the ruffed-face lemur, Bright Eyes, who sat on our shoulders and munched on craisins while we nuzzled into his soft fur. He was like a living scarf.

After our primate encounter, we watched a free-contact otter session with Colton. Free-contact with otters is something that a lot of facilities don't do anymore, though the aquarium is constantly trying to make it a goal to create a program that would allow it, so it was definitely a cool thing to see. They know target behaviors to both the hand and a pole, a touch behavior that allows the trainer to pet them (for de-sense purposes), a wall behavior that has the otter place its paws up on the wall to station for certain medical procedures, and a water behavior that has the otter jump in the water, where he or she gets rewarded. I didn't get any photos of this because the glass was quite cloudy, but it was definitely a fun session to watch.

We said our goodbyes to Colton at that point and wandered around the rest of the zoo ourselves.

On the way out of the zoo, we fed some corn to the peacocks and peahens as a grand finale to our excellent zoo trip!

We were starving at this point, so we headed farther into the park to go to the Pumphouse. I was cold at first, so I asked if we could sit inside. However, we soon realized that was a foolish idea because it was actually pretty much the most beautiful day outside with plenty of warming sun, and the patio was right over the Guadalupe river. It was the perfect place to sit and eat a burger.

There were a ton of turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks floating on a thermal above our heads as we ate our meal and lounged sleepily in the sun. I cannot describe how perfect it was. Delicious food, beautiful scenery, warm sun, and good friends. It was amazing.

On the way out of the Pumphouse, we walked to the edge of the river to dip our feet and survey the muddy water up close, but we immediately found that the platform we were standing on was overrun by baby spiders, so we left pretty quickly.

We spent the rest of our time in Victoria driving around and exploring. We found an AWESOME abandoned bank with the most amazing graffiti on it, but I'm saving those photos for another post because they are just so cool.

We drove home after our explorations and stopped for a beer at one of our favorite pizza places before pajamas and SVU.

It was literally the perfect day ♥