Good News vs King Sequoia

Blog, books

I tried to read the Good News book but it wasn’t my kind of thing. It’s frequent, flippant, smart-alecky asides put my teeth on edge. The ‘feel good’ case-studies too much of one-off esoteric examples.

Then I started King Sequoia which turned out to be the ‘much needed tonic’ the other book had promised to be. A history of how one tree species enchanted people so much, it actually became a reason for the founding of national parks and forest conservations. (I’ve been lucky to stand under a King Sequoia. It’s an experience I’ll always remember with wonder.)

A recommendation for all history buffs, non-fiction readers who like nature and trees.

More on my bookshelf here

Subscribe to my website and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Oh Deer! Antelopes!


I finally made it to South Africa. A country I knew very little about apart from the ‘A’ word and Nelson Mandela.

On the wildlife front, spoilt me after the abundance of Kenya, was expecting to be disappointed. Much to the amusement of my husband who kept reminding me that no where, other than Kenya, were Big Five sightings practically guaranteed in every outing and in huge numbers.

Ho Hum I thought, What charm a safari without a big cat?
Well the closest we got to a big cat in South Africa, was a distant lion roar in the dark on our way back from Pilanesberg National Park on our first evening.

back home, looking at the photographs…

Kudu, South Africa

oh Deer! The Antelopes we saw!

Topi or Tsessebe, South Africa

Up really close.

Wilderbeest, South Africa

In a variety unbelievable.

Impala, South Africa

The almost constant rain, that flooded the parks and made the grass high, added another unusual charm to the photographs. One that’s impossible to capture on bright sunlit days.

You tell me what do you think about them. I’m fully amazed 🙂

Trying now to identify the various species, Google keeps taking me to hunting websites. Websites full of photographs of smug trophy hunters. While I understand and accept being part of the food chain, the desire in some people to kill for sport makes my stomach churn.

All in all, South Africa is beautiful and I had a really nice time there but from humans to wildlife, it’s a difficult country to come to terms with.

Subscribe to my website and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Anna’s hummm…er

Anna's Hummingbird, California - USA
A very special visitor

Oh yes there they were! On my sister’s patio, some very special visitors. Visitors I spend many hours watching, as they buzz in and out at 15 minute intervals through the day.

Anna’s Hummingbirds.

The most common hummingbirds along the Pacific Coast of North America. Little jewel like creatures. Shinning brilliant reds and greens. Buzzing – humming with great ferocity as they fly in for their quick energy top-up from the bottle of sugar syrup hanging out for them.

I don’t know if they recognise me from my biennium trips to California, but they definitely gave me a close scrutiny as I set up camera and tripod and sat quietly waiting for them.

Anna's Hummingbird, California - USA
Anna's Hummingbird, California - USA

In total there are over 330 different species of hummingbirds, all living in the Western Hemisphere. Though small and delicate, awakening every protective instinct in all who encounter them, don’t take their ferocity lightly. Less than 5 inches in size and weighting about under 5 grams, they have no fear.

Anna's Hummingbird, California - USA
Anna's Hummingbird, California - USA
Anna's Hummingbird, California - USA

One bird came close and closer still. Checking me and my camera out. It’s big eyes staring directly into mine, long beak pointing straight at me and wings whirling loudly like motorblades 50 flaps per second. A couple of seconds of that look, I felt quite ready to duck back indoors!

Anna's Hummingbird, California - USA
Checking me and my camera out.

Not just their extreme territorial aggression (smaller, weaker hummingbirds can die of starvation not being able to feed from a feeder guarded by a stronger one), hummingbirds are superlative in many ways…

  • hummingbirds can fly faster than a fighter jet, relative to size. Reaching approximately 90 feet per second. 30 to 40 kilometers per hour is quite average!
  • as it pulls up from a dive, with wings spread, a hummingbird experiences centripetal accelerations nearly nine times greater than gravitational acceleration. Humans would black-out under this pressure!
  • they can fly backward and at times even upside down!
  • their heart beats about 250 times per minute while at rest. About 1,220 per minute while flying!
  • they takes about 250 breaths per minute while at rest!
  • they need to feed on almost half their body weight everyday to keep up with all the energy they spend!
  • a hummingbird’s brain makes up 4.2 percent of its weight; proportionally, the largest of any bird’s! (Human brains are about 2% of our weight)
Anna's Hummingbird, California - USA
Sitting quietly, they are so tiny.
Every protective, nurturing instinct
is awakened.
Anna's Hummingbird, California - USA

Then there are these absolutely enchanting facts. They make their nests of spider web (imagine how delicate that is!), along with lichens and moss, and their brilliant colours are not from pigmentation but how their feathers reflect light. 🙂

As you can see they have me spellbound, so to continue the magic once I was back home I got myself Sy Montgomery’s book recent book The Hummingbird’s Gift.

Sy Montgomery has a powerful writing style. Her book The Soul of the Octopus converted me into a confirmed Octopus crazy-person (woe befall anyone who orders an Octopus for a meal in my presence! )

The Hummingbirds’ Gift is a quick read. Though some sentences get repeated verbatim a couple of times, the editorial oversight doesn’t distract from the sweet charm of the story.

Thinking back on my encounters with the little hummers, I’ll sign-off with a smile and a very happy hummm….

Anna's Hummingbird, California - USA

More facts about hummingbirds

Subscribe to my website and receive notifications of new posts by email.

In praise of solitude


Man is a social animal.

How many lessons in civics and history have started with that statement. How much I disliked it then. And yet I find it the start of my post today. However I write an opposing point of view.

In praise of solitude.

It is in solitude that we think. And to be able to think, is to be able to understand. To be able to create.

In solitude there is a restrain. A dignity and a grace. A completeness that comes from within. And it is from this completeness that comes a serene peace. A peace of knowing oneself.

So much so that even animals, in quiet solitude attain a greater quality of intelligence. Of human dignity.

While often human social gatherings are described as ‘wild’ parties. The people in them being party animals’. Or a mob. Led by not so much their personal rational judgement but by brainless crowd dynamics.

Perhaps then it is when in solitude that we are truly human. Exploring our full potential.

Subscribe to my website and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Photographers, thou shall not edit!


A Writer writes his story. Then revises it. Going back time and again to re-phase, tighten and tweak. Till finally he is satisfied with the choice of words that best communicate his thought.  Even years later, after it has been printed, read and become well-known,  in a new edition he’s at liberty to tweak or add to his work.

A Musician composes. Then revises it.  Finally satisfied he considers it finished. Yet every time the symphony is performed, musicians are at liberty to interpret it’, in other words edit it, to their own unique style.

A Painter first sketches his vision. Simple charcoal lines which he paints over, Changing, darkening, highlighting as his creative impulse takes him.

A Chef adds seasonings, cooks longer or turns the flame off as he cooks. Enhancing the taste to his personal satisfaction before the last edit, the garnish on top once plated.

In Film making editing is a taken for granted step. Even documentary or journalistic films are edited.

We even edit ourselves. Enhancing our appearance by the choice of clothes, hairstyles, makeup…

Yet a photographer should not edit!

This fastest of arts. A form dependent on complex machinery. Should be taken as is.

Straight from the camera preach the Classicists. The photograph should be perfect when it is shot. To edit a photograph means the photographer was not good enough. This expectation is the same as expecting a writer to have a perfect manuscript in his first draft, the musician a finished symphony in his first gathering of sounds and a painter his grand masterpiece in the first sketch.

Paean are sung in praise of film photography. Film Camera’s are touted as being superior to digital. Conveniently forgotten are the highly painstaking and evolved darkroom techniques utilised by the greats of film photography.

To all, critics and appreciators alike I would like it to be noted I edit ALL my photographs. A little or a lot as I wish. Till the image is not a mindless recording of a scene made by the camera but an expression of my experience of the moment. Which colour spoke to me most strongly, which object caught my attention most. Did it make me feel soft and dreamy or sharply alive.
It’s my shot, my editing, my expression.

And to all fellow photographers I say when a person disapproves because a photograph has been edited, know that they only understand the documentation. They appreciate not the art and seek not the creative.

Subscribe to my website and receive notifications of new posts by email.