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This photo was taken in Northern Ontario, Canada.

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WRITTEN IN STONE
Devil’s Punchbowl is a Los Angeles County Natural Area located on the north side of the San Gabriel Mountains, near the town of Pearblossom, California. The Punchbowl is the major feature of the park, being a folded sandstone formation that resulted from the geological processes that formed the surrounding mountains. Starting about 60 million years ago, continuous movement along five or six different fault zones along with erosion led to the rise of the San Gabriel Mountain, and extensive folding, of which the Punchbowl is one of the most obvious features.

The canyon that is the Punchbowl is approximately 300 feet deep with very steep sides. Geologists call it a plunging syncline, which simply means a downward fold with very steep sides. The letter V is a reasonable illustration of a plunging syncline, or you can create your own by folding a piece of paper into a sharp V shape. The once horizontally oriented sediments that became the sandstone of the Devil’s Punchbowl formation were deposited about 13 million years ago, before being squeezed into solid form, and then slowly, but violently thrust upward to form the rock walls we see today. That violence is evidenced by the fact that it took only a million years to raise the San Gabriel Mountains to their current elevations. While that seems like an extremely long time to us, it is little more than the blink of an eye in geological terms.

Today’s photo is of the south wall of the Punchbowl taken on a frigid morning in late December. My eye was attracted to the various textures, tones and shapes of the fractured sandstone crags. The snow coating the rocks provides a sharp contrast to the varying tones of the sandstone faces, and highlights the texture of some of the rocks. A few small trees, like determined sentinels, cling to the rock cliffs. The fracture lines describe further shapes within the larger stone faces, while the smaller boulders are like prisoners just escaped from the surrounding stone prison walls.

This photo was taken with a Canon EF28-135 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens zoomed to 120 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III. The exposure was set to 1/750 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 400.

To see more photos and blogs, visit www.chuckkopczakphotography.com.

Sources:
http://www.devils-punchbowl.com/
http://parks.lacounty.gov/wps/portal/dpr/Parks/Devils_Punchbowl_Natural_Area
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OUR PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE

We know that the Earth and all the other planets in our solar system orbit the sun, but this wasn’t always the case. For centuries, it was thought that the sun and everything we see in the night sky orbited the Earth. This Earth-centered, or geocentric view of the universe made sense based on the simplest of observations possible by humans. Watch the sun over the course of the day and it appears to move across the sky while we stand stationary. Similarly, the motion of the stars support this notion. A contemporary of Archimedes in Greece, Aristarchus, may have been the first person to write down reasoning as to why the Earth orbited the sun. Unfortunately, Aristarchus’ work has been lost to history, but Archimedes did mention it in one of his works.

About 17 centuries later, Copernicus disrupted the western world by putting forth his model of a sun-centered, or heliocentric solar system. In a draft of his work he mentioned the work of Aristarchus, but that reference was not included in his final published work.

Since the acceptance of the Copernican model of the solar system, we have come much further than the understanding that Earth is not the center of the solar system. We know now that our solar system isn’t even near the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and certainly nowhere near anything that could be called the center of the universe.

When it comes to our galaxy, it appears we are located on one of several spiral arms, and we are about two-thirds of the distance from the center of the galaxy to its outer edge. All the stars we can see in the night sky are part of the Milky Way, and we know that our galaxy is one of at least 100 billion galaxies, and as many as 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe.

In today’s photo, you can see the band of the Milky Way extending across the sky above Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. The band-like nature of our view of the Milky Way suggests we are looking toward the center of a galaxy whose stars are contained within a rather flattened, disk-like arrangement. This leads astronomers to hypothesize that the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, but of course there is no way for us to know that with complete certainty without being able to get outside the galaxy and look back at it.

Today’s photo was taken with a Canon EF24 mm f/1.4L II USM lens on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III. The exposure was set to 6 sec at f/1.4 and ISO 6400.

To see more of my photos and blogs, visit www.chuckkopczakphotography.com

Sources:
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Aristarchus-of-Samos
http://www.astro.cornell.edu/academics/courses/astro201/aristarchus.htm
http://www.physics.org/facts/sand-galaxies.asp
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DEEP DIVERS

Besides being enormous animals, the northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) also has enormous abilities when it comes to diving to great depths in search of food. In fact, among mammals, the depths to which they can dive, and the time spent holding their breath is only exceeded by the sperm whale (Physeter microcephalus).

Found along the Pacific coast of North America from the Aleutian Islands to Baja California, when northern elephant seals aren’t hanging out on the beach to either mate or molt (shedding dead skin and hair all in one big yearly event), they are out at sea feeding to get ready for those events. Research has shown that while at sea, northern elephant seals literally spend almost all their time below the surface holding their breath, which helps to explain why for a long time it was a mystery as to where northern elephant seal went when they went to sea. Diving nearly continuously for the six to eight months they spend at sea, they can reach depths of 1,000-2,500 feet (330-800 m) for 20-30 minute intervals with only short breaks of only a few minutes at the surface. The deepest dive recorded for a northern elephant seal was to 5,015 feet (1,540 m) with a duration of nearly two hours.

These prodigious diving skills are made possible in part by adaptations that allow the animal to tolerate low oxygen conditions that would result in death for humans and many other air-breathing species. By having increased oxygen storage capacity, managing the depletion of those stores, and having increased tolerance to extremely low levels of oxygen in their blood stream, northern elephant seals can spend almost all their time at sea underwater holding their breath.

Northern elephant seals store many times the amount of oxygen in their blood stream and muscles as humans can. And while we try to increase the amount of air we hold in our lungs while diving, northern elephant seals exhale at the start of a dive, and soon after leaving the surface, the pressure of the surrounding water completely collapses their lungs, forcing out any remaining air. Fortunately, the fluid coating the interior of their lungs is specialized allowing their lungs to re-inflate upon return to the surface.

The northern elephant seal clearly deserves its reputation as a world class deep diver.

Today’s photo was taken at Piedras Blancas on the California coast with a Canon EF100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L lens zoomed to 400 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk. III. The exposure was set to 1/250 sec at f/6.3 and ISO 800.

To see more photos and blogs, visit www.chuckkopczakphotography.com.

Sources:
https://www.nps.gov/chis/learn/nature/elephant-seal.htm
http://cetus.ucsd.edu/sio133/PDF/Sexual%20Dimorphism.pdf
http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=295
http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/seals/northern-elephant-seal.html
http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/marine-mammals/northern-elephant-seal
http://ajpregu.physiology.org/content/297/4/R927
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A WALL OF MOUTHS
The blacksmith fish (Chromis punctipinnis) is one of the most common and abundant fish species you will see in the waters above rocky reefs and kelp forests off the southern California coast. Adults tend to be a uniform blueish-black, while juveniles, like those in today’s photo are blueish above with more of a silvery gold underside, and black spots on their scales.

Regardless of their being juveniles, the fish in this photo are displaying typical blacksmith behavior by grouping together in an unstructured aggregation. During daylight hours large aggregations of blacksmith can be found hovering over rocky reefs, generally facing into any current that may be running. This behavior results from the fact that blacksmith specialize in eating small plankton organisms that drift over reefs and through kelp forests with the currents. Their ability to eat these tiny organisms, which are often invisible to the unaided human eye, is aided by two adaptations.

The first adaptation is a modification of their jaws, such that when their mouths are opened, the jaws form a tube-like structure. While many fish use a suction system to bring prey into their mouth, the blacksmith extends it mouth out around the prey. They may also use suction, but the tube-like mouth is clearly a special feature of these fish.

The second adaptation, which has not been completely confirmed by scientific research, has to do with the structure of their eyes. Like many animals, blacksmith can see some wavelengths of ultraviolet (UV) light. The exact purpose of this ability in most animals is open to speculation, but it is thought that for the blacksmith, it allows them to see the tiny organisms they eat. As most planktonic organisms are transparent to some degree, visible light is not terribly helpful in being able to see them. But it is possible that UV light refracts or reflects through the transparent bodies of plankton in a way that makes them much more visible in a literal ocean of blue.

Blacksmith are also interesting from an ecological perspective because of they feed on plankton above the reef all day, and then at night they migrate down into crevices in the reef for protection. While there, they empty their guts of the food consumed during the day, providing a source of organic material to organisms on the reef. I spent my formative years as a marine ecologist as a part of a study of this behavior by blacksmith. Much humor was generated by the fact that we were studying fish poop.

This photo was taken with a Canon EF17-40 mm f/4L USM lens zoomed to 26 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III in an Ikelite underwater housing. Lighting was provided by two Ikelite DS161 strobes set to eTTL exposure mode. The exposure was set to 1/45 sec at f/9.5 and ISO 400.

To see more photos and blogs, visit www.chuckkopczakphotography.com.
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SOMETHING OF MYSELF
A non-science blog this week. I write this on Christmas Eve. The weather here in southern California is about as wintery/Christmassy as it gets. Rain last night with blue skies, fluffy clouds and cold winds today. Cold for southern California. Temperatures are in the upper 50s. Friends in Minnesota would be out running around in shorts and T-shirts, and probably jumping into lakes in this weather.

This blog goes out quite widely by the time I finish posting in on the various social media sites I use, so I want to wish a season of peace and love to anyone who reads this. If you celebrate Christmas, then Merry Christmas to you.

Today’s photo isn’t necessarily connected to Christmas, beyond the fact that it was taken in downright cold conditions in Omaha, Nebraska last March. It was legitimately cold, with a high that day in the mid-40s, with a stiff north wind blowing, as I recall. I was in Omaha to attend the mid-year meetings of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. I had a free afternoon on the last day of the conference and took the time to indulge my photographic addiction by wandering along the edge of the Missouri River looking for interesting things to photograph. At the very end of the trip I came across some public art in front of the CenturyLink Center, and found the large shiny ball in which I caught my reflection. My photo subjects tend toward the natural, but occasionally I take photos like this. Just something different and fun.

Wishing for peace and happiness for the whole world.

Today’s photo was taken with a Canon EF17-40 mm f/4L USM lens zoomed to 40 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III. The exposure was set to 1/15 sec at f/9.5 and ISO 100.

To see more of my photos and blogs, visit www.chuckkopczakphotography.com
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Einfaches Strobist-Setup zum Nachmachen (Clamshell Lighting).

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SIGNS OF A WARMING WORLD

Glacier National Park in western Montana lies astride the continental divide formed by the spine of the Rocky Mountains. Water flowing off the continental divide in this area can flow west to the Pacific Ocean, northeast to Hudson Bay or southeast to the Gulf of Mexico. Glacier was designated as a National Park in 1910 protecting an area of just over 1 million acres (410 thousand hectares). As the name implies, glaciers were a significant feature of this area, with about 150 glaciers present when National Park status was conferred.

Today’s photo is of the lower gorge of Avalanche Creek, which is fed by Sperry Glacier perched near the summit of 9,258 foot (2,822 m) tall Gunsight Mountain. Starting at Avalanche Lake, the creek flows northwest until crossing beneath Going to the Sun Road, it flows into McDonald Creek, and eventually into Lake McDonald. On the western side of the continental divide, the area is the easternmost edge of the area influenced by the maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest. Hemlocks, cedars, ferns, and mosses thrive in the moist conditions typically found here. Note the abundance of mosses and ferns flanking the sapphire blue waters of the creek.

Unfortunately, the warming of Earth’s atmosphere caused by the increasing density of the heat-trapping blanket of carbon dioxide from the combustion of coal, oil and natural gas by humans has had a serious impact on Glacier National Park’s namesake glaciers. Of the roughly 150 glaciers present in 1910, only about 25 glaciers larger than 25 acres (10 hectares) remained in 2010. Sperry Glacier, once one of the largest glaciers in the park, has lost 75% of its surface area since the middle of the 19th century. This trend is obviously not confined to Glacier National Park, but is being seen worldwide as glaciers, and large ice sheets shrink or become unstable. The tale being told by the Earth’s ice is one of a warming world. Unfortunately, the evidence clearly implicates human activity as the cause.

This photo was taken with a Canon EF17-40 mm f/4.0 lens zoomed to 35 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk. III. The exposure was set to 1/10 sec at f/11 and ISO 800.

To see more photos and blogs, visit www.chuckkopczakphotography.com.
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