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FORESTS OF GIANT KELP
Forests of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) have been a life-long passion, or perhaps addiction, of mine. They were my object of study in graduate school, and I was fortunate enough to be able to create a living kelp forest exhibit at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Giant kelp forests can be found around the world in temperate latitudes, those areas on the globe between about 30 and 60 north and south of the equator, where ocean temperatures are on the cool side, and sunlight and nutrients are plentiful. In the southern hemisphere, giant kelp forests are found in Chile, Australia, South Africa, and on the various sub-Antarctic islands found in between. But in the northern hemisphere it is found only along the coast of North America from just south of San Francisco to about the middle of the Baja California Peninsula. How this odd geographical distribution occurred, being circum-global in the southern hemisphere, and restricted to one location in the northern, must have been some trick of plate tectonics and climate change in the distant past.

Giant kelp forests along the coast of California are known to harbor at least 800 species of fish and invertebrates that are associated strictly with kelp. That means when kelp forests disappear, a large number of other species disappear with them.

Giant kelp can disappear for at least a couple of reasons. These include sea urchin outbreaks, and displacement by other species of algae. Sea urchins dine exclusively on algae, and particularly like giant kelp because of its abundance. These hungry herbivores are normally kept in check by predators like sea otters (Enhydra lutris), sheephead fish (Semicossyphus pulcher), and lobsters (Panulirus interruptus). But when predators are removed, urchin populations can explode. In central California, all three of these predator species are found, and, in general, these kelp forests don’t suffer from the appearance of urchin barrens – areas that excessive numbers of urchins have stripped of all algae. But in southern California, where otters have been absent for over a century, and populations of sheephead and lobster have been heavily fished, the biological control of sea urchin populations has been greatly reduced. As a result, the occurrence of urchin barrens caused by urchin population explosions are much higher than the central coast.

The accidental introduction of a species of Japanese algae in 2003 has also caused the loss of kelp forests along the coast and on the northern side of Catalina Island, although the ultimate outcome has yet to be determined. Sargassum horneri was most likely introduced via ballast water into Long Beach Harbor, California. From there it has spread north and south, and out to some of the Channel Islands. Catalina Island has been particularly hard hit. Much of the northern, or front side of the island has been overrun. In the process, many areas normally supporting giant kelp have been converted to supporting S. horneri. In some places the kelp has fought back, but in others it hasn’t. The reproductive and growth patterns of these two species will eventually determine the new normal for kelp forests in the area.

Today’s photo was taken at Rat Rock on Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park with a Canon EF8-15 mm f/4 FISHEYE USM lens set to a focal length of 12 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III in an Ikelite underwater housing. Lighting was provided by two Ikelite DS-161 strobes set to eTTL metering. The exposure was set to 1/45 sec at f/9.5 and ISO 400.

Sources:
https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/plants-and-algae/giant-kelp

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

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THE MINARETS
This photograph has two different meanings in today’s post. Being posted on the last day of December 2017, the sunset itself represents the end of another year full of events large and small, some small events that were over-blown into large events, and large events ignored so as to make them seem like small events. As the sun sets and the Earth completes another trip around it, it’s natural to look back at past events, as well as entertain expectations of the year to come.

But resolutions and predictions about the future hold little interest to me, so as is my usual focus, I’m going to share a couple of scientific phenomena that are embodied in today’s photo. The first relates to my previous blog about the color of sunsets. You can see how the sunlight has taken on a decidedly yellow coloration as it travels a longer distance through the atmosphere. But notice how the blue sky shines through above the clouds that are blocking the heavily filtered rays of the sun.

The other phenomenon in today’s photo are the geological processes that shape the planet we inhabit. The mountains behind which the sun is sinking are part of the Ritter Range located on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. The jagged saw-tooth fingers to the left of the distant ridge are the Minarets. Beneath the main bank of clouds just to the left of the setting sun are Banner Peak (12,942 ft., 3,945 m) and to its left, conical Mount Ritter (13,143 ft., 4,006 m).

The Ritter Range began forming about 140 million years ago, before the Sierra Nevada existed, as part of the formation of the ancestral Sierra Nevada. As a tectonic plate of oceanic crust dove under the North American plate, the pressure and friction caused the land to crumple and mountains formed to the east. All of this pressure and heat also caused the existing rock to metamorphose, producing the dark green rocks that can today be seen in the Ritter Range. This rock is highly resistant to erosion, and thus has remained intact during a period starting 65 million years ago, while much of the surrounding granite has eroded. The Sierra Nevada as we know it today began rising quite rapidly only about two million years ago. But that is a story for another post.

This photo was taken at Minaret Summit near Mammoth Lakes, California, USA with a Canon EF17-40 mm f/4L USM lens at focal length 37 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III. The exposure was set to 1/125 sec at f/11 and ISO 400.

Sources:
https://www.nps.gov/depo/learn/nature/geology.htm
https://geomaps.wr.usgs.gov/parks/depo/dpgeol3.html

To see more photos and blogs, visit www.chuckkopczakphotography.com.
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REFLECTIONS OF MAMMOTH CREST
Mammoth Mountain in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains of California is a favorite destination for outdoor enthusiasts year-round. Surrounded by incredible scenery like the lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, there are endless opportunities to get out and enjoy nature. But because of the geological history of the area, nature doesn’t always play nice.

The area around Mammoth Mountain has been formed by fire and ice. The Lakes Basin was carved by the activity of glaciers during the Tioga glacial event that lasted from about 25,000 years ago until 12,000 years ago. The glacier that carved the basin formed beneath Mammoth Crest, the spine of rock seen above Horseshoe Lake in today’s photo, and extending to the left out of the frame of the photo. This glacier carved depressions in the bedrock that are filled by some of the upper lakes in the basin. The lower lakes, including Horseshoe, Mary, Mamie, and Twin Lakes formed in depressions in glacial moraine deposits.

The beautiful features of the Lakes Basin are but geological newcomers compared to the forces of fire that shaped much of the rest of the area around Mammoth Mountain. The mountain itself sits on the southwestern rim of the Long Valley Caldera, which was formed by a cataclysmic eruption about 760,000 years ago. A caldera is a cauldron-like depression on the Earth’s surface formed when a magma chamber below the surface is suddenly emptied. The Long Valley Caldera formed when the roof of the magma chamber below it collapsed, ejecting nearly 200 cubic miles (834 cubic kilometers) of material into the air. This is 2000 times larger than the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Ash from the Long Valley eruption spread as far east as central Nebraska and Kansas. The surface of the Earth in the area dropped about 2 miles (3 km), and the caldera today is about 18 miles (29 km) east to west, and 10 miles (16 km) north to south. The Long Valley Caldera is one of the largest caldera on Earth.

And if all of this geological activity isn’t enough for you, since 1980 the Long Valley Caldera has begun to rise again, creating a dome in the middle. This is an indication that the magma chamber is refilling below the surface and could again reach a point of eruption. Along with the return of the magma, the region is very geologically active with regular earthquakes, hot springs, and ejection of carbon dioxide from below the surface leaving areas of dead forest.

Today’s photo was taken at Horseshoe Lake in the Mammoth Lakes Basin on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It was taken with a Canon EF17-40 mm f/4 USM lens set to a focal length of 21 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk. III. The exposure was set at 1/15 sec. at f/16 and ISO 100.

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

Sources:
https://pubs.usgs.gov/dds/dds-81/Intro/facts-sheet/fs108-96.html
http://vesr.nrs.ucsb.edu/valentine/geology
https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/mammoth_mountain/geo_hist_mammoth_lakes.html
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CATCHING A WAVE
Waves that we see breaking on the shoreline actually start many miles or kilometers out at sea as a result of an interaction between wind and water. The flow of air over the water results in some friction between the two that transfers some of the energy in the wind to the water. This starts the water moving creating what is called swell on the open sea. If you’ve ever been seasick on a boat, the effect is the result of the boat moving up and down, and side to side on the swells that undulate across the sea surface.

If you aren’t too seasick to observe, you will see the swell moving past the boat, but while the rolling form of the water moves, there is actually virtually no movement of the water itself. The water does move, but only in a circle with a diameter of the distance from the top of the swell to the bottom of the trough in front of the peak. Swell is actually a movement of the energy imparted to the ocean from the wind blowing across it. The size of swell is determined by how fast the wind blows, how long it blows, and over how large an area it blows.

This energy, in the form of swell, can travel vast distances across the ocean with very little loss to friction. For example, the south swell that reaches south-facing beaches along the coast of southern California in the summer months are often produced by storms along the coast of Antarctica! It isn’t generally appreciated that if you sailed a boat due south from any south-facing beach in southern California the first land that you would encounter would be Antarctica. It is a simple feat for swell generated in the Southern Ocean to make its way all the to southern California.

While moving across the ocean surface in deep water, swell encounters virtually no resistance to movement. But as the swell moves into shallow water, things begin to change. A fact SCUBA divers know well is that while swell seems to be an aspect of the ocean’s surface, in fact, it also causes water beneath the surface to move in a circular motion as well. Contact with the bottom of the ocean causes these lower layers of rotating water to drag along the bottom making the overall motion more elliptical. Divers are familiar with surge, which is the more horizontal movement of the swell as it contacts the bottom.

As the bottom becomes shallower, even the uppermost movement of the swell begins to drag on the bottom causing the topmost portion of the swell to move faster than the bottom which has begun to drag along the seafloor. This causes the top of the swell to peak up and pitch forward, becoming a wave that will soon crash on the beach.

Depending on the shape of the seafloor, swell will begin to feel the bottom at different places along the shoreline. In a bay like that shown in today’s photo, swell first contacts the seafloor near the points, but not in the middle. As a result, the swell and resulting wave will move faster in the middle than near the points, causing the swell and wave to curve. You can see the breaking wave in the photo describing an arc that nearly perfectly matches the shape of the beach. This is wave refraction in action. Watching the shapes of waves approaching any beach can give you clues about the shape of the seafloor beneath the surface.
This photo was taken at Leo Carrillo State Beach in California, USA with a Canon EF28-135 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens at focal length 70 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III. The exposure was set to 1/45 sec at f/11 and ISO 200.

Sources:
https://geographyfieldwork.com/WaveRefraction.htm
http://www.csun.edu/~khurst/ES300/Fritche/300waves.html#III
http://www.columbia.edu/~vjd1/coastal_basic.htm

To see more photos and blogs, visit www.chuckkopczakphotography.com.
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Milan (Italy): Martyrdom of Sant'Andrea by Enea Salmeggia in the Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione. Fusion of three pictures on a scale of 2 stops. Exif info and full size image on the page: http://www.milanofotografo.it/englishFotografiaDettagliFoto.aspx?ID=1804
More about the Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione: http://www.milanofotografo.it/englishSvagoCulturaDettagliBellezzeMilano.aspx?ID=107

Mailand (Italien): Martyrium von Sant'Andrea von Enea Salmeggia in der Kirche von Santa Maria della Consolazione. Verschmelzung von drei Bilder auf einer Skala von 2 Stops. Exif Daten und Bild im Vollformat: http://www.milanofotografo.it/englishFotografiaDettagliFoto.aspx?ID=1804
Mehr ueber die Kirche von Santa Maria della Consolazione: http://www.milanofotografo.it/germanSvagoCulturaDettagliBellezzeMilano.aspx?ID=107

Milano: Martirio di Sant'Andrea di Enea Salmeggia nella Chiesa di Santa Maria della Consolazione. Fusione di tre foto su una scala di 2 stop. Dati exif e immagine ad alta risoluzione alla pagina: http://www.milanofotografo.it/FotografiaDettagliFoto.aspx?ID=1804
Altre info sulla Chiesa di Santa Maria della Consolazione:
http://www.milanofotografo.it/SvagoCulturaDettagliBellezzeMilano.aspx?ID=107
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Hello everybody..
Sharing a post after so long..feels good to be back..:)

This is a shot I took from my phone near Nadaun, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Hope you guys like it.
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My Backyard in PR
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