Tag Archives: tundra

Ever Heard of a Sik-Sik?…

Arctic ground squirrel, or sik-sik (Spermophilus parryii)

Thought so. Quite honestly, neither had I – at least before I traveled to Canada’s arctic territory of Nunavut (I have published more photographs from that trip on thisthis and this previous posts). Up there, beyond Inuit, caribou, wolves, arctic hare, the occasional polar bear and billions of mosquitoes and black flies you can find… sik-siks, which is the kind of cute sounding way Inuit call arctic ground squirrels because of the sound they make.

Arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus parryii) are the largest and northernest among North American ground squirrels. They seek shelter from the frigid tundra temperatures by building a maze of burrows in areas where the permafrost does not prevent digging.

Throughout the long acrtic winters sik-siks hibernate for 7 to 8 months a year. Now get ready for a super cool fact: “Researchers at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks have shown that during hibernation, arctic ground squirrels adopt the lowest body temperature ever measured in a mammal. [Their] body temperature […] drops below freezing, a condition referred to as supercooling. At intervals of two to three weeks, still in a state of sleep, hibernating squirrels shiver and shake for 12 to 15 hours to create heat that warms them back to a normal body temperature of about 98 degrees Fahrenheit [(about 36.5 degrees Celsius)]. When the shivering and shaking stops, body temperature drops back to the minimal temperature” (quoted from the Denali page of the National Park Service’s Web site).

By the way, I have uploaded a new gallery to my Web site with a selection of my images of rodents and lagomorphs (i.e., rabbits and hares – no pikas, sorry): feel free to go take a look if you feel like it!

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

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Barren-Ground Caribou Bull

Barren-ground caribou bull (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus)

I took this image of a barren-ground caribou bull (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) during my trip to Canada’s arctic territory of Nunavut (by the way, I have published other photographs from that trip on this and this previous posts).

This bull was strutting on a Nunavut beach, stomping its hooves on a layer of dried sea weed that the high tide had left behind and in so doing the animal was making literally hundreds of black flies come out of those sea weed for the joy of both the caribou and… the photographer! Whenever the wind dies down in the tundra, black flies and mosquitoes fill the air and become a major nuisance. This image was taken in the summer, when caribou shed their winter fur and leave patches of skin exposed to mosquito or black fly bites.

Anyway, to me the key points in this image are the position of the caribou, with two raised legs to convey a sense of motion, and the graphic four-layer background, which appears to be interestingly divided into four bands of brown, yellow, green and cyan.

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Tundra Lichens and the Sacred Geometry of Chance

Tundra lichens: the sacred geometry of chance

On an expedition to the beautiful and extreme barren lands of Nunavut (Canada), at some point I have become fascinated by the endless patterns, colors and texture of tundra lichens. So, an afternoon with overcast weather, perfect for macro photography, I set out on a journey to capture an image of the lichens that would hopefully do them justice and that would convey my aesthetics.

To me, macro photography can be spectacular and challenging at the same time. Spectacular because, if you succeed both technically and artistically in capturing the “right shot”, the results are extremely rewarding and lead the viewer to a trip to a mysterious and often overlooked miniature world. Challenging because macro photography confronts the photographer with several difficulties, from technical ones (e.g., attaining pleasing lighting as well as sufficient magnification while retaining enough sharpness and depth of field) to artistic ones (e.g., framing the subject so as to obtain a balanced and pleasing composition as well as convey a message that is immediately evident to viewers).

The answer to these challenges is patience, observation, method and experimentation. With my camera and macro lens on my tripod, I tried several different compositions and moved around to find just the right patch of lichens that would realize my vision. After several attempts, I found what I was looking for: a patch of lichens that were pristine in appearance, covered the entire field of view of my lens, leaving no empty spots, and conveyed a Zen-like “Yin & Yang” kind of message. In the above image, a slightly curved, strong diagonal line of neutral-toned white lichens visually separates the super-textured green plants and berries in the top left portion of the frame from a smaller reprise of colored and textured lichens in the bottom right corner of the frame.

In my view, quoting Mr Sting, this image reminds me of “the sacred geometry of chance“.  😉

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)