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Bare Ass Bear (Craptacular Photo Therein)

Never ever ever in my long legged life have I ever seen a bear.

You know what is extra dumb about that? I live in a place, western Pennsylvania, that is absolutely lousy with bears.

Never saw one!

Oh, I’ve seen a metric crap ton of super exotic wildlife that wasn’t a bear…

giant-otter-eating-fish
Giant otter eating the hell out of a catfish. Yup, I’ve seen that. Never saw a bear.
Jaguars, which are a once-in-a-lifetime animal to spot…I’ve seen 4 of them. Never saw a bear.
cheetah
Cheetahs? Yup, a few dozen including 5 at one time killing and eating a bushbuck. I didn’t see any bears in that group.
great-white-shark-guadalupe-island-scad-mackeral
Great white sharks too? About 15 of them and at no point did I see any bears riding any of those sharks.

Okay, okay, you get my piss poorly made point – I’ve seen a lot of wildlife and the very common black bears that live locally have avoided me. Until now…

I recently went to Shenandoah, Virginia to hike. Maybe that isn’t true. Maybe I went there because I heard that place was bear-rich and I wanted to get my bear v-card punched.

Man, that was an awkward thing to say.

Anyways, bear v-card.

Shenandoah resides in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia and it is beautiful!

I show up to Shenandoah all shined up and wearing my best cut-offs ready to see some bears. I could NOT give that bear v-card away quickly enough!

No bears on the first day of 6 hours of hiking in the deep woods.

No bears on the second day of 4 hours hiking in the deep woods.

No! F’n! Bears! And I was starting to get frustrated.

On the third day I saw an area that was a dead sexy mix of woods and prairie. Maybe switching up the habitat would do the trick?

After a good 15 minutes of hustling around this prairie in my cut-offs I found a gravel service road that led up to a very remote part of the park. Hmmm, nothing intimidating about going into that remote area in a supposedly bear-rich ecosystem.

And that is exactly where I lost my bear v-card.

Yo, I really have to stop using the phase.

I’m walking up this remote-ass road when a juicy black bear saunters right out in front of me!

I looked at it. It looked at me. I raised my camera to take a pic. It bolted. And this is the only shot that I have of the bear that made me a man.

That is the bear’s ass, you see.

Yup, all I got was a picture of its sweet ass.

So, what was it like to see a bear?

I’d be lying if I said that my heart didn’t race when I saw it. I was in a remote place, the bear was pretty big, and the suddenness of its appearance was a shock. It was definitely exhilarating.

Now that I’ve seen one bear I hope to see many, many more bears. Although, I’m sure that I will never forget the one that took my bear v-card.

Damn it, there is that terrible phrase again! Okay, I’m ending this article. Thanks for reading and goodbye.

Bear v-card.

DAMN IT!!!!

Tip For Amateur Underwater Photography: Color Correction

For those of you sweet devils that want to get mixed up in the underwater photography game I’m going give you a tip…

Water filters out part of the visible light spectrum. It starts with red, goes to orange, then yellow…Okay, it’s Roy G. Biv. Light gets filtered in the order of Roy f’n G. Biv.

Thus, photos taken at depth go heavy on the G. Biv part of the equation. See below.

This sweet-ass Caribbean reef shark picture was taken at about 70 feet deep. Thus, the color is heavy on green and blue. See you in hello, Roy!

Fret not! You can still take underwater pics with whatever gear you have (I have a GoPro Hero 5). Option 1 is to buy filters that color correct for underwater photography. Option 2 is using software post-picture to color correct.

I use software. Behold!

That is the same sweet-ass Caribbean reef shark picture. However, the photo was light corrected.

There is a lot of software out there that does underwater light correction like Vivid Pix or Dive+, which I use.

Dive+ has a paid version and a free version. Note that the free version watermarks your pics with their logo, but I usually edit out their logo in Lightroom. If the free version of Dive+ produces quality images I cannot imagine what the paid version does.

Dive+ has an app that you can load pictures and videos to for color correction. It’s quick and easy.

Full disclosure: Lightroom can probably be used to color correct underwater photos too, but I’m just not there yet, bro.

Okay, now that you are armed with this tip you can improve the quality of the underwater pornography that you have been making. Errr, I meant improve the quality of your underwater wildlife pictures and videos!

Austin Gallagher: The Pope Of Awesome-Town

Who doesn’t like to meet celebrities?

I do too, but only if they are science educator celebrities. I’ll take them from any field of science and any medium of education.

And do you know who is a cool AF science educator celebrity that I got to meet?

Yes, it’s Austin Gallagher. I know that you cheated and read the title. Way to go, cheater!

Who Is Austin Gallagher?

From his website, “Dr. Austin Gallagher is a biologist and entrepreneur. His is the Chief Scientist and CEO of Beneath the Waves, a globally activated non-profit organization focusing on shark and ocean conservation.”

How Is Austin Gallagher A Science Educator?

Via Beneath The Waves he leads a citizen-science expeditions to do shark research, lectures, and does shark oriented education with students.

He is also a prolific persona on shark related TV programs. In fact, as I type this he is in the Bahamas right now doing a program for Shark Week.

He also rocks a pretty fierce IG game where he does hot takes via Stories while he is out i the field doing research. It’s good stuff.

How Did I Get To Meet Austin?

I hit him up on Instagram.

No, for real.

I hollered at him via IG and told him that if he did another shark related citizen-science trip that I’d be down for going along with him and the Beneath The Waves crew.

Yada-yada-yada about 6 weeks later I’m in the Bahamas on the Sharkwater with a film crew and Beneath The Waves!

What Was Austin Like In Person?

The dude is very passionate about shark conservation.

He likes all predators.

Not a fan of the ending of GoT, but who the F is?

He is an entrepreneur of some kind and has something exciting going on, but he was cryptic about the details.

Loves the Bruins and likely did not take game 7 well. My condolences, hombre, as I cannot imagine how tough that was.

He is having one of the best years that anyone has ever had (kick ass research, the entrepreneurial thing, a few sharky TV shows, and he and his wife are having a baby Gallagher).

And, lastly, he is just a super cool nice guy and I was happy to have met him.

If you can’t go out to sea for a week and come back with a beard then what is the point of anything?

Beneath The Waves: Shark Research In Action

Shark lads!

Get your shark lads here!

Check out these swashbuckling shark lads from the NGO known only as Beneath The Waves!

beneath-the-waves
Hey you damn kids, you leave that shark alone! But only after you get some samples of blood and maybe some skin to science with.

Beneath The Waves

Want a sweet mission statement on what exactly Beneath The Waves is about? Of course you do!

Beneath the Waves is dedicated to advancing the conservation of sharks and the habitats they occupy through cutting edge scientific research (from About Beneath The Waves).

Recently, I, the ORIGINAL Mr. Homeboy, got to see the research of Beneath The Waves in person and I am here to tell you what that research looks like.

Tools Of The Shark Research Trade

Check out the up-close-and-personal tools of the handsy shark research trade!

In that basket is monofilament line that the sharks can’t bite through (I couldn’t either), bolt cutters for cutting the hooks out of the shark’s mouth, and gloves for doing heavy duty heaving and hoeing. Mmmm, hoeing.
Everything about the barbless hook is designed to causing minimal damage to the shark during the catching process. I tested it out and it was easy to remove from my fat filthy stupid mouth.
The hook/line are attached these waited buoy contraptions. The contraptions are designed so that the hook/line can rotate at a full 360 degrees, which allows a hooked shark to swim continuously. These contraptions are baited and then strewn about areas with lots of sea grass. Lots of sea grass means lots of sharks.

Sh-Sh-Shark!!!!!!

Sooner or later one of the baited hooks hits the shark jackpot. Every shark regardless of size gets reeled in by hand.

In this instance the payout was a 12 foot male tiger shark!

Dr. Austin Gallagher, the CEO of Beneath The Waves, hand-reels in a 12 foot tiger shark. Tiger sharks aren’t super aggressive fighters, but their sheer mass makes them difficult to haul in. Unless you are Austin Gallagher then you can haul their punk asses in like it ain’t no thang.

The crew reels the shark in and lines it along side the boat.

Trust me that the researchers are always super concerned about the shark’s well being. They take great care to gently line the shark up against the side of the boat without the shark ever coming out of the water. By keeping the shark in the water the shark experiences far less stress than it would if it was plopped onto the deck of a boat.

Measurements are taken and blood samples are drawn.

Look at Ollie measuring that beaut!

All sharks get a tag. However, high value targets like tiger sharks get special tracking tags. The idea is to find out where the sharks are spending most of their time.

Yes, they are applied by drill through the dorsal fin. No, that doesn’t hurt the shark as there are no nerves, blood, or muscle in the fins – just cartilage. I had one applied to me via the same fashion. It definitely hurt, but now I don’t get lost looking for my car anymore. Just kidding, I still do.

With all of the data collected it is time to release the shark so that it can go back to murdering sea life!

The researchers cut out the hook and away the lovely beast goes. Yes, there are people in the water with the shark to verify that it swims away under its own power.

Research

With the field work done the real research begins.

Tracking tags pop off of sharks. The data is loaded onto computers and maps are made of where the sharks spend their time. Turns out that tiger sharks often go to very deep water (1,300 feet). The hypothesis is that they are mating down there. I mean, how isn’t down for some deep sea loving?

The blood samples are analyzed to determine the shark’s health and genetic makeup. Yup, Ancestry.com ain’t got nothing on shark family trees.

Do NOT do shots of shark blood! Only use shark blood for science. Otherwise, just leave it in the sharks.

Application Of The Research

The research obviously has academic value. The crew from Beneath The Waves are all scientists and publish their data.

The data is also used to help inform local governments on where they should create marine sanctuaries. It’s a big ocean and only so much of it can be actively protected. Thus, having data to prove certain areas like sea grass beds yield a lot of tiger sharks is valuable information.

How You can Help

If you are a believer in shark conservation and shark science you can donate to Beneath The Waves.

I can tell you first hand that these guys are shark lovers first and foremost. They genuinely care about the animals that they are harvesting data from. So, know that the research is worthwhile, but also that the animals are being looked after. That is important!

The Pain Of Wildlife Travel

Wildlife travel isn’t like flying to Switzerland and staying at the Waldorf (I don’t even know if there is a Waldorf in Switzerland, and I’m too lazy to check, but you get my point).

For wildlife travel you are generally going to be in a wild place. Wild places don’t usually have a Walmart to run to for supplies (I understand that Walmart IS a wild place). Thus, you have to pack absolutely everything that you might need for your adventure.

I’m heading on an adventure that will have me on a live aboard boat for a week. That means my usual luggage, all of the electronics I bring to get sweet wildlife content, AND scuba gear. That is a lot of luggage!

Scuba gear on the left, clothing in the middle, electronics on the right.

I can’t check all of these bags in order to navigate airports. The electronics bag, which is very heavy, is my carryon.

Contents include a laptop, GoPro, camera, various lens, a Mavic drone, and other odds and ends.

If you are thinking that I pack like a travel diva I would agree – I’m the Kim Kardashian of wildlife adventures. Now let us see if they let me on the boat with all of this stuff!

Id Eco Super-Eco Merch

Peeps, in the next week I’ll be leaving for the Bahamas to do some shark research while a production crew films it. I figured that in case I get on camera it would be a good opportunity to pimp this here blog. Thus, fresh Id Eco Super-Eco merch was crafted.

Now, I recognize that I am 3/4 crappy at maintaining this blog. Why would I spend money on merch to promote this blog since I am crappy at maintaining it???

Meh, what else do I have going on in my life on the wildlife front? I cannot let the wildlife adventuring dream die.

GoPro Bows To The Might Of The Briny Deep

Show of hands if you knew that GoPros fail at a depth of 33 feet and greater.

Yeah, I didn’t know that either.

I was recently doing an advanced NAUI scuba certification in the gorgeous Floridian dive haven known as Blue Grotto.

Diving in spring fed sinkholes is a great way to learn the ins and outs of scuba diving. Blue Grotto was beautiful, had crystal clear water, and huge cave that goes to 100 feet.

While diving I was able to take some sweet underwater video on my GroPro:

As I dived deeper into the abyss I noticed that my GoPro seemed to be malfunctioning. No matter how many times I’d press the buttons the GoPro was unresponsive.

And yet when I came back up towards the surface it started to work again.

I went to GoPro’s site to test my hunch that it was the water pressure jacking my sweet GoPro up. It turns out that GoPro Hero Session 5-6 and Hero 5-7 are all water pressure resistant up to 33 feet. That is it!

I’m telling you of my scuba fails so that you don’t have to experience them on your own. I’m also going to tell you of how to get more depth out of your GoPro.

Get a waterproofing housing like the GoPro Super Suit.

The Super Suit gives you a range of up to 60 feet deep.

Really, the only thing that you’ll be taking video of at deeper than 60 feet is of Japanese monsters lurking on the ocean bottom prior to them attacking Tokyo.

Yup, nothing to see there.

NatGeo, Shark Research, & Me

Every once in a while I fall ass-backwards into something awesome.

This ass-backward awesome came in the form of stalking someone on Instagram.

Oh, you were under the impression that stalking people never yielded positive results? You just haven’t stalked enough people, you see!

The person that I was stalking is this dude:

dr-austin-gallagher

And the reason I was stalking Dr. Austin Gallagher is because he is the CEO of these dudes:

beneath-the-waves
As you can see, BT Waves does shark research. Now you are picking up why I was doing all of this stalking. It’s not like I’m a weirdo of something…

And Beneath The Waves started to post stories hinting that they might be receptive to taking adventure loving boys and girls on one of their shark research trips.

Would I want to partake in shark research?

I hit up Dr. Gallagher on the DM to declare my interest. Now, usually when I hit up people via DM to declare my interest in something I never hear back from that person.

Not only did Dr. Gallagher hit me back, but he said that a big announcement was coming soon on that front.

And that announcement did drop in the form of this big bucket of awesome:

Ummm…

Ah, but here is where it gets sweeter. On one of these shark research trips the OG of American wildlife media was going to be onboard to record the research. That is right, these handsome bitches:

I keep asking NatGeo to use a different picture of me, but they keep running this one. Sigh.

Shark research + NatGeo = I need to be on that boat!

And I will be.

I hollered at the folks coordinating the trip, Fins Attached, and made a generous donation to their cause.

Boom, I’m on that boat!

Trust that after 7 days of being on a shark research boat I will be producing a crap-ton of blogs and social media content about the experience.

They even said that I can bring my drone! I just have to remember to turn it on this time.

If you are interested in what Beneath The Waves is about check out this sweet video. I cannot f’n wait for this adventure!


Lightroom Makes Everything Better

All of my long-legged the only time I had ever edited a photo was on the Instagram.

The editing package on Instagram actually isn’t bad. It’s just not next level great.

One fancy AF photography class later and I’m all drunk on power and Colt 45 thinking that I can edit photos on the big stage. That is right, on the Adobe Lightroomstage.

adobe-lightroom
Behold, Adobe Lightroom!

For those that are unfamiliar with Lightroom, it is not too dissimilar from the editing capacity on Instagram. If the editing function on IG is your only frame of reference you could easily download Lightroom and immediately get to work.

The only nuance is that Lightroom has few more bells and whistles.

There are more light options
Color options
And effects

Alrighty, so if Lightroom isn’t too dissimilar than Instagram why pay $10 a month to use it?

The answer lies in Lightroom’s superior capture of details and incredible vibrance of colors. Behold!

mallard-duck
Unedited.
mallard-duck-lightroom
Edited in Lightroom. Those feathers though.

Quite a difference, eh? Here are a few more.

tiger-pittsburgh-zoo
Before
tiger-pittsburgh-zoo
After
pittsburgh-zoo-flamingo
Before
pittsburgh-zoo-flamingo
After and I barely touched the color. Those flamingoes were off n’ popping with the color. Magnificent!

Ah, but what about capturing texture? Check this out!

Before
This is the skin on the elephant’s forehead. Lightroom was able to retain that kind of incredible detail upon blowing the photo up.
Before
I was able to blow that photo up to legitimately capture individual hairs on that zebra’s sweet ass!

Yo, Lightroom is definitely level-up photography for those that are uninitiated. It’s definitely worth the $10 per month if you want to produce incredibly detailed photos. for wildlife photographers it is a must.

Get in there and get you some!

Photography Classes

Being a monkey with a camera, I decided to take a couple of photography courses to attempt to evolve into an ape with a camera.

Today was my first class at Missy Timko’s Powder Blue Photography.

Missy specializes in portrait photography, but has a detailed knowledge of technical photography, which is something that I have zero knowledge of.

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Upon arriving at Missy’s front door I really had no idea what to expect. I mean, I hadn’t been to a photo studio since my mom took my brother and I to Sears for a terrifying family portrait.

The 80s were a troubled times, my friends.

The Sears studio was a grim place that hope and happiness went to die, but Missy’s studio had a positive and creative vibe.

id-eco-super-eco-missy-timko

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After introductory chit-chat (she actually thought that I was a woman based on my gender neutral name and large feminine breasts) Missy asked to see the gear that I use to shoot sexy wild beasts.

Out came my Canon Rebel.

I’ve taken this little sweetie through the Amazon, Pantanal, Everglades, and more. It is durable, takes good pics, and has all of the DSLR bells and whistles.

Followed by the new Canon 55mm lens that I procured for this class.

The 50mm lens is perfect for taking photos of wildlife that is close-up like bugs, amphibians, and maybe predatory animals that are attacking you.

Lastly, the juggernaut 100-400mm Canon lens!

canon-100-400-lens-on-canon-rebel
This lens is fantastic for wildlife photography: it has great range, retains details for tightly cropped photos, and is manageable when hiking through mountains for dense jungle.

We dove into a discussion on technical photography: shooting on manual, aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.

canon-rebel-535i
Prior to this class I had no idea what any of this jibber jabber was.

For the first time in my blasted miserable long-legged life I was woke to what the f*** these technical photography elements were. What a time to be alive!

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Drunk on knowledge and possibly last night’s Jacob’s Best whisky it was time to practice shooting on manual mode. At that moment, a terrifying wild beast appeared that would make for an excellent subject to shoot.

This is the first manually shot light balanced photo that I have ever taken.

Taking pics of a stationary beast is all well and good. However, in the wild the beasts are always doing action-adventure shit. Then, the bear sprung into action.

Fly you little freak-bitch!

After that fluffy son of a bitch flew around a bit I noticed that it began to gaze at me with hunger in its black dead eyes.

It advanced upon me, but I continued to shoot in burst mode because I’m swashbuckling AF.

Likely due to my complete lack of effort in running the bear got me!

Nooooooooooooo!!!!

During my mauling I learned that I could peel off shot after shot without adjusting my settings with every photo staying completely in focus. Is this how real wildlife photographers have been living all along???

I hope to recover from my mauling in time for my next class in a couple of weeks. My homework for the next class is to practice manual photography, get familiar with Adobe Lightroom, and to stop being an asshole.

I’ll take 2/3!