Tag Archives: aquatic

A Seattle Morning As Seen From My Hotel Window And A Visit To The Waterfront Aquarium

94C1024_The Ferry and The Mountain

My previous post was getting a little long – not so much with words as with images.  So I knew I needed to break my visit to Seattle into two separate posts.

I am not a lazy person at all, but I must tell you that most of the photos you see of the waterfront in both the previous post and this post, were taken from my hotel room window!  I managed to stay in the comfort of my own room, complete with bed, desk, TV, and fridge –  and look out the window to capture some wonderful, quintessentially-Seattle images.  All I had to do was aim my 70-200mm lens (handheld) either straight ahead, to the right, or to the left (sometimes hanging out of the sill a little bit).

As I mentioned in my previous post, the view window of my room was such that I could open it up and literally drop a line and fish out of it if I wished!  No screen and only a very short railing protecting me from the elements.  The bellman told me that on occasion, they still had to drag people out of the bay because they’d fallen overboard…..usually, that incident involved alcohol.  Big surprise.

Since I had just arrived in Washington the day prior, my body clock still operated on Texas time.  Needless to say, I was up at about 3AM Seattle time (5AM according to my body clock – time to get up for work).  So I dressed, made coffee (yes, I brought my own coffee and purchased real cream up at Pike Place Market Creamery the afternoon prior), opened the windows to let in the fresh, crisp, salt air, and sat down to my laptop to process photos.  Occasionally, I would get up to look out the window.   The scenes that greeted me that morning made me realize just how lucky I was to be there right at that moment.

At dark-thirty, when the ferries begin their day.

94C0276_Evening Ferry Ride

The blue hour, as the morning progressed.

94C0361_Moon Over Elliott Bay

The Mountain was out on that day.

94C0379_Seattle Waterfront Morning

A low bank of heavy, cottony clouds partially obscured the Olympic Mountains.

94C0465-2_Morning Ferry Run PANO

Clouds, Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains peeking out, and Shilshole Marina.

94C0494_Mountains-Clouds-Shilshole Marina PANO

A quintessential Seattle day.

94C0549_Olympic Kind of Day

I’d decided earlier that morning to visit the Seattle Aquarium.  I needed more practice taking fish photos and wanted to test my brand new lens. But first, I wanted to take a walk along the waterfront.  For this day, I used my own Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105mm lens plus the rented Canon 5D Mark III and the 50mm f1.2 lens.  I wanted that 50mm lens for aquarium shots because it’s a fast, sharp prime.

4725_Waterfront Harbor

4741_View of the Needle

4784_Seagull and Skyscraper

The Seattle Aquarium opens at 9:30AM.  It costs $19 and some-odd cents for a ticket (why they just don’t make it an even $20, I don’t know).  On this particular day (the Saturday before Easter), the place was jam-packed with kids and parents.  Try battling that combo to get a particular photo.

The first sight to greet the visitor is this scene.  The docent (just outside of this view) is chatting with the diver feeding the fish, educating and entertaining the audience at the same time.  The really little kids are the most fun to watch.

94C0589_Feeding The Fish

From there, one passes on through various exhibits including a number of petting tanks, where kids (and grown-ups like moi) can touch the anemones and star fish.  After touching wet, soft, squishy sealife, one looks up toward this very cool circular aquarium, a portion of which is hidden beneath the floor.  They call that the Moon Jelly exhibit.

94C0642_Moon Jellies

94C0647_Aqua Neon Jellyfish

94C0677_NeonBlue Jellyfish

94C0682_Neon Jellyfish

94C0668_Jellyfish

Next are the exhibits for the giant Pacific octopus, then a number of other fish that I can’t identify; and the frustrating thing about the gift shop is that it’s geared toward kids – I never saw a decent fish identification guide in the shop….oh well, that’s what Amazon.com is for.

94C0692_Giant Octopus

94C0694_Suction Cups

94C0784_Pink Spines ORIG

94C0794_Scorpionfish

Although I used a fast lens, I kept the ISO pretty high in order to allow for a relatively fast shutter speed to try and get a clear image of the fish, which are constantly on the move.  I think I maybe used my 24-105mm lens once or twice.  It’s not a fast lens, but I needed the wide angle view for a couple of shots.

94C0896_Inside the Aquarium

94C0912_Otter

After the aquarium visit, I realized I was tired and my shoulder hurt from the cameras and lenses (and souvenirs and food I’d purchased at the Market earlier that morning – no more hotel re$taurant for me).

I was not going to kill myself trying to do everything on this visit to Washington.  I simply could not do it all and still enjoy the scene and the moment.  So, I took my goodies, camera, and self back to the hotel to process images and photograph more wonderful Elliott Bay water scenes from my room window.

94C0988_Plying The Waters

94C0997_A Nice Day To Be Outside

It was definitely a great day to be in Seattle Open-mouthed smile

Note:  If you have the opportunity to travel to Washington, by all means, stay in Seattle a night or two.  And, if you can afford to splurge a little, stay either at the Inn At The Market (located smack dab in the midst of Pike Place Market), or at the Edgewater Hotel – and get a water view room.  Both hotels have discounts during various times of the year.  A discount based upon a reservation 7 days ahead of time with no refund was how I snagged my room.  Worth every penny to me.  Their restaurant is lovely, with wonderful views, outdoor dining, and awesome food.  However, it’s on the pricey side.  Thankfully there are a bunch of neat places to dine up in Pike Place Market, with prices ranging from $2 to $$$, depending upon your food budget.  My room was clean and comfortable, which is all I really ever require of any room in which I stay.  I don’t need many amenities, although an in-room fridge and coffee maker are nice (I actually packed a small 4-cup coffee maker and a package of ground coffee in my luggage, since I tend to wake up very early in the morning to review and edit my photos – during this WA trip, I took around 3000).

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Filed under Photography, Seattle, Travel, Vacation

Company Party 2012

1216_Undersea Adventure

Every year, my company hosts its Employee Appreciation Party.  When I first started working there some 14 years ago, it was a Christmas party held in December.  But, as the company became more global (not everybody celebrates Christmas, you know), and realized that people make a lot of vacation plans during Dec/Jan, the whole party concept evolved and the date changed.

In the past, the annual party was celebrated at  a hotel venue.  This year, my company rented out an entire restaurant (and the grounds around it): The Downtown Aquarium Restaurant in Houston.

1576_Aquarium

I didn’t attend the party last year, but this year’s venue sounded so intriguing, I naturally RSVP’d.  I filled out the little form, indicating I would not be bringing a guest….in retrospect, I should have said I’d be bringing my Canon 5D Mark II as a guest.

Note to you Pixel Peepers out there:  not all of these photos are – well – the best in the world – I’ve included them anyway ‘cause they still give you an idea of the event.

I ended up purchasing a large, black patent leather purse large enough to hold my camera and a single lens, so I brought along only my all-purpose 24-105mm lens.  It served me well, but I give this advice to you readers who are thinking of photographing aquarium images:  use a fast lens (f2.8 to f1.2).  And, if you can, use a tripod.  The largest f-stop on my 24-105 is 4, which means I bumped the ISO up and slowed down the shutter speed.  Yes, I had noise issues, and yes, I had motion issues.  Interior lighting was dim, and fish don’t pose  – they swim.  And, aquatic plant life moves with the currents.  I did the best I could.  I notice in Flickr that many aquarium photos were taken with a 50mm f1.4 lens.

The Aquarium is a three-story restaurant/aquarium with three floors of drinking, dining, and fish tanks.

1032_AquariumTube

1045_Centerpiece

When one gets tired of eating, drinking, and watching the scuba diver feed the fish (btw, that glass is 5 inches thick),

1173_Fish Feeding

1191_Stairs and Scuba Diver

1207_Diver in the tank

one can go back down to the first floor, exit the restaurant, and tour their “mini-aquarium” via a separate entrance.  Thanks to it being our company party, everything was free and  included admittance to the mini-aquarium, the white Bengal tiger enclosure, the rides – ferris wheel, carousel, train ride through the shark tanks, and some other crazy ride – and the arcade area.  On a regular day, everything at that place has a fee.

This is the view from the 3rd floor balcony, location of their more formal dining area.

1135_Downtown Carnival

1141_Carousel

1148_Wheeled Vehicles

It was a chilly night, so these things emitted a lot of heat and were kinda neat, too.

1160_Warmth

This is a train ride (which I didn’t take and now wish I had) moving its passengers around the perimeter of the grounds and underneath the shark tanks, so that you can see sharks swimming around overhead.  Hindsight is 20-20; if I ever go there again, I’ll ride the train.

1168_ChooChoo

Following are photos taken within their mini-aquarium exhibits.  I found out later that part of that tour is devoted to snakes and spiders.  I didn’t see that particular exhibit becuase it was located in a room off to the side which escaped my notice. Too bad, because a tarantula photo might have been an interesting capture.

1003_Tropical Fish

1232_CameraPhone

1239_Bullfrog

1261_Fish

1328_Anenomes

Poison dart frogs.  The most dangerous things are usually the most beautiful.

1346_Poison Dart Frog ORIG

1346-2_Poison Dart Frog

Specifically for the party, the restaurant had set up various drink stations in rooms off to the sides of the aquarium tour route, and in other out-of-the-way locations.  I took this photo of stacked wine glasses along the aquarium route, across from the mock-Mayan (Aztec? Incan? Toltec?) aquatic ruins.  They wanted to make sure we founded good uses for our two drink tickets the company gave to us.

1388_Glasses

1359_Ruins

1363_Fish

1369_Fish

1431_Aquatic Silhouette

My friends and I wended our way to what I call the “aquatic petting zoo”, where we could pet the sting rays.  I thought that was totally cool!  Those rays were like dogs! As instructed, we used a single finger to stroke these creatures, and when we stopped, they would clamber up for more.  The docent told us stingrays are social creatures and gathered around where ever the humans were standing (of course, I’m sure it didn’t hurt that they probably associated humans with food provision).  Stingrays feel soft and sort of “gooshy”.

Stingray

1439_Aquatic Petting Zoo

1452_Stingray

1444_Friendly Fellow

One of the highlights of this little self-tour was the white tiger enclosure.  Ok, I admit, I don’t like going to zoos because it drives me crazy to see large animals in small enclosures (although I’ve been told things have changed since I last visited a zoo).  It bugs me to think of these large, wonderful creatures being bored, either pacing back and forth or just sitting looking downcast.  So, it was with mixed feelings that I chose to visit the white tiger enclosure.  But, I really really wanted to see an animal that I would never otherwise have a chance to view.

I was pleasantly surprised at the size and look of the enclosure (remember, this is in a restaurant).  It was pretty spacious (there are other enclosures for the tigers away from the general public’s view), with things for the tigers to do (big balls, water, trees to climb in).

1477_Lounging

There is a seating area in front of the glass wall (for the protection of the humans, of course).

This is Reef.  He’s a Bengal white tiger, one of five of which the Aquarium takes care.  The speaker gave us some interesting facts and figures regarding these gorgeous big cats.  In the wild, they have a life span of about 10 years, while here in captivity, they can live up to 20 years – makes sense, as there are none of the survival stressors in captivity that the cats have out in the wild.

To me, they looked healthy, non-bored, and not nervous.  Reef, as a matter of fact, has no problem posing for his adoring human fans.  And I had a front row seat with a zoom lens and a full-frame camera.  So as you can see below, I had great fun capturing images of this gloriously beautiful guy.

1495-2_White Bengal Tiger

1495-3_White Bengal Tiger CROP

1495-White Bengal BW

1486-White Bengal Tiger BW

From the tiger enclosure, my friends and I wandered outside to the rides and arcade area.

1648_Downtown Ferris Wheel

1667_Downtown Ferris Wheel

1661_Downtown Ferris Wheel

1581_riding The Wheel

1678_Wild Ride

1606_Carousel

1627_Merry Go Round

Go fish!

1588_Go Fish

1596_Go Fish

After my friends and I parted ways, I stood in a verrrry long line waiting my turn for a photographer to capture a photo of me – we were promised a free 5×7.  After about 10 minutes of waiting, I decided I could do without the free photo.  My feet were killing me (damned heels ).

Happiness is a pair of white tiger house shoes.

1686_White Tiger Houseshoes

As I was hobbling toward the valet parking, ready to go home after 3-1/2 hours, I noticed a fellow employee wearing white tiger house shoes (I call ‘em slippers) with her party dress (photo above).   After snapping a photo of her clad feet, I asked her where she got those comfy-looking things.  She told me she was not too proud to be wearing these with her dress, and remarked that very few people could successfully carry off that look; she could, of course, and probably I could too, if I decided to purchase them at the gift store.

So I hot-footed it (oh yeah, my feet were on fire) over to the store and purchased a pair.   My feet thanked me profusely as I wandered around the restaurant’s lobby on my way out to valet parking.

I had a great time at the party and hope they use this same venue next year (because by then, I’ll have a faster lens, more comfortable shoes, and will visit those areas I neglected, in addition to re-visiting places I photographed this year).

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Filed under Events, Photography