Herd of elephants under a tree in Serengeti

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Herd of elephants under a tree in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

The African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), also known as the African savanna elephant, is the larger of the two species of African Elephants. Both elephants, previously classified as exactly the same species, now prove different based from recent preliminary evidence which re-classifies the African forest elephant as a separate and distinct species (although this status is not conclusively accepted due to concerns over conservation strategies until the re-classification is formalized).

The African bush elephant has many distinctive features that sets it apart from the forest elephant. The bush elephant is much larger in height and weight, while the forest elephant has rounder ears and their trunk tends to be more hairy. The bush elephant has few predators, but still remains to be labeled an endangered species, mostly because of poaching. These elephants are known for being hunted for their tusks, ears, feet, and meat, so the population of bush elephants in the world have been increasingly declining. Their roaming has been limited to only specific areas, since they have been known for destruction of crops and landscape in certain areas. However they still travel in herds, with females being the primary leaders.

The African bush elephant is a very active and social mammal, since they are constantly on the move in search of food. Males often fight with each other during mating season, however they are considered to be very loving and caring toward relatives. Bush elephants also have strong social bonds, and when their herds are faced with danger, they tend to form a close, protective circle around the young calves. The elephants also tend to use their trunks to engage in physical greetings and behaviors.

The dramatic decline of the African bush elephant has resulted in various legal protections taking place in several states of Africa. Census reports show between the years of 2007 and 2014 there has been a decrease of 30% in the elephant’s population. The current rate at which the population is declining, leaves researchers to believe every year the African bush elephant will decline by 8%.

The Serengeti National Park is a Tanzanian national park in the Serengeti ecosystem in the Mara and Simiyu regions.

The park covers 14,750 square kilometres (5,700 sq mi) of grassland plains, savanna, riverine forest, and woodlands. The park lies in northwestern Tanzania, bordered to the north by the Kenyan border, where it is continuous with the Maasai Mara National Reserve. To the southeast of the park is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, to the southwest lies Maswa Game Reserve, to the west are the Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves, and to the northeast and east lies the Loliondo Game Control Area. Together, these areas form the larger Serengeti ecosystem.

The park is worldwide known for its abundance of wildlife and high biodiversity.

The park was the location of filming for The Grassland Landscape Of Planet Serengeti along with Masai Mara. (Description from Wikipedia)

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Great Migration

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© RicardMN Photography

Blue wildebeest during the Great Migration in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

The wildebeests, also called gnus, are a genus of antelopes, scientific name Connochaetes. They belong to the family Bovidae, which includes antelopes, cattle, goats, sheep and other even-toed horned ungulates. Connochaetes includes two species, both native to Africa: the black wildebeest, or white-tailed gnu (C. gnou); and the blue wildebeest, or brindled gnu (C. taurinus).

Blue wildebeest have both migratory and sedentary populations. In the Ngorongoro most animals are sedentary and males maintain a network of territories throughout the year, even though breeding is seasonal in nature. Females and young form groups of about ten individuals or join together in larger aggregations, and non-territorial males form bachelor groups. In the Serengeti and Tarangire ecosystems, populations are mostly migratory, with herds consisting of both sexes frequently moving, but resident subpopulations also exist. During the rutting season, the males may form temporary territories for a few hours or a day or so, and attempt to gather together a few females with which to mate, but soon they have to move on, often moving ahead to set up another temporary territory.

Each year, some East African populations of blue wildebeest have a long-distance migration, seemingly timed to coincide with the annual pattern of rainfall and grass growth. The timing of their migrations in both the rainy and dry seasons can vary considerably (by months) from year to year. At the end of the wet season (May or June in East Africa), wildebeest migrate to dry-season areas in response to a lack of surface (drinking) water. When the rainy season begins again (months later), animals quickly move back to their wet-season ranges. Factors suspected to affect migration include food abundance, surface water availability, predators, and phosphorus content in grasses. Phosphorus is a crucial element for all life forms, particularly for lactating female bovids. As a result, during the rainy season, wildebeest select grazing areas that contain particularly high phosphorus levels. One study found, in addition to phosphorus, wildebeest select ranges containing grass with relatively high nitrogen content.

Aerial photography has revealed that there is a level of organisation in the movement of the herd that cannot be apparent to each individual animal; for example, the migratory herd exhibits a wavy front, and this suggests that there is some degree of local decision-making taking place. Numerous documentaries feature wildebeest crossing rivers, with many being eaten by crocodiles or drowning in the attempt. While having the appearance of a frenzy, recent research has shown a herd of wildebeest possesses what is known as a “swarm intelligence”, whereby the animals systematically explore and overcome the obstacle as one. Major predators that feed on wildebeest include the lion, hyena, cheetah, leopard, and crocodile, which seem to favour the wildebeest over other prey. Wildebeest, however, are very strong, and can inflict considerable injury even to a lion. Wildebeest have a maximum running speed of around 80 km/h (50 mph). The primary defensive tactic is herding, where the young animals are protected by the older, larger ones, while the herd runs as a group. Typically, the predators attempt to cut out a young or ill animal and attack without having to worry about the herd. Wildebeest have developed additional sophisticated cooperative behaviours, such as animals taking turns sleeping while others stand guard against a night attack by invading predators. Wildebeest migrations are closely followed by vultures, as wildebeest carcasses are an important source of food for these scavengers. The vultures consume about 70% of the wildebeest carcasses available. Decreases in the number of migrating wildebeest have also had a negative effect on the vultures. In the Serengeti ecosystem, Tanzania, wildebeest may help facilitate the migration of other, smaller-bodied grazers, such as Thomson’s gazelles (Eudorcas thomsonii), which eat the new-growth grasses stimulated by wildebeest foraging. (Descrition from Wikipedia).

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Burma B&W – Part 2

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B&W photographs of Burma by RicardMN Photography.
http://ricardmn-photography.pixels.com/
Music: Caravansary – Kitaro.

Myanmar, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and formerly known as Burma, is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia. Myanmar is bordered by India and Bangladesh to its west, Thailand and Laos to its east and People’s Republic of China to its north and northeast. To its south, about one third of Myanmar’s total perimeter of 5,876 km (3,651 mi) forms an uninterrupted coastline of 1,930 km (1,200 mi) along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. The country’s 2014 census counted the population to be 51 million people. As of 2017, the population is about 54 million. Myanmar is 676,578 square kilometers (261,228 square miles) in size. Its capital city is Naypyidaw, and its largest city and former capital is Yangon (Rangoon).

Early civilisations in Myanmar included the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Pyu city-states in Upper Burma and the Mon kingdoms in Lower Burma. In the 9th century, the Bamar people entered the upper Irrawaddy valley and, following the establishment of the Pagan Kingdom in the 1050s, the Burmese  language, culture and Theravada Buddhism slowly became dominant in the country. The Pagan Kingdom fell due to the Mongol invasions and several warring states emerged. In the 16th century, reunified by the Taungoo Dynasty, the country was for a brief period the largest empire in the history of Mainland Southeast Asia. The early 19th century Konbaung Dynasty ruled over an area that included modern Myanmar and briefly controlled Manipur and Assam as well. The British took over the administration of Myanmar after three Anglo-Burmese Wars in the 19th century and the country became a British colony. Myanmar was granted independence in 1948, as a democratic nation. Following a coup d’état in 1962, it became a military dictatorship.

For most of its independent years, the country has been engrossed in rampant ethnic strife and its myriad ethnic groups have been involved in one of the world’s longest-running ongoing civil wars. During this time, the United Nations and several other organisations have reported consistent and systematic human rights violations in the country. In 2011, the military junta was officially dissolved following a 2010 general election, and a nominally civilian government was installed. This, along with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners, has improved the country’s human rights record and foreign relations, and has led to the easing of trade and other economic sanctions. There is, however, continuing criticism of the government’s treatment of ethnic minorities, its response to the ethnic insurgency, and religious clashes.  In the landmark 2015 election, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a majority in both houses. However, the Burmese military remains a powerful force in politics. (From Wikipedia).

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Grand Canyon at twilight.

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Grand Canyon at twilight.

Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the United States in the state of Arizona.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile (6,000 feet / 1,800 metres) Nearly two billion years of the Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. While the specific geologic processes and timing that formed the Grand Canyon are the subject of debate by geologists, recent evidence suggests the Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode and form the canyon to its present-day configuration.

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Banff National Park

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

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Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park, established in 1885 in the Rocky Mountains.

The park, located 110–180 kilometres (68–112 mi) west of Calgary in the province of Alberta, encompasses 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 sq mi) of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine landscapes. The Icefields Parkway extends from Lake Louise, connecting to Jasper National Park in the north. Provincial forests and Yoho National Park are neighbours to the west, while Kootenay National Park is located to the south and Kananaskis Country to the southeast.

Over the past few million years, glaciers have at times covered most of the park, but today are found only on the mountain slopes though they include the Columbia Icefield, the largest uninterrupted glacial mass in the Rockies. Erosion from water and ice have carved the mountains into their current shapes.

Johnston Creek is a tributary of the Bow River in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. The creek is located in Banff National Park.

Johnston Creek originates north of Castle Mountain in a glacial valley southwest of Badger Pass and south of Pulsatilla Pass, at an elevation of 2,500 meters (8,200 ft). The creek flows southeast between Helena Ridge and the Sawback Range, and then south through a gorge known as Johnston Canyon. The stream empties into the Bow River, south of Castle Mountain, between Banff and Lake Louise, at an elevation of 1,440 meters (4,720 ft).

As Johnston Creek approaches the Bow River, it flows through a large canyon formed by erosion over thousands of years. The creek has cut through the limestone rock to form sheer canyon walls, as well as waterfalls, tunnels, and pools.

A popular hiking trail follows the canyon and leads to a meadow within the Johnston Valley above the canyon. The first part of the trail consists of a constructed walkway with safety rails and bridges, while the last part of the trail is natural and more rugged. Within the meadow are the Ink Pots, which are six blue-green spring-fed pools.

Ice climbing is a popular activity on the frozen waterfalls in winter. (Description from Wikipedia).

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The Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam

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© RicardMN Photography

The Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, Netherlands, from the port.

The Erasmus Bridge (Dutch: Erasmusbrug) is a combined cable-stayed and bascule bridge in the centre of Rotterdam, connecting the north and south parts of this city, second largest in the Netherlands. The bridge was named after Desiderius Erasmus also known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, a prominent Christian renaissance humanist.

The 802-metre-long (2,631 ft) bridge across the New Meuse was designed by Ben van Berkel and completed in 1996. The cable-stayed bridge section has a single 139-metre-high (456 ft) asymmetrical pale blue pylon with a prominent horizontal base, earning the bridge its nickname “The Swan”.

The southernmost span of the bridge has an 89-metre-long (292 ft) bascule bridge for ships that cannot pass under the bridge. The bascule bridge is the largest and heaviest in Western Europe and has the largest panel of its type in the world.

After costing more than 165 million Euros to construct, the bridge was officially opened by Queen Beatrix on September 6, 1996. Shortly after the bridge opened to traffic in October 1996, it was discovered the bridge would swing under particularly strong wind conditions. To reduce the trembling, stronger shock dampers were installed.

The bridge featured in the 1998 Jackie Chan film “Who Am I?”. In 2005, several planes flew underneath the bridge as part of the “Red Bull Air Race”. The bridge is also part of The World Port Days in Rotterdam.

In 2005, the bridge served as the backdrop for a performance by DJ Tiesto titled “Tiesto @ The Bridge, Rotterdam”. The performance featured fire-fighting ships spraying jets of water into the air in front of the bridge, a fireworks barge launching fireworks beside the bridge, and multi colored spot/search lights attached to the bridge itself.

The bridge was crossed during the prologue and the opening stage of the 2010 Tour de France.

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Nossa Senhora da Consolacão e dos Santos Passos Church in Guimarães

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Nossa Senhora da Consolacão e dos Santos Passos Church in Guimarães, Portugal.

Guimarães is a city and municipality located in northern Portugal, in the district of Braga. Its historic town center is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001, in recognition for being an exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town in Europe.

Guimarães has a significant historical importance due to the role it played in the foundation of Portugal. The city is often referred to as the “birthplace of the Portuguese nationality” or “the cradle city” because it is widely believed that Portugal’s first King, Afonso Henriques, was born there, and also due to the fact that the Battle of Sao Mamede – which is considered the seminal event for the foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal – was fought in the vicinity of the city.

Nossa Senhora da Consolacao e dos Santos Passos Church dating from the eighteenth century by the architect André Soares, topped by two towers built in the mid-nineteenth century. Noteworthy was the staircase, balustrade and the altarpiece of the chapel, dating from the late eighteenth century, classical style.

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