240mm f/8 1/125s ISO100
On this planet, most animals are predators. Although there are plenty of species that consume only plants, and a handful that eat the leftovers from other animals, the majority live by killing others.
At some point in the story of homo sapien we developed the taste for meat, most likely starting out as herbivores. It is not entirely clear why, but we now have the ability to eat both plants and animals.
Many animals that adopted a diet of other animals also developed anti-social behavior, the leopard for instance is a solitary creature, only seeking others of its kind briefly during mating season and for a short period while rearing their young. Tigers are also mostly solitary, and although lions hunt in packs adults spend most of their time alone.
Except for a small number of species, like the wild African dogs, an animals circle of "friends" is small. Can we expect anything different from humans?
Humans seem to have always existed in packs, but our ability to form strong bonds with our own kind is strained as numbers swell. Like the lion, we seem to build a circle of close friends numbering from six to ten and those outside that small number suffer different levels of neglect. Of course, we can work in teams of far greater numbers, our ability to deeply relate seems limited.
Although we often have delusions that humans are more like lions, kings of the jungle, we seem to be somewhere closer to penguins, living in massive communities but developing close relationships with a small few.
I often encounted people who believe humans are somehow elevated from other animals, better and special, but as time passes and I observe humans and animals, as I read the observations of others, I firmly believe that we are not much different. We are a unique animal, yes, but not so far removed as some wish to proclaim.
Most predatory animals hunt in small groups of friends to provide for their families. Humans no longer need to hunt, we rely on a small number of individuals who produce large quantities of food for the rest of us, and I can't help but wonder sometimes whether or not we have lost something by this disconnection. Humans seem to be the animal most disconnected from the ebb and flow of nature, perhaps this habit is one small contribution to that disconnection.
I leave you today with questions, but no answer, in the hopes that you will use that wonderous human brain to observe, analyze, and conclude on your own.
110mm f/8.0 1/200s ISO200
We humans are so fond of thinking we're the "higher" animals that we willingly ignore the emotions of other animals. Some of us find a peace in glimpsing the "other" life of the different creatures that live on this planet.
As long as I can remember I have often preferred the company of animlas outside my species. I have had companionship, loyalty, and cooperation from the most unlikely of animals throughout my life and I will always feel comfortable deep in a forest, high on a mountain, or in the concrete jungle.
Perhaps other animals are "simple", but much calm comes from that which is simple, and I will always hold on to those moments as though they are the source of my being. In many ways they are.
The time I spent making the images I pulled this one from will remind me of the simple feeling I had while making them. These kids encouraged and even taunted me with their games, daring me to play like a, well, kid. I can't be business all the time, so I gladly obliged them in their games.
If you spend enough time with animals, not as pets, but as fellow creatures, they will show you a simple peace that you can carry with you through the most tumultuous of times. Unless you're in the ocean, everything in the ocean will try to eat you. Everything.
80mm f/5.6 1/30sec ISO 200
A few days ago I took a hike to an area of Anderson Marsh (Clearlake, California) that had a recent fire. It was the first time I've visited an area, that wasn't a building, that was burned.
The fire was recent enough that the area still had that ashy smell, despite the recent rain. The ground thudded hollowly under my feet as I walked and I wondered how many burrowing animals had baked under that ground. The fire took all plant life, and revealed every human touch the ground has had for what looked like years. Baked beer bottles and cans cooked into crumbly oblivion were half buried in the wet ash, revealed by the absence of even compost.
The area was on the shore of a stream that I believe is a part of Clear Lake, and the marine life seemed to be thriving. I even made a few images of a one-armed crawdad carrying a clutch of larvae - look for that post soon :)
This image was just one from many I made of the charred animal bones that were half-buried in the ashy wasteland I was walking through. This hike allowed me to create a number of images that remind me how beautiful nature can be, and how impersonal.