Friday, May 27, 2011

Rockin' Robin

Karen Kessler, of Memphis Tennessee graciously agreed to share this whimsical tale of a wild male bird that has fallen madly in love...and is in Relentless Pursuit -- of  himself!  I guess we all know a guy or two like that, right?

Rockin' Robin is a great little yarn that is sure to amuse; If you find yourself grinning, it's a good time to go and take a look in a mirror!


Thanks so much for visiting "Tales of Relentless Pursuit." If you have a free moment or two, please check out my Photography Website, Your Best Shot, and sign up for the mailing list! And also consider sending the link to this blog to your circle of friends and family.

Michelle Alton


Rockin' Robin

Did I tell you about my robins?  They had built a nest on a ladder hanging on my neighbor’s garage.  Anyway, there is a funny story about the male robin that I want to share with you!

Mama Robin in Nest

Apparently, he (I dubbed him Rockin' Robin) discovered the driver’s side view mirror on my car a few weeks ago.  I was trying to figure out why the driver’s door always had a lot of bird poop running down the side of it…and always in the same place.  I finally saw him looking at the "birdie" in the mirror one day and figured out what was going on!

Messy Car

Well, for a couple of nights I decided to close/fold the mirror inward when I got home to hide it from the silly bird.  He seemed to be visiting the "other" birdie late at night or early in the mornings.  The next morning on one of those days I happened to look out and see him on the ledge of my car door. pressed against the window.  Remember – the mirror was folded toward the door. The robin was so funny as he pecked between the mirror & the window…he just wanted to see the pretty bird!

I then decided to leave the mirror in its normal position for the next couple of nights.  One afternoon shortly after I got home, I looked out and he was on the ledge gazing at himself again.  He was even pecking at the mirror! I couldn’t grab my video camera fast enough to capture him pecking, but I did get some video of him standing there admiring himself.  I think he’s in love with the bird in the mirror.  (Talk about being VAIN!)

This image is a frame from the video footage
Lately it has become a game to see who wins the next round...he seems to be winning most days, too! I've tried repeatedly to get a still photo of him sitting on my car door looking in the mirror, but he seems to know I'm watching him and he flies away before I can get that "caught in the act" picture. My Dad had the perfect comment for Rockin' Robin's actions: "He saw himself in the mirror and it scared the crap out of him!"
I’ve never seen anything like this before!  I wonder if he’s "marking his territory" by pooping on my car?  A girl at work said maybe he was just standing  there for so long that needed to "relieve himself"!  I don’t know, but it can be cleaned off easily and it’s so funny to watch him!  I’ve found that a little spray bottle of soapy water and some paper towels do the job.  Of course, it never stays that way very long.  There is always a little "surprise" awaiting me the next morning.   I'll keep trying to get him, though.   I've made a "Wanted" poster for his capture, so let me know if you see him! HA!

  All photos by Karen Kessler


Karen Kessler Bio Sketch
I live in Memphis, Tennessee, and have always enjoyed taking pictures at family events. However, it wasn't until I got my first DSLR a few years ago that I became more serious about my photography.   It's still in the hobby stage and may always be, but I've found it to be a wonderful stress reliever.   I see things differently when I'm looking through my camera lens and always enjoy my adventures!   There's a lot of beauty as well as humor out there just waiting to be discovered!


What do you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me
 with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.

*** I Need Your Story! *** { I'm Serious!}

If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me, please!  We have a mere two weeks of stories on tap and I shall have  to resort  again to posting my own work!  Please consider sharing your tales of Relentless Pursuit!  And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you!

Michelle Alton


Friday, May 20, 2011

War of the Wills

Michelle Alton
This week, I'm featuring one of my personal tales, in the hopes of sparking some of you to submit one of your stories of Relentless Pursuit.  I'm down to a few I.O.U.s at the moment!

This narrative characterizes a showdown I had with a Great Blue Heron with insatiable appetites.  It took place one bleak November morning at my home in Yardley, Pennsylvania.  I swear to you that every word is true—you just can’t make up a tale like this.  Three of the photos were shot as this story unfolded; the others are images that I’ve made of herons previously that work really well to illustrate the text.  The showdown had a happy ending, and it will take but a few minutes of your time to get to the bottom of it!   Oh…I did not get a shot of the best scene in the story, so I’m inviting artistic readers to sketch the final confrontation between the big bird and me at the top of the driveway.  I’ll post your submissions with all proper attribution.  Should be a lot of fun.


Thanks so much for visiting "Tales of Relentless Pursuit." If you have a free moment or two, please check out my Photography Website, Your Best Shot, and sign up for the mailing list! And also consider sending the link to this blog to your circle of friends and family.

Michelle Alton

War of the Wills
(Click on photos to enlarge them)

I am sick, no question about it.  I coughed hard all night and my chest feels tight, my temples are throbbing with pain, and I am shaking with chills, and sweating. You know the feeling.  It’s a day to stay home, drink chicken soup, and watch old movies with a soft blanket to cuddle.

But not for me today.  At work things are at a critical juncture  and I cannot afford to miss a day.  So I’ve pulled myself out of bed, popped a couple of extra strength Tylenol, and stood in a hot shower for as long as I could.  Finally dressed and bundled for the cold November day, I’m slowly taking the car down the winding driveway and preparing for the hour’s drive to work.

As I near the road, the pond comes up on my right, I think I see some movement near the water’s edge and stop and stare hard at the spot that has caught my eye.  Yes!  It’s that bastard of a Great Blue Heron, having the feast of his life!  He must’ve found a conclave of dormant carp resting in the muddy bank, and as I sit here watching in fascination, his head appears with an orange fish tweezed in his bill, and then he gulps it down.

Orange Carp Tweezed in his Bill

Down the Hatch!

I’m mesmerized as I watch his head bob up and down--each time gulping down a plump new fish.   But  now I’m gripped by anger.  He’s eaten enough to last the entire winter and perhaps ALL the fish are gone. Ane he still wants MORE!

...and yet Another and Another!
Despite my pain and fever, I’m jumping out of the car, running toward the heron, arms flailing, and making loud hissing noises.   He gives me a long glance of disgust, turns on his heels, and takes a low-altitude flight across to the far end of the pond.

Short, low Altitude Flight

Not good enough, but at least I’ve put a temporary end to his feeding frenzy.  I feel exhausted and climb back into the car.  When I reach the bottom of the driveway, I turn right onto the road, taking it slowly so I can see what GBH is up to now!   Are my eyes deceiving me?

Omigosh!!! With his belly veritably bulging with fresh fish, he has quickly dipped his bill into the mud on the opposite bank and now dangling from its end is a gigantic frog.   Oh GEE!  There will be nothing left alive in the pond by morning’s end, but I have one more trick in my bag.  I get out of the car quietly to try to get a shot of him with his unfortunate bull frog meal.  It’s early morning and day has only just broken, and the huge sycamores are shading the scene to dappled darkness.  All I have with me is my little G9 camera that doesn’t do well for me in low light, but it’s what I have, so I start shooting away.

GBH is immediately spooked; without letting go of the now limp frog, he rises straight up from the edge of the pond and takes off up the hill disappearing over the roof of our house. 
I return to the car.  To my utter dismay, the door has slammed  shut, the key is in the ignition, and the engine  is running -- of course.   I utter a few choice words under my weak breath, sputter a curse [*!G*B*H@%! Grunt] at the now vanished heron, and start the long trudge up the driveway to retrieve the other set of car keys from the house.  Wow…am I tired out!   This respiratory infection has sapped my strength, and I’m feeling even more ill than when I set out this morning.  This hill never seemed this steep before.  With almost no breath left for this exercise, I’m walking slowly up the hill, watching my feet, one after the other…left…right…left … right…stop take a rest…left … right… 
After what seems like my “life’s agonizing journey” I’ve reached the top of the driveway.  Whew!  But now as I look down at my own feet to sort of visually coax one in front of the other, my eyes  fix on another pair of feet….ugly, spindly black heron feet, facing me on the pavement.  Slowly my eyes scan up the legs to see the GBH standing there waiting for me, not four feet away, hackles hunched up in a crouch of war, eyes beady and fixed, poor old pale limp frog still dangling from his bill. 

Painting by Don Moore, Killeen, Texas
Still looking for another take on this scene! I’d
 love to post your illustrations here with proper
 attribution, of course.
Email your sketches to me along with your name and the town and state/country where you live.
Fear fills my soul.  I have camera in hand, but have no idea what to do with it; but as I bring it to my eye, I’m certain I see the GBH lifting one foot to his beak as if to  “thumb his nose” at me.     (Do herons have thumbs?)  Exhausted and throbbing with pain and fever, the humor of the whole situation settles into my numb head and suddenly I burst into laughter as the old Blue spreads his wings, thrusts himself off the pavement, and rises again, over the roof.  I can still see his eerie form disappearing over the horizon, frog leg silhouettes dangling between his outstretched legs.

Up, Up, and Away (Imagine there is a frog still dangling)

Car key retrieved, I start to feel exhilarated as I make my way back down the hill, find the running car still there, and finally get us back on the road to work.  I’m already thinking about what a great story I'll be able to tell at lunch today!

  All photography by Michelle Alton


What do you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me
 with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.

*** I Need Your Story! ***   { Not Kidding!}

If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me. We have Zero stories on tap and I shall have to  again resort to posting my own work! Please consider sharing your tales of Relentless Pursuit! And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you!--
Michelle Alton


Bonus Shots

Juvenile Black Capped Night Heron (Long Beach, NY)

Having a Scratch (Delaware/Raritan Canal, Yardley, PA)

A Hard Lump to Swallow (Delaware/Raritan Canal, Yardley, PA)

Heron on Ice (Our pond in Yardley)

Rooftop Overlooking the Delaware River (New Hope, PA)

Above the Pond in a Sycamore Tree

The "Runway" (Our driveway in Yardley)

Hard to Swallow This Way

Little Green Heron (Delaware/Raritan Canal, Yardley, PA)

Little Green Heron (Delaware/Raritan Canal, Yardley, PA)

So Pretty (Delaware River, Morrisville, PA Levee)

Herons in Flight (Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Philadelphia, PA)

From the Levee (Morrisville, PA)

On the Hunt (Peace Valley Park, Doylestown, PA)


Friday, May 13, 2011

And I'm Still Learning...

Photo by Leif Kjaer
Danish photographer couple, Kiki Kjaer and her husband, Leif, travel the world in pursuit of adventure and the perfect picture!  You’ll love Kiki’s humorous self-deprecating style that takes you on a journey that will keep you smiling; and all the while you will marvel at the artistry of her photography.


Thanks so much for visiting "Tales of Relentless Pursuit." If you have a free moment or two, please check out my Photography Website, Your Best Shot, and sign up for the mailing list! And also consider sending the link to this blog to your circle of friends.
Michelle Alton

P.S. To enhance your viewing pleasure, click on a photograph and it will enlarge.


And I’m Still Learning...

I love to travel!

And I’ve been a traveler all my life.  My parents took me traveling before I could walk.
I got my first camera when I was 13 - and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t use it to capture moments that I wanted to keep.   And I never travelled without some sort of camera. But it wasn’t until I got my first digital in 2006 that I started to enjoy capturing  subjects other  than family and friends and ‘holiday shots’ – you know – the kind of shots that scream: “I was here!”

I started with a pocket digital camera, that I can’t even remember the name of - and my husband, Leif bought a Minolta Dimage Z1.  I soon found out that he took far better pictures than I did, so I swapped mine for a better camera, but still a small pocket camera of some sort.

Still Leif took so much better photos than I.

So I upgraded myself to a Minolta Dimage Z5 – only to discover that my image quality didn’t improve much. That’s when it hit me: Leif WAS a better photographer! HA! He notices everything in a scene and quickly decides what to include and what not to include. He sure has that gift of ‘seeing’ what is in a scene and for choosing the best and most unusual angles.

I spent most of my time taking pictures of what I thought I saw (mind you – I can stand in front of a cathedral without noticing it!) and then returned to my computer only to find out all the things I had missed!  This I usually found out when I looked at Leif’s pictures and saw all the things that he was able to capture.

But I started learning.

Traveling in the USA and Canada

In 2007 I bought my first mirror reflex camera: a Canon EOS 350D. Later I got a Canon EOS 30D, then a 40D and latest a 50D. And I also started to find out the value of good lenses. Today I mostly use a Canon EF 24 – 105 mm f/4 as my all-around lens, a 100 – 400 mm f/4.5 – 5.6 for wild-life photography, a 24 mm f/1.4 for portrait photography and a 100 mm f/2.8 macro lens.

And I started to teach myself everything I could about my cameras and photography- from A to Z and took on-line courses as well. Leif never bothered with any of that – he just went out and took awesome pictures.  Lucky bastard :}!

Okay – now is probably the time to tell you all that I love and adore my wonderful husband.   He is my reason for living. It’s as simple as that.

My Cowboy, my Love -- My Life!

Leif and I have toured the States (The Southwest is our favorite) and several areas in Canada for the past 16 years, almost every year.
Leif and I in Sedona, Arizona

Monument Valley. Camera: Minolta Z5

Sandstorm in Monument Valley. Also captured with Minolta Z5 – and
 the first image I ever entered in a competition

We simply love the grandeur of the landscapes. Coming from a country where the highest point is 170 meters above sea level we of course LOVE the Rockies!

Turquoise and Green. Alberta, Canada

  Columbia Icefield Reflections. Also from Alberta, Canada
Everywhere Leif turns – I turn, sure that there’s something worth capturing. Mostly there is.  So he shows me where to look – and more often than not he ‘gives’ me the first – and best – shots.

And I’m learning.

As I’ve revealed ‘seeing’ is not my strongest point. But sometimes it seems that Heaven and Earth get together and decide that today they’re going to give me an awesome experience – to take home to Denmark with me. Another explanation could of course be that I just happen to be in the right place at the right time :)

That happened for example last year when we were on our way back to Calgary after a 10-day stay in Jasper and Hinton (Alberta, Canada). I was very keen on visiting Peyto Lake.  I had heard of its beauty and wanted to see it for myself. It had snowed in the mountains  the days before and this day was cold and foggy. The path to Bow Summit, from where you can see the lake, was icy and slippery. And people coming down from the Summit reported that they could barely see the Lake because of the fog. The path was long but I continued. When I stepped onto the platform and saw the lake, I also saw that the mist that had covered the lake was beginning to evaporate – disclosing the bluest lake I had ever seen.

I gasped – and so did others who were standing there.  It was truly magical. I could almost hear a symphony!

I enjoyed the view for the next five or ten minutes (and took pictures of course) and then turned to walk back. When I turned my head again to see the lake for the last time, only a moment later I saw that the lake had again disappeared into the mist. I almost got goosebumps!

Peyto Lake

 Peyto Lake III
New Family

Photography has also given me a new sister and brother-in-Law!  It’s true. In Alberta Canada lives this  wonderful couple named Laura and Dale Swan. Laura and I are both part of the “Better Photo” community and ‘met’ there. We started our friendship by talking about photography. And over the past couple of years we have become very close friends.  And we’ve sort of adopted each other.

Leif and I visited our new family last year. And it was the most wonderful and unforgetable trip. And it turned out that Laura has the very same talent of seeing things that Leif has. So on this trip whenever we enjoyed the company of Laura and Dale, it was Laura who gave me all the best shots.  We love them both dearly.

Capturing Wildlife 

Leif and I are always on the lookout for breathtaking views, which of course in the States and Canada are where we find ourselves – or around the corner.

But it’s when I see an animal in the wild that I go crazy. And I must admit: I really do go crazy. I leave my brain in the car and just head out thinking that I’m safe. I simply LOVE animals!  On a trip to California in 2007 Leif and I visited Sequoia National Park.
There are always places that will ‘call on’ us. And one day we stopped by the road and went only a few meters into the forest among the giant Sequoia trees when Leif spotted a big brown Mama Bear with two little cubs, heading our way.  At this time my longest lens was a 70-200 mm and it just wasn’t enough!  And I was so anxious to get a good shot of these magnificent animals that I forgot all about boundaries.  I couldn’t get close enough.

Leif walked away from the bears, knowing that they were heading his way (why didn’t I see that?). I just moved towards the little family. At some point they were hidden from me behind some big bushes and I moved closer. In my immense wisdom I thought I could sneak in on them – or I didn’t think at all.

Suddenly Mama Bear came charging through the thick bushes – right at me – with a roar that almost blew my cap off.  I never imagined that a bear could move that fast and I just stood there - absolutely still with my camera in my hands – and stared at her while she came roaring at me. I was spell bound and I was like: WOW!!!

It was awesome! I enjoyed every second of being in contact with this big animal. Why was I not afraid? Because I DIDN’T KNOW I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AFRAID! And that’s probably what saved my life.

Mama Bear stopped suddenly - probably about ten meters before me. Her thick coat took a little longer to settle as it sort of rolled and swayed to a stop. Funny the things I noticed. Then she stood there and stared at me and I stared back.

Oh, I knew she was ANGRY.  She was VERY angry. But it never occurred to me that she would hurt me – I was convinced that she just wanted to tell me to back off!

After what seemed forever, probably only a few seconds – she turned her head and the rest of her followed – back to her little ones.  She continued her walk deeper into the forest. We followed her for a while – but at a more respectful distance.

Later I learned that every year many people are killed in the States by bears.   And most of those “crazy tourists” are still holding a camera in their hands!
I came to realize that this moment – awesome as it was – was not one of my most brilliant moments. Crazy tourist!!

Hmmm! This bear I captured in Yosemite

 Mamma Bear and Cubs, as they walked away from us

The next year we visited Yellowstone.  Also here we met a bear. And like always I was out of the car before it stopped and before anyone else got out of their cars
This bear was alone and didn’t bother about all the crazy tourists in their cars. And he didn’t mind me. I was standing about 2½ meters from him – in the middle of the road – and he was lying on the roadside when I took this shot. He never even looked at me. I know! I took about 100 photos of him.

Wildlife – Stop and Smell the Flowers

Only later – a couple of years later – when we saw bears again - in Canada - did I remember Sequoia  - and I am a little proud to say that when we saw bears in Canada, I kept a safer distance.


For the past six years I have been submitting my images to various photo competition sites and so far I’ve got over 400 Pictures-of-the-day, several Pictures-of-the-week, some Finalists and Pictures-of-the-month plus 3 Pictures-of-the-year. So I must have learned something!

But I am still learning!

I love to capture the beauty that constantly surrounds me and I love more than anything to watch – and photographically capture animals. I can get almost as excited about seeing a chipmunk as I get seeing a coyote or an elk.  And I do respect them. Only my eagerness to capture them often comes in the way and I don’t ‘see’ their boundaries.   Happily most animals will just disappear when I get too close.

And I am learning that too.

A curious chipmunk

In the Wild - Marking Territory
Wildlife - On the Move!

I also very much enjoy macro photography.  Getting that close to an insect or a flower and later looking at them on my computer, seeing detail that I didn’t know was there is to me one of the biggest wonders of photography.

Flower and the Bee

Still Holding On

I also do portraits and find it very rewarding to communicate with other people in this way. I do like to work in Photoshop and sometimes I even do something creative.

The Artist at Work

Big Charmer
Just an Apple. Inspired by Laura’s work

But mostly I use it to make improvements on my images.

This I’ll never stop learning.

About Kiki Kjaer

Me (photo: Leif Kjaer)

I'm 59 and  married to Leif for almost 27 years. We live in Denmark; we have no kids (sadly).   I’m a vegetarian, a horseback rider and  have a Black Belt in Taekwondo.

Me on horseback in Canyon De Chelly (photo: Leif Kjaer

In my younger years I worked at a travel agency and have been all over Europe and also visited Greece, Turkey, Sri Lanka and West Africa as a tourist.  But since Leif and I visited the States for the first time in 1994, it has been the States or Canada for us ever since. We love the sceneries and the wild-life and we love the American and the Canadian people.

But we also love living in Denmark – especially at this time of year when a light green carpet gently covers the whole land.

Forest Walk

  Unless otherwise specified all photography is by Kiki Kjaer.


What do you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below or email me
 with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.

I need your Story!

If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me.  We have Zero stories on tap and I shall have to resort to posting my own work!  Please consider sharing your tales of Relentless Pursuit!  And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you!
Michelle Alton