Tag Archives: lizard

The Secret Behind Red-Faced Lizard

Our Red-Faced Lizard friend is actually a Caiman lizard from South America. Sitting quietly in a tree, this lizard watches the world pass by with little interest. These gorgeous reptiles also go by the name tegu or more scientifically,  Dracaena guianensis.

The name Caiman stems from the fact that they have a similar appearance to the caiman crocodile and so borrowed their name. The Dracaena is from the Latin word for female dragon. Overall it’s a very prestigious name for a large colorful lizard.

This particular lizard was in a large public enclosure at a place they wouldn’t let me name in this article due to strange legalities and the personal wishes of their public relations department.

The Caiman lizard spends most of the time either in the water or up in low-lying trees sunning itself on the branches. They eat a diet mostly of snails and clams but have been known to eat a tasty rodent or insect now and then.   Usually, they capture the snail or clam with their mouth, tilt their head back and crush the shell with their back teeth. The meal is quickly swallowed and any remaining shell is conveniently spit out.

Being in an enclosure with a large glass window caused some major headaches when trying to get his picture. Red Faced LizardThe enclosure was kept dark and only a single heating lamp above the cage provided light.   The other issue was the large glass window.

The window was very good at providing an excellent reflection of any flash or light source that was behind me. This is definitely not what we wanted. So, I spent a great deal of time  finding a suitable angle that provided for the is particular shot, while minimizing the risk of bothering the lizard, not using a flash or tripod and still getting the shot without any background reflections in the window.

Surprisingly, it only took about 20 shots in these low light conditions to get the picture I wanted. I had to stand with a foot resting on a concrete window sill under the enclosure so I could prop my elbow to give some stability. I then opened my aperture setting  to about an  f/6 and held my breath as I clicked the shutter.   Perseverance and the lack of coffee served me well that day. I hope you enjoy it.

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For more information:

“Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.” Jacksonville Zoo. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.jacksonvillezoo.org/animals/reptiles/caiman_lizard/

How Lizards Become Artists

Our lizard friend in the work Hidden 2 U is a wonderful reminder of how nature completely executes the artistic ideals of color, form and function.  Lizards will change their skin colors to help blend in with the surrounding environment.  Useful for both hunting prey and hiding from predators, lizards depend on this ability.  More importantly, it works.

But the unique thing about a lizard’s skin coloring is that while many similarities among lizards of the same species exist, they are not all the same. Each lizard’s pattern and ability to change color is an individual skill of that lizard.

Hidden 2 U
I See You….

An artist will look at this lizard and admire the colors and shades of brown and grays  used to blend into the tree behind it.  The patterns are exquisite and effectively manage to communicate the goal of the lizard and his reasoning for using the colors and patterns he does.

The lizard creates an inspiring artistic display of color and how color either hides or elevates a subject into our field of vision and wonder. The mere presence of the lizards camouflage not only beautifies the tree, but it provides a focal point for our interest.  The blended skin pattern the lizard so flagrantly attempts to pass off as part of the tree, only manages to command our attention to its uniqueness.

The fact that we see this lizard shows a functional failure of the lizard to hide.  But the failure is not a complete one.  As an artist, this lizard is successful. We know what his purpose is.  We understand the meaning behind his changing scales and flattened form.   His work is communicating effectively.

Indeed, His hard work and dedication to the art of color and form manipulation pays off.  For as I sat taking his picture, whole groups of people walked chatting and blind to this arboreal treasure hanging literally two feet from their heads.

Thus, we see once again that nature indeed has the best artists.  Nature provides the best examples of uniqueness and the inspiring ability to manipulate color, texture and form to meet its needs.  There is little doubt that nature does offer the most original forms of art for us to view.

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Black And White Photography in Action: The Sunning Tree

When a photographer/artist takes a picture like The Sunning Tree it only represents half of the overall work put into producing the complete work.  After the camera shutter clicks the last picture of the day, the photographer goes home and usually uploads the shots to a computer for touch-up work. This is to  enhance the magic that the artistic side of the photographer wanted to share with the world.  It is in this place that the raw picture is subtly changed into a worthy piece of art.

Now, we are not talking about or even suggesting changing major elements in a photograph to a way that resembles the modern-day fashion industry.  I prefer to stay out of that dangerous arena when dealing with my subjects.  Not that a squirrel or lizard ever went viral on the Internet protesting that they are victims of overzealous Photoshop airbrushing, at least not yet..

No, the latest embarrassment of Target Corporation The Sunning Treeshowing horribly amateurish computer edited sections of a swim model’s body on their website shows the dangers of over processing that I believe most artistic photographers would very much like to avoid.  We all want recognition for our work, but the type of recognition is important too.

It is with the choice of artistic editing in mind that I present The Sunning Tree. One of the more difficult choices modern-day photographer can face is the choice of light and the colors contained in a particular shot.

Every picture I take has a specific item or thought behind why I take it.  But, like a painter looking at a blank canvas and deciding on watercolor or oil, a photographer discovers a scene and decides on the type of post processing he wants to work with.

It is my belief that all photographers choose to use a form of processing.  There is no difference whether you are dodging and burning in a dark room or clicking on software light curves in front of a computer monitor.  Even if a photographer is a complete “only as the camera sees it” purist and refuses to use processing in his pictures that is his choice for processing.

In this case I turned the picture to black and white.   Why would I do this?  What was wrong with the color version?  Well, honestly nothing was wrong with the picture in its original state.  That is if you enjoy the color brown.

This lizard was a brown anole lizard hanging off a brown tree trunk.  Uninspiring.  Yet the thing that drew me to the picture was the lighting and I knew that only by removing the brown color could we really see the impact of what this little guy had to show the world.

The shades and textures of the sunlight both directly and indirectly give this photograph a sense of place and mood.

You see details it his face and the underside of his chin that blended and were lost in the original brown. Even his ribs become more pronounced and highlight the contrasting lines of the bark that he is sitting on.

Even the small and barely noticeable glint in his eye becomes a notable feature of this unique creature.  But only in Black and White.  So, I took this particular shot and earmarked it for conversion to the black and white print you see.

Will all of my pictures be black and white?  No.  Black and white is a method to help portray my “artistic madness”.  Sometimes it works wonders and other times a subject is best left in it’s original colored state.

There are countless times when I believe that a photograph will look lovely in Black and White only to have it lose the very emotion that made me take the picture.  It’s like a painter figuring out that they used the wrong paint for their vision.

Black and White conversion of photographs is a wonderful tool to have in your photographer’s tool belt.  I hope that you see the results when its hanging on your favorite wall.

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Warm Rocks and Cold Stares

Walking along a lush tropical garden path we often find ourselves in the company of Warm Rocks and Cold Stares.  This particular sunny morning we were not disappointed.

The warm Floridian sun had just begun to shine its way through tall trees into the lush green underbrush below.  As pockets of the sunlight lit up this hidden dark world you could see life start to move again signifying the beginning of a new day.

This brown anole lizard has discovered the perfect spot to start warming her chilled and sluggish reptilian blood.  The round white water worn stone provides the perfect location for her to warm herself to begin the day’s hunting.

Normally, these lizards will eat just about anything Warm Rocks and Cold Staresthey can fit in their mouths.  She will undoubtably go on to find a smorgasbord of mealworms, spiders, crickets, and anything other insect she can find.  Anole lizards are also known to eat the young of other lizard species and strangely enough, they will even eat their own previously shed skin.

Life is not perfect for her though, she has to wary of a number of natural predators that would happily make her a mid morning snack.  Snakes, larger lizards, and even birds would not think twice of devouring her.

To protect herself from these hungry predators, she has a series of defenses to rely on.  Her first line of defense is to use her camouflaged body to try to remain unseen.  The second defense is her unique ability to lose her tail.

This species of lizard are able to detach their tails at will.  The detached tail will continue to wiggle and move hopefully causing the predator to pay attention to it while she escapes.  Her tail will grow back eventually, however it may never reach the same length, as it’s original.

We know that this particular lizard looking at us inquisitively is a female due to the diamond-shaped colored markings running the length of her back.  While the males also have a discretionary multicolored pattern on their backs, the patterns tend to be one of spots and not actual lines.

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Showing Lizard Love

Oh, sublime love…

My girl, with eyes of brown and scales of green

with quick repose I chase unseen.


Why do you refuse, my sublime love…

Can you not see the push-ups for you,

my show of strength, See what I do.


I display for you, sublime love…

My throat extended,  a color red.

Jumping through a flower bed.


It is only you, my sublime love…

From flowers branch to forest floor.

I will chase after you forevermore.


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