Grand Canyon Diorama

This is the proposed sketch for the new Grand Canyon diorama. Due to possible governmental budget cuts (by shortsighted bureaucrats and other government officials with comb overs), where our National parks’ funding for upkeep and improvements is considered a frivolous and unnecessary expense, we have been contacted by the state of Arizona to create a diorama that would be viewable from the various lookouts and other vantage points most used by visitors today. This would be undertaken to help offset some of the detrimental effects that would occur from this shortsighted but lucrative action.

The officials of Arizona, where some of you know the Grand Canyon is currently located, have indicated a growing concern for the likely loss of tourist dollars if large portions of the Grand Canyon are closed to view. The new Wingnut in charge of overseeing our Nation’s National Parks and wildlife’s well being and good health as well as other parts of our citizens lives and freedoms here in our good but not great enough yet country, is proposing that not only should funding be cut for the maintenance of our park system but actual use of the parks should be curtailed as it would be more beneficial to the overall public good if those individuals who insist on visiting our national parks and take nonprofit advantage of its beauty, would stay home and tend to their coal burning furnaces and visit places more suited to enhancing our economy, such as the various golf courses, gambling casinos, high-rise hotels and other privately owned profit centers.

To aid in encouraging this new type of activity large areas of the Grand Canyon will simply be blocked off and closed to viewing. Some of it may simply be filled in and leveled off for building new golf courses, gambling casinos and high-rise hotels and to make it simpler to mine the minerals that may lie beneath now useless land under the Colorado river drainage. This hither to now unused property has not yet been fully developed to extract profits that could be gained by strip mining, river diversion, etc.

Well this could be an unmitigated disaster as there are many people here in America who like to go to these areas, especially the Grand Canyon, just to look at it. They like it. It makes them feel good in a way that is different from losing their money at the craps table in high-rise hotels with gambling casinos. They, the visitors, spend money on bumper stickers, frybread, the occasional hotel room, binoculars to look into the Grand Canyon and other national wonders, t-shirts with pictures of the Grand Canyon on them and phrases like “I’m with Dumbass” and arrows pointing in different directions indicating where dumbass might be, margaritas, sunglasses to replace those that fall into the Grand Canyon, new $8000 digital cameras with even more expense lens’s and straps to keep them from falling into the Grand Canyon when they’re leaning closer to get better pictures, sunburn prevention systems, and tattoos of the Grand Canyon, as you can see the list goes on and on.

With all of the possible catastrophes that could and probably will befall our most scared traditions and places we like but don’t really make the kind of money that large commercial ventures make, the officials of Arizona called and said “Hey, looks like we’ll need some dioramas. Better get busy.” What you see above is the first draft of one of the new Grand Canyon dioramas we are preparing for installation as soon as word comes down to kill the parks. This will be slightly different than our usual 3-D dioramas such as the one in Yellowstone National Park as we cannot get the necessary permits to construct and install our normal fiberglass and concrete dioramas. Instead this will be a 6 mile wide by 47′ ¾” high canvas roller, much like the old window shades you used to get at Woolworths. Remember? The kind that if you let them go before they got to the bottom they’d snap up and roll around the wooden spring thing at the top of the window making this cool flapping sound, then the canvas is mounted on tasteful cast iron or aluminum 60′ uprights shaped like Saguaro cactus in front of each view that you can no longer see as it is gone.

We’ll only be installing these on the South rim as there won’t need to be any for the North rim. Access will not be available to the public as that is where the bulldozer ramps and conveyor belts down to the canyon floor will be set up. Plus the tailings from the ore extraction will be dumping back into the river and that would be dangerous for the public to go wandering through that stuff.

We’d prefer to do the old style diorama as we have to cut slits in the canvas of these new ones to let the wind through so they don’t shred themselves. But since we can’t, there it is, make the best of it. Since most people have short little spans of attention they most likely won’t even remember what the real deal looked like anyway.

It looks like we’ll be making dioramas for the full 137 miles of the canyons length as once these new directives go into effect they’ll be busting hump to get this place shut down and development underway. Let us know if you like the new look of the replacement or not. We’re  going with it regardless but it’s always fun to hear  what you think about it.

In the interest of full disclosure the image above is a photograph taken at the Grand Canyon then run through several versions of software that includes Photoshop (Yes Virginia there is a Photoshop and we use it) to produce an image that looks like a painting. But then you knew that just by looking at it.

Bear Facts



Periodically we here at The Institute go out on the World Wide Web to check facts that are available to our readers regarding some of the wildlife they may be interested in. We are fact checkers. As you might imagine there is a lot of information out there, some of it good and some of it downright wrong. Or at least misinterpreted. We set our official fact gleaners to work gleaning and they visited some bear websites to check out those bear statements. This was done because we get so many cards and letters asking for fun-filled facts about bears.

Here are just a few of those facts that we found out there that need further explanation or correction to make them complete and more accurate or even believable.

First bears, and in this case grizzly bears, have been around for a long time. At least since 2005 when this picture was taken by our Director with one of the first legitimate digital cameras available. They may have been around longer than that but if so not many people knew about them because there weren’t any digital photos taken of them. This was back in the dawn of the digital age when 6 megapixels was considered to be the height of photographic technology. Many new species were being discovered then and documented using this new photographic tool, so we feel confident in correcting or adding information to the wealth of information about grizzly bears out there on the web.

Fact: A male bear is called a boar or a he-bear. A female bear is called a sow or a she-bear. A group of bears is called a sleuth or sloth. We can find no reason to dispute this fact although we have found that actually calling these bears he-bear, or she-bear to their faces makes them anxious and somewhat touchy, so we don’t recommend it. We have also called a group of them a sleuth and found that it made them all look at us appraisingly so we don’t recommend doing that either. Your results may vary.

Fact: Bears have been known to eat almost anything, including snowmobile seats, engine oil, and rubber boots. We can find no corroborating evidence to support this fact so we cannot endorse it. We can state however that a determined bear will eat the entire door off a motorhome if there are ding-dongs inside.

Fact: In a similar vein we heard that in 2008, a Canadian man was attacked by a grizzly bear. He survived the attack by playing dead, even when the bear began to gnaw on his scalp. The bear eventually lost interest and went away. The bear did take his watch, an undetermined amount of travelers checks and a can of bear spray however, plus his iPod but inexplicably not the ear buds. We believe this fact to be true as we have personally seen bears with iPods on several occasions.

Fact: During hibernation, a bear does not defecate. Its body can somehow recycle body waste into protein—a process scientists still do not understand. This is just so wrong that we can’t even address it. What kind of sick mind makes this stuff up.

Fact: The lips of bears are not attached to their gums, which make their lips look rubbery. This is true. It is also why they sound like Mick Jagger when they talk.

Fact: The most accurate way to determine the age of a bear is to count the rings in a cross-section of its tooth root under a microscope. We have found that this might be true but have been unable to substantiate it due to no one ever surviving the attempt to complete the procedure.

Fact: Bears are very smart and have been known to roll rocks into bear traps to set off the trap and eat the bait in safety. Yes this is true. What should be added however is that bears will often force tourists or other interested parties to carry the rocks for them under threat of doing them bodily harm if they don’t and then extorting them into bringing them more bait on a regular basis. Many unsuspecting people enter into bear territory completely unaware of the Bearsa Nostra and pay a huge price for their ignorance.

Fact: Bears are bowlegged. This gives them better grip and balance. Ummmm, on what? We believe this is bogus.

Fact: Grizzly bears use growls, roars and snorts to communicate with each other. They also text, send short but well written notes to each other, and wave excitedly when encountering old friends.

Fact: You can recognize grizzly bears by the hump on their back. The hump is made up of muscles. This is only partially true. It is accurate to say the hump is made up of muscles but it is just as accurate to say that the hump is due to the bear being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Often large heavy branches will fall off the trees as the bear is walking through the forest, striking the bear one hell of a whack. This results in a big knot or swelling on its back that takes a long time to go down.

Fact: Unlike many mammals, bears can see in color. True. They also see things that aren’t there. They get emotional upon seeing a rainbow. And they take offense at people who dress unfashionably. This why so many bear attack victims are found to be wearing plaid pants or Bermuda shorts with black socks and wife beater t-shirts. Or women in solid color pant suits like the ones Hillary Clinton used to wear.

Fact: Bears rarely discipline their children. This is patently untrue. Look at the cubs eye in the picture above. He was mouthy and just one quick smack later he was perfectly behaved.

These are just a few of the facts floating around on the web that needed clarification. We hope that this has been helpful and has made your understanding of our wild brethren, the bear, more complete. This has been an unsolicited service of The Institute.  Remember our motto, We’re from The Institute and we’re here to help. And we hope we do.




Back To Basics


In my business which is Photography, every once in a while it’s good to get back to basics. Get back to your roots, your foundation if you will, so you can get a better perspective on where you’re at now. Are you any better? Has your technique improved? Are you still seeing the shots you saw when all this was new, or are you starting to lose touch a little. Getting a little stale.

Hopefully you’ve improved. Technical skill should definitely be better. You got new and improved gear that is technically superior to what you were using back in the beginning. Post processing should be way up too. The software has been improved to the point of being magic. But the big thing is, and what is the single most important skill a photographer has, is, has your eye improved. Are you seeing things in a new way after years of experience, or are you still shooting the same way you did when you first started. Retaining a lot of the enthusiasm and developing the style you began in the beginning is ok but has your vision clarified and increased your ability to capture what you’re seeing in a better way. Are your pictures working better. These are the questions I ask myself when I go back to basics.

The difference in your early work, and is it better, is when you showed someone your images then and they said “Oh, cool. Where’d you see that?” and when they see one of your images now and say “Oh man, Unbelievable. That is incredible.” I like to hear the second one best. I don’t always get it but I get it a lot more than I used to. One hopes that indicates progress.

The shot above is one of my earliest images taken in Yellowstone way back when digital cameras were still diesel-powered. I like to think it still works. I refer back to this time period a lot because it was a time of greatest excitement for me, everything was new. I couldn’t turn around without taking a zillion photos. I literally shot thousands and thousands of images then, while terrified I was going to miss something and not get it recorded. The gear was less sophisticated, as was the software, and everything revolved around your eye, what would make a compelling image, what would be a unique view that the observer of my work would see for the first time as I did. The view finder was everything.

The jury is still out on my improvement percentage. I like to think I still see things the casual observer misses. I still get goose bumps when I see an image that really works and I realize that I created it. So I have decided there is nothing more for me to do but keep shooting, keep learning, keep seeing. Maybe one day I’ll know for sure what my status is. Until then I can keep referring to what I’ve done in the past and hope for the best.