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Free Diving Photographer Captures Beautiful Underwater Shots

When photographer Michaela Skovranova moved from landlocked Slovakia to the coast of Australia, she was intrigued by the vast ocean. "One early morning during a swim I could hear soft clicks of a dolphin and suddenly she appeared right beneath me," Skovranova explained to the Instagram Blog. "She looked at me with the most curious eye—and just as quickly she was gone. I was left breathless and from then on I wanted to feel that every single day—and perhaps let other people feel that too through my work.” 

The 27-year-old has since been taking amazing photographs of the many majestic creatures that roam the sea. To get the best possible shots, Skovranova dives with as little equipment as possible. Some areas don't allow swimmers in diving equipment to interact with humpback whales, so free diving lets Skovranova get closer to them. Patience and proper preparation are the best tools for getting a great shot. 

"The adult whales weigh 40 tons, and only take a breath every 30 minutes, so when they do come up, which can be at high speed, it can be a heart-stopping moment—one that’s worth the wait," she explains. "The baby whales breathe every few minutes and they can be wonderfully playful too, which makes them a little easier to photograph!"

The lack of diving equipment or heavy camera gadgets help keep the photographer free-moving and flexible. She uses a fixed focal length lens and will preset the exposure and pre-focus her camera before diving. "Seeing all the wonderful things that the ocean creates, all I need to do is respond to it, and sometimes hold my breath for a little while.” 

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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Animals
If You Want Your Cat to Poop Out More Hairballs, Try Feeding It Beets
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Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to get your cat to poop out its hairballs instead of hacking them up? If so, you’re likely a seasoned cat owner whose tolerance for gross stuff has reached the point of no return. Luckily, there may be an easy way to get your cat to dispose of hairballs in the litter box instead of on your carpet, according to one study.

The paper, published in the Journal of Physiology and Animal Nutrition, followed the diets of 18 mixed-breed short-haired cats over a month. Some cats were fed straight kibble, while others were given helpings of beet pulp along with their regular meals. The researchers suspected that beets, a good source of fiber, would help move any ingested hair through the cats’ digestive systems, thus preventing it from coming back up the way it went in. Following the experiment, they found that the cats with the beet diet did indeed poop more.

The scientists didn’t measure how many hairballs the cats were coughing up during this period, so it's possible that pooping out more of them didn’t stop cats from puking them up at the same rate. But considering hairballs are a matter of digestive health, more regular bowel movements likely reduced the chance that cats would barf them up. The cat body is equipped to process large amounts of hair: According to experts, healthy cats should only be hacking hairballs once or twice a year.

If you find them around your home more frequently than that, it's a good idea to up your cat's fiber intake. Raw beet pulp is just one way to introduce fiber into your pet's diet; certain supplements for cats work just as well and actually contain beet pulp as a fiber source. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York, recommends psyllium powder to her patients. Another option for dealing with hairballs is the vegetable-oil based digestive lubricant Laxatone: According to Dr. Liff, this can "help to move hairballs in the correct direction."

[h/t Discover]

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