Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Notes to Self

This is the tale of two photographs. One image was difficult to find and required a great deal of hard looking and seeing. The other image found ME while I was napping on the couch.

Photograph #1: I recently bought a sweet new 100-400mm zoom lens. It’s a lens some would think I would have owned a long time ago, but I have other lenses close to that range that are smaller and lighter, and those have served me well (one can only carry and use so many lenses.) Anyway, the new 100-400 was not inexpensive and I felt the need to produce a worthy image, as soon as possible, or risk unbearable feelings of Consumer Guilt. Early one morning I took a camera body and the new lens to a wetland area near my house to photograph wild ducks. I am not a wildlife photographer--I know that, I think the ducks knew that. I approached the wetland and the ducks flew away. I was left alone to explore the edges of a pond and, to be honest, much of what I saw was not all that visually appealing. I looked and looked and looked. There had to be a photograph there. Eventually I found an image that pleased me--grasses and reeds and water reflections. It was an image I could easily have done with one of my old lenses. (Note to self regarding camera gear: Keep It Simple, Stupid.)

Photograph #2. I shot a wedding last Saturday, which is go-go-go, fairly intense work. I’m a hiker and a climber and a cyclist and I'm pretty fit, but it’s weird: I am darned tired after a wedding. So Sunday, there I am, kicked-back on our dog-worn, battered-but-comfy couch. I looked toward the entryway of our house and noticed cool patterns of light, shadow and walls. Very abstract. I had my point-and-shoot camera in my pocket and without getting up from the couch made a number of fun little images.

(Note to self: Next time you want to spend money, you don't really need another lens, but Leah would be happy if we considered having the couch recovered.)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

I was probably 10 or 11 years old when my grandfather talked to me about war.

Other kids my age, the boys in my small-town Ohio neighborhood, spent their summer vacations running from yard to yard dodging imaginary incoming fire, shooting one another with cool plastic Mattel machine guns, lobbing toy hand grenades toward enemy houses.

I learned about war in my grandpa's tool shed, where he sometimes read to me from the diary he kept while he fought in the trenches in France in the First World War. I loved our family visits to the small farm where my grandparents lived. There was a pond where we fished for bass and bluegills, and I hid from my sister in the fields of tall corn. Grandpa's shed held lots of interesting wrenches and saws and everything he needed to keep the tractor running and the barn in good repair. My favorite thing about the shed was grandpa's collection of stuff from his years in the service. There were huge group photos of young soldiers looking clean and confident before being shipped to Europe, and war relics grandpa had brought back from the fighting: a ceremonial helmet and canteen, a military telephone, a spent artillery shell. When grandpa and I were in the tool shed, the canteen and helmet gave me a chance to ask about the war.

The way grandpa told it, war sounded miserable.

The main reality seemed to be mud. Mud and more mud. Mud that bogged down horses, wagons and men alike. Looking back on it now, I don’t remember hearing about killing, or about my grandpa losing buddies, though I now know the war claimed 126,000 American lives (and 1.5 million French, 2 million Russians and 2 million Germans.) My guess is that I was hearing diary passages acceptable for a 10-year-old, but I understood that war is not a game.

Still, I wanted to do what my friends were doing. I nailed some small pieces of wood together and fashioned myself a machine gun. I played at war with the kids in the neighborhood, but my heart was never in it.

When I was 16, I got my first real camera and set up a darkroom in a closet of my parents’ house. My grandfather was aging but he and I still spent a lot of time together. I helped him around his farm. Occasionally I took my camera out to the tool shed and shot a few photos. I knew my time with grandpa would not last forever. Something told me that the camera might one day help me remember.

My grandpa still read his war diary, but now he read silently, and to himself. I was happy just being there with him.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Gentle Friends

I have a couple of friends in my life who I try to hang out with when I am having a too-hectic day. These guys don’t wear watches, and have never--not even once-- communicated by e-mail.

One of my friends is a Shetland sheep, the other a dog. Laugh and call them “animals” if you want, but I’m pretty sure these fellows have life figured out. Calm is what they do best. Can you and I say the same?

The sheep is named Sweet Pea. He’s got an open, peaceful face, and big soft ears that beg to be scratched. Though his haircut is a little punk right now (we did spring shearing here two weeks ago,) my sense is that Sweet Pea doesn’t care much about appearances. Come into his pasture with a few moments to sit-- and maybe orchard grass in your hand-- and all will be good.

The dog is called Buddha--so named by the folks at the animal shelter in New Orleans where my son, Abell, found and adopted him. Gentle and easygoing, Buddha is extremely loyal to Abell. It’s not a stretch for me to believe that this dog wants to be near the man who has given him a home. When Abell is away, Buddha can be found on Abe’s bed, where there is the scent of the pack leader.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Seattle is said to be a city of "readers." Whether my neighbors here in the Pacific Northwest are more bookish than the folks you know in Los Angeles or Cleveland, I can’t say.

I do know that Seattle is the home of Starbucks and everyone here walks around with a coffee cup in hand. If Seattleites read a lot, maybe it’s because 3 lattes during the day make it difficult for us to get to sleep at night. Perhaps we read to quiet the pounding drumbeats of those nasty, addictive beans.

I think too that our wet, chilly weather is conducive to evenings and weekends spent on the couch, under a quilt. My sweet wife, otherwise a fairly clear-eyed individual, begins each new year by rereading the Lord of the Rings trilogy--a ritual she’s observed for at least the past five years. About March, when the winter rains are beginning to subside, Leah is finally emerging from her literary Hobbit hole. She is ready to look for life and reading beyond Frodo and Sam.

The book pile on my night stand is likewise fairly predictable. In a world full of so many books, so little time, I can usually be found reading something by Barbara Kingsolver or Annie Dillard. Lately I’m lightening-up a bit and my before-bed reading is “In a Sunburned Country” by Bill Bryson. Kind of the Chevy Chase of travel writers, Bryson is always just a step away from a slapstick dope-fall, a travel calamity. The book is a hoot. I'm sure I sleep with a smile on my face.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Someplace Else

Circumstances have been conspiring lately so that I find myself thinking about New Mexico.

My brother and my sister-in-law are visiting Santa Fe this week. And last night during my Yoga class, our teacher Susan played a CD of the haunting music of a wood flute that had such a Southwest sound that I got to feeling like I was doing Sun Salutations in the shadow of Cerro Pedernal at Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch.

Leah and I traveled in New Mexico two years ago with our friends Jim and Karen. (Check out the link to Jim and Karen’s “Hiking Journal” web site at right.) During that trip, the four of us may well have invented a new kind of triathlon: hiking, photography, and eating (major emphasis on the eating.) One of the coolest places we visited was Acoma Pueblo. The ancient adobe dwellings, perched atop a high plateau, and the soft, cloud-filtered sunshine made for a wonderful day of exploration and photography.

John Steinbeck begins his book “Travels With Charlie” by writing: “When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was upon me...”

This week, my someplace else is New Mexico.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Biology Lesson

After several weeks of dry (and sometimes warm) weather, rain showers have returned to Western Washington. This feels good to locals like me.

Of course I’m not really a local. I grew up in Ohio, but I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for 30 years. I’m pretty sure I qualify as indigenous now, because I begin to feel uncomfortable if more than a couple of days go by with no rain. When the sun is out and fresh-faced Seattle TV news personalities (I’m sure they have come here from California) gush about how great the weather is, I get kind of twitchy.

Stocking cap and rain parka: Good! Shorts and sunscreen: Bad!

It’s not that I’m completely against sunshine. All I want is what the plants want. Together, the plants and I have decided that this morning was darned near perfect.

I was out early, photographing raindrops hanging from the wisteria that twines along the front of our house. The rain was falling softly and gently--what the Navajos call a “Woman Rain.” Shortly thereafter the sun broke out. I’m pretty sure I heard the wisteria whispering to me that she was in a state of biological bliss. The spring weather cycle of rain shower/sun, rain shower/sun seems to be just right.

When Miss Wisteria is happy, I am happy.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

With Rocky & The Boss

A number of years ago I got it in my head that I wanted to hike to Long’s Pass and be there to photograph sunset light on Mt. Stuart, my favorite peak. I mentioned my idea to my best hiking buddy, Rocky, and he, as I expected, was ready to leave right that minute on the adventure.

Rocky was always up for a good trip in the mountains.

It’s a two-hour drive from Seattle to the Long's Pass Trail. I popped the Springsteen Live tape into the car stereo system and The Boss had barely broken a sweat when we arrived at the trailhead. The landscape was completely covered in snow, so I strapped on snowshoes (Rocky always walked in my tracks; he didn’t seem to need snowshoes.) We moved easily and efficiently. We’d done so many hikes and been to so many beautiful places together that verbal communication was unnecessary. The trip to the pass was about 3 miles, with an elevation gain of two thousand feet. Rocky and I were both so fit and moved so well, we found ourselves at the pass nearly two hours before sunset. We had more than enough time for lunch and a nap. I found a comfortable spot under a tree where the snow had melted out, set the alarm on my watch so I wouldn’t miss sunset, and, before I knew it, was asleep.

Later, when my alarm woke me, I realized that Rocky had curled-up near me--close enough that each of us probably helped keep the other warm.

The light on Mt. Stuart was the best I’ve ever seen. The whole of the mountain was bathed in a warm, evening glow, and the sky above the summit looked as if crazy old van Gogh had been there with his wildest, bluest paints. In the 20 years I’d been hiking near Stuart (several times climbing to the 9,415-foot summit) I’d never seen light there like I saw that evening. I felt that, finally, I was making photographs that did justice to that granite beauty.

When the light-show was over, I quickly repacked my camera gear. Though the trip up to the pass had been easy, Rocky and I still had to cover three miles and descend two thousand feet of elevation to get back down the to the car. I wanted to move quickly so we wouldn’t be caught out in the dark. This time Rocky led the way and I followed. A number of times I nearly lost sight of Rocky. It was getting dark fast.

Rocky’s lead was perfect. It was pitch dark when we got back to the car, but we’d made it. As I drove home, I kept telling Rocky what a good job he’d done of route finding. The Boss went back into the tape deck. I patted Rocky on the head.

What a fine day we’d had together.

Rocky was such a good dog.

Cross Training

It’s interesting to me that the images I do every day to exercise my eyes are not at all like the photographs I do to make a living.

My for-fun work is kind of hard to define, but it tends to be about light or composition, sometimes about the striking beauty of color or the amazing impact of black and white. Humans are rarely the subject-matter of my personal work. Last weekend as Leah and I headed off for a hike, I photographed our neighbors’ horse, grazing in a pasture. I liked the shapes I saw, and the color (if Crayola offered a crayon the color of that pasture grass, they’d call it Pacific Northwest Green.) The scene was peaceful. The horse photo is fairly typical of the visual note-taking I do every day.

Saturday will be a work day. I will photograph a wedding, and my focus will be all about people. I will be looking for photographic “moments” that are telling, and, years from now, will be a worthy chronicle of a very emotional and important day in the lives of the people who have hired me. I will be a visual storyteller, shooting largely the way I did in the 25 years I worked for newspapers, with a few posed group photos thrown-in to complete the coverage.

I had no intention, no career plan to be a wedding photographer. It is work that just kind of fell into my life. As I envisioned a transition away from newspaper photojournalism, I promised myself never to let photography feel like a “job.”

I’m kind of like a downhill ski racer whose summertime training is mountain biking. I have two sports, and each keeps me excited about the other.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bad Dream

Leah has gone away for a few days. She’s visiting her parents in the Midwest. I gave her my snapshot camera to take along on the trip.

Why did I do that?

After 30-plus years of owning WAY too much camera gear, I seem suddenly to feel naked without that little Canon point-and-shoot in my pocket. Last night I had a dream that Leah dropped the camera and brought it back home in a million pieces.

Today, all I have in my pocket is a cell phone, no camera. I’m waiting for Leah to call. When she does, I’ll ask about her flight, how her parents are doing, about the weather in our old home town. All the while I’ll be wisely and prudently fighting the urge to ask the most pressing question:

Is my little camera okay?

Not long ago, I went to a birthday party for one of my best friends, a photographer. Many of the party guests were photographers and I confided to one that I felt a little silly, carrying around such a simple, amateur camera. “Heck, don’t feel silly, it’s a camera you can always have with you,” he observed. “This room is full of photographers but only a few have cameras.”

My snapshot camera (it’s a Canon SD800 IS) has become a kind of addiction, a guilty pleasure. Yes, I still have my "real" cameras, my professional gear, and I try to keep that stuff nearby. But the little camera is so simple, so quick and easy...

Just before Leah left, I was walking through our kitchen and noticed beautiful light, a couple of cool little image possibilities. The snapshot camera was what I pulled out.

Yes, it is a “camera you can always have with you.”

Until you don't have it with you.

Leah, PLEASE don’t drop it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Finding Time

I was hanging laundry out on the clothesline the other day and it struck me that what I was doing--a simple act, so common when I was a kid--is now VERY unusual.

I have an old family photograph, probably taken 50 years ago by my dad, of my mom hanging laundry out to dry. The photograph is a Kodachrome transparency, and it is aging in the most beautiful way. The image, to me, is perfect.

Leah and I don’t hang our laundry out because we long to relive the carefree days of a time now past. Computers make it possible for us to work from offices we have set up in our home (if we were trying to live in the past or were Amish-wannabes, we wouldn’t have computers, would we?) In the course of our telecommuting, at-home workdays, it’s very easy to step outside for a few minutes and hang laundry on the clothesline. If a rain shower moves in, we can run out and take the clothes down again. We hang the laundry outside because we can.

In the modern, busy lives most Americans lead, I suspect an electric or gas clothes dryer is considered a necessity. Folks leave for work early in the morning and come home exhausted at night. Who on earth has TIME to hang clothes out?

I recently heard an amazing and telling story: NBC News reported that, for the first time in history, Toyota has moved ahead of General Motors in worldwide sales. NBC went on to say that GM's woes have partly been attributed to the slumping US housing market. Americans, it appears, are now reluctant to take on home equity loans or 2nd mortgages so that they can afford GM’s expensive SUVs.

Do we live to work, or work to live? After 30-plus years of life in photography, it does seem to me that TIME is the Big Deal in my life. The photographs that matter to me can be made in 1/60th of a second, but the seeing of something fleeting could be missed in the rush-rush of a cluttered life.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Looking Outside

The best photographs for me are found.

I can’t will photographs to happen. They are visual gifts dropped into my life.

I have a camera in my pocket.

The camera is the basket I use to gather the gifts.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Simple Gifts

It was a bittersweet day here yesterday, Leah quietly and sometimes sadly thinking about her younger sister Patti, a wife and mother and tender soul who died a year ago this week.

It was also the day our friend Marcia came, clippers in hand, to shear our three Shetland sheep. The barn had to be cleaned up, the sheep wrangled. It was probably good that we were so busy, our minds on the task at hand.

The sheep, dogs, and other animals in our rag-tag menagerie require a lot of our time and attention, but are certainly the best show in town. After Marcia finished the shearing, the sheep stood in the pasture, looking small and vulnerable but yelling their heads off. We laid the fleeces out on our picnic table. The dogs came around to sniff-sniff-sniff and puzzle over a scent that normally is carried in the breeze out of the pasture. Now that scent is here, at the house. How could that be? Sniff-sniff-sniff.

I spent some very pleasant minutes in the pasture, petting our sheep-friend Sweet Pea on his face. He would have happily enjoyed hours of that kind of attention, had I not had strawberries that begged to be weeded.

Our black sheep, Smokey, produced a fleece that Leah said is a treasure, and she is excited about washing, spinning, and knitting it into something worthy.

When Patti was ill she knitted a scarf for Leah. That, too, is a treasure.

Friday, May 11, 2007


I’ve been hiking and climbing for 30 years, but I can count on two fingers the times I’ve been lost in the mountains.

Come to think of it, I wasn’t exactly lost. Let’s say I was in a state of directional puzzlement.

Both occasions were on Mt. Rainier, after successful climbs to the summit in perfect, clear weather. My climbing friends and I were descending, feeling buoyant and self-satisfied, when--like that!--clouds seemed to come screaming in from out of nowhere to envelop the mountain, causing “whiteout” conditions, visibility nada. If you’ve never been in a whiteout, I’m here to tell you it’s a disconcerting experience, to say the least. You can’t tell up from down, right from left. On Rainier, the clothes you are wearing are very likely sweat-soaked from the exertion of the climb. When the clouds move in, the temperature probably drops 20 degrees. You are standing there shivering in the snow, thinking: “This is not good.”

If you were prudent and humble, you (or other climbers) were wise enough during your ascent--on that perfect day--to know that mountain weather can change quickly. You placed “wands” (usually thin bamboo sticks) in the snow to mark your route. Now, descending carefully in the white-white fog, your party can string-out--not too far apart now, let’s not lose someone--and travel from wand to wand down the mountain.

Once you get to The Cairn, you and your friends can loosen-up and begin talking about the beer you know that's available down at the lodge.

The Cairn on Mt. Rainier is a huge pile of rocks, about the size of a Volkswagen, near Panorama Point on the Muir snowfield. Climbers construct cairns as navigational aids in rocky or snowy terrain, and occasionally build them as a kind of celebration on mountain summits. My friend Shelley and I were hiking in the high country of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness when we came upon the cairn you see in the photograph posted above. The rocks were perfect granite, a sparkling steeple, and the sun was flaring through a little window where the bell would be. It was very cool.

Tomorrow, in Berkeley, Shelley will graduate from Law School. Her milestone event got me to thinking about mountain trips we’ve done together, the friends who have been with us, the bond we all share from traveling to high and wild places and the dumb luck we’ve had in never getting lost.

Shelley: A BIG summit hug to you, my friend! Now get out of that tie-dyed, love-beaded town. Come up here and let's go HIKING!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sun Salutations

After a long, dark Pacific Northwest winter, it feels so good when springtime and sunshine finally arrive.

Everything is growing like crazy out there, as if all plant life has stopped taking its Ritalin and hyperactivity rules the day. The strawberries are blooming big-time in our garden and local small farmers are already selling fresh produce at our town’s Saturday Market.

“Enjoy the sunshine!” neighbors enthuse to one-another when we meet at the post office or when we are out for evening walks. There’s a kind of goofy, giddy smile we seem to share. We are all feeling way too happy.

I went out early this morning to enjoy the sun and saw that there was beautiful, soft light filtering through Tibetan Prayer Flags we have strung in our trees. For centuries Tibetan Buddhists have used woodblocks to print prayers on the flags, which are then hung in high mountain passes and outside homes and places of spiritual practice. The belief is that the blessings are carried by the wind.

We are not Tibetan or even Buddhists, but we honor the desire to spread peace. I bought the prayer flags from a Tibetan man who has a shop in Seattle. This blessing was attached to the flags:

“May the rain fall at the proper time. May the crops and livestock be bountiful. May there be freedom from illness, famine and war. May all beings be well and happy.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


The day was sunny and warm and we were hiking in shirtsleeves. All around us Mother Nature had chosen extravagant splashes of yellow for her spring canvas, showing that--in her artistic estimation-- subtlety is for sissies.

Arrowleaf Balsam Root, once used as medicine by Native Americans, was fairly glowing in the light of the high desert as we hiked a trail along a fast-moving river. Mountains towered above us and we could see snow up high, snow that even as we walked was melting and feeding the river.

“What does this smell like?” Leah asked, handing me a bit of some green plant.

“Salad?” I replied.

“No, it smells like Eastern Washington,” she said, and I knew that of course she was right. Western Washington, where we live, is wet, green, and largely urban. Eastern Washington, where we hike today and have been visiting for a long weekend, is rain-shadowed by the Cascade mountains. Years ago we lived on this side of the range. It is more of a desert here, a place where sage covers the wild ground and the scent of it fills the air. Thanks to a vast irrigation system, this land is agriculturally abundant. Some very fine wines come from Eastern Washington.

The two sides of the state could not be more different. The west side is lattes and Lexus. The east side is Built Ford Tough, more Old West. You shake a man’s hand here, you better offer a firm grip or risk feeling like your fingers have been crushed in a vise.

When we finished our hike and drove into a small town for lunch, I noticed that someone had used an old pair of work-worn cowboy boots as “bling” on a storage shed. It was a scene that I could photograph and feel like I’d found a fitting visual ending to our trip.

I wouldn't mind owning a pair of them boots.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


I hadn’t really intended to do a blog posting today, and certainly not another showing of mountain images (see "Pilgrim" below.)

Yes, the trip we did last weekend took us through the stark and staggering beauty of the high country, but we also spent time in a peaceful and very pleasant valley, one of our favorite places. I plan to share some of those images here soon. But today I can’t help but post two more frames from an amazing morning we had in the mountains.

John Muir wrote: “Go to the mountains and get their good tidings...” Well I’m thinking the good tidings we received were shouted, screamed! The organist in that outdoor cathedral pulled out all the stops, used the big pipes and the small. No parishioners were harmed in the making of these photographs, but it has been reported that some may have been treated for sensory overload.

Monday, May 7, 2007


Photography for me is kind of like the win-lose of athletics: I can make satisfying images and be happy with my performance, or I can suck. I take cameras and lenses out into the world but if I don’t take my A Game, I’ll learn (again) the humbling lesson of how easy it is to be mediocre.

Last weekend we traveled through the high mountains of Washington and into one of our favorite valleys. From our base camp in the sunny, spring-like valley, we could spend days hiking or mountain-biking or just kicking-back, reading. There was also wonderfully easy access (by car) to a high mountain pass where I ventured --as a shivering photographic pilgrim-- two mornings for sunrise and two evenings for sunsets.

Leah asked me: "Why do you keep going up there again and again?" I replied: "I’m looking for the surprises."

We photographers must rank second only to novelists in terms of the weirdness of our craft. A number of very famous writers have admitted that this is how they work: They sequester themselves in a small, plain room, mentally close their eyes, then write what they imagine to be going on outside. Photographers? Well my suspicion is we’re best off if we keep a bat in our hands and fidget around on the bench, trying to stay loose. When the manager yells “Photog!” we stride to the plate expecting a pitch high and inside but knowing that the better image will probably be found on the outside corner, in the shadows.

Friday, May 4, 2007


Leah and I have spent several weekends this past month hiking among the big trees and listening to the sounds of spring snowmelt making its way down from the high country of the Olympic Mountains. We’ve been on a favorite trail that follows the course of the Big Quilcene River.

Leah is walking for more than the simple enjoyment of being in nature, or the desire to get some exercise. She has committed to do a 3-day, 60-mile walk this summer, a fund-raiser to fight breast cancer. It’s been impressive to watch her dedication in preparing for this walk, and inspiring to see the outpouring of support she has received. We’re finding that nearly everyone we know has had some kind of experience with breast cancer, either personally or through a friend or relative. Leah had an aunt and several cousins who have died of breast cancer, and she has several other cousins who have had the disease and survived.

Recently I was chatting with one of my wedding photography clients. I can’t remember what we were talking about but somehow I casually mentioned that Leah and I enjoy hiking, and that Leah also does miles and miles of daily walking as preparation for the 3-day, 60-mile event. Several days later a card arrived in our mailbox from my client, who wrote about her own treatment for breast cancer (I’d been unaware of that) and that she wanted to make a donation and offer encouragement for Leah’s walk. It’s amazing and hopeful to see cards like that arrive--one card, then two, then more.

Hopeful is good.

A cure would be better.

(More information on the 3-Day Walk can be found at:

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Bob's Party

Seems like my blog postings are getting a little Heavy. It’s time to share some PARTY PICS!!!

Last weekend we went to a birthday party/roast for our friend Bob DeGiulio. The party was held in an artist’s studio-loft on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Here’s a snap of Bob (he’s the dapper dude in the suit) bein’ goofy with the writer Tim Egan.

Bob, Tim and I spent the semi-early years of our journalism careers at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Bob and I were photographers, Tim a reporter. Tim now works for the New York Times and his book about the Dust Bowl, “The Worst Hard Time,” won a National Book Award.

Many of the party guests were folks from the journalism scene in Seattle. I used my snapshot camera to self-portraitize myself (I’m the lucky boy in the middle) with my buds Ben Benschneider and Betty Udesen, both photographers at the Seattle Times.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Forest

There is a forest near where I live and recently I've been thinking back to a day, maybe 2 years ago, when I took my son's dog into those trees for a walk. I made the above snapshot of my four-legged hiking buddy standing peacefully in the ferns, sheltered by the ivy-covered woods.

Though it’s private land, others around here seemed to enjoy visiting the forest as well. Teenage girls from down the road took their horses there and trails developed. I’d see joggers emerging from the trees after finishing what must have been a very pleasant run.

At night I’d hear coyotes yipping and singing as they hunted on that land. We humans used the forest as a place of recreation but for the coyotes it was habitat, probably filled with mice and other good coyote stuff.

Several months ago the guy who owns the forest showed up in a big fancy truck. In the West there’s a certain status a man seems to be granted based on the truck he drives. The landowner’s truck probably cost fifty or one hundred thousand dollars. The truck was big and black and had a crane mounted on it.

The landowner began working in the forest. He’s a logger and he told me he wanted to capture a market. The trees came down with businesslike precision. Now the young girls have lost their trails and they ride their horses on the side of the road. They and the joggers compete for space with cars.

The nights are quiet. I guess the coyotes have moved on. Eventually more men will capture more markets. The coyotes, having lost their habitat, will go after chickens and someone will shoot them as a nuisance.

I went past the forest yesterday on my bike. I stopped in the road and made another snapshot, documenting the way the forest looks now.

That guy sure has a fancy truck.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

On Safari

Our home is in a rural area and there is a soundtrack to our lives.

At night we often walk around outside in the spooky darkness and are amazed by the crazy-loud din that comes from a small wetland where there are thousands of frogs singing their little green heads off.

In the daytime, we are serenaded by my neighbors’ turkeys.

We own two-and-a-half acres but we view ourselves more as caretakers, not owners. (“Owning” sounds legal, while “Caretaking” feels ethical.) We keep most of our land wild and untamed, knowing that a well-manicured yard would deprive some green friend of his habitat. I poke around in the weeds and wetlands with a camera and a macro lens, looking for members of the Froggy Tabernacle Choir. When viewed up-close, my bug-eyed frog models make a barrel-full of monkeys seem dull by comparison.

And then there are the turkeys. Yesterday I called my neighbor and asked if I could walk over to his place, to see what I could see.

Have you ever really looked at a turkey (other than on a plate at grandma’s at Thanksgiving dinner?) Those fellows are photographic subject-matter with strut. There’s that face, kind of gaudy and weird but way-colorful; and the feathers (at least on the birds at my neighbors’ place) are a striking black and white that just scream Graphic Potential. In a turkey, you’ve got your color, your black and white, your shapes and patterns.

I could shoot a whole book of photographs, never straying more than walking-distance from my front door.

Now there’s an idea...