Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Out to Play

I don’t seem to be able to say no when my friends ask me to come out to play, and, as a result, I often have some kind of mysterious bodily apres-sports-soreness going on.

That sunburn on the back of my neck? Oh, I guess that is from Saturday’s bike ride in the San Juan Islands. The gimpier-than-usual knees? Must be from Sunday’s hike to the 10,000-foot-camp up on Mt. Rainier.

Today I noticed a sore spot on one of my legs, and I did my usual mental checklist of recent activities, trying to determine the cause. The wedding I shot Saturday? Well that was a long, physical day, but nothing out of the ordinary. The short hike Sunday morning? No, that wasn’t difficult enough to cause soreness.

Then it came to me! Friends invited us over for a picnic Sunday evening and their young son (AKA The Dark Knight!) challenged me to a duel. While the other adults were having beers and behaving like grown-ups, I was engaged in rubber-sword-to-rubber-sword combat, fighting for my life! The Dark Knight ran me through with his weapon and I dramatically staggered to the ground.

I bet I did something funky to my leg during the battle!

CURSE YOU Dark Knight!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dry Spell

You know you probably qualify as a “real” Pacific Northwesterner when too many days of “perfect” weather make you depressed.

For nearly a month -- from the later part of May through the first several weeks of June -- we had cloudless blue sky, sunshine, and no rain. The small pond on our property began to dry up and the wild ducks left to find a wetter place to swim. The gravel and dirt lane that leads to our house became so dry and dusty, I was reminded of trails I’ve hiked in Arizona.

Twenty-nine days passed with no rain. Finally, 11 minutes before the 30th dry day -- one day shy of a record dry spell for this time of year -- we got a beautiful, welcome, soaking rain that fell for hours and hours (I think I heard the plants on our property breathe a sigh of relief.) A bit more rain fell the following day, and we’ve had a few showers in the days since. The ducks have returned.

Earlier this week I was on a ferry crossing Puget Sound, headed home after a day of business meetings in Seattle. The rains had washed the dust and crud out of the air, and the evening sky was amazing. I went out on the deck of the boat to enjoy the light. Wispy clouds were above me, but off in the west it looked like more rain might be coming.

It feels so good to be back to our normal, beloved, crappy weather.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Garden Art

When it comes to our garden, Leah is the brains of our operation and I’m the hired hand. Garden-wise, I’ve learned that there are three things I need to do around here so that Peace and Tranquility prevail:

1: Be available for a bit of occasional heavy lifting, but only when asked.
2: Perform above heavy lifting without offering opinions to The Little Lady about what might be planted, where and when it might be planted, etc. It’s important that I understand that I’m labor, not management.
3: Not call Leah “The Little Lady.”

Mostly my role is Garden Documentarian. I photograph the amazing things that Leah has grown. This past weekend strawberries and poppies were my subject-matter. The most challenging part about the strawberry picture was to resist scarfing them down before the image was made.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Little Mysteries

We moved to this property 15 years ago, and the best thing we’ve done to improve it is...nothing.

We’ve left this ground alone, left it largely wild, allowed Nature to pull whatever rabbits out of her magical hat she wishes. As a result of our lack of “control,” there are several acres’ worth of mysteries outside our door. I’d like to tell you about one of them.

Several nights ago there were coyotes yipping outside my open office window. I’d guess there were maybe six of them, and they sounded so close I had the feeling I could reach out the window and touch them. The yipping was excited and animated, and I wondered whether some poor rabbit or maybe even someone's cat had met its end. I was glad we have an electric fence to keep predators away from our sheep, though no fence is a guarantee of safety.

Yesterday I was out walking around near a small wetland in a low area of our property. It’s a place where wild ducks often hang out and, in the ferns near the pond, I saw a downy feather, then another, and another. The feather in the photograph above was tiny, about the size of the tip of my little finger.

Did my neighbors the coyotes have duck for dinner the night I heard them? My guess is no. The way the feathers were scattered about -- up off the ground, on the tops of ferns -- I’m thinking that the duck might have had a brush with mortality but probably was able to take flight and escape.

That sometimes all I can do is guess what’s going on outside my window is pretty great. Life out there isn’t something I can -- or want to -- control.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ode to Wall-E

Not one person I talked with seemed to understand my point of view. Even my friends looked at me like I was talking crazy talk.

My seven-year-old computer quit on me a couple of weeks ago. When I took it to the Mac repair place, the tech told me the power supply had gone out -- the second time this has happened -- and, because my computer was a “vintage” machine, Apple no longer makes replacement parts. The repair guy said he could put a used part in, with no guarantee, and the repair would cost $400. That would make $800 I would have spent on a recurring problem.

“Vintage!,” I raged to anyone within earshot. “A seven-year-old computer is Vintage”? To me, vintage is a 50-year-old Royal typewriter, or a ‘57 Chevy.

Not even my granola-head-enviro-friends were sympathetic. I flapped my arms and complained loudly and passionately; I raised my voice to the heavens about how our planet is becoming covered with the waste of excess, cast-off, unrepairable Stuff. My friends, with a madding lack of sympathy, simply repeated an inconvenient truth: “Your computer is vintage.”

And how did I solve my Broken Computer Issue? Why by doing exactly what the smart we-don't-make-parts-for-seven-year-old computer folks at Apple were betting I'd do: I pulled out my credit card and bought a new Mac machine.

Apple/Economy: 1
Sustainable Living: 0


Here's a link to the movie trailer for WALL-E

Friday, June 12, 2009


I have a friend who is a magazine picture editor and I think he respects my passion for shooting photographs, but I make him crazy with my absolute disinterest in doing anything to market them.

“You’re gonna die someday and no one will have seen what you’ve shot,” my friend once said to me. And he’s right. I have boxes and boxes of film images -- 35mm transparencies, medium format, a bit of 4x5 -- that have never made it to a light table on an editor’s desk. The past few years I’ve been producing digital images, but have not put any effort into getting those published either.

This morning I happened to be digging around in my closet and came across the two images you see here. I thought: “Those aren’t bad. What the heck, I’ll post ‘em on my Blog today.”

A photographer I know whose wit is the epitome of wry-and-dry files his images in a most haphazard way, I think because he’s not at all interested in Following The Rules. Rather than organize pictures by date or even subject matter, he tosses his pictures into boxes labeled “The Early Years,” “The Middle Years,” and “The Dead Years.”

Today you get to view a couple of my own photographs from “The Unmarketed Years.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

History Lesson

I’m not a historical photographer, though some of my pictures do contain elements of history.

I guess I’ve always sensed that carrying a camera meant that I had something of a responsibility to document the life and times going on around me. I suppose that’s why photojournalism felt like a good fit for me.

Thirty years ago when I was a young photographer in Ohio, I often made photographs like the one you see above. I had been shooting a holiday parade -- it was either Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, at this point I can’t remember which -- and I got to talking with a gentleman who’d marched in the parade wearing his World War I uniform. I somehow had a sense that this fellow’s home probably was a link with the past, much like his uniform. After the parade I asked if I could walk home with him and maybe take a few photographs there. He was kind enough to allow me to do that.

Last week I was back in Ohio visiting my mom. Though many years have passed since my initial visual explorations there, I felt that small Ohio towns still had a visual link with history that I don’t see where I live now in the Pacific Northwest. I suppose that’s because the Northwest was settled much more recently than Ohio, where even abandoned factories seem to have stories to tell.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Alfalfa Flakes

There are flakes of alfalfa in the pockets of my jeans.

My horse friends Rusty and Grace mosey over to me to visit when the dog and I walk past the horse pasture each morning.

The light has been beautiful, often filtering through a light fog that seems to build as the air warms with the sunrise.

The horses nuzzle against my pockets. They know where the treats are hidden.

The mornings are good.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Every spring when I hike in the high country, it seems like winter’s snow will never melt. There’s simply so much white stuff, and it’s so deep.

And yet the snow does melt...or, at least, most of it melts. Little drips here, forming a small creek over there, heading toward a river down in the canyon. It’s a spectacular ritual that’s easily taken for granted, unless you are an Eastern Washington farmer who irrigates crops with that runoff, or maybe, like me, you like to eat Eastern Washington apples, or drink beer made from Eastern Washington hops.

In the corner of the country where I live, there is a veritable cult of fishermen who worship the steelhead trout. Fishermen (and of course fish) have more than a passing interest in water.

Come to think of it, the melt is a significant event for all of us, human and others alike.