Friday, December 31, 2010

Close to Home

It seems like a lot of people use the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weeks to Go Someplace Cool. I was talking to a friend this morning and she told me her boyfriend has gone to Baja, and some other folks I know are off cross country skiing in a high valley I really love in Central Washington.

Leah and I also talked about taking some kind of a trip, but it seems like we’ve both been hyper-busy lately, so we decided to stay home. The weather is clear and chilly out, and sticking close the wood stove seemed like a good plan.

I did go for a walk this morning, however, taking my cameras and exploring places I could visit on foot. I took pictures of wintry frost and ice on some Scotch Broom plants -- not as exotic as Baja, but I guess it’ll do.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Seeing Plants

Mom grew up in a world of plants. Her father and uncle owned a greenhouse in Ohio, and while other kids her age were jumping rope or riding bikes, my Mom was accompanying my grandfather on flower delivery trips to weddings, funerals and flower shops. When other kids could barely do one-plus-one arithmetic, my Mom was keeping the books for the family business.

It was entirely to be expected, then, that when Mom visited here this week for the Christmas holiday, she and I made a trip to a place we've enjoyed when Mom has been here in the past, the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle. In this wet and drippy time of year in the Pacific Northwest, the fern greenhouse in particular caught our eyes. One plant, Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake plant) had foliage that looked like it has been stenciled with the patterns of a stereotypical leaf design -- as if the plant was mocking itself and its brethren, in a self-deprecating kind of way.

Another day, as I was walking around the property surrounding my house, I photographed yet another fern (I've since learned that it is our native fern, Polystichum munitum) growing near the strikingly red bark of a madrona tree. Since green and red are, I guess, the unofficial colors of the Christmas holiday, the picture seems like a fitting image to share today.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Chicken

Several days ago I had it on my To-Do list to go into the photo archives on my computer and choose a landscape picture for this, my holiday blog post. Stereo-typically, I was thinking the image would be a Winter Wonderland kind of scene: A beautiful, snow-covered mountain, or a towering evergreen, also blanketed in snow.

It was that day too that our hen, Goldie, hiked from her home in our barn, waddling and toddling her way up to our house. She stood near our front door, posing, and it was such a comical moment that I pulled out my pocket camera and obliged the preening chicken.

These are the kinds of “events” we appreciate about our lives these days...small things, but we wouldn’t trade these moments for anything. The days are good, and we feel very lucky.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Classic View

Mom is here for the holidays and we played tourist in Seattle last night, driving around the city, looking at holiday lights. The image you see here is the classic view of the skyline from Queen Anne hill (as is fitting here in the Evergreen State, Seattle decorates the top of the Space Needle with a tree-shape of lights for the season.) So that I could get as much detail as possible in the scene, I actually shot two, side-by-side, horizontal panoramic exposures, then pieced them together on the computer...easy to do with today’s software.

Click on the image to see it at a more impressive size.

Sometime it'd be fun to do a similar picture, except I'd shoot maybe eight side-by-side vertical frames and piece them together. The image quality would be amazing...My only concern then would be that the Photo Police could arrest me and charge me with Overuse of Megapixels.

Now...please pardon my brevity, but Yours Truly must go. My Tour Guide duties continue.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


My computer desktop looks like a crazy person is in charge.

There must be fifty image files, photographs I shot yesterday as workout pictures, visual exercises, play.

There are pictures of our goat, Pumpkin. And pictures of a fern I saw on our property. And pictures of a pomegranate that Leah put in the salad we had for dinner last night.

The pictures of the goat and the fern, well maybe I’ll post those another time, maybe I won’t. I kind of follow my gut with this journal... and you, dear reader, and I...well, we're at the mercy of that unruly brat, my inner child.

Heck, even just looking at the pomegranate pictures, I’m not at all sure which variation-on-a-theme I like best, so I’ll post three: The image as I shot it (I had about 10 seconds to shoot, as the cook was breathing down my neck, antsy to make her salad...) Then a version where I made the background black and white; and another one, cropped.

Please! Someone come and take control of this computer! There’s an inner child acting out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pot-Luck Dinner

Whenever Leah and I get together with our friends in the Seattle-area Tibetan/American community, I feel -- though it seems that neither of these things can be possible -- that the children have become even cuter than they were when we last saw them, and the adults even more welcoming of us.

I’m getting the impression that our Tibetan friends love an excuse to get together and socialize, but even more than that they enjoy sharing good food and celebrating their culture. Last weekend our friends invited Leah and me to a potluck dinner celebrating the 21st anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize. We’d barely walked in the door for the event when cups of sweet tea and plates of snacks were placed in our hands, and the welcoming hugs and good-to-see-you greetings began.

Leah had baked Western-style holiday cookies, and the Tibetan women accepted those with smiles and warmth, placing the cookies on a long table already filled with Tibetan, Indian, and other Asian dishes. Because I’m not much of a cook, my contribution to the evening, as usual, was to make photographs for the community’s web site.

The children, dressed in traditional, celebratory costumes, sang and danced. Everyone ate a lot, and we all enjoyed being together.

Now we need to come up with an excuse for the next get-together.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Worthy of the Moment

A week or two ago I was out working in the barn, noticed our sheep Smokey standing in the critter door, and what I saw caused the PICTURE!!! light to flash on in my head. Smokey was chewing his cud and looked quite contented, the barn wall near him had interesting shapes, and there was beautiful light. I pulled out my pocket camera, made a number of photographs of the moment, and felt good about the images I’d gotten.

Later, at my computer, I realized, sadly, that my normally reliable little camera had missed focus and Smokey was a blur. And though I know that there’s always tomorrow and other worthy photographs will present themselves, I was bummed that I’d missed that picture. I did like what I’d seen, and I wanted an image to honor what I thought was a fairly special, lots-of-unique-elements-coming-together moment.

Diary pictures are like that: They’re about preserving a memory. Sure, a moment is still in my heart, picture or no. But there's no denying that a photograph helps me remember.

But this story has a happy ending. Yesterday I was out near the barn again. I realized Smokey was standing, maybe not in the same spot as before, but at least near it. And he was contentedly burping and chewing. The light was good. I had a camera over my shoulder, a real, pro-level camera. I entered the barn, fearing that there was no way Smokey would continue to stand there.
Our goat Pumpkin, ever the friendly (though also distracting) girl, chewed on my ear and breathed goat breath in my face as I picked a spot where I could shoot. Smokey did move a bit...exactly to where he’d stood for my earlier, missed-attempt.


Finally, a picture worthy of the experience!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An App for That

Leah and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie one evening last week at a small theater in our equally small town. The movie is two-and-a-half hours long so the theater owner announced that he wouldn’t prolong his patrons’ seat time by showing previews of coming films.

Many people had arrived early to get a seat for the film, since it was only recently released and I guess many of us reasoned that there would be a big crowd. Folks were still trickling in as those of us who already had seats fidgeted and waited the few minutes before the movie would begin.

And then a funny thing happened. A man seated in front of me got out his cell phone and began playing a video game. A woman behind us used her phone to make a call, and the people to our left and right pulled out their phones too. I was a bit taken-aback that, even in these days when everyone has phones and many of us are hooked on playing with them, here were folks, about to sit and view over two hours of cinematic escapism, using their phones to fill (escape from?) the maybe two minutes of “free time.”

Geez we human beings are something.


The day after the movie, Leah and I were on a ferry crossing Puget Sound, headed to Seattle for an evening out with friends. The ferry trip takes about 30 minutes and I decided to take advantage of the time and call my Mom. As we chatted -- I love my mother dearly and my mind was on our conversation, not on whatever was going on around me -- I happened to glance out the window of the ferry. An incredible sunset was going on and, preoccupied as I was with the call, I nevertheless knew I had a picture to take. Mom understood when I explained about the sunset and asked if I could call her back.

Click on the picture to see it at a size that does justice to the scene. Meanwhile, I’m gonna go invent a cell phone app that helps us know when we should be using the phone...and when we should maybe put it away.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Drive-by Beauty

There’s a waterfall I often photograph when I'm on my way out to the Washington coast. The waterfall isn’t terribly large and it’s right beside a busy road. Cars woosh past the waterfall and I suspect many drivers don’t even see it.

I've stopped at the spot dozens of times, however. There’s a wide shoulder beside the road a short walk away from the falls. I park my car, shoulder my camera bag and tripod, and go visit my little friend, the waterfall.

It’s really quite something, that drippy, verdant wall. Huge gobs of moss cling to the rocky hillside, and ferns grow like crazy there.

It’s kind of too bad that the road is so close to the falls, and that, if they see the falls at all, most people only look at it from a car window. It’s a place that can’t be appreciated at 50 miles an hour.