Thursday, December 29, 2011

Creature Circus

Human beings are in the minority here in my neck of the woods of the Pacific Northwest, outnumbered by domestic animals like chickens, horses, goats and sheep, and wild creatures like birds, beaver, deer and coyotes. The role that we humans play in the theater of daily dramas is a “bit part” at best, and often humans get no on-stage time at all. When the spot lights come on, my neighbors and I tend to retreat into the shadows, find ourselves a comfortable seat in the audience, and settle-in to watch the creature circus.

Popcorn, anyone?


It’s possible that you might wonder whether I could be overstating the attention my neighbors and I give the animals who live around us, so I offer two photographs today.

The scene above presented itself one recent chilly morning when I was cycling the four miles to town to get the mail. Some folks down the road had dressed their cute-as-heck pygmy goats in sweaters, and, when I stopped to shoot the picture, I had to be careful about camera shake because I was giggling so much.

Another day I was also riding toward town when I saw, off in the distance, a woman exercise-walking down the road. She seemed to be dodging passing cars and stopping here and there to pick things off the road (bits of litter, I assumed.) As I got closer I realized she was rescuing tiny frogs that had hopped out onto the pavement from a nearby pond, saving the frogs from being squished by the cars.

I thought her effort was a worthy thing to photograph.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The New Girl

A friend recently introduced me to a trail in the Olympic Mountains I’d never hiked before, and I can tell you right now it will be one of my future favorite destinations for ambling, rambling, and photography. Only about an hour from my house, the trail follows the course of a wonderful creek, through an equally wonderful forest, and up, up, up into a land of mountain vistas that are (you guessed it) wonderfullest of all.

I’ve made three pilgrimages already to this new area, and I feel like a junior high school boy who has fallen in love with a new girl in school. I know I’ll be posting lots of pictures of this sweet girl/place in the coming year, and I promise to tell you all about her...except for her name, that is, because I don’t want other boys reading my love notes and seeking her out.

My new love is quiet, and I think shy, and too much attention might change her.

But...isn’t she just the prettiest thing?

I have some money I’ve saved from my paper route, and I think I might buy myself a new tent. Then, this summer when school is out, I’ll camp in the new girl’s yard because I know I’ll just want to be close to her.

Oh man, she’s just the best girl ever!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Seeing Childhood

It is said that the real spirit of the holiday season is best seen through the eyes of a child, and I think that is probably true.

I can remember, for example, the awe and wonder I felt when I was about four or five-years-old -- that was some 50 years ago now -- and my parents took me to have my picture taken with a department store Santa...and I visited also with a “Talking Christmas Tree.”

For some reason, meeting Santa, as special as that must have been for me, pales in my memory to my visit with the Talking Tree. Today I can vividly picture, in my mind’s eye, the huge, living tree...and how it was filled with multicolored lights and decorations 100 times larger than my incredible feeling of wonder... and the tree was surrounded by what I must have understood were plaster reindeer figures and foam snowmen, and yet I believed the tree was really talking to me. My memory is so clear, in fact, that right now, as I type these words, I might as well be standing at the little wooden booth at a shopping center in Northern Ohio in the late 1950’s, in my kid snow boots up on kid tiptoes, talking into a speaker to converse with the tree.

Geez, memories are amazing.


Anyway, clients and friends have been asking me lately to do pictures of their kids, and several of the resulting images are posted here. (I'm particularly tickled by the photograph above of the little girl who initially was less-than-excited about having her picture taken. She later warmed up to the idea.) Some of the pictures will be used on holiday cards, others will be printed and framed and given as gifts to grandmas and grandpas.

One day, these pictures will be the stuff of memories.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

In the Woods

It was 40-some years ago that my grandfather first introduced me to the exhilarating freedom of long, rambling tramps through the woods near his farm in Eastern Ohio. I was about 10-years-old and grandpa would let his two dogs -- a beagle, and a collie mix -- run loose and the dogs would kick up rabbits while my grandfather, a retired greenhouse owner, would teach me the names of wildflowers we’d see. Or we’d dig sassafras roots and later my grandpa would make tea that to me smelled like hot root beer.

Years later, when I was in college and already crazy about photography, I’d head to my grandparents’ farm on breaks from school and grandpa and I would continue to explore those fields and woods. I would take pictures then, hoping to preserve what I knew were precious times.

Today, when I pull out the photographs I did of my grandfather on our walks, I am humbled by the limitations of my photographic craft. I realize that I best remember those times-long-ago, not through my two-dimensional prints, but rather when I encounter the aroma of root beer or sassafras tea.


I thought I’d post pictures today from some recent walks in the forests where I live now in the Pacific Northwest.

The two images above were shot in the damp, ultra-green lowlands, where moss often covers the trees, and -- if one is attentive and fortunate -- chanterelle mushrooms can be harvested from the forest floor.

The images below are from a hike I did last weekend when I trekked up-up-up into the high country woods of the Olympic Mountains on a photographic hunt for ice formations on a wild, rushing creek.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Magical Mystery Tour

I’m interested in the Creative Process: The weird, quirky magic that happens when a writer takes a pen in hand and begins to scribble words on a blank piece of paper or type on a computer keyboard; or a composer has a few notes in his/her head, and senses those fledgeling sounds might be the beginning of a symphony; or four women sit down with random squares of fabric and begin to sew together what eventually becomes a beautiful quilt.

I make photographs almost daily, and have done so for nearly 40 years. And yet, where those photographs come from -- do they fall like snowflakes from the sky, or do I unknowingly harvest them from some kind of unseen image garden? -- is often a mystery to me.

Take the four photographs I am posting here today, for example. I thought I was heading out for an early-morning run. I was dressed in running clothes; I was wearing running shoes; I had done a few pre-run stretches. But I also had a small camera in my hand, the little camera I always take with me when I run or bicycle. And as I stepped out the front door and began to jog down the driveway, I noticed that there was frost everywhere: Frost crystals in the sky had made a rainbow, reflecting the light of the rising sun; there was frost on the windows of my car parked in the driveway; and there was frost on the autumn-colored leaves on the ground.

I realized that, before I could go for a run, I had some photographs to take. What I had thought would be exercise time for my body would, in fact, begin with exercises in seeing.

Where did those images come from? Were they gifts from Photo Fairies that had visited my house overnight?

It’s all a wonderful mystery to me.