Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Gift

A friend and I headed to Central Washington Monday to hike a trail that the hiking guidebook said was nice-enough, but didn't really offer much, view-wise.

Oh, I beg to differ.

Perhaps only in the state of Washington -- where one can hike in over-the-top natural wonderlands like Mt. Rainier National Park or the North Cascades --  would the place you see in the photographs I'm posting today be poo-poo'd as being scenically sub-standard.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then the landscape that my friend and I beheld Monday was nothing to complain about, thank-you-very-much Mr. or Ms Snooty Guidebook Author. Neil and I covered 16 miles and did not encounter a single other human being all day long, perhaps thanks to the book's negative report. All we encountered was solitude, snowy silence, and more than a little beauty.

The hike was a fine Christmas Week gift!

Friday, December 19, 2014


The witch hazel plant just off our back deck is a bit wacky,  if you ask me.
Every year, right around Christmas, the crazy thing blooms, apparently oblivious to the seasonal fact of life that it is Winter.

I shot the above image this morning with a macro lens, getting up close to witchy woman's sensuous, golden curls. Though the weather today does happen to be sunny with temperatures nudging 50 degrees, the witch, Hazel,  blooms at this time,  even in years when there is snow and ice around.

As I put this morning's photographs on a backup drive, I noticed that it was just 10 days ago that I shot the images I'm now posting below. It doesn't snow often at our house -- most of the snow we get in Western Washington falls in our mountains, not in the lowlands -- so when white stuff does cover our local landscape,  I venture out with a camera, looking here and there, hoping to find an image or two to document the Big Event.

Forgive me if I sound a bit paranoid, but I think Hazel the Witch and her girlfriend, Mother Nature,  might secretly be working together: Two dames in cahoots…intent, as women often are, in keeping a photographer fella like me off-balance.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

U.N. Human Rights Day

Delegates from around the world came together 66 years ago amid the rubble of World War II to sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, articulating fundamental civil and political rights of all people, and reminding each of us of our responsibility to protect those rights.

I suspect that many of us in America did not even realize that the United Nations declared yesterday to be the 66th annual Human Rights Day.  We probably tend too often to take our rights and freedoms for granted. To be honest, an awareness of "Human Rights" is on my own radar screen largely due to my involvement with the Seattle-area Tibetan community.

Each month my friends from that community come together at their Tibetan Buddhist monastery and offer prayers for peace, and for long life for their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Most months I am there with my friends, making pictures that I hope document the Tibetan diaspora's efforts to keep Tibet's culture and traditions alive.

Maintaining cultural identity will eventually be up to young Tibetans, and individuals who are mere children today will one day grow up and decide whether to follow Tibetan traditions, or global pop culture, or perhaps a mixture of both.

As long as my friends continue to trust my motives and are patient with my visual intrusions, I hope to continue to photograph this process.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Macklemore Gets It

I was working out on our indoor cross country ski machine the other day, ear buds plugged into my head,  when my Pandora station apparently forgot that I am of the 61-years-old-geezer demographic because a rap song by Macklemore titled “Ten Thousand Hours” started playing.

The lyrics practically stopped me in my, uh, tracks.

“You see, I studied art
The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great because they paint a lot

A life lived for art is never a life wasted.”

Even though Macklemore is a recording artist whose music is certainly embraced more by those in the Millennial Generation than by old farts like me, I loved what I heard. Earlier that very day I happened to make the images you see here;  and though I did shoot the pictures partly at the request of some friends who like calla lilies, the real reason I tackled this atypical-for-a-photojournalist subject matter was that I love to practice photography.

In the 35 years I shot for newspapers, I can’t remember ever being assigned to photograph a flower. But now, because much of what I do is self-generated, I shoot pretty much whatever excites me... and
I'm happy to say that that is most everything.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


The Thanksgiving meal is in the oven and our guests will be here in about an hour.  The house is warm and cozy. It feels like a holiday.

I got up early this morning and drove to Bainbridge Island where I ran in a 5k Turkey Trot. I know how fortunate I am to have good health, and that, most every day, I’m able to get out and go for a run or head to the mountains for a hike. I am appreciative of the life I have.

What I’m really thankful for, however, is what you see in the photographs I made recently and have posted here: The Three Girls in my life. Leah, my mom, and Paxie.

A photographer sometimes needs a muse, and I am thankful that I have three.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


After all the trips we’ve done together,  my hiking friends can now probably just about predict when they’ll hear me say it.

The trail we’re on crests a rise and we get our first, full-on view of an amazing string of peaks; or, in late fall or early winter we enter a chilly high country basin already filled with snow, and the winds have blown the frosty white stuff into incredible sculpted patterns.

And for the umteen-billionth time I say what I always say, week after week, hiking season after hiking season when we’re in some take-your-breath-away wild outdoor place:

“Man I LOVE where I live!”

And, really, can you blame me? I’ve lived in Washington state for 35 years now,  and its mountains, green forests, desert country, and ocean beaches are so varied and offer such sweet eye candy to feed my photographic soul, I can’t help but gush.

I am smitten by this place.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Horse Treats

The woman who for years has pastured her horse Rusty just down the lane from our place told me about a month ago that she was going to move him to a farm several miles from here, and last week a big pickup truck and horse trailer showed up and took my horse friend away.

Nearly every day it’s been part of my routine to put horse treats or an apple in my pocket and our dog Pax and I would walk down to visit Rusty.

Rusty’s owner knows what buds her horse and I are, and she kindly told me I could go visit him whenever I want.  I’ll do that, of course, but for now I really miss having Rusty close by.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fall Color, Act Two

One of the spectacular things about living in the Pacific Northwest is that Mother Nature stages several acts of her autumnal performance art -- what most of us simply refer to as “fall Color.”

Out here, Fall begins up in the Cascade Mountain high country about the second week of October, and the cool weather then slowly makes its way down into the lowlands where most of us live.

It was back on October 9th that I shot fall color pictures (link HERE) on a two-night backpack trip up in the North Cascades. And this week I photographed Fall’s arrival in the Seattle area.

Kind of amazing if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

With the Dalai Lama (Part 3 of 3)

After spending last week in Vancouver BC photographing the Dalai Lama -- a man who is perhaps the most tireless proponent on our planet for human kindness, compassion and nonviolence -- I am very sad to be back home, where news of America’s most recent school shooting dominates the media. 

I sit at my computer, editing the pictures I shot of the Dalai Lama’s teachings and appearances last week, while my local NPR station tells me the details that are emerging about  an act of gun violence at Marysville Pilchuck High School that left three young people dead and two injured.

My pictures are of the Dalai Lama, leading Tibetan Buddhist prayers for peace.
Others show him when he waded into a crowd and blew breath onto the eyes of a woman with vision problems. In another encounter, he tenderly touched the face of a boy in a wheelchair.

There are happier pictures too: 
His Holiness, posing with two officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
And laughing at one of his own jokes during his teaching.
And speaking to a gathering of Tibetans, a Tibetan flag behind him.
And waving good-bye to me as he departed.

The Dalai Lama has written:

“Relinquish your envy, let go your desire to triumph over others. Instead try to benefit them. With kindness, with courage and confident that in doing so you are sure to meet with success, welcome others with a smile. Be straightforward. Try to be impartial. Treat everyone as if they were a close friend. I say this neither as Dalai Lama nor as someone who has special powers or ability. Of these I have none. I speak as a human being, one who like yourself wishes to be happy and not to suffer. If you cannot for whatever reason be of help to others, at least don’t harm them.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

With the Dalai Lama (Part 2 of 3)

Everywhere I went in Vancouver last week I saw them: Young, old, Asians and Westerners.  Many were holding ceremonial scarves called katas which they hoped to present if he came by, but most I suspect would have been happy just to catch a glimpse of him. Many seemed joyous, but one group of women I saw were overcome by the emotion of the moment and were weeping.

All were waiting for His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. And the respect and affection that people have for the man was obvious.

Yesterday I posted pictures here of Tibetan monks as they made preparations for the Dalai Lama’s visit; and tomorrow I will share pictures I made of the Dalai Lama. 

Today’s photographs. however,  are of everyday people who came out to see the man of peace, winner of the Nobel Prize, but who insists that he’s just “a simple Buddhist monk.”

Monday, October 27, 2014

With the Dalai Lama (Part 1 of 3)

Ask any photojournalist what he or she values most when covering a story or event, and,  most likely, the word you’ll hear in reply will be: “Access.”  Being able to simply hang out someplace where people are engaged in something we find interesting and to make unposed and unchoreographed photographs ...well, that is the scenario that allows us to do our best work.

I spent five days last week in Vancouver, BC, photographing a speech and a teaching given by  His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and much of the the time I had access.  Except for circumstances when I was in very close proximity to the Dalai Lama himself -- where security personnel understandably controlled the situation -- I moved around freely and made images as they presented themselves.

This was the third time I have photographed His Holiness, and it is always amazing to be around him.  To me he is a truly spiritual presence. 

Nevertheless, I must say that my favorite part of last week was the time I spent hanging out with about 15 Tibetan Buddhist monks as they did behind-the-scenes preparations before the Dalai Lama even arrived in Vancouver. The monks chanted and recited prayers, but they also moved furniture, built a throne for His Holiness, and fashioned traditional, celebratory artwork  and decorations.

Today, tomorrow and Wednesday I'll share  pictures I shot last week in Vancouver, and what you see today are images of my dear new friends, the monks, going about their work as I went about mine.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Speechless Babble

I did a three-day, two-night backpack trip in the North Cascades last week, and the 22-mile round trip outing humbled me -- not because the hike was too difficult for me (it wasn’t,) or because I did not make good photographs (I came away with a number of images I like very much.)

I was humbled, rather, because I was in the kind of environment that made me feel small and insignificant.  It was BIG country that I visited, with towering, cathedral-like peaks,  and deep, heavily forested valleys.  There were spectacularly beautiful larch trees, too, their needles brilliant yellow and gold in Fall color.  At every turn in the trail, every time I crested a rise or dropped into a lake basin, there was something visually stunning.

I spent three days, often speechless, sometimes babbling to myself like a crazy person: “Wow. Wow. Wow.”