Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Need to Create

My calendar was such that I was able to sneak off to the mountains TWICE last week for hikes, which was not only good for this photographer’s body and soul, it also put me in the beautiful places you see in these images so that I was able to make a number of pictures I like.

I hate to admit it  -- perhaps because it will make me sound tres insecure --  but, if I go too long without making a good photograph, I get a little paranoid, a bit fidgety. I guess that, after all these years in photography, maybe my sense of self-worth is kind of wrapped up in seeing and making images.

Call me a Moody Artist, but I seem to have a need to create, and all I can say in my own defense is that I suspect this is not the worst of the many possible weaknesses a human being might exhibit.

The picture above was taken on a snowshoe outing I did with four friends near Stevens Pass last Sunday.  And the images below were shot earlier last week as an old reporter colleague and I snowshoed near Blewett Pass.

It’s amazing to me how wintery these images look, because,  down in lowlands where I live, it is most certainly spring.  It was over 60-degrees at our place one day last week; the trees on our property are all budded out; and Leah and I have already begun doing some work in our gardens.

What a difference four thousand feet of elevation makes.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


This is the time of year when weather forecasters in my neck of the woods often tell us that we can expect  “unsettled weather” ...which, in plain English,  I think means we’ll have “a little of this, a bit of that.”

Spring weather in the Pacific Northwest reminds me of that old joke: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes. Things will change.”

Just yesterday, for example,  I was on my way to an appointment at my dentist’s office -- a 10 minute drive -- and in that time span, I drove through rain, then hail, then sunshine.

The good news is that these climactic conditions often make for amazing and dramatic  photographic opportunities.  The rainbow in the above image was something I saw on my way home from my check-up with the dentist.  The sunset in the photograph below was one Leah and I witnessed a couple of evenings ago when we made the three-mile drive into town for dinner out.

Neither the rainbow nor the sunset lasted very long, so I had to shoot fast -- proving, I guess,  that even if you like the weather you are experiencing, the Five Minute Rule still applies.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Big Cedar

If you look through any book on the history of the Pacific Northwest,  or walk into one of our regional natural history museums, you’d almost certainly see a photograph similar to the one above: Someone standing near a huge tree.

Sometimes the person photographed is a logger and he’s posing with a tree he just cut down;  and sometimes he/she is a hunter or a hiker on a trip in the backcountry wilderness. Whatever the circumstances of the picture, though --  and whether the picture was taken a hundred years ago or just yesterday -- the visual elements are always the same: Small human being, dwarfed by Big Damn Tree.  The picture has been done so many times over the years, it is a Pacific Northwest photographic icon.

Last month when Leah and I made a three hour drive out to the Washington coast to spend a night at an historic lodge in the Olympic National Park, we saw a kind of odd sign along the roadway: “Big Cedar Tree, one mile.”  We two are accustomed to big cedar trees -- we have several nice-sized cedars on our own property -- so we wanted to see, up close, a tree worthy of its own US National Park roadside parking area and nature trail.

Oh my! What a tree it was!  We walked around the tree, and we studied it.  We checked out its amazing, vein-like texture, and were even able to step inside.  I sweet-talked my photographically reluctant mate into letting me take her picture (I wonder how many camera-shy wives have stood in that same spot over the years, posing in that same way, for photo-enthusiast husbands.)  A Park Service sign near the tree said this:

    Big Cedar

Western redcedar has been the art and sinew of coastal Indian village life. The trunk is house plank and ocean-going canoe; branches are harpoon line; outer bark is diaper and bandage; inner bark is basket, clothing, and mattress.

Tree size expresses climate -- heavy annual rainfall and the nourishing damp of ocean fog. In a scramble for growing space, other tree species are using the cedar as a standing nurse log.

This week we learned that high winds and heavy rain from recent, late-winter storms have split the tree, and a part of the rainforest matriarch has fallen over. The news saddened us, but as I thought about it, I understood that this is the cycle of life in Nature.

Here’s a link to a news story about the tree:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spring's Promise

The frogs -- spring peepers, I guess some folks call them -- have begun singing their fool heads off at night down in the pond in the lower part of our property.

The big cedar trees are sloughing pollen dust all over the decks off our bedroom, dining room, and family room.

And, last weekend, my friends from the Seattle Tibetan community celebrated Losar, the Tibetan New Year.

It feels like my whole world is about to explode like one of Gandalf’s fireworks in a “The Lord of the Rings” movie, a full-on celebration of life, rebirth, and possibility.

For those of us who have endured The Winter That Would Never End, all the above is About Freaking Time!

The pictures you see here are images I did last weekend for my friends at Losar: Prayers at the Tibetan monastery in Seattle; the culturally traditional and festive throwing-into-the-air of barley flour; and the Losar party when kids from the Tibetan community did a Lion Dance.

It’s a time of the year when all of us here breathe a huge sign of relief.
I might walk down to our pond tonight and croak at the moon along with the frogs.