Monday, February 29, 2016


Another Trip to  the WDFW’s Oak Creek Elk Feeding Station near Naches

February 27, 2016

To view photos of this trip, visit www.tripper.smugmug.com


Darlene and I discussed this 160-mile busy freeway drive a few times during December, January, and  early February, but we twice chose a 130-mile scenic trek to visit North Powder instead.
We felt disappointed both times because we saw so few elk, perhaps because we arrived late.
We did see pleasing scenery, a few coyotes, one red fox, many wild turkeys and half a dozen distant eagles.
Then, during breakfast on a Friday morning (Feb.27), I watched an 8:45 a.m. TV program from Yakima with coverage of the elk feeding near Naches. I described the program to Darlene  -- more than 1200 elk had been counted there on the 24th -- and, excited, we scrambled to dress, load the gear and go.
We could see blue skies with scattered dark clouds as we headed west from Walla Walla a few minutes past 9:40 a.m.
We made one stop for gas and the restroom,  and we arrived at the feeding site well before 1 p.m. A daily pass to park cost $10, We chose an annual  Recovery Pass for $30, which would be good through next January.
I registered right away to get a seat on the final tour ride of the day at 2 p.m.
Sadly, Nora was not allowed to leave the car, so Darlene spent most of the visit sitting with her.
I spent the time before the tour walking along the fence with a 150-600-mm lens on a monopod. Many of  the groups of elk fed, strutted and lounged within 20-50 yards.
Finally, after changing to a smaller, less cumbersome 28-300-mm lens, I climbed aboard the final tour truck of the day, along with  10-12 other adults and two children. We toured slowly  among the 1,000 or so feeding-lounging elk.
It seemed as if we could reach out and touch some of them, but no one tried.
The woman guide kept us interested with a fluid, informative presentation about elk, their natural lifespan (up to 25 years for cows, 15 years for bulls that sometimes weigh 1,000 pounds).
The guide said Testosterone keeps bull’s massive antlers (often weighing 75 pounds)  attached to their heads. The horns fall off when testosterone levels dwindle.
Darlene and Nora watched the elk feed about 20 beyond the fence  directly in front of the pickup.
Darlene visited  the nearby\office with its displays.
She also watched the several eagles  that flew over the elk and perched in the trees on the northwest (near the office?) end of the feeding area. She saw one eagle catch some small critter (rabbit, squirrel, cat, etc.), land on the hillside and eat it.
In three-or-so hours I captured 400-plus images of elk feeding in a very large lot like cattle. The feeding aims to keep elk from roaming wild and damaging agricultural lands and crops.
I enjoyed the photographic challenge.
The bright sunlight created the usual shadows, and it created a severe contrast between the light-brown or tan sides and rumps of the elk and their dark brown-black shoulders, necks and heads.
I repeatedly worked with camera settings to avoid under and over exposure while maintaining a fast shutter speed to record sharp images and an f/8 to f/11 aperture to record adequate depth of field.
Some settings worked better than others.
We left the feeding station shortly after 4 p.m. and dined at Miners. Darlene had halibut and chips, which she praised.
I had the World Famous Miner Burger that I also praised, but, alas, my stomach chastised my choice quite harshly at the Exit-80 rest stop.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Another Trip to  Anthony Creek Near North Powder

February 22, 2016
To view photos of this trip, see www.tripper.smugmug.com

We made another trip to the elk feeding station at Anthony Creek, a few miles south of North Powder and several miles west of Baker City.
For the second time in less than a month, I felt some disappointment with the wildlife photos taken.
On the way through Summerville, I stopped to photograph wild turkeys and a barn  that has steadily lost boards over the years we have passed it.
Blue sky over the North Power Valley, with frequent mountainous islands of white-to-dark cumulous clouds hovered over the nearby snowbound Elkhorn peaks and the shimmering white, even more impressive, Eagle Cap range to the north.
I felt better about photos of these Eagle Cap views with a wide-angle lens steadied on roadside fence posts.
Anyway, the elk-feeding station disappointed both Darlene and me. On both trips, no other visitors parked at the overlook, and a small clutch of elk lounged on the hay remnants near a shelter. With the large lens, I spotted  shadowy image of many elk lying among the trees  perhaps 300-yards or more from the feeding area.
I photographed the elk waiting near the shelter, but again did not manage the sharp images I wanted. I did not use a tripod, but I did use  a monopod and a shutter speed of 1000 and higher. With the strong light, this allowed for an f/8 aperture and an acceptable ISO of 800.
Granted, the elk  faced us with the sun behind them, but I still felt I should have captured more detail.
Although, with such a distance, a super-telephoto lens naturally magnifies shake, probably despite lens stabilization and leaning on a side mirror.
Besides all that, as we approached the feeding area, Darlene spotted a coyote walking across a field on her side of the road. I stopped, turned off the engine and stepped out with the camera.
I  supported the long lens with my hand on the side mirror and fired off a burst as the coyote performed a picturesque pounce after a mouse or vole in the snow.
Before this action concluded, I captured more than to dozen well-exposed images of the coyote catching and downing its prey before continuing on its way, with another unsuccessful pounce or two.
Alas, my review of the images revealed an unsatisfactory softness.
I checked the lens settings, and found them properly set. I concluded the distance of  300-500 yards to the dot-like coyote complicated holding the lens steady.
Anyway, after the elk, we drove to Haines for lunch at the Frontier Saloon in Front Street.
Darlene ordered a breakfast sirloin with two eggs over-easy and  fried potatoes chopped into small chunks.
I ordered the Taco Salad, which came on a 12-inch plate with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, olives, etc,. forming a 5-inch volcano-shaped mound atop a layer of re-fried beans and  meat.
I had little hope of eating the whole thing, but set out to try.
Facing south, more or less, I began my efforts on the west side of the plate and worked eastward while taking pains to keep the western boundary in a straight line.
I paused twice to catch my breath and wet my whistle with a sip of Bud Light, and eventually realized that such a thin Eastern Seaboard remained that calling for a take-home box would be wasteful.
So, I cleaned the plate and noticed Darlene didn’t need a take-home box either.
So, with Nora swallowing a few bites steak and egg, we headed back to the feeding station.
On the way, I stopped to take the photos of the Eagle Cap range, using fence posts to steady the camera, which turned out pretty well
More elk clustered around a fresh layer of hay, so we had missed the feeding time and perhaps an opportunity for me to ride the hay wagon for close-up photos (alas, so what‘s new!).
Anyway, I again took photos using the monopod and had the same results as before.
Then we headed home. A short distance from the feeding station, we passed three young deer and a doe on a slope quite close to the driver’s side of the road.
Of course I stopped to take photos. And, happily, they turned out satisfactorily sharp.


Sunday, August 02, 2015

A Very Good Year to Ponder Memorable Images


Looking at Personal Photos

August 2, 2015


I often trundle through my massive photographic troves at www.tripper.smugmug.com and
www.outtripper.blogspot.com. I apparently enjoy reminiscing over where Darlene, Nora the Schnauzer and I have been.
Then I scroll through the images collected on solitary dog walks over the years with Nora and Sadie the Dalmatian before her.
We have bumped into many interesting sightings along Mill Creek, primarily between the Community College and Rooks Bark, as well as frequent trips on the Bennington Lake area trails.
Interesting wildlife sightings have been slim this summer, however.
No mink pairs, no raccoons, no otters, no pelicans, few hooded or common mergansers, etc., for moons.
I pondered and blamed record  hot weather and low water. And perhaps goat grazing cleared too much protective cover from along the stream banks, which allows the water become too warm.
Anyway, I spotted one mink and a beaver in the spring near Rooks Park. Briefly in both instances. One person saw a badger headed downstream, racing toward her on the service road, before disappearing into a south-side pasture. I have never seen a badger along Mill Creek.
In good news, Great Blue Herons raised a batch of young in the nests within sight of the bridge at Rooks Park, on the north side of the stream. I captured many images of  them.



 








 Now, however, Nora seriously pants and slow-moseys along during walks beneath blistering bright sunshine along the creek. And we don't tromp around the lake.  I find it convenient to be a couch lizard with her on the stifling days.
If we go a photographing at Mill Creek at all, early morning almost works.
Mountain truck trips, with today's air conditioning and the usual high-country breezes, work for me and Nora. And Darlene seems inured against hot days.
So, during one really scorching spell, we left the valley early and drove Summit Road from Highway 204 to Interstate 84, with a stop at Mission for a late-late lunch.













Shortly after that, our granddaughter Bailey, whom we had not seen in 10 years or so, visited from Florida to stay with her dad (my son Jon) for severeal days. Bailey, John, Nora, Pugsley the mutt (Jon's pal) and I hiked along the South Fork Walla Walla River Trail. It has good shade and water for dogs. We walked  about three miles up and down the trail.
I enjoyed visiting so much that I didn't take a single photo.
I corrected that by taking a ton of photos when Darlene, Bailey, Jon's wife Rena, and I,  along with canines Nora and Pugsley, spent a day visiting  Wallowa Lake.
Darlene, who prefers not to ride the tram again,  managed the mutts. The rest of us sought cooler climes atop Mount Howard. Wrong. We ended up shucking sweaters, sweating rivulets and growing weak from hungar by the time the reached The Embers in Joseph for a late lunch along with the dogs in the patio shade.














We had a really nice day, and Bailey said she loved the scenery.

Lately, when we need an outing to assuage cabin fever, I drive to the McNary National wildlife Refuge, near Burbank, to photograph Ospreys in a nest (two adults and three young). I have the faint hope that I will catch one adult landing on the nest with a fish dinner
Air-conditioning cools the drive, and a breeze often makes shooting from the truck with all windows down bearable, for a couple of hours at a time.
And, as I said, Darlene thrives on triple digit temps.










Once, after leaving the Osprey nest, I stopped at Hood Park for Nora to sniff around in the shade, and saw a Ross’s Goose, apparently a double rarity in Walla Walla County. mixed in with the regular old Canada geese and other water birds.





Recently, however, on a rare cool early morning trek to Rooks Park, I watched a Great Blue Heron catch a crawdad (crayfish) near the dam. It tossed the crustacean away, perhaps fearing indigestion.









Anyway, I have more images bearing pleasant memories to ponder when I tire of working out esoteric string theory constructs.
For example, I have a fondness for  2014 when, one morning in August, I stumbled across two moose crossing Mill Creek. That may never happen again, but I will walk Nora there again just in case when the weather cools, perhaps in August.  And that's NOW!







  And I cazn't forget another unusual visitor to Mill Creek this year, a Muscovey Duck, which may be a domesticated mix of some sort, but at least one website source calls it a native of the Southwest U.S. and South American countries. It sure is a handsome bird.






And who could resist pondering that.