Thursday, February 26, 2015

February's Sunny Days, 2015

Ah, Sunny February Days Make for Good Hikes with Nora

February26, 2015

Looking Back

Yes, we have enjoyed the usual fog-bound days, especially early on, and the usual spats of gentle rain.
Bright days, however,  with their crisp, chilling breezes stand out for me. The good light assists collecting sharp photos at Mill Creek and through the window overlooking the flocks of birds feeding near the front porch (See February 5 entry here).

My bird handbooks suggest the varied species as: finches (purple, house, gold and Cassin’s?) and possibly grosbeaks (pine) and crossbills (red, white-winged) as well as (possibly?) pine siskins, redpolls, black-capped chickadees, juncos and house sparrows.
Along with just plain sparrows.
I recorded images, using a tripod and a monopod along with some quick handheld efforts,  through the window from the upstairs steps and posted  two “porch-bird” galleries, about a month apart, at
 More recently, I made three trips to Hanford Reach: twice to hike with Nora, first a 5.86-mile trek along the South Trail up from Ringold and back to the gate; second a 6.31-mile trip upstream from the old White Bluffs town site to climb the dunes near the White Bluff cliffs and back.
During the first Hanford hike, I caught images of two curious coyotes and a gaggle of inspiring rock formations.
As Nora and I crossed a wide walnut-tree dotted green flat, we both tilted our ears toward a chorus of distant yips, apparently near the river. I scoped the area through the camera’s short zoom lens (a Sigma 18-250), and nothing moved.
I regretted not lugging along the Sigma 150-500.
Yet, minutes later, the smaller lens revealed two coyotes, one dark one light, on a small rise.
They stood like statues, staring toward us as I fixed the camera to the Sirui Monopod, leaned to brace it as solidly as possible, focused and pressed the release button.

Surprisingly, the camera-lens captured clear images despite the quarter-mile distance  between us. I credit the Sirui Monopod for its steadiness.
Quickly, however, the coyotes slipped from sight into one of the  omnipresent arroyos.
We continued upstream to the vicinity of rock (clay?) formations below the overlook near the old White Bluffs town-site.

As I climbed a steep knob and looked up, one of the coyotes gazed down from a 600-foot-high vantage point.

I took many photos as we continued to tour the hills and dales, and from a dozen viewpoints I could see one or both of the coyotes casually keeping track of our presence.

I also noted imagination-stirring images,  below: Bulging eyes? Dick Tracy profile?

Finally, as we started back to the locked gate eight miles upstream from Ringold, both coyotes seemed calm enough as we drew closer and closer.

Eventually, however, we drew abreast of their towering observation post, and they slipped away.
Next day, Darlene, Nora and I drove to the White Bluffs town-site and the overlook. This time I carried the 150-500-mm lens.
Darlene spotted to deer half-a-mile away, near the river and I captured only vague images. She may have spotted a coyote, but it slipped away before I could get a view through the lens.
I checked the historic log cabin from the bustling White  Bluffs period.

On the drive home, we stopped at a wildlife area on Hendricks Road to view the small waterfall a quarter-mile downstream.

A few days later, beneath heavy clouds, Nora and I drove back to the White Bluffs area and trekked the North Trail upstream. We climbed the two sand dunes near the white cliffs.  I took another ton of scenic photos with a wide angle lens and a tripod (see images on the tripper site). We spent enough time there to witness a setting sun brilliantly light-up the clouds.

Speaking of dramatic sunsets, a recent one seen from Mill Creek, near Rooks Park flamed fiercely in the sky.

We also saw the usual birds launching, of course.

On successive February days, we visited Wallowa Lake and the South Fork Walla Walla River Trail.
February runoff provided an opportunity to use a tripod and to slow the camera's shutter speed for an exaggerated smooth-flowing appearance to the river and to freshets from the canyon wall.

Two things highlighted the February trip to Wallowa Lake: views of fog-and-cloud surrounded Wallowa Mountains and lunch at the Ember’s Brew Pub in Joseph.

And we still have a few days of February left.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Winter Days, Doldrums and Familiar Detours

Winter Days, Doldrums and Familiar Detours

Tuesday, February 5, 2015

Morning fog looms thick enough to blur the houses across the street from my living room window.
That limits shooting finches and, juncos  that pose periodically above the dangling feeder in the naked snowball bush that brushes the front porch.

Fog has persisted for days -- after a few bright days in January -- but it hangs especially dark and thick today, perhaps daring me to  carry a camera when walking with Nora along Mill Creek this afternoon.
I worry about wet seeping into the camera and the big lens, especially the lens, on days like this. I ignored the wetness on a similar day once on the Oregon Coast and the stabilizing motor in the lens ground, whirred and clunked in obvious pain.
After several weeks, the internal workings calmed as they apparently dried.
So, this may be a good day for a break.
That may be a good thing, according to Jay Goodrich, perhaps my favorite columnist (blogger?) at Outdoor Photographer magazine.
Goodrich recently suggested:

Put it to Rest
Yep. Give it all up. I am not saying for ever. Nor am I saying to sell any of that precious camera gear you own. Take a break. Walk away. Free your mind from it for a while. Tune your bike. Build a rocking chair. Read a novel. Hell, write one. Sometimes the very act of creation is stifled by over thinking and obsession.
When you do give it up for a bit all that knowledge you once had will come storming back with one exception…You will forget all of your bad habits. You will look at your surroundings differently. And hopefully you will begin to create with the eyes of your six-year-old child.

Goodrich also included suggestions for the need to refresh one’s approach to photography:

Shoot Something Different
“It all became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be…If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” – Dialog between George & Jerry in Seinfeld
How simple is that. If you keep producing photos of bland sunsets, maybe you should try shooting a portrait or two. Or if your heart is just completely into sunsets, maybe you should try shooting at different vantage points for those sunsets. Or maybe go to a new location to shoot sunsets. Change it up, do something crazy, try something new.
One thing you should NEVER do, is shoot anything for money. Don’t try to become a nature or adventure photographer and shoot weddings to pay your bills. Shoot weddings because you love it. Shoot weddings because you get to experience and highlight a very special day for two people. Don’t shoot weddings because you need the money; the second you fall into the money trap you are done. Your photos WILL suck. Shoot what you love with passion and it will all work out in the end.
Now, on the other hand, if you decide that trying to shoot a wedding because you are struggling elsewhere may help you, then by all means go full throttle in that direction.

These comments, of course, energized my frequent discomfort at taking hundreds, probably thousands ,of photos at Mill Creek, Bennington Lake, McNary National Wildlife Refuge sites at Umatilla, Wallula and Burbank, my most frequented dog-walking sites.
Well, at least I don’t shoot the same things over and over to make money. I claim simpler, if vastly less profitable, excuses: carrying a camera gives me something to do while walking Nora the Schnauzer, and I do enjoy the shooting process, always with the potential of capturing a perfectly exposed image.
Walking Nora happens nearly every day. Capturing a perfect image happens less often.
Offhand I can’t count our number of photo outings made in December and January (since my last entry here) and already this month. Looking at my files, however (and at my posts at  I accumulated the usual number of images. I did not write about them, perhaps because few, if any, new images resulted.

Nevertheless, let me present a few.

At below McNary Dam at Umatilla:


At rhe MNWR at Burbank and Ice Harbor:


At Bennington Lake:


And, finally, at Mill Creek:

As this entry downloads onto the site, the light through the window seems much brighter.
And Nora aims her walk-time look at me.
So, who knows. We may see something new at Mill Creek, like a moose, a bear or a wolf, If not I  may at least capture a nearly perfect exposure of a Great Blue Heron or Common Merganser launching.
And Nora will enjoy the outing.