Saturday, December 17, 2016

Touching Base: 12-17-38

Just a Note to Get Started Again on my 78th Birthday

Nora the Schnauzer and I have been hunkered down for two days because of deep snow and single digit temperature.
I have taken many (hundreds?) photos since I last visited from this site, and most may be seen by the curious at where I have placed photos for years.

The sunsets occurred in the southern sky viewed from Mill Creek near 4 p.m. on the way back to the parking lot after walking to the dam near Rooks Park.  We had some snow then, but nothing like what came later.
The  shots from my windows came after the big snow of 4-6 inches. And those from Pioneer Park came yesterday, when we walked around the cleared circle after the aborted walk at Mill Creek.

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

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

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.