The stark and beautiful landscape that I enjoyed every morning from my room at The View Hotel in Monument Valley, AZ continues to captivate me weeks after returning home. Each morning we had different cloud formations or sometimes cloudless skies. That didn’t matter. The view remained stunning and gorgeous. On this morning, as the sun passed behind East Mitten Butte, its rays spilled across the clouds and the front of the butte. And, it cast off god beams behind the clouds. What a glorious sight to to wake up to each morning.
The WAAAM Fly-in weekend before last in Hood River, OR gave me an opportunity to try some aviation photography. It’s a skill I definitely need to practice. It was exciting to be right next to some of these beautiful antique airplanes. Almost 300 airplane flew in for the event Friday evening and Saturday morning. On Sunday about midday, they began to leave and that’s when I had my first real opportunity to photograph them in flight. One of the airplanes I kept admiring was parked next to our home base on the edge of the grass. I never saw its pilot or anyone associated with the airplane while we were nearby. Then, as we watched the planes take off, suddenly the bright red 1933 Waco I’d been admiring taxied away and flew right over our heads.
The other evening, I had dinner with friends who are planning a visit to Kaua’i and I began to reminisce about my trip there in 2018. For me the highlight of the trip was our visit to the Kawai’ele Waterbird Sanctuary. One evening there, as the sun was beginning to set, a flock of about six Nēnē, the Hawaiian Goose, an endangered bird as well as Hawaii’s State bird, flew in and landed a few yards away from us to feed on the sticky flatsedge and the white-flowered salt heliotrope. The light was perfect, the setting was perfect, the background was perfect. The photographs I took that evening with my Nikkor 600mm f/4 lens are among my all time favorite bird photographs. I think about that experience and I am reminded how lucky I have been in the past few years to indulge in my passion for photography, travel the world, and learn from such an incredible photographer, my friend Moose Peterson. And the best part? He gets me to the right place, at the right time, for fabulous photographic opportunities.
The Yaquina Head Light is the tallest of the eleven lighthouse on the Oregon Coast at a soaring 93 feet tall, more than 30 feet taller than the next tallest, the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse that stands 62 feet tall. Completed in 1873, the Yaquina Head Light is also the oldest functioning lighthouse with its light now converted to a fully automated Fresnel lens that operates its unique light signal pattern (2 seconds on, 2 seconds off, 2 seconds on, 14 seconds off) 24 hours a day.
The Yei Bi Chei rocky spires in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park are eroded buttes named for Navajo gods so the godbeams emanating from the morning sunrise help to emphasize the location. We got to this magical place early before others had left footprints in the sand.
The clouds and godbeams late one afternoon in Monument Valley along what is frequently called the Forrest Gump Highway were a spectacular introduction to the wonders of that incredible place. The monsoons bring the clouds. The sun peeking through the clouds creates the godbeams. These angry Monsoon skies punctuate the landscape. The godbeams were most visible over a rolling hillside, not over the mittens, spires, and buttes which are just out of view to the left.
Baby birds are always adorable but this branchling Northern Pygmy Owl is just too cute. We spent several hours one afternoon this past July watching and photographing this little one and its sibling in a wooded area just up the road from Santa Rita Lodge near the Madera Canyon Picnic Area in Arizona. We observed them for several hours. What an experience to witness these small owls take their first uncertain steps onto the branches and to finally fledge and fly. The first flight attempts for each of the tiny owls ended in their dangling upside down from twigs or wire fences but they managed to free themselves and find the security of a branch to sit on. Finally, the parent Northern Pygmy Owls arrived to check on their offspring and to feed them a large lizard the father brought.
One of the few birds I photographed in Oregon last week was the Flying Eagle Hood Ornament that adorned 1932 Pontiac 8 cylinder vehicles including the one on display at the Western Antique Airplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM) in Hood River, OR. My research about the hood ornament indicates this particular ornament is rare; Pontiac used the eagle for only one year and model. It was designed by William Schnell and it is zinc die cast with chrome plating. What struck me was the eagle’s eye. From some angles, the eye appears to be a glass inset but on closer inspection, I believe that is just an optical illusion. Still, it is an elegant, eye-catching hood ornament.
The Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes’ H-4 Flying Boat is built entirely of wood, although the wood is birch, not spruce. It is the largest wooden airplane ever constructed, and it was flown only one time on November 2, 1947, with Howard Hughes at the controls. The unannounced flight took place in Long Beach, CA during a taxi test and it flew at an altitude of 70 feet for about a minute traveling about a mile. The gigantic airplane is now on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. A whiskey colored fedora, like the one Howard Hughes wore on this one and only flight of the Spruce Goose, is on display in the cockpit, directly behind the pilot’s seat. But Howard has left the cockpit.
I call it Beach Panning. It’s one of my favorite ways to photograph birds, laying prone on the wet sandy beach with my telephoto lens trained on a Dunlin or Sanderling or other small shorebird. There’s nothing like it. Except when there are no birds to photograph. Last week, instead of the Beach Panning I had anticipated, I was panning the beach for birds. It was shocking to see the satellite maps showing the density of bird migrations in real time with no birds on the West Coast or the East Coast. At least the Central Flyway was filled with birds. We saw fewer than a dozen shorebirds in a week on the Oregon Coast and those birds were not on an ocean shore. This shot, taken just south of the Devil’s Punch Bowl is devoid of birds. There are a couple of people in the foggy distance.