Maggie is one year old today! I have watched Moose and Sharon’s Beagle, Maggie, grow up from afar in photographs but yesterday, I arrived in Montana to visit and finally met Miss Maggie in person. She is absolutely adorable, rambunctious, and oh, so smart. Happy Birthday, Maggie!
There’s nothing quite like Bryce Canyon National Park. It is an amazing place, especially in the morning when the rising sun sets the red rocks on fire. The spires look almost like flames.
A couple of years ago I visited the Great Basin area in Nevada to photograph Bighorn Sheep. I was expecting to see Bighorn Sheep. I wasn’t expecting to see spectacular skies like the Sierra Wave we saw one evening when we visited Walker Lake. The Sierra Wave occurs when westerly winds flow over the Sierra Nevada Range in California and winds had picked up that evening. We were on the lee side of the mountains and the Sierra Wave is known as a lee wave and is considered one of the most spectacular of this phenomenon. We watched for a couple of hours as the cloud formations filled the skies and constantly changed at the whim of the winds. When I took the photograph I published two years ago (click on link above) the sun was setting and the clouds were a deep rose color. When I took this photograph, at least an hour before that shot, the sun had not set and the clouds were mostly white so I took this shot as a black and white image. What was so incredible is that an hour before this, there were no clouds in the sky.
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.
The ponds at the Lincoln City Water Treatment Plant were Plan C in our search for birds on the Oregon Coast. We did find a couple of species of ducks there but for most of the morning, the ducks were barely visible through the dense fog and the pair of Belted Kingfishers were vocal but unseen. As I peered around, looking for birds, Moose reminded me that there are other things to photograph besides birds. Knowing that I love to photograph little things that strike my fancy, Moose pointed out that some of the grass blades at the edge of the pond had formed drops from the fog. My Nikkor 500mm PF lens with the 1.4X Teleconverter and high speed crop gave me 1050mm so I was able to focus in on the droplets that had formed on the single blade of grass at the edge of the pond. The foggy mist gave the scene an ethereal look.
When I walked around to the back of the 1923 Locomobile Model 48 Sportif on display at the Western Antique Airplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM) in Hood River, Oregon, I was literally stopped in my tracks. I had never seen a brake light on an automobile like this. The Locomobile was a luxury car in its time. I’m not sure how the hand signals were lit but the design is certainly eye catching. I consider this 1923 Locomobile an antique. But the museum also houses newer vehicles which I’m not quite ready to consider in the antique category including a 1969 Chevy Camero which is the same year and similar body style to my first new car, a 1969 Pontiac Firebird. How can that be an antique?
This is a classic view of Multnomah Falls located on Multnomah Creek in the Columbia River Gorge. On the way to Hood River, OR, this spectacular, scenic waterfall is literally just off the highway.
It goes by many names. Some call it a “gaping sinkhole,” the “drainpipe of the Pacific” even a “gate to hell.” But its official name is Thor’s Well. It is a stunning and treacherous feature of the Oregon Coast located in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area in Siuslaw National Forest. In the absence of our primary target, migrating shore birds, we were still able to fill our days with photographic challenges including this scenic wonder. At high tide, the waves fill the hole from beneath, bubble through to the top and burst out the hole only to fall back in, appearing to fill and drain in an endless loop. The challenge for me was getting out to Thor’s Well. Inching my way across the barnacle encrusted rocks with Moose’s, Jerry’s, and Eric’s help, I finally realized that my boots were water proof and that I cold actually negotiate the rocks and the shallow puddles. I drew the line at climbing atop the rocky outcrop seen in the lower right of this image. But I did sit on a barnacle encrusted ledge on its edge. The waves surrounded the outcropping a few times while we were out there. It’s definitely a must-see on the Oregon Coast.
It was foggy on our third morning in Lincoln City, OR. Until late yesterday morning, we still hadn’t found any shore birds until we happened across a few Least Sandpipers on the side of the road along the Siletz River. It is puzzling and a little alarming to find virtually no birds here. We should be seeing a huge number of migrating shore birds. Even the water fowl and gulls are scarce. Where are the birds? In the mean time, we’re still finding interesting photographic subjects, like this fir growing out of the top of a small intertidal rock in Siletz Bay. The fog persisted in patches throughout the day.
The Oregon coastal forest was on display Monday morning at Gleneden Beach State Recreation Site in Lincoln City. The parking lot is rimmed with towering fir and spruce trees and, with the sun rising in the east, the morning show is quite spectacular. We were there to photograph shore birds and I had pared down my camera bag for the morning shoot. When Moose asked me if I was going to photograph the stunning view, I grabbed my at-the-ready Nikon Z50 with its Nikkor 16-50mm lens and captured the daylight breaking through.
A little known fact that I’ve learned from Moose Peterson about successful wildlife photography is the absolute necessity to consume ice cream to ensure birds and critters will present themselves to be photographed. In the many years I’ve joined Moose on wildlife photography adventures, this fact has become abundantly clear to me. In those instances when we didn’t eat ice cream, the critters didn’t make an appearance. When we ate ice cream, the birds and critters beat a path to our cameras. I’m embarking on another wildlife adventure with Moose, this time on the Oregon Coast to photograph shore birds. The line was literally out the door when we stopped at the Stone Cold Creamery Sunday night. Plan B was a quick stop at Safeway where my favorite frozen treat, Talenti Sea Salt Caramel Gelato, was on sale. My plan was to eat just half but the refrigerator in the room at the hotel has no freezer so I was forced to eat it all.