Thursday, February 26, 2009

Snoqualmie Valley Trail

So, today it snowed. Again!!?? I guess we were spoiled with six weeks of un-winter like weather since the early January floods. No rain to speak of, and many days of sun and even 60* temps! Not to worry, I always turn to my old companion when desiring some outdoor time close to home during any month of the year, including snow. The Snoqualmie Valley Trail is a gem of the rails-to-trails network, run by King County Parks, and there are no fewer than four trail access points within 10 minutes of this part of the Snoqualmie Valley. Tomorrow? Cold morning...and I'll be up on the trail for my morning run! I was pleased to be a major part of the 2008 published brochure put out by the Duvall Chamber of Commerse highlighting the trail and using about 25 of my photographs as part of the layout. If you don't have a copy of it, look for it in places like REI and other retailers on the greater Eastside, or in city halls near you and get out to enjoy watching spring come to life along this part of the Eastern Puget Sound Foothills!

(photos: brochure layout for the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, 2008)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Arizona is about more than desert photography

The past few days took me far away from worrying about computer work, photo editing, and for heavens sake, blog updating. I've just returned from a wonderful trip to Arizona, the Valley of the Sun, and more specifically instead of hiking and outdoor photography, we're taking baseball here! Peoria became our home as my son and I enjoyed four days of spring training as we have for a few years now. The magic never seems to end no matter how many years or days you go to the spring ballparks. And now my son seems to have become a master of athlete autograph stalking as he walked away with trophies to cherish a lifetime...signed balls by San Diego Padre pitchers Jake Peavy and Mark Prior, a ball signed by 17 Seattle Mariners (!!), and a true treasure: having been in the right quiet place yesterday morning at the right time and having Ken Griffey Jr. come by and gladly autograph a new baseball all to itself that we had just pulled out "just in case". Heck, he even came home with autographs of the Mariner's top three brass, Chuck Armstrong/Howard Lincoln/Jake Z. on a program from Saturday's Fan Fest 2009.

I've photographed thousands of images in Arizona the past 5-6 years....but the memories of spring training each year will reign as top of the list.

(photos: (top-to-bottom)signed baseballs and program shrine in hotel room; Ken Griffey Jr. signing the Bauer Boy baseball; Ken Griffey Jr. taking batting practice; a happy boy watching early morning practice at spring training 2009)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sharing cards and prints in the local community

As a photographer what sometimes is very satisfying is to simply be able to see your images come alive and not just reside on a computer as a digital file or in a drawer full of 35mm slides - you want to see them, and you want them to be seen! Many options exist for me to try and enjoy sharing, and as of today two local community grocery markets have displays of my Day Hiking guidebooks, note cards, and matted-ready-to-frame prints. I hope you are able to drop by the Farmhouse Market or Ridge Supermarket to have a peek. Have fun checking out my goods and let me know what you think! As always, feel free to mention if there is something new you'd like to see - I'm a flexible kind of guy!

(photo: prints and cards and books for sale at the Ridge Supermarket on Snoqualmie Ridge)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

This is all I have to show for my swan photo day...

There you have it. Corn stubble. Some mud. swans. I took a moment today to go see what was new with the Trumpeter Swans in the Snoqualmie Valley. Came home with great photos of...corn stubble. Seems my swans were playing games with me today, the rascals! I did see some of the flock of >150 that I watched just four days ago finally - too bad they were in a field distant to me where I'd need about a 7,200mm bazooka size lens to see the white dots!

Oh well, this is a good story for anyone interested. So many people think how easy it might be "to be me" and just to be able to roam out and get photos whenever I desire. Today is much more common than the days I **DO** get home with great images! But it's part of what makes this so much fun. It takes planning, challenging fun, and knowing the environment I'm heading out to work in to know what I might be able to find or chase down in the first place. The more you know, the less "luck" it takes! still come away empty handed many times. after this blown attempt, I did get out before sunset and photograph a few scenes from a special vantage point on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail of Mount Si and neat clouds over the Snoqualmie River. I'll take what I got and call it good enough for today!

photos: (1)stunning beauty of...corn stubble; (2)Mount Si and clouds reflecting in the Snoqualmie River.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wildlife awareness far beyond the Pacific Northwest

Making a helpful impact protecting a species or pocket of nature in this wonderful natural world of ours is so rewarding personally in my photography. Making just one more person aware of their surroundings and how positive that is on their lives? That is when I feel success has been achieved! This also can extend far beyond the borders of "my own backyard" of the Pacific Northwest. One recent example is my efforts in helping Ontario Nature, a spectacular organization of Ontario, Canada who recently helped set in place protection of virtually millions of acres of boreal forest in Eastern Canada. One species which benefits tremendously is the Woodland Caribou and I was honored to have my image used as part of a promotion fund raising note-card set last year. Finally I have a copy of it and I was quite happy to enjoy it!

I urge you to appreciate organizations such as Ontario Nature and all of the hard work they are doing around the globe - it is worth your applause to them!

(photo: Ontario Nature mailer card featuring Woodland Caribou photographed near Kootenay Pass, B.C. Canada)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Calls for spring from nature

Oh how today brought thoughts of spring to my head. It wasn't warm by any means, just typical, but some sun breaks didn't hurt either. However it was nature that was telling me, "Hey there, we're starting to think about spring!" and that was what had me dropping what I was up to and just take in the story taking place around the property. Douglas Squirrels were tearing around the trees chasing each other (and that drove my border collie CRAZY!). Robins have replaced the presence of Varied Thrushes around the grounds, there even seems to be far fewer Dark-eyed Juncos roaming about. I had a drive-by stop at a feeder by an Evening Grosbeak, maybe since not being here all winter like they sometimes are it was passing by starting to migrate? Slugs seemed to be forming their assault forces ready to pounce on the property at moments notice once we have a warm evening. I'm sure the first night chorus of Pacific Tree Frogs can't be that far off! So on that note, I announce it to be the official start to the "Watch For Spring 2009" and I'll await hearing what stories you all might be starting to see as well. What a fun way to finish a weekend!

(photo - Douglas Squirrel, known to our border collie as "Douggie", works his way down a Western Red Cedar tree head first watching to see if our wonder dog is stalking it down below!)

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Battle of the Bighorn

No, I'm not talking about the great historic battle that happened in Montana many moons ago - you will need to head to Billings, MT and take a right turn there to see that battlefield memorial! I'm talking about the Bighorn Sheep at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area and how they performed for me the other day before the Badger sighting took over my short-term memory span.

This year there are nearly 170 sheep in this unit of the Oak Creek management region. However they are behaving somewhat differently than some years as most often they all aren't just rushing down Cleman Mountain to the feeding station in the morning. Many days no rams have been seen, as was the case when my friend Don Geyer went less than two weeks ago. The biologist that I spoke with there mentioned this as well that many days only a few are down. But then again, about five days ago nearly 160 were present!

I was fortunate to not only have 80-90 Bighorns down briefly on Wednesday morning, but to have lovely warm low-angle sunlight all morning. I have visited these magnificent critters six times now, and never have I had anything but fog, drizzle, low clouds, howling wind, and more often than not the temperatures were only 5-15* above zero! So, the day was an extra special treat --- sometimes life is pretty good to me.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Peek-a-boo with a Badger

Yesterday was one of those days that everything came together for me just about perfectly. I had plans to be out all day photographing wildlife in Central Washington, the weather was amazingly calm, warm, and sunny so I didn't freeze like usual, and the wildlife kept surprising me to make it a memorable day! I first spent the better part of 4+ hours at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area just west of Naches. It was remarkable to find virtually no snow around but it didn't matter as the California Bighorn Sheep were down at the feeding area where they have been inconsistent with their visits this winter. Wildlife officials feed them bags of pellet size feed which is rich with vitamins and also allows them to treat the animals so they don't get diseases from domestic sheep which can be fatal to them. It was a great show! Then it was another couple of hours watching 1050 elk (yes, you read that correctly) all gathered at the wildlife area headquarters area on US 12 enjoying the warm sun, tussling with a fellow critter when bored, and waiting for the handouts from the feeding trucks. Bald eagles soared and perched on the basalt cliffs around here as well (they are natures clean-up crew for the unfortunate few elk who don't survive the winter).

But what stuck in my mind the most as I came back last night was my drive home over Ellensburg Pass via the Wenas Road, a wonderful 20'ish mile long paved and gravel road cutting over Umtanum and Manastash Ridges connecting the Wenas and Kittitas Valleys, taking you right through the Wenas Wildlife Area and L.T. Murray Wildlife Area. Not far from the trailhead for Umtanum Creek Falls (see Best Desert Hikes-Washington for more details) I spotted a beautiful Badger scurry down the hill just as the sun was getting low in the western sky. He dove into his burrow, but then for the next 10 minutes played peek-a-boo with me as I had the opportunity to not only see my first Badger in the wild, but photograph it! I'll get back to sharing a bit of my time with the Bighorn Sheep tomorrow -- I'm still too pleased with my time given me by this friendly daytime Badger buddy!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Trumpeter vs. Tundra Swans

Late yesterday afternoon as it was getting dark I ventured past a few favorite winter locations to check on the current status of the Snoqualmie Valley swan population. I found a nice group of 40-50 Trumpeter Swans in a field halfway between Duvall and Carnation. Nice! But...wait...5 minutes with the binoculars after I photographed a couple of them closer to me revealed a nice surprise: one of the 50 was a Tundra Swan! to tell the difference!?!?! It is much easier like this when they are mixed, as the Trumpters are larger. But alone it is a "who know??!!" guess...ah, but not maybe so. I look for my one easier trait to see if they are Trumpeter Swans: a somewhat flat portion on their head heading from the bill up to the top of the head. Tundra Swans are more rounded. There are other things too, like a thicker bill, more black/wider bill, and more deeply black around the eyes. But instead of me trying to explain these things that you can only really "tell" by seeing, one good source is David Sibley and a website page dedicated to this exact mystery! Go here to the Sibley Guide and have fun! Let me know if you see more Tundra Swans around here - they are more common in SW Washington and Eastern Washington in winter, unlike our areas northward on the west side of the Cascades up into B.C. which are almost all Trumpeter Swans.
Fun stuff trying to be a biologist!

(photos: Trumpeter Swan in near dark of sunset --- no, I didn't get the Tundra Swan as it was at least 200' away from me and these were only about 50' away! But I'll keep trying! The swans shown below on Jan 25th from Ridgefield NWR are Tundra Swans, for what it is worth....)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Taking down a photo print show

It is always exciting to get in to a new venue and hang prints for a show. It is also just not as much fun taking it all back down where then the only person who will get to see my work is myself! But yesterday brought me back to retrieve my work that has lined the halls of the Fall City Inn since early December. It was a great experience to have so many members of the community come out and appreciate them and take their valuable time to let me know that! For that I'm so grateful! It will be equally as exciting to be back in early June for two month of another show, this next one there being with a wildlife theme and tied to the upcoming release of my last guidebook of the new day hiking series. Look for upcoming information about presentations and book signings soon to be scheduled at the Roadhouse/Inn for Day Hiking-Central Cascades in the near future!

(photos: photo show in the halls of the Inn)