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Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park

Last week, as part of the gradual easing of its stay-at-home order, Washington State opened up the majority of state parks for day-use only. Knowing that I was going into photography withdrawal, Tanya suggested we head out on a photo day. Even though the parks were open, it was suggested people stay local. Well, local is a relative term, and being a Westerner, I don’t mind driving several miles – in this case 200 miles one way. Is that local? It was still in the State of Washington and we didn’t need to stay overnight – that’s local to me.

So last Saturday we packed up a picnic and the camera gear and headed off to Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park. Why there? One, it has the raw beauty of the channeled scablands. But perhaps more importantly, I thought there wouldn’t be as many people there as in closer state parks. The weather was sunny and warm, and there was bound to be more than a few people out enjoying the state parks on this first weekend since the pandemic started that they were open. And while there were a fair number of people at the park, the park’s parking lots was not crowded – unlike the several hiking trailheads we passed on the way over the mountains that were overflowing with cars. In fact, the parking for the trail we took in Sun Lakes State Park only had one other car (out of four parking spots – so with us, it was half full; is that crowded?).

Drone shot of Alkali Lake

Sun Lakes State Park is located in the Grand Coulee. The park itself contains at least four lakes, and there are a number of other lakes further down the coulee. That gave this trip the added bonus of having a place to stop before reaching the park for me to fly my drone (drones are not allowed in Washington State Parks without a permit) while Tanya took Benson, our 8-month old, 102-pound Newfoundland, on his first swim. We picked a spot along Alkali Lake, and while Tanya and Benson frolicked in the water, I checked out Alkali Lake and Lake Lenore from the air.

Then it was on to Sun Lakes. The state park has a developed camping (closed) and day-use area on Park Lake with nice green grass and large shade trees. Instead of stopping there, we took the road to Deep Lake, which is developed with a small picnic area with natural vegetation and a boat launch. There were about 10 cars there and several dozen people swimming or fishing in the lake. So instead of taking the lakeside trail, we decided to take the Caribou Trail with climbs the hillside above the lake (not sure why it is named the Caribou Trail, caribou are definitely not native to this desert terrain).

Though I’ve been to Sun Lakes perhaps a dozen times before, I had never been to Deep Lake or on the Caribou Trail, so this was new territory to me. I knew the trail climbed above up toward the top of the coulee, but I didn’t know if it had a view of Deep Lake from up there. It is a relatively short trail, and the official trail ends when reaching the top of the cliffs. No view from there. So we kept walking on a faint unofficial trail, and then, eventually, set off cross country to find a view. And sure enough, we found a view of Deep Lake far below. We sat on the rocks, pulled out our water bottles, and drank in both water and scenery.

After shooting for 15 or 20 minutes, we headed back down the car. We don’t quite have our car setup organized well with the new dog yet. Trying to fit the dog and all the camera gear in the car along with food and drink (which must be separated from the dog) is a challenge. I decided to pack the camera backpack in a different spot after the hike, to be loaded after the dog got in. Unfortunately, after loading the dog, I forgot about the bag and started to back out onto the road only to run over something. You guessed it, my camera backpack!

Luckily, my camera was not in the pack, and a quick check didn’t show anything broken. We drove back to Deep Lake for our picnic dinner. There were a few less people, and we got a picnic table isolated from others. While eating, I checked out the gear in more detail. All the lens seemed to be working okay. However, there are cracks on a portion of the barrel of the Tamron 150-600 mm zoom. Also, the split neutral-density filter is history. Hopefully the lens can be repaired (currently the Tamron repair shop, which is in New York, is closed due to the pandemic).

After dinner, we drove over to Dry Falls Lake, which, not surprisingly, is located at the base of Dry Falls. It was an hour or so before sunset and the light on the cliffs of Dry Falls was particularly nice. The featured shot above is a 4-shot panorama of Dry Falls and Dry Falls Lake.

If you plan on making the trip out to Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park, be forewarned that the road to Dry Falls Lake is extremely rough. We did okay in our SUV, and I do think most regular passenger cars would make it, but some cars without much ground clearance could have difficulties. The road to Deep Lake is paved.

We left before sunset so we could get home before 11 pm. All in all, even with the the misadventure with my camera backpack, it was a good day. As always, I welcome your comments.

The view of Deep Lake from near the end of the Caribou Trail.

Telephoto shot of some of the cliffs along Deep Lake.

This is the west end of Deep Lake. The picnic area is in the cottonwood trees next to the boat launch.

Some of the cliffs near Dry Falls Lake.

Wide-angle shot of Dry Falls and Dry Falls Lake

 


150 Pounds of Love

Once again I need to write a fond remembrance of one of our pets. Nahla the Newfoundland passed last week. She was a truly wonderful dog and worthy companion who accompanied me on my photo trips. For Nahla, I was her person and she was my dog. Of the several Newfounlands that Tanya and I have had (and the Newfoundlands that Tanya had before we were married), Nahla was the first one not to treat Tanya as their number one. If Tanya asked her to do something, she would often look at me to see if it was okay. I don’t know how I became her favorite, but I was honored. That said, she did love Tanya as well. When I’d go upstairs to go to bed first, Nahla would always wait to come up until Tanya did as well, making sure that Tanya was not alone downstairs.

She had the Newfie temperament: laid back, devoted, sweet, patient and stoic to a fault. She spent many a work day laying under desk, quiet as a mouse, until she’d start snoring, occasionally startling any visitors sitting in my office that didn’t realize she was there. But unlike many Newfoundlands, she knew she was big and used it to her advantage. And big she was. She weighed a little over 150 pounds, quite big for a female (the AKC says female Newfies are generally 100 to 120 pounds). Instead of walking around furniture, she would move it out of her way. Which lead us to one of the nicknames we gave her: Brutessa.

We had other nicknames for her as well, such as Panda Butt (after we heard maids at a hotel one time describe Nahla that way) and Turnip Thief (a recent nickname she earned by stealing and eating turnips left on the dining room table while ignoring a parsnip that was on the floor [and if you are asking why a parsnip was on the floor, it was a small one being used by the cats as a toy – they loved flipping it in the air and watching the funny way it rolled).

We got Nahla when she was 4 years old, and she died at 9 1/2. That is way to short a time for 150 pounds of loving. She was a very special dog, and I truly miss her.

Here Nahla and Tanya are taking a little wade into the Pacific Ocean.

Nahla wading in Ingalls Creek in the Cascade Mountains. She had her own little pool here to wade in, but that wasn’t good enough. After this picture was shot, she made her way out into the main current and was swept downstream. We ran along the trail and finally got her to wade to shore before being going over anything to too dangerous. She of course, wanted to do it again.

Here are Nahla and Tanya, both smiling, at Ginko State Park in Vantage, Washington.

I’m a baseball fan, and so was Nahla. Here we are at Bark in the Park at Safeco Field after a Mariners game last year.

 

 

 

 


Visit my Studio – Tacoma Studio Tour 2018

Every October, Tacoma artists open their studios to the public in the Tacoma Studio Tour. This free event is held annually as part of #TacomaArtsMonth, where the city celebrates the arts and local artists. This year, the studio tour includes 80 artists at 47 locations. I am one of several photographers participating. I’d like to personally invite any of my blog readers in the local area to come on by, see my studio, meet Tanya and Nahla in person, and talk about the art of photography.

The studio tour this Saturday and Sunday, October 13 and 14, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. I am stop number 43 on the tour – but luckily you don’t have to visit in numerical order! You can learn more about the tour using the link above or by going to the Tacoma Arts blog or at the Studio Tour Page of TacomaArtsMonth.com.

As part of the tour, many artists are offering hands-on activities. I am no exception. As I’ve done in the past several years for the studio tour,  I will have the scanner set up so my guests can try their own hand at scanography and take home a print of their masterpiece. This is a fun activity, which I previously blogged about. In addition, I”ll have about 40 prints on display, including some new ones from my recent work in the Palouse.

Hope to see you this weekend!


Puget Sound Guide Now Available!

I’m proud to announce my photo guide to the Puget Sound region is now available on SNAPP Guides! The guide covers 58 spots for great photography in the Puget Sound region from Bellingham to Olympia (exclusive of Seattle, which is covered in a separate guide) including 125 sample photographs. For each spot, I give advice on when to go and how to shoot the best images.

The guide is available for both Apple and Android devices. To download the guide, first go the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store and install the free SNAPP Guide app. Once installed, you can download several free sample guides to see how it works. To download my Puget Sound guide, select Shop from the main SNAPP Guide menu and either scroll down or search for Puget Sound.

SNAPP Guides currently offers guides to 67 places around the world and more are being added (like the Palouse guide I am working on that should be available sometime next year). Each guide provides detailed information on photographic locations including what to shoot, when to go (both season and time of day), directions to get there (including GPS coordinates), a map of the location, a physical rating for the site, and what type of lenses and equipment you might use. The guides also interface directly with The Photographers Ephemeris to quickly give sunrise and sunset times at each location.

My Puget Sound guide costs $7.99. Other guides offered by SNAPP Guides vary from about $4 to $15. Below are several screen shots of the guide.

The guide opens with a main menu to browse spots, view the spots on a map, look at any spots you’ve previously marked as favorites, read about the guide, or learn a bit more about me as the author.

 

Selecting Spots from the main menu bring up the spots listed in order of distance from your present location.

 

Here’s another example.

 

Selecting Map from the main menu brings up a map with all the spots. You can zoom in to locate and select individual spots.

 

Selecting on a spot from either the list or map brings up the details for that location, including the day’s sunrise and sunset times and the current weather conditions.

 

Here’s another example. The top shows a sample photograph and tells about the spot. For most spots, you can swipe over to see more sample images. The Bloedel Reserve, for example, has four sample images.

 

By swiping downward, you can learn about what to shoot at the site and what type of equipment will come in handy.

 

Swiping down further gives suggestions on when to go and other details about the spot.

 

Continuing downward, you get a physical rating for the spot and directions on how to get there.

 

At the bottom, there is a map, GPS coordinates, a link to The Photographer Ephemeris, and links to other information.


Puget Sound Icons

Nothing is probably more iconic of Puget Sound than a Washington State ferry. And nothing is probably more iconic of Washington State than Mount Rainier. So how would you rate a shot with a ferryboat and Mount Rainier – iconic squared?

There are only a couple of spots not on private property to photograph ferries with Mount Rainier in the background. By far the best spot I’ve found is on NE South Beach Drive on Bainbridge Island, where the Seattle-Bremerton ferry sails in front of the mountain about a 15 times a day (of course, depending on the season, many of those crossings may be in darkness).

The ferries (one sailing each way) will normally pass by this spot at about the same time – roughly a half hour after they leave their respective ports. Check the current ferry schedule for sailing times and be sure to get here a few minutes early. One ferry will be closer to shore, and one further out. A telephoto zoom lens works best here with the setting based on how close the ferry is. For a close ferry, 100 to 200 mm may work well. If it is further off shore, 200 to 300 mm may work better. Ferries move faster than they appear to; be sure to use a shutter speed of at least 1/125th of a second to keep the boat from blurring. If you are shooting near sunrise or sunset, you may need to boost your ISO setting. Consequently, the light will be best in the late afternoon to sunset all year-long or at sunrise to early morning from March through early October.

South Beach Drive is a narrow road with no parking available, at least where it is next to the water. If you come via Toe Jam Hill Road (you have to love that name), there are one or two parking spots on the hill 50 to 100 yards above South Beach Drive (the approach on Toe Jam Hill Road is a steep downhill decline). Alternatively, there are a few parking spots on South Beach Drive west of the viewpoints along the water. Either way, you will need to walk at least a short distance to capture the shot.

I took the above shot a couple weeks ago for inclusion in my latest project – a photography guide to Puget Sound for Snapp Guides. The guide should be ready in a few months, and I’ll post more about it soon.


A Good Man

Today we buried my father. Ernest John Becker was an amazing, yet humble man. He was a leader in the Spokane community, serving on many civic, Gonzaga University, and church boards. He was the managing partner at the biggest accounting firm in the city. Yet, at least with his kids, he didn’t talk about these things. To us kids, he was just Dad.

Dad grew up in Colton, Washington, a small farming community near Pullman. Actually, he grew up on a farm several miles outside Colton. He was one of 14 children. The farm was at the base of Bald Butte, a rounded chunk of bedrock sticking several hundred feet above the rolling hills of the Palouse. Several years ago, I talked with Dad about his life, and he said that Bald Butte was his favorite place. It held great memories for him of growing up on the farm, and he still liked to visit the Palouse and Bald Butte when he got the chance.

He eventually left the farm, joining the Army and serving in the Korean War. He didn’t talk much about those days, at least to me or my siblings. After three years in the Army, he returned to Washington and attended Gonzaga University, earning a degree in accounting. About that time, he married my mother, and together they started their own large family. I am one of seven children; the oldest boy, third oldest overall.

Over the past week, all of us shared photos of Dad. I have all the old slides that Mom and Dad shot from the late 1950s through the 1980s. I went through several hundred, and scanned quite a few to share with my brothers and sisters. One brother made photo collages for the reception after the service; I made a slide show of Dad’s life. There were several shots of Dad proudly holding his first baby son back in 1959 and 60, and I couldn’t help but think today, that now I was carrying him as one of the pall bearers.

I suppose I got my love of photography from him. While growing up, whenever we took a trip, Dad had his camera out, taking photos of the family and the scenery. I don’t know when he got his first camera, I never had the chance to ask, but I did scan one photo of Dad as a young man, perhaps 20 years old, camera in hand. My mother also took a lot of photos, so perhaps I came to photography from both sides.

Dad also bestowed his love of nature on me (and my siblings). Every year he’d load up the station wagon and hitch up the tent trailer, and off the nine of us would go to explore the American west. I remember trips to Glacier National Park, the Oregon coast, Arches National Park, Yellowstone, the west coast of Vancouver Island, and southern California.

He loved to travel. A few years after my mother died, Dad met and fell in love with my stepmom, Anita. There  eight years ago, when Dad was 81 years old. Together they discovered the wonders of Europe and Hawaii during multiple trips. In between the trips, they enjoyed life in Spokane. It was wonderful to see him so happy in his later years.

I’m like him in so many ways – the photography, love of nature and travel, quiet by nature – and I must have been told 20 times today at the funeral that I look just like him. Which is good, I guess, since I think he was a handsome man. Perhaps you agree? The photo above is one I took about two years ago, at Bald Butte in fact. It was probably the last time he was there. The one below is his high-school portrait – then the year he left the farm and Bald Butte behind to make his way in the world.

He died about two weeks ago, and I still have a hard time believing he is gone. He was the very definition of a good man – humble, loyal, steadfast, smart, and generous. And while, perhaps, a little bit of him lives on in me, in my memories and my genes; I will miss him. Rest in peace Dad.


Tacoma Open Studio Tour – Come on By

Once a year, the artists in Tacoma open their studios to the public in the Tacoma Studio Tour. This free event is held annually as part of Tacoma Arts Month, where the city celebrates the arts and its artists. This year, the studio tour includes 70 artists at 42 locations. I am one of seven photographers participating. I’d like to personally invite any of my blog readers in the local area to come on by, see my studio, meet Tanya and Nahla in person, and talk about the art of photography.

The studio tour this Saturday and Sunday, October 14 and 17, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. I am stop number 4 on the tour. You can learn more about the tour using the link above or by going to the Tacoma Arts blog, which has run a 9-part series on the event (I’m part of part 1).

As part of the tour, many artists are offering hands on activities. I am no exception. I’ve done some work with scanography – the art of making photographs using a flat-bed scanner. I will have the scanner set up so my guests can try their own hand at scanography and take home a print of their masterpiece. This is a fun activity, which I previously blogged about. In addition, I”ll have about 40 prints on display.

Hope to see you this weekend!


Marymere

I’ve lived in Washington a long time and driven by Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park seemingly countless times (okay, perhaps several dozen), but I’ve never taken the short trail to Marymere Falls. Last week I cured this default. I left Tacoma before sunrise (and boy is that early this time of year), hoping to catch the rising sun on the Olympics from the shores of Hood Canal, but the sky was overcast and the sun rose without apparent effect. But overcast skies are great for waterfall photography, so I drove on and reached the Marymere Falls trailhead, reaching the parking lot a little after 7 a.m.

I was the first  one there, which is always a plus when photographing popular spots. And this hike is popular, and deservingly so. It travels through moss-covered old growth forest along a pretty creek to a beautiful waterfall. It is short, only 1.5 miles roundtrip, and is flat until the end, where it climbs several hundred feet to the falls.

Though it is an out-and-back trail, end of the trail near the falls has a small loop. As the trail nears the falls, it crosses over Barnes Creek (on a relatively new steel bridge) and then quickly over Falls Creek (on a classic one-person-wide wooden log bridge. From there, the trail climbs uphill and forms a small loop, leading to two viewpoints of the falls, one directly at the base, and one higher up nearly level with the top of the falls. I found the views at the lower level, and part way up from there, to be better for photography than at the upper viewpoint.

I mostly had the falls to myself, only interrupted by two sets of people who came quickly through, and I spent about 20 to 30 minutes photographing (leaving shortly before about a dozen people arrived). I spent another 20 to 30 minutes photographing in the forest on the way out. All in all, it was worth the stop, and I wondered why it took me so long to give it a try.

Detail shot of Marymere Falls.

Barnes Creek along the Marymere Falls trail.

Scene in the forest along the trail.

Devils club growing along the trail.

Large old growth tree adjacent to the trail. It’s hard to tell how big this tree is by this photo, but I estimate it is at least 6 to 8 feet in diameter.


Speaking Tomorrow Night

Scenic Seattle Front CoverI just wanted to let you know that I will be speaking tomorrow night (February 7th) at 7 p.m. at the University Place library about my book, Scenic Seattle. I’ll be discussing how I turned my personal project into a published book, showing photographs of Seattle (including some that did not make it in the book), and answering any questions about photography. Here’s a flyer from the library about the talk. So if you are in the area, come by and say hello.

The library is located at: 3609 Market Place W, Suite 100, University Place, Washington. There is parking available both in front of the library and also in the parking garage underneath the library off of Drexler Drive behind the library building.

UPDATE: the talk tonight was just cancelled because of the weather. I’ll let you know when it is rescheduled.

 


Death of a Friend

GaryThis is not a post I wanted to write, but it is one I must. Last week, I was, in fact, preparing another post, but then death intruded into my life. My blog is supposedly about photography, yet here I am writing about death. Most Americans don’t like to talk or even think about death. Yet death is a part of life. And, like most photographers, most of my photography is about life – places I’ve been, people I’ve met, the sharing of scenes that enrich my life. So, here I am, writing about the one inevitable part of life that we all must face – death.

This post is not one I wanted to write. It has been difficult putting these words on “paper.” It’s difficult to share. I’ve procrastinated, refusing to believe, searching my feelings for truth, for a reason. I’ve procrastinated, because by not putting this down on paper, somehow it cannot be real, because maybe it is just a dream. But it is real, and I cannot procrastinate further. My friend, Gary Mueller, deserves to be celebrated, and hopefully this post can be a small part of a celebration of Gary’s life, a celebration of his lasting impact on this world. A world he made a better place by just being himself. For Gary was one of the happiest people I know. A gentle, caring man, always quick with a smile, a chuckle, and an amusing story. He was a delight to be around. He was a Beatles fanatic, a dedicated Washington State Cougars fan, a fine wine and beer connoisseur. Most of all, he was my friend; a reliable mate to share a beer, help with a chore, or to just hang with. A man so full of life and love.

I met Gary about 40 years ago in high school. And unlike with many of my high school friends, Gary and I kept in touch. Over the past 15 years of so, since Tanya has been in my life, we have gotten together with Gary and his wife Vicki almost monthly. A week ago Thursday, Gary collapsed while getting ready for work. Vicki found him a minute or two later, but he was already gone. Often when the four of us were together, we’d joke about how Gary was the youngest of the four (we are all within about a year of the same age). Yet now, seemingly way before his time, he was the first to go.

If we are lucky in life, we have a few true friends. Friends who will stick with us through anything life throws at us, who aren’t bothered by our warts and eccentricities, who make our lives better to live. Gary was such a friend. He made my life better; he made me better. And this, my feeble attempt at a tribute, does not do him justice. Gary, my dear friend, I miss you…

 


You’re Invited – Tacoma Studio Tour

17flower019_smallOnce a year, the artists in Tacoma open their studios to the public in the Tacoma Studio Tour. This free event is held annually as part of Tacoma Arts Month, where the city celebrates the arts and its artists. This year, the studio tour includes 57 artists including yours truly. I’d like to personally invite any of my blog readers in the local area to come on by, see my studio, and talk about the art of photography.

The studio tour this Saturday and Sunday, October 15 and 16, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. I am stop number 3 on the tour.

As part of the tour, many artists are offering hands on activities. I am no exception. I have been playing around with scanography – making photographs using a flat-bed scanner. I will have the scanner set up so my guests can try their own hand at scanography and take home a print of their masterpiece. The image above, one of my favorites photographs I’ve created with my scanner, is an example of what you can create. This is a fun activity, and I will write a separate blog entry on it in the new future.

Hope to see you this weekend!


Doing the Gig

Wooden Boat and RopeDo you have a favorite place you like to visit to do photography; a place you go again and again? One of my favorites is downtown Gig Harbor. There are views of Mount Rainier, picturesque boats, parks, and scenic streets. I don’t know how many times I’ve shot there, but since I use to live in on the Gig Harbor peninsula (and still live only a short drive away), I have photographed the Harbor many times.

One of the challenges of shooting the same place multiple times is getting something fresh. Besides the scenery, shooting in Gig Harbor helps me work on thinking outside my normal box. Since I’ve photographed the same scenes multiple times, it forces me to try to find new points of view for the same scenes. It presents good exercise for the most important component of photography – your mind.

Shooting the same location again and again also allows to work on variations on a theme. Again, this is a very good mental exercise for a photographer. While I suggest working a scene, shooting a wide number of variations (as I discussed in this previous post), by returning multiple times, you can add the fourth dimension, time, to your variations.

For these reasons (and because it was a photo outing with the Mountaineers), I did the Gig one evening last week. The photos here are some of the results.

Do you have your own Gig? Where is your favorite place you like to return to again and again, and why do you return?

Boathouse Flag

Harbor Rainbow

Rope

Cloudy Harbor Scene

Boathouse Details

Harbor Reflection

Boats at Dusk


Goodbye Dear Friend

PatchIf you are a regular follower of my blog, you know that Tanya and I are animal lovers. For years we loved our Newfoundland, Carson, and our two cats, Patch and Sugar. In June 2013, we lost Sugar to cancer. Later in that year, Carson passed away as well. Last Saturday, it was Patch’s turn. While Carson and Sugar both died of natural causes, Patch was struck by a car as he was crossing the street to come see me as when I came home from shooting a wedding. As he lay stricken in the street, I petted him, hardly containing my tears, and called Tanya, who had just left the house on an errand.  She was able to get back home in a few minutes, and we were glad we could be there comforting Patch in his final moments.

Patch was the best cat I’ve ever known. He was loved by everyone in the neighborhood. My neighbor across the street, Brad, who confesses to not liking cats, told me yesterday that even he loved Patch. Patch was about as friendly as a cat can get. He loved being around people, any people. We often heard stories about how he freely wander into other people’s houses. Before we moved to Tacoma, we had a neighbor who left his door open and a bowl of cat food in his dining room just because he like to have Patch come in to visit (he later stopped this after opossums came in for the food). We often thought we would lose Patch someday because he would visit someone we didn’t know and they might adopt him (he didn’t wear a collar – it was impossible to keep one on him for more than about 2 hours). Besides investigation other people’s houses, he would also jump into cars if someone left a door open. One of Tanya’s favorite Patch stories describes how she once answered the door for a repairman and as they were talking, she saw Patch checking out the cab of the repairman’s truck from the inside.

Patch was totally at ease with dogs, probably from growing up with Carson (they were best buddies, often sleeping together). But Patch was not against taunting dogs for his own amusement. He liked to prance back and forth on a neighbor’s lower roof, just outside their living room windows, and drive their inside dog crazy. Though he didn’t seem to care one way or the other about Nahla, our new Newfoundland, he did act as if to approve having a dog in the house again when we brought her home last year.

Patch had the loudest purr of any cat I’ve known. In fact he was a purr machine – just about anything would set off his purrs. He’d walk into a room, see me or Tanya and start purring immediately. A small treat, a quick pet, even a look from across a room, all set him purring.

He was also a toucher. If I was to sit down next to him, he’d usually stretch out a paw to touch my arm or leg. He’d often go lay down by Carson and reach over and place a paw on Carson’s leg or foot. When I read a book in bed, he’d lay on my chest, but always reach a paw up to touch me on the upper chest or neck where the bedclothes didn’t cover.

After Sugar and Carson died, Tanya and I brought home Nahla and a new kitten, Tuck. Replacement pets if you will, though they really aren’t. Now with Patch gone, we may get another new cat (it is clear that Tuck misses Patch as well). But there will certainly be no replacing Patch.

The car that hit Patch didn’t even slow down. I feel sorry for such callous, uncaring people. They had to have known they hit something. But I’m not bitter. Patch was 16 ears old and had a great life. He was my good friend, and I miss him dearly.

Goodbye Patch; I hope you have fun with Carson wherever dogs and cats go in the afterlife, and be nice to your sister too.


Happy Holidays!

Harbor ChristmasI haven’t been able to post as much this month as I had wanted. And now Christmas is upon us before I was ready. How come when you are a kid, it takes forever for Christmas to arrive and now that I’m middle-aged (leaning toward advanced-aged) Christmas comes so fast?

I don’t have much to offer you but a photograph. The above photo was taken in Gig Harbor 5 or so years ago. Normally we do not have much snow here during the holidays, and this year is no exception. It is relatively warm out right now and rainy, of course. But when we do have snow, it is so beautiful.

Happy holidays to all the readers of my blog, both casual and dedicated. I wish you all the best this holiday season. Be sure to remember to take some time for yourself and do something fun. (Hopefully, I can follow my own advice!)


In Memory of Gene

Gene SuryanI’m taking a break from my series of posts on the Southwest to talk about a good man,Tanya’s father, Eugene Suryan, Gene passed away from last Monday after a valiant fight against pancreatic cancer. He will be missed and be fondly remembered by his bride of 55 years (and Tanya’s mother), Maxine, as well as his five children, seven grandchildren, and indeed, all who knew him.

Gene grew up in Anacortes, Washington, son of immigrants from Croatia. His father, Little Joe, like so many Croatian men who moved to Washington, was a fisherman. In his youth, Gene occasionally worked on his dad’s boat, and spent a summer working at a salmon cannery in Alaska, but he didn’t catch the fishing gene (sorry Gene, couldn’t resist the pun). He went to Washington State University majoring in business. After a stint in the Army, he became a banker.

He loved mechanical things, especially cars, and particularly American cars. Gene was also the biggest news junkie I ever knew. He subscribed to several weekly news magazine, and I think he wore out his TV remote buttons tuning between the local news stations and CNN.

I’m not much of a car guy – to me, a car is just basic transportation. But I do keep up on the news, though I must admit, when I knew Gene was coming over, I’d bone up on the latest news so we’d always had something to talk about. He loved to discuss the world’s problems and offer suggestions on how to fix them. But sometimes he was stumped, and I will always remember the quizzical look he’d get on his face, slightly grinning and cocking his head sideways when I’d ask him about some particular issue when he didn’t have a good answer. Then he would always say, “that’s a good question Joe!” and laugh.

Gene was also one of the happiest men I’ve ever known, and he was so enthusiastic about everything – be it a glass of wine, a good-looking car, or just coming to visit at our house. Through the years of having Tanya’s parents over, I don’t know how many of Gene’s crushing bear hugs I survived. He always had a smile and was truly happy to met anyone (though the bear hugs he saved for family). He adored our cat, Patch, and Patch likely to sit on his lap. Which is quite funny, because Patch typically only comes up to visitors who don’t like cats or are allergic to them (how Patch knows this, I don’t know, but he does).

As I went through my photo collection looking for a picture of Gene to use with this post, I sadly found I didn’t have very many pictures of him, and even fewer of just him without other people in the shot. Tanya has repeatedly told me to take more family photos, and I have been lazy and not done so, thinking there is always more time. In Gene’s case, I no longer have that time. So let this be a warning to you photographers out there – take those family photos while you can, you never know when the opportunity will no longer be there.

Goodbye Gene. I miss you.


Many Thanks

Wild turkeys

Turkeys in Capital Reef National Park – safe from Thanksgiving dinner

Today is the great American holiday Thanksgiving. Besides giving a day off from work to feast on vast quantities of food and watch football, it is a day for us that celebrate it to give thanks for the many blessings given us over the past year. Today, Tanya and I will have a quiet holiday by ourselves, declining the invitation to travel over the Cascade mountains to visit with my family in Spokane due to a lack of a good car for winter driving (our little SUV is having troubles and the other car needs new tires). This appears to be a good decision, since much snow is forecast for the mountain passes this coming weekend. Besides, without Carson here, who loved the turkey scraps that normally come with Thanksgiving, it seems good to have a quiet time at home.

But life goes on. We brought a small kitten, named Tuck, home a couple of days ago to help keep our older cat, Patch, company. Patch, who is feeling the loss of Carson seemingly as much as Tanya and I, as well as the loss of his sister earlier in the year, has been acting up (as some of our leather dining room chairs can attest to), we presume because of loneliness. We hope getting a kitten was a good idea; we shall see after a few days of slowly introducing the two cats to each other.

Celebrating by ourselves, without turkey-loving company, we have decided against the big, traditional turkey dinner. Tanya, a vegetarian, doesn’t eat turkey (although she has been known to sneak a taste of crisp turkey skin); so it seems a waste to cook a big bird for only the two cats and me. A year ago today, we celebrated Thanksgiving in Madrid with Brooks, having a great meal of paella. So we decided to try paella again for Thanksgiving. We went grocery shopping last night for the requisite fixings. Do you know how hard it is to find fresh clams at 10:00 pm the night before Thanksgiving?

Anyway, I did not intend this post to be a discussion of our Thanksgiving menu, but rather a listing of some of the many things I am thankful for. Here are a few of the things I am thankful for:

  • for you, the many readers of my blog – I’m not sure why you care about my words and photos, but I am grateful that someone does. Many thanks!
  • for Tanya – she is the love of my life, my best friend, and the most wonderful partner anyone could ever ask for.
  • for my son and daughter, Brooks and Janelle, who have grown up to be fine young adults. I’m thankful that they both have good jobs that support them, and that they live close (but not at home with Tanya and I).
  • for pets – I’m thankful for the many years good years of companionship that Carson and Sugar gave us, the continuing years of companionship that Patch is giving us, and (hopefully) the future years of companionship that Tuck will give us.
  • for my many friends and family members who care for me no matter what stupid things I do or how many “help-me” chores I ask them to assist with.
  • for my day job at Robinson Noble – a job I enjoy doing, a job that provides enough to pay the bills as well as support my photography habit (which would have a hard time of supporting itself)
  • for my health – I’m thankful that at being over 50 years old I can still do 30-mile backpacking trips (like I did earlier this year)
  • for living in a part of the country that still have plenty of wilderness and places to do 30-mile backpacking trips; for being close to deserts, mountains, and coastlines
  • for hoodoos and arches and red rocks in general
  • for rainforests, giant trees, and hanging moss
  • for photography – a passion that gives me so much joy
  • for my church, United Church in University Place, a group of people who truly care about everyone no matter their race, sexual orientation, or financial status
  • for the word “thanks” being in Thanksgiving, otherwise many Americans would forget what the holiday is really about
  • for warm beds and frosty mornings and, in particular, warm beds on frosty mornings
  • for decaffeinated coffee for me and caffeinated coffee for everyone else in the Seattle area
  • for good bottles of wine, India pale ales, and scotch and rye whiskeys (not necessarily in that order)
  • for baseball – one of the best games ever invented, and (reluctantly) for my home team, the Seattle Mariners; for spring training, where every team dreams of the World Series (even the Mariners)
  • for working indoor plumbing, particularly after having the big dig in our front yard last summer essential for keeping that plumbing working
  • for day trips and weekends away with Tanya
  • for snow on weekends, and clear streets on work days
  • for the sun rising every morning and the color it brings to the world
  • for the stars at night, particularly when we are out of the city and can see them
  • for my hometown of Tacoma, a city I swore when I was young that I would never live in; I’m so glad I was wrong
  • for travel, in the United States and beyond, in particular our trips to Spain, Greece, Belize, Scotland, New Orleans, and our many trips to the American Southwest
  • for a rib-eye steak on the barbecue (and halloumi for Tanya)
  • for text messaging – otherwise we’d rarely hear from Brooks and Janelle
  • for good music, in particular music by Neko Case, Neil Young, the Shins and the Decemberists
  • for zoom lenses, split-neutral density filters, cable releases, and quick-release plates
  • for rivers, lakes, and oceans
  • for good light, good subjects, and a good sense for composition
  • for eagles and hawks, deer and elk, wolves and bears, and wildlife of all kinds
  • and for the very many other blessings in my life.
Frosty morning

I’m thankful for frosty mornings

Hodoo

I’m thankful for hodoos

Caribbean Bikes

I’m thankful for my trip to Belize

Rise and Shine

I’m thankful for the sunrise every morning

Forest

I’m thankful for rainforests

Young buck

I’m thankful for wildlife of all kinds

Thank you for letting me share my photography with you. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


I miss my Cat

Sugar and Patch

Sugar (on left) and her brother Patch.

Readers of my blog know that Tanya and I have a dog, Carson. But I’m not sure I’ve mentioned we also have two cats. Well only one now because last Sunday we had to put our Sugar down.

Sugar was a very special cat. For one, she was an orange female, which I’m told are fairly rare. Our vet, in fact, said she’d never seen one before. Our other cat, Patch, is Sugar’s brother, and the two were totally different. Patch is very friendly; Sugar very shy. But once she got use to you, she could be very affectionate and loyal.When we first brought the two cats home as kittens, Sugar hid under the furniture for days, while Patch immediately started exploring the house (and begging for food). Patch has a loud, almost aggressive purr; Sugar’s purr was quiet and calming. Sugar was actually my daughter, Janelle’s cat. Janelle, who’s now 22 years old, no longer lives at home, and if she had tried to take Sugar, I doubt Tanya and I would have let her go.

Sugar was a great hunter, and when we lived in the wooded suburbs near Gig Harbor, she’d often bring home live critters of every sort (mice, birds, snakes, frogs, etc.) She loved to have her head scratched and would often hop up on the arm of my chair and rub her head under my hand until I scratched it. She also really liked to use her claws, digging in when she was happy. I don’t know how many sweaters of mine she ruined while I was petting her.

Sugar had been sick for a while, with no clear cause. But even while sick, she was still affectionate and active. Then last week she stopped eating and stopped roaming around the house and yard. The vet thinks it was probably liver cancer. She went downhill fast, but I like to think she had a good 13 years. We had a good 13 years with her.

This blog is my tribute to Sugar – one great cat. I will miss her.


Looking for a Few Good Readers

Space NeedleRegular readers of my blog know I’m preparing an ebook about Seattle photography.The book describes over 80 places in Seattle to take some great photos.

The book is now completely written and has been through one edit. All the photos are inserted (except one, which I still need to take, and hope to do so in the next week or so). And now I’m looking for a few good readers to give me feedback before putting it to press. If you want to be a “beta reader” and tell me what you think, please leave a comment or send me a separate email. I’ll pick several people to send a draft pdf copy of the book to, and those that give me feedback will get an acknowledgement in the book and a final production copy. Here’s what I ask:

1. give honest feedback – what you like, what you don’t like, how can the book can be improved

2. provide a quote (and give me permission to use it) that I can use in marketing the book

3. try to get it done by May 15th

4. and consider writing a review of the book on your own blog (I’d really appreciate it)

So if you are willing to help out, please let me know. I’ll email volunteers next week. Thank you for considering helping.


Photography at the Beach

Low Tide, Beach #4

Clouds over ShuksanThe 44th Annual Ocean Shores Juried Art Show starts tomorrow. I have five images accepted into the show in the Photography Division – those posted here. Regular readers of my blog may recall the five images as I believe I’ve posted all of them before.

The show is open Friday, April 19th from noon to 5 pm; Saturday, April 20th from 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday, April 21st from 10 am to 3 pm. In addition to photography there are fine arts (paintings mostly) and electronic arts divisions. If you are in the area, it’s worth stopping in to see some great art. I’ll be there Sunday afternoon to see the show and pick up my work. Hope to see you there.

Blue Door and Window

Alhambra Evening

Low Tide, Beach #4

City Geometry Lesson


Shameless Plug for Tanya’s Website

Tanya Sorenson BeckerI haven’t written much about Tanya on my blog. She is a communications instructor teaching at Bates Technical College here in Tacoma. However, she is also seminary trained and is the volunteer chaplain at the Oasis Youth Center, also here in Tacoma. Oasis serves LGBT youth in Pierce County. Tanya also occasionally performs weddings and funerals. In that regard, she has a new website which I made for her and uploaded yesterday. I admit to being a bit slow on getting her site up. She wanted it up last November, shortly after the gay-marriage law passed in Washington State. Better late than never!

I am not much of a web designer. For her site, as well as my own, I used a Lightroom plugin from The Turning Gate. Their plugins are relatively easy to use, and I found the one’s I’ve purchased are worth the money. If you are thinking about making your own website, and have Lightroom, you might give them a look.

Tayna’s site is Wed As You Wish. The photos of Tanya on it (like the one here) are ones I have taken. The rest are no-cost, royalty-free photos. I feel somewhat like a hypocrite using these no-cost photos, as I generally believe that the advent of microstock sites is driving prices down for all stock photography, making it harder for full-time professionals to make a living. And though I have a few photos available as microstock, I stopped submitting to microstock sites several years ago. But, microstock is not going to go away, and I didn’t have the time to shoot all the photos myself for her site. Still, I feel like a hypocrite…

Enough confessions. If you get a chance, check out Tanya’s new website, Wed As You Wish, and tell me what you think.


Off Topic – US Presidential Election

I know this is way off topic for my photography blog, however, I do have another persona as a groundwater geologist (in my day job). I work for a company called Robinson Noble, we do environmental consulting and geotechnical engineering. We recently started a company blog, and I wrote a post there concerning the upcoming election. If you are interested on how the two candidates rate on water, environmental, and infrastructure issues (issues important to Robinson Noble and its clients) and science issues in general, you may wish to read my post on Science and the 2012 Election.


Out of the Smoke and into the Fog

Ruby Beach FogSeattle, widely known for its rain, has had 0.03 inches of rain so far this September. Combined with no measurable rain in August, we’ve had one of the driest periods on record. Nor is rain falling much elsewhere in Washington State. All month-long there have been forest fires burning in the mountains and eastern Washington, and the smoke is really messing up the air quality. So when I took a day off to go do some photography earlier this month, I decided against going to the mountains which are full of smoke and instead Tanya, Carson and I headed for the beach. We decided to head for Kalaloch and Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, a 3-hour drive from Tacoma. It’s 156 miles from my house to Kalaloch, and only the last 5 miles is along the ocean. And when making the drive over, it was sunny and the closer to the coast we got, the less smokey the air was. Then, at approximately mile 151 from my house, we entered a fog bank. That’s right, all this sun all over the whole state, and the beaches along the Olympic coast were fogged in. The good news for photography – no boring totally blue skies. The bad news for photography – no great sunset shots either.

We spent the first part of our trip at Ruby Beach, which has some nice sea stacks and a creek on the beach. The fog made for some interesting compositions, and several other photographers also had their tripods out. We walked north on the beach. The fog closed in around us, and it was if we were alone in the world, just the ocean on one side and a wilderness forest on the other. No sounds but the crashing waves. Hunger eventually drove us back to the car and we headed back down the highway to find a viewpoint where we could eat a picnic dinner with a view, or as much of one as the fog would allow.

It was nearing sunset, and the fog bank started to roll off shore such that it wasn’t actually fogging on the beach, but the fog still blocked the sun. Ever optimistic and still hoping for a good sunset, we stopped in at Beach 4 (which is between Kalaloch and Ruby Beach). No luck on the sunset, but as it was shortly after low time, there were tide pools to explore and starfish to photograph.

All in all, it was a good day, and I didn’t have to worry about forest fire smoke ruining my photographs. Given the choice of smoke or fog, I was happy to have the fog.

Foggy Beach

The view where the trail from the parking lot comes out at Ruby Beach. The whole state of Washington is sunny except within a couple hundred meters of the Pacific Ocean.

Forest above Ruby

View of the forest above Ruby Beach

Cedar Creek at Ruby Beach

Mouth of Cedar Creek at Ruby Beach

Beach Cliffs

Fog, cliffs, trees and driftwood at Ruby Beach

Low tide at Beach 4

Low tide at Beach 4 as the fog bank rolls off shore near sunset

Beach 4 Starfish

Beach 4 starfish

Incoming Tide

Incoming tide at Beach 4


1,000 Followers!

Happy Dog

My blog has just surpassed 1,000 followers; now at 1,006 and counting. Thank you!!!

When I started this blog in January 2011, i was unsure if anyone would care. And now, I’m honored and amazed by all of you following my posts. I hope my photography and rambling musings keep you coming back for more. To illustrate this post, I give you Carson, our Newfoundland. He’d plant a big slobbery lick on all of you if he could!


Happy Birthday Janelle!

Janelle at 5

Janelle, 5 years old

My daughter Janelle turns 21 today. I remember the day she was born, 21 years ago in Seattle. There as a big thunderstorm and it even snowed a bit. An appropriate welcome to the world for a girl who has always been her own person – often to the chagrin of her dad when she was growing up. Now, she’s a fine young woman of whom I couldn’t be prouder. Janelle will graduate later this month from University of California at San Diego with a double major in mathematics and econ science. Following graduation, she is planning a 2-month trip to Europe with her boyfriend, before heading to Seattle to start a job with Amazon.

Happy birthday Janelle from your very proud father. Have fun (and stay out of trouble)!

Janelle at 20

Janelle, 20 years old, with her cat, Sugar.