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Friday, October 30, 2015

Luck or diligence?

My friend Sonia recently wrote: "I love your photos. How lucky (or is it diligent?) you are to find such subjects." I've been pondering Sonia's compliments the last few days. Then, this morning I looked out the window to see a thick blanket of fog covering the neighborhood. What to do? I had several options: get in the car and drive to the river where the fog is usually thicker to capture the city's  bridges; walk to nearby Laurelhurst park; or simply stay snuggled in my warm bed? I chose the middle option and jumped out of bed, got dressed, and grabbed my camera - not even stopping for a cup of coffee. Maybe that's diligence?

I quickly discovered another element: experimentation. I noticed the interesting effects of car's headlights shining through the fog and tried to remember techniques I learned in class to capture movement. I experimented with the camera's controls, adjusting aperture and shutter speed to achieve effects such as this.

That also took patience! I decided I wanted a pretty "frame" for my image. So I found an angle and background that I liked and then waited for someone or something to enter my canvas. One thing I've learned is that a static landscape immediately becomes more interesting with a person or an animal to give it movement and dramatic tension.

Photography is also about paying attention: learning to notice small things such as spiders' webs or droplets of dew.

And finally, there is the element of luck! You've seen these photos before, but I treasure them because I got lucky and caught something unexpected.

A cat on a leash?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Happy Birthday to my amazing mother

Today is my mother's 84th birthday. She has spent 66 years mothering, grand mothering, and great-grand mothering. She has changed tens of thousands of diapers, cooked thousands of meals, kissed away innumerable tears, and said millions of prayers trying to keep her family safe.

She was married at 17, a mother at 18, a grandmother at 40, and a great-grandmother by the time she was 64. She now has 15 great-grandchildren and yet she still drives, still babysits, and still cooks birthday dinners for her large family.

She has spent her life devoted to others.  But what about your needs, your wishes, your dreams? I asked her recently. Did you ever regret not going to college? Don't you regret the lack of freedom since you are always taking care of others? The last few months have been difficult. She's been fine, but she has spent many hours worrying about her other adult children who have gone through health and life crises of their own.  I sometimes feel guilty because I am healthy, happy, and fortunate to have lived my dreams.  I am free to travel, to write, and to indulge in my photography. I am also blessed with two sons who have found love and are enjoying successful careers.

I can't take away my mother's worries.  I can only be grateful for the life that I have and to spare her from worrying about me.

Happy Birthday Mom. I admire your courage. You are an inspiration to all of us.
Mom on her 80th birthday

Monday, September 28, 2015


I love my Toyota Highlander. It has 150,150 miles and has transported me on numerous adventures throughout the western United States. It has been fabulously reliable -- until this weekend.

I took it in for an oil change last week and the mechanic noted that the "battery was a little weak" and that I might need to replace the battery ... eventually. However, the mechanic failed to mention what might happen if the battery light came on. So, when the battery light came on this weekend I made a mental note to call the dealer as soon as they opened on Monday and I didn't think too much more about it.

Sunday evening I decided to go to Pittock Mansion, one of Portland's tourist attractions and a favorite of photographers because of its location overlooking the city. Clear weather in Portland coupled with a convenient viewing time should have made for perfect conditions to photograph the lunar eclipse. I arrived early and was able to get a perfect viewing spot in the front row.

I wasn't the only photographer hoping for a shot, and, as usual, my equipment paled in comparison with some of my neighbors . . .

We settled down to wait for the moon to rise but were disappointed when the rising moon was obscured in the haze. It wasn't until later, when the moon was already higher in the sky that we could get some better shots.

The night was getting colder so I decided to leave at 8pm to beat the traffic. When I started the car, I was alarmed to see several dashboard warning lights flashing on and off. Uh oh. But the car started OK and seemed to run alright. I waited in the snarled traffic creeping down the one lane road, listening to an interesting program on the radio. And then the radio quit working. Uh oh. As I drove east through downtown Portland the car started losing power and felt like it was going to stall. A few blocks from the Burnside Bridge I began to worry that the car might stop dead on the drawbridge which spans the Willamette River. Uh oh. I pulled off into a side street and parked the car. But before shutting off the engine, I called my brother Phil in Colorado. Phil is a wizard regarding all things automotive. He carefully listened to the symptoms and then patiently explained what was probably wrong with my car. He also confirmed my decision to leave the car before venturing over the bridge.

Fortunately, even though it was a Sunday night, I didn't have to wait long for the #20 bus which dropped me off right around the corner from my home.

Hmm, I wonder if it's too late to join AAA (American Automobile Association)?!  I checked the website and enrolled online and then went to bed planning to get up early before the parking meter police had a chance to ticket my car.

This morning I woke up early, had breakfast, and took the bus back downtown to find my car. Once there, I picked up the phone and called AAA, armed with my brand-new membership number. After confirming my membership and answering a few diagnostic questions concerning the condition of the car, I was relieved when the agent said "We'll dispatch a Road Assistance truck right away." Whew.

I then spent the next hour nervously watching several homeless people camped just a few feet away from my car. Some of their bicycles looked awfully new . . . .

Finally, my rescuer arrived in his shiny orange truck. After a couple of futile attempts to jumpstart the battery, he maneuvered into position, installed extra wheels for the rear axle (you can't shift the Toyota into neutral unless the engine is running and AWD vehicles make the process even more complicated . . .) so, I got to ride along while my car got its first (and hopefully last) tow.

 Yep. The dealer just called and told me it would take 24 hrs and $492 to replace the alternator. Next time I won't wait if I see that battery light!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

September 7th

I spent September 7th sorting, packing and removing the last of my belongings from my former home in Boulder where I lived until my divorce in 2008.

As I sorted through the boxes, I came across souvenirs from September 7, 1968:

Monday, August 31, 2015

Solo hiking

"Be sure and send me a text when you get back to your car so that I'll know you're safe," Robin reminded me as I set off on yet another solo hike. I often hike alone, or take solo road trips in search of photos or mushrooms. However,  95% of the time these solo excursions are outside of cell phone coverage so I stick to well-marked trails, and always carry plenty of water, extra food, first aid kit, GPS, fire-starter materials, Leatherman multitool, space blanket, and whistle. I like to be prepared. And self-sufficient. But it is nice to know that someone cares, that someone will notice if I don't return as expected.

I recently took a spur of the moment road trip - and drove west into the mountains with no set itinerary, no reservations; au pif* (*au pif is a French expression for 'following my nose'). I ended up in the mountains near Aspen, Colorado. I lucked out and got the last campsite where I set up my tent on the soaking wet ground.

After my picnic dinner I was careful to store my food in the bear-proof container near the campsite.
The following morning I got up early and drove to Maroon Bells Lake to get some photos
And I was thrilled to see a bear on the way back to my campsite!
 Don't worry! I was in my car and black bears are far more afraid of us than we are of them! The cyclists were somewhat intimidated . . . . but the bear ambled back into the forest in search of berries shortly after I took this photo. And the cyclists continued their ride.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Traveling with Eric

My son Eric is here in Colorado for a short visit. He has been living in Hong Kong for the last few years and I don't get to see him very often - so I jumped at the chance to accompany him to Taos to visit with friends Bob and Martha who are Eric's publishers.

The trip from Boulder to Taos takes us through some beautiful, wild, and remote areas of Colorado. The shot below was taken on Poncha Pass at the northern end of the vast San Luis Valley. The San Luis Valley covers approximately 8,000 square miles (21,000 km2) and sits at an average elevation of 7,664 feet (2,336 m) above sea level.

The valley is filled with grass, rabbits, coyotes, elk, pronghorn antelopes and very few people. I was born in a small town in the southern corner of this valley, so each time I come back here it is like coming home for me.

And every moment that I spend with Eric is heaven.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Nature's resiliency?

I took a hike this week on one of my favorite trails in the mountains west of Boulder. The region has seen above average rainfall during the last two months and I'd heard that it's an exceptional year for wildflowers. Furthermore, mushrooms have been reported earlier in the season than usual - thanks to the moisture.

I was not disappointed.

I even found a few mushrooms hiding among the flowers.
I felt exhilarated by the resiliency of nature: the ability of rain to restore the potential of the flower seeds and mushrooms spores lying dormant in the soil, just waiting for the right combination of temperature and precipitation to burst into bloom. The rivers and streams too are running higher than usual, with flowers adorning their banks.
All felt right in the world.

Until I reached the end of the trail and found that the glacier for which the trail is named has almost completely melted away. Hiking to the end of this trail used to involve crossing a slippery ice field - of which very little remains. And the river used to flow out from under a huge ice shelf. No longer.

The glacier used to cover the entire rocky area
Finally, I was dismayed to find the glacier lake is 40 percent smaller and 10 feet lower than it was just one year ago. A reminder of the short term benefits of rainfall, but the long term effects of the warming of the planet.
Most of these rocks were submerged just one year ago.