Photo of the Week - December 31, 2013

American Bushtit
on Rhododendron bud
Olympia, WA
December 31, 2013 

How small is a Bushtit? Almost as small as a rhododendron bud!

Photo of the Week - December 23, 2013

Chum Salmon Spawning
Allison Springs
Olympia, WA 
December 23, 2013

Native chum salmon spawn on local streams in November and December. Hundreds of people come to the observation platforms at McLane Creek Nature Trail and Kennedy Creek. to see the salmon and learn from volunteer Salmon Stewards. 

By the end of December the activity has dwindled to a few fish. Carcasses of salmon litter outnumber spawners 10 to 1. But a few mighty fish struggle to complete their journey. The photos you see here were taken at low tide, when the stream was only a few inches deep. The salmon churn through the shallow water for several dozen feet and then rest for an extended time, gathering strength for the next few yards.  

Photo of the Week - December 7, 2013

Cartoonist Jim Woodring
demonstrates his 7 foot pen 'Nibbus Maximus'
Olympia Timberland Library
Olympia, WA
December 7, 2013

The Olympia Timberland Library is the coolest library around. Not only do they have an excellent selection of books, videos, music and reference materials, but they also offer some of the best talks in town. In the last three months, I have attended a presentation on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a ukulele concert, and an evening with Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Timothy Egan, discussing his book, 'Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher'. To cap off this eclectic group of offerings, I attended Cartoonist Jim Woodring's lively and humorous demonstration of his 7 foot pen 'Nibbus Maximus'. 

Jim Woodring creates 'Visionary Art for Adventurous Spirits'; he is best known for the comic adventures of Frank, "a generic cartoon anthropomorphwhose adventures careen wildly from sweet to appalling."

According to legend, Woodring created the giant pen after seeing a large nib in a pen store in London. The proprietor told him that larger nibs were physically impossible. Woodring took it as a challenge and the rest is history.

Woodring fills the pen with ink from a small bucket. The pen has a tendency to drip and there is no super large bottle of whiteout, so errors must be incorporated into the design. Woodring completed a lovely drawing of a gigantic frog arm in about a half hour.

At the end of the event, Woodring gave the audience the chance to try out the giant pen. Several local comic artists gave it a whirl, much to the delight of the audience.

Did I mention that we have the coolest library around? Thanks to Timberland Library staff for a wonderful event.

Photo of the Week - November 25, 2013

Early Morning Frost
November 25, 2013

Photo of the Week - November 24, 2013
Pileated Woodpeckers
in my backyard
Dryocopus pileatus

Olympia, WA
November 24, 2013

 Sometimes it is worth doing your chores! As I stood at the kitchen window this afternoon washing the dishes I was taken aback to see two male Pileated Woodpeckers swoop into my backyard and land on a maple tree about ten feet from where I was standing! The two birds poked at the bark and moss, dislodging morsels. As they disappeared above the roof line I moved to another window to get a better view. A quick trip to get the camera; I made these images of them on a tree about 20 feet away. Shortly afterwards, they disappeared into the woods as quickly as they arrived.

What a treat!

Photo of the Week - November 22, 2013

Double-crested Cormorant in flight
Phalacrocorax auritus
Budd Inlet
Olympia, WA
November 22, 2013

There are many joys to living in the Puget Sound region. On this beautiful Fall day, I am reminded of the special relationship we have with the natural environment which surrounds and envelopes us. I spent the morning at the furthest end of North Point, which is the furthest tip of land emerging from downtown Olympia into Budd Inlet. There, I was privileged to see Buffleheads, Hooded mergansers, gulls and a Belted Kingfisher, as well as other birds. I also had a front row seat to the comings and goings of the cormorants.

In Olympia, we see several species of cormorant. Most common are the Double-crested cormorants with their prehistoric yellow bills and glowing green eyes. Their glossy backs are iridescent in the sunlight. Cormorants fly close to the water, nearly skimming the surface. They dive like ducks to feed on fish from the bay.

In addition to their activities of flight and feeding, cormorants also stand watch over the business of the Port. Pairs of birds stood patiently on pilings this morning, watching as workers loaded logs on a large ship destined for Asia. On this day, the hum of nature and the hum of industry merged into a single melody of life on Puget Sound.

Photo of the Week - November 6, 2013

Fall Tree Scape
Woodland Park
Seattle, WA
November 6, 2013

Legacy. Stewardship.
Over 100 years ago, the people of Seattle decided they needed parks for the people; open spaces in an increasingly urban environment. Places for recreation. At the time the city's population was 80,671.

According to the Seattle Parks Department web site

"Guy Phinney, who built the first industry on Lake Washington, invested $40,000 in 1889 to develop his residence estate, "Woodland Park". Woodland Park was to have a small zoo near his residence in the southwest portion of the park, a bandstand and paths through the woods to Green Lake (where Phinney built a bathing beach and a boathouse), picnic grounds, and two ballfields. Phinney then built a trolley line from the southwest corner to the Fremont line to Seattle.

In 1900 the City Council bought the park from the estate of Mr. Phinney, in spite of vigorous protests over the price - $100,000 - and complaints that it was "too far out of town"! Another trolley line had been built to connect Seattle with the east and north side of Green Lake, and by 1904 it was extended on around the lake and through Woodland Park on a trestle.
In 1903/1910 the Olmsted Bros. included the development of Woodland Park in their comprehensive parks plan "

Today, Lower Woodland Park is one of several expansive natural areas in the core of urban Seattle. Walkers, dog owners, runners and disc golfers all take a break from fast paced modern life, thanks to the legacy and foresight of Seattle's forefathers.

Photo of the Week - October 23, 2013

Fall Afternoon at Washington Park Arboretum
Seattle, WA

October 23, 2013

Photo of the Week - October 7, 2013

Sunset on the Columbia River
Rocky Reach Dam

Near Wenatchee, WA
October 7, 2013

Photo of the Week - September 26, 2013

Art is where you find it

Coca-Cola Delivery Truck
September 26, 2013

Photo of the Week - September 19, 2013

Spider in Web at Night
September 19, 2013
I like to tell my students that photography is all about compromise. You get up to shoot the sunrise and it is foggy. You want lots of depth of field on your flowers and the wind is blowing. You have great photographic plans and you leave the camera's battery on the charger at home.
The photo you see above is one of those photos that happens when you are planning on something else. As the sun was setting on September 19, the sky was clear and Mount Rainier was visible from Olympia. I rushed home, grabbed my camera and drove up to Tumwater Hill to watch the sun set and the full moon rise. My plan was perfect. Except that the moon rose about 30 degrees to the left of Mount Rainier from my vantage point! No way I could get them in the same shot! So, we enjoyed the full moon rising instead of taking pictures.
As we were getting ready to leave, my partner in crime pointed out the spider and suggested I frame it as a silhouette with the full moon. Good idea, except I was too lazy to go back to the car to get the lens that would make it happen. After taking several shots with my point and shoot that made the spider and moon the same size, I decided to see what I could do with a little flash. A couple of test shots later and voila - the photo you see above.  

Photo of the Week - September 7, 2013

Early Season Mushroom Success
Somewhere in Washington State
September 7, 2013
Secure. Undisclosed. Secret.
Words that are likely to conjure up spies and nefarious plots.
In the fall, they are just as likely to refer to mushrooms.
After a very poor season in 2012, it looks like it could be a banner year for fall mushrooms, such as Chanterelles. Heavy rains followed by several days of dry spells have created the perfect storm for fungi. Confidential reports from other like-minded hunters indicate that the mushrooms are out there for the picking.
Of course, that doesn't mean I'll tell you where I picked mine.

Fall 2013 Classes

Both classes meet at:
Bellevue College North Campus
14673 NE 29th Place
Bellevue, WA 98007

Thursdays - September 26, 2013 - November 7, 2013

Practice and sharpen your photography skills. Problem solve and practice topics such as white balance, capturing time and motion, color modes, night photography, and depth of field. Classroom sessions will be spent discussing example photographs and reviewing student work. Weekly homework assignments require at least 2 hours practice between sessions. Digital camera with aperture, shutter speed and manual exposure controls required; advanced compact cameras such as Canon G-series and Panasonic Lumix acceptable.

Mondays - November 18, 2013 - December 9, 2013

Get the photos you want by learning the features and controls of your digital camera. Choosing which buttons can be difficult. In this class, we will explore the controls, dials and buttons of both digital SLR and point and shoot cameras. Tell stories, capture memories, and enjoy taking pictures with your camera. Topics include: exposure and scene modes, aperture and depth of field, shutter speed, auto and fill flash, histograms and exposure compensation, white balance and other in-camera overrides. Weekly homework assignments will reinforce our classroom instruction. Bring your camera and instruction manual.

Photo of the Week - August 24, 2013

Sky reflected on calm waters
Black River
Littlerock, WA
August 24, 2013

Photo of the Week - August 4, 2013

Marine Mammal Bones
Cape Alava
Olympic National Park
August 4, 2013
Washingtonians are fortunate to have many wild and scenic places to visit including Mount Rainier and North Cascades National Park. Some of the most remote and wild places in our state are found along the Pacific beaches of Olympic National Park. Cape Alava is one of those places. Although it is an easy 3 mile hike from the parking lot at Lake Ozette, Cape Alava is home to a vast array of mammals, birds and fish. The sea stacks just off shore provide vital rearing grounds for marine birds, as well as seals and sea lions.
While walking on the beach just south of Cape Alava's camping area, we encountered the skeletal remains of a large marine mammal. It was probably a small whale, judging by the size of its skull. Most of the flesh was gone, leaving the beautiful spine, reminiscent of a Henry Moore sculpture.
Coming upon the remains of animal, one can't help but feeling a bit sad for its death. And yet, there is a dignity and beauty in what remains.

Photo of the Week - July 27, 2013

Travelers at the International Arrivals
Baggage Claim
Seattle Tacoma International Airport
Seattle, WA
July 27, 2013
For many of us, a trip to the airport means either excitement or dread at the prospect of security lines, overhead carry-on bins and a long flight to somewhere exotic. Recently, a group of friends and I made SeaTac Airport our destination for the day. After a wonderful breakfast at Geraldine's Counter in Columbia City, we grabbed the Sound Transit Link Light Rail and rode the train in comfort to the airport.
Not surprisingly, the airport is a great launching pad for an adventure. There is lots of public art, interesting architecture, people on the go and food to grab along the way. My friends and I explored SeaTac from top to bottom; from the chapel on the second floor to baggage claim on the ground floor. I think several airplane passengers thought us odd to be so enthralled with the place - I like to think we were awed by the sights in our own backyard.
Check out more photos from our adventure here

Photo of the Week - July 24, 2013

Barstools, Sunlight and Reflections
Fourth Avenue Tavern
Olympia, WA
July 24, 2013

Photo of the Week - July 22, 2013

Marine Creature Monday
Handling a Sea Star

Boston Harbor Marina
Olympia, WA
July 22, 2013

Stream Team is a program coordinated by the communities of Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey and Thurston County, with funding from storm and surface water utilities. Stream Team provides citizens the opportunity to learn about the environment, attend workshops and participate in restoration and watershed management projects.

One of the most popular event series Stream Team sponsors is Marine Creature Mondays, which are held at Boston Harbor Marina. Scuba divers collect underwater creatures and bring them up onto the dock, where marine biologists explain and explore the critters. Hands-on exploration of sea stars and other specimens is encouraged.

Photo of the Week - July 12, 2013

Adult Violet-green swallow in flight; about to feed begging juvenile
Lakewood, WA
July 12, 2013

Swallows are a great summertime pleasure in our part of the country. Arriving in late spring, they are harbingers of warm days and pleasant outdoor evenings. As the sun gets low in the sky you can see various species of swallows skimming the surface of local ponds on the hunt for flying insects.

Violet-green swallows are summer residents in American West. Although they resemble Tree swallows with their dark backs and white underbellies, these swallows shine with an iridescent green when they catch the light just right.

After juvenile Violet-green swallows leave the nest (23-24 days) both parents continue to feed them. You can see the youngsters perched on high branches and snags, frantically beating their wings to signal their parents of their seemingly endless hunger. The actual transfer of freshly caught insect to hungry juvenile takes less than a second of action-packed aerial acrobatics.

Photo of the Week - July 2, 2013

Swallowtail Butterfly
Bellevue Botanical Garden

Bellevue, WA
July 2, 2013
The Bellevue Botanical Garden has roots dating back to 1984, when the Shorts Family donated their family home and gardens to the City of Bellevue as a public park. One of the first parts of the park to be developed was the Perennial Border created by the Northwest Perennial Alliance.
For the past several decades, dedicated volunteers have developed and maintained the wonderful beds and beautiful plants of the Perennial Garden. The beds are carefully planned for their color, texture and smell. The perennial garden gradually shifts throughout the year, so there is almost always something in bloom. In recent years, the perennial garden was renovated, expanded and became more accessible to all visitors.
Bellevue Botanical Garden website
Be sure to check out the collections search - nearly every plant in every part of the garden is documented - many photographs included 

Photo of the Week - June 30, 2013

Leaves in a Stream
Seattle Japanese Garden

Washington Park Arboretum
Seattle, WA
June 30, 2013

Photo of the Week - June 23, 2013

Garfield Park Conservatory
Fern Room

Chicago, IL
June 23, 2013
If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Chicago area, be sure to check out the Garfield Park Conservatory. The massive glass atriums which comprise most of the conservatory's 4.5 acres were constructed between 1906 and 1907. Designed by Prairie Landscape Architect Jens Jensen, the glass galleries are amazing to see. One large gallery is devoted to hundreds of types of palms, while another features the region's most varied collection of cacti and arid plants.
For my money, the fern room steals the show. Jens Jensen designed the room to mimic what he imagined Illinois might have looked like in the age of the dinosaurs. The lush ferns and ever present water remind one of the deepest jungle. Most remarkable is the sound created by the waterfall at the far end of the fern room. Jensen had the mason lay and re-lay the stones to get just the right symphony of sounds.
"After Jensen designed a prairie-like waterfall in Chicago's enormous Garfield Park Conservatory, he complained to the workman who'd built it that it sounded like a fast-flowing mountain cascade.
The workman rebuilt the waterfall several times, but Jensen still was displeased. Only after he suggested that the workman listen to Felix Mendelssohn's "Spring Song" did the workman build the waterfall correctly--so its water, as Jensen said, "tinkled gently from ledge to ledge, as it should in a prairie country." (Chicago Tribune)
Be sure to pan several hours at the Conservatory - you'll want to explore every nook and cranny.

Photo of the Week - June 21, 2013

Optimo Hat Shop Window
Monadnock Building

Chicago, IL
June 21, 2013

Photo of the Week - June 21, 2013

Renoir's model watches as Macy's window gets dressed

The Loop
Chicago, IL
June 21, 2013

Photo of the Week - June 20, 2013

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe
Stained Glass Window
Riverside Public Library
Riverside, IL
June 20, 2013

One of the marvels of travel is the 'unexpected discovery'. Often, while on a journey to something important and worthwhile, we make a wrong turn and end up in the most pleasant of places. Such is the case of the woodland walk that turned into an hour at the Library.

Riverside, IL has the distinction of being one of the world's first planned suburbs. Famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead designed the community in 1869, incorporating winding streets that follow the sinuous curves of the Des Plaines River. The community features numerous parks, as well as a central square.

Riverside Public Library was dedicated in 1931. It was designed by Connor and O'Connor in a stone Tudor style with exposed beams and stained glass throughout. Upon entering the library, one immediately feels the welcoming warmth of the place. Art is visible throughout. Intimate seating areas dot the corners of the building, including a fireplace nook for reading on a cold winter's day.

Among the many intriguing touches throughout the building are the various pressed tin figures of humans and animals which are sandwiched in window frames. Like the stained glass windows which illustrate Brothers Grimm and other Fairy tales, the tin figures seem to tell stories.

A fisherman casting in the Des Plaines River with the Riverside Public Library in the background at the left.

Article on Olmstead, Riverside and planned community

Photo of the Week - June 3, 2013

Purple Martins at nesting boxes
Boston Harbor Marina
Olympia, WA
June 3, 2013

Photo of the Week - June 3, 2013

Rufous Hummingbird feeding on Red Hot Poker Plant
Boston Harbor Marina
Olympia, WA
June 3, 2013

Photo of the Week - April 26, 2013

Grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplanes awaiting approval to fly
Paine Field
Everett, WA
April 26, 2013

On May 20, 2013, United Airlines resumed flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplane. It was the first flight by a domestic carrier since the planes were grounded by the FAA on January 16, 2013. The planes were not allowed to fly while overheating problems with lithium ion batteries were being resolved.

Boeing has orders for more than 800 Dreamliners waiting to be filled, at a retail cost of $206.8 million per plane. As of April 2013, Boeing has delivered 50 planes to eight airlines; only one has been delivered in 2013.

While the 787 was grounded, Boeing continued to roll out planes from its Everett, Washington factory. Unable to fly the planes, Boeing was forced to park the planes anywhere they were able to find space at the Paine Field facility – unused runways, around the control tower and near large hangars.

On April 26, I was given the opportunity to fly over Paine Field. The sight was fantastic; everywhere you looked there were planes parked. My pilot, Ted, counted at least 41 Dreamliners parked on that day. That represents nearly $8.5 billion at retail cost.

What was nearly as impressive as the sheer number of planes was the number of airlines represented – LOT Polish Airlines, Mongolian Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Air India, Thomson Airways, Hainan Airlines, Qatar Airlines and others.

Thank you to Ted Enderlein for expertly piloting this adventure (and for taking off the door of the plane so I could photographic unrestricted!) And, thanks to Doug Norberg, who masterminded the plot to photograph this (hopefully) once in a lifetime scene.

Check out additional photos of the planes at Paine Field here.

Photo of the Week - April 15, 2013

Spiral Notebook in Sunlight
April 15, 2013

Find Beauty in Simple Things

Photo of the Week - April 12, 2013

Broadleaf shooting star
Dodecatheon hendersonii

Scatter Creek Wildlife Area
Rochester, WA
April 12, 2013

Western Washington is known for its magnificent forests, Puget Sound and the mountain ranges that surround it. Western Washington is also home to a unique ecosystem known as South Puget Sound Prairie. As great sheets of ice receded at the end of the last ice age, they left behind a rocky, undulating landscape of oak forest and grassland. Prior to settlement, much of the area south of Olympia was prairie. Today, less than 3% of the grasslands remain. This land supports a wide variety of native plants and animals.

April and May are special months on the South Puget Sound Prairie. An abundance of wildflowers bloom in the meadows. Violets, strawberries and shooting star begin the show, followed by camas, yarrow, and golden paintbrush. Miner's lettuce, western buttercup and columbine are among the many species seen annually. In addition, the prairies support threatened and endangered species, including Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, Streaked horned lark and Mazama pocket gopher.

May 11, 2013 is the 18th annual Prairie Appreciation Day. On this day, Thurston County will open up its Glacial Heritage Preserve to the public. Events will also be held at Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve. It is well worth visiting this unique ecosystem while the prairie is in bloom.

Directions and information about Scatter Creek Wildlife Area - Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Washington Native Plant Society plant list for Scatter Creek, click here
Prairie Appreciation Day - May 11, 2013 - website
Nature Conservancy fact sheet

Photo of the Week - April 2, 2013

1930s Hupmobile
parked in downtown Olympia, WA

April 2, 2013

To learn more about the Hupp Motor Company, click here

Photo of the Week - March 5, 2013

Red-tailed Hawk overlooking Interstate 5
Near Mercer Street
Seattle, WA

March 5, 2013

Birds are creatures of habit, just like you and me. They have territories where they live and hunt. Red-tailed Hawks are a common sight on lamp posts and trees adjacent to highways all over the United States; they are drawn to the good lighting, easy perches, and abundant rodents in the medians. Even so, most of us probably think of Red-tailed Hawks as predators of suburban and rural areas.

Recently, I noticed a hawk perched above Interstate 5 near Denny Way in Seattle. It was on a lamp post. I was a bit surprised because there was no grass or vegetation for wildlife in the immediate area. A few days later, a saw it again, about 1/4 mile north of Denny. I made a mental note to check again; over the course of a month, I spotted the hawk several more times.

Finally, one day I had my camera with me. With the help of a band of harassing crows, I soon found the hawk, perched in a tree in the median between the north and southbound lanes of I-5 near Mercer Street. From the safety of my driver's seat photoblind, I was able to capture several shots before the hawk turned and stared me down. With the tenacity earned from minding a perch with 100,000 cars passing everyday, she quickly indicated to me that it was time to go!

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