Stories

Stories and pictures about our travels, our photography and the outdoors.

 

A Double-edged Sword

Landscape photography is a double-edged sword.  When we review our photographs after a trip we are always disappointed.  We remember how the water was so much bluer, the rocks so much grainier, the expanses so much larger, the calving glacier so much taller, so much…

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Towers of Beauty

You could certainly start a lively debate asking: “Where is the most beautiful place in the world?”  There are a multitude of viable choices, with personal taste thrown in to make it a useless subjective debate.  But, I could make a pretty strong case for Torres (towers) del Paine National Park, Chile. 

Our guide was nearly overcome with emotion when the towers first came into view around a ridge of the Andes, saying she had never seen it so stunningly clear.  As we stopped and looked at its splendor, several Andean Condors circled lazily, then chased a Black-chested Buzzard Eagle away, mere feet above our heads.  One of those moments. 

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Flavor of Chile

As you can tell from our photos we recently traveled to Chile. The country has many spectacular sights and a ton of landscape diversity. Our trip took us to the Atacama desert in the north, central Chile (Santiago and Valparaiso), Patagonia in the south, and Easter Island (Rapa Nui) out in the Pacific. We put together a short video of our travels to try and share some of our experience in this beautiful country.  Hope you enjoy the video.. Boyd

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Hope you saw our favorites of 2016. We have deleted that page to make room for our new "Chile" page. We recently returned from touring Chile. It is a vast (but narrow) country with incredible diversity. And incredible photo opportunities. We have some images from the trip that we hope you will enjoy. So the favorites page had to go. Many of those photos live on in one of the other pages (landscape, fauna, flora, moments, monochromatic). But, there wasn't room for all of them. So if you are looking for your favorite from 2016 and don't see it on the site, shoot us a message (form available on the "Talk with us" page) and we will put it back up. But, we hope you check out our "Chile" page too. And come back frequently as we will be adding new stories here on the blog over the coming weeks.

2016 Favorites

In case you didn't notice, we have added a page of our favorites from 2016. There are 10 color and 10 monochrome images. So just click above, on the title bar,  where it says "2016 Favorites". And hopefully, you saw the three episodes of our 2016 retrospective (below in the blog). These three video episodes have a different perspective.  They tell the history of our year photographically. The gallery page 2016 Favorites displays our 20 individual favorites. Did I mention you can click on the link above? Did i mention they are our favorites?

One of our 10 favorite color images from 2016.

And one of our 10 favorite monochrome images from 2016.

Summer and Fall 2016

Episode 3. The concluding episode of our 2016 retrospective. Yes summer and fall wrapped into 4 minutes and 10 seconds. You know you don't have to be anywhere in the next 10 minutes.  Heck, you can watch it twice!  Enjoy!

Spring 2016

And now for Episode 2, the 2016 retrospective continues with photography from our spring adventures. As usual this is best viewed on a large monitor at 1080p. But it works on a mobile device too. Don't forget to watch Episode 1, Winter 2016 too. We hope you enjoy Spring 2016.

Texture of Time

Geologists classify rock into igneous (basically volcanic), sedimentary (rock broken into small pieces and turned back into rock), and metamorphic (igneous or sedimentary rock changed by pressure and heat). We aren't geologists and we can't always differentiate rock into the three types. But we do love the different textures. Especially when we think about the age of some rocks.

While at the Oregon Coast recently, the texture of the rocks caught our eyes. Some places rough, some places fine. All of the textures constantly changing and evolving, facilitated by the movement of water and the grinding of one piece of rock against another. Just imagine the journey of a single rock. Out of the center of the earth, ground down to sand, buried under miles of other layers of sand and mud, then lifted up above the waves and exposed to the relentless force of wind and rain, only to be buried again, maybe heated, melted, squeezed by pressures of unfathomable force. When you think about them like that , there's no such thing as just another rock. No wonder the textures are so fascinating, they are the lines of age on the face of the planet.

Fern Canyon

Can we all just chill for two minutes? Breathe in. Breathe out. Two minutes. Maybe this will help.

Coastal Conundrum

Sometimes I am not sure where I want to go with our art. Should I stay literal and documentary; keep subjects super sharp and full of detail? Or should I take a more impressionistic approach: more painterly maybe with softer lines, muted colors maybe more dreamy? "Dreamy?" "Whaaat?" "Are you going all artsy-fartsy?" I hear a little voice somewhere in my head say. The same little voice that purrs over a well-crafted spreadsheet with cool graphs, built-in macros, statistical tests. The little voice that was fed most days at the old paying job.

Along the Coast Highway

But then the other little voice speaks up. "Hey, its me. The starving Biafran in the other part of your brain. Come on dude, it's ART."

"Boyd, you are doing photography. Come on. This is the craft of Ansel. You aren't Monet or Kratter. What are you thinking?" "Remember how much you liked that super sharp, detailed image of the canyons outside Moab?" the bigger voice says. As the memory of that frame bounces around my skull this voice gathers strength and momentum.

Clearing Storm over the Colorado River outside Moab, Utah.

But the second, more gentle voice isn't finished. "Remember the smell of the beach? The feel of sand underfoot? You love that." The little voice has a point. "And the mist and fog and the muted sound and the way the waves mesmerize" he continues. I think he has a point. Mr. Detail retreats. But I know he will be back. And the third part, the referee part, will have to wrestle with the conundrum and have to make a choice between voices again.

On the edge of a storm

Kelp lines and rocks

Kelp lines and rocks

Reclining rock

 

 

All the images in this story are lightboxed, click on them and they will expand to a larger size. This effect is really nice on a larger monitor. Most images also have a title that is viewable when the cursor hovers over the image.

At the dock

This is the first of what we hope are several stories that have their origin on the Northern California and southern Oregon coast.

When someone says the word dock what comes to mind? The tray at the bottom of your computer screen? The place where the accused stands in an English courtroom? Or maybe the verb used to indicate securing a vessel. In this case we refer to the place where boats tie up, deliver their catch, and prepare for the next trip. Along the southern Oregon coast there are two species that most of us think of when it comes to seafood from this coast: salmon and dungeness crab. So guess what we saw when we were at the dock.

Chillin'

Deceitful Jetty. It only looks peaceful at the mouth of the Rogue River.

Maxx lift. Port Orford, Oregon

187 times 100

Landing table

Double shot

Lines and buoys

Wet 187

Pot knot

Buoy in a pot

Fleet Week San Francisco 2016

Air show, ships, and a beautiful San Francisco Fall day.

The Breitling Jet Team turns on Alcatraz Island during Fleet Week San Francisco 2016

A friend told us months ago about a special way to see an airshow.  "From the deck of the WWII Liberty ship USS Jeremiah O'Brien out in San Francisco bay, you'll have a great view" she said. Of course we would have to book in advance, gamble on the weather, and take whatever angles were presented to us. But cameras in hand we arrived on a beautiful, clear and warm fall morning.  Soon we were on deck and the ship departed for a leisurely cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge.

The tug Taurus sheperds the USS Jeremiah O'Brien under the Golden Gate Bridge.

After watching the Bridge and the ships and sailboats, we toured the ship including the engine room. This was an up close view of pumping connecting rods, turning shafts, steam heat, and a symphony of mechanical sounds. I only wish I had brought a flash and had more time. It was a fascinating place.

Meanwhile after the tour the ship steadied upon the location we would maintain until after the air show was complete. And cameras in hand we enjoyed several hours of humans doing things even birds only dream of.

 

Because we were at the east end of the flight line, the jets would often pass very close to where we were. Very close. As in count the access panels on the bottom of the aircraft close.

And then there were the Blue Angels. Six F/A-18s bringing the sound of power to the bay with their close precision, high speed acrobatics.

And of course we had to try and capture the feeling of the day in our artwork:

It was a great day to be on the Bay

Alien anomaly

We were out this week (last week of July 2016) in and around the Ruby Mountains of Nevada. It was warm, no, it was hot. Can't sleep hot. We tried to get some pictures of the Milky Way over the marshes of Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge but the weather wasn't cooperating. Clouds and haze were were making it hard to see the Milky Way. Suddenly, a very bright light appeared in the west moving toward the east along the southern horizon. It looked like very bright airplane landing lights, but there was no sound. Then an exhaust plume began to form behind the light. Within a minute the light became a long trail and started to break-up into smaller pieces. But still the light was bright enough to light the clouds and throw shadows on the ground. Eventually the light disappeared over the southeastern horizon.

Fortunately, the cameras were on the tripods, the remote cable releases in our hands and we were able to get some photos of this celestial event. We put together a video of the approximately two and a half minute event. Hope you enjoy it.

Lower and slower

The oldest form of controlled human flight is the hot air balloon. (Most boys have experienced uncontrolled flight by the age of 4 but that is another story.) The French first made balloon flight work in the 1700s. Since then the principle hasn't really changed. Fill a bag with hot air and attach it to a basket. Add people to the basket and use the hot air and the wind to blow you somewhere else. Of course nothing is really that simple, but it is sure simpler than some other forms of flight. The perspective is also different than most other forms of flight. The view is lower, and slower, and vibration free. Even the sound is different - the sound of the burners igniting and pushing hot air up into the bag, then quiet except the sounds from the ground below you. Quiet is not generally associated with other forms of flight. Even sailplanes have a constant sound of air flow.

This lower and slower and quieter form of flight fits nicely with how I like to do photography. I like slower and quieter. And lower is certainly more scenic than 35,000 feet. In the middle seat. In front of the 2-year old on his fathers lap. For what seems like 237 hours.

Hopefully these photos share some of the feel of hot air balloon flight. Lower. Slower. More peaceful.
Boyd

100 plus years of National Parks

This is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the US National Park Service. So we decided to celebrate the parks by putting some of our photos from the parks together in a slide show. For this day and age it might be a little long at just over 7 minutes with credits. Or just long enough to enjoy your favorite beverage adult or caffeinated. Attached is a link to the HD version of the slide show on YouTube. We hope you enjoy the slideshow and enjoy and support our National Parks

From behind the wire

On April 19, 1987 the last remaining wild condor was captured and removed from the wild. There were 22 condors still alive. Twenty-two. Behind the wire. The last passenger pigeon and the last Carolina parakeet died behind the wire. It looked like the California condor might suffer the same fate: an ignominious end to a species.

Fast forward to December 2015.

There are 435 California condors alive as of December 31, 2015. That's almost 20 times the population size in 1987. And 268 of those birds were in the wild, outside the wire. In California, there are 155 individual condors in the wild. If you travel to the wilds of central California you stand a chance of actually seeing one or more, outside the wire.

March 2016, found us on the road to Pinnacles National Park. We knew we would be in the heart of condor habitat, but would we see any? The first stop in almost any National Park Service unit is the fee booth, where we asked: "Seen any condors?"  "They've been roosting in the evenings on top of that ridge above the campground." Cool. That evening we looked up at the ridge and saw a flock of large dark birds soaring on the currents.  We're not sure how to describe seeing the wild condors flying about ½ mile away.  They certainly were not attractive with their puffy, swollen red heads (adults), but they were nonetheless impressive in size, soaring on the thermals with their two flat, surfboard wings, decorated at the ends with long “fingertips”.  Nearly twice the size of the turkey vultures they hung with; helping us comprehend the scale of these gigantic birds with their 8.5 – 9.5 foot wingspans.

We saw two more soaring high over the Park the next day as we hiked the peaks. We also encountered a biologist from the Pinnacles condor crew monitoring some of the individual condors' radio transmitters. We had a nice conversation with the man and we noticed other hikers also engaged him in conversation. The biologist was a good ambassador for the condor recovery program. He and his co-workers have much to be proud of. The recovery program is a triumph of wildlife management.

The next morning we were fortunate to see nine condors up close when they landed in trees a couple hundred feet beyond the campground.  The first time they’d landed there according to members of the condor monitoring team who were also watching.

Later as we drove off we tried to settle on a word to describe the condors.

Playful - we watched their antics for over an hour while they warmed up in the morning sun. 

Curious – which gets them into trouble picking up tin, lead bullets and other indigestible and poisonous human trash.

Social – picking at each other, pushing and pestering younger condors (with black heads) off the tree, and interacting in ways we could not interpret. 

Clumsy - using their chicken-like feet, wings, and beaks to help climb the branches.   

Ponderous - considerable effort to flap those oversized surf board wings to take off between protruding branches and other obstructions; a nine-foot prehistoric creature ascending directly overhead. 

The best word to describe them –

Majestic -

... and outside the wire!
 

A Charm of Finches

Birds. We like birds. We are not fanatical about it. We aren't even close. We know people who will drive several hours to see a rare bird. Okay we have taken the occasional trip to see new birds we haven't seen before but it isn't like we get all gooey and squishy inside when we hear there is a black-headed gull hanging out at some local dumpster. But still, we can get excited when a new bird shows up in the yard.

The other day it was an odd finch. Not odd as in: "Johnny Depp is an odd human". Odd as in: "You all aren't from around here now, are ya?" kind of odd. This wasn't our usual finch. It wasn't a goldfinch, not a house finch either. And it wasn't one of the large gaudy grosbeaks. So what to do about it? Dig into the bird books.

After multiple consultations of photos, drawings, paintings, descriptions of plumage, consulting range maps, examining bill characteristics, and some waffling we settled on an identification. A female purple finch had come to visit our feeders. Sure most people wouldn't care that a purple finch showed up with the house finches. Heck, most people don't even know that there is a difference between a purple and a house finch. And there's a Cassin's finch too? Whaaattt? Yet, if you are interested in the non-human part of the world, you probably find these differences fascinating. Darwin changed the world after spending time among the finches. One of our bird apps says in North America there are 89 species of the family Fringillidae (the taxonomic family finches belong to). We also learned that a group of finches is called a charm. Seems about right.

Female purple finch

American goldfinch

House finch

Evening grosbeak

Pine siskin


Where did it go?

"Did you hear? The Turners changed their website"

It was time for a revision. Sometimes you just don't like something so much. Maybe you finally outgrew that boy band. Maybe you got tired of bell bottom pants or maybe it was time for a new paint scheme in the house. Maybe you have a new shiny toy you really like.

So we have revised the photography section of this site. Basically, we had some newer photos that we felt were worth sharing. We also wanted to get our favorites from 2015 into one place. Out with the bell bottoms and on with the new paint.

Sure, change can be hard. Maybe you really liked that boy band. Hopefully, you can find new favorites here.  (No new boy bands though.) Please, if your favorite photo is gone send us a comment with a description of what is missing. No promises, but maybe we will put it back up. And who knows, maybe we will get something even better up soon. So come on back often. You never know what might be added.


First Officer's Log Days 23-26, Utah Expedition

This is the eighth in a series of posts about our recent trip to Utah

21.10.2015 Expedition Day 23
Continued overnight cloudiness, rainfall and thunderstorms precluded the morning sunrise imaging tasking. We drove to the prime imaging spot of Dead Horse Point. Visibility was limited to 100 feet or less by dense fog. The Crew then returned to the VC for this park unit. The crew was trained in additional geologic information and in the intricacies of the adjacent KCl (potash) mining operation. Even after our training was complete, dense water vapor mostly obscured the view at the VC. Increased airflow along the cliff walls did result in some clearing and some imaging was accomplished. The Crew again returned to the Point of the deceased equines.

A note here about this local place name. Apparently, the Point area was a capture, sort and cull location used by local cowboys to obtain new equine genetic stock from groups of feral equines. Non-selects were left to expire as there is no surface water (other than small pools of rain water), hence the term Dead Horse Point. Of course this still leaves open the question why the term cowboys. Why not horseboys? Or presumably the work was not that of child laborers and the term horsemen is most appropriate. And since there were apparently multiple non-selects among the feral horse population (named broomtails) why not Dead Horses Point or even Dead Broomtails Point. The Crew is still confused by naming conventions in this area.

As the Crew returned to the observation point at the end of the road, in the area of the deceased, poor genetic quality equine selection area, the water vapor was still not dispersing. The Crew made the decision to transit around the transportation system to the Canyonlands Park unit. The Upheaval Dome foot recon was accomplished. This geologic feature is claimed to be a result of a small meteorite strike. Originally this was thought to have been from a bursting bubble of salt from the underlying salt layers, sort of a geologic zit. The Crew found the meteorite scar theory more heroic. Regardless of source, the trail across “slick rock” sandstone to steep overlooks into the colorful crater was entertaining. Imaging equipment was deployed.

Upheaval Dome detail

Rain pours over the canyon walls near Upheaval Dome

For the evening image tasking we returned to the Grand View Point Overlook at the southern end of this sub-unit’s vehicular transportation system. Imaging equipment was deployed. However, a broken wall of gray, stratified clouds remained in the west restricting lighting to small spots of low brightness in an otherwise moderately shadowed landscape. Lighting was neither colorful nor bold. Imaging results are not expected to be good.

Returning to Collect the Good Equines, Leave the Crummy Equines to Die Point SP more rain showers were encountered and very distant lightning observed. As the planetary satellite is approaching full luminance, stars are becoming difficult to see, additionally high cirrus is obscuring faint stars and astronomical features. Post-sunset imaging is again cancelled.

22.10.2015 Expedition Day 24
Although a transit day, we planned to implement sunrise imaging protocols in the hope of finally catching beneficial lighting. Again, overnight rain left the area covered in overcast and pockets of water vapor. The VC observation point was checked and deemed unsuitable. The Point of the Deceased Broomtails was checked and also found to be unsuitable in dense water vapor. However, a break was noted en route to camp and the First Officer took a limited subset of the imaging equipment and made a quick foray to the canyon edge. He was able to observe some marginally satisfactory lighting conditions and an ephemeral waterfall. However, the Captain assumed the First Officer had exceeded the allotted time for his task and run afoul of poor footing ultimately ending in his untimely demise. After only a few moments the crew reunited. The First Officer thought the Captain somewhat frantic. The Captain was not amused. The First Officer may be in trouble.

As this was a transit day, camp was packed (in a moderate rain) and the Puma Palace and Power Unit “Buzz” departed for the political subdivision of Nevada. In preparation for this leg, the Captain had procured a text on geology visible from most of the route we would be travelling. Reading this book we became familiar with terms such as Laramide orogeny, overthrust, crossbedding, backthrust, splay, dip, bed. We suspect geologic terms were developed by single, frustrated, males.

The Crew made bivouac at the Cathedral Gorge SP in the Nevada political unit. This park is an eroded large water channel near the village of Panaca. Rain showers were observed in the area but not experienced at this site. The Captain deployed imaging equipment to record the colorful cliffs. The First Officer observed the local avifauna. No highly unique species were observed by the First Officer. Also observed were training sorties by Gen4 aerial vehicles (F-16 and F-15). Although the First Officer hoped to observe Gen 5 vehicles (F-22, F-35) none were observed, possibly cloaking devices were deployed. As sunset approached a unique phenomenon was observed as one of the aerial vehicles transited through a cirrus layer. Shock waves from the craft caused the clouds to refract light differently resulting in multi-colored reflections similar to the effect referred to as a “sun dog”. Sunset itself was quite spectacular. Unfortunately, foreground and midground elements were not conducive to fully capturing an aesthetically pleasing image. The Crew strongly wished this sunset had occurred at one of the previous bivouacs.

It is noted ASE Scottie offered Prospective Crew Member Intisar permanent social bonding status. Prospective Crew Member Intisar accepted said offer and has been promoted to Crew Member Specialist (Biological) pending ceremonial confirmation. The crew of the USS Puma Palace congratulate ASE Scott and CMS (B) Intisar on their pending new status. Additionally, we again welcome CMS (B) Intisar to the crew.

23.10.2015 Expedition Day 25
This was a transit day across the political unit of Nevada. The crew transited the Extraterrestrial Highway. No known aliens were observed. We did observe the local bovine race being harassed by a low flying aerial vehicle referred to as a helicopter (specifically a Bell 47G model). Would the individual conducting these flight ops be referred to as a cowpilot or a chopperboy? Probably not a Bellboy as that is a different occupation. We are unsure. Camp was made for the night at the same facility used previously at the community designated RNO. Again, sunset was better than at all locations in the Utah subdivision, Dinner included a local preparation involving raw fish.

Note to crew: No gorging on raw fish prior to days involving long transit periods as the phenomenon referred to locally as “fish farts” is likely to ensue.

24.10.2015 Expedition Day 26
The crew returned to the assigned permanent docking facility. Members of the Sciurid clan greeted us on arrival. Although the Puma Palace is somewhat the worse for wear, at least partially due to previously noted phenomenon, the mission was deemed successful. Maintenance period starts tomorrow.

Log transmission complete. Awaiting further orders.