The Greek roots of the word photography translate as "writing with light." Welcome to my studio--a place to practice and illuminate good work using writing and photography.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thankful for the spectacle of nesting eagles

If you measure this shot not by the imperfect light and distance but by the thrill it was to witness this powerful creature screech and flutter and clamp desperate talons to stand upright on its vertical perch, you might be able to put yourself for a moment in my blessed shoes. This is a BIG bird, up to 7 1/2-foot wing spread, and up to 14 pounds at maturity. Which is key here because this is an immature bald eagle. Not a golden. Golden eagle youngsters have feathers down onto their feet. Bald youngsters have bald feet.

What I am less clear about is why this young eagle is hanging out in the middle of mating territory of a resident pair. This eagle is an interloper. No wonder there is noise all day and all night.

We started hearing the dramatic screeches of the neighborhood's nest-building balds on a walk up the hill to the grocery store one Saturday morning a few weeks ago. I remembered similar sounds from inside our home a few days prior, I realized in retrospect. In the 100-foot Douglas Fir nearest to us, was a stuck and frustrated bird that eventually emerged with a stick longer than it was, and headed toward the Willamette River. We spotted it again with its mate a few days later, the pair perched in their gigantic nest topping another tall fir with, this one with a riverfront view.

Researchers from the Center for Conservation Biology at William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA (full article here) study bald eagles, and have identified what they are calling a new normal for balds. Many eagles they have found are, in human terms, good spouses and parents--loyal to their mates and good providers. But all eagles aren't the same. There are eagles that cheat on their mates and birds that seem to want to hang around and loaf.

Bryan Watts, the director of the Center for Conservation Biology, says that "it seems that as the eagle population goes up, the famous monogamous nature of the birds begins to go down."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Arthur's Marilyn

“She was a whirling light to me then, all paradox and enticing mystery, street-tough one moment, then lifted by a lyrical and poetic sensitivity that few retain past early adolescence;” this is Arthur Miller on Marilyn Monroe during their 5-year marriage. 

The image taken originally during a photo shoot featuring the two of them in a park setting, is altered here by tattoos and displayed on an abandoned motel in Gasquet, California.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Reverence for the coast redwoods

Redwood trees have grown on the Earth for 240 million years, appearing just after the disappearance of dinosaurs and well before flowers, birds, spiders . . . and people. They are the tallest living trees on the planet, more than 300 feet, and can be from 8 to 20 feet in diameter. They can be identified by their grey spiraling bark, and occasionally a rust colored base.

Redwoods live so long because their bark can be a foot thick and contains tannin that protects the tree from fire, insects, fungus and diseases. There is no known insect that can destroy a redwood tree. Fire is not a big threat because the trunk is thick, there’s lots of water inside, and the bark doesn’t have flammable resin like other trees do. They also have an incredible ability to adapt to shifting slopes, floods, and other trees falling against them by speeding up their growth on your downhill side, effectively buttressing themselves against further lean. They grow in a forest by expanding their roots outward instead of down, and intertwine with other redwoods to strengthen their stability.

Wild, endangered creatures like mountain lions, coho salmon and marbled murrelet need large, contiguous areas of diverse habitat to survive, especially as the climate changes and they need to adapt quickly; they depend on the canopy of redwood forests. Redwood forests are also home for amphibians, beetles, crickets, worms, millipedes, spiders, mollusks, chipmunks, fishers, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, northern spotted owls and at least six species of bat. 

Redwoods are perfectly suited to one swath of the Northern California coast. They are even able to extract moisture from the resident fog. Unfortunately they have been reduced from two million acres in the 1800s to less than 100,000 acres through logging. Their reverence and protection is the work of Save the

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Banana slug up close

Banana slugs are mollusks (like snails and conches) that have been on the earth, mostly unchanged, for millions of years. They have both male and female organs and can fertilize their own eggs, which makes them hermaphrodites. Even without bones, teeth or tongue, they live up to 7 years. 

The slime they are known for makes it easier for them to move across the ground (or rock), and protects them from sharp rocks, twigs and other objects. Their slime is so effective they can crawl over an upright razor blade and not be cut. 

Banana slugs eat dead plant material, animal excrement, mushrooms and poison oak, making them a great forest partner. 

Indigenous Yurok Indians ate them when other food became scarce.

This was my first sighting of one in the middle of a stream, on the top of a rock, looking to get to the next, surrendering mid-slither to a drink from the chilly creek.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Free hugging year 5

Hug connections

"Hey, buddy. Whatcha doin'?" the Philadelphia train station policeman barks as he comes into focus from the background, pointing at the "free hugs" sign. When you are a free hugger your attention isn't on the background. It's on the faces of people right in front of you. He learned in his first year hugging that you can tell when someone is about to hug you by their eye contact. He is sure this policeman will not hug him.

"I think there are a lot of people who can use a hug . . . and I like to give them," he reports for the 331st time in his 5-year love affair with free hugging.

"Let me tell ya," the cop begins. "We might be called the City of Brotherly Love, but we ain't." 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Simply black-eyed Susan

Native Americans used the roots of the black-eyed Susan in teas for worms and colds, in wash for sores, swelling and snakebites, and in elixirs for earaches. It has antimicrobial properties, and acts as a diuretic. A prolific perennial more effective than Echinacea, though seeds are poisonous and hairs can irritate the skin.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Morphing into prairie pastel

It takes more than lightening bolts and thunder cracks to fade an outsider's bright blue and yellow aura to muted prairie hues. It takes up to 3 frisky fawns frolicking at daybreak under a watchful mother's eye to channel the tart-to-sweet green glow of Idaho fescue, squirrel tail and blue bunch wheat grass; and perhaps a couple of glimpses into the cavernous mouth of a determined baby swallow.

Don't be impatient if it requires a double rainbow trellis stretched over barn and hillside; not a surprise if you must witness mirrored drops of yesterday's rain bulging in the shimmering light of daybreak to transfer halcyon gold radiance like prairie gumweed and goldenrod. Sometimes it takes the infusion of a great horned owl's icy stare from the perch in his clerestory. 


It's almost guaranteed that a blush pink glow can only be osmosed by finding prairie smoke at both ends of its season, on a single plant, impossible to decide if waxing or waning is more beautiful. That and an encounter with a clumsy yearling black bear foraging for wild currant on a nearby hillside, and for a moment staring back. 

And one may need to spy red skivvies and such hanging over a barbed wire fence near the tent after 4 days of downpour and soggy everything to reflect azureous blue glimmer, a small placeholder of hope in the relenting sky.