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, February 17, 2017

Hope for a weary heart

Bent little snowdrops
faces mud-splashed by the rain,
freckled blade to blade.

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) have arrived at Peg's, the signal of the start of spring, a symbol of hope.

According to Christian legend, the snowdrop assumed fame when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. When Eve was about to give up hope that the cold winters would never end, an angel appeared and transformed some of the snowflakes into snowdrop flowers, proving winters do eventually give way to the spring.

While there were taxes and noxious weeds shoulding me, my muse insisted I take the Nikon and tripod and find hope for my weary heart.

Friday, January 6, 2017

3 simple things to support wintering birds

Winter is a very fragile time for wild birds, and not all of them survive. Those that winter over have acquired some adaptive behaviors, and they also rely on humans for survival when it's cold and food is scarce. If you are a human who loves birds and are looking for ways to contribute to a healthy Earth, there are a few things we can do to help.

Some birds have winter adaptations, like growing extra feathers, or practicing feather fluffing to keep warm. Other birds, especially the more social species like chickadees, stay warm at night by roosting with other birds in tree cavities or man-made nest boxes. We can help by cleaning nests and other debris out of our birdhouses so they can be used for roosting in winter.

We can also acquaint ourselves with our most common neighbor birds and migrators, and partner with our local bird retailer (we are lucky to have a Backyard Birdshop within walking distance) to offer food that appeals to them. We have bushtits, a couple of resident hummingbirds and interlopers, a few flickers and finches of many kinds. We offer regularly changed sugar-water, a suet hanger that often contains nuts or bugs, and a mix we sprinkle on the railing and deck that contains shelled and unshelled black sunflower seeds and thistle. Know that if you try these things and don't attract birds, they just haven't found you yet. Birds are planners that often have their food sources scoped out by fall.

Water is not only important for hydration, but it also helps birds preen their feathers. Without proper preening, feathers won't stay positioned and aligned. Feathers out of alignment in winter create gaps in insulation, which makes birds lose body heat faster. If we do only one thing, the biggest impact will come from offering a reliable source of fresh water.

With unusually cold temperatures in the NW, we are trying to help as many of the birds in our greenway as we know how to support, so have set the hummingbird feeder in a wire basket of holiday lights to keep it from freezing and causing the hummingbirds to miss their early morning feeding. It makes me feel giddy to love on the birds.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The seductive amaryllis

Greek mythology brings us the story of Amaryllis, a love-struck maiden who longed for the handsome but cold-hearted Alteo. Desperate to win his love, she pierced her heart with a golden arrow and then visited his cottage daily for 30 days, shedding drops of blood along the way. On the 30th day, beautiful scarlet flowers bloomed along the path. Alteo was enamored, Amaryllis' heart was healed, and holiday decor went wild

In the contemporary world, alkaloids from Amaryllis (also known as Hippeastrum papilio or "naked lady") are used as in the treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Not just a pretty face.

From the artist's perspective, Amaryllis is dynamic, unfolding from tight-lipped caution to brilliant roar, during which time one cannot help but dog the light on a mother and daughter inching toward full bloom.

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.