An eclipse night trifecta…

or having a plan come together!

the eclipsed moon, the milky way, iridium flare 65
the eclipsed moon, the milky way, iridium flare 65

Everything that you can imagine is real.

Pablo Picasso

On this special eclipse night, the fourth eclipse in a tetra, I wanted to do something more than just photograph a large frame filling blood moon. I kept being drawn to the idea of photographing the stars AND having a full moon in the shot. It just doesn’t happen very often that you can see the full moon and not have the stars washed out by its glow. I also knew that at 8:11 there would be an iridium flare visible for a brief moment. Not a very bright one but having shot these before I hoped that it would be bright enough. Could I capture this trifecta?

A great deal of planning needed to take place. First there was scouting out a location and figuring out where each element would be at that one moment necessary to capture all three. For this I turned to a wonderful ap called Photopills. It gave me all of the tools necessary to plot the placement of the moon and the milky way in relation to the direction and elevation of the flare. Taking some test shots showed me that shooting at 11 mm on my wide angle lens should just barely squeeze these three elements into the shot. What settings I would be using needed to be decided close to the time of the shot as I really did not know how much light would be present.

The one thing that I was certain of was that I would have one shot, just one frame, to get this. The girl likes a challenge though and certainly I filled my time before and after with capturing the beauty of this extra large moon, the likes of which will not occur again until 2033, as it rose behind the mountains, already partially eclipsed.

blood moon rising
blood moon rising

It was a beautiful night, with perfect weather and even a shooting star that exploded during a test shot. How lucky can one girl be? Or is luck when opportunity and planning come together…you be the judge!

More images can be viewed in the gallery idaho after dark by clicking on this link to my website.

 

The kokanee spawn! A photographic experience for my bucket list OR…

be careful what you wish for!

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To the artist there is never anything ugly in nature.

Auguste Rodin

The reality of the kokanee salmon spawn was a far different scene than I had imagined. In retrospect I suppose that I had not really thought this through. I imagined the brightly colored fish valiantly making their way up-stream to lay eggs that would hatch in the spring.

The kokanee is the landlocked version of the sockeye salmon and they spend their entire lives in fresh water. It was magical really seeing them twist and flip, powering their way upstream against a fairly strong flow of water. They glistened and shone with eye-popping color, ranging from strong pinks to deep reds but retaining the dark green head.

I wandered along the edge of the creek armed with bear spray in the event that one should make a sudden, not to be avoided appearance. The sound of the rushing water eliminated the possibility of hearing a bear in advance so I alternated taking shots with taking full scans of the area around me.

I knew that the kokanee died after spawning and there were bodies in various stages of decay beginning to gather at the edges. As I moved in to photograph one such body; tail and fins tattered and gouges scraped down through the skin and into the flesh on his sides, I watched in horror as he tried to draw a breath. It was then that I realized that this was not an isolated case. All around me were fish hanging on by a thread in bodies that barely functioned; where death would be a blessing.

the last breath
the last breath

And so I began to photograph them…these warriors that had conquered the arduous trip upstream to spawn. Did I set out to photograph dead and dying kokanee? Most assuredly not but I recognized that this was a moment, an opportunity that shouldn’t be dismissed, and in finding a way to create beauty amongst the carnage I was able to have some measure of peace with the reality of nature’s cycle of life. Not always pretty, not always kind, but always consistent in the eventuality of death.

 

Prints and additional images from this series are available in gallery idaho…finned by clicking on this link to my website .

Lest we forget, a moment of silence…

and a moment of beauty in the dawn hours.

Sept 11 Aurora Borealis
Sept 11 Aurora Borealis

Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, blossomed the lovely stars, the forget me not of angels.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

On each anniversary of September 11th I am instantly transported back to that surreal moment, watching a television display footage of the attack on the world trade center. I can remember each moment as if it were in slow motion…trying at the same time to comprehend what I was seeing. It is one of those events that never seems to lose its rawness and I feel compelled to mark its passage each year with a moment of silence.

At the time I was a member of a search and rescue team and as I watched it unfold my pager began to go off and I knew that some members of the team would be going into that massive ‘rubble pile’ in search of anyone still surviving. I knew it would not be me as I worked a bloodhound that was trained to follow only the scent of a victim that I provided to her. The dogs going in would be trained to alert on any human scent.

It was difficult to be on the sidelines waiting for any word of a positive find and at the same time being concerned for the safety and well-being of other team members and their canine partners. This many years later I still find it a challenge to articulate what happened on the days following this terror attack on American soil.

My heart goes out to the families that lost loved ones on 9-11 as well as to the first responders, handlers, and canines that later succumbed due to illnesses caused by their selfless call to duty in a toxic environment.

So I take a moment each September 11 to remember and on this morning felt some measure of solace as dawn approached on the west coast and the aurora borealis danced across the sky.

And then there were the stars…the forget me not of angels.

With every drop that falls…

a difference is being felt.

rain
forest rains

The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.

Henry Beston

It couldn’t have come at a better time during this summer of record-breaking heat and voracious forest fires. Finally the dense smoke hanging over the region has been blown out and tamped down by several bouts of rain and lowered temperatures. While containment of these massive and numerous fires has not yet been achieved there has been significant progress made towards that end.

There could not have been a more beautiful sound than hearing these droplets begin to fall on our metal roof. I am quite certain that I was not the only one to go outside, lift my face skywards and just take in a deep breath of the moisture laden air.

This image is a double taken at my little lake, sharing the rain with the beauty of the trees that did not come under fire this summer.

Are we out of the woods yet? No…but the view is getting better every day and for that I am grateful!

As 20 major wildfires burn 243,706 acres in Idaho…

one begins to wonder if and not when it will end.

wildfires in Idaho
wildfires in Idaho Panhandle

Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.

Edward Abbey

In contrast to last week’s post the reality of each day looks a little more like this. As the air quality remains firmly planted in the unhealthy zone, I am quite certain that companies who sell inhalers are doing a booming business.

As an added blow, Sunday marks the closure of a huge swath of Federal and State land in the Idaho Panhandle where a veritable playground of wilderness exists for those like myself who love to camp in and explore remote areas. Emergency closures include all National Forest System lands, Bureau of Land Management lands, and all state endowment forest lands within this area. The danger of people becoming trapped by fires is too great and a week-end forecast calling for gusty winds and thunderstorms does not look like it will provide the much-needed relief we had been hoping for.

I find myself hunting for little signs of beauty within the gray pallor that envelops the landscape. With having to limit time spent outdoors breathing the smoke and ash laden air this becomes somewhat of a challenge though.

morning light on the Pend Oreille River
morning light on the Pend Oreille River

I am blessed to live in an area surrounded by vast forested land, scenic mountain ranges, and plentiful rivers and lakes. After the hottest July on record though one can’t help but wonder if this season of wildfires will become the new norm?

Kind of scary and a little more than sobering…

Tens of thousands of acres burn…

lightning ignites new fires and every evening the sun sets in a smoke filled haze.

lightning storm
lightning storm

There is no forgiveness in nature.

Ugo Betti

One can’t help but wonder when and how it will all end as forest fires consume the Pacific Northwest. Fueled by a winter lacking in snow and close on its heels a very hot, dry summer. The perfect storm… it’s enough to bring an atheist to his knees.

Smoke filled day follows smoke filled day and each evening the sun sets in a ball of fire. The colors are vivid and quite striking but it’s hard to find any enjoyment in that. Animals are rapidly becoming displaced as they search for respite from the flames as tens of thousands of acres burn, largely uncontained.

Hopes are dashed as clouds move in filled not with the rain that we so desperately need but with lightning capable of starting more fires as it strikes bone dry tinder.

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In daylight hours the sun casts a strange orange glow upon the landscape and ash drifts down upon the vehicles. Lives have been lost as the firefighters work tirelessly to get containment. We are grateful for all that they are doing as they put their lives on the line for complete strangers.

Keep them in your thoughts and the next time you see a firefighter, police officer, or veteran please thank them for their service. You never know when their actions might directly impact your life.

It was a night of stars…

twinkling, spinning, and shooting.

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star trails

Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.

Theodore Roosevelt

I felt very lucky this week to have clear and dark skies for the Perseid Meteor showers and it was quite the show!

These showers occur as Earth crosses the orbital path of the comet Swift-Tuttle and bits of debris hit the atmosphere creating these fast-moving meteors. The radiant point for the showers is the Perseus constellation.

I set up early for the event anticipating a long night and dragged a camping cot out into my pasture. Much nicer than laying on the ground and easier on the neck too for hours of viewing!

I got butterflies in my stomach as my eyes adjusted to the dark and I waited to see the first of many meteors streak across the sky. Some were brief flashes while others left wonderful trails that lingered for several seconds. While viewing my images the next day I was excited to see several shots with double meteors in them. One even had two streaking along on a parallel course.

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I was grateful that my Nikon has a built-in intervalometer so that I could set up sequenced shots and be shooting while I kept my eyes on the stars. The first image is a compilation of over 100 shots as the stars moved across the sky.

Was I tired the next day? Perhaps a little. Was it worth it? In the words of a friend…indeed!

 

Getting up close and personal…

with your fears.

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nephila clavipes

There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment.

Hunter S Thompson

One of the great things about being a photographer is the complete control that you have over subject matter and something that I like to do when presented with the opportunity is to get out of my comfort zone and photograph something that I am not comfortable with.

While on a recent trip to Florida I came across this largest of North American spiders with the exception of the tarantula, the banana spider. I did in fact shudder but taking a deep breath I began to photograph her with what looked like her offspring.

While this spider is venomous, its bite is not fatal, at least that was what I kept telling myself as I moved around her trying to capture her and the color in that beautiful golden web.

I have found that looking at something through a camera lens has a  desensitizing effect because it seems that a different part of your brain kicks in and focuses on the light and other technical issues, over-riding the part that says “run, save yourself!” 

In the interests of full disclosure I will admit to using a telephoto and NOT my macro lens for this shot…after all these spiders are large with a body size of 1-3″ and leg spans of up to 5″!

I can make a mental check mark beside venomous spider now, what’s next you ask? Gulp…a snake?

In the company of…

dogs!

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Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.

Dean Koontz

I spent a great week seeing old friends and making new ones…friends of the canine variety that is! Big ones, little ones, fat ones, lean ones, young ones, old ones, hairy ones and smooth ones. Some came with massive pedigrees, stacks of show ribbons…Best In Show to Grand Champions. Others came from more unknown lineage but packing an abundance of charm and good looks and each one had a story to tell!

There’s the mastiff with a stack of ribbons too numerous to count, breeder owner handled. His size was awe-inspiring and his gentle nature a treat to behold.

The pug, being a lady of a certain age, was none too mobile but very adept at keeping the big dogs in line! Her dinner dance would bring a smile to anyone’s face…

The poodle, once somebody’s show dog, forgotten when they moved on, has a heart of gold and a new loving home where he lives the life he deserves.

The staffordshire bull terrier, still raking in the accolades in the show ring but as a veteran now…owner handled naturally!

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Being around such a variety of breeds was an absolute treat and seeing the pride that the owners had for their dogs was heart warming.

I am often out at night looking and photographing the stars but this week the stars came out during the day and they couldn’t have shone brighter!

 

I have a good reason…

for being behind on my posts!

Persei
10 week old staffordshire bull terrier

In a perfect world every dog would have a home and every home would have a dog…

I hate being behind in my posts but it has been a very busy week culminating in bringing home this little guy. Those who know me well know of my love of animals and dogs in particular and after losing a very special dog in the spring of last year we embarked on a search for someone try to fill his shoes.

This is my third Staffordshire Bull Terrier and while it is not the breed for everyone, they sure fit our lifestyle. In the AKC breed standard he is described as having “character of indomitable courage, high intelligence, and tenacity. This, coupled with its affection for its friends, and children in particular, its off duty quietness and trustworthy stability, makes it a foremost all-purpose dog.”

We have found them to be very social, intelligent, and game to try new things even those things that don’t come naturally to them. Every dog that we have owned has learned to swim with the staffies being no exception. It wasn’t very pretty at first but our 8-year-old girl is a now a powerful and enthusiastic swimmer who is also at home in a kayak.

This little guy in just one week has been in several vehicles, planes, and this morning in a kayak for his first ride. I am enjoying watching him experience everything with the courage that this breed is noted for having. This past week was one filled with canine portraiture which I just love doing. It’s relaxing and enjoyable to try to capture that thing that makes each one special. I will follow-up this post with some of the dogs that I have had the pleasure of photographing this past week.

Life gets busy, don’t forget to share a moment with your canine friend!