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!

Shot from the heart…

as expected, in black and white.

Fourth of July
Fourth of July

“I’ve been forty years discovering that the Queen of all colors is black.”

Henri Matisse

I did warn you in last week’s post. What can I say? I love the clarity that comes with black and white. While others are anticipating a riot of colors bursting into the night sky I see a hazy red blur that is much better defined without the color.

I do love an opportunity to shoot fireworks. There is such an element of surprise as to what you might see. Each time I do it I find myself more relaxed and able to take in the show at the same time as I am photographing it. I was even able to ignore the popping of flashes behind me with hardly an eye-roll as the other spectators  attempted to capture this on various flash equipped devices.

I found this to be almost meditative too as I calculated how long to leave the shutter open and envisioned what elements I was building into each frame. Would it be one singular explosion or a longer shot enveloping multiple explosions?!

Fourth of July

Fourth of July

For those disappointed by these black and white images I offer this as an opportunity to imagine all the colors of the rainbow. Whatever colors your heart may desire…and a happy independence day America!

The journey of an artist…

follows neither a straight nor an easy path…

morning fog
morning fog

Nothing is ever the same twice because everything is always gone forever, and yet each moment has infinite photographic possibilities.

Michael Kenna

Tempting as it may be to shoot things like heavily saturated sunsets that draw gasps of delight from the general public I think it is important to stay true to what you personally find to be moving. If you sacrifice that inner voice, your own personal je ne sais quoi in the hopes of a sale, you will lose the joy that comes with picking up a camera.

It’s strange but when I find myself editing an image with just the smallest of adjustments using an almost exaggerated light touch I know that the image holds more meaning for me.

Likewise when I see the work of another photographer and it makes me hold my breath even for a moment I know that their work has resonated with me and it then becomes important to find out why.

Michael Kenna is one such artist who when I happened upon his work it was like time stood still. So many of his images were utterly simple and at the same time complex in their composition and tone.

30 seconds one evening
30 seconds one evening

I battle with color and sensory overload at the best of times so I do find myself drawn to black and white. As a young girl I was petrified of the dark with its enveloping blackness and things that might lurk in those shadows. Never one to give in to irrational fears I pushed myself to be in that darkness and I have found it to be meditative and calming in a world that has exploded with connectivity. Now I find myself more often than not, waiting for the sun to go down so that I can explore the night using long exposures. Certainly not something that I would ever have imagined doing but if you are willing to try new things and keep an open mind, you might find your journey taking a new direction.

I do still shoot color but I find myself doing so less and less and when I look back on photographers whose work really moves me, it is almost always minimalist and black and white.

For me it is about being authentic in your work and presenting an image that is true to your own personal vision and this year as I shoot the fireworks to celebrate America’s day of Independence they will more than likely be in black and white…

Happy Fourth of July to those celebrating…

Missed seeing the aurora borealis again…

or did you?!

aurora borealis
aurora borealis

The job of the artist is to create mystery.

Francis Bacon

Did I ever chuckle when I came across this quote. Busted! Read on to see what a secretive lot we photographers can be!

This is my longest blog post to date BUT if you have ever been disappointed by NOT seeing the northern lights when others have raved about or captured fabulous images of them AND you live below 50 degrees latitude…read on!

If you can tolerate the ground-work laying information in the next couple of paragraphs without your eyes rolling back in your head I will then get to why you may have seen the aurora borealis and not even known it!

Trending this past week were photos of the aurora borealis dancing in the night skies over North America and other parts of the world as well. There are people FAR more adept at explaining what these light displays are but basically it begins with a CME or coronal mass ejection. This is a cloud of gas ejected from the surface of the Sun. When these winds of charged particles collide with Earth’s magnetic field it excites those atoms causing them to light up.

For viewing purposes the important thing to know is the global geomagnetic storm index or KP number and it ranges from 0-9, with 9 being the highest. Using this number enables you to see if there is a possibility of seeing the aurora in your location. Spaceweatherlive.com is a wealth of information on this number and how to find your value.

Back to the photos…

This week I saw some very beautiful images of the northern lights shot during the early hours of June 23, 2015. The KP index was predicted to be between 7 and 8 and for my viewing purposes in Northern Idaho, I need between a 5 and 6 to give me a good chance of seeing lights. The evening did not disappoint and along with the greens I captured with my Nikon some lovely spiking pinks dance across the night sky along the edge of my pasture. I am fortunate to live in a place with dark skies and little light pollution which greatly improves the chance of seeing these.

You might have noticed that I did not say that along with the greens I saw some lovely spiking pinks.

What my eyes saw when I walked outside was this..

aurora borealis
aurora borealis

but I knew that what I was seeing was the northern lights because of a chance discovery that I blogged about in March here.

I suppose it is the job of the artist to create mystery but I have read too many comments from people bitterly disappointed after getting up to witness this altogether infrequent sight at my latitude to NOT provide an explanation and hope to those who have seeing this on their bucket list.

I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, latitude 53 degrees, and recall seeing the aurora borealis in all of its colorful glory. After many years away in more southerly climes we moved north once again to Idaho, latitude 48 degrees.

I was puzzled and disappointed that while others were out in my same area capturing beautiful northern lights shots…I never once saw them but I was looking for color. After my March discovery thorough research into this showed me that the human eye uses rods and cones. In the retina cones perceive color, work in bright light, and are used in the day. Rods perceive light and shadow and are used at night. Camera sensors in the DSLR’s do not have these limitations so they capture the full range of color and light.

The simple explanation is as you go below 50 degrees latitude, the northern lights are weaker and will to most people be viewed more as shifting patterns of light in the white to gray range and NOT the colors that the DSLR is capable of capturing. I would expect that eyes differ so possibly and depending on KP strength some people might still see some color. Travelling further north will diminish the differences between what your eyes see and what the camera captures.

The next time the KP index is high head out away from the city lights and enjoy searching the night sky and if you see dancing patterns and sheets of light you will have watched the aurora borealis!