I had a wonderful short camping trip to Mount Rainier at the end of July. The wildflowers were in bloom and the weather was amazing. The first day we arrived in the afternoon and started a hike about 3:30pm. We meant to do the 5 mile Lakes Trail hike, but we missed the turnoff for the loop and continued instead on Mazama Ridge and then Skyline Trails. In the end, it was a wonderful mistake as even though it added an additional two or so miles to the hike, the scenery was amazing. The second day’s hike turned out to be almost 11 miles and although we were rewarded by the alpine meadows of Summerland, we all agreed the first day’s hike was our favorite as the hike was long, uphill, and grueling considering that I was carrying camera equipment. The first hike was more interspersed with beautiful views.
These are two more images from my short visit to Grand Canyon. You’ll see the same ridge in both, but from a different perspective. The first is a close-up which I love as you get a closer view of the rock detail. I often like a cloudy sky (as long as there is some contrast to be had) as it adds drama and interest to the scene.
The panorama is 2 to 1 ratio – so on the smaller size, and only two exposures with some overlap.
More to come. Thank you!
I think I will try to have some intermittent shorter posts with just a few images and fewer musings!
It’s funny when you come back from a trip with tons of images, there are some you just can’t wait to start processing. But on the second or third round, it’s always the case that there’s one that was overlooked and you wonder how in the world you missed it. This one of an egret landing on a pond is such a photograph for me. I love the grace of the egret coming in for a landing and the background colors of the reeds and water.
This second photograph was taken just about sunset, as I looked eastward from the boat we were in. The light was just so beautiful around that time and this image lent itself to a subtle watercolor effect. As I often do, here I worked with layers and masks to blend in an effect for more control and artistry. Westward the sky was more dramatic but to me visually less appealing. This was looking towards Assateague Island, and I like the one post sticking out of the water and the trees in the background.
The next two photos use textures. In the case of the mallard hybrid, the background was just sort of light as I had spot focused on him to bring out the details of his feather. Another thing I enjoy is researching the photos for more information. For instance in this case, I tried to identify the duck as he really didn’t look like a mallard. I found that domestic ducks and cross breeds often result from pairings with a male mallard as the iridescent green head is apparently quite appealing to female ducks of all species. I used one of the fabulous textures by Jerry Jones.
In the final photograph for this week’s post, I have taken many photographs of this filly as she was young and beautiful of course! 🙂 I was shooting with a telephoto since we were in a boat and at a distance. I cropped one of the more sharper images to use as just a head shot, and used a free beautiful texture found on Deviant Art and created by env1ro. I loved the bold colors in this texture. Generally when I use free textures, I do try and change them up by using more than one, or another exposure to blend in, and for the Portrait of a Filly I did add another texture in but the primary texture was so gorgeous, the changes were pretty subtle. For the mallard, the texutre was such a perfect background for the duck’s coloring, I also didn’t add in another texture. For me this is an exception rather than a rule. Generally I will try to personalize it. See my note on how I usually do to that.
Note: For other textures or exposures to blend in, think blurred landscapes, flora, flowers, clouds. Or shoot texture found in metal, rocks, etc. Or try your hand at using the various brushes in Photoshop to create your own. Then experiment with the blends or use the masks to just brink in part of an effect.
Wherever you go, go with all your heart – Confucius
In late March and early April, I went on my planned trip, and it was really wonderful. The first part of the trip I traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah to see my dear friend and her family. I’ve know my friend since undergraduate school and along with her husband and daughter we would be traveling to Moab, Utah.
I had been to Bryce Canyon and Zion, but never to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks or Dead Horse State Park. I was prepared for spectacular landscapes, but this trip brought home again the message that there are some places on this earth that are otherworldly and awesome. First, there were the red rock landscapes that seemed to my friend’s daughter as if we were traveling on the moon or in a episode of Star Trek! The view coming into Moab was the red rock land formations of Arches backed by the snow capped La Sal mountain range. The contrast was beautiful.
The canyons of Canyonlands were breathtaking, but the park also boasted one of the best arches we saw, Mesa Arch, which frames a dramatic canyon view. However, I have to say, Arches National Park was my favorite of the three parks. It’s as if a great sculptor let his imagination run loose on the landscape, but really the geological spires and arches are the result of changing sea levels, various layers of different types of rocks, erosion and millions of years. A better explanation than I can provide can be seen in this short video. The individual arches (there are over 2000 arches) are amazing, but I also love the strange vistas you come upon and other rock formations such as Balanced Rock or the Three Gossips. While time is measured in millions of years, the last arch to fall was the Wall Arch in 2008, so you never know!
It is also so heartening to be around old friends. Since we were traveling on the cheap, we all shared a hotel room, which we’ve done before. So there were the now familiar teasing squabbles about who kept whom awake with their snoring. We are already in the early planning stages of the next trip, although I think this time I may have to splurge for another room. I think on this whole trip, I got an average of 4 hours sleep per night. It’s one thing to wake up at home, but I can usually read until I’m tired again. I have more problems falling asleep when other people are present, and I ended up lying there for what seemed like hours not wanting to disturb anyone else with light or noise. Yet, sleep aside, the trip was a great opportunity to reconnect in a way that’s deeper and more relaxing than phone calls or emails interspersed with busy lives and schedules.
Since I was flying to Utah to see my friends, I decided to combine it with a meet up with my cousin who lives in Idaho. I haven’t seen her since our high school reunion which took place about eight years ago. She had moved to my school district in high school so we became close friends. After high school, we’ve always lived in different states, and have kept in touch sporadically, yet it is also a friendship that feels comfortable even after long periods of non-communication.
What was perfect was that the Grand Tetons was about the same distance from her as it was from Salt Lake City. I really couldn’t wait to get back there since my trip last fall. The combination of the animals and environment just seem to touch me in a very deep way.
It was also wonderful to see it in a different season. I really hadn’t expected so much snow or to see the frozen lakes still. I don’t know why. I guess I just was thinking that with what seemed like an early Spring in Oregon, it would be the same in Wyoming. I love being there, and seem to love it more and more each time I visit.
There were some road closures, like Moose-Spring Road, or parts of the Teton Park road between Jenny Lake and Signal Mountain Lodge but the upside is there are also practically no tourists and the hotels rooms are available and reasonable. I definitely would plan a trip in Spring again, maybe a couple of weeks later to see the wildlife babies.
The very first full day we were there, my cousin and I decided to take a walk in the Gros Ventre area. I was fiddling with my camera gear and my cousin was ahead of me. I looked up to see her walking right towards a moose she hadn’t spotted yet. He/She was looking at her like, what are you doing? We backed off and went in another direction. I don’t know if this was a cow or a calf. Somehow, I was feeling it was a young calf from last year, but I am unsure.
The second day was supposed to be the clearest day, so I was definitely out to get as many shots of the Tetons as I could since in the fall, the low cloud coverage had blocked them. My cousin went skiing in the Targhee mountains area which she found was cheaper than the Teton area, and as the Tetons are so steep, she heard that the runs aren’t as well groomed. We both had good days.
My day was spent working my way all the way up to the Flagg Ranch right before the road closed going towards the South Entrance to Yellowstone. There had been reports of grizzlies at Colter Bay and wolves at Flagg Ranch, but I saw neither. I had been telling my cousin how my experiences with other nature photographers were normally very friendly and generous with information, perhaps because of a mutual love of animals, but unfortunately, I didn’t really feel that on this trip with the photographers I encountered – a momentary disappointment. I was glad that I was familiar with the area as I got to see more moose, antelope, bison, a ruffed grouse, trumpet swans, geese, ducks, hawks, an eagle, deer, and a beautiful red fox. I got some great shots of the beautiful Grand Tetons. At the end of the day I ended up near the Taggart Lake trailhead hoping to get some sunset shots as well as hoping to see the beautiful red fox I had photographed the day before.
As it turned out, it wasn’t a great sunset, but as I was turning to go to meet my cousin for dinner, I was a bit delayed by the full moon rising above the trees.
On our third day in the Tetons, we set out separately but met in the afternoon and decided to take a walk through the snow to Taggart Lake. My cousin lent me some crampons and although she initially was going to cross country ski, she decided to walk as well. She is in much better shape than I, so after 1 mile and a half in when we discovered we had suddenly ended up on the trail to Bradley Lake, she plunged ahead (and uphill) to see if she could get a view of both lakes from the crest. I, was carrying my telephoto and tripod and was already tired, so I decided to work my way back to Taggart Lake using my phone as a navigational device. It should have been just through the trees, but after postholing and sinking my right leg up to nearly my hip, I decided to work back to the point we had gotten off trail. Soon, my cousin who had been up to the crest and came back, caught up with me and we found the trail together.
Taggart Lake was frozen over, except around the edges, which I managed to step through. I would love to do the hike again to see the lake in summer or fall as the setting is just beautiful. That evening we also drove over the mountains to have dinner with her daughter who happened to be taking a weekend course in Driggs. I haven’t seen her daughter probably since she was pre-teen and now she is a lovely young woman.
I am already thinking of when I can get back to the Grand Tetons, and combine it with a return trip to Pryor Mountain and Yellowstone. I just can’t seem to get enough, and I still haven’t seen a grizzly there!
I am also thinking of when I can see more of my old friends. Too much time goes by too quickly and it felt so good and comfortable to to laugh, talk and hang out with both my cousin and my friends of many years. I am eager to see more friends and family on a trip that I’m taking in May. It is too easy to let geographic distances create temporal distances between ourselves and people who are important to us. We create excuses why we can’t do things now – time or affordability. One might think, from the way we put things off, that we had millions of years.
My trip to Pryor Mountain to see the wild horses back in September is one that has affected me deeply and the effects are still being felt. It was a great privilege to see the beauty of these horses with both their strength and fragility, their freedom and their lives subject to the elements in a natural habitat, living free, but it’s also been an ongoing lesson and blessing to think about what I saw, to review my photographs and think about the social world of these herds, the family lines and their history (history being a world we mostly tend to associate with humans).
My trip last year to see some of the wild horses in the Oregon herds, was one in which I primarily felt the beauty of these creatures living as they were meant to live, but this trip was different in that I was exposed more to the relationship of the horses to one another and the social structure of herds and bands. I was intrigued enough by some of the stories to watch the documentary, Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies (available from Netflix), about a harem stallion from Pryor Mountain mustang herd first encountered by Ginger Kathrens as a newborn foal and to read some of the blogs of the people who feel connected to these wild creatures, like Sandra Elmore’s blog – http://wildinthepryors.com/.
I can feel how easily it would be to become obsessed by these horses. Already, in processing some of my photographs, I feel my heart being pulled in every which way by the tenderness that is displayed between certain of the horses, or by the individual personalities of the various foals or horses and how they seem just as complex as the personalities of humans. When I read the blogs, I see how some of the people who watch over this herd develop a special connection to a certain horse, and then worry about its survival through the winter, sometimes to have their hearts broken when something does happen. I am touched and moved.
It is documented that the wild horses have been living in the Pryor Mountains of Wyoming and Montana or what Ginger Kathrens referred to as the Arrowhead Mountains by the early 1700s and perhaps even before. DNA testing has proven that they are descended from the Colonial Spanish mustangs. The herd is genetically diverse and has low inbreeding, two traits that make the herd very important. The horses tend to be on the smaller side, 13 to 15 hands and between 700-800 pounds.
What amazed me, upon first seeing these horses was the wide range of colors, from Cloud’s nearly white, to black, with grullos, duns, bays, chestnut and roans inbetween. The duns are especially interesting with primitive markings on their withers and stripes like zebra markings) on their legs. See the photograph of Odakota and look carefully at his hind leg.
Two of the foals that seemed very personable were Ohanzee (above) and Odakota (to the right) in very different ways. Odakota was curious but shy. He approached timidly, 1 step forward, 1 step back. Ohanzee is more confident and is the son of Cloud and Feldspar. When we first encountered him, he was grazing, then went to cuddle with his mother. After we had moved to another ridge, where the watering hole was and where there were many small bands of horses, I noticed later when reviewing my photographs that Cloud’s band had come over and Ohanzee was approaching Nimbus, his sister.
Nimbus was another horse I was fascinated with as she is a young filly, born in 2013, and has already departed from Cloud’s band and is in a band with Knight, a young stallion and two other bachelor stallions – a somewhat dangerous grouping for her. She is extremely beautiful, and her band definitely has the lively raw energy of the young, evident from the moment they first came into sight.
After watching the documentary and reading the blogs, I realized to a greater extent the obstacles these horses face, especially when they are young. One year, as our guide, Steve Cerroni, mentioned, many foals were killed by mountain lions. Eventually they had to relocate some of the mountain lions.
Also, some foals are just born weak. The documentary showed one disturbing incident where two bands were in the same area. The mother of the weak foal that had collapsed moved away when the more dominant stallion, Looking Glass and his band came near. The mares of Looking Glass’s band sniffed the foal and seemed to be concerned about it, but Looking Glass came up and killed the foal in a very horrible and aggressive manner despite the mares attempt to intervene, a reminder that cruelty does exist in the animal world as well. Perhaps the stallion sensed the foal’s imminent death or perhaps he was killing a rival’s offspring – we won’t ever know, but life in the wild is just not all Pretty Ponies.
Another danger is that during the round-up that do occur every few years, there is the danger of the young horses being run to death or getting crushed. Flint, also known as Blue Moon, did become lame one year and it was feared that he would not make it during that winter, but he is now a harem stallion. Lightening is also a problem, sometimes killing a whole band of horses at once.
There are also small bands of bachelor stallions. These are colts that get kicked out of the band at a certain age. They hang around with other males until they reach a time where they try to form their own band by stealing another mare from a harem stallion. What’s also sad, but natural, is that eventually the older stallions get their bands stolen and end up as a bachelor stallion again.
One thing that I’ve been thinking about is the history and continuity of these animals. Normally in an ideal domestic setting animals are neutered for the purpose of maintaining populations and not bringing unwanted animals into a situation where they will be neglected or abused. But in the wild, on my day’s tour, I see and photograph these horses, then later as I look back at a blog, I am able to see that horse as a colt, or see references to the horse’s parents or grandparents. I read about Cabaret’s band that is killed in the deep snows of 2011 and find that that will be the end of the line as all the offspring are dead. I think not of just one life, in the way I think of one of my animal companions, but of a line and legacy. Cloud, not 19 years old and made famous by three wonderful documentaries, has a mother who is 23 years old and still alive. Hopefully in 23 years, his offspring, Nimbus and Ohanzee will still be out there on the mountain.
In watching the documentary and reading the blogs, one phrase stays with me – living free, and also dying free. Ginger Kathrens remarked that she had been raised with horses, but when it came time to make the documentary found she knew very little about wild horses. What do we know about living free, I wonder? We think we are free, especially if we are Americans, but are we? The Merriam-Webster gives a number of definitions, but the one I most associate with the idea of “freedom” or the state of being “free” is: “not determined by anything beyond its own nature or being: choosing or capable of choosing for itself.”
Now a wild mare is not always “free” in that sense as the stallions tend to control their bands. Although perhaps she is according to her own nature. I’m reminded by one of the stories of a Pryor Mustang mare, named Blue Sioux whom Cloud stole from his brother, Red Raven. Allowed to go off by herself to foal, she made her way instead back to Red Raven. However now, she belongs to a younger stallion, Irial.
One difference, is that in the wild, horses are not generally pulled away from their families, and most of the time they are not “serving” anyone else. They are living according to their own nature, not saddled, not bridled, free to run (within the limits of 36000 acres now fenced in some places) and also to deal with the harsh realities of survival.
As humans, if we look carefully at our own lives we’ll find that we’ve given up some of our freedom. We might compromise our values in order to make a living. We might accept treatment that demeans us, so that we have a certain level of security. For some, that may be easier than for others. For myself, I think it’s always been a bit harder to conform or take orders or agree or to follow the prescribed agenda that is supposed to make me “better!”
Maybe I’m too sensitive, maybe it’s being from a mixed race that made me more unnerved and irritated by the ideal of having been told as a child that I wasn’t good enough but lately I’m finding it harder and harder to do things that I don’t find myself believing in and I’m growing more resistant to the suggestion that I need to accept certain things because I’m getting older, because the economy is shaky, because, because because of any number of reasons.
I think it’s because I’m getting older that it’s become more important to me to think that with this life I’ve done some of the things I wanted to do, and that I’ve attempted to live my life consciously and freely.
Now I’m not immune to fear. I worry about how long my savings will last, or what will happen if I get sick. Like the wild horses, I’ve followed the Judas horse more than once to that narrow corral. There’s a meal, the comfort of a crowd, the knowledge that you can give up risk and put yourself into the hands of others.
You know what? – I’m old enough to be really tired of the threat of a lash of the whip, albeit a symbolic one. I’m more worried about living a life that has no meaning or worse yet supporting something I find repellant. Each moment is more precious when you start to realize, really realize, they’re limited. Too precious to spend on things that make you feel rotten or dead or confined to a box.
When Ginger Kathrens or the Pryor Mustang bloggers refer to a horse as living free and dying free on the mountain, it speaks to a certain richness of life that boggles the civilized mind. Certainly not a romanticized, easy life, but defnitely an authentic one. Now I may not be able to join those wild and free mustangs on that mountain, but I certainly can appreciate them and instill a bit of that spirit in myself.
I can’t believe it’s been over two months since I last posted. A lot has transpired. I did take my scheduled vacation to Los Angeles. It was wonderful to see my old friends. There’s nothing so comforting as seeing people who’ve known you since you were arrogant with youth and still care for you through all the intervening phases. It’s amazing how you can slip right in to a relaxed feeling of trust with good friends despite not having seen each other for a year or years as with one good friend I met up with. Also, since I grew up in Los Angeles, there was a sense of connection with place. Since I usually do nature photography, it was interesting to take some photographs that were not in my comfort zone, architectural shots or city shots. Strangely enough, this one of Los Angeles Union Station sold shortly after I uploaded it.
My dog, Maisie’s surgery took place upon my return and the worry about it and her sarcoma had cast a shadow over my trip. The surgery went fairly well although I felt frustrated as the pathology reports were non-conclusive as to exact type of sarcoma and whether the full tumor had been excised. I realized that after paying for the pathology report, I expected it to be definitive. Something, life can’t always give us. So it will be a wait and see game. Her energy has been very good throughout, and the hardest part of her recovery was the cone head and keeping her from licking the wound when I let her have a reprieve from the cone head, which was too often as I found out.
I have switched her to a completely raw diet. While expensive, I was pleased that she really seems to like it. The first time I gave it to her, she wolfed it down, and then immediately threw it up. I thought – oh no, that’s about $5 on the carpet. Fortunately, she just had to learn to eat it more slowly! I also have her on the I’m Yunnity mushrooms, which I mix in her food, and I also give her raw goat’s milk in the mornings. She is maintaining a really healthy weight and has lots of energy. The wound has now healed and I am hoping that the raw diet and mushrooms will prevent the cancer from reoccurring.
For the last two months until just recently, my focus has not really been on my photography, but on just getting myself through this time. I was trying to stay positive when I was really feeling weighted down and scared by the sense of loss. I felt overwhelmed by the expenses and the uncertainty. But I just plodded through trying to keep the faith and let myself operate on automatic, emotionally.
This was a new reaction for me. I steered myself away from brooding or getting really actively depressed, I let myself tune out in a way and focused on just doing what I could do, like learning about the diet and reading to take my mind away from my worry. I definitely did not feel connected to myself at this time (felt like I was numbing myself out), but at least I felt like I held my despair at bay.
At any rate, I’ve gotten through that period. While in the middle of it though, and upset by what seemed to me my dwindling world, a snub by a local person I had considered a friend, and sadness at being separated from my long-time friends, I did decide to go ahead and take a trip to Wyoming (something I had wanted to do this summer but it hadn’t looked like it was going to happen).
I’ve been tired of the same old places, the same routine, the oppressiveness of the same old, same old. I knew I needed to feed myself, spiritually, and the trip, despite being last minute and kind of chaotically planned, was good in that it allowed me to focus and reignite my passion for photography, and filled me awe about the beauty of animals and nature. I want to stop forcing myself to accept less. I’ve been operating in this zen, less is enough mode, and on one hand, yes, I’m don’t want to be overly needy or greedy. But on the other hand, I don’t want to have to settle for less. What’s the point of that type of life?
I want to start doing the things that make me feel alive and connected. And I want to stop the things (people or situations) that make me feel depleted, whether that be friendships or job. That’s my breakthrough. Now to make it happen. That’s the hard part. Stay tuned.
I will talk more about my trip in my next post, but one of the highlights was seeing the Pryor Mountain Mustangs, and getting a day in Yellowstone National Park (not enough time) and a few days in Grand Tetons. Until then, I wish you the best. Here’s a photo preview!
This Spring turned out to be full of contentiousness and drama, and hard as I tried to stay away from it, I had to slog through it! Meanwhile, the rain that hadn’t come in its normal amounts during the winter, started to make its appearance. During the first few really beautiful Spring days, I was chained to this legal matter I was helping my mother with and resenting the time that was taking me away from hiking, from being out in nature. I felt like I was being robbed of Spring.
Basically, without getting into details, it stemmed from lack of coherent communication between parties, obstinance, bitterness, and escalated from there. This took over two months to resolve. It was enough to make me lose it a couple of times, but on the times when I wasn’t falling apart I tried to remind myself to stay centered, breathe and know that it would eventually pass. And I think now, the worst is over. I’m finally able to enjoy looking forward to the rest of Spring, warmer weather and being able to focus on my photography again.
During one of the rainy days I was so frustrated I combed through my images from last year and worked on this image. The beautiful Iris was from my sister’s garden, and I added another exposure and textures.
This second photograph was of a dandelion taken this Spring during a short walk – my favorite and only form of therapy aside from meditation. But walking really comes in handing especially when the mind refuses to quiet itself. The title, Dandelion Don’t Care About the Time, is from one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs. I have used various verses for some of my other dandelion photos.
You can see it does has a time theme, and that is pertinent, because especially as one gets older, there is a realization of how much time is spent on drama. It causes so much stress, making us lose sleep, causing us to worry about things that are somewhat uncontrollable. We often forget in the middle of emotional upheaval or fear that the one thing we can control is our reaction. There were a lot of nights when I would wake up at around 3am and just start worrying about how things were going to come out. What I started to do after a few nights of this was pick up a book. In most cases it worked. It took my mind away from the useless circling that it was doing and engaged my thoughts elsewhere. After an hour or so of reading, I would feel sleepy again.
One day it was supposed to be beautiful and warm. I headed up to a lake area where there are usually lots of dragonflies and was hoping to find some wildflowers. Spring was not evident – the area around the lake was far to marshy to get close to it and on top of that it started to drizzle. Yet in spite of that it was a day that was wonderful for just escaping. I took multiple shots, panning the camera to obtain this photograph and later combined and aligned them in Photoshop using the perspective option. Do you see where I’m going? I took some photographs with the tripod, and then I just sat, tucking my jacket underneath my butt to protect it from the cold and slightly damp ground, leaned back against a rock and closed my eyes. I listened to the birds, the stirring of the trees while my dog went exploring on her own. I was miles away from any human being, and it was a wonderful time-out from reality.
Later my dog and I walked down the road, where there was still snow on the ground. It almost felt like I had entered an alternate universe where no bickering existed, no lies and distorted truth, and no hurt egos, and no vying to get the upper hand. The world wasn’t easier: trees would fall, lightning would strike, prey would be eaten, but still, life would continue.
On the way home I stopped to take some more photographs. I especially liked this one of a small rock formation that juts out of the water at Cougar Reservoir and looks like a small island with fir trees growing. Again, there is a theme of life being able to spring forth, even from hardship. Roots find ways around the rocky obstacles, and there is growth.
There were no winners, only losers in the legal matter, unless of course, you count the attorneys who did come out ahead. However, in the realm of things that had transpired during that time: a missing jetliner, a downed ferry with lost children, mudslides, and tornadoes, among others – it was a speck of sand.
And fortunately during this stressful time, there were moments, not as many as I would like for the real Spring drama: lovely blossoms, adorable ducklings, otters at play. That is the drama that interests me.
The last photograph on the page is from a walk I took with my dog and my friend and her dog. It’s titled When Life Gives You a Mud Puddle… and I think, as I often do, that we have a lot to learn from the natural world.