Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


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Back to Burns, Malheur and the Wild Horses

If I had the time and money, I’d make the trip to Burns at least once a month.  My heart is so attached to the wild horses that I see out there, in addition to the wide variety of birds to be sighted around Burns and at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  It’s not a huge trip for me, four hours, but long enough to require at least one night’s stay, and better with two, since once you get out there, the driving doesn’t stop.  South Steens Mountain is about 50 miles south of Burns which will take you through Malheur NWR and the small historical town of Frenchglen.  To really see all the area has to offer is to take forays down gravel roads and I have even ventured at times onto deeply rutted dirt roads where I prayed that my car had the clearance to pass over boulders and ridges.  This last May trip, I also did a bit of walking by foot to reach the wild horses as the dirt road became impassable by my passenger car.  One note: I do try and stay at a respectable distance.  The horses will be aware of me from quite a distance, but I don’t want them to be uncomfortable with my presence.

This Spring the area looked generally much more lush than last year.  I stopped first to see the Palomino Buttes horses which are west of Burns.  I was looking forward especially to see a favorite, more approachable band, that as of Fall last year, consisted of the Palomino Stallion (some locals call him a Dunalino), his primary mare, Bella, two of her sons, Pallaton and Traveler, from prior years, and a filly from last year.  Also there was a bay mare and her colt, and another bay mare that had joined them sometime during the Summer or Fall.  (Some of the horses are named by the locals.)  I didn’t see any horses initially.  Then I spotted white spots on a very distant hill (both Pallaton and Traveler were white/light colored palominos).  When I walked out, I saw it was my favorite band with some significant changes.  Pallaton was not with the band.  This isn’t such a big surprise, since as a three year old, he would start to have conflicts with his father.  I was surprised this hadn’t started happening last year, since Pallaton had already started chasing fillies in other bands.  Instead, he and his father seemed to work as a team, protecting their band from another stallion on the couple of occasions I observed.  I also observed that when the band was on the move, Pallaton would the lead while the stallion brought up the rear; this year Traveler took the front spot.  Though Pallaton’s absence was expected, it was still a blow, as the bonds between the family, especially he and his mother, and he and Traveler, were affectionate and playful.  Even the bond with his father had been a special one.  I still don’t know whether the bay mare and her colt were with the band. I think so, but the horses coats change so much from season to season and this time I wasn’t in close enough to compare other markings from my earlier picture.  There were also two new foals and at least one other horse I don’t recognize at all.

Though I hadn’t made it over to Burns until May, I did see some Sandhill Cranes still in the area, one pair with two colts (what the “chicks” are called because of their long legs), along with various other birds.  I didn’t even see the colts until I reviewed the images on my computer.  The birds weren’t as plentiful as they would have been a few weeks earlier but they were much more plentiful than they had been last May.

While in the vicinity of Malheur I was excited to capture a couple mammals I had not photographed before in the area, including, not one, but two hares.  Last year the ones I saw had proven too quick for my reflexes.  I also saw the first marmot I had seen in Oregon as well – a yellow-bellied marmot.  These critters spend most of their time in their burrows (80%) hibernating or otherwise, so I was lucky to capture this one.  I had seen a flash of one about an hour earlier than this, so apparently the beautiful Spring day was too enticing to pass up.

I also saw the usual suspects, mule deer and pronghorn antelope.  Mule deer are distinguished from white-tailed deer as their tales are black, their ears are larger, and antlers fork rather than branch on the males.

Just past Malheur NWR, is the small historic town, Frenchglen, population 12, and continuing on Hwy. 205 you will find the south entrance to Steen Loop, a gravel road that loops around the mountain.  The road will usually be blocked at some point during Spring due to snow as the mountain rises over 9000 feet, although it does it in a fairly non-dramatic way.  If you’re lucky you will be able to view some of the wild horses in South Steens herd.  I’ve been lucky to see multiple bands together on two occasions and on other occasions, a small band by itself.  This time, I was not exceptionally close to them but it was wonderful to observe them – some playing, the more mature grazing or resting along with the foals.

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Is it hard to see why I’m in love with this place?  If you travel out there, don’t expect luxury. You will get the most basic of accommodations and a very limited assortment of restaurants.  In fact, you will need to be sure that you fill up on gas before you leave Burns to go exploring.  During summer, the temperatures can get quite high, so it would be advisable to carry water for both you and your car.

I’ve hoped you’ve enjoyed this post.  To see more of my work, please visit Belinda Greb Photography for all of my published work.  My next post will be on some of the beautiful Oregon waterfalls I’ve visited in mainly Silver Falls State Park.

 


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Yosemite in Spring

Early in April, I met my longtime friends for a vacation in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. It’s a lovely time of year to visit as tourist numbers are lower than summer, but the downside is that some of the trails and roads, including Tioga Pass and the road to Glacier Point were closed (seasonal weather closures).

I hadn’t been to the area since I was a child. We entered the park, and the famous tunnel view is a grand sight to behold.  Yosemite Valley area is splendid. I felt like I was in a long narrow amphitheater surrounded by these awe-inspiring views and granite cliffs. We had reserved rooms at Yosemite Valley Lodge, and I really enjoyed staying in the national park without having to spend the time driving in each day. It didn’t hurt that the Yosemite Falls was right behind our room. All the waterfalls were at high water levels due to the plentiful rainfall California had received that winter. At night I fell asleep to the sounds of rushing water.

Also, I enjoyed getting up in the early morning to take a walk around Cook’s Valley before cars lined the roads. The day was crisp and there were few people about and lots of water in the fields, so I was able to get some lovely reflective shots of the falls.

The weather was beautiful the first full day we were there, and we enjoyed the trail to Mirror Lake after we had let our fellow shuttle bus passengers move on past us. And that is the downside of Yosemite Valley: like Yellowstone there are tons of tourists, but unlike Yellowstone, at least at this time of year, they are concentrated into the much smaller area of the Yosemite Valley. This may not bother others as much, but now having acclimated to the less traveled terrain of my Oregon locale, it is a difficult adjustment having my nature intruded upon by so many other humans. I know I have to share. : ) It is a lovely trail that accompanies Tenaya Creek up to Mirror Lake, which is pretty small, although it used to be larger before a dam was built.

The next day I took a longer hike around the Yosemite Valley Floor Loop. While we did less than half the full 20 miles, it is an flat easy walk that gives some stunning views of El Capitan, Sentinel Falls, Cathedral Rocks and Merced River.

 

After visiting Yosemite National Park, my friends and I drove south to spend a couple of days at Sequoia National Park and one day it was even snowing. In the future, I would wait until later in the year to visit this park as some of the trails were snow-bound. But it was beautiful to see the majestic giant sequoias, including General Sherman, the largest tree by volume in the world, and also General Grant. These trees are among the oldest living organisms alive on Earth, with General Sherman estimated to be between 2300-2700 years old.

All in all it was a vacation filled with wonder and awe at the beautiful world we live in, and I loved being able to share the experience with my friends. And I also hope to explore more of these two national parks in the future!

To see more, please my Yosemite Gallery or Sequoia National Park Gallery .

 

 

 

 

 


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Grand Canyon Series, Part 1

This year’s been wonderful for me as I’ve gotten the opportunity to visit and revisit a few of our nation’s treasures – our national parks.  In October, I got to meet up with my dear friends and spend a bit of time in Arizona and Utah.  While the weather wasn’t optimum I am still grateful not only to see my friends, but also to get a chance to see Grand Canyon since I haven’t seen this since I was a young girl. I will now have to go back to see it in better weather and different light.

For this series, I will just be posting more frequently with just a couple of images and fewer words.

It may be October and the kids are back in school, but there are still crowds, at least by the Visitor Center viewpoints.  Walk around the rim, and you will find peace and quiet! Such a beautiful place, I was sadly disturbed to find cans thrown over the edge. Too steep to retrieve, but perhaps the park services has a long extension pole. Why come to see beauty and then leave such an ugly mark that is also dangerous to any wildlife? These parks, more than money or commercial items are our real treasures, a million years in the making.

The same image, in black and white.  Black and white photography, to me, always seems to add a timeless quality to the image, highlighting texture, light and shadows.

More to come.


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Traveling

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.


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Six Days in Paradise – Kauai, Hawaii – Part II

There’s a lot more to Kauai than its beautiful beaches. There’s wildlife, beautiful hiking trails, and various boat trips that will take you to see the beautiful Na Pali Coast or out to a small island for great snorkeling.  There are helicopter rides, which are a bit too pricey for me, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing either on one of the rivers or on the ocean, or you can learn how to paddle a surfboard or zip-line.

One of the things that’s become a must do for me is to take a boat tour (60 ft catamaran – usually about 40 people) to whale watch and also to make it up to the Na Pali Coast if the water and weather permit.  I’ve gone with three different companies, Blue Dolphin Charters, Captain Andy (I believe) and the last two times with Kauai Sea Tours.  Each time, we’ve seen whales, spinner dolphins, and only once did we not make it up to the Na Pali Coast and these trips were made in either February or March.  It is well worth the money.

This time, was my least favorite, although my friend, who had never been before loved it.  The Na Pali Coast is pristine and beautiful, but my favorite portion of the tour is seeing the whales and dolphins.  Perhaps because of the ocean conditions, the captain seemed in a rush to get up to the Na Pali Coast.  It is hard enough to take photographs on a moving boat, but more difficult the faster the boat is going  And when we saw our first whales who were swimming with bottle-nosed dolphins, the captain momentarily stopped, but then too quickly hurried away saying we’d see more.

In past trips, it seemed we’d hung out a little more and waited for the whales who sometimes would breach in front of us. It also is nice, especially for photographers, if the captain turns the engine off.  The whales tend to go down, and while they always tell you, oh they’ll be down for 20 minutes, that’s not always the case.  You have to be alert as they go down in one spot and may come up on the other side of the boat.  When the boat is moving, it is more difficult to keep an eye out and your footing.  The crew want you to hold on to something on the boat, but when you’re holding a camera with a tripod, it’s usually some other part of your body than your hands you’re using to keep steady.

We ended up not really seeing any more whales closeup up on the way up to the Na Pali, and on the way back, I had spotted dolphins and had to shout to the captain three times as they were directly in the boat’s path, and his eyes were elsewhere before he stopped.  When we did, again we saw that a whale was with the dolphins.  I missed the one time the whale came up very close in front of a boat, and again after about five minutes, the captain was starting up the engine again.  However, black smoke was pouring out on one side, and to my horror they sent down a crew member to check to see if we had run over anything.  Since the dolphins had been right in front of us, needless to say I was quite upset, but fortunately that did not prove to be the case.  The mechanics he talked to on the radio system thought it was a blown piston, but one engine of two was not working. So we chugged back to shore at about 4 miles per hour which prevented us from going out to sea a bit (where the whales might have been) and also where normally the boat is accompanied by spinner dolphins cavorting and doing their acrobatics. However, the ride back was lovely under a starry sky and no one seemed to mind that we had an extra hour and a half on the boat, except probably the husband who had gotten seasick and disembarked before we even left port and who was waiting for his wife back on shore.

However, It was a fantastic day to view the Na Pali Coast, perhaps the best I’ve ever seen it, and we even spotted a mountain goat high on one of the cliffs, which I had never seen there before.  The coast is other-worldly and mysterious.  I remember the first time I saw it, it seemed like there were strange faces that could be seen in the ridges and crevices of the mountains (matrixing). This coast is famous for many movies, most notably, Jurassic Park and the 1976 version of King Kong as well as Harrison Ford’s Six Days and Seven Nights.

The boat rides also offer dinner on the way back and often there will be a pretty sunset, and drinks are to be had throughout.  Hopefully, the water is smooth and the passengers aren’t drinking too much as sometimes one can get seasick. I’ve never gotten sick on the catamaran, but there is usually one or two people who do, and I’ve understand that on really rough trips, it can be a contagious as a cold. Not pretty.  However, I usually will take Dramamine an hour before, just in case.  The same tour companies also usually offer snorkeling trips on a faster ocean raft.  Next time, I will look into a boat specifically for wildlife viewing.

You can also rent canoes and kayaks either on rivers or for ocean. If you are going to venture out in the ocean, you should be experienced as the ocean can be very rough.  On the other hand, the rivers can offer a safer route.  However, a friend and I once took a kayaking trip where it was a bit too safe.  There hadn’t been much rain, and the water was about 1 foot deep in some spots or so it seemed!  It was quite funny.  At one point we thought we’d have to get out of the boat to maneuver it further up river. Therefore, do your research.

My sister, on her November trip, learned to paddle. It doesn’t look that exciting to me, and although she enjoyed it, she said it could be difficult to get back up on the board.

One of the things I do like to do is taking advantage of some of the great hikes the island has to offer. Now by no means am I an advanced hiker, so I have to pick and choose carefully the trails I take in Kauai. On a past trip a friend and I hiked the first two miles of the 11 mile Kalalau trail (2 miles in and 2 miles out), and that was about my speed. The trail is rocky, and, depending on the weather, slippery.  You have to make sure you don’t step to far off to the side to let another person pass as you may be stepping off the cliff.  It’s hard on the knees as the natural steps are steep, and the switchbacks on a hot day can seem endless.  But the views are amazing. And it supposed to just keep on getting better.  I talked to a couple who had hiked and camped the trail the last time they were here, and they said it was beautiful.  They had lugged in a tent, but this time were planning to use hammocks on a camping trip in Waimea Canyon. They said at one spot, the mountain goats were knocking rocks down on them so one has to be careful where they put up a tent or hammock!

It did astound me on the Kalalau Trail just how many of the hikers were in great shape.  We had young people going past us with babies on the shoulders (something I think is really dangerous) and others carrying surfboards and walking in their bare feet.  But the biggest insult to our pride was when we were passed by a very old woman who had been resting earlier and looked tired, and also by a man who had fallen and gashed his knee open.  Of course, we told ourselves that it was because we were stopping so often to look at the view!

The Kalalau trail is at the End of the Road in Northern Kauai, but many, many hikes are to be found in the Waimea Canyon.  There is usually an ascent and descent, so not easy walking, but they lead to beautiful vistas.  I didn’t get any real hiking in on this trip as it had been raining heavily for days before we had arrived, but I have been on a couple of trails in the Waimea Canyon, and you walk past waterfalls, on cliffs that look out over the canyon where you can see birds soaring down below you and similar to this view seen in the photograph.  Some of the trails lead to vistas where you can also see the ocean.

Now Kauai, and especially the Princeville / Hannalei part, is probably not the best island for nightlight.  Things close up fairly early.  There are some good restaurants.  I loved the meal at Tahiti Nua and there is live music, although seating is limited.  My friend and I got there too late, so we sat in the wine bar area where we had our drinks and dinner. There is also a luau show there on certain nights, and another larger show down in the Lihue area that is supposed to be very good, although we were told the food wasn’t that great.  But these are not the traditional outdoor Luaus that used to be so plentiful 20 years ago or that you might expect. So if you are looking for a more lively time, it would probably be best to check out Oahu or Maui.

However, what Kauai is excellent for is a week of decompression from your usual cares, enjoyment of a simpler lifestyle where all you have to worry about is what you want to do that day, and an overdose on beauty.

If you like these photographs, please check out more #Hawaii #photography at http://belinda-greb.artistwebsites.com/index.html under the galleries: Travel, or Landscapes, or Birds. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 


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Six Days in Paradise – Kauai, Hawaii – Part I

It should have been a week, but I overlooked that the flight into LAX was one date and the flight out to Lihue was the next. That ended up working out well, as I was able to spend one day visiting with my friends in Los Angeles. On checking the weather forecast, I kept seeing day after day of rain, but knowing Kauai, I was sure we’d get at least a few days of beautiful weather, which we did. This was fortunate, especially as my friend, Diana, from Georgia, who met me there, had never been to Hawaii, and I was hoping she’d see it at its best.

I’ve been to four of the islands, and Kauai is my favorite, because it is the most beautiful island in my opinion, although Maui is also very beautiful. Kauai is also probably the wettest. It has developed at a slower pace. My family has a timeshare in Princeville and so I get a turn every couple or few years. The timeshare sits on bluffs overlooking the ocean, and a favorite pastime of the guests is going out in the morning and late afternoon to watch the whales (during winter months).

There are also Nene Geese wandering around the grounds. The Nene Goose is the world’s rarest goose.  In 1952, there were estimated to be only about thirty left, but they were re-introduced and have made a comeback in numbers with about an estimated  800 in the wild (2004) and 1000 more in captivity.

Soaring Layson Albatross can be seen from the timeshare with more at Kilauea Lighthouse, and many wild chickens (to be found all over the island). This year I also noticed a new bird I had never seen before there, the Chestnut Munia.  They are very small crimson birds and seemed to move as a small flock. There are also lots of red and red-crested cardinals and a few feral cats. I love getting up early and going outside and watching the birds.  The chickens usually have chicks with them, of various ages.  They believe the population of chickens has become so large because they have no real predators (except feral cats when they are chicks).

Not only is the weather in Kauai temperate, with no heating or air conditioning necessary, but the clean air quality, the sounds of the ocean and birds, all create this magical relaxing environment.  This isn’t to say that it doesn’t get muggy at times – it does, but most days are heavenly. Of course, the summers can be hotter.

There is something wonderful about the skies!  When there are big puffy clouds in the evening, they seem so close, as if you might reach up and grab one. It may be the clean air, the fact that you’re surrounded by the ocean and fewer city lights, but I feel more aware of the world around me in a strange and wonderful way.

And then there are the beaches.  I tend to stay at the northern end of the island, which is greener, but also has the most beautiful, secluded beaches. Some you need to hike to, and each beach offers different things. Some beaches offer great swimming, others snorkeling, others paddling or body surfing.

I love snorkeling, but how much snorkeling you get to do will depend on the water conditions, and it tends to be more dangerous in the winter.  This year, there was no snorkeling at two of my favorite beaches Kee and Tunnels, although I did get 15 minutes at Kee, before the lifeguard stopped me.  There had been many straight days of rain, and the week before a snorkeler had drowned at Secret Beach.  One day, after seeing the flags up at Tunnels, I wen tot Annini.  While the conditions were not the best, and I didn’t see as many fish as I normally do, or even as many as I had seen during my 15 minutes at Kee, I did get to see and swim with the sea turtles and that is just an amazing thing. They swim right by you, and in the past, I’ve had to back-paddle to keep my distance from them.  Then it’s fun when one pokes its head up above the surface of the water to scope you out and you have that direct eye contact.  I’m getting blissful just writing about it!

You could stay there a month and probably not visit all the wonderful beaches on the island. There are some beaches you hike to, and are rewarded with complete privacy.  My sister, who was there in November, saw a monk seal on one of the beaches as they like to come ashore and sun. Also you can be sitting at the beach and see a whale breeching or dolphins swimming by. For those who like to avoid the sun, most of the northern beaches also have great shade trees. Parking can be a problem, and getting to some beaches can also be hard on the knees, especially if it’s been raining lately.

Next week, I will continue my Kauai post, with more photographs and more adventures available on the island of Kauai!   I haven’t written my blog for a while, as I came back and immediately came down with a virus that lingered on for almost three weeks. I’m definitely blaming that illness on being back in the stuffy old office!

Anyway, more later, and as they say in Kauai, Aloha and Mahalo!


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Cultivating Graititude

I’ve written before about how one of the things I love about photography is the ability to capture moments of time.  The rains in Oregon have started, and I’ve been re-scanning and reprocessing some photographs I took in Kenya in 1995. In looking over these photographs (closely – as I work on them on my computer), I’m able to reconnect with the past, and in a sense re-experience it.

I remember my excitement when our group came upon a pregnant cheetah, and how we all were shooting wildly as if Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were standing on a Red Carpet before us.  I remember my friend and cousin, Sue clutching my arm, as our jeep pulled into close proximity to three female lions eating a topi, as she kept saying, “We’re too close, we’re too close,” and I remember my own fear dwarfed by my excitement and my certainty that I was all for staying right where we were.

Memories, sparked by handfuls of photos, bring to mind other images not caught on camera – Kenyans walking miles and miles to get to work along the road we were driving to visit Nairobi;  the dark smoky interior of a Masai tribesman’s tent, with a fire going in the middle and the yellow cloudiness in the older tribesmen’s eyes, a side effect of that smoke; the heart wrenching beauty of the landscape in the Samburu region; and the warm rich voice of a guide we had in Amboseli near the beginning of the trip who told me to take my time and watch the animals.  Such good advice, but shamefully it was hard for me to follow just then when I felt there was so much to see that I could not possibly take it all in – in the allotted time – and that movement to the next place, the next animal would satiate me. It probably wasn’t until we got to the Ark, a place where you watch elephants, rhinos, water buffalo and other smaller animals interact with each other at a salt lick, that I started to slow down and began to realize the full value of his advice.

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When I look back now on these photos, I am grateful. Grateful to have been witness to so much beauty, grateful that I had the desire and still have the desire to explore the world around me, grateful that I had the opportunity to travel a bit if only in order to realize just how fortunate I was.

I come from a middle class background, but currently I feel uncertain about many things.  I despair about the economy, my work environment, the way people treat the earth and each other. It’s easy to be cynical and to worry, worry, and worry some more. Yet when one travels to a third world country, you realize that troubles and suffering are always relative. Drinkable water, food, shelter. – these are the real problems of much of the world’s population. The animals in the wild each and every day struggle to eat and not be eaten, yet there is beauty and passion in their beings.

It becomes habitual to always think in terms of what we might be lacking and forget about the unique gifts we each have, whether it be our family connections, our close friendships, our loyal animal companions, or  maybe our own individual characteristics that allow us to cope with and transcend the challenges we face. It is always possible to find something to be grateful for even if it is just our own spirit that refuses to be defeated or diminished, and that can remain conscious and compassionate towards the living world beyond our selves.

Here in America, we celebrate Thanksgiving, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if every day we could cultivate gratitude for the uniqueness and value of each of our own lives.