Travels and Stories

Olympic Medley

Barred owl, Olympic NP, WA, USA

Barred owl, Olympic NP, Washington

My previous two posts focused on autumn color on the Olympic Peninsula, but it’s a diverse and beautiful area, and I made many photographs that didn’t involve fall color. The forests are quite photogenic even without fall leaves, plus some of my favorite images from the trip were made along the coast. And one of the highlights of our trip was photographing a barred owl.

We found this owl while driving along a back road early one morning. The owl took off from a log next to the road and flew into a nearby tree. I didn’t have my camera out, so we backed up to where the owl couldn’t see us. Then I stepped out of the car, grabbed my camera and 100-400mm lens, climbed into the passenger seat (the owl was on the right), and got everything set.


Olympic Autumn: Part Two

Vine maple and alders, autumn, Olympic NP, WA, USA

Vine maple and alders, autumn, Olympic NP, Washington

My previous post featured mostly images that combined fall color with the moss- and lichen-draped branches that Olympic National Park is known for. I like those juxtapositions, as they’re so characteristic of that area. But we found lots of other interesting juxtapositions as well.

One thing I kept looking for was groves of alders. Alders often form great patterns, with leaning, criss-crossing, light-colored trunks spotted with patches of moss or lichen. But while alders are deciduous trees, their leaves don’t turn color in the fall. Alders just drop their leaves while they’re still green. Even without that color, however, their patterns and structure make them worth photographing, and sometimes (like in the photo above) I was able to juxtapose maples with alder trunks. (Why don’t alder leaves turn color? No one really knows, but here’s one possible explanation.)


Olympic Autumn: Part One

Vine maples and big-leaf maples, autumn, Olympic NP, WA, USA

Vine maples and big-leaf maples, autumn, Olympic NP, Washington

Earlier this month, Claudia and I spent about two weeks on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Part of that time I was co-leading a workshop for Visionary Wild with Jerry Dodrill, which was super fun. We had a great, lively group of people, and beautiful conditions, with lots of fall color, and a gorgeous sunset on the beach.

This was our second trip to the Olympic Peninsula this year, and we loved both visits. There’s something about temperate rain forests that seems to strike a chord with me, whether on the Olympic Peninsula, in the redwoods, or on the west coast of New Zealand.


Late Summer

White-lined sphinx moth and larkspur, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

White-lined sphinx moth and larkspur, Yosemite NP, California. 200mm, 1/4000 sec. at f/16, ISO 1250.

Summer arrived late this year in the Sierra high country, as the prodigious amounts of snow left over from last winter took awhile to melt. Snowmelt, mosquitos, and wildflower blooms all started and ended at least a month later than normal.

But that meant that summer lingered longer as well; we were still finding lots of flowers in late August.

And something about the timing of everything, or the great abundance of flowers, seemed to suit the white-lined sphinx moths. Claudia and I started seeing lots of these moths, along with their caterpillars, during July in the Eastern Sierra, and kept finding them anywhere we saw flowers for a good two months afterward.


Death Valley

Mud tiles in late-afternoon light, Death Valley NP, CA, USA

Mud tiles in late-afternoon light, Death Valley NP, California

I’m thinking about Death Valley, and other desert areas in California currently affected by the rain from Tropical Storm Hilary. These are places that receive very little precipitation, where the ground is mostly rock and dirt, and even a half-inch of rain can fill normally-dry washes and create flooding and debris flows. There are few bridges along the roads in the desert; they just run right through the washes, because it’s so rare for those washes to have any water in them. That means even minor flooding or debris flows can cause lots of damage.

This storm could bring several inches of rain to many desert areas today and tomorrow. Some places could get a year’s worth of precipitation, or several year’s worth, in just a couple of days, or even a few hours. It’s a scenario that could cause major rock and mudslides, wipe out roadways, and create catastrophic flash floods. I hope everyone in those areas has found a safe place to ride out the storm.


Mono Lake

Tufa formations and osprey at sunrise, Mono Lake, CA, USA

Tufa formations and osprey at sunrise, Mono Lake, California

I love the diversity of our area. We live in the foothills on the western side of the Sierra Nevada, a region that includes rolling grasslands, oak savannah, chaparral, oak woodlands, and steep-sided river canyons. Just to the west of that is California’s Central Valley, an agricultural hub that also contains marshes and wetlands, hosting vast flocks of waterfowl in winter.

To our east lies the higher terrain of the Sierra, including the wondrous Yosemite Valley, plus magnificent conifer forests, meadows, canyons, rivers, lakes, and peaks. And when Tioga Pass is open we can reach the eastern side of the mountains in about two-and-a-half hours, where the trees give way to high desert, with sagebrush, junipers, pinyon pines, pronghorn antelope, wild horses, stunning views of the Sierra – and the uniquely beautiful shores of Mono Lake.