Cibola National Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday we took a drive from our RV park in Yuma to the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge in California.  We’ve been here before and knew pretty much what to expect, but you never really know what you’ll see.  This is a drive through refuge and you’re not allowed to get out of your vehicle.  As usual there were hundreds of ducks in the duck pond along with hundreds of Snow Geese.  One thing unusual was a Vulture that landed near the ponds edge right in front of us.  I took photos of him hoping he’d take flight while I was aimed at him, but it was not to be.  We didn’t find any burrowing owls on the back stretch, but there were lots of Sand Hill Cranes in several fields, but none within good range of the road. We saw several American Kestrels and even a herd of deer.  By the time we finished the loop it was getting too late to go around again, but I hope to get back up there again this winter.  It’s about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Yuma.

I want sharper images!

These were taken on a trip to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2019.  I was having trouble getting sharp images with my Fuji X-T3 and Fuji 100-400 mm lens and ended up throwing most of them away.  I’ve since learned to shoot a faster shutter speed and to also turn the image stabilizer setting to 1 instead of 2 to get sharper images.  I’m still working on it, and I think I’m doing better.  Just need more practice.  Also, I was shooting from the car for these images and had forgot to bring my bean bag to help stabilize the lens on.  I now keep it in the car full time.

The Birth of Raven

After traveling many years in various Volkswagen Westfalia camper vans, we had come to the point of wanting something a bit larger.  Not too big, because we want to keep it very maneuverable, but we wanted something with a few more creature comforts than the VWs.  Here’s the story of the purchase of our 2019 Leisure Travel Van Unity Twin Bed camper van.  (And yes, we did sell our last VW after we took possession of this van, who we call Raven.  I want to keep this a photography related blog, but don’t be surprised if Raven shows up in some of my future posts, because he has a lot to do with where we travel and the photos I capture.  I thought about creating a separate blog for Raven’s travels, but soon abandoned that idea as too much work.

November 9, 2017 we attended the Portland RV show with the intention of viewing different models of the Leisure Travel Vans.  We ended up ordering a 2018 FX model that afternoon.  We were told the wait time would be about 6 months, so May or June.

After arriving home and thinking about it a few days, we called back on the 13th to say we had changed our minds and that we wanted to switch our order to the Twin Bed model.  We decided we didn’t want a slide out with a Murphy bed and we also were surprised to find that the FX had the least amount of storage of any of the models.  We drove back to Johnson RV the next day to redo our paperwork.

By May, we still had not heard anything about our build date, so it was apparent that we weren’t going to see it by June.  We learned that on June 6, Triple E was switching over to the new year builds – a 2019 house on a 2018 chassis.  That was great news for us because for 2019 they were adding the option for Equalizer Systems leveling jacks.  We quickly added that to our order.  About this same time we learned our build date would be sometime just after the end of July.  Since it takes about 6 weeks to build a van, we hoped that meant we’d have it by about mid September.

As it turned out, we missed a couple delivery predictions in September – supposedly because of a shortage on awnings.  On Monday, October 8, we finally got word that our van had arrived at Johnson RV in Sandy, Oregon.  We arranged to pick it up on Thursday, October 11.  By now it had been a 11 months since we placed our order.  We were so excited to finally “meet” our new LTV.

Here are some photos of a Unity twin bed model being manufactured in Winkler, Manitoba. I wasn’t able to get photos of our own rig, but this one looks just like our’s would have, except it was being built in the winter.


(SOLD) 1989 VW Westfalia Camper Syncro

1989 VW Westfalia Camper Syncro (AWD)

Contact Dale: Call: 360-561-0075 or Click to Email

1989 VW Westfalia Camper Syncro (AWD)  $49,999

Subaru 3.3 (SVX) engine conversion (6 cyl)
Total miles on chassis: 228,253
Miles since engine conversion: 49,820

Engine Conversion done by Wolf DS Performance, Las Vegas, NV

Photos Below


  • Full Kitchen and storage cabinets
  • Two large size tables
  • SureFlow faucet 
  • Stove front and other metal parts have new powder coating
  • 1” Memory Foam Topper for top bed
  • 3” Memory Foam Topper for bottom bed
  • 3 Window Tent
  • Screen Door for slider
  • Screen for rear hatch
  • Wasserstopper rain fly for tent
  • Francher’s Rainfly for Front Cargo area
  • Sun Block Windshield Window Cover
  • GoWesty Fridge Delete Kit
  • Thetford PortaPotty – fits in Fridge cabinet on Slideout
  • Gray Water Tank installed
  • ARB 50 Quart Freezer/Fridge

Suspension / Wheels

  • 2” Lift Kit
  • Old Man Emu shocks
  • Custom 16 inch Wheels
  • Newer tires with about 10k on them. Tread depth at 10/32
  • Small Car Big Brake Kit – front and rear discs


  • Rocky Mountain Westy (RMW) Bumpers with Tire Carrier and Tray
  • RMW side ladder
  • Vanagon Life Locking Steel Center Console 
  • South African Grill and Light Kit
  • Yakima Roof Rack
  • Shadyboy Awning with vertical support poles
  • 90 Watt Overland Solar Portable Solar Panel
  • Full Window Tint
  • Blaze Cut fire suppression kit for engine room
  • Deltrin “Nylon” bearing kit installed on slider
  • Reflectix Insulation for Windows – held in with rare earth magnets
  • GoWesty Hi-Lift Jack Hitch Mount with Jack – front bumper
  • Bentley repair manual included


  • Sure Power 1315 Isolator/Combiner
  • GoWesty Aux Battery 55 ah
  • Built in Deltran Battery Tender for use when connected to shore power
  • Combined all dash accessories to draw from Aux Battery
  • Alpine Stereo Deck
  • Electric Central Door Lock system – 2 key fobs
  • Cruise Control
  • Power Mirrors
  • Power Windows
  • 5 additional 12 volt power ports
  • Magnetic 12 volt connections for Fridge inside and outside
  • All lights converted to LED – 3 LED light bar fixtures
  • Lighted Glove Box with 12 volt power port
  • Air Conditioning (needs to be recharged)
  • Rear Heater removed for more under seat storage

Recently appraised for $75,000 – Asking $49,999

To view photos: Click on the first thumbnail to view a slideshow or use your right/left arrows to move through the photos quicker.

Loving the Hummingbirds

We’ve always had hummingbirds coming around our house because we try to keep feeders available to them year round. This year, however, there seems to be a greater number of the little guys hitting our feeders and the flowers in the yard. Our hot poker plant did exceptionally well this year and therefore has attracted many hummers and bees. Early in June I set up a chair about 6 feet from the plant to take some photos. I set up an off camera flash set at 1/64th power, used my Fuji XT-2, Fuji 100-400mm lens at 400mm, and just waited for them to show up. At first I was tripod mounted, but found I couldn’t get the birds framed quick enough, so reverted to hand-held. Shutter speed was 1/250th, ISO 200, and f/5.6 or f/8.

Here is a sampling of what I shot that day. For the complete gallery, click here.

Westport, Washington

November 11, 2016

Last Saturday I attended a large photography meeting in Portland where I was responsible for part of the program.  These meetings are always stressful and the day after is always a day to relax.  Add to that, the tensions of the impending presidential election, and it is no exaggeration to say I have been extremely stressed this past week.  So on Sunday, after returning home, I took off in the van with my camera for a couple days away at the ocean.  I was heading to Grayland State Park to camp, but stopped at Bottle Beach on the way, and shot shorebirds.  I also drove down the coast to Tokeland before settling in for the evening at the campground.  The weather was a mix of sunshine and clouds on Sunday, and then it rained all night.

On Monday, I awoke to clouds, but no rain.  I took my time at the campsite, taking a few photos of the woods and the abundant mushrooms, then headed back up to Westport.  On the way I turned off the highway to explore some side roads and was delighted to discover many cranberry bogs.  I knew Ocean Spray operated in this area, but I’ve never actually seen where they were growing the berries.  The fields are dry now, but the plants are a fiery red at this time of year.

I went to the lighthouse for a couple shots and then out to the beach before heading into town to stroll the docks.  Once I was at the docks, I could hear the racket of sea lions so I followed the sound to the last dock and all the way out at the end, found a couple piers where the beasts were lounging.

Westport is a great place to practice shooting birds in flight, even though they’re only seagulls.  But I found several other birds there as well.  Cormorants, Common Loons, Crows, and Brewer’s Blackbirds were all finding scraps to eat.

I ducked into a little restaurant for a bit of lunch and then headed home.  I was only gone a little more than 24 hours, but I came home refreshed and ready to watch election returns.  But of course we all know how that turned out, so I immediately wished I could get away again. I think we’ll plan to be out of the country on Inauguration Day.  Costa Rica is a possibility.

Here is a sampling of what I shot that day. For the complete gallery, click here.

Dahlias Galore!

October 4, 2016

I got a new camera a couple weeks ago, but I seem to be having a hard time getting out to give it a workout.  So yesterday I made the drive to Tacoma to Point Defiance Park to explore the gardens there.  They have a duck pond, a dahlia garden, a rose garden, and a Japanese garden.  This set of 12 photos are from the Dahlia section.  I’ll try to post some from the other areas in my next post.

These were all taken with the Fuji X-T2 and the Fuji 60mm Macro Lens.

Here is a sampling of what I shot that day. For the complete gallery, click here.

First Days of Fall

September 24, 2016

Today I made my first fall trip of the year over to the McLane Creek Nature Trails to see what was going on with the wildlife.  After the abundance of spring and summer, I was a bit disappointed to not see much more than a bunch of mallards, but I guess that’s to be expected.  Actually we did see a few other things.  One thing I had hoped to capture was a Belted King Fisher.  I did see a couple of them, but never in a spot we could photograph them.

A more important reason for the trip was to try out my new Fujifilm X-T2 camera for the first time on wildlife.  I used it last weekend to shot our daughter’s wedding, but shooting at 56mm vs. 400mm makes a big difference.  So here are my first telephoto shots out of the X-T2.

McLane Creek Nature Trail

McLane Creek Nature Trail is located just off Delphi Road outside of Olympia.  (Click for a map) Since it’s very close to my house, it’s the place I go most often to photograph birds and ducks.  I’ve put together a collection of some of the wildlife I’ve spotted there over the past spring and summer.

You can walk the trails at McLane quickly for exercise, or you can stop and linger, waiting for the birds to show themselves.  Patience becomes the name of the game if you’re trying to see the birds.  I suggest you take the longest lens you own and also a pair of binoculars.  (I shot all of these with my Fuji X-T1 with the Fuji 100-400mm lens.)  Almost all of what you’ll see is in the area around the ponds.  If you venture back into the woods, it’s a great walk, but you won’t see very many birds and it’s too dark back there to photograph well anyway.

Another close by spot for wildlife photography is the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge just off I-5 north of Olympia.  It’s not quite as convenient as McLane, but I still get up there several times a year.

Here is a link to all of my photos taken at McLane Creek and Nisqually NWR this summer.

Seattle Photo Walk

On July 23, 2016 there was a World Wide Fuji Photo Walk sponsored by the Fuji Love online community. A friend here in Olympia, who also shoots Fuji, and I headed up to Seattle to join an organized group for an afternoon shoot around the Seattle Center and also a sunset at Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill.  We spent time working the lines and reflective light of the very unusual Experience Music Project building, the Space Needle and the Fountain.  The first time I visited those last two was back in 1962 during the Seattle Worlds Fair.  It’s still fun all these years later to walk the grounds to photograph the structures and the people enjoying the Center.

For more photos from the this day, here is a link to the full gallery.

Click the first thumbnail to start a slideshow.

Oregon Get-away

June 20, 2016

When the weather was looking rainy here in western Washington, we decided to head for the drier climate of eastern Oregon.  We started our trip by driving down I-5 to Salem and then cut east on Hwy 22, Santiam Pass.  We really had no plans on where to stay, but when we came across Fishermen’s Bend BLM Campground, we pulled in for lunch and then decided to stay for the night.  It was a lovely campground with lots of trails right along the river.  We bought a nice load of fire wood for $10 that ended up lasting for 3 campfires.

The next morning we continued east to the Hwy 126 cut-off towards McKenzie Pass.  We stopped at the Detroit Dam and then at a little pullout for Fish Lake for lunch.  We found a historic Forest Service Pack Camp there and a work party working on the old buildings.  What a stroke of luck to be able to peak inside and talk to some of the volunteers about the history of the area.

A little further along we stopped to walk down to Sahalie Falls, and then continued on up to the summit of McKenzie Pass.  This pass is 5325 feet and is closed in winter.  I’ve wanted to drive it for a number of years so was glad when we learned it was now open.  What a great surprise to find the Dee Wright Observatory at the summit in the midst of a huge lava field.  Mr. Wright built this completely out of lava and placed small windows inside that look directly out to the various summits that surround the area.  We camped for the night just over the summit in a very primitive campground.

The next morning we drove back up to the summit to use the restrooms and found a beautiful sight as all the clouds had cleared from the peaks of the Sisters.  After enjoying the view, we continued east to the town of Sisters for a coffee break and then drove to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  We had planned to camp at Page Springs just outside of Frenchglen, but the mosquitoes were so bad, we continued up the Steens Mountains to the Fish Lake Campground where we found a nice private spot with very few bugs.

We spent the next day exploring Malheur and looking for birds.  We also visited the Pete French Round Barn near Burns.  In the late 19th century this barn was constructed by cattle rancher Peter French; French trained horses there during the winter.

We spent the last night of our trip just west of Sisters in a National Forest Campground.  We burned up the last of our firewood and headed for home the next morning.

To see more photos from our trip, here is a link to the full gallery.

Click on the first thumbnail to start a slideshow our you can use your arrow keys to click through the photos.

Old Cars and Steam Locomotives

On July 16, 2016 the Olympia Camera Club went on a field trip that in included the Busek Auto Museum in Galvin, WA an the Chehalis Scenic Steam Train.  We spent some time photographing both the indoor and outdoor collections of Mr. Busek and then headed down to Chehalis to see their old steam locomotive.  One of our members rode the train with her family, but the rest of us leap-frogged ahead of the train to be able to photograph it at a variety of crossings.  It was really run wondering if we’d get to the next stop in time, and when the train turned around to return, we were able to catch it a few more times.

When we finished with the train we headed to a the historic Claquato Church and then on to a popular tree farm.  Our last stop was back near the train station to catch one more shot of the train as it left the station and crossed a trestle over the Newaukum River.

Here is a sampling of what I shot that day. For the complete gallery, click here.


Mt St Helens Wildflowers

On July 1, I took a drive up to Mt St Helens, Johnston Ridge to photograph wildflowers. I found the easiest place to go for flowers was Loowit Point which is just before you get to the Johnston Ridge visitor center. From there I then hiked 3/4 mile up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. It’s an easy hike, but the best flowers are right around the Loowit Point viewpoint.

It’s hard to know what the exact best time go head up to St Helens for wildflowers, but you’re generally guaranteed to find some in late June through the first week of July or so.  They come much sooner than the flowers at Mt Rainier since it’s a lower elevation.  Next time I go, I’ll try to time my trip so that it’s a new moon and stay for some night shooting.  Johnston Ridge should be a good location to photograph the milky way.

BTW, the best hamburgers are at Patty’s Place at 19 Mile House.  Hit it on the way up or on your way home, but don’t miss it!  The fruit cobbles are excellent too.

Here is a sampling of what I shot that day. For the complete gallery, click here.

The Columbia Gorge

April 30 and May 1, 2016

We’ve spent time in the past photographing the waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge, but this trip we spent more time on the Washington side of the Gorge with the intent of photographing the wildflowers at both Dalles Mountain and Rowena Crest.  In the past, the end of April was a great time to be there for that, but this year the flowers came early so we didn’t have the best of luck finding them.

We went with a small group from the Olympia Camera Club and spent two days exploring this part of the Gorge.  Most stayed in Hood River, one had a hotel in The Dalles, and Dale and I did a Vanagon driveway camp with another van owner in The Dalles.

There was plenty of wind for wind surfers around Hood River so we spent a little time watching them.  The trip up Dalles Mountain required that we go higher than the ranch to find the remaining wildflowers, and the yellow Balsam Root was almost non-existent at Rowena Crest.  There was still plenty of beautiful Lupine there, however, as we watched the sun set.

On the second day, Dale and I headed up to Mt Hood and Trillium Lake and then also drove up to the town of Trout Lake on the Washington side.  A quick drive through the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge finished off our exploring before we headed for home.

Here is a sampling of what I shot on that trip. For the complete gallery, click here.

Dalles Mountain Road

April 14, 2015

This past weekend Dale and I did a little exploring in the Columbia Hills Natural Area Preserve just off Hwy 14 on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge.  We drove up Dalles Mt. Road looking for wildflowers and were not disappointed.  The weather was a mixed bag of sunshine and rain squalls, but I still managed to get a few shots.  There are no formal trails in this area, but several forks in the road take you deep into the hills and there are parking lots with restrooms in areas where you can take off hiking even deeper and higher into the hills.  We didn’t do any hiking since the weather was so unpredictable, but I hope to go back and spend some more time soon.  The Balsamroot and Lupine are absolutely stunning.  I think they’re a little early this year just as other plants are due to the mild winter and spring.

Here is a sampling of what I shot that day. For the complete gallery, click here.


Woodard Bay

Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area is a natural reserve in Olympia, Washington protected under the Washington Natural Areas Program….

I found out about this location because several friends have posted photos of this old railroad pier that was used for loading lumber.  Dale and I drove out to check it out.  The parking lot is about a half mile from the beach.  The hike in is on an old road with some ups and downs, but is a very easy walk.  We happened to arrive at a fairly low tide.  The apple blossom shot is from a very old old apple tree on the property.

Here is a sampling of what I shot that day. For the complete gallery, click here.


This year I had the opportunity to visit two tulip farms.  One in Oregon – the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, Or, and the Roosengaard Tulip Farm in Mt. Vernon, Wa.  Both had excellent displays.  The flowers seemed to be out about 2 weeks earlier than usual due to our very mild winter/spring and they were both very crowded with visitors.

Here is a sampling of what I shot that day. For the complete gallery, click here.

Cape Disappointment

On October 4th the Olympia Camera Club took a field trip to Cape Disappointment at the mouth of the Columbia River.  We arrived when the light was quite harsh, so after taking a few photos around the North Head Lighthouse, we headed across the river to Astoria to visit the Astoria Column and have some supper while we waited for some better afternoon light.  When we got back to the Washington side, the light was getting quite nice and we shot right on until sunset before starting the drive home.

Here are a few photos I took that day.  To see the complete gallery, click here.

Lewis River Falls

By the end of September it’s time to start looking for some fall color around the Pacific Northwest.  Dale and I took a drive south to check out the foliage around the Lewis River and to shoot the Lower Lewis River Falls.  We didn’t end up with a lot of fall color, but I was happy with the waterfall shots I got.   All in all it was a great day of exploring in southwest Washington.  We need to do more of it!

Here is a sampling of what I shot that day.  For the complete gallery, click here.

Hike at Staircase Rapids

When the Olympia Camera Club took a fall field trip to the Staircase Rapids part of the Olympic National Park, I figured there wouldn’t be many landscape type views within the forest, so I took my Macro lens and focused on some of the smaller details along the trail.  There was lots of moss, mushrooms and fungi, and ferns.  It was fun to look for the little things that many people walk right past without seeing.

Here is a sampling of what I shot that day. For the complete gallery, click here.