Bodie – a Ghost Town

On our Eastern Sierra Photo Workshop we spent a full day in the ghost town of Bodie, California.  Bodie is now a state park and is registered as a California registered historical landmark.  A plaque placed by the California State Park Commission in 1964 reads:

Gold was discovered here in 1859 by W. S. Bodey after whom the town was named.  Once the most thriving metropolis of the Mono Country, Bodie’s mines produced gold valued at more than 100 million dollars.  Tough as nails, “the bad man from Bodie” still carries his guns and Bowie knife down through the pages of Western history.

I carried both the D3S mounted with the 24-70mm f/2.8 and the D800E with the 70-200mm f/2.8 along with my tripod.  It was a hot, exhausting day, but well worth the time.  I highly recommend it if you get to Mono County, California.

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

Eastern Sierra Photo Workshop

At the end of May and first week of June, Dale and I went on a Muench Photo Workshop in the Eastern Sierra.  Our guide was professional photographer, Dave Porter.  We had a great time photographing the tufas of Mono Lake, rivers and streams of Tioga Pass, and the ghost town of Bodie.  (See my Bodie post) Every day we were up before dawn and out until after sunset which made for some grueling days.  We were throughly exhausted by the time the tour was over, but we so are very glad we went.  Dave taught us a lot about long exposures and of course, knew some great locations to hit in the mornings and evenings.

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

Oregon Road Trip

The first weekend of April is always the semi-annual meeting of the Nature Photographers of the Pacific Northwest.  This year the meeting was held in Eugene, Oregon.  We had just purchased our “new to us” 1989 Volkswagen Syncro Westfalia, so we were anxious to take it on a road trip.  Although we stayed with friends in Eugene for the conference, afterwards we headed out on an adventure to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Klamath Falls to photograph birds in the wetlands.

It was a great shake down trip for the van.  Nights were cold and we found the heater worked great.  We found some great places to camp in the National Forests and had good luck spotting many birds as they migrated north.  I think we had the best sightings in the Klamath basin due to a general lack of water at Malheur.  But we throughly enjoyed exploring the Oregon Badlands, Malheur, the town of French Glen, Field Station, and the Alvord Desert in northern Nevada.

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

Northern Lights Above Anchorage

Every year since 1995 I have traveled to Anchorage for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.  I’ve worked a variety of volunteer positions, but for the past 14 years my job has been to oversee the race stats reporting.  In all the years I’ve been going to Alaska, I never really got a good look at the northern lights.  That’s mainly because my job kept me indoors in the city of Anchorage.  The aurora has to be pretty strong to be able to see it through the light pollution of a city.

But this year was different.  Towards the end of the race, there were reports of a massive solar flare-up which should produce some great northern lights.  The race was almost over and my work load had dwindled down to monitoring the progress of only 2-3 mushers still on the trail.  I decided that the night of March 17 would be the perfect night to get out of town in search of the forecasted aurora.  First we headed down Turnagain Arm with no success.  Then we decided to head up to the Flat Top trailhead in the Chugach Mountains outside of Anchorage.  That’s where we remained and witnessed the most awe inspiring night of dancing lights I’ve ever seen. It was cold, there were people everywhere, and cars driving into the area with their headlights on, but eventually I was able to capture some decent photos of the aurora.  Now I’m hooked and want to go back for more.

Here a few images from the night of March 17, 2013 when the lights came out.

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

Great Horned Owlets

It’s mid-February and time for baby owls at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.  We headed over there and found two Great Horned Owlets in the tree nest.  I really didn’t have the lens I wanted to photograph them, so went back the next day and found only one in the nest.  Mom was hanging out nearby, but not where we could get a shot of her.  But we did find a couple other critters.  I enjoyed watching the Northern Harrier Hunting around the refuge and there was a juvenile bald eagle up in a tree.  Guess we’ll have to be happy we saw the owlets at all and try again next year.

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

Snowy Owls at Damon Point

In both the winters of 2012 and 2013 we saw the occurrence of snowy owls at Damon Point in Ocean Shores, Washington.  I hiked out there in 2012 but was not very satisfied with my photos, so when I heard the owls were back again in 2013 I headed out there again – twice!  The first weekend, Dale went with me and we hiked to the point in the dark so we could be there at dawn.  We got a few nice shots of the owls in the morning light, but I found myself frustrated with the 4 frames per second speed of my Nikon D800 and couldn’t seem to get the owls in flight shots I wanted.  A few days later, Dale went on line and found a D3S for sale and we purchased that, primarily for its higher 11 frames per second burst mode.  I had to try it out, so the next weekend I headed to Ocean Shores again – this time by myself, to hunt for the owls.  I came armed with the D800 mounted with my 200-400mm f/4 on a tripod and carried the D3S on a strap with my 70-200mm f/2.8.  As it turns out, this was the perfect combination. I was able to capture one owl in particular that was spooked from its resting spot by another photographer and flew right towards me.  Luckily I had the D3S at the ready.  I aimed and held the shutter down until the bird flew out of sight.  I’d say just about every shot from that series came out sharp.  Once I had a chance to see the results on the computer I felt that D3S purchase was worth every penny.  The D800 and D3S make a great combination.  I love the D3S for when I need a fast burst mode and also for when I’m shooting in low light.  But the D800 continues to be an excellent choice for landscapes and subjects that aren’t moving as fast as a bird in flight.

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


Practicing Birds in Flight

This week I bought a “new, used” camera.  I found a Nikon D3S with very low shutter actuations for sale on Craigslist.  I wanted the D3S for its 11 frames per second burst mode to help in capturing birds in flight.  I mounted it with my 70-200mm and headed down to Percival Landing to practice on some seagulls.  I wanted to be sure I understood the best focus mode to use to be sure to catch the action without losing focus.  Seagulls aren’t the most interesting birds, but you can be sure of lots of them when you’re at the harbor.  So here are some shots from the D3S with the 70-200mm f/2.8 and some with the 2x teleconverter added for more reach.  For most shots I had it on 21 point AF-C.  I think that’s what works the best for me.

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


Sights of San Diego

Although we went to San Diego to photograph wildlife, and birds in particular, we couldn’t pass up the chance to do a little sightseeing on our own.  We had never spent any time in San Diego before, so it was all new territory.  There is a lot we didn’t see, but here are a few photos of what we did see before and after shooting the birds on the photo workshop.




Pelicans of La Jolla

In January Dale and I went on a photo workshop with Jack Lien to La Jolla, CA to photograph wildlife.  The stars were the Brown Pelicans, but we saw quite a few other sea birds, sea lions and seals as well.

Here is a sampling of some of my pelican shots. For the complete gallery, click here.  It contains photos in and around San Diego, La Jolla, Santee Lakes, Balboa Park, and the San Diego Zoo.

New Nikon D800E

I finally broke down and ordered my new camera.  I’d been debating for months on what I should get and finally decided on a Nikon D800E.  I knew this camera would take exceptional images, but I will admit I was a bit worried about 36 mega-pixals and the file sizes that would result from such a high resolution camera.  I studied and learned as much as I could about how best to post-process such large files and finally came to the conclusion it would work for me.  Some people have had to get new computers just to edit the images produced by this phenomenal camera, but my 1 Terabyte hard drive, 12 Gig Ram iMac is doing just fine.

So after placing my order I waited a week for it to finally arrive on December 5th.  I immediately threw in a battery and memory card and headed down to the waterfront to snap some test shots.  Here is one one of the first images I took that day.  It was a cloudy day that didn’t offer up a lot of beauty, but even with the clouds I found that this camera has great dynamic range and plenty of detail.  This shot has had very little post-processing.  I just increased the exposure by about 1/3 stop.  I wasn’t necessarily shooting for composition since I was just testing the camera for sharpness and detail.  I’m including the original image as well as a 100% crop out of the center just to show how sharp the detail is.  You’ll notice that the crop is just one boat out of many in the photo and it too looks very sharp!  I’m really excited about being able to crop in tight on some of my wildlife photos in the future.

Shooting Info: Handheld, 1/800 sec at f/2.8, ISO 100, 24mm (Nikon 24-70 mm at f/2.8)  Original image size 7360 x 4912.  Shot in RAW, converted to DNG format (digital negative) upon import into Lightroom.  DNG file size 34.7 mb


Click to enlarge:

Full Image

Full Image


100% Crop

100% Crop


Christmas at Fort Nisqually

Wishing you and your’s a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

As I reflect on these images that depict life at Fort Nisqually in 1855, it makes me wish for a simpler time when celebrating the holidays meant putting up simple festive decorations, baking from scratch, and creating homemade gifts instead of the craziness of today’s Christmas season.

Fort Nisqually was an important fur trading and farming post of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the Puget Sound area of what is now DuPont, Washington and was part of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Columbia Department. Today it is a living history museum operated by Metro Parks Tacoma at Point Defiance Park and is a U.S. National Historic Landmark.  Each year volunteers dressed in period costumes host a Christmas celebration on the first Saturday of December.  I hope some of you will find the time to visit – it’s a fun experience for the whole family.

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

Westport in the Fall

For a couple years now we’ve taken mini-camping trips to Westport in October.  The weather at this time of year can be absolutely stunning, and we were not disappointed this year.  The skies were so blue that I thought they looked almost fake in my photos.  This year we camped at the Twin Harbor’s State Park because our usual Grayland State Park was full for the weekend.  Mid-week we would not have had any problem getting a site at Grayland, but since we had our grandson with us, we were confined to the weekend.

The thing that attracts us to Westport in the fall is the large number of pelicans that you’ll find flying over the water close to shore.  It’s also likely you’ll find sea lions sunbathing on docks in the marina.  And then of course, there is the Grays Harbor Lighthouse.  On this trip, we paid the $5 each to take the tour to the top and had fun photographing the spiral staircase and the lamp at the top.

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.

Photographing in the Palouse

In June of 2012 my husband and I took a photo tour to the Palouse.  If you’re not familiar with that word, it’s a region of southeast Washington state known for its rolling hills and wheat fields.  It’s also home to Palouse Falls and Washington State University in Pullman.

We stayed in a lovely hotel in Colfax (Best Western Wheatland Inn) and went out each day for 5 days with our guide, Jack Lien.  Jack lives in Colfax and knows all the great locations to visit and what time of day to photograph them to get the best light.  He also knows what to do if the weather isn’t cooperating.  If you’re interested in a Palouse tour, I highly recommend you look up Jack’s website and book a tour before they’re all filled up.

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.

Perelli Horse and Soul Tour

In May I had the opportunity to take my granddaughter to the Perelli Horse and Soul tour in Puyallup, Washington courtesy of my brother’s step daughter Lillan, who was performing in the program on Sunday. I took my Nikon D7000 with 70-200mm f/2.8 VR and mounted it on a monopod while sitting up in the bleachers of the riding arena. The lighting was poor so I pumped my ISO up to 3200 to get the shutter speed I needed it to stop the action. I shot in RAW and adjusted the white balance in post.

This style of horse training is beautiful to watch and both my granddaughter and I enjoyed watching Lillan perform.

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.

Always Have a Camera With You

Earlier this week I took a quick drive to downtown Olympia to pick up some coffee from our favorite coffee shop.  I hadn’t planned on doing any photography while on this errand, but I threw the camera bag in anyway.  I’m so glad I did.

It was a nice day and I decided to check out a little park on West Bay Drive on the way home.  I planned to just check the view form the waterfront, but instead noticed some amazing flowers in the grass.  I quickly grabbed my camera and fired off a couple shots with my Nikon 28-300mm lens, but then changed to my new wide angle Tokina 11-16mm and lay down on the sidewalk to get a few bug’s eye view shots.  Had I not thrown the camera in, I would have left there empty handed, but instead I came home with some pretty neat shots.

I heard Annie Leibovitz once say that the best camera is the one you have with you.  So even if all you have with you is  your camera phone, at least you can get a shot, but carrying your primary camera will prove to be more rewarding.  I love the little camera in my iPhone 4s, but it will never match the quality of images taken with my Nikon DSLR.  So go to a little extra trouble and throw in your good camera whenever you leave home.

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.

Seymour Conservatory

I spent most of the month of March in Anchorage working for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race enduring their record snowfall and cold temperatures, so when I arrived home I was looking forward to some nice Spring-like weather.  I guess you can say it is Spring-like compared to Anchorage, but here in Washington, that means a lot of rain.  After a couple weeks of rain almost every day, I decided it was time for a trip to the Seymour Conservatory in Tacoma for a taste of Spring even though it was wet and cool outside.

The first thing I noticed when I stepped inside the glass hot-house was the beautiful smell of flowers.  The warm, humid air was a welcome change from the cool-wet outside weather.  Since it was cloudy outside, the lighting inside was perfect.  I’ve been there on sunny days in the past and the sun makes it difficult to deal with harsh shadows, so if you go, try to pick an overcast day.  Each month the conservatory brings in new flowers to fit a theme for the month.  This month there are fragrant Easter lilies, Asiatic lilies and callas delight your senses in a display with hydrangeas, azaleas and primula obconica.  See the Tacoma Metro Parks website for a listing of what to expect each month.

For these photos I used my Nikon D7000 with my 60mm f/2.8 macro lens mounted on a tripod.

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.

It’s Iditarod Time

Every March I take about 3 1/2 weeks away form home to volunteer for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Anchorage, Alaska.  I coordinate a group of other volunteers to get the race data collected from the checkpoints and post it to the Internet.  My office works 24/7, but in recent years I’ve been able to fine tune the operation well enough that I occasionally get a chance away from my office in the Millennium Hotel to snap some photos around town.  And on race day itself, I’m not in the office at all, but rather out enjoying the start like thousands of other tourists.

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.

Get Out in the Sunshine

Around here it’s usually pretty cold and nasty in February.  You never know when a nice day might come along, but if it does, you’d best get outside and enjoy it because it might be weeks before you see the sun again.

So here it was February 6 and the sun was shining.  I took a drive down to Capitol lake with my 200-400mm f/4 to see what I could find.  There were quite a few ducks and a few herons.  But more than that, I got some much needed exercise and absorbed some good vitamin D making sunshine.

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.

Polar Bear Plunge

I’m not sure why anyone would want to dress up in goofy costumes and jump into the lake on January 1st, but here in Thurston County it has become a tradition.  I think I’m too old for such craziness but it was sure fun photographing it!  We may have to make it a family tradition around here to at least go for the photos.  And who knows, maybe someday the grandkids will get us to jump too!

Click here to see all the photos in this gallery.

Holiday Pet Portraits

I got a call from Sharon of Black Lake Nursery and Feed.  She wanted to know if I could set up to do pet portraits for the holidays.  It didn’t take a second for me to say of course, but it did take a little time to decide what to use for a set.  Dogs come in all sizes, so I had to think of something that would work for all of them.  As it turned out, I think I’ll go with a larger tree next year instead of the little ones I used this year.  But all in all, I think the day was a success and the pet owners were happy.  We’re already discussing next year, so keep an eye on the Black Lake Nursery and Feed web site for the 2012 date and time.

Click here to see all the photos in this slideshow.