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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mysterious Tracks In Snow

First I thought these were a small bird, but I quickly realized it was something different. I have seen a lot of different tracks in my career, and can usually surmise the source. This time, I am stumped.


Mole? I don't think so. The scale seems wrong and this creature was very active above the surface.


What makes the radiating pattern?


These were all over the place, in an open field right next to a bit of forest. It this is a small mammal (as I suspect), then it would be a prime target for birds of prey in this environment.


I need to call in the experts.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Bull Elk Emerges From The Shadows

On a miserable, rainy night along the coast one of my remote cameras photographed a spike bull roosevelt elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti) walking along a muddy elk trail.


One of the reasons I use remote cameras is because they allow me to take photographs where no sane photographer could possibly pull it off. I had the cameras in place for six days before these photographs were taken. The nights were frigid and dark, and yet the cameras waited patiently.


Water on the lens makes this elk appear as if it is emerging from the ghostly shadows of a nocturnal forest (above).

I pulled the cameras after they were in place for 10 days, primarily because of a massive series of storms moving in from the Pacific. The weather had already been bad, and I had experienced several technical problems, and near destruction caused by water in the past.

My remote camera system has new waterproof connectors, and better weather housing, but I wasn't quite ready to leave it in the flood plain of a small creek.

In one image, the elk passed extremely close to a camera placed very low.


Just inches from the muddy ground, the camera lens received a coating of muck.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cold Snap

The entire continent has been put into a deep freeze, and Oregon has not been spared. I traversed the 80 miles from Portland to the coast recently, and found highway 26 to be covered in ice for most of the route. There were plenty of SUV's in the ditch as I poked along at 35mph.

I made a point of keeping my schedule open enough to allow time to shoot in the snow.


The Coast Range pass is only 1600 feet, and in a typical winter it will get a dusting of snow for a week or two.


Seeing the snow pile up is a visual treat.




It's still snowing too....

Friday, December 12, 2008

Terry Toedtemeier is gone

It has been a couple years since I last spoke with Terry Toedtemeier, the curator of photography at the Portland Art Museum. I first met him when he was my instructor at The Pacific Northwest College of Art, while I was working on my B.F.A. in photography. Terry became much more than just a teacher in the classroom, he became a mentor as I formed the ideas that would shape my direction in photography. He was a friend who always had sharp ideas about what made images interesting. Through his eyes, I learned to see the landscape with the scale of time, and the forces of wind and water that shaped it. He taught me about the craft of printmaking, and the history of photography.

These are deeply embedded in my mind, and Terry was instrumental in my appreciation and exploration of photography.

One of my favorite, and one of the best photography books in my library is "Second View – The Rephotographic Survey Project". Terry introduced this book to me once while we were shooting in the Gorge together.

In addition to a curator, a teacher and mentor – Terry was also an involved, and smart photographer who produced remarkable landscape images that were informed by his knowledge of the land. His work is in the collection of major museums across the continent, and he was celebrated in the photographic community for his contributions to the craft.

He died in Hood River just two days ago, after giving a lecture about a new book he edited about Oregon Photography: "Wild Beauty". He was a great guy, and I am saddened by his departure.


Terry Toedtemeier inspects a gallery of pictographs and petroglyphs in the Columbia River Gorge.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Red Saddlebags Dragonfly (Tramea onusta)

These dragonflies are deceptive in flight. When I first spied one at the Brackenridge Field Lab, I didn't recognize it as a dragonfly until I got a second look. The curious red markings on the wings make it look like a large fly with red wings until the transparent part of the wings are perceived – then suddenly a dragonfly appears.


This quality is not immediately apparent in this image, but place one against a bright blue Texas sky and your eyes can be fooled. This photo took all day to get.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Jump! Leopard frog (Rana pipiens)

Continuing with the frog theme: Another technically challenging image that was accomplished with
the help of my friend Dr John Abbott at the University of Texas. I was in Texas to photograph bats (more on that later) but how can you pass up a cute frog?



Thursday, November 27, 2008

$40,000 Camera Vs $500 Camera

Photographer Michael Reichmann compared a $40,000 Phase One / Hasselblad 39 megapixel system with a 15 megapixel / $500 Canon G10 pocket camera.

The results of his test are remarkable because most viewers were unable to find much of a distinguishing difference when printed 13X19, or when viewed side by side on his 30 inch monitor.

I am not one to generally compare pixels and equipment, but in this instance we are talking about a $39,500 difference in equipment, and yet both cameras were able to produce superb results at a size that would be suitable for most purposes (yes - even billboards).

Wow. I love it when technology evens the playing field.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ghost Forest of the Oregon Coast

Last year, erosion from several brutal storms uncovered a surprising scene along the beach in Neskowin, Oregon. Tree stumps emerged from the surf where none had been before, and it was quickly realized that these stumps are the preserved remnants of an ancient forest that was at least 2000 years old.


The wood looks as if it might only be a decade or two old, but it is believed an earthquake or tsunami buried the trees in a cataclysmic event that allowed them to be preserved under buried sand.


The trees are called "The Ghost Forest" by local people in Neskowin.


The stumps have been buried again by the natural action of the surf. It will be interesting to see if the weather uncovers the trees again this year.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cycles of Color - Fall Leaves

A recent assignment from a local client required a specific stylistic image of a single green leaf from a native tree, which was actually rather challenging considering the time of year in northern Oregon.

I did manage to find a tree stubbornly clinging to its leaves and refusing to acknowledge Fall. I made some nice images that were exactly as needed; the client was happy and everything was good. Of course, in my work for this production I came across many colorful and spectacular leaves. I am not immune to the colors of Fall, but generally I find myself photographing subjects that are more hidden from view. But the spectacle of Fall seduced me completely and I succumbed to the pattern, texture and color of the season.





Saturday, November 15, 2008

Slideshow: high-speed bugs

Photoshelter, the photo host for my web site, continues to add value to their services. With some new fancy code, it is possible to embed slideshows from my galleries just about anywhere.

Pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rainy Days

I'm still here. My schedule has been a little bit insane, and I managed to drop the ball on a few things including posting images here. Not for lack of shooting however.

The weather in Oregon has been blustery and wet, and I have been stuck indoors - but I still managed to have fun with water and the high-speed camera.


Once I get the going it is hard to stop.




I have lots more to share. Stay tuned... If you want to see truly amazing photos with water check out my friend Martin Waugh's work

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)

I have worked with many different species of bats through the years and there are some species that can be challenging to distinguish from one another. Primarily, the small myotis species can look very similar - however, as I spend more time with bats it becomes clear that most are uniquely interesting (such as my favorite the spotted bat). One such bat is the silver-haired bat:

Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)

Their name is derived from the frosty patch of pelage that runs along their back. There can be considerable variation in adult fur color and the "silver hair" is most visible in the darker individuals.

Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)

I have come across these bats on many occasions, but have found it frustrating to try and get good images of them. Mostly, I think, its their contrarian personality. When I try to get portraits they fly away. When I try to get flight shots, they decide to remain on their perch. No other bat has ever given me such a difficult challenge when trying to get images.

Yet they have a lot of personality - and an expressive face.

Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)

Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)

I finally found a silver-haired bat that was a willing subject - thanks to Barb Ogaard, a bat specialist and rehabilitator. This little bat was a fat, happy, and just getting out of rehab. And she was more than willing to exercise her wings in preparation for her upcoming release back into the wild.


Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rock Art Of The First People

My grandfather was a member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands Of The Yakama Nation, but strangely we did not discuss my native american heritage much. He was half Cherokee and abandoned by his father at a young age. He grew up in a time when a native american man would struggle to find a good job and I think he learned not to mention it. He had the olive/tanned skin of the tribe, but his blue eyes were enough to throw off suspicion of his lineage.

It was later in life that he began to celebrate the pride of his bloodline, and he would occasionally tell me stories of the 'First People'. These were the fables that often explained the geology of the landscape, or the behavior of animals with a rich mixture wit and character.


I'm not sure if this is the origin of my fascination with the scattered bits of rock art that survive in the West, or it just an appreciation for the deep history of they represent. Nonetheless, when I see a gallery of ancient rock art I feel instantly connected to the past, and I try to imagine the man or woman that worked the surface of a rock to imbue it with meaning. Perhaps the meanings are practical (such as a warning or a marker indicating the direction of good fishing) or magical (a prayer for good hunting) but time has removed our understanding.

The work seen here are all from the Columbia River Gorge. Some are from well hidden galleries that have mostly survived by their difficult locations.


Others are famously accessible, and have survived attempts at vandalism and defacement.


I was guided to this (below) remarkable pictograph/petroglyph by a geologist who asked that I never reveal the location. It has the most striking and preserved color that I have seen in Columbia River Gorge rock art.


Much of the rock art is believed to have been etched into the rock between 1000 and 3000 years ago. Some places have whole galleries of work that were probably worked on for generations.


There was a famously rich collection of indigenous rock art in "Petroglyph Canyon" along the shores of the Columbia River. The entire canyon was flooded by the construction of The Dalles Dam in 1957. However, in the months before the water was to rise, the Army Corps Of Engineers removed some of the most interesting and complex pieces and placed them in storage until 2004 when the "Temani Pesh-wa" trail (also "written on rock" trail) was created in Columbia Hills State Park on the Washington side of the Gorge. Below are a three examples from the trail.




Then there is the legend of "She Who Watches" or "Tsagaglalal". The trail that leads to this remarkable example of rock art is now closed except to guided tours because of problems with vandals. I heard about this famous petroglyph as a child when my grandfather told me of it. I have hiked in to see it several times, but a few weeks ago I brought my wife and daughter along on a guided trek. One woman who joined the group had been wanting to see Tsagaglalal for years and she had traveled from the mid-west just to do so.


There are several stories behind She Who Watches. The most widely told is as follows: A woman had a house where the village of Nixluidix was later built. She was chief of all who lived in the region. That was a long time before Coyote came up the river and changed things and people were not yet real people. After a time Coyote in his travels came to this place and asked the inhabitants if they were living well or ill. They sent him to their chief who lived up on the rocks, where she could look down on the village and know what was going on.
Coyote climbed up to the house on the rocks and asked "What kind of living do you give these people? Do you treat them well or are you one of those evil women?" "I am teaching them to live well and build good houses," she said.
"Soon the world will change," said Coyote, "and women will no longer be chiefs." Then he changed her into a rock with the command, "You shall stay here and watch over the people who live here."
All the people know that Tsagaglalae sees all things, for whenever they are looking at her those large eyes are watching them.
-"Stone Age on the Columbia River" by Emory Strong, 1959


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Oregon Spotted Frogs

I am sick of the rain. I grew up in Oregon and can revel in the wet weather, but this late winter and spring have been wetter than most, and I'm tired of the gloom.

In one of the few lucky breaks of sun that we have experienced lately, I made my way up to Mount Adams for a survey of oregon spotted frog egg clusters. Spotted frogs have declined in recent years due to a variety of reasons – some obvious (non-native frogs like bull frogs, wetland development) and some mysterious. They are not that easy to spot, but they are usually just under the surface so polarized sunglasses can help a lot.

Below, biologist Howard Browers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service looks for egg masses


I had a chance to use my home-made underwater robot camera to grab a shot of the eggs just below the surface.


The the embryos develop faster in warm temperatures and on a sunny day the eggs nearest the top will grow faster than those at the bottom.


A gelatinous sticky mass holds the eggs together, and the embryos within the egg appear black. 


Occasionally you will even see an actual frog such as the juvenile being held by research scientist Mark Hayes. 

The population of oregon spotted frogs in this lake refuge has declined precipitously in the last few years for reasons that are still unclear. 

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Finding Bats

Bats are not easy to find. They spend their nights in the air hunting for insects, and as day approaches they will find the most inaccessible places to wedge themselves into. For many species, this day time roost might be in a new spot every day. This is a problem if you want to study bats, and biologists are finding a variety of creative ways to locate bats.

Enter the Bat Dog.


CJ, a chocolate lab working as a trained wildlife detector dog, tries to find bat roosting sites along with his handler, wildlife technician Elisabeth Mering in the Coconino National Forest in Arizona. Note the gps unit that will track CJ's evey move.


Once CJ detects the sent of bat guano, he will alert.


Here, tucked under the bark of a dead ponderosa tree is a maternity colony of allen's lappet-browed bats. It looks like chaos, but there are about 17 bats crammed together in this tiny spot.


As night falls, they slowly pop out from under the bark and head out into the night.


Little is known about this rare species.

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Details About Me

Portland, Oregon, United States
Husband, Father, Student Of Natural History, Photographer