Things Change

     A s fuel prices increase and my youthful exuberance declines, staying home more seems to be inevitable. After staying around home for almost two months it was good to hit the road to the Okanogan country for a few days. I had a mix of weather conditions, mostly unpredictable, but be it sun, rain, snow or fog, each added it's own flavor to what I was able to see and photograph.
    I love sunshine and always hope for a good dose on these trips so as to offset the grayer winter days where I live. But sunshine can present problems when photographing birds or animals that move around. Fog is the worst condition and yet it sometimes can fit the subject quite well. I will add more on this in the comments below.
    Instead of the usual six pictures per page, I'm using eight this time. I will probably vary this in the future because I have noticed sometimes I have to dig to find a photo while other times, like now, I have trouble choosing between them. One other small change; In musing, and then writing, about the things I photograph and the meaning these have to me, I have sometimes not put things as clearly as I might out of consideration that some may find my personal bias objectionable. But in thinking about it, thats what this site is about, my photos and the musings and meaning they have to me. So to make clear some otherwise obscure comments of the past and to 'set the stage' for what may come, this brief note about myself.
    I am, and have been for many years, one of Jehovah's Witnesses. I have strong feelings and beliefs regarding much of what I see and take pictures of in the world around me. I don't believe any part of it evolutionized. Certainly all life has had to adapt to changes, but a blade of grass doesn't become a tree and a dinosaur doesn't become a chicken. Some adaptations have been due to conditions of nature while others are related to mans activities. Another thing that bears directly on what I write is; that many detrimental changes in our ecology have reached the point where man probably cannot, and will not, reverse or even modify them enough to save any reasonable quality of life. That will require a real act of God.
    With that said, please be assured that I will not make this a forum on my belief. I will simply record my musings related to these photos as clearly as I can. If sometimes explaining my bias helps to clarify a thought or musing, I will do so.
Winter Sundown

Winter Sundown

     This is about the way it looked, but it took quite a bit of photoshop to get it this way. The camera recorded the landscape darker if the sun was right and the sun and clouds washed out if the landscape was right. So by taking one exposure and making two copies, one dark and one light and then using a technique for combining those two exposures together, I was able to achieve about the same dynamic range my eyes were able to see.
    I really like this part of Washington state. It's cold, sometimes bitterly so, in the winter and hot, sometimes horribly so, in the summer. But either side of the extremes, and with proper cautions, it can be most satisfying. The spaciousness of the landscape and the absence of human 'improvements', or even much human presence, is part of it's appeal. And though it's not teaming with vegetation and wildlife, what is there is worth looking for.
juvenile Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk juvenile

     I went to this little town looking for an adult Northern Goshawk that had recently been seen several times perching in trees around town. This is not something they do a lot of so this was a good photo opportunity. I did see the adult bird and while at a greater distance than I'd hoped I did get some pictures. But this juvenile Northern Goshawk is the real story.
    While cruising around the streets in the foggy, snowy morning, I saw two birds circle each other as birds do, and then the larger of the two landed on this church steeple. I was pretty sure it was a Red-tailed Hawk because of the color and size. I had very little interest in another redtail picture at the time but as I came into position I went ahead and took a couple just 'cause, something I often do. Usually I look such pictures over on the computer and if there is nothing unusual or noteworthy about the bird, I delete it. Because the exposure was dark due to the brighter background, I almost did delete it. But I noticed in time it was not quite right for a redtail. When I finally adjusted it properly in photoshop and realized what it was, I was really quite elated.
Western Gray Squirrel

Western Gray Squirrel

     After some ho-hum birding in the Methow Valley, I stopped to visit with some people I met last fall while at Hart's Pass looking for a Northern Hawk Owl. I had meant to stop at their place the next day but vehicle problems changed my plans. Anyway, as you can see, when I stopped this time the weather was quite nice and helped make the stop a high point on this trip. As I was enjoying some coffee and goodies while visiting in their living room, we were watching the birds and squirrels in the yard. After one of these squirrels went past for about the third time I finally realized it wasn't the familiar Eastern Gray Squirrel that I am so used to seeing, but a Western Gray a much harder to find animal in Washington state.
    I managed to comment on that without choking and my host said that, yes, they had up to a dozen around all the time. He went on to tell me that WDFW had actually trapped some here to use to increase the numbers found in the area of Fort Lewis where there is some concern because of plans to build a highway close to their habitat. He said that they told him they are currently found in only three locations in the state. I know I had gone to Oregon to photograph some previously because of that scarcity.
    I wonder if they will continue to survive?
A big old abandoned house

Fixer-upper Mansion

     I have taken several pictures of old homestead buildings as I've traveled around the area. This one, though hardly as big as a smallish home today, is much larger than most farm dwellings of its time. It sits on the edge of what is now a small storeless town, so it is possible it was not farm home, but maybe belonged to a citizen living there. If so, it is still much larger than any other dwelling found in the 'town'.
    As always, I wonder who lived there and what was their life like. Does this larger dwelling indicate that they had life easier than some in that day? Or did they perhaps just have more persons to provide for and therefore made this a higher priority?
Gray-crowned Rosy Finch

Gray-crowned Rosy Finch

     This is the 'interior' race of the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch. I understand it is not the most common of the types found in Washington. I don't have an abundance of pictures of any of them, so when I was given a specific address where I might photograph them, I did. As you can see it was the other nice weather I had on this trip. I arrived about 9am after a light snowfall the night before and the fog had given way to a cold but gorgeous morning. The finches were not there and the property owner had an appointment in town, but he gave me permission to stay and wait for them. Fortunately, I was dressed warmly. I chose a place in the shade of a small trailer where the sun would be behind me and set up my camera and tripod in about 15" of snow. After about 30 to 40 minutes they swooped in and for fifteen minutes I was able to watch and photograph them as they went from tree to feeder and back. I had to work hard and fast as they moved around but was able to get several good shots of both types before they left as quickly as they had come.
Mountain Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

     I've remarked before how much I like chickadees. Always busy usually scolding or just 'talking' they just seem cheerful. This specie, the Mountain Chickadee, I don't get to watch too often and never for very long. This particular time is the longest period I've had. They even gave me time to get the camera and tripod out and take several pictures before they disappeared. And these, unlike the black-capped and chestnut-backed I have at home, never quit moving. When they go it's almost as if they just blink off like a light-bulb at night.
     This makes photographing them a real challenge. My technique this time was to watch for one to pop into the open, aim and push the shutter button, hoping the auto-focus and metering systems would react quickly, and that I had used a high enough ISO sensitivity I would have enough speed and would get a sharp picture. Being still early on a foggy morning I had the lens set wide open.
     I got three usable pictures and this one is the best of those.
Porcupine in tree

Porcupine in tree

     When I was an early teen living in a valley in the cascade mountains in southern Washington, I saw these frequently. The oldtimers used to tell us that these were good to eat and if a person were lost in the backwoods they could survive on Porcupine, being as they were slow and therefore easy to chase down. Of course preparing one for consumption required a certain amount of caution and, it seemed to me, courage. I remember my step-dad did prepare one and mom cooked it up. I always was pretty much a hamburger only person but I tasted a little. As I recall it was somewhat dry and not real flavorful, but yes it would be a feast to a hungry and lost person.
     You can tell from the look on this fellows face that he has heard the oldtimers talk also, and isn't quite sure what I am up to. This time I just wanted his picture and he kindly obliged. I declined his seeming desire to have his back rubbed, however.
A snow covered landscape

Almost Black and White

     When I edited this picture I saved the file as 'Almost Black and White'. Except for the yellow sign and brown posts it is and it seemed that way at the time.
     It was taken three hours before the one of the finches above and just a few hundred feet down the road. It was shortly after daybreak. With the low clouds and fresh snow it made the brightly colored sign seem oddly out of place.
     This scene embodies much of what I like about the area. The openness without being flat; the brightness even when the sun isn't directly in view, and of course, the relative emptiness.
     A person might think from what I write that I don't like people. It isn't true, but where there are more of us there is less of this, and in the area where I live, I see lots of us and little of this. When I was a young man and lived and worked in country similar to this, I didn't feel for it as I do now. I don't know if that is 'older and wiser' or a case of ' the grass is greener', but it gives me an excuse to travel and take photos. Reason enough.
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