Monday, December 31, 2012

Sauvie Island, Oregon...

Anyone who knows me, or knows anything about me, probably knows that I'm a eagle freak. I just think the American Bald Eagle is the single most majestic animal on the planet, not to mention our enduring symbol of freedom to the rest of the world.
 
So, it was with great anticipation that I headed to Sauvie Island, about a half hour northwest of Portland, Oregon. They said (you know, the proverbial "they") that they eagles would be all over Sauvie Island. That, for me, would be a complete and total score.
 
We headed out a bit later than I normally would, and we got to Sauvie Island in a little under an hour. I'm still getting to know the roads up here, and I have to say that some of the interchanges of the Portland freeway system easily rival anything found in a city like Los Angeles. We weaved our way through it all, though and, before long, we were crossing the bridge onto Sauvie Island.
 
Sauvie Island, originally named Wapato Island by Lewis & Clark, is not a big place, at least not in the grand scheme of things. It's 26,000 acres, which is divided up among private homes and farms, preserve and hunting areas. It is, however, one of the largest river islands in the United States, and has a population of around 1,100.
 
We were here, primarily, for eagles. While we didn't see the scores of birds we'd been led to believe would be here, we did see some.
 
Before we got to see them, though, there was business to attend to. To access just about any public spot on the island; well, at least to park your car, you need a permit:
 
A bargain at seven bucks...
 
And, if you think you'll be able to skirt through the day without spending seven whole dollars on a parking permit, allow me to introduce you to Officer Deforrest. It's Officer Deforrest's job to ensure that people like me are in compliance with the rules on the island:
 
She will find you, she will ticket you, and it will cost you a Helluva' lot more than $7.00...
Officer Deforrest was actually very nice, and even gave us some tips as to where we might find some more eagles (those tips didn't pan out, unfortunately). She was also kind enough to alert us to the presence of a "clothing optional" beach. Apparently, she was shocked to find some folks enjoying the brisk morning air out there earlier in the day.
 
When we drove by the beach, indeed, there were nekked people out there. And, no, I'm not going to include a picture, but lest you think I'm making it up about the beach:
 
Yep, even in winter...
 
I've seen Bald Eagles in the wild before; both times in this part of the world. I was in Victoria, BC the first time, when one flew past me over my left shoulder. I had my camera but, as I was walking in the direction it was flying, I ended up with only eagle ass-shots. The other time was on a ferry from Vancouver, BC to Victoria. That time, there were dozens of them in the trees on the banks of the Strait. Unfortunately, they were so far away that, even with my 50-500mm lens zoomed all the way out, I wasn't able to get decent shots of them.
 
Today, I'd hoped, would be different.
 
As we're driving down the road, we don't dare go more than 15 or 20 miles per hour, for fear that we'll miss something. As it turns out, that was a good approach. Off in the distance (well, some distance off the road), there were two aeries in the trees. We found a reasonably adequate place to pull over and park, and walked across a field , nearby to the base of the trees.
 
Big lens don't fail me now.
 
I remember standing there, in the middle of this field, just looking at them. They were amazing, amazing creatures. They stood proud and tall on their branches, as if to let everyone know that they knew they were the baddest animal on the island.
 
I was mesmerized; I truly was. God, they were magnificent. They were grandiose.
 
And they were posing.

Lately, I've been using my Canon 5D with the full-frame sensor. For shooting the eagles, though, I opted for the Canon 40D, with the 1.6X image sensor, and the Sigma 50-500mm. That's a total of 800mm of "reach out and touch someone".

For never really having an opportunity like this before, I'm basically happy with the results:
 

An American Bald Eagle on Sauvie Island...
 
A Bald Eagle perched high in a tree on Sauvie Island...

An American Bald Eagle...

An American Bald Eagle turns a watchful eye on Sauvie Island, Oregon...
Sadly, these would be the only Bald Eagles we would see on this trip. Somehow, though, it was enough. These magnificent animals spent a long, long time on the endangered species list. Being that they're native only to North America, it's not like there are a lot of other places to find them. It was removed, however, from the endangered species list on July 12, 1995, and moved to the threatened species list, where it remained until June 28, 2007. It remains a protected species, however, and it's still illegal to kill one.

Aside from the Bald Eagles, Sauvie Island has a good number of photo ops. Whether it was egrets on a bog or ducks on a lake, opportunities abound:

Mount Hood, well off in the distance, as seen from Sauvie Island...

A lone tree not far off the road...

Virginia Lake...

Sunset on Sauvie Island...

Sunset on Sauvie Island...

A tree and a small pond at the proverbial "end of the road" on Sauvie Island...

Virginia Lake...



Fern and moss grow on everything here...

Mount St. Helens, in Washington, as seen from Sauvie Island. The Willamette River is in the foreground...

Lone trees make good subjects for photos...

Same lone tree, different picture...

Lake Virginia...

Lake Virginia...

Old barns, too, are great photographic subjects...

The setting sun shines through the trees near Multnomah Channel...

Sauvie Island is one of those places which you could easily miss if you weren't looking for it. I hope to get back there before too long, and before the eagles leave, to do some more shooting...
 

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Oregon Coast: Postscript...

My original plan was to remain at the coast until late afternoon Christmas day. I figured this would give me ample time to get in some more shooting and still make it back to Portland early enough to get unpacked, have some dinner and get a good night's sleep.
 
The weather report, though, compelled me to alter those plans. It was raining at the coast. When it's raining in the lower elevations, it's a fair bet that, in winter, it's snowing in the mountains. There were mountains between Garibaldi and Portland, so this was a particular concern. As I've covered previously, I own neither chains or "traction tires". Accordingly, driving in the snow can only be, at best, challenging. So, I decided it would be best to head back to Portland early, hopefully missing what was sure to be a blizzard in the mountains.
 
I finished breakfast at Kelly's Place, and pulled out of the parking lot at 10:45am. The rain was relentless, so I decided I wasn't going to push my pace. I had all day to get back to Portland, and all that really mattered is that I got back there safely.
 
As I made my way back towards the mountains, I was reminded of the fact that this trip just wasn't long enough. I wanted to see more. I wanted to do more. I wanted to visit that Mecca of cheese, the Tillamook Cheese factory:
 
Mmmmmmmmm... Cheddar...
I'd spent one day heading north, and there just wasn't an opportunity to spend time exploring to the south. I guess I'll just have to wait until my next trip out here to experience the grandeur of a nice, sharp Tillamook cheddar.
 
There are also a myriad of places to shoot the rivers and creeks along the highway, all of which offer pretty dramatic views of a number of different waterways. I would imagine that, once the snows start to melt, that these rivers start raging:
One of the countless rivers along the pass...
It wasn't long before I found myself heading into the mountains, and those dreaded signs; the ones about traction tires and snow chains, which remind me that, as much as I might believe the contrary, I'm just not prepared for this. I would be fine, I concluded, and I was.
 
For about a half hour.
 
I remember being acutely aware of the fact that I wasn't going to rush this trip. This road was dangerous in these conditions. This picture shows the road as it was; semi-snow covered, but pretty much empty:
Heed the warnings...
About a minute after I took that picture, the strangest thing happened. I felt the rear wheels slip, ever so slightly, so I took my foot off the gas. I guess it was a tad too late, though, because the back of the truck continued around to the left until the truck was perpendicular to the travel lanes.
 
And I was doing 40 mph at the time.
 
This was, I surmised, bad. Sooner or later, the truck would stop. I just didn't know how badly it would hurt when it did. I couldn't even bail out of the truck, because the driver's side was leading the way down the road; I'd have been run over if I jumped. I decided that, if it really came down to it, I could pull a Bruce Willis move, crawl out the driver's side window and across the roof of the truck and bail out on the passenger side. That would look cool, of course, but there would be no way of getting it on film, and my truck would still be wrecked somewhere down the road.
 
No, this was the proverbial rock on one side and the hard place on the other. I was going to be in this truck when it wrecked, and it was gonna' suck.
 
I remember having, really, only two thoughts, and I remember having those two thoughts almost simultaneously.
 
First, seeing as I was sliding down the snow-covered highway sideways, I realized how fortunate I was that this was Christmas day and, as you might expect, there was no one else on the road. It was unlikely I would hit anyone on the way to wherever it was my truck was going to crash.
 
I also realized, again, almost simultaneously, how unfortunate I was that this was Christmas day and, as you might expect, there was no one else on the road. When the truck wrecked (and, mind you, it was going to wreck), there would be no help coming along anytime soon. I'd be down in some snow covered ravine somewhere in the wilds of Oregon. I had a blanket, a little bit of water, a granola bar and clean, dry clothes, but I really doubt those would've carried me through to the Spring. Also, there was nothing that even mildly resembled a cell signal on the mountain. My cell phone was useless.
 
All of those thoughts raced through my head as I continued down the highway, watching the majestic snow-covered pines whisk by the hood of the Explorer. We'd had happier times, this Explorer and me. And it was all about to end.
 
I'm not entirely sure what caused it, but I like to think the fact I'd turned into the slide helped. All of a sudden, the back of the truck began to slide to the right, back to where it needed to be. Once it was pointed down the road, it stopped sliding.
 
I managed to pull over into a snow-laden turnout. I wasn't really concerned with whether or not my non-chain-wearin', non-traction tire havin' truck would get out of that turnout. All I knew is that I wanted the truck stopped, and I wanted to get out of it. Now, I haven't had a cigarette in almost a year but, to be totally honest, if there had been some in the truck that day, I'd have fired one up to calm my nerves. I hadn't been that scared in a long time, and I needed to decompress a little.
 
I got back into the driver's seat and left the turnout without so much as a single tire spin. I was pulling into my driveway about an hour later, thankful that the trip got about as eventful as it need to be to remind me that I need to learn new rules up here, because this wilderness, while beautiful, can also be treacherous and threatening.
 
I never want to do that again...
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Coast - Day 2

It was with more than a passing degree of interest that I watched the news last night, specifically the weather report. I really didn't want a repeat of the bad weather, although I would've dealt with it. The weather report, much to my surprise, was favorable. They described it by saying "It should be dry tomorrow". Hey, "dry" I would take. Dry would be good, and a definite improvement over what I'd seen so far.

Now, before I get too far into this, I should point something out. This is going to be my first Christmas that I'm celebrating alone. Now, I'm fine with that; I knew it would happen if I came to Oregon and, well, I was right. I figured, therefore, that if I'm going to spend the holiday by myself, I would spend it doing something I love. So, Christmas would be mine alone; only to be spent with this guy (browse back through November's entries to figure this one out):

The Inukshuk hanging from my rear view mirror...

So, I loaded up my backpack, and I was loaded for bear. I had the 5D and the 40D for this trip, I had the Sigma 50-500mm. There was nothing that was going to get in my way of getting the best shots I possibly could. I would shoot straight, and I would shoot HDR. I was going to shoot anything and everything, I surmised, so I'd better be prepared.

As it was, I never pulled out the 40D. The 5D proved to be the workhorse today. I should probably start worrying about shutter count on this thing. Today, alone, I shot 810 frames. It's not going to be long before I get to pay a couple of hundred bucks for a shutter replacement (which will be completely worth it, by the way).

I drove north out of Garibaldi, leaving at about 8:30am, and quickly passed those sights I shot yesterday in the rain, and soon found myself among some new photo ops. This is why I was here, after all. What should've been about a 30-40 minute trip ended up taking me about two hours. Yeah, I made some stops. It's what I do. But I like to think the stops along the way were worth the time. In this case, the time was spent shooting some of the most amazingly rugged shoreline imaginable. 

So, in no particular order are a sampling of the, ahem, 810 photos I shot on Christmas Eve.

Rocks off Arcadia Beach...
Arcadia Beach...
Arcadia Beach...
Rocks just offshore at Ecola State Park...
The beautifully rugged Oregon coastline...
Looking north from the view point at Ecola State Park...

Easily the most imposing and identifiable rock formation along this area of the Oregon coast is Haystack Rock and "The Needles", in Cannon Beach. The 235 foot Haystack Rock can be accessed by foot at low tide, although the area is posted and off-limits. Rock formations, known as "The Needles" sit a bit further out off shore, and just to the south.

You just can't come here and not shoot oodles of pictures of these formations:

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon...
Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon...
Looking south towards the monolith that is Haystack Rock...
Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon...
"The Needles"...
Looking north towards Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon...
 
Lake Lytle, just north of Rockaway Beach...
Here I am standing in front of Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach... 

Niehkahnie Bridge...
The view from the town of Wheeler, Oregon...
Boats at a fishery near North Rockaway Beach...
The fishing pier in Garibaldi...
Rockaway Beach rainbow...

Twin Rocks just off Rockaway Beach...
Coolest stop sign ever...
The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, also known as "Terrible Tilly" in its heyday. It's believed to be one of the ten most haunted lighthouses in the United States...



The Explorer in downtown Cannon Beach...

Looking at the mountains from the thriving metropolis of Wheeler, Oregon, population 350...

It seems like every time I write one of these entries, I'm saying how amazing the scenery was and, to be fair, it often is. The United States has some ridiculously amazing scenery, and what you see today will always seem to be outdone by what you're going to see tomorrow. I've seen some amazing places in my life, from Cape Spear in Newfoundland to the Panama Canal to Alberta and the Canadian Rockies. I've traveled more than most, visiting not only North America, but Central and South America, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. 

And, despite how awe-inspiring and amazing as those places can be, I always seem to come back to one inescapable reality: There is (to borrow a phrase) no place like home...









Let's Talk Apps...

From time to time, I'll be talking about cell phone apps as I find good ones. Let's face it, it's almost impossible to get thro...