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Wanderlust!


Brilliance! Skagit County, Washington State.

We all have it! I know I have it more than most, as I really need to get out of the house at least daily. It may be to take the dog for a walk, go to the store, or to get a coffee … but I need to be out. Too long in the house and I get cranky. And then Stephanie will make a kind suggestion that maybe I need to get some air? After forty-five years of marriage, she knows the signs. At least weekly, I need to take my camera and get out to my favorite local destinations. And then, of course, there are the urges and cravings for a longer trip, the compulsion to gallivant and be on the road to somewhere different.


“I will never lose the love for arriving, but I was born to leave.”

Charlotte Eriksson


I’ve been lucky this spring and summer to get on two great trips to Yellowstone and British Columbia, and I expect, barring fire closures, to get back north to British Columbia in September. But over the past few months, I have not had the luxury of going out locally on a regular basis and enjoying the wonders of this area where I live.

Purple Mountain Majesty! Skagit County, Washington State.

So, last week, my schedule was clear and I headed out to see what I could find here in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. I wanted first light, so I was in the car by five in the morning (and back for a nap by ten). I live in a beautiful place, and almost always there is something beautiful or wild to photograph. This morning did not disappoint. If you can’t find what you are looking for, be patient. That truly is the secret to photography, especially wildlife. It was certainly true on this morning.

Juvinile Peregrine Falcon! Skagit County, Washington State.

I was out and taking sunrise landscape images, and, at first, there really didn’t seem to be a lot there. Geese flying, backdropped by the Cascades, but a long way off. Good light, but hazy. And one lone heron posing on a log.

Sentinel! Skagit County, Washington State.

I love herons, but I have a few quality shots of these and I questioned if it was worthwhile to go back to the truck, pull out my big lens and tripod, and hike back? But I felt the urge to get something for my time out and I figured that was why I was there, so I switched out my equipment and came back. I may have come back with a new outlook as well. I took a few heron shots, and then started talking to another photographer and birder (the only other person there). It is always a question I have; do I talk or concentrate on my camera? Trying to be less anti-social than usual, I opted to have a conversation.

Wascally Weasel! Skagit County, Washington State.

In the middle of that, I caught movement in the logs and grasses at water’s edge. A weasel! Wow! And in sunlight. Pure gold for a photographer on a slow morning. I quickly signaled the other photographer and swung around and found the subject sitting, for a few seconds, on a nearby log. My then conversation partner was asking what I saw? Was it a bird? What kind? Where? Where? He wasn’t really set up yet and didn’t have his camera at hand … and I don’t think he even saw the small brown skittering weasel running in the brush. An experience I have had (or missed) far too many times.

Take the Plunge! Skagit County, Washington State.

The moral of this story is that there is always something beautiful or unique going on. You might need to look harder, wait a few minutes, or change your perspective (or lens!). To see what is in front of you differently. It may not be visible, or only visible for a second, or you might miss it completely. But if that happens, and you are in a beautiful place at sunrise – you win anyway.

Marsh! Skagit County, Washington State.

All of the images in this posting were taken this one morning. Eyes wide open, senses alert, tuned in – all due to the appearance of a small, solitary, and simply gorgeous long tailed weasel (Mustela frenata). I am so appreciative that he or she decided to share with me that moment in the sun, and to have inadvertently (or not?) changed my perspective, mind-frame, and outlook on life. I was behind the camera for each of these photos, but it was the weasel that opened up the world that morning.

Fields of Plenty! Skagit County, Washington State.

I really like photography, but I am most happy when I am in the presence of wildlife. When that happens, happiness transcends into something more. That direct communication with animals, eye to eye through the camera, creates a sense of connectedness, of belonging, of immersion into the landscape, the experience, and the image. Bears, birds, skunks, weasels, it really doesn’t matter. So, on those occasions where wildlife decides to share their presence with me, to allow me a brief glimpse into their world, I am not sure I believe that is inadvertent at all. It is the culmination of desire, hard work, being in place, and opening your heart to another species who is allowing you, and often only you, to share that moment – that window into the wild.


Endnotes:

· I identified the long-tailed weasel through a simple process of elimination. There are 8 species of mustelids that make their home in Washington State. Short-tailed weasels only live on the Olympic Peninsula and within Olympic National Forest, and the spotted and striped skunks, mink, Pacific marten and fisher, and the river otter are easy to identify and certainly not this guy or gal.

· I talk a lot about British Columbia, and how it is one of my favorite travel destinations. But they are having a rough summer. It is, by far, the worst fire season in Canada’s history. As I write this, there are over 1,000 fires burning across Canada, with two-thirds classified as out of control. So far this year, over thirty-four million acres of land have burned. Looking at different reports, that is larger than the state of Louisiana (33.52 million acres), or the state of Maine (22.646 million acres), and greater than the size of Pennsylvania (29,474,560 acres). In British Columbia, there are 380 active fires, with seventeen new just as I write this post.


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