Sunset, swallowed up

 

Sunset - BC wildfires - Salt Creek

Wildfire smoke in British Columbia made sunset unearthly and weird at the Salt Creek Recreation Area on Washington’s Olympic coast. I kept hoping the sun would sink below the curtain of smoke and explode onto the water, but the haze swallowed it entirely.

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Refuge

017This year has been the least prolific photographic year I’ve had in more than a decade. I lost two people close to me this year — the second diagnosed a week before the first passed away — and someone even closer has been diagnosed with a serious illness (with a much better prognosis, thankfully.)

In twenty years of shooting I’ve learned that in times of sadness or distress, the engine behind my writing and photography stalls. It can feel scary sometimes, but it will pass. This is all just life, and you have to go with that.

So when the prompt was to share the most meaningful photo of 2017, this one bubbled up. I took this in June, in the middle of the year, on one of the few days I felt that old familiar magic about being outside. I did travel this year — to Florida, the Badlands, and out to the Pacific Northwest. How funny, though, that the most “meaningful” image came from home, here in Indiana.

 

Waiting

We visited this lavender farm on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula on a Sunday in early August. The morning air was cool, misty, and carrying a bit of smoke from the wildfires in British Columbia.

This is my spouse and favorite travel companion, sitting in the lavender as I wander the fields. Waiting.

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Fire in the air

In the last few days I’ve been been in the Pacific Northwest, and we wandered out to Salt Creek in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Fires are burning in British Columbia and central Washington, and a haze hangs over everything. During a Pacific Northwest summer, you can usually see the volcanoes and the Olympic range from a good distance; not so now.

I was in Glacier National Park for the crazy wildfires of 2003 (we were the last vehicle to exit the park at Apgar when they closed it down, just ahead of the sirens, and I’m sure I took three years off my life from smoke inhalation). So from my photography there that year, I know how wildfires can produce weird, surreal light.

I was hoping that the sun would sink further down toward the horizon and spill some light toward the island before it was swallowed up into the haze entirely, but this is as far as it got. Elemental.

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The finger

As I was standing on Marineland Beach in north Florida after photographing some birds, I looked to the east and saw weather gathering on the horizon. As I watched, the cloud seemed slowly to reach a finger down to touch, and then stir, the water.

It was my first waterspout. It lasted no more than five minutes or so. But still, I stared it down intently, as I’ve been caught in a tornado once before and I had no desire for the finger to make its way onto the beach where I was standing. Fortunately, it was transient.

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Wandering with the monkeys of Silver River

There is a colony of feral rhesus macaques living on the Silver River on the outskirts of Ocala, Florida. I try to visit them once or twice a year, because why not? Although I didn’t spot any monkeys on the two trips prior to my most recent one, a paddle down the Silver River is a treat in itself. I’ve tagged along with otters, alligators, scores of birds, and tiny turtles on the Silver.  So I love it regardless of whether the monkeys are out.  The river draws me back every time; if I were a wind-up toy, I’d head to the Silver as soon as you let me go. That’s my wanderlust.

This time, I saw a monkey almost immediately, and he was contemplating a swim. Here is the process, from consideration, to alligator scan, and finally, launch. Too bad when he got to the other side, another monkey shoved him back in the river.

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More on the monkeys — and how they got there in the first place — here.

Co-pilot

On a backpacking trip in early spring, I noticed a group of swallowtails puddling in an area on the ground where something had recently rotted. I was photographing one of them when I noticed it had a co-pilot. We all need our minerals, I suppose. Surprise.

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