WC: Shrinking Your World

We’re all quite small in this vast world.  We fill our lives up with work and projects and social lives and activities.  With everything we add, we discover how much the earth has to offer, and we realize we could never experience it all, given a hundred lifetimes.  The world feels bigger and bigger, with each new interest requiring thousands of hours to master, though each never reaches the state of “done.”

What drives us to be so insanely busy all the time?

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When I was young, I remember lamenting mountains of homework, longing for the days when I was out of school, as I’d then have so much more free time.  How naive.  I simply couldn’t fathom being busier than I was then.

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Now, between work and home life, I have a passion that consumes every spare moment.  Shooting and editing and marketing and blogging and learning and experimenting.  Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t dedicate so much time to my photography if I didn’t thoroughly love it.  But I sometimes miss the homework simply for the sake of remembering what it feels like to be bored.

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This packed existence starkly contrasts with every other species I witness on a daily basis.

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What must it be like to be a house cat, with no responsibilities other than eating, pooping, and sleeping all day?  Their world is literally confined to the square footage of our home, but they’re content.

Deer might roam entire mountainsides, but they don’t ponder the wonders awaiting them three continents away.

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Geese and sandhill cranes have much broader territories, migrating over many leagues each year, but they still focus on what’s needed to survive.  Can you imagine a crane getting a hobby?

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I often wonder why we’re unique in that regard.  Have we forgotten how to do nothing?

I’m enjoying shooting wildlife, as it reminds me that life can move at a slower pace.  It doesn’t have to blaze by at the speed of sound; we can stop for a bit and simply observe.  Our world then scales down to something more manageable, we can focus on a small piece, and it’s no longer so daunting.

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I personally struggle with this, as I’m a go-go-go-go-go kind of person.  But photography forces me to slow down (especially when I need a tripod), and I can actually enjoy the world I’m shooting, instead of just giving it the “drive-by shooting” treatment, remembering only the moments immortalized by the pictures that remain.


I’m starting my own musical photo challenges!  Be sure to check back on Wednesday for details on how to submit your photos!


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Busing Denali

Denali National Park is simply massive.  The park and preserve spans over 6 million acres.  This means, if you were to explore 1000 acres a day, it would still take you over 16.5 years to see it all.  How can one even hope to do a visit justice, then?  One option is to bus.

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There are two types of buses that service the park along its single 92-mile road: the tour and the shuttle.  The former is designed more for those who wish to sit back for the day (for it is an all-day commitment) and hear the guide narrate the trek.  The latter is as it sounds; it is merely a transport.  The shuttle caters to those who want to jump off for a hike or two along the way, to catch the next bus that comes along.  However, there are only two shuttles that run the entire route in and back, so if you miss that second bus, you’re in for a long walk home.

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We aren’t generally ones for the touristy things, and we wanted to shave off a few bucks, so we opted for the shuttle.  However, we also didn’t want to jump off and risk missing our ride back, so we decided to stick it through to the end of the line.  We figured this would be a good way to get a sampling of the park’s main thoroughfare.

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Luck was with us, as we wound up receiving a free upgrade.  The driver assigned to our bus usually had that day off, and he typically ran the tour line, so he was used to chatting up his passengers.  It seems we’d get the tour info along with the ride into the park.  We were also fortunate to have the entire back of the bus to our little troupe.

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Our driver was an interesting character.  Ordinarily, I’m terrible with names, but that day, we were introduced to Oh.  Mar.  Omar.  He had an unusual cadence to his speech, taking odd breaks in the middle of his words for over-exaggerated emphasis.  He slowly enunciated each location upon our departure (which I could see being useful), and insisted we wear our “Seat.  Belts.  Seat belts.”  Every time!  We were too amused to be annoyed.

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Only the first 15 miles, to Savage River, are paved, and cars are not permitted beyond this point.  We stopped here to take in the sights, and we marveled at the expansive mountains and the beautiful puffs of fog.  The rivers wound off forever into the distance, ribbons of water decorating the landscape.

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Along the road, we kept our eyes peeled for any buses stopped ahead; this was an indicator of a wildlife spotting.  Our first sighting was a russet ptarmigan strolling the side of the road.  Fun fact: there’s an old mining town in Alaska called Chicken.  Apparently, the founders wanted to name it “Ptarmigan,” but they couldn’t agree on how it’s spelled.  They agreed “Chicken” was much easier.

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We were also super stoked to spot our very first Alaskan bear!  He looked like he had just come from a refreshing swim, but he was simply magnificent.  We all hung out of the windows excitedly (with regular “keep your elbows inside the windows” from Omar), our giant lenses propped on the open window panes.  The bear paid us no mind; he was just happily munching away at the lush grass.

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It was difficult to get a great shot, because Omar kept creeping the bus forward.. then backward.. and forward again.  Just sit still already!  I gave up after our bear friend was fully obscured by the bushes, and we trudged on.

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We stopped at the “Aisle… sun.  Eielson Visitor Center” at mile 66 for a longer respite from the dusty road.  We could stretch our legs and truly marvel at the jaw-dropping vistas, as we nearly tripped over ground squirrels.  We pulled out some lunch from our packs as we once more boarded (“Seat. Belts!  Seat belts.”), knowing we still had hours left to our day’s journey.

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As we continued, some folks departed for hikes here and there, and we espied swans and caribou.  We passed Wonder Lake (which was wonderful) and finally arrived in Kantishna – the end of the line.  There, we found an old cabin and a sign declaring our pitiful accomplishment.

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Honestly, there wasn’t much beyond Eielson, but I’m glad to say we confirmed that firsthand.  Unfortunately the famed mountain was obscured by clouds, though we could barely see the base.  The trip back out was much the same as the way in, with a bit less history and far less energy.  We saw more caribou patrolling a distant ridge, an enormous moose blending into the rocks, and the same bear we saw on our way in (still bedraggled).

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And we were all too happy to shoot the entire way.

It was such a relief to hit the pavement once more!  We knew we were in the final stretch.  Who knew sitting on a bus all day could be so exhausting?

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By the time we reached the visitor center at the park entrance, we couldn’t even bring ourselves to take the slight detour the few hundred feet to where a moose was standing on the side of the road, just posing for the cameras.  We were too tired to care (and I’ve seen plenty already).

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It was a long day, for sure, but I don’t regret it.  We got a good sampling of Denali, and we got a fair introduction to Alaska’s wildlife (though one of our fellow photographers reported having seen so much more the last time he was there).  The clouds made for more interesting skies, and I couldn’t get enough of that fog (I’m a sucker for low-lying moisture).

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Next time, I probably won’t go as far, unless we’re staying at one of the campgrounds.  I’d also like to do a bit less busing and a bit more hiking, but it was a good introduction nonetheless.

And the photography was only just beginning!


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TWOI: 9/8/17

Happy Friday, all!

Boy, this was a really difficult week to sort these.  This set represents so many disparate aspects of my life; it’s crazy to look at sometimes.

This first one was from our eclipse weekend.  We met these pack goats at Olallie Lake, on some training missions.  This sure seems like a smart way to go backpacking!

This was also my submission for last week’s Monochrome Madness from Leanne Cole.

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Next, a wildlife shot from Tortuga Island in Costa Rica.  I chased this silly bird all over the island to get a decent shot; it was difficult to stay ahead of it.  I just love those colors!

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From tropical to freezing, this was a beautiful chilly morning in Yosemite.  We were shooting the Three Brothers for sunrise, and I turned around to see this scene: one of our fellow photographers just taking in the peaceful morning along the water’s edge.  The moon was also conveniently placed, so I had to snap a shot.

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This image of the famous Multnomah Falls hails from my most recent photo challenge response to “structure.”  Instead of going for literal interpretations for these challenges, I attempt to find a different interpretation.  This one focused on the many pieces that contribute to the experience of visiting a tourist spot, and my endeavors to find the unique in the over-shot.  You can read it here.

This response is also somewhat ironic.  Little did I know that the very afternoon prior to my posting this – lamenting its mundanity – actions were set in motion that would forever scar this iconic location.  This week’s challenge happened to cater to that topic, so look for that on Sunday.

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Next, you knew there’d be another image of the eclipse.  I played with framing and cropping on this one, as well as some slight yellow tinting.  But interestingly, though I love this picture, it wasn’t quite my favorite this week (though millimeters away – seriously, it was so difficult to choose my favorites out of these).

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I just love the colors of this one.  That day was spectacular, and the lighting was perfect.  On top of making an incredible coastal discovery, I was in high spirits.  This picture just makes me think of happy things.

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Finally, this week, bears rose to the top!  I’m finally getting to my Alaskan stories, and I adore this bear clamming on the beach.  I have so much to tell from that trip, so be sure to follow my blog so you don’t miss out.

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I’m on most major social media platforms, obviously including Instagram.  I always welcome comments both here and there; I would love to hear your thoughts on my photography and/or adventures.  Come say hi!


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TWOI: 8/11/17

Before getting to the pictures, I wanted to mention something about this day.  Today is a special day.  It’s my baby kitty’s birthday.  She was my 16th birthday present, and she was only a month shy of turning 15 when we had to say goodbye to her two years ago.  She was my favorite photographic subject, and though I miss her, I smile at all the happy memories.  I’m making a conscious effort to remember her birthday and forget the worst day of my life, so happy birthday, Zoe!  You can read all about her here.

As for Instagram, I have quite the variety this week.

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Costa Rica Canopy Tours

If you find your way to Costa Rica, chances are, you’ll go wandering through a jungle or two.  And what better way to do so than on a canopy tour?  Sporting secluded paths, numerous suspension bridges, and abundant life, these certainly keep one entertained – all with a knowledgable local to answer silly questions and point out the camouflaged animals (and make sure no one gets eaten by a puma).

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Bears and Boars

As you read this, I will be trekking through the Alaskan wilderness, finally off in search of bears!  As you know, I’ve been planning for this trip for a while, and I hope to have lots of amazing grizzly photos to share with you when I get back.

As such, with no service to speak of, I’m afraid I won’t be able to participate in this week’s photo challenge, so I’ll leave you with this instead.

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