Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Lesson In Parenting At Iverson Spit

If you follow my Twitter account, you might have seen a lone post a couple of months ago: "Driven off the beach during last night's shoot by a misbehavin' assistant. That's what I get for hiring a 4 yr old." That was an abbreviated version of the events.

I planned the trip to Camano Island for a few weeks. I prepped my son for exactly what would happen. We would drive to the island, we would play for an hour at a playground, we would eat lunch, and then we would hit the beach for a short photo shoot before resuming the day of adventure. It worked great...well it worked great up until the photography part.

We arrived at Iverson Spit and the scenery was awesomely raw. The beach was littered with driftwood, the water was being pushed up into the bay by a strong breeze, and the gray sky hovered overhead. I set my son up with some sand toys and I set up my camera gear down low and close to the water's edge. Right away things began to go wrong. I began to shoot and he began to complain. He needed me to play with him; the sand wasn't sticking together; his shovel wasn't working; he couldn't build a sandcastle by himself. The breeze made it difficult for us to hear each other so every time he called to me, I had to take the tripod out of the water and walk over to talk to him. Each time I became more frustrated. I asked him to wait patiently for 15 minutes and then we would play. I warned him once, I warned him twice, I gave him a freebie and a third warning. When he demanded for me to come the fourth time, I scooped everything up and headed back to the car. We were finished for the day. If he couldn't wait for 15 minutes, I wouldn't continue the day of adventure. He was devastated and we drove the hour back to the house in complete silence. I probably could have salvaged the day, but the lesson needed to be taught... right?

Well, maybe not.

Last week I decided to take a look at the images from that day (a grand total of 8 frames). They were all gray and flat but one had a pretty decent composition and some nice waves breaking on the shore. Maybe I could salvage something from the day after all. As I tried to bring the image to life on the computer, I thought about the events and began to realize something.  I told myself I left the beach to teach him a lesson, but truthfully, I was just mad. I was mad because I did everything right that day. We spent time at the playground, we had lunch so he wasn't hungry, and we were dressed for the weather. Why couldn't I just get fifteen minutes of photography in?

Because he is 4.

He is extraordinarily bright and mature for his age but, at times, he still acts like a 4 year old. He does exactly what a 4 year old does: he pushes the limits just to see what happens, he pushes my buttons just to see how I respond, and he assumes the entire world revolves around him. 

After some thought, I realized I pushed my son a little too hard that day. I ignored the warning signs on previous trips that he was burning out tagging along with me and my camera gear. Each time he was a little less interested. Each time he complained a little louder. I was just so anxious to include him, I ignored the signs. Should I just concentrate on letting him experience nature on his own terms, fostering a love of the outdoors, and laying the foundation for the future? Do I need to leave the photo equipment at home? Maybe it doesn't need to be all or nothing and I can take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. I do, however, need to learn to read the situation better and be willing to put the camera down if need be. 

How do I feel about the image? Well, I probably pushed too hard on that as well. In order to salvage something from that day I darkened and added more contrast in the sky then I am really comfortable with. Did it work? I can't really decide. I think I'm too emotionally invested in the situation. I love the image because of the path I took to get it and I hate the image because of the path I took to get it. I guess I will just leave it up to you...

Iverson Spit, Camano Island, Washington

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spring Runoff

This image was taken last week on the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River. I had spotted this scene from the road on previous trips up the valley but I always had my son along and the descent down to the river was just too dangerous. This time I had a welcome evening to myself and carefully picked my way down over the moss covered rocks to the river.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Robe Canyon

My wife was was on-call last Tuesday at the hospital and by 2:00 we figured she was staying home. I had already made dinner for the family to reheat so I grabbed my camera gear and went out for the evening. Robe Canyon has been on my list of to-do spots for awhile now. It is nearby and the hike is easy but the warnings in the guidebooks about the speed of the water made me leery about bringing my son along. All alone on Tuesday night, it was the perfect opportunity.

Robe Canyon is spectacular. The entire Stillaguamish River is squeezed into a narrow chasm with heavily forested cliffs. Years ago, a narrow gauge train ran alongside from Granite Falls to the now deserted mining town of Monte Cristo. The trail follows the old railroad grade blasted into the canyon walls Old wood ties still attached to the rock walls and perennially slick rocky surfaces make you pay constant attention to where you are putting your feet but the views are worth it. Less than a mile from the road, it feels like you are days from civilization.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Stanley Lake

What's not to like about a mountain lake at sunrise? Stanley Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Navarro River Redwoods

Somebody once described California's Redwood forests as "cathedrals of green." I have never ran across a better description.

Navarro Redwoods State Park, California

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Meadowdale Beach Trail

Near my house there is a mile long trail that drops down a quick 400 feet to Meadowdale Beach on Puget Sound. The trail starts from the end of a street in the neighborhood and quickly disappears into a heavily forested ravine. Even though you are never far from houses, it seems like a world apart. It's always a pretty walk but in Springtime, the entire forest explodes into green.

Meadowdale Beach County Park, Edmonds, Washington

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sunset at Third Beach

Third Beach (and its cousin, Second Beach) are definitely in the running for "The most spectacular location with the most nondescript name." A short easy hike just over one mile long discourages most visitors. The vast majority of those who do make the short trek seem content to hang out within a hundred yards of where the trail spilled them onto the beach. Stay till sunset, and you will have the place nearly to yourself. Just remember a to bring a flashlight for the walk back because those woods get dark (and full of sparkly vampires from what I hear)

Sunset at Third Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Slivers Of Light

What do I wish I could experience more often? Slivers of light. Little cracks in the horizon breaking up an otherwise cloudy world. Tiny spaces that let the golden rays of sunrise illuminate the landscape for only minutes before the clouds descend and the color is drained from the scene. Most of these I miss, out of place by a quarter of a degree of latitude or less. Sometimes they nearly catch me off-guard as I unexpectedly stumble across them. Every once in awhile, they can be predicted.

The edge of the storm was suppose cross the coast just after sunrise that morning. As I hoped, the sky was already thick with clouds as it became light enough to see the landscape. On the far eastern horizon there was a crack of clearness: a leftover scrap of the previous pleasant evening. The clock ticked past sunrise and the warm light skimmed across the dunes, building in intesity. It lasted for only a few minutes and then clouds won the battle. 30 minutes later it began to pour.

Sunrise on the Umpqua Dunes, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

A Little Minimalism For Today

Sunset at Nehalem Bay State Park, Oregon

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


When I first visited Washington in the 90s on a photo trip, I decided to drive around the waterways to get to the Olympic Peninsula rather than shell out the $15 to get across in 30 minutes. It was the one and only time I did that. It was an excruciatingly long and tedious drive at rush hour.

I love the ferries. To me, they are completely integrated with the landscape and the culture of the Seattle area. The single best view of downtown Seattle is from one of the ferry routes. They are both great for travel to and from the surrounding area and an inexpensive form of entertainment for my 5yr old son.

The Mukilteo Ferry Terminal and beach is one of my last minute, go-to spots when I throw together a quick shoot in the evening.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Big Greider Lake

Big Greider Lake is at the end of one of the handful of trails in the Sultan Basin Region managed by the Washington State DNR. The hike is fairly easy after the first mile which gains a quick 1000 feet. The area gets trampled on the weekends but I was completely alone during the middle of the week. I stayed long enough to catch the last slivers of sunlight across the peaks and then descended back to the car by flashlight.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Just Another Creek

I promise I will never take the scenery in the Pacific Northwest for granted and if I do, you have my permission to flame me. This is just another one of those thousands of spots that are so commonplace, they aren't in a guidebook and don't even show up on most maps. You just stumble across them while driving the Forest Service roads and hiking the trails.

Small cascades near Eightmile Creek, Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington.