Beauty in the World Remains Constant

I have a dear friend who attended high school with me.  He is an outstanding photographer and one of the finest men I know.  Once “social distancing” started and he was unable to continue his business travel, he started posting some of his favorite photos and tells stories about them.  I wanted to share his posts but he is very private and does not like the spotlight.  I asked if I could put his travelogue into my blog and keep him anonymous .  He agreed to that!  He and his lovely wife live in Bend Oregon which is stunning in itself.
I asked him if he would continue this posting and sharing until he ran out of stunning photos.  He has not told me no!  So I am hoping this compilation will inspire him to put these in book form once this pandemic is over.  No matter what, I will have an amazing collection from a most talented friend.  He honored me by telling me that my storytelling/photography is what inspired him. He has always been the gentleman.

Day 16 – Back to Central Oregon! One of my favorite photo spots in our Bend “neighborhood” is Smith Rock State Park. A 45 minute drive from our home, the geology of the park is fascinating. It was formed when a large caldera was formed by the collapse of an enormous magma chamber during one of the volcanic periods that characterize the creation of the Cascades and our high desert region. (Crater Lake is another famous example of a caldera.) Layers of basalt, volcanic ash and tuff comprise the stunning rock formations of the park, carrying names such as “Phoenix Buttress”, “Dihedrals” and “Morning Glory Wall.” On any given day, and particularly in the summer, the park is crowded with hikers, rock climbers, picnickers and…photographers like me.

Two weeks ago, just before Smith Rock was closed to the public in deference to Oregon’s COVD19 shelter-in-place directive, I had the opportunity to try my hand at night sky photography with my photographer friends Steve and Adam. We perched ourselves on a cliff overlooking Crooked River, which carves its way through the park, and faced the Monument area, with its multiple climbing routes featuring colorful names such as Snow Bunny, Praying Mantel, Approaching the Twilight and Abraxas. It was magical hearing the soft sounds of the river in the near distance while watching the light fade on the spires in front of us. Venus and thousands of stars emerged and grew in brightness. We took a number of shots, varying exposure times to adequately capture the scene before us, which as darkness progressed faded from our view. (We had to be very careful in the dark to not step in front of our tripods. That would have resulted in a very unfortunate several hundred foot surprise!)

The shot below was one of my final efforts. It involved a 52 second exposure which reveals not just the multitude of stars in the heavens above us, but also the faint trace of the Milky Way cascading into the rock formations ascending from the valley floor below. It’s hard to describe the sense of amazement and satisfaction this student of photography derived from preparing the shot, calculating the exposure settings, pressing the shutter release and…waiting for the camera to do its thing. Then downloading the image to the computer to see what the camera’s sensor recorded, and editing it to bring out the best the photograph had to offer. I was very pleased with this outcome. I hope you are as well. March 2020.

Day 15 – While I acknowledge a strong theme throughout these pages of my desire and love for the west, there have also been times when the draw was to head north. Northern Minnesota. Northern Wisconsin. Lake Superior. Northern Michigan. All resplendent in their post – Ice Age beauty. Featuring a multitude of glacier-carved lakes, ancient rock formations and lush greenery. A favorite destination of many who live in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan is Traverse City. Located on the northwest “coast” of Michigan (where the fingernail of the pinkie finger of the mitten hand Michiganers use to describe their state would be,) it is also at the southern point of Grand Traverse Bay. Thus, this midwestern town feels like a small coastal village, much like what you might find in the northern Atlantic states. A surprising aspect of this location is that, in spite of its northern latitude and harsh winters, there are a number of vineyards located on the Old Mission Peninsula, which stretches north into the Bay from the center of downtown Traverse City. Perched high on the hillside of this uniquely picturesque setting is the Chateau Chantal winery and B&B. Although we didn’t stay in this lovely spot, we did have the opportunity to catch the sun setting over the vineyards and the western arm of Grand Traverse Bay. A stunning sight that captures the rich beauty of this very unique geography. July 2012.

Day 14 – Africa. A continent unlike any other, stretching from its northern boundary of Tunisia on the Mediterranean Sea to Cape Aguihas, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet at South Africa’s southernmost tip. I have been fortunate to travel on four separate occasions to this captivating place, to its northern (Egypt), eastern (Cote d’Ivoire) and western (Kenya) regions. Like some, but unlike many, I was called to go there not as a tourist, but rather as a short term missionary to serve alongside others in locations, areas and circumstances often not visible to the casual visitor. On each occasion, I was struck by the abiding dignity, grace and humility of the people I encountered as well as the intense, almost visceral beauty of locations where I traveled. Those who have been there may understand what I mean. You don’t just see Africa – you feel it. Its heat. Its sounds. Its smells. Its colors. Its rhythm. Its vastness.

The Maasai Mara is a large game preserve in Kenya which is contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Named in honor of its indigenous inhabitants – the Maasai – “Mara” is Swahili and means “spotted” as a result of how the land, dotted with acacia trees, appears from the air. One of my clients, Adventist Health, invited me to join a group of executives, associates and their families who were traveling to the Mara to build a kindergarten and provide medical services to the local Maasai. We were housed at Mara West, an amazingly comfortable (luxurious even) safari camp that sits on the edge of the Oloololo Escarpment. It is in this location and the surrounding area that much of the movie “Out of Africa” was filmed. It is difficult to describe the amazing experience of living, working, eating and sleeping in this almost other-worldly setting. I could sit on the porch of my “tent” chalet overlooking the Game Reserve below, watching giraffe and elephants grazing in the near distance. I could listen to the night sounds of hyenas and baboons outside the canvas walls of my tent at night, and hear lions roaring in the distance. And in the daylight hours, I could pray, work and serve alongside others who were equally awed, both by our surroundings, and by the quiet strength and warmth of the people we were there to serve, as well as those that were there to serve us. And in addition to what would have in itself been incredible enough, we were able to venture into the Game Reserve on multiple occasions to encounter the astounding number and array of wildlife that greeted us there.

The black rhinoceros captured in this photograph is one of approximately 10 individual rhinos who remain in the Mara Triangle from some 120 that populated the Reserve in the early 70’s, up from a single individual in 2001. The Reserve is the only protected area in Kenya with an indigenous black rhino population, so we felt very fortunate to come across this one during one of our excursions into the park.

I particularly love the Oxpecker (or tickbird) marching boldly up the rhino’s shoulders, loudly announcing its presence to anyone who might have missed it. And I am drawn in by the tranquil but wary gaze of this massive, beautiful animal, whose presence in these parts outdates man’s by millennia, yet has lost far too many of its kin to poachers for the sake of their prized horn. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have “met” him, and to share his portrait with you. February 2018.

Day 13 – My dad once said to me “Someday I want to be able to drive and see the entire length of the west coast.” Isn’t it something how our parents’ words – both those that are intentionally, and those that are casually – spoken can lodge in our minds and echo for a lifetime? I had never traveled to Oregon (well, apart from a few business trips to the Portland area over the years) until Suzy and I visited in the fall of 2014 to investigate Bend as a possibility for our future retirement home. At the time, we had put our house on the market in Cincinnati (where we had lived for 17 years) without a clear idea of where we wanted to relocate. Suffice it to say that we were so impressed with what we saw and experienced in our 4 day visit to central Oregon that we made the decision to buy a house there. We made the move west (I’m now realizing “moving west” has been a theme in my life) approximately 5 months later. However, it was some time before we were able to make the journey to see the Oregon Coast. Since both of our adult children were living in Southern California at the time, Suzy and I decided to take HWY 101 down the coast from Oregon all the way to Orange County, CA to spend a family Thanksgiving there. And what a memorable drive that turned out to be! From the rugged, wind and rain whipped Bandon Beach coastline pictured here (Bandon proclaims itself to be the “Storm Watching Capitol of the World”) through the giant redwoods of Northern California, to the soaring cliffs of Big Sur, and the seemingly endless beaches of Southern California, we were able to take in most of what I believe my dad, and subsequently his son, had aspired to see. Thanks Dad. I owe you one. November 2016.

Day 12 – I first discovered the western United States the summer after my junior year in college. I had worked in grocery stores around Indianapolis for 6 years or so in order to purchase the necessities of a 16-20 year old male (car, motorcycles, stereo, etc.) and pay my tuition and board at Purdue. Thanks to an invitation from my uncle, who ran a freight company in Denver, I had the opportunity to spend a summer in Colorado working nights as a Teamster on a truck dock while living at the SAE fraternity house at Denver University.

I had never driven farther west than Lawrence, Kansas. I had only once visited California when I was 10 years old to go to Disneyland with my parents. I had never seen the mountains. And I had certainly never been that far from home on my own. But I borrowed my Dad’s car for the summer (the ’67 Mustang convertible I owned in college would never have survived the trip) and headed west on I-70 into what was certainly a new adventure, and what ultimately became a huge change in the arc of my life.

As I expectantly sped across the plains of western Kansas, and then eastern Colorado, I strained to see the outlines of the Rocky Mountains. (For some reason I imagined they would be visible the moment I crossed the Colorado border, but that was not the case.) It was as I passed the ranch town of Lyons that I first saw the snowcapped summit of PIke’s Peak, and then Mt. Evans and Long’s Peaks (all “14’ers”) and then ultimately the entire Front Range of the Rockies. When I saw those mountains stretching from north to south, as far as I could see, I knew I had discovered the place that would become my new home. I loved everything I experienced in Denver, Colorado and the Rockies that summer. And made it my purpose when I graduated from Purdue to return there. And, thanks to Honeywell, my first post-graduate employer, I did.

Many years later, Suzy and I had the opportunity to visit the 3rd oldest of the National Parks – Yosemite. The stunning waterfalls, majestic vistas and neck-craning vertical rock formations of this magnificent valley defy description to those who have never seen it. After hiking the “Mist Trail” to first Vernal, and then Nevada Falls, we rested alongside the Merced River near the aquamarine pools that gather a hundred feet or so upstream from where the river cascades over the fall’s edge. To my stunned amazement, the scene pictured below unfolded. A cowboy leading a train of trailhorses over the bridge at the edge of the falls. Slowly, steadily, sure-footedly they crossed the bridge and headed…somewhere. And in doing so, portrayed for me, and through the lens of my camera, the essence of the west that I have come to so deeply love. Vast, rugged, stunningly beautiful, yet still connected to its legendary and somewhat mythical past. September, 2012.

Day 11 – I have always had an affection for rural scenes. My guess is it goes back to my growing up in Indiana. Both of my parents were raised on farms, and throughout my childhood and early teens I was fortunate to spend at least a weekend a month and several weeks during the summer experiencing the austere purity, rigor and simplicity of farm life. It was in those times that I connected with extended family (it seemed that I was related to everyone somehow), and learned lifelong lessons about all varieties of livestock, crops, and farm machinery. I learned to love the sound of the hog feeders, the smell of a hay barn, the exciting power of a John Deere tractor while perched on my grandfather’s lap. I saw the “Golden Rule” in practice through the decent and kind actions of others, neighbors and strangers alike. I learned that a “man is only as good as his word.” And I learned that there was no substitute for hard work, diligence and respect for the land and its provision.

Perhaps all of this is why I love this photograph. Taken in Nova Scotia, overlooking the lands of the Grand Pre National Historic Site. This haystack is part of a display at the park and stands as a reminder of the hardworking Acadian farmers of centuries past who reclaimed the land from the sea and transformed it into the rich farmland it is today. The Acadians are gone now, more than 12,000 forced off their lands by the British in the mid-1700’s due to their refusal to swear an oath of allegiance to England. Some found their way to Louisiana where they stayed and became known as “Cajuns.” But their legacy remains in the verdant fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. As I stood and gazed at this haystack, the small church in the distance and the rolling landscape before me, I found myself seemingly transported back to my roots and the fond childhood memories of my Indiana home. July 2011.

Day 10 – During times of trouble, stress, anxiousness or fear I frequently turn to the Psalms for comfort. Many of these beautifully poetic scripture verses were written as “Psalms of Ascent,” which some biblical scholars believe were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend one of the three Jewish Pigrim Festivals. Perhaps one of these inspired the familiar and beautiful psalm of David – Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff comfort me. Your prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me, all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

This photo was taken during perhaps the most memorable and impactful of my many travels throughout the world. It is taken from a hillside in the Judean desert of Israel, (in today’s “West Bank”) overlooking Biblical Samaria, with the town of Jericho in the far distance. This valley is believed to be “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” referred to in Psalm 23. The stream that carves this valley leads from the highlands of Jerusalem to Jericho, at the foot of the Judean Hills (visible in the distance in the upper right portion of the photo.) It is up this valley that Jewish pilgrims would travel, carrying either sacrificial animals or money with which to purchase them when they arrived at the Temple in Jerusalem. Samaritan bandits hid in this curving valley, waiting to attack and rob pilgrims as they journeyed along the ancient road which runs alongside the “quiet waters” of the stream. The “paths of righteousness” referenced in the psalm are what the shepherds called the goat trails you can clearly see curving along the hillsides in the foreground. “Green pastures” are the sprigs of green you can also see in the foreground that serve as forage for the goats and sheep that populate and are still shepherded through these hills. As I stood overlooking this magnificent scene, I was struck by both its stark beauty and the awesome realization that this beautiful Psalm was not a fictional figment of the writer’s imagination, but rather a very real and personal prayer by a very real person describing a very real place and facing very real danger. It was through this realization, and many other similar moments during our time in Israel that my faith truly became sight. I hope that this story and image, in this current time of trouble, gives you peace and renewed hope. April 2013.

Day 9 – Famous landscape photographer Ansel Adams once said “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” So many variables go into creating a memorable photograph that not only portrays what you see, but also conveys what you feel. Effective composition thus involves more than simply a compelling subject or scene. It also requires elements that draw the eye into the story the photograph is conveying to its viewer. I feel like I have so much to learn in this area, let alone the vast array of technical knowledge and expertise required to execute a quality image. Thankfully there are some settings that seem to compose themselves. The Sedona area of Arizona is one of those with is beautiful brightly colored sandstone formations, desert fauna and brilliant blue skies. This shot, taken after a passing storm, draws me into its story every time I see it. I hope it does you as well. August 2016.

Day 8 – I have always loved traveling to our neighbor to the north, and have been fortunate to visit 4 different provinces in Canada multiple times. Always clean, friendly and affordable, I (and Suzy and I) have had some fabulous experiences there. Perhaps one of the most memorable was heli-hiking in the Caribou Mountains of Alberta, near Valemont, just across the continental divide from the town of Jasper. We stayed in a beautiful ski lodge owned by Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH.) For three days we were fed gourmet quality food and shuttled from amazing hike to amazing hike in a Bell UH-1 (Huey) helicopter piloted by a very skilled and experienced veteran pilot named Bruce. Once Bruce had deposited us in some spectacular mountain location, our licensed mountain guide Brian would lead us through terrain otherwise inaccessible without the benefit of the helicopter. Even better, at the end of each hike, Brian would simply radio the chopper (I called it the “Limo”) to have it come and pick us up to take us to the next spot. The familiar “thump, thump, thump” of the rotor blades would echo off the canyon walls and herald its impending arrival. I love this shot for the spectacular backdrop, and if you look closely in the center of the photograph, you can see Bruce winging his way in to pick us up to take us safely to our mountain lodge home. Thank you Brian and Bruce, wherever you are. July 2008.
Day 7 – The giant sequoia (or Sequoiadendron giganteum as it is known in the scientific community) is the most massive tree on earth, and occurs naturally only on the western slope of the Sierra Nevadas in California. The oldest known of the species is estimated to be approximately 3200 years old. Muir Grove is a couple mile hike from the access road in Sequoia National Park. While I’m not certain of the age of the trees in the grove, I know they are in excess of 2000 years old. That means these trees have been standing since the time when the Roman Empire existed and Jesus Christ walked the earth. They are scarred, scorched and gnarled but unbowed by age. They have endured through drought, flood, heat, cold, fire and pestilence. They were here during the time of the Mono and Sierra Miwok tribes. They are survivors. As I stood at the base of these majestic silent giants (the trees in the photo below are at least 15 feet in diameter and hundreds of feet tall) I yearned to hear the stories they could tell. And I also felt humbled by the relative insignificance of our short earthly lives, as I gazed upward at trunks that seemed to stretch toward the Eternal. September 2012.
Day 6 – Alaska. The largest state in the union, comprising nearly 20% of the land mass of the U.S. And a destination that Suzy and I had dreamed of visiting for 25 years. We were finally able to do so in celebration of our 35th wedding anniversary in the company of dear friends Jim and Andie Carter from Bend. I have never fancied myself as much of a wildlife photographer. I’ve never really had the patience for it, nor the lenses required to do it right. Well, Alaska was a different story. We were, through our amazing small (6 passenger) boat experience on the Alaska Quest, able to immerse ourselves for 7 days in the awesome scenic beauty of the area surrounding Admiralty Island. And our wildlife sightings were so abundant as to be the norm rather than the exception. One morning, as we were easing our way out of the bay where we had spent the night, we encountered this pair of bald eagles perched on a convenient iceberg. I thought this photo was particularly relevant today as this stately pair expertly demonstrate the practice of social distancing – even in the wild. July 2018.
Day 5 – A friend of mine recently asked “Why do you enjoy landscape photography?” It was a great question. And there are many reasons why – the opportunity it provides to see and experience beautiful locations; the exhilaration of seeing “the shot” that emerges after well executed preparation, composition, focus, exposure and editing. But the reason I gave in answer to my friend’s question was something like this: “I feel closest to God in the midst of the beauty He created, and I love taking photographs which capture a slice of that beauty.” Sometimes the beauty is grand and large – majestic mountains, powerful ocean waves, seemingly endless sky. And sometimes it is tiny and delicate, as was the case with this Purple Aster (I believe – I’m not a botanist!) flowering alongside the trail to the peak of Iron Mountain in the Oregon Cascades. Only 1/2″ or so in diameter, it was clumped with a number of its siblings alongside the trail in a cool, shady spot on a warm summer day. I kneeled down, held my breath and slowly pressed the shutter, praying for a sharp image. My prayer was answered. July 2019.

 

Day 4 – Some places, and therefor photographs, are iconic. I wasn’t really interested in golf until the early 80’s. I remember however watching the U.S. Open in 1982 at Pebble Beach on TV and seeing Tom Watson defeat Jack Nicklaus with his amazing chip-in on the 17th hole. I was taken with the spectacular coastline of Carmel, CA and promised myself I would see it one day. Over the years, Suzy and I have had the pleasure of visiting Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur numerous times, the last being when I was able to finally play Pebble Beach Golf Links on my 60th birthday. The “Lone Cypress” is a famous icon of the west coast, and reputed to be one of the most photographed trees in North America. I was happy to contribute to that reputation with this shot.

Day 3 – I first saw Lake Louise on a motorcycle trip through the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia in 1980 with my then roommate and good friend Roger Buswell. While clearly a beautiful spot, it was an overcast day so we weren’t able to see the mountains in the background, or experience the iridescent turquoise of the glacial melt lake water. One thing I decided at the time though, was that it would definitely be the place I would go on my honeymoon (an interesting thought since I had no prospects for marriage at the time!) Three years later, I returned to Lake Louise (as well as Banff and Victoria) with Suzy on our honeymoon (she had previously visited it as well, and amazingly had come to the same conclusion about it being a wonderful place to honeymoon.) It was still just as beautiful as I had remembered, but alas, socked in with clouds once again. Suzy and I did, though, hike around the lake to the foot of the Upper Victoria Glacier that feeds it. Then, in 2008 Suzy and I returned to Lake Louise, Banff, Jasper and the Caribou Mountains for our 25th anniversary. This time, the skies were crystal clear and the full spectacular beauty of the lake was finally revealed to us, providing the opportunity for this photograph.

Day 2 – Burntside Lake, on the edge of the Boundary Waters outside of Ely, MN is a very special place for our family. For over 20 years we spent the third week of July there with Suzy’s family and other close friends. Through all of the moves from city to city I imposed on my family in pursuit of my business career, our annual week at Burntside was the constant our kids knew they could depend on. It will always have a special place in our hearts. This photo was taken July, 2015.

Day 1 –  I am enjoying using time that formerly was dedicated to business travel to go through my digital album of favorite photographs. I’ll strive to share one per day in the hope that they will help you pause, like me, to appreciate the beauty in the world around us that remains a constant in the midst of these tumultuous times. Here is a sunset from Solana Beach, CA. December 2015.

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