Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pacific Northwest Day 7 - Vacant Ponds And Jumping Horses

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Just for kicks, I programmed my iPhone alarm to sound like a rooster.  At 0415, the damn thing went off. I was out the door at 0430.  Rocketing past Seattle just as the sun was brightening the horizon, I could not help but to be totally impressed with the Seattle skyline at night. What a cool lookin’ town!

By 7am, I was standing on a roadside in a place called the Samish Flats.  The region is completely different when compared to Gig Harbor. Forget pines and hills and such.  Agriculture. Farms. That was the norm here.

Despite the fog, I knew I was in the right spot when I spotted a few cars along the shoulder.  Pulling over, I joined the crowd (of two) and waited for the Wood Sandpiper

Outrageously similar to a Yellowlegs, this bird had been noted in this field on an on again/off again basis for just a few days.  A bird normally found in Asia, I thought it was worth a go.  It seemed a bit sketchy so far as I could tell on its reliability but it was seen late Saturday so I thought Sunday morning would be good. 

Unfortunately, it was a no-show.  Yes, folks, I spent 3 hours standing on the edge of a farm field in agricultural Washington looking for a bird that never showed.  Early on, I had a feeling we were sunk when the fog lifted slightly and the pond (seen in the distance in the photo at left) was empty. All reports stated that the bird was hanging out with Yellowlegs.  I had set 11:00am as the turn-around time and did not waiver (I had plans).  The distant pond in the photo is where the bird had been hanging out.  That said, I scored a couple of trip birds, including Savannah Sparrow and American Bittern.  

As a side note, one of the crowd was a fellow by the name of Gene. As it turns out, he is a spotter on the Monti Carlo, the boat used by the Westport Seabirds outfit.  I was scheduled for a pelagic on 13th.  I asked him for any suggestions.  “Hang on……”, he said with a smirk. Great……

The two hours to Auburn did not seem like a big deal.  Lunch was at The Rock Wood Fired Pizzas and Spirits.  One of those regional chain-brewery places, it fit my schedule nicely, so I gave it a go.  With a "Rock N Roll" theme and pretty good jams, the beer names reflected the music.    Jumpin Jack Black, Light My Fire Very Pale Low Cal Ale, Rock Steady Red, Sledge Hammer IPA, Suicide Blonde and Wild Thing Honey Wheat (#1,055-1,060) were on the sampler. The Sledge and Rock Steady were actually quite nice. 

As you might expect by just the name, the Light My Fire was a complete waste of time, effort, resources, and money.  Why ANY brewery would actually consider such tasteless drivel is beyond me.  It needs a new Rock N Roll name.  Using song titles from Queensryche, a progressive metal band from Seattle that was very popular in the late ‘80s and early 90’s, I would like to suggest any of the following – Warning, Damaged, One Foot In Hell, Man Down!, Spreading The Disease, or Broken.  Take your pick.  All apply.

From there, I was off to play photographer. When Rebecca is not helping moms and babies, she is show-jumping horses. Thinking her brother is a world –class photographer (hah!), she asked if I could take some pictures of her and her jumping class classmates at a horse show. Other photographers have been there (and where there), but they can charge an arm and a leg.  Realizing that A) it is a nice thing to do for my sister and B) I was paid up front with roundtrip airfare from Detroit to Seattle, it was easy to say “yes”. Besides, it gave me a chance to broaden my photography horizons.

I ‘m not exactly sure why, but many of my shots were a bit soft. Also, as any photographer can tell you, photographing someone wearing a white shirt as they move in front of a dark back ground can be trouble, too. The camera sees all the dark and automatically lightens the picture, causing the white shirt to over-expose or “burn out”.   Exposure compensation can help with that quite a bit.  But, add to that complication the idea that the clouds were constantly coming and going so the light was inconsistent all afternoon, and you have some trouble.  These first two pictures are Rebecca.

I found, too, that only a portion of what really matters is what I am doing. The biggest part of the photo is what the rider’s face looks like.  Crazy things can happen in the fraction of a second the shutter fires.  If the eyes are closed, forget it. The shot if ruined. If they look like they ate a bad pizza, forget it just the same.  But, add some concentration and determination with a bit lip and squinty eyes, and maybe you have something….

That said, of the 2.9 million pictures taken in 3 hours, a few turned out okay. Becka is happy, so I am too, I guess.

So, if you are a show jumper and need some photos, let me know. I would be glad to help……you find somebody a lot better than me…….

From Auburn, I bid farewell to my sister for a few days. While she went off to ice her butt, I parked my butt in my car, took an accidental lap around the race track,  and headed off to Oregon, my 44th life state but the third and final one for this trip.

After crossing the Columbia River (wow!), a Vaux’s Swift was my first Oregon bird.  It is, apparently, pronounced “vawks”, not  “voh”.  Call it what you will, they’re neat.  I suspect my first bird could have been something different if I had time to look. The road was the little two lane thing (US-30) on the edge of a cliff.  Watch the road or look for birds and die. Hmmmmmm….let me think about that one.

Lodging was pretty easy to secure in Astoria.  

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