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Becoming a Tourist in My Own Town

My 52 week challenge theme last week was “Be a Tourist in Your Own Town”.  Now, I technically don’t live in a town; I live on an island which has no official town.  We have a fairly large sized grocery store/strip mall, a couple of restaurants, and even a branch of the public library here all which, if placed in the same general area, could constitute a town.  Instead, I became a tourist on our island.

Bright and early on Saturday morning I climbed into our old Ford F250 pick-up truck and headed out.  I generally avoid driving the “beast” but I drew the short straw this time and that’s the vehicle that was mine for the day.  The “beast” and I made our first stop at the obvious choice for a morning outing.  The Camano Island Coffee Roaster’s Market Place.

Inside the Camano Island Marketplace.

It’s one of the best places for tourists to stop when they are out to explore our island.  The Coffee Roasters is the brainchild of Jeff Ericson who is not only a top notch  entrepreneur, he’s also a top notch humanitarian.  He started out roasting coffee beans in his garage and eventually built a fantastic commons area which houses his coffee roasting business and several other local businesses as well.  His coffee is organic and free trade.  I hear the coffee is fantastic; I’m not a coffee drinker (Sorry, Jeff and Jodi) so I walked out of the Marketplace with my favorite Chai Tea Latte’.

Local artist, John Ebner, paints Northwest scenes and prints them to various media such as these tiles.

I wandered around the Market Place Common’s area for a bit, locating the tourist type things that Jeff Ericson has placed there.  From the HUGE Crab Welcome Sign to the seaside photo boards, there’s a little bit of fun to be found.

Doesn’t every tourist place need one of these? Best part is, one of our very talented young local artists, Heather Dixon, painted these signs.

Del Fox Meats offers a great hamburger or pulled pork lunch and the bakery has some delectable cookies to finish off the meal.  One of the shops had some great “twig” furniture, for lack of a better term, and so, since there was no one out and about yet, I had to try them out.

Having enjoyed the tourist attractions at the Marketplace, I climbed back into “the beast” and drove the short distance to the Chamber of Commerce welcome center.  There I found some local artwork

and a wonderful sign that helps visitors locate their destinations on the island.

I decided to take a few moments to finish my latte’ and enjoy the peaceful moments.

With my latte’ cup empty and the morning hours fleeting, I jumped back into my ride and found myself at my next destination: English Boom Preserve.  Once a logboom location, English Boom Preserve is now a wildlife sanctuary with a nice beach and walking trails.  It also sports views of Mt. Baker and Whidbey Island in the distance.

The English Boom Preserve sits along the beach below the small airport on Camano Island. There was an airplane taking off as I was sitting there enjoying the morning sun.

My morning of vacation was drawing to an end as I drove towards home.  I decided to take in one last tourist destination which is perhaps the largest draw for tourists to our island.  The Camano Island State Park is one of the more beautiful places I’ve been and it’s only 5 minutes from my house.

There are camp sites, boat launch, and more beaches to enjoy.  We use to own a boat and launched it there often.  There’s a strong current running through the area so it made for some challenges when loading our boat back onto the trailer. They have a dock there now but it sadly wasn’t in place when we needed it most.  Ric and I have spent many evenings sitting on the driftwood watching people load and unload their boats.  It provides a great study on human relationships.  *grin*

My mini-vacation now complete,  “the beast” and I headed for home.  It’s a treat to take time on a sunny northwest morning and spend it playing tourist in my own neighborhood.  Well, for that matter, it’s just a treat having a sunny northwest morning, but that’s a theme for another day.

Get Lost on Camano Island

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The Measure of Masculinity

_DSC4643This past week, my photo theme was “Masculine”.  I thought “Oh, no problem!  I live in a house full of men so this will be easy peasey!”  It turned out to not be as easy and I thought.

You see, the culture in today’s world in which we live has seen great transitions from our more “role specific” past.  It use to be that women and men had more defined roles, more defined things that typified them.  Not so much any longer.

As I wandered through my thoughts this past week thinking of the theme and what I wanted to do, every time I thought of something that in my mind seemed to define “Masculine”, I would then realize that no, it could define both men and women.  Women have permeated almost every area that use to be the definition of a man.  Sports, carpentry, mechanics, these are just a few of the things that came to mind and then were dismissed.

As my husband, Ric, my son Austin, and I watched the movie “Courageous” last night, I realized what I wanted to show in my weekly photo.  It’s not something dramatic or dynamic.  It’s a very simple reflection of what I think defines Masculinity.

I believe Masculinity is defined as a man knowing what his role is in society as a defender of others, being strong not physically but in fortitude, resolute in his beliefs, filled with character and integrity.  He is ready and willing to courageously do battle to defend and preserve his family, he takes responsibility when he should and steps up to stand firm when necessary. A “manly man”, in my opinion, is not some guy who has bulging muscles and walks around the gym grunting.  Nor is it a man who lives in the woods, eats his own kill and wears deer scented spray.  Instead, it’s the man who is willing to lay his life down for others sacrificially, who shows his strength in his willingness to do what is right, not what is popular.

I am grateful to my husband for being a “Manly Man”, for teaching our boys how to be real men, and for showing me what the word “Masculine” really means.

(Note:  As I just completed writing this I glanced out the window and witnessed my husband and son knocking down a wasps nest; they had a long stick and knocked it down, then ran!  Masculinity shows wisdom when needed and knows when to fight and when to run!)

Commercial Photography

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A few years ago, my sons drum instructor, Kit Mills, came to me and inquired about having some portrait work done for his website and business applications.  I had just entered the world of lighting and didn’t have any experience with that sort of thing.  Because I am a “can do” type person, I agreed to give it a try.  It was one of the most nerve-wracking yet exhilarating assignments I have taken on.

We met in our local town and ended up at our train station.  I’m sure it was a little odd to see someone setting up a drumset on the train platform and a couple of trains even came zipping through while we were setting up.  It was a wild few moments hanging on to the equipment so that it didn’t get blown away by the draft created from the rail cars.

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After the train station we found an indoor location and did some indoor portraits.  Because I was new to flash photography, I only had a speedlight, light stand, and umbrella.  I raised the speedlight up high overhead and aimed it down, hoping to light Kit and all his drums.  The results amazed me.  While they were not technically perfect by any means, I learned a lot and we ended up with some very cool shots.

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Last summer, I had another opportunity to take some group photos and head shots of some of the agents for a local insurance agency, Leslie Tripp State Farm Insurance Agency.  Again, there was a lot of new territory with this being the first time I worked at getting head shots for business applications.  We set up shop at a local school, using their brick wall as a backdrop.  It was a mixed bag of results, and, once again, I learned much by taking this on.  All of the photos were usable but that does not equate someone being satisfied with the end results.  I learned that while a photo may be technically sound, that does not mean that someone will be pleased with the poses I might choose for them or the angle I choose to photograph them from.   We did end up with some fun group shots in a beautiful red car that worked perfectly for their company Facebook page.

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More recently, I had the wonderful pleasure of photographing a young woman, Leanna Crawford, who recently went to Nashville to record 4 original songs which she has written.  She has a new Amazon.com album for sale and also has entered a local contest (link to one of her songs) to be the opening act for a Jars of Clay concert in August.  She is part of the final 3 people being voted on this week to win the contest.

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I had been given her rough mixes of the 4 songs so that I could listen to them and try and get a vision for photos that would work with the songs.  We had several ideas and, in the end, only had time to work on a few of them.  The end results were some photos taken in their horse pasture and in the old part of our local city.   Taking the base photos and working on making composites from them created some great final results.  I was able to apply what I’d learned about lighting, photoshop, and telling a story through photos to achieve results that will hopefully provide her with some publicity photos as she launches her music career.

Leanna wanted a light, airy feel to some of the photos.  A composite of 3 photos used to create this end result.

Leanna wanted a light, airy feel to some of the photos. A composite of 3 photos used to create this end result.

There are times when I realize that I’m in way over my head, when I wonder how I’ll ever be able to pull off an assignment.  It may overwhelm me momentarily, I may panic inside and lose any creative thought I’d had prior to showing up on location and I will probably feel that momentary panic again when I first view the photos during post processing.  In the end, however, I am always glad I chose to step out, to take on things that are over my head, to take the risk of failure with the hopes that I’ll actually be able to give my clients what it is they’re hoping for.

It’s Graduation Time

Congratulations, Graduates!

It’s that time of year when students who have 13 long years of education under their belts make the transition from compulsory education to elective education and launch out into the world.  In more simple terms, they’re finally graduating!!

This spring has been fun for me as a photographer.  I’ve had two recent Senior Portrait sessions that were filled with joy for me.  I love doing Senior Portraits and seeing these young adults launching into the rest of their lives.  (okay, so I love doing ALL portraits but Senior Portraits are especially fun for me!)  There is so much hope, joy and sense of accomplishment in their lives at this stage of life and it shines through each of them as a bright light.

Leanna

 

One of these soon to be grad’s is Leanna.

Leanna is a beautiful young woman, highly gifted musically, and one of the truly sweetest young women I know.  She enjoys her horses, music, friends and family.  She has a brilliant future ahead filled with many possibilities yet she has a wonderfully down to earth perspective about her giftedness.

   

Eli

The other soon to be grad is Eli. 

Eli is part of our extended family. It was such a joy to be part of his senior year and photograph  his  Senior Portraits.

 

Eli has big plans for his future, heading off next fall to Washington State University  to possibly pursue a degree in Math. (WSU ranks tops in our household being my husband, Ric’s, Alma Mater) His optimism and wonderful smile coupled with his sense of humor made it a fun time together working to capture his personality on camera.

Once again, congratulations to all the senior’s who are graduating.  I’m so proud for each of you and the accomplishment you have achieved to this point in your life.  May you each achieve your hopes and dreams for your future.

Photographing the Palouse

A few weeks ago, my husband, Ric, myself, and our friends, Geoff and Sandy Shook, traveled to the eastern part of Washington State for a photography weekend.  The guys are not obsessed with photography, they were just willing enabler’s for the weekend.

Our two biggest supports, our husbands!

The Palouse region of our state tugs at the heartstrings of my husband, for it is the area he spent 5 years of his life enjoying while in college.  The rolling hills, vast farmland of wheat fields and livestock, and the slower pace of life are all things that draw the traveler in.  The  lack of rain that the west side of our state is plagued with is an additional lure for we “west-sider’s”.

A tribute to my husbands Alma mater, Washington State University

The weekend began just trying to get out of Seattle.  Once we passed over the cascade mountains and dropped down into eastern Washington, things began to feel calmer.  It was very late when we arrived in St. John, where we were staying.  Fortunately, some of Ric’s family have homes there and we were blessed with being able to use one of them for our weekend.

Saturday morning came with a wonderfully fulfilled desire of mine.   We have a family friend who lives, of all places, in the small town of St. John.  She is actually a friend of my mother, having worked with my mom many years ago when I was still in school.   We had reconnected via Facebook and she is a portrait photographer in St. John, operating Leifer Photography.  It was delightful to visit Janet and her husband Jim, see their beautiful farm, and catch up.  It was even more delightful when they spent Sunday with us for an afternoon of photography and another enabling husband along!

My friend, Sandy, and I (yes, we share the same name, among thousands of other things in common!) wanted to go to Steptoe Butte at sunset to photograph the surrounding landscape.  We meandered our way there, stopping many times along the way to photograph the varied countryside.  Eastern Washington is such a beautiful place and the farmland, old barns, and remnants of the huge grain operations that take place there continually draw me in.

 

Arriving at Steptoe Butte with plenty of time to prepare for sunset we were greeting with extreme high winds.  So high, in fact, that we couldn’t stand still enough to hold our cameras still nor could we use tripods.  The view is amazing from the high vantage point you drive to although I am compelled to add that the road getting there is narrow, winding you around the butte to the top.  I’m not a fan of heights and sitting on the passenger side looking down the steep hillside while my husband drove the winding road wasn’t the best part of my weekend.  The wind was literally sweeping up one side of the butte, storming across the top and off to the landscape beyond.  The the clouds decided to let lose of some of their moisture and we were being pelted with rain.  Needless to say, we all ran back for the car and decided maybe there would be a better time to photograph it, like the next morning!

True to our desires, the next morning proved to give us the gift we’d hoped for. We were a little on the early side, seasonally speaking, to capture the green of the newly sprouted wheat fields this area is so well known for, however we still marveled at the ever changing and varied landscape.  The light was AMAZING as the clouds rolled through, causing the sun and shadows to literally dance across the landscape.  I’ve never witnessed anything as beautiful as watching the light move the way it did.  I took many photos and still don’t know if I truly was able to capture it the way it looked to my eyes.

The Palouse region is dotted with small towns which, while not heavily populated, act as the gathering place for those who live in the surrounding farmland.  We spent a bit of time wandering one of the cemeteries reading the dates and names on the headstones.  You can gain a greater understanding of the history of an area by visiting some of the older cemeteries.  The view of the surrounding landscape was again beautiful and, while our husbands wandered the area, Sandy and I were trying to capture the character of our surrounding.

This is one of my favorite photos from the weekend. It has a wonderful painted feel to it that took very little editing to bring out the soft light and details.

Across the landscape, as a crow flies, or a couple hours drive from where we were, lies Palouse Falls.  I had never visited this particular site in all my trips to this side of our state and it was on my bucket list of places to visit.  We were again treated to a beautiful sight and, again, I tried to capture the beauty that was before my eyes.

Wrapping up our time away was bittersweet.  The need to return to our everyday lives is necessary yet the desire to stay in the relaxed pace of those rare weekend retreats is strong.  Our drive home took us through more farmland as we chose to avoid the main freeway and take a slower highway route.  Crossing over Snoqualmie Pass brought an unexpected snowstorm and dropping into the Seattle area brought us back to the reality of life.

If you enjoy traveling I would strongly encourage you to get out and visit your own state, province, or country.  It’s great to travel to those exotic locations we all dream about but what about your own backyard?  What is there that awaits your discovery?  If you enjoy capturing your travels via your camera, make sure you have freshly charged batteries and a willingness to watch for the light to dance across your view.  Capturing it can not only give you great satisfaction; it can also transport you back to those moments in time where you were able to capture life as it happened in front of your eyes.

Enjoy watching this slideshow of more photos from the Palouse

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Spring Snow, Parties, and Sunsets

Spring has arrived here in the Pacific Northwest, albeit with a dash of snow one morning and gorgeous warm sunsets the next evening.  That’s the nature of nature here in the springtime and it’s one of the reasons why we have the most gorgeous blooms of crocuses, daffodils, and tulips.

The morning it snowed I only went outside in it so that I could take a few photos of the flowering buds with the icy snow on them.  There has to be a compelling reason to walk out the door in 33 degree weather; taking pictures was compelling enough to get me out the door.   Fortunately the snow was a limited event and was gone by the afternoon.

The night after the big snowfall, our homeschool co-op hosted a “Princess Bride” party for the teen’s.  It was a great event complete with a photobooth, games, prizes, snacks and, of course, the movie “Princess Bride”.  Inconceivable!!!  The kids had a great time, as did we adults who were supposed to be acting as mature leaders for our youth.

We even had the “Brute Squad” who were keeping an eye on the every move of the gang, although I think they were outwitted a time or two by those crafty youths.  Inconceivable!

Another springtime party we’ve come to enjoy is that of celebrating the birth of Olivia.  This was her 3rd birthday and she just keeps getting more and more adorable.  We’ve been so blessed to be included in the birthday celebrations and other special events each year since she arrived in our friends’ home as a foster-adopt baby 3 years ago.  She’s coming into her own these days and is just too fun for words.  Her mom asked me to grab my camera and run over to take some quick photos one day when the sun was out, the temperatures were warm and it felt like an acceptable day to do an outdoor photoshoot.  The results were so many adorable photos I could not decide which were my favorites…..so, I gave almost all of them to her mom to decide.  Here’s a few of my favorites.

   

And, my personal favorite that every mother dreads her beautiful princess daughter doing………(you can tell I have all boys if I think this is cute)

At the end of these springtime days, there are the occasional glorious sunsets.  A couple of the evenings so far have been warm enough to walk along the beach and enjoy the sunset.  Austin, my eldest son, and I drove to one of our local beaches one evening and took photos, walked along the beach, skipped rocks and enjoyed the sunset.  It was glorious and one of those moments I have learned to treasure as my kids are nearing the ages of leaving home to live on their own.  Words cannot express the joy I find in these times with my boys.

Cama Beach State Park Cabins, Camano Island, Washington.

I hope you find a way to bask in every moment of every day.

Adjustments

There are times in life when you just have to be willing to adjust.  Maybe it’s adjusting to a new job, a new house, adding children to your life (yeah, that’s a big adjustment!) or even adjusting to the changing seasons.  The past couple of months have been a time of adjusting.

My mother had a bone fusion surgery on her ankle which requires several weeks of casting and no body weight on said ankle.  My brother, sister and I have become her assistants, alternating weeks at her home.  It’s become a time of weekly adjusting for me, being home one week and working to keep things running here then being with my mother the next week and making sure she’s behaving herself.  While it’s an honor to be able to give a little bit back to my mom, who gave so much of herself in raising my siblings and me, it does throw me off my routine and causes a bit of an “out of sorts” feeling in my life.

On the up side, it has provided some great time reconnecting with her and with some of my friends from my past.  It has also given me a lot of opportunities to enjoy views of Mt. Hood, which I have missed since moving from the area and where I learned to ski many years ago.

My 52 week challenge theme last week was “Favorite Snack.  I thought about it for the first few days of the week, trying to decide what is my favorite snack.  You see, when I was in my 20’s and earned money for my time (translated: I had a paying job and not a “mom job”) I worked in an office building that had a small snack bar.  I use to spend my afternoon breaks there with my friends, Sue and Deby, and every so often I would have my favorite snack of a diet soda and a small bag of Frito’s.  Once in awhile I’d add in my most delicious of snacks which were Double Chocolate Grandma Cookies.  The sun would shine in the window of the coffee shop and cause the cookies to get a little warm.  The chocolate chips wold melt just a little and they’d be the softest gooiest cookies around.  It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

An adjustment I’ve made in my life since that time is to reduce the frequency with which I indulge in those most enjoyable of snacks.  Rarely do I eat Frito’s and even more rarely do I enjoy Grandma cookies.  I’m also not a frequent soda drinker but you may find one in my hand on occasion or you may find me popping one or two Pretzel M&M’s in my mouth, my newest flavor find compliments of my son.  These days, however, it’s more likely to be fruit, vegetables or popcorn if I’m having a snack.  This adjustment, while much healthier and helpful in the battle to control my weight, is not always a happy adjustment.  It’s a necessary one.  I hear people say things like “oh, I just love to eat fruit and vegetables” or “I just feel so much better since I stopped eating all those other BAD foods” but I have to be honest: I don’t love fruit and vegetables as much as Double Chocolate Grandma Cookies and I really don’t think I feel that much better without the “BAD” foods.  I just know it’s healthier and conducive to a better quality of life plus it sabotages my fitness goals if I eat too much of the “BAD” foods.

At the end of the day, there are positives in every adjustment in life.  You just have to be willing to look for them and enjoy them.

I will close with another recipe that is consistent with the adjustment to eating healthier.  I’ve commented before about Hungry Girl recipes and how inspirational they are.  One of my favorites is the Egg Mug recipes she uses.  I’ve been adapting them to my own tastes and this past week I created a new one for myself.  I thought I’d share my newest creation with you and maybe it will encourage you to realize that breakfast can be quick and easy, taste great and avoid a lot of fuss.

1 Egg (or 2 egg whites)

2 mushrooms, sliced

1/4 orange bell pepper, chopped

3 spinach leaves, chopped

1 wedge Laughing Cow Light Mozzarella Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Cheese, cut into small cubes

Spray a mug or 1 cup ramekin with cooking spray.  Layer mushrooms, bell pepper, spinach and cubed cheese in mug.  Add egg and gently stir to mix.  Microwave 1 1/2 minute on high, or until egg is set.

Serve with skewered banana and pineapple cubes, greek yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit mixed in, or my personal favorite, a small slice of Killer Dave’s Sin Dawg roll.

Now this is an easy start to the day!