Hope Springs Eternal

Our dog Ellie sniffs a pile of acorns

The route Ellie and I take on our walk through Irving Park is lined with old oak trees, so in the fall we are surrounded by ripened acorns that have fallen to the ground. They smell enough like food to Ellie that she wants to sniff them, but not enough like food to try to eat them. Still, she wants to sniff each acorn just to be sure, hope springs eternal when it comes to food with this dog. This morning a storm knocked a bunch of green acorns to the ground and some kids collected them and stuffed them into the largest hole the dogs had dug in the dog park. Ellie of course had to sniff them, although not for long, the green acorns didn’t hold the appeal of the ripened ones.

In the picture below, Ellie again “sniffs” the acorns. I put sniffs in quotes because this was our evening walk and the morning’s sniff had already revealed there was no food to be had, so she wasn’t interested in further inspection. I wanted a different vantage point than the morning picture however so I bribed her by placing one of her treats beside the acorns. We must have been in a vortex that swallowed sound, however, as several times she seemed not to hear me when I gave the “leave it” command and instead ate the treat as soon as I set it down.

Our dog Ellie sniffs a pile of acorns

Lazy Weekend

Our orange tabby Sam yawns while resting on my lap

Not the most productive weekend I’ve ever had, spent much of it with at least one of the cats (and sometimes all three) curled up on me. Sometimes I may have joined them in a nap. Saturday I spent much of the day in our air-conditioned room as the high winds and occasional rain made it hard to keep the windows open and the house was still pretty hot from the past heat wave. Today brought more (much needed) rain but less wind so we could keep most of the windows open, but the wind had stirred something up that upset my sinuses as I was a bit loopy and woozy today.

This picture of a sleepy Sam in my lap is from this afternoon, but he’s in the exact same spot as I write this late at night. I held the camera down at his eye level and over to the side so my legs and feet would be visible, emphasizing that he was curled up in my lap. The ability to move the camera away from my eye is my favorite thing about mirrorless cameras, I do it constantly for my pet pictures. It’s not a stable way to hold the camera though, which is why I’ve been thinking of switching to a camera system that builds stabilization into the camera.

Nursing

An elk cow nurses her calf

I was walking up to see the geothermal features in the Artists’ Paintpots region of Yellowstone and was surprised to see this elk and her calf near the trail. The calf started nursing and the mother, despite looking at me in this picture, was rather non-plussed by my presence. No one else was around so it was just a quiet little shared moment between the three of us.

Holes in the Earth

A hole dug by dogs in the dog park is partially filled with water

We finally got some much needed rain and I wanted to take a picture to celebrate it, but we also got high winds so I couldn’t take any macro pictures like last time. But when I took Ellie up to the dog park I saw this hole that had started to fill with water and it reminded me of another hole in the earth I like photographing, one from Yellowstone National Park (shown below). That one is one of the many geothermal features in the area and is filled with water from below, not above.

There are a few of these holes in the dog park, and since Ellie likes to run beside me in the park, I have to navigate around the holes so that neither one of us steps in one and twists an ankle (she watches me more than the way ahead, trusting me not to lead her astray). The parks folks fill them in occasionally but some dogs like to dig, so new holes always appear. They’ve been spreading sand at this end of the park the past few years and it’s a big help during the winter when rain is not hard to come by, as the sand drains well and it gives Ellie and I a safe area to run in. In the old days she’d still want to run out into the grass, but only one of us has a body built for running in such muddy circumstances, and these days even she isn’t quite as steady on her feet as age begins to take its toll.

I never imagined the dog park would remind me of my beloved Yellowstone so today’s visit made me smile almost as much as the goofball dog who waited patiently for me to take the picture, and of course expected a treat as her reward.

A geothermal feature filled with water in Yellowstone National Park

Beat the Heat (and Smoke)

Our dog Ellie and our cat Boo rest in their beds

An unusually hot and dry summer in the Pacific Northwest has led to many troublesome wildfires, and the winds shifted this weekend bringing smoke from fires far to the east into Portland. We kept the windows closed to minimize the smoke coming into the house, and spent the entire weekend in our bedroom with the portable air conditioner keeping things nice and cool.

I took a quick picture of Ellie in her dog bed and Boo behind her in the cat bed, Sam was with my wife on the bed and Trixie I think was playing elsewhere in the house. We keep the bedroom door mostly closed to keep the cool air in, but open enough that the cats can come and go as they please. When Ellie walks in she swings the door wide open with a dramatic swoop of her head. It makes me laugh every time, our sweet-natured goofball making such a grand entrance.

A Surprise in the Salvia

A katydid prepares to jump from the salvia branch it is clinging to

I normally like to photograph the insects and flowers in our garden the same way I shoot animals and plants when I’m hiking, which is to photograph them how I find them. In this case though the water drops on this katydid came not from rain but from me. It’s been a brutal summer here in Portland so even though our plants our drought tolerant to deal with the normally dry Northwest summers, I’ve been giving them an occasional drink of water since they missed out on the rains that usually last through June.

While watering the wildflower garden I saw something jump from the plant I was watering into our bee balm. I dropped the hose and ran over to see what it was, expecting a moth, and was delighted to instead find my favorite insect to photograph, a katydid. I had the chance to photograph them from 2006 to 2009 but hadn’t seen one since, so I put aside the watering and ran inside to grab my camera and tripod and macro lens and try for some pictures, even though the breeze was going to make things difficult.

I was a bit crushed when I got back to the bee balm and discovered the katydid was gone. But it hadn’t gone far, as I saw it moving on the nearby salvia and settled in for some pictures. In the top picture it is about to jump from one branch to another, its two front legs in open space balancing in the wind while the back four maintain purchase on the salvia. In the bottom two pictures it is using its mandibles to cut off pieces of the flower to eat. It was hard to get any pictures as the breeze was blowing the flowers around, I did my best to manually focus whenever the katydid came back into view and hoped for the best.

I planted the salvia for the hummingbirds, and the bees and butterflies like them too, so I was delighted to see the katydid enjoy them too. The katydid’s enjoyment is more destructive than the others, but no worries, there are plenty of blossoms to choose from. I hope it can forgive the disturbance of my watering, as the same water that upset it nurtures the flowers it loves to eat.

A katydid pulls on a salvia blossom as it prepares to cut it with its mandibles to eat it

A katydid cuts a salvia blossom with its mandibles as it prepares to eat it

Dinner Time, Decision Time

A hoary marmot eats the leaves of wildflowers late in the day in Mount Rainier National Park

A hoary marmot eats the leaves of wildflowers late in the day in Mount Rainier National Park, taken soon after I arrived on my trip to the park last fall. I’ll be deciding within the next couple of weeks on my trip for this fall, the two major candidates are returning to Mount Rainier and/or Olympic National Park, or heading out to Yellowstone and possibly the Tetons. Also might look into Glacier National Park or taking several small trips so I could also hit the Oregon coast and the redwoods in California.

Usually it comes down to lodging availability, road construction, weather, how long it’s been since my last trip, and how much driving I feel up to. Sometimes I feel a particular pull to see certain types of wildlife, and at the moment the marmots and pikas of Mount Rainier are calling me back, even though I was there just last year. I didn’t see them as much as I would have liked, and it poured rain during much of the trip. Except it didn’t rain when I was in the Hoh Rain Forest like I wanted, so maybe the fifth visit will be the charm.

On the other hand, I haven’t been to Yellowstone in four years. The last trip wasn’t as much fun as other years, although a couple of days were two of my favorites of any trip, and even a lesser visit to the area is still a pretty great time.

The other little wrinkle this year is my cameras. My Canon 7D II and 100-400 II lens were both released too late last year for any major hiking trips, so it would be fun to try them out in the wildlife-heavy parks. I did cancel my pre-order for the new Sony A7R II, I would have been a part of the initial shipment but it was just too much expense to risk without waiting for more thorough reviews. If I had kept the order I’d lean towards Yellowstone, as the Sony can shoot lovely 4K video and I’ve long wanted to video the geothermal features there. It’s high-resolution full-frame sensor would also be fantastic for still shots, so I probably would have spent the entire week in Yellowstone and split my time between the scenery and the wildlife.

Strangely enough it’s the scenery of Yellowstone that is attracting me more this year than the wildlife, I should probably check myself for a fever.

I wouldn’t complain about a week of hiking in the Tetons either except I’m out of good hiking shape and all that elevation change while carrying the cameras might do me in. I love photographing the mountains at sunrise but I’ll want a better camera before making that a priority, the full-frame cameras are much better suited to that than the 7D.

The good news is these are all fun places to visit so there are no bad choices. It’s the planning I hate.

Good, Better, Best

I must have watched this video a thousand times in the weeks after Emma died when I desperately needed to laugh, and many more times since, but even so I still can’t watch it without laughing. It’s a short video showing three dogs (in Finland I think) that are competing in a timed trial down an obstacle course where they have to run past food and toys and meet their owners at the end. Ellie and I like how the video starts with a dog that does well, then shows a dog that does even better, and finishes with a dog that is clearly the winner.