Category Archives: Photography

Montana Fields

We try to get out to Montana every year in October for some bird hunting and photography and hiking. This year, we arrived to about an inch of snow. While it is beautiful, it is quite chilly. The good thing about it is that rattlesnakes don’t like cold weather so I didn’t have to worry as much about Emma and Ruby getting bitten.

You may remember Emma as a puppy four years ago. We had great hopes that she would someday become a good flusher and retriever of game birds.

She hasn’t disappointed us. In spite of being quite small, this English field cocker spaniel is full of energy and her cuddly nature takes a back seat when it comes to finding birds. Nothing gets away from her.

If you thought the prairies were only boring grassy fields, you couldn’t be more wrong. The coulees are full of prickly shrubs, birds, and small animals. A fat hare came tearing out of the shrubs here and just as I was about to snap a photo, my battery died.

But later I caught this mule deer running away from all the commotion. I traipsed along behind the Captain and Emma as they did their pheasant hunting thing, hoping for something interesting to photograph, and I saw something the deer had left behind last year — an antler shed. It was only the second time I had ever found one and I was quite happy about stumbling across it.

After the snow from the day before, the mostly clay ground was “wettish,” and while we had heavy clods of mud on our boots, Emma’s feet were getting harder and harder for her to pick up. Besides collecting many burrs in her fur, she had huge clumps of clay on her feet. Here she is getting them soaked off, just before I took the comb and scissors to her curly ears to remove the burrs.

She is usually so energetic, we weren’t sure this was our Emma flaked out on the couch after the day’s outing.

It was Ruby’s turn to go out today, but she is sick. We think she drank some bad water. This has happened one other year and we have given her some meds that we hope will fix her up in a day or two.

PS Now, two days later, Ruby is feeling much better. We are so relieved.


Light Play

This morning the dogs let me sleep in until about 6:00. Then Emma tapped the edge of the bed. Bleary-eyed, I let her and Ruby out and wandered around the yard waiting for them to do their business. They were more interested in what might have spent the night in the shrubs by an old tree stump. Maybe a rabbit or a raccoon? I wandered away a few feet and what I saw made me run back into the house to get the camera.

I didn’t care that the ugliest hydro pole in the world was front and center of my photo. I just wanted to record that rainbow.

The first rays of morning light were doing strange things. The hedge around our place is usually all the same colour, but when the light hit patches of it, you would think it had two kinds of trees.

These are all western red cedars with no colour variation (except today).

When the sun went behind a cloud only moments later, the sky turned dark and so did the hedge. You are looking at the same stretch of hedging in the photo below as in the photos above.

The cloud hiding the sun moved on and the morning rays went to work again.

It was a real light show out there this morning. I’m so glad I didn’t sleep through it.


My friends and I were out mushroom picking, looking for chanterelles in a new area. We found a few and were happily tromping through the woods when we came across other things of interest.  012

I found the remains of what I assume was a small deer. Who knows what it died of? Could have been a cougar, wolf, or bear, but the bones were lying there almost tidily. Maybe it just ate a bad mushroom, got a tummy ache and died on the spot.011

One of our party, found the remains of a much larger deer, and again, we have a mystery.


How did the antlers get stuck in this stump? Was this buck trying to rub the velvet off his antlers when he got stuck in the stump? Seems to me it would take more force to bury his tines so deeply that he couldn’t get out. Maybe this buck was fighting with another over the girl of his dreams and the dream turned into a nightmare when he got stuck in the tree stump forever. What an awful death he must have had. Good old Mother Nature! (I told you in another post I don’t think much of “Mother Nature.” If ever there was a misnomer!)

Stumped - antlersMy first reaction was to ask my friend if she pulled out the antlers and brought them along for a souvenir. She said, “No, I felt that it wouldn’t be right to disturb the scene. That deer died there….” And of course, then I could see it her way and I felt ashamed to have had such a low and selfish thought. The antlers are still there, as far as I know.

OR – Maybe someone stuck the antlers there....

THEN, the weirdest thing happened. The three of us (we called ourselves “The Three Mushketeers,” just like the ones in my novel “The Wind Weeps,”) each saw a lake way down at the bottom of a drop-off. Nothing weird about that, except there was no lake in this area, that I knew of, and I wasn’t aware of such a cliff in the immediate area. I approached carefully, not wanting to slip over the edge. The other two “mushketeers” also discussed what lake that could possibly be below the cliff.

See the drop-off just beyond the stump in the foreground?013

Turns out it was a pond so still that not the slightest ripple gave it away. We all thought we were looking at faraway sky through the trees and a lake at the bottom. A real optical illusion.

Soon it was time to head for home. If my eyes had telescopic powers, I could have seen my house on the tiny point of land sticking out into the ocean below.017


You may remember that I had to leave the baby robins to their fate the day they left the nest and were not to be seen anymore. I hoped that the parents were keeping them hidden and were feeding them someplace out of sight of the crows who still fly regular “search and destroy” missions over our property.

I had almost given up on the young ones, but just a few days ago, I spotted them – well, two of the three, anyway. The third one most likely didn’t make it.

Here is one checking out the birdbath. Do you see the second bird? Look on the ground to the top right of the birdbath. Not bad for camouflage.


“It doesn’t look very deep, but for now I’m safe on the ‘landing’ in the middle. Now, to test the waters….”


 “Nice! Not too deep, not too cold. Ju-u-u-u-st right. Splash a little under the armpits. You never know who you’re going to meet.”


“Okay, buddy! Your turn. In you go! Go ahead! You’ll feel a lot better after you have a bath.”

013I still worry about the crows catching one of the survivors, but with every day that goes by, the baby robins get bigger and stronger and a little bit smarter. With any luck they’ll continue to be survivors.



The Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Trees


The sun warmed a spot through the clouds for about twenty minutes this morning, very low in the southern sky. I rushed to the beach with my camera to catch the rare light. A David-and-Goliath battle was raging between two formidable contestants: the sprawling army of thick fogbanks and the solitary feeble rays of the sun. The sun stood its ground and battled bravely, but was soon overrun by the misty masses rolling in like wave after wave of gray-cloaked cavalry.

I resigned myself to making the best of a quick jaunt along the beach boardwalk and my mind was soon re-focused on trees. Though many lined the walkway, some had fallen down, roots drowned in rivulets flowing to the sea.

??????????The fallen soldiers lay here and there beside the boardwalk.


Others stood tall, waving their arms as if to encircle me and cast a spell on me.

017Yet others, tiring of their job of decorating the seaside boardwalk, had no strength left to resist the high winter winds off the sea. The trees were no longer up, yet not quite down. They were “maybes,” the kind of trees the loggers call widowmakers.

??????????See the grandfather tree keeling over and the young whipper-snapper doing his best to hold him up?

Those were the “ups,” “downs,” and “maybes” of the tree world. On the way back to my car, I noticed one more tree that appealed to me. It was the “all around” version.

025So there you go. I hope you’ll find this post was a “tree”t. Yes, yes, I’ve used that pun before, but my bark is worse than my bite and I wanted to come up with a way to thank you for lumbering along with me. I knew it wood not be very witty. It’s really a pithy to make you suffer like that. In future, I’ll try to branch out more and leave all this fir someone else. Maybe soon yew‘ll cedar improvement. Still, you’d better hedge your bets. Thank you so much for logging in to my b-log post.

Fungal Fugitives

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. Remember those words from Robert Frost? Here on the West Coast, the woods are lovely, dark, and deep and full of moss and ferns.



And fungi that grow on trees…


And fungi at ground level that grow like Medusa’s hairdo.


When I go mushroom picking, looking for chanterelles, I’m well aware that the elusive fungi do not want to be found. But I am determined and singleminded when it comes to mushrooming. My mushroom picking friends think I’m crazy because I told them I often think of the part in the movie of Lawrence of Arabia where Lawrence “loses it” and decides to get right into the bloodthirsty killing part of the battle. As he gives the attack signal to his Arab army, he lets out a chilling scream, “NO PRISONERS!”

Well, if you remember that scene, you’ll have an idea how I feel the moment I step off the logging road and into the forest. I point with my mushroom-cutting scissors and charge up the hill in search of the simple-minded creatures who are now hurriedly pulling bits of moss and leaves over their mushy heads.


See them all ducking for cover? Some near the top are pulling salal leaves over themselves. Others are grasping for mini moss ferns.

Yet others stand bravely, thinking they are camouflaged by the nearby yellowing salal leaves.


As I sneak through the woods, a little wren gives up her hiding place and flutters to a log about ten feet away. She gives me the evil eye and says, “I’m telling!” She squeaks and croaks in that raspy wren voice and as she flits over the fern patches, I hear her calling to the chanterelles, “Krrrrkk! Krreeek! She’s coming. Run for your lives.”

I would translate her first two words for you, but they’re mere sound effects, telling the world about the state of my knees after climbing up, along, over, and under the many fallen logs that stand between me and my (not) prisoners.

I hear the Mush Heads responding in hushed voices, “Battle formation! Fall in.” And they do. Some fall into holes under logs. Others fall into crevices.

“Help! My foot’s stuck under a rock,” Junior Mush Head calls.

“Tough,” Grandpa Mush Head answers in a  slimy voice. “I’m mush too far gone to help you.”

“Here,” says Grandma Mush Head from the cover of her rotten log. “Pull a leaf over your head.”

“Thanks, Grandma, but what about the babies?”

“Don’t you worry about them. They’re all deep under their baby moss blankies. They’ll be fine as long as none of them gets curious and sticks a button nose out.”

So it seems the forest floor is still and all Mush Heads have disappeared.

But just in case you’re now thinking that I’m some deranged maniac, thundering through the woods uttering blood-curdling shouts of, “Ahaaa!! Now I’ve got you,” and “I sees ya!” (or is that, “I seize ya”?) I do want you to know that I have a refined side as well. Poetry enters my head quite often when I’m mushrooming.

When I’m wandering through the bush, I often find that others of my ilk have been here before me, tromping down paths that follow the easiest way through the moss jungle. When I catch myself mindlessly following the beaten track where nothing new is likely to meet my scrutinizing gaze – only the trunks of previously felled Mush Head bodies – I realize – “I have to get off this path!”

Sometimes it’s easier to go around a tree on the tidier side, but I decide to crash through the mass of branches on the other side. Here’s where the poetry comes in.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler,long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair, (well, maybe not quite)

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear; (actually more than grassy – thick brambly bush is more like it)

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same, (not nearly)

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black. (well, that part is just plain not true)

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood,and I– I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost must have been a mushroom picker. He knew that when you choose the path less traveled by, you find the mushroom that is hiding there. The one that all the others, going by the other path, have missed.

So as I chop the poor little guy’s leg off, I smile and say,  ” I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Okay, that’s all very fine, but this less traveled by business can  be carried a bit too far. There’s a limit to how far most people will go for a mushroom and the Mush Heads know this.

What a perfect hiding place in plain sight lies beyond these trees. This is definitely a “Road Not Taken.”


See the Mush Heads smirking at me from under the big logs, chanterelling, “Nah, na-na-NA, nah.”


They hadn’t counted on meeting me, Mrs. Lawrence, still half crazed in her need to kill Mush Heads. For a few seconds I hesitate, considering what would be involved in calling an ambulance to treat two broken legs. Then I remember there’s no cell phone coverage out here anyway so I might as well go for it and wipe the smirk off those taunting fungal faces. I must admit I was glad I wasn’t on Candid Camera as I clawed my way over and under those logs, grunting as I whacked off Mush Heads and ripped others out by the roots when I couldn’t reach them any other way. Cruel and unusual punishment…but I survived it.

Enough now. My friends wrestle me to the ground and tell me it’s time to just “let it go” and “relax” and we’ll have some lunch. We sit on a log by the lake. The tarp on the log was a good idea for keeping our fannies dry. One of the friends notices a pow-wow going on nearby.


Or maybe it’s more like a healing circle. See the little guy in the center getting advice from his elders? To the far left, one of the old timers has given up in frustration and just keeled over.


My friends, newbies at mushrooming, are fascinated by these colourful spotted mushrooms. I have to work at convincing them that they really are not good to eat.

020“How can anything so pretty be bad for us?” they ask. “Are you sure?”


“Yes, I’m sure. They’re called fly agaric mushrooms. They’ll kill you if you eat them.”

“No-o-o-o…that can’t be true.”

“Well, okay, I’m not sure if you’d die right away, but while you’re waiting to die, you would hallucinate and run around in the forest doing the roads not traveled by and yelling ‘No prisoners!'”

That was all it took to convince them.


For a series of Christmas interviews with interesting people, please visit my other blog, Anneli’s Place, at

Fog and Fumes

I had not planned to stop. I was in a hurry to meet my sister and I had an hour and a half’s drive to get there. Already running late because I had to stop for a fuel up, I waffled over what to do when, across the street, I saw the fog rolling in towards the river mouth. I had made the mistake of bringing the camera along in the car. It was only my little point-and-click Fujipix (small and unobtrusive because we were going shopping), but it pleaded with me to stop and take some pictures.

In the estuary, a gazillion seagulls had congregated near the mouth of the river. I finished fueling and drove along, until I got to a convenient pullout just down the road.

I didn’t take time to worry about whether I was shooting into the sun or whether the zoomed-in picture would be in focus. I was in a hurry to get going, but I couldn’t pass up the mist wafting into the estuary.


The more sensible shot was up towards the river mouth.

040aBut I couldn’t resist shooting into the sun and out towards the bay. Beginning photographers don’t care about those things too much.


So I have a straight-ahead shot, one to the right, and one to the left. All that was left was a good close-up shot of all those seagulls right in front of me. I zoomed in a bit, but it didn’t seem to be enough. Those birds still looked awfully small. I took a few steps forward towards the edge of the bank and then it hit me.


Fumes of decay! I rushed back to the car. NOW I remembered why the seagulls were all assembled here, making such a racket. They were squabbling over the carcasses of the spawned out chum salmon that lay everywhere in the shallows of the estuary. It was salmon spawning time; a bounty of food for seagulls, eagles, and many others.