The Light That Struggles to be Seen…

…can be a metaphor for difficult times. On Thanksgiving Day I needed some air so I went down to Kirkland’s waterfront. The fog was so heavy it laid on the water like a great dollop of heavy cream. Seattle’s skyline, just across the lake – nowhere to be seen. A cormorant fishing twenty yards off – barely visible. Foghorns – dimly heard.  And the figures at the end of the pier  – vague shadows…

As I began to walk back to the car the sun burned a hole through the fog, lighting up a child throwing rocks into the lake. I hadn’t brought a filter so I held my sunglasses in front of the camera for a final, strangely lit shot:

The Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge is to show light by featuring a light source, so I thought it appropriate that the light source, in these darkening days, was barely visible. Here are other interpretations of the challenge.


I pushed myself out of the house early the other day, hoping to find interesting subjects to photograph. I didn’t know where I was headed, but there was pretty hoar frost on the ground and it wouldn’t last.

I drove east, thinking about a river that softly winds through farms and open land. But just a few minutes from home I noticed heavy frost in the fields of a vegetable farm. No one seemed to be around, so I pulled into the loading area.

It looked like a  hurriedly abandoned stage set, with wooden palettes, bundles of plastic tarps, irrigation equipment, and the smaller “props” of paper cups and gloves strewn haphazardly about, and feathered with frost.

Weed-choked rows of cabbage and chard opened frost-fuzzed leaves to the sun. Why wasn’t the field fully harvested?

Tangles of tarps caught the sunlight. The bloom of frost softened the folds, creating modern versions of Old Master paintings (to my eye anyway!).

An empty gas can wore a crown of frost feathers.

It had been a very satisfying morning shoot. I was cold and hungry – time to leave, but first, one last shot of the wheel line irrigation equipment.

You may wonder why there’s all this irrigation equipment if you know Seattle’s reputation for abundant rain. Actually summers here are dry as a bone so farms and gardens are often irrigated in the growing season.

I’m beginning to think this beautiful hoar frost is fairly common here. I almost never saw frost like this around New York, yet winters in New York are plenty cold – much harsher, in fact. Oh well, there’s still a lot to learn about my new home! And to that end, I found this short weather video explaining how hoar frost forms.


We were itching to go back to the Olympic Peninsula. We knew two days would be barely enough time to make a dent, but…off we went! It required a drive to the ferry, a chilly trip across the sound, and more driving to get to Hurricane Ridge, a popular spot up in the Olympic Mountains with great views and our first destination.

Fellow chilly ferry passengers.

While docking we saw a gull dining on a sea star – how he got it down, I don’t know!

We stopped at our favorite “truck stop” ever:  the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe’s Longhouse Market & Deli. Selling gas, groceries, wine, take out food, and much more, it is the epitome of taste in gas stations.

A closer look at one of the totems guarding the entrance.

On the way up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountains we broke through the morning fog into a clear, sun-filled day.

Cooperative black-tailed deer posed along the trail. No one was feeding them, happily. They seemed to be getting salt or minerals from a little seep of water in the rocks near the trail and clearly didn’t mind having people close by.

What seemed to be the very last flower of the season up there was this tiny spreading phlox, sitting pretty on a sunny slope. This kind of situation is what gardeners call “sharp drainage” – I’ll say! It takes a tough plant to survive these harsh conditions.

Another detail that fascinated me was the amount of sap on these cones:

A long view across a valley in the Olympics, with snow in the distance. You can see two people on the trail to the right near the trees.

Looking down onto the fog:

These cones were losing their seeds to wind, birds, or squirrels. I don’t know which, but it made for a comical profile!

The fog returned as we made our way to the coast, to Third Beach. First we stopped at our hotel in Forks, the little town famous for the Twilight books and movie. Having secured our room, we drove to one of the nearby beaches. I knew it would be low tide when we got there and I was eager to walk out and see what I could find.  Fog gave the narrow two lane road lined with tall trees an enchanted look.

By the time we parked and walked about a mile through the forest to get to Third Beach, it was late afternoon and light was getting low.

Hardly anyone was around – just a few gulls and one or two people. It was a good place to lose yourself in the mist and rocks.

I picked my way across the rough, barnacle-covered rocks towards the sea stacks.  I was hoping for sea stars, anemones, whatever might hide in those crevices…

And there they were, but it was hard to focus properly in the low light.  I guess I’m happy to have gotten anything. It’s just more reason to return.

In the photo below, the little trench of water is filled with sea anemones. The sea stars in both photos are the same species even though they’re different colors. Called Purple Sea Star (Pisaster ochraceus) it’s thought that diet may play a role in the coloration.

The next morning we visited the Hoh Rainforest. Instead of too little light, there was too much – it was unusually bright and sunny. Most days the rainforest is, well, rainy, or at least very misty. But that day the contrast of bright sun and dark shadows made it difficult to photograph the complicated landscape.  There were only a few workable images. But again, it’s more reason to come back.

An old phone booth with no phone in it at the parking lot was overgrown with moss. I’m so glad they didn’t remove it.

Sunlight created complex reflections and shadows on the surface of a fast-moving creek full of aquatic plants.

I saved our prize sighting (and the worst photo!) for last. As we drove into the rainforest that morning, we noticed something big up ahead in the road. When we saw it – a bull elk and two females – we slowed to a stop and then tried to creep forward in the car to get a photo, as I scrambled for my camera – I was so excited! I ruined shot after shot because I couldn’t calm down enough to hold the camera steady.

But it was still a great experience.  The bull soon became annoyed with us, whistled to his women, and with a nonchalant glance over his shoulder he strolled into the forest and disappeared. They dutifully followed.  I remembered to breathe.

Later that day we saw several warning signs in the park. You’re never supposed to get as close as we did to a bull elk in the fall. Ignorance was bliss, this time.

After the rainforest we returned to the coast one more time. It was almost high tide at dramatic Rialto Beach. Being a weekday in the fall, almost no one was around. Ethereal mist and fog silvered the water, the wind blew, round black stones clattered under breaking waves that crashed with enough force to roll log giants…it was impossible not to be fully there, with all senses engaged.  Photographs from that day are here.

And here are a few more shots from Rialto:

One more, snapped with my phone as I regretfully left Rialto for the long drive home.

The road home across the peninsula’s north side (the middle is unpassable because of the mountain range so you either go north or south) follows Crescent Lake’s quiet, scenic shoreline for miles.  I thought about our next visit to the Olympic Peninsula. Maybe the rainforest will be rainy…maybe we’ll spend more time in the mountains…explore another beach…get out to Neah Bay…take a closer look at Crescent Lake. But for one trip, we sure packed it in.


I went for a walk through Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle today, and I found layers of leaves…

Even the pine cones were layered with pine needles:

This weeks’ Weekly Photo Challenge is “Layers.”   More interpretations can be seen here.


At Wind Against Current, a blog you should know, Johna and Vladimir have posted a terrific story and photos from a recent kayak paddle, titled Staten Island Serendipity.  I follow their blog because they take beautiful photographs and write entertaining, thoughtful posts about the city I love, but left: New York.

I lived in the city on and off for four decades. The last time I moved back was 2008.  I had a job in Lower Manhattan but couldn’t afford Manhattan or Brooklyn rent. I found an apartment at the north end of Staten Island where I could walk to the ferry, cross the water to Manhattan, and then walk to work. There were buses or subways at either end of the trip for rainy days.

On the weekends I spent a lot of time exploring this weird NYC borough, the one all New Yorkers love to bash. What I found was an unlikely amalgam of eccentricity and beauty, much of which I documented with camera and phone.  Little of that has appeared on my blog, so now, inspired by Wind Against Current, I’m determined to create a post about Staten Island.

Let’s start with the ferry – it’s a fun trip and a good place to watch people and photograph the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty.  Sometimes I brought my camera along too…


You never know what you’re going to see from the ferry, even as it docks.

A short walk from the ferry is Staten Island’s memorial to the 274 island residents who were killed on 9/11. The first time I stumbled across it, it took my breath away. I slowly realized what it was and teared up. As I approached the monument its outspread wings seem to release the suffering that occurred that day in that small piece of skyline across the water. Standing between the wings I saw the name and silhouette of each person, and on narrow shelves below the portraits there were flowers and mementos.

On a lighter note, Staten Island has its share of friendly, eccentric people. The corner deli near my old apartment sells coffee and the morning paper, and for a while the owner added a fountain full of soap suds, just to catch the eye of passers-by. Originally from Iran, he teaches college mathematics at a university in Manhattan and runs the deli on the side. I can’t vouch for the coffee – I take black tea in the morning, espresso later on – and I have no idea who Sean is.

I used to see this van around the island regularly – here, it’s all done up for Christmas. For Mothers Day it was every bit as colorful, festooned with plastic flowers.

We bought our vegetables at a wholesale produce store pretty far off the beaten path. One busy day we had to park in the back, and there we found this old Dodge, parked in the corner.  A faded 1956 New Jersey Inspection sticker was still affixed to the driver’s window.  “E H Scroggy, Barnegat, NJ” was painted on the door.  (A quick internet search shows the Scroggy name going back centuries in New Jersey.)

Some parts of Staten Island are not known for their friendliness and may welcome you with a mixed message:

But I suspect there’s always a friendly nod to be had this old bar:

In a residential neighborhood wild (or used-to-be-wild) turkeys have taken over. I’ve seen them standing on cars, too:

Back up near the Verrazano Bridge you might find a small herd of goats if you happen to wander around Fort Wadsworth on a summer day. It seems they do a bang-up job on the poison ivy that infests park land surrounding the fort.

Speaking of goats, in the old Arthur Kill neighborhood you might come across this – it’s got to be the city’s only feed store. Don’t ask me what’s going on in that second story window…

It’s not all weirdly wonderful though – there are beautiful birds to be found in the parks here, in surroundings worthy of a wildlife refuge. This Great Egret found a perfect hidden spot in a stream one May afternoon:

A church spire provides a hint of the city beyond this field set with wild iris glowing in the sun’s last rays.

Monarch butterflies seem to find ample nectar in local wildflowers. There are thousands of acres of open land here.

Sophisticated garden vignettes abound at Staten Island’s free Snug Harbor Botanical Garden:

And at the end of the day, there’s always the beach – a place to fish and relax like a native New Yorker…

I found far too many photos for one post, so this will be the first of an intermittent series.  I hope you find something of interest – and while I’m talking about the wonders of Staten Island, let me mention a friend who offers a very inexpensive room on airbnb. The disadvantage of course is that you are not in Manhattan but for some the relaxing ferry ride is an advantage, a way to decompress after a busy day.  The rate can’t be beat and you won’t find a more charming, urbane host.

(The header photo was taken from a vantage point on the Kill van Kull, the very dangerous-to-cross-at-night-in-your-kayak waterway described by Johna and Vlad in their post. In the distance is Brooklyn’s iconic 1929 Williamsburgh Savings Bank building.  My apologies for the sub-standard quality of a few of these images – they were taken with a phone, an older point & shoot camera, and a Sony Nex3.)


Maybe it’s because I was influenced by grids in 1960’s and 70’s American painting and sculpture, or maybe it’s my family’s predilection for order and predictability, but fences attract me. I like the idea of superimposing a little man-made order on nature. BUT…

…me being me, fences are most interesting when they’re breached or interrupted, or when they’re met with disorderly conditions and do un-fency things.

A faded length of construction safety fence has fallen on the ground:


Chain link fence casts shadows on a construction tarp and weeds join in the shadow dance:


A mangled wire fence lies in the woods, its  grid criss-crossing shadows of nearby trees:

On a ferry, a fence blows in the wind behind glass set with a wire grid:



Gusts of wind gave the trees a quick cut, blow-out and style yesterday. The mountain passes got their first snowfall of the season and trees really swayed up there, plunking boughs onto the roof and deck.  I enjoyed the drama except when the lights flickered. Out the window, a gray rectangle shines in the expanse of dull gold pine needles whenever someone backs out of a parking spot. A lot came down off the trees – soon it will look like November out there. I guess that’s appropriate!




These are Big-leaf maple leaves. The photo was processed in Photoshop with the “cutout” filter.


When I get in the car there are often pretty leaves and things stuck to the windshield.  Snapping a photo with the phone isn’t going to make me any later for work, or so I say to myself.


As the light quickly retreats this month, I’m compelled to look for the last wildflowers still blooming in a hidden spot along a deserted rail bed. I have to pick some and bring them home. I just have to. The last bouquet, posing on the dashboard:


 For my botanizing friends, Big-leaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum, is a West coast native with leaves 6 – 12 inches across – like a dinner plate. In this area it’s a common host tree for innumerable epiphytes – moss, ferns, lichens and who knows what else!  Here’s a photo from last February of a Big-leaf maple with a typically rich coat of mosses and ferns.

The late wildflowers above are humble ones: California poppy, Eschscholzia californica, which Wikipedia says flowers from February to September, (but we know better) and White Campion, or Silene latifolia. It’s native to Europe and Western Asia and North Africa but, like many plants, it escaped to the New World and it’s doing quite well over here, happily mixing with the natives.  Hmm…it’s been 19 months since I moved out here, and I guess I too am beginning to do fairly well, happily mixing with the natives…