Water’s Edge: Whidbey Island

In my drafts folder there is an unfinished post with photographs taken in 2014, on Whidbey Island, Washington. I first visited Whidbey Island in October, 2011, on a fateful vacation that led to my relocating from New York City to the Pacific northwest. After moving to a suburb of Seattle in 2012, I began driving up to Whidbey and the surrounding area whenever I could, ultimately moving to neighboring Fidalgo island.

Now, on the heels of another trip to Whidbey last week, I’m going to move those photos out of the draft folder and into the light of day. I’ll include a few recent images, too.

That September day almost four years ago, a spectacular fog bank had settled in at my chosen destination, Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. The park, which preserves natural and historical points of interest, is named after an early settler, Colonel Isaac Neff Ebey, who claimed land here in the mid-nineteenth century and became the first white full-time resident. Of course, well before his arrival local tribes lived here; one of the tribes (the Swinomish) that inhabited the island is now based on a reservation a few minutes from my home on Fidalgo Island.

Almost exactly 161 years ago, Colonel Ebey was killed by people from the north (it is still disputed which tribe was responsible) whose leader, along with other tribe members, had been slayed by the US military. In an 1851 letter to his brother, Ebey had written that this beautiful place seemed,

“….almost a paradise of nature. Good land for cultivation is abundant on this island. I have taken a claim on it and am now living on the same in order to avail myself of the provisions of the Donation Law. If Rebecca, the children, and you all were here, I think I could live and die here content.”










The five photos above were taken on that foggy September day at Perego’s lagoon, a shallow body of water just above the high tide mark on the shore at Ebey’s Landing. In the top photo we’re looking south, with the beach on the right and the lagoon on the left. The windy beach, littered with giant driftwood logs, abuts the Salish Sea; the ocean is about a hundred miles to the west. This lagoon dries out in summer and the edges crack into plates of hard mud. Driftwood is everywhere, as are waving grasses, wildflowers, lichens and the wild edible called pickleweed, or sea beans (Salicornia pacifica), seen at the left edge of the photo below.









The two photos above of driftwood shelters were taken recently at Double Bluff State Park, about 23 miles south of Ebey’s Landing, on the same side of the island.  It was a rare (for summer) overcast day when we walked the beach at Double Bluff, making the trek easier for someone like me, who’s not a fan of full-on sun. After an hour or so a narrow crack appeared in the clouds far to the south, over Seattle. The changing light cast a soft glow on the sheet draped over one driftwood shelter. It seemed the epitome of casual elegance, and in my mind, it wouldn’t have been out of place in an architectural magazine.






Cloudy skies didn’t deter this cozy trio perched high on a huge glacial erratic. The boulder has likely been here for 13,000 years, since the last ice sheet retreated and left it behind, like an afterthought. In the photo above that, driftwood lies in a shallow depression on the beach. The driftwood’s swirling form, the dark shadows of fir trees, the pearly reflection of an overcast sky, and ghostly pieces of submerged wood all came together in a brooding composition that I photographed as I left the beach – sometimes, parting shots are good.

Below, A gull glides through thick fog at Ebey’s Landing.  Watching fog banks coalesce and dissolve is a good way to feel the wisdom in the saying, “The only thing that is constant is change.” (Heraclitus).  Sure enough, the fog cleared, revealing the simple form of a softly rounded bluff as it met the razor-straight horizon.







Note: Some of these photos appeared in an earlier post here.




    • I will have to try it – I read that it’s better early in the season, so I’m going to wait. Apparently it grows in Europe and many pother places,and has been eaten for a long, long, time so this plant has many colorful names. Thanks for the info, and the culinary tip!

  1. The driftwood makes for stunning B & W images especially the first one in this post. I’d be ‘in heaven’ having so many textures to photograph and look at. I’ll have to do a Google search on Fidalgo island – I’ve never heard of it.

    Love the trio atop the rock – nice capture.

    • There is no shortage of driftwood here, so I think I’ll have lots more opportunities to work on driftwood black and whites. You would certainly love visiting the area – who knows, maybe it will work out someday! We’re amazed that we found a quiet, bright, affordable place to live here – we keep saying, “Wow, we LIVE here!” Fidalgo isn’t all that well known a name, but the main town on the island, Anacortes, is better known, at least in the US. Funny about the people on the rock – I wanted to photogrpah the rick and was mad that people kept climbing on it, until I really looked at them. It was a truly wonderful scene, they were just snuggled in together reading and writing – or she may have been drawing. A lucky moment to happen upon.

  2. I’m glad you opened the draft folder and brought them out for us…. I do rather enjoy that “parting shot,” too…and the gull in the fog….and the stump in black and white…. All very nice, Lynn…with your characteristic touch. Thank you. 🙂

    • Scott, I’m glad you like the parting shot – I was afraid it looked too bright with the others. And the gull, of course I was afraid at first that there was too little definition, but on second look, that’s what’s nice about it. I thank you, Scott, for your presence. 🙂 Hope you’re enjoying the weekend!

  3. These photos are further proof that you are now living in an extraordinarily beautiful part of the world. The driftwood shelter with the sheet is particularly interesting as is the dried hard mud plates. Excellent work, Lynn.

    • Like I was saying to Vicki above, we keep looking around and saying, “Wow, we LIVE here!” We lucked out on a quiet, affordable place, but if one had to find work in the area, it could be tough. I’m really pleased you like the driftwood shelter, because that one excited me. 🙂 Thanks Ken!!

  4. Oh what beautiful photos. For all that I’ve been to Whidbey many times I’ve not been to Eby’s Landing, but I have walked several times on Double Bluff beach, mostly on overcast days it seems. It’s a beautiful part of the world.

    • That’s interesting to hear – Whidbey is so big, there’s no shortage of interesting places to explore. That day, we spent an hour or two in Langley as well. That town is such a treasure. But Langley is a pretty long drive, even from here – about an hour, believe it or not. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.

  5. A beautiful set if images, my friend, you have indeed chosen a beautiful place to live in. And I do admire you for upping sticks and moving all the way from New York to the far northwest – not sure I’d have the energy for that now! Also, while I completely understand that this is commonplace in the US, it does as a Brit sound strange to me to hear of a people living in (or based upon) a reservation. As I think I recall reading, the Americas are thought to have been initially inhabited by peoples that crossed from Eurasia to Alaska and then worked their way south – the way we have spread over this planet is a fascinating study. A 🙂

    • Well, just think of the energy we SAVED by leaving the city for the west coast! 😉 It is way more relaxing in the west. But yes, moves are really exhausting, even the good ones. You’re right about the thinking regarding the spread of people from the west, across the Aleutian chain I think. The story of what whites did to native people, here and elsewhere, is extremely disturbing. Reservations here are generally depressing, poverty-ridden places, for many reasons, but at the same time, being together in one place gives the tribe a better chance of preserving the original culture. The indigenous cultures in the Pacific northwest are generally a little better at preserving their languages and culture (as are the Navajo, Hopi and some other southwest tribes) than many tribes across the US have been. So many of them disappeared altogether. Many of the local tribes here come together for a “Power Paddle” each August – it’s very interesting – we meant to watch part of it but it didn’t happen – maybe next year. http://paddletopuyallup.org/
      And i can’t help adding – I met an interesting young British fisheries biologist who took his degree in Alaska, and recently took a job with the local tribe to manage an oyster farm project. He’s a great guy, and works hard. Hopefully the oysters will do well and bring more income in, and eventually maybe he can step out of the picture.

      • Thank you for this interesting reply, my friend. I’m afraid Man’s inhumanity to Man has always been rampant, there are times when I think we’re bad news, full stop And, although events are far, far more uncertain, I think Man’s inhumanity to other early human species was no less attritional. Sad feelings.

  6. You certainly used the fog you encountered on your first visit to Whidbey Island to your advantage. I find the second and third photos particularly moody, and there’s something about the grasses in all the older photographs that gets to me. Maybe it’s the way they go every which way. Your excellent compositions in the two photos of driftwood shelters are complemented by beautiful processing. What beautiful swathing in the second one! Your parting shot, of the driftwood, is so sensual, so material. You handled the contrasts masterfully. Love that little group of writers and readers, thoughtfully arranging themselves in that nice triangle, which goes with the (truncated) triangle of the rock. Congratulations on all, Lynn!

    • I’m looking forward to more foggy opportunities. 🙂 I love those grasses, so I’m really glad you mention that. It was just a perfect day. Thank you – deep bows to you! – for the compliments on processing, etc. This post came together with difficulty, so it’s good to hear that it works. Here’s to more sensual materiality! 🙂

  7. Mother Nature is a sculptress, and driftwood one of her more interesting forms. I see a bit of laughing dragon on the lower right side of the driftwood in the pool.

  8. I like this series very much. The pictures of the driftwood have something of primitive times. Maybe the old wood remind me of bones from dead (primeval) animals. Than the fog and the surroundings…what a fascinating landscape! Very mystic! The picture with the gull is great too.

    • Someone else (below) mentioned a tree cemetery. There is something profound about the giant logs, weathered for many years. Mystical is right! There was a group of painters in the northwest known as mystics. Here’s an article from the NY Times about them. Towards the end, the author travels up to this area – the Skagit Valley – where two of them lived.

      • I watched out for the paintings of these artists. Quite interesting though I don’t find much of the landscape in their images. Does it depend on my mood today or is the mystic about their paintings a different one? Or did I look at the wrong pictures ;-)?

  9. First shot; and several others, gave me the association “cemetery’… Not a nasty one, but one where elephants go, when they feel the end is near.. This one for trees. Fine set, again!

  10. A splendid collection of shapes, textures and patterns and, of course, atmosphere – beautifully captured and presented.. For you this was clearly a photographer’s paradise!

    • Atmosphere, bring on the fog, and there is no shortage of it. 🙂 On the foggy day four years ago that was particularly true, but just about any day on these beaches can be wonderful. Thanks, Louis.

    • Photogenic sounds good en Francais. 🙂 And it surely is. The trees here grow fast, reach heights, and are photogenique whether living or not. Thanks for being here, Camilla, hope you’re in the thick of a buggy universe this weekend! 😉

  11. Love the first shot… the composition takes you straight in. Very effective. Also love the different layers you caught in the driftwood above the folks on the rock, the reflected trees adding to the x-shape and contrast to the bleached wood. Really loved the skies in the elegant driftwood shelter. Nice catch with the folks on the rock. Sometimes you just have to make lemonade… so to speak. And it turned out quite well. It’s a great series. Even the last shot contrasts beautifully with the somber mood of the previous images. Marvelous the way it leads you right to that point in the distance.

    • Oh, thank you so much, Gunta. You’re a good critic, because you know these waters well, having photographed the coast so much. A little different here, being far from the ocean itself, but overall quite similar. 🙂 Thank you!

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