LOCAL WALKS: The World Comes Forward

What’s meant by this title is that there’s no need for pursuit; the world comes forward and meets you. It’s something akin to what photographer Paul Caponigro described:

“Gradually, some very few photographs began to make visible the overtones of that dimension I sought. Dreamlike, these isolated images maintain a landscape of their own, produced through the agency of a place apart from myself. Mysteriously, and most often when I was not conscious of control, the magical and subtle force crept somehow into the image, offering back what I sensed as well as what I saw.”

Paul Caponigro, ‘Landscape’

It may seem that the world meets us more beautifully and in more interesting ways in certain places. But I think anywhere and anytime you can be receptive and effortless, it becomes apparent that the world comes forward to meet you. There’s no need to pursue photography or strain yourself, trying to grasp an elusive ideal. Get out of your own way, quiet your mind, and attend to what’s in front of you: sights, sounds, smells, and all the rest.

And there it is.

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1. A Great blue heron over Bowman Bay.

Though this philosophy applies anywhere, there’s no doubt that one of my favorite places to take a walk and see what happens is Bowman Bay. Heeding the muted, internal voice that often nudges me toward one place or another, I find myself on the road to Bowman Bay regularly.

Bowman Bay is a salt-water bay that happens to be far from the ocean; it receives water flowing through the 96-mile long, 15-mile wide Juan de Fuca Strait – the same Pacific Ocean water that sloshes around Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. Because of its opening to ocean water, Bowman Bay is tidal, experiencing two low and two high tides each day at its two small beaches. Crescent-shaped Bowman Bay and its evergreen-topped rocky headlands are on the southwest shore of Fidalgo Island, where a west-southwest exposure means occasional strong windstorms and a rich upswell of nutrients.

Decades ago, a fish hatchery operated here. Besides ponds and buildings, the enterprise was responsible for “armoring” the beach: a quarter of the shoreline was “protected” by dumping 2,000 tons of stone on it. This is destructive to a shoreline’s natural processes but happily, most of the bulkhead was removed when work was done to restore the shoreline to its natural state. A pier built long ago is still in place but otherwise, few traces of the fish hatchery remain. Native plants and immense driftwood logs that wash ashore with the tides are creating a more natural habitat. All this is protected now because Bowman Bay is part of a state park called Deception Pass.

What I enjoy about this place is impossible to put into words, but it starts with the profoundly relaxing experience of being near open water. Then there’s the light that bounces off the water – crystal clear or foggy, bright and sunny or dark and brooding, it’s always different from the last time I visited. The ground beneath my feet varies from evergreen forest to pebbly beach, and from wetland edge to sandy beach. And rock – there are rocks to be reckoned with here! The two “pocket beaches” are divided and flanked by steep, rocky cliffs that invite exploring. There are delicate spring wildflowers, long, flowing lichens hanging from the trees, and oddities to be searched for under rocks at the lowest tides. Of course, there’s wildlife, too: herons, kingfishers, gulls, and sea ducks abound, Pileated woodpeckers and river otters are regular, if infrequent sights. Finally, there is the air – always fresh, it sometimes wafts nose-assaulting dead seaweed scents my way but and other times warms my skin deliciously.

Here’s a sampling of photographs from this magical place – not photographs I took but photographs I received with gratitude.

2. Bowman Bay’s two beaches are united during very low tides when the sand at the bottom of a cliff is exposed. The flower-strewn path above is behind the second beach.
3. A few minutes walking through the forest past the second beach brings you to Lighthouse Point, a rocky peninsula with views of the Deception Pass bridge and more islands. This photo was made on a foggy October day.

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5. Barnacles are plentiful on rocks in the intertidal zone.
6. Wildflowers are colonizing this driftwood-studded sliver of land between a beach and a wetland. This is Puget Sound gumweed (Grindelia integrifolia).

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8. A Douglas squirrel in the roses nibbling a rose hip.

OTTERS!

Anytime I can see the river otters that make Deception Pass their home I feel lucky. This summer I had not seen them for months and assumed they were staying hidden because there have been so many people around. Last Friday that quiet voice I’ve learned to pay attention to told me to go to Bowman Bay. I was surprised at how few people were around as I followed a path behind the beach. Investigating a small wetland, I heard rustling in the bushes behind me. I turned around to see a young-looking Douglas squirrel just an arm’s length away, with a big rose hip in its paws, nibbling it like corn on the cob. The squirrel didn’t seem to mind me. Nonchalantly, it tossed the partly-eaten rose hip away and scrambled through the thorny native roses. Maybe there was a tastier one in there somewhere. I marveled at the way its tiny feet avoided the thorns and thanked the little squirrel for letting me watch. A bit of tart fruit to balance all those cone seeds is a good diet choice, I suppose.

I walked on, climbing a steep, rock-strewn path up and over the cliff that separates the two small beaches. The sandy second one is very nice to walk on so I strolled onto it and studied the remains of the last high tide. Scanning the bay, I thought I saw them – the otters, yes! Barely visible, they swan slowly out in the bay in typical leisurely fashion: swimming in circles, coming up for air, going back under, coming up to look around…it was impossible to tell how many there were but it looked like a nice number – maybe six?

Only one other person was nearby, a woman who pulled her kayak in to rest against a piece of driftwood. It looked like the otters were heading toward the other beach so I was disappointed they were swimming away from me. But I was very happy to have seen them.

Then I realized they had changed course and were heading straight my way! I had a 60mm lens on my m4/3 camera, equivalent to a 120mm lens on a full-frame camera. It’s not a lot of reach for wildlife photography but that’s not what I do so that was all I had. Of course, when the opportunity presents itself I’m happy to click away with whatever lens I have. Later I regretted not being quick enough to locate burst mode in the camera menu or to switch to video. But it’s all good. And it was more than good as I was treated to the spectacle of eight otters coming ashore in fairly close proximity, digging in the sand (which I’ve never seen before) and generally being their amusing otter selves as I watched, enthralled.

In the slideshow the first photo is out of sequence and the rest are in order, showing how small the otters looked when I first saw them, how they gradually swam closer, came ashore in their inimitable humpy way, dug in the sand, got scared, lept back in the water, emerged again, and then ran straight across the grassy path that separates the beach from another bay behind it. I followed them, working the shutter and running through the forest to a rocky promontory with a good view of the bay they were in. Finally, I could no longer see them. All eight disappeared into the swift, turbulent waters of Deception Pass – or maybe they stayed closer to land, but I lost sight of them. I smiled a big thank you.

Slideshow below – click the arrow on the right.

(The otters’ heads are just small dots at the bottom right in the last photo. Note that these are River otters, which also live in the sea – not Sea otters, which rarely come onshore).

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9. These Douglas fir trees grow precariously on a rocky headland just past Bowman Bay, called Lighthouse Point.
10. Bullwhip kelp and seaweeds draw pictures on the beach at low tide.
11. Bullwhip kelp afloat in Bowman Bay. There’s a pile of it in the middle photo below. Patches of it can be seen floating on the water in the photo below that.

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13. A walk past Bowman Bay and around Lighthouse Point brings views of the beautiful Deception Pass Bridge, built in 1935. In this photo a Great blue heron balances on strands of Bullwhip kelp floating in the pass. Though the rocks under the bridge appear to touch, there’s actually a narrow pass of water there. A second bridge span over another water pass is to the right, out of the frame.
14. Even the crumbling old pier is attractive, both to me and to the barn swallows that nest under it. One blurry swallow flies across the water here.
15. It’s hard to resist sunset over the water.

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83 comments

    • It really is a gift when they appear and what a huge surprise that they decided to step onto the beach so close to where I stood. When they leaped back into the water, I carefully stepped backward about 10 paces. Whether that made a difference I’ll never know, but they quickly came back out. I think that spot was the closest to their goal of jumping into the other bay so as long as I stood still they were willing to risk it. Thanks for your comment, Mark.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks for this joyful, marvelous post! Yes, the world comes forward as you can see here! So many charming photos, a thought-provoking text and a lively, illustrated story about the river otters! What fun and wonder to see them! Cheerio, Petra

    Liked by 1 person

    • The pleasure was mine, as you must know. Thank you, Jo, this place is indeed special. During the early days of COVID the park was closed for two months – how I missed it! When it reopened I was one of the first people there, sinking my feet into that beach and gulping down the fresh air. πŸ™‚

      Like

    • They were once hunted here, too, but have made a great comeback so I hope the same will hold true for Belgium. If we didn’t have the parks I would probably never see them. Thank you Rudi – have a great weekend!

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    • The otters are irresistible, Paula. I’m very glad you appreciate the kelp, too – I believe it’s the largest seaweed around and is in fact, not a plant, but an algae. Who knew?? πŸ˜‰ Thank you!

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  2. The world comes up to you and meets you.
    I practice this every day now in the morning hours.
    Just being there, at the bushes, at the leaves, at the undergrowth.
    Every now and then a new insect comes along, shows itself, comes out of the depths or looks in for a moment.
    I must and may be present and enjoy the spectacle.

    Liked by 1 person

      • And now some thoughts about your pics:
        1)
        The Great blue heron owns the Bay…
        4)
        Very nice
        5) I know these Barnackles

        7) The purple harebell is indeed delicate!
        8) a nice slideshow you offer of the otters πŸ™‚
        9) I also love such trees…impressing

        11) This is my favourite one

        14) A very classic picture
        15) Amazing and subtle display of colours

        Gerhard, greetings from Franconia

        9

        Liked by 1 person

        • I like it when creatures let me know who really owns the space, don’t you? πŸ˜‰ Thank you very much, Gerhard, it’s nice of you to consider each photo and to let me know your thoughts. Greetings from Fidalgo island!!

          Liked by 1 person

    • Not my words – if you click on the link you’ll see those words were quoted from a piece by Christine Valters Paintner on JW Smith’s blog, which is an excellent one. Sorry, I just want to put the credit where it’s due. Thank you for the comment!

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    • Thank you, Scott – the notion of receiving images is one that I’m sure you have thought of before, too. This time the idea came from a piece by Christine Valters Paintner that is quoted by JW Smith on his beautiful blog – if you don’t know him, check it out (there’s a link at the words “received with gratitude” above). What one has to be thankful for up here is that so much land – and water – was set aside for parkland and preserves. It’s a surprising amount for a relatively small island and what a difference it makes. Good to hear from yoU!

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  3. I really like this idea of ​​images offered to us, and not taken/captured by us. Because live is really that, to be an receptacle of energies e after to share that energies. And images are also energy!
    I would say it is a poetic vision of photography that like very much.
    I also loved seeing that eight otters!
    Without being at a zoo, I only saw one during a trail in northern Portugal. But it was all so quick and in passing that the photo was out of focus!
    To see so many otters and so well, it was without a doubt a beautiful moment, unforgettable… and perfect for a huge smile!
    Thank you and I wish you a good weekend!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank YOU, Dulce, it’s good to hear from you…you have a way of looking at life deeply and putting it into words, which is not an easy thing to do. I’m happy that the otters decided to share themselves with me so I could share them with you. πŸ˜‰ Have a good weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a good statement from Paul Caponigro, whose name I hadn’t run across in a long time. To my surprise I discovered he’s still alive in his late 80s. Whether he’s still photographing, I don’t know.

    For #13, you say: “Though the rocks under the bridge appear to touch, there’s actually a narrow pass of water there.” Is that why the place is called Deception Pass? In #11 the kelp appears almost fabricated rather than natural. Your #9 shows that some similar things attract us photographically: https://tinyurl.com/rvznzby8.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I only know the name because John Todaro has mentioned it. I happened on that book of his (from 1975!) at my local used bookstore and snapped it up. I don’t know if he’s still working, either but whatever he’s doing, I hope he’s enjoying life. You’re right about Deception Pass – good guess! That caption would have been the obvious place to mention that but I’m wary of too much text. In 1792 the Vancouver expedition sent small boats out to map the area. I think the navigators sailed right by the first time, so they assumed Whidbey Island, the one that connects to Fidalgo Island via the Deception Pass bridge, was a peninsula. A few months later they sailed along the western shore of Whidbey and, exploring again, realized this “very narrow and intricate channel, which…abounded with rocks above and beneath the surface of the water” separated the two islands. So he named the spot Deception Pass.
      I’ve no doubt that we’re attracted to similar things when we’re out with our cameras – thanks for that link!

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  5. I am so glad that those images presented themselves to you. Especially #11 (love the minimalism and graphic quality), #14 (love the mood), and #15 (who *can’t* resist?)

    βœ¨πŸ™πŸ•‰πŸŒ±πŸŒΏπŸŒ³πŸŒ»πŸ’šπŸ•Šβ˜―πŸ‰βœ¨

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Of course I love the sunset shot (as you say it’s hard to resist sunset over the water), and also am moved by the beauty of the opening shot and #3, but the otters! How exciting! I am jealous, and happy for you, that you saw them and shared them. Lucky us. And also the Douglas squirrel – what a sweet moment that must have been. Lovely!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • That WAS a lucky moment. I was so excited to see them emerge only about 6m away and the playing around was a huge bonus. They could have just gone straight to the other bay. You’re right, the little squirrel was another wonderful moment – I think it was a young one. They’re endlessly entertaining – more so than gray squirrels, to me. I bet you’re enjoying all this nice weather….thanks for stopping by!

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  7. One can feel, that this is a special place for you. I really have a stronger feeling for your love of this area in these photos. Receiving photos as a gift, yes, you did that and it feels different looking at them. Of course there are many other photos from you I can feel this kind of love too. The misty atmosphere is very nice in this area. The pictures #4 are amazing! How did you “catch” these little waves :-)?! Funny! I love this little Campanula and the insects look fresh and lively. I think you can find this Campanula in gardens here, but it looks much more beautiful in the countryside / in nature! I also like the contrast of the dark woods and the yellow flowers.
    The otters are so much fun πŸ™‚ I love them! Especially these family pictures πŸ˜€ So cute and how they run looks funny as well. And the squirrel is lovely too. The kelp, I am amazed how thick it can be. Is it strong or would it break if you touch it? I love #11 and also the bridges have a special atmosphere. These old constructions are often more appealing then some of the modern bridges. Okay, it depends, but they fit so well into the scenery. The contrasts are not too hard for my taste in comparison to some modern constructions. And of course, finally, a sunset I wouldn’t like to miss either. Very nice post Lynn! Have a good week!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There have been a lot of photos from Bowman Bay in other posts but I haven’t really focused just on what this place means to me. Thank you for reading through the post – I know it’s a lot! The waves breaking over that big log in #4 were fun to see from way above it. I just clicked quickly. πŸ˜‰ I agree about the Campanula – it’s true of many flowers, right? It’s very special when you get to see them in their native habitat. They don’t get big there because it’s a tough environment but that makes them more beautiful. I was there 2 days ago – there are 3 little flowers left – almost gone. Family pictures is just what I thought, it was like they were posing for a portrait from long-ago times. The kelp is very strong and thick – you would need a knife to cut it. One time in northern California, Joe found a cool piece of driftwood and wanted to bring it back to the car. It was a long walk and the wood was very heavy. I found a strand of Bullwhip kelp and we tied the thin end to the wood so Jow could drag it over the sandy beach. It didn’t break.
      Bridges there are beautiful ones whether new or old but you have a good point. Sometimes an older bridge fits better with everything around it. You have a great week, too – thanks for your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with the flowers that grow in their natural habitat. Often they are so tiny and tender. I like that very much and this Campanula is especially beautiful. Good you were there at the right time!
        Okay, so strong is this kind of kelp. Interesting. I think it could be nice to do some landart with it πŸ™‚ Do you know if some of the American Indians from your area worked with it?

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: LOCAL WALKS: The World Comes Forward – MobsterTiger

  9. Hi Lynn, Your Caponigro excerpt followed by your thoughts on “receiving” a place for making an image really hit home for me. The idea of creative flow is something quite miraculous and satisfying when it happens. Your images are excellent in this series. The foggy landscape at the start is beautifully composed and exposed, the purple close-ups are lovely and the otter series is fantastic. Such joy in these funny creatures. Finally the floating bull whip kelp is such a fine image- I keep going back to it. Beautiful post all around. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so very much, Jane. It means a lot when people like yourself have something thoughtful to say in response to a post. I’m glad you liked the flowers (oh, I have so many more!) as well as the foggy scene and the kelp. There’s lots of kelp around here! πŸ˜‰ Plenty more opportunities to see what happens when it comes forward and meets me, right? πŸ™‚
      Re the Caponigro quote, he’s someone I only know about thanks to John Todaro. The photographer John studied with (Anthony Nobile) was a student and friend of Caponigro’s; Caponigro studied with Minor White. A nice lineage.
      Have a good evening!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh I so know what you mean about β€˜received with gratitude’ πŸ™‚ What a lovely post Lynn. And your images are super! Those otters are having a ball. Looks like they are having a great time! Posing for the camera for sure … The last 2 shots are my favs. Just love that old pier and I’ll always be a sunset fan πŸ™‚πŸ’«

    Liked by 1 person

    • Julie, you’re a ray of down under sunshine, as always. I’ve seen groups of otters there before but never that close – what a thrill it was – and eight! πŸ™‚ I’m glad you enjoyed the post – have a good weekend – gee, it’s already Friday where you are! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  11. 1. something quite calming about so many of your images. (though the otters set off waves of delight… not exactly calming, but that bit of joy was surely a delight!)
    3. has me soaking up that soothing mist… we’ve been seeing hints of it around here, too. Very much anticipated and appreciated.
    4. I didn’t realize how easily water can move huge logs until I saw it all in action.
    7. the harebell a favorite color and so delicate.

    Slideshow- Otter-ly delightful!!! I think I literally felt some of the joy you must have experienced at having the otters playing so close to you (GREAT job with that 60mm lens indeed! Who needs a long lens when they literally come to you?) The slideshow took the prize this time around, but there are others worth going back for a closer look….
    11. your eye for such simple, beautiful patterns is a sheer delight.
    12. the sheer energy of our PNW storms is so exhilarating… but DO be careful. It’s far too easy to get swept away… (literally, though the figurative part can be nice.)
    13. brings back a memory of crossing that bridge at a time when I could very much have used a measure of calm… love that the heron is captured there.
    15… says it all and to all a good night! πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your detailed comments, Gunta…same here about those logs…and the harebells, I just love them. It’s great to see your enthusiasm about the otters. That was a lucky moment. The camera I had with me – and the lens – as they say – was the best one. πŸ˜‰ Scenes like the bullwhip kelp floating on the water are ones that I’m training myself to focus on more.
      I know that people being swept away is an issue on the OR coast, and maybe on the WA coast, but we’re far from that kind of danger. What we have to be careful about is falling off a precipice and into the water or onto a rock. That’s an ever-present possibility here and I do NOT want to fall.
      It was cool to see the heron balancing on nothing but kelp out there in the pass. Not a big deal for them, they can fly away anytime. Once I was close enough to watch a heron changing its stance as the water moved the kelp that it stood on back and forth – very cool. The summer crowds are already thinning out, thankfully. Have a good weekend and thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Sometimes we go out with no expectations but open to surprise and wonder. I try for that but there are annual periods when a certain flower is in bloom and looking for it is part of a wander although keeping one’s eyes open to other possibilities is a good approach as well. But at other times no preconceived notion is the order of the day.

    The light on the flowers in #2 is wonderful and who can resist an otter slideshow? πŸ™‚

    Caponigro’s son, John Paul, is someone influential in Photoshop circles and does a lot of artistic manipulation. Some of Paul’s images are among my favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. “when I was not conscious of control” Paul Caponigro
    Control / the will cannot force the essence, to be “receptive and effortless” seems to be the secret of the good photographer, whereby good control of the camera technology is implied in silence, right? And then the most difficult: “get out of your own way ” … Yes!

    Bowman Bay’s essence really flowed into you with this photo series, dear Lynn, and what triggers an answer most from me is the dizzying view down to the surf in picture 4. I know such places well from the Baltic Sea, where they cause dangerous suction: one more step closer to the edge, one more …
    How I enjoyed reading your squirrel adventure, and your camera technique did a great job of meeting the otters! The pictures seem so vivid, the animals’ joie de vivre is shared as well as your joyful tension to get the best out of this opportunity. You did it, Lynn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess I’ve been leaning in a more philosophical direction lately. πŸ™‚ It’s nice to hear that the dizzying view from the cliff struck a chord with you – it makes sense that it’s because you’ve seen the same kind of landscape on the Baltic shore. You have to experience it to get it, right? And the sensation never seems to be conveyed in photos.
      That’s one of the charms of this spot – the flat beach on a protected bay meeting steep, rocky cliffs that you have to climb in order to get to the next little beach and the beautiful peninsula beyond…unless you’re lucky enough to be there during a low tide that dips below normal, in which case you can walk right around the cliff. But strangely enough, those low tides don’t occur during daylight hours in the fall and winter. I’m not sure why – it’s one of the mysteries of this place that tease me.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the squirrel story (they look almost exactly like your squirrels, except they lack the wonderful ear tufts yours have). What a fun group those otters were! I was lucky!! πŸ™‚ And I’m lucky to have you visit here. πŸ™‚

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      • It sounds like a bit of effort getting from one beach to the other, but I’m sure it is worth it. It sounds really strange that low tides should only occur at night in the dark half of the year. But most people would not even notice the fact as they take a walk by the seaside in summer only, different as you πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  14. ..’But I think anywhere and anytime you can be receptive and effortless, it becomes apparent that the world comes forward to meet you. There’s no need to pursue photography or strain yourself, trying to grasp an elusive ideal. Get out of your own way, quiet your mind, and attend to what’s in front of you: sights, sounds, smells, and all the rest. ‘.. Couldn’t agree more! Great meeting with those otters! See you!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Lynn. Great idea! To say it rudely.. get your asses over to Delft; a town you will like as much as Leiden, and I’ll ‘bike-over’, and we can chat and drink as much as we prefer. And it’s way better than typing on a plastic, too small screen with too big fingers.. πŸ˜…
    Your words I quoted, express a lot of what I tried to say in the last part of my reply on Essence. And to quote your quote ‘Mysteriously, and most often when I was not conscious of control, the magical and subtle force crept somehow into the image, offering back what I sensed as well as what I saw.’ feels related to what I meant with ‘the gift’.. but these words express it even better because they refer to some sort of spiritual connection between photographer and subject.. and that connection brings the magic; or maybe the essence in the photo.. And because it’s a connection between ‘You and the outside world’, photos can be recognized as ‘personal ‘.. and I think that can only be the matter when photography is ones true passion.. πŸ™ƒ We’re on the good side then.. 🀣🀣 Having said this, I must admit that I am always a bit afraid that putting all this in words, takes away the spontaneity when I’m outside with the camera… and that it’s better to be quiet.. So,, enjoy shooting! See you! βœ‹

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