The Season for Migratory Birds…

Snow Geese in the thousands near Willows

If you have the chance to visit the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge near Willows, California… now is the time to do it!  It’s a great spot for wildlife photography and birding in general.  The peak season is from December to February… though March can still be good.  More information can be found here (link to Sacramento Wildlife Refuge)… and a map guide to the many wildlife refuges in the Sacramento valley can be found here (pdf map).  All in all, it’s hard to go wrong here.  Sometimes there can be literally millions of birds in the air at once… an amazing sight to behold.

Happy Holidays!

Living in Southern Oregon, we typically don’t get a white Christmas (perhaps someday!), but we are getting a nice series of winter storms that are sorely needed for water next year.  The winter weather does help set the mood for the holidays.  The above photo was taken at sunrise (looking west) as a storm was arriving from the coast.  The winds were playing games with the fog (it would blow in and then retreat just as quickly), so one minute you couldn’t see more than a hundred feet, and the next you could see miles.  It made for a challenging time to take photos.

Whether you’re traveling this season, or staying home… our sincere wishes to all of you for a most Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!  Please be safe over the holidays, have fun, and we look forward to posting more photos and stories in the new year!

Harris Beach State Park off season…

Harris Beach lies at the very southern end of the Oregon coast… just about 10 miles from the California border.  It’s a popular beach due to it’s proximity near Brookings and one of the more easily accessible beaches in Southern Oregon.  It can be very busy during the summer months, but the off season (late fall to early spring) can be some of the best times to visit.

The main beach is located at the end of the park’s road and offers the easiest access and views (with some spectacular views of Bird Island… a.k.a. Goat Island), but there is a second beach access if you don’t mind hiking just a short quarter mile downhill trail to the South Beach.  At low tides (and conditions permitting) you can walk between the two beaches along the shoreline.  There is also a wonderful campground just above the two beaches… it’s one of our favorite places to go, especially in winter when the ocean scenery can be very dramatic.

You can find more information about Harris Beach here (Oregon State Parks campground and basic info)… with the Trail map for the park is also available.  It’s a place not to be missed.  

As a side note, I did a video not too long ago of Harris Beach in the wintertime.  It a very scenic and relaxing video taken at the very end of December, and should give you an idea of what to expect. You can find the video here… hope you enjoy it!

Harris Beach and Bird Island as storm is clearing.

Main beach at Harris Beach State Park… what better place to spend an afternoon?

Fall has arrived…

Almost like a breath of fresh air… Fall has arrived.  We’re expecting our first frost in the next few days, the smoke is gone, and we’re getting some spectacular sunrises / sunsets in the valley with the clouds arriving from the coast.  This is one the best times of year… everything seems fresh and vibrant, even though we’re going head on into winter.  Some recent sunrise and sunset photos (respectively) from the last few days… 

Puppy alert!

We have a new addition to our family.  His name is Ilo (pronounced “eye-low”) which means “joy” in Finnish.  The pronunciation is not quite how it’s said in Finnish, but we think it’s easier for us to remember this way.  Regardless, he’s a charmer and quite a handful being only four months old now, even if he’s a Yellow Lab.

Having a puppy has been quite an experience.  He’s exploring everything (and is constantly chewing up everything in sight).  Fortunately he’s starting to show signs of mellowing out a little, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief as the days start getting a little easier.  He’s still full of surprises though… he created quite a scene as he captured a live bird (how he did this we still don’t know), then proceeded to bring it into the house and let it go in our bedroom.

It is pretty amazing though to see the changes and growth on a daily basis as he matures.  It’s also wonderful to see things through his eyes as he explores the world.

End to fire season…

There’s no doubt that this summer has been rough in the Rogue Valley (and the rest of southern Oregon).  The heavy smoke has been worse this year than most of us can remember.  The good news is that with the recent rains, the issue has been resolved for the time being.  Hopefully next summer won’t be as bad, but it does appear that this is the new norm for us.

We managed to make several trips to the coast to escape the smoke.  It’s about a 3-hour drive to either Brookings / Coos Bay / Florence depending on the route you take.  Finding a place to camp though was always an issue as so many others were also doing the same thing.  The good news in all of this was it forced us to try new areas such as Rock Creek described in the previous post.  These trips gave us better knowledge and insight to the wonders of Oregon’s beautiful coastline, some of which I hope to document in upcoming posts.

Now that the smoke has cleared in the Rogue Valley, things are returning to normal… and so is the photography.  We’re starting to get our spectacular sunrises / sunsets again that occur during the spring / fall / winter seasons.  The summer months are relatively cloudless (minus the smoke), so there’s not much to give additional details in the sky.  The rest of the seasons though can be spectacular.  The Rogue Valley in itself can be an amazing canvas to complement to colors in the sky… and it’s a great opportunity for all of us to enjoy such beautiful scenery.

View looking west from Marigold Lane in Medford.

The Importance of going off-line…

A recent camping trip taught me the reason why I need to stop checking my phone all the time.  We found a wonderful campground on the Oregon coast called Rock Creek.  The beauty there is amazing… it’s a small campground and limited facilities, but the scenery makes up for anything that is missing from our high-tech lifestyles. At first I was trying to check emails and news in the hopes my phone would connect… it never did.  I even rode my bicycle out to (and along) the highway fighting gale force winds along the way with the hopes that somewhere the phone would make a connection, but no such luck.  After a while I was resolved to accept the fact that for a few days, there were going to be no phone calls, no news updates, and no text messages.  It turned out this was a good thing.  I had time to practice photography, read some magazines we had brought with us, and just relax and enjoy the scenery.  

Rock Creek campground is adjacent to the ocean, about 1/4 mile inland up a small fern covered canyon.  The strong winds from the coast were coming up the canyon and made everything fresh, but rather cool to be out.  Still, it was so much better than the heat and smoke that’s affecting the Rogue Valley where we live.  On the last day, the strong winds died, and I was able to try some long exposures (such as the one below) to experiment with motion blurring the water in the creek.

After a few days of being off-line, we had to (reluctantly) leave the campground to head home.  When we finally got phone reception, we had found there had been a minor crisis at home with the watering, but it had been resolved correctly – and without our assistance.  And for catching up on emails / news / text messages… we found that yes, there things of importance there, but nothing that could have not waited for a few days.  What we got in return though was some time of peace and quiet, zero stress, and some wonderful memories of an extraordinary beautiful place that welcomes visitors, but at it’s own pace.

Rock Creek campground in Oregon. This was the view from our campsite.

Rediscovering the familiar with new eyes…

We had the pleasure of hosting my wife’s cousin (and her son) from Hungary early this month, and it is always interesting to see how they react to the local sights that are so familiar to us.  Of course we took them to Crater Lake, the Redwoods, and sections of the California and Oregon coast… always beautiful, but interesting to find what they thought was exceptional.  For instance in Bolinas, we went for a short hike on the Palomarin trail which starts off going through the Eucalyptus forest.  The Eucalyptus trees are not native to California, they were brought in from Australia.  The trees have adapted very well to the California climate, and are fast growers.  To us, these trees are somewhat ordinary… but for our guests they were amazing in size and beauty.  In looking at the trees again, I could see the beauty they were so enchanted with, and it made me appreciate something I had been taking for granted.  The same held true for other things (shells, seaweed, driftwood)… common to us, but new and amazing to them.  It’s so refreshing to have your eyes opened again…

Looking over the coast from the Palomarin trail (Bolinas is in the background).


From Spring into Summer…

Living in the Rogue Valley (Southern Oregon) the weather here is generally mild… we get only about 20 inches of rain a year, and the weather resembles more that of California than what most people think of Oregon.  Nature can pull a few surprises though… and this late Spring weather contained a few, mainly in the way of thunderstorms.

While thunderstorms tend to be brief in regards to rain, they can sometimes stall or move very slowly, and if you happen to be in their target, it can be a torrential downpour.  Such was the case the last week of Spring.  We had one storm pause over us and dump rain to the point that caused some damage in our garage due to water spilling in.  Fortunately, the damage was relatively small (though we’ll have to get some repairs done).  On the good side, it left us with one of the most beautifully intense rainbows I’ve ever seen.

View looking southeast from our home after the thunderstorm had passed. This is a very wide-angle view (15mm lens setting).

The other big change…

There comes a time in life when you feel a change is necessary.  For me it was this last year.  I’ve worked full time as an Engineer for over 35 years, and while I love the work (and more importantly the people I work with), there were so many other life’s interests that I wanted to try.  In my case, spending more time on photography is one of the big ones… as well as music, travel, hiking, sailing, bicycling (I used to do a LOT of the latter) and so on.  Having reached my 60’s, there’s the realization that the time left in front of me is not as much as I would like, and it’s important to spend more time on these things while I still can.  So last week, I retired from the work I’ve been doing for so long.

It really hasn’t hit me yet that I’m retired… so many projects to catch up on (including a very long list of house projects).  I did promise myself that I would go sailing as soon as I could, and yesterday (my second day of retirement) I managed to get out to Applegate Lake (beautiful!) for some sailing there.  There’s something about spending time on the water that brings tranquility… After a few hours of sailing, all the pressure come off, and for the first time in a long time, I felt relaxed and at peace.  Its the best medicine possible…

The image above is from yesterday’s sailing at Applegate Lake (photo taken with the iPhone 8 Plus). This is a very beautiful lake on the north side of the Siskiyou Mountains not far from the Rogue Valley. The lake level drops during the summer, so late spring / early summer is the best time to go.