100 Birds – #66 Burrowing Owl

I think that all owls are remarkably charismatic. The Burrowing Owl, however, may take the prize for antics and personality. I have not seen them anywhere but Washington State but I’ve read accounts and seen photos from other parts of the country where they seem to be fairly common and accepting of humans. The birds will put their heads into strange positions as they struggle to gain perspective and determine the distance to something or someone.

My first photograph of a Burrowing Owl was made on the Arid Land Ecology Reserve in southeast Washington. Thanks to my friends, Steve Howes and Heidi Newsome, I was working as a volunteer with the Mid-Columbia Wildlife Refuge to monitor artificial dens that had been placed to support Burrowing Owl nesting. I was with Steve and another volunteer, Keith, to monitor presence and nesting status in several clusters of artificial burrows. A male owl exited one nest and flew a short distance. I took a crappy photo as it stood and looked at us. It flew immediately after my photo.

Flash forward about three years and I am seeing many photos of Burrowing owls near Othello, Washington. The photos I saw showed adults and babies in a particularly ugly location with bare soils, weeds, and broken irrigation pipes.

After several weeks of resisting the impulse to join the throng of photographers, I succumbed. I wanted to see the birds and a sighting would be a life bird for Dianne. We drove to the well publicized site one evening and had the opportunity to see many owls and photograph the one perched on a stake near the west side of the road. We never left the truck, took several photos and departed.

The birds continued to bring photographers to the site. It is really unfortunate that some felt the need to walk or drive to the nest area to force a bird to fly so they or others could get a flight shot. Ridiculous. Repugnant. Illegal.

I’m glad to have this photo but I think I will always look at it and feel regret that the bird had to endure abuse by fellow humans.


100 Birds – #63 Western Wood-pewee

A seasonal visitor, the Western Wood-pewee shows up in late Spring and stays through the summer. I get used to seeing them sitting in the tops of trees or shrubs along the Columbia River. As is usually the case, I hear them before I see them. Their call sounds like an electric trill….’bezew’. I realize that isn’t all that helpful. You can visit http://www.xeno-canto.org to search for and listen to the song.

I am fortunate to live at the mouth of a shrub-steppe canyon that fills with birds in the Spring. It’s not uncommon for me to find an hour and drive up the canyon for 2-3 miles. This canyon gathers all sorts of people with ill intent. People dump their crap out along the road or in the turnouts. It gets ripe in places as deer carcasses rot along with dumped trees and garbage. I’m grateful that the county comes in and hauls this stuff out occasionally but I truly wish they didn’t have to. And then there are the shooters. There’s a gun club just inside the canyon but it requires people to pay for a membership. Some people don’t think twice about driving by the gun club, stopping and taking some of their cans or junk out into an opening and then blowing it full of holes. Of course, they leave it there when they depart. I admit to feeling vulnerable to ricocheting bullets as I drive by. It’s not a good thing. But the birds don’t seem to react to the shooting nearly as much as I do.

There’s a certain tree about 1mile beyond the highest area used for shooting. It sits near the road and has a great set of dead branches in the top. It seems to be a favored spot for birds to perch so it is common to see several species land for a few minutes and then move on. Evening sun plays nicely on the perches and makes the photography easier than many other locations. I can sit in my truck beside the tree. Using the truck as a blind has a lot of advantages. I’m comfortable, have water and my gear handy. I just sit, wait and take what birds show up.

So it was with this Western Wood-pewee yesterday evening. I was focused on a Yellow-breasted Chat and hoping it would move a bit to be more open. I saw movement and lowered the camera to see the pewee sitting near the top of the shaggy top. It started calling…a good sign that it would be there awhile. I adjusted the exposure, framed the bird, caught focus and went “click”.

A morning with friends

My friends Deigh and Dave came up from Eugene to spend some time in Portland with a variety of purposes in mind.  Our tentative schedule got turned upside down a bit when the foggy/hazy weather did not provide much to shoot at the first stop – Pittock Mansion. The gardens there have been reduced to allow a lengthy and needed restoration of the outside terraces on the building.  Age takes a toll and the building deserves a good facelift.  I am really hoping that who ever does the work respects the history and that the renovation does not detract when complete.  Honestly, I can’t imagine it any other way and expect that the contractor(s) will do well.

We moved downtown to ProPhoto to shop for a variety of things.  Each of us had our own interests and we all added to the daily coffer at the store as we left.  I’m the owner of a new Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens to replace the one I had but which has come up missing.  Di and I are sure that it was in the house the last time we saw it and we’ve scoured the place to find it.  No luck.  It’s been about 3 weeks since we noticed it gone and I’ve given up the chance of stumbling on it.  Hence, the new one.

The next stop was the Japanese Garden.  Followers of this blog and guests in town have seen the Garden in photos or in person.  We used to be members of the Japanese Garden but I dropped the membership when they implemented what I consider a poorly crafted “photo policy” which requires anyone who may entertain the idea of selling a photo taken in the Garden to be a Photographic Member at a cost of $150 per year.  Plus, they (the Garden) has words in the policy that imply, or state, that they would take license to any photo sold and control any language used to describe it.  Plus, they state that there is to be no “portrait” photography in the garden.  Given that they don’t define “portrait photography” in the policy I have to assume that they mean any situation in which a person is purposefully placed in a location with the specific intent to take a picture of that person with some portion of the garden as a background.  Clearly, most people with family or friends who visit the Garden violate the “no portrait photography”  portion of the policy.  Yeah… their policy irks me.  Yes, I hope that they have a way to discover this post and read my discontented words.  Yes, I have ideas on ways that they can improve on the policy to protect their ownership and rights.

Whew… I feel better.  Well, almost.  As we started to enter we all read the photo policy which is posted near the ticket booth.  Like the Garden’s website, the poster clarifies that there is a $2.00 fee to take a tripod into the Garden if you are not a member.  I was surprised by the sign on the ticket booth that declared that the tripod fee was $5.00, not $2.  Not understanding the contradictory information placed within 20 feet of each other I asked “why?”  “We had to update the cost” was the answer.  I explained that their own signage and website lead us to believe that it was $2.00.  Nope, it was going to be $5.00 each, no wiggle room.  I can not understand how the cost of tripod entry could go up since there is no service or enforcement provided by Garden staff in relation to my use of the tripod.  But, after a bit of huffing and puffing over the costs and the policy (mostly by me) we entered the garden, 15 legs between us we set out to see what was photographable.  As usual, there is no shortage of things to look at, appreciate and photograph.  At one point I purposefully violated the “no portrait photography” and took a photo of a mother and daughter with Mom’s iPhone. No staff tapped me on the shoulder to reprimand me… big surprise.

The last time I’d been to the Garden they were reconstructing the pool area in front of the main waterfall in the Garden.  Now that the construction is over the pond once again delights visitors.  It really is a grand view.  I plunked my $5.00 tripod down (I’m not quite done ranting yet) and set up a long exposure.  The pool bottom now has structure within it… looks like a sunken pool within the pool.  Adds another dimension to the scene.  Someday I’ll ask about the design purpose since I know there has to be one.  Everything in the Garden is purposeful and well executed.

The photo below involved 4 minutes of exposure (please click on the image for a larger view).  I like the effect on the waterfall and how the pond surface smooths out.  Unfortunately, the long exposure also means that the koi will be invisible.  I’ll probably return in the fall when there are leaves in the pool to repeat this shot.  Previous attempts worked out “ok” but I know better now and expect better results.



We parted ways as we left the Garden.  Deigh and Dave left to find some lunch downtown and then to visit a local gallery before returning to Eugene.  It was a nice, albeit short, visit.  I’m hoping their images are what they hoped for.

Gull with a death wish

Eric and I spent time at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge again today and had a remarkable day.  We still did not see the famous Vermillion Flycatcher but we did see events and scenes that made us both fill a memory card…  or 2 in Eric’s case.

One of the really fun times came as we were parked along the back side of Rest Lake looking at swans and geese.  We saw a trio of harriers working the edges of the lake but those pesky birds always seem to stay about a 100 yards away from my lens. As we were watching we saw birds start to lift off the lake and we both started looking for the eagle.  The first one I saw was a mature bald eagle flying through a mass of geese.  I call this shot “FLY FOR YOUR LIFE!”  Click on it to make it larger.

The eagle just passed through the flock and went on over our heads to the trees on the east side of the refuge.  Then an immature bald eagle started circling the area.  I have several shots of this eagle but I thought this triptych was humorous enough to post.  If you enlarge the image by clicking on it you may be able to see the eagle looking at the gull in the second shot.  It was probably thinking about how it could turn quickly enough to nab lunch on the fly.  The gull probably was trying to figure out how to get the heck out of the way ASAP.


The light was great and the birds were fun.  We started the day with cranes in numbers enough to make think of the Bosque del Apache… sort of.  We saw all sorts of ducks, herons and eagles along with deer, racoons and the inevitable nutria.  A bittern entertained us for quite awhile and we ran into (figuratively) one the goofiest humans I’ve seen so far at Ridgefield.  We first saw the blue Prius in the ash forest and that guy was parked in the middle of the road.  He stayed as long as he wanted and then finally moved on down the road.  We passed him somewhere along the way and he was behind us and another car as we photographed the bittern.  We make a practice of getting off the road far enough to allow other cars to pass but somehow this blue Prius guy didn’t think he had enough room to clear both cars (he did).  After a short time he started honking his horn.  Good grief Dude.  After a bit of movement by the car immediately behind us the Prius hit the pedal, sprayed gravel as only a Prius can and sped off down the road.  I swear I heard him say “it’s all about me” as he went by.  It takes all kinds.

A happy ending… and a rant

As of last night, and due in no small measure to my friend Eric’s ability and willingness to help, all of our “personal images” from 2011 have been restored and successfully backed up using GoodSync… the program continues to impress me with it’s efficiency and simplicity.  Lord knows I need “simple”.  That’s the happy ending.  Now for the rant.

I know that there are a lot of small businesses out there that are run by hard working people who try their best to offer a service or product that people need or want. I recognize in these economic times that surviving as a small business is hard… very hard.  There are a lot of empty store fronts in the towns I’ve driven through lately. Unfortunately, there are companies that offer up a service but their very structure and lack of skills keeps them from being successful.  Case in point:  Data Retrieval (http://www.dataretrieval.com/).

I landed on this company as a possibility to retrieve data from a Western Digital drive that went south without warning.  I found their website via Google and compared them to others in the area.  I called and talked to a lady about my problem and she told me that I could bring the disk in for a free diagnostic.  She also told me that if the data could be saved it would probably run between $300 and $1000.  GULP.  I figured that the disk was dead and I might as well find out if anything could be saved and what it would cost.

I went to the address of Data Retrieval… an upscale business park at the south end of Highway 217.  I walked into the lobbly and went to the business directory looking for the company or directions to Suite 400.  Hmmmmm…. danger signal… no company name on the board…. several companies listed in Suite 400 but not Data Retrieval.  I took the elevator to the 4th floor and walked into a large lobby with a lady behind a desk.  I asked for Data Retrieval and she said “that’s me”.  Hmmmmm….. We had a short discussion and she showed disappointment that I did not bring in their form to give her along with the drive.  She wrote my info down… name, address, phone, email…. and gave me a sticky note with a guy’s name and phone and email address.   Hmmmm…. that was my receipt?  Yup.  Why I did not trust my gut and grab the drive and run I’ll never know.  Again, I figured the drive was dead and of no use so I was just exploring. She told me that the drive would probably go to Seattle for the diagnostic.  Probably?  Hmmmmm…. another signal.

A day later I got a call from Mark.. no last name.  Dianne and I were busy with an engagement shoot so called back later.  Mark tells me that the heads on the drive are bad and that it would cost $1450 to rebuild the drive to see if the data could be recovered.  No guarantee.  I tell him “that’s a lot of money”.  He tells me “we need $300 to proceed”.  I tell him (nicely)… “stop, do nothing, incur no cost, return the drive”.  He tells me that it will be returned for my pickup.

Unfortunately, I am headed out of town for several days.  I’m in the far reaches of eastern Oregon and I get a call from someone in Ohio wanting to talk about my cancellation.  He leaves a message for me since I did not have a signal at the time. The man has a heavy foreign accent and leaves his name (could not understand what it was) and an extension along with the 800 number to call.  I call when I get back to my room and dial in the extension as the answering tree of options starts to frustrate me.  I get a message from a man who does NOT have a heavy foreign accent.  I leave a message saying that I want my disk back and to not do anything to it.  In the course of the next 2 days I get 3 more calls from the company in Ohio but no more messages are left on my phone.

I call back one more time and talk to their support person.  She asks me for my case number and I explain that I never got one… got a sticky note instead.  My bad.  She looks me up using my last name… go figure.  Then she tells me that David has been trying to get ahold of me.  I ask where my disk is and she tells me that it is where I dropped it off. I ask to be transferred to the guy who has been calling and get another message from a man who has a different voice and no accent.  Again, I leave a message that I want my disk and to not do anything.

When I get home I head down to get my disk back.  There’s a new lady sitting behind the desk and I explain that I am there to pick up my disk.  She says “what is your case number?”  I say “never got one. Got a sticky note instead… see it?” as I hold it up.  She looks perplexed and looks me up under my name… go figure.  I should feel good that they actually could find me I guess.  Then she gets up and walks off.  I figured that she is going for the disk and I start rehearsing my parting comments.  After a bit she returns with a guy in full business clothes.  I introduce myself and explain my situation and wish to get my disk back.  He asks for my case number.  AWWWWW… come on!  After he looks at my record on the computer he walks off.  I hear drawers and cupboards opening and shutting in a back room.  He reappears but has no disk in his hands.  He rechecks the computer and disappears to another part of the building.  On return he still has no disk.  He sits at the computer and I think he is wondering how to make a disk to give to me.  I’m revising and rehearsing my parting comments in my mind.  Finally he opens a drawer below the computer terminal and sees an envelope with my name on it.  He asks my name and hands me the disk.  Then he shows me that they really did issue me a case number… wrote it on the envelope.  I look at him and explain that it would have been helpful if they had actually given me the number.

The disk is in my possession and I’ve accomplished what I came for.  No money exchanged hands… that’s good.  Now I get to actually deliver my parting comments.  You don’t really want to know but the gist of it included terms like “flaky”, “inept”, “unhelpful”, “confusing” along with some others.

My lessons are:  (1) trust my gut and when it says “RUN” I should run.  (2) if turning over personal property… even if it is broken and useless… get a receipt.  Yeah… I know better. And lastly (3) get a case number… it will just make life easier.

Thanks to friends and a significant amount of time spent retrieving the data from a different ‘bad” disk I/we now have our files back and fully backed up.  I’m right where I started about 2 weeks ago and I hope that the perfect storm of disk failure doesn’t do us under again.

My message to you is “BACKUP”… somehow, but do it.  I’ll leave you to your own judgement about calling Data Retieval to help you if you find yourself in a position where they may be a source of recovery.  Ask for David or Mark.  Good luck to all of us.

There was no fire….

It’s true.   There was no fire.  But it felt like it in many respects.

I know I’ve posted about this topic in the past and I really thought I had learned a HUGE lesson.  Then I had a perfectly destructive storm in terms of low probability and significant consequence.

OK.. this is a geeky topic but here goes.  Data backup.  I’ve lost files in the past due to my lack of regular backup.  Last time I lost some files that were pretty darn nice.  That taught me new respect for backing things up.  I’ve been operating with a set of external Western Digital drives for over a year.  I have a master drive that keeps all our client files (most important) and a collection of business files and internet download stuff.  I had another Western Digital drive that was used as a storage area for all our personal images… you know, like images of Kendyl at birth, Gina’s doll collection and the miscellaneous landscape, flower, bug images I collect.  Then I had yet another WD drive that was used as a backup drive for all the above.  Oh yeah, there is a another WD drive sitting beside me that has our entire collection of India images on it.  In a box and stored away are other drives with personal images from previous years.  All these drives have Lightroom catalogs built to store any edit instructions.  Those catalogs are kept on the PC’s C drive and are backed up on the big, external WD backup drive.

And then it happened.  I turned the PC off one night as I always do.  The backup drive, the master client drive and the 2011 personal image drives were all hooked up… as they had been for months.  The next morning I got up and turned the machine back on and found only the master client drive.  I figured it must have been an anomaly during the boot up phase so I restarted the PC.  Gulp.  Same situation.  I turned the PC off and disconnected the invisible drives and then turned the PC back on and plugged the drives in one at a time.  Nothing.  Not good.  It felt like I’d had a fire and lost all the photos that are important to us.  I walked away and thought it through.  The good news is that the client files were safe (although they are on a WD drive like the ones that failed).  The bad news is that these irreplaceable files were no longer backed up.  The really bad news was that the original AND BACKUP copies of our personal images had disappeared.  You can imagine my vocabulary as I Googled WD hard disk failure and learned that I am not alone by any means… lots of others with similar stories.

I headed to Best Buy and bought a new Seagate drive to use as a backup.  I’ve had trouble with Seagate in the past as well so it was a bit hard to buy another one.  It hooked up just fine and I spent the better part of a day building new backup files for these important files, the Lightroom catalogs and all our business files that I had access to.  One wasted day when I should have been processing weddings and high school seniors.

I really thought I had it covered.  What are the chances of having a drive of original files and their backups lost at the same time?  So now I’m sitting here with a fully backed up set of client files that have been fully processed for two weddings and all our client files for several years past.  I just took the WD drive with out personal images to a data recovery company which I hope will tell me that they can get to the files that are really important to me/us…. Kendyl and dolls.  Yeah, I can shoot the dolls again if Gina lets me but I’ll never be in room with Kendyl again when she is just 1.5 hours old.  I’m trying my best to reconcile that I do have a set of small JPG files on the iPads or website that I can use.  Actually, these files are larger and better than you get from a variety of point-and-shoot cameras so all is not entirely lost.  But I’m wondering what to do now.  I’m looking at “the cloud” for storage of important files.  That means more time and work to get them there.  I’m looking at Drobo drives to set up a RAID system that automatically backs things up system wide.  Frankly, I’m flustered and don’t have a clear plan of attack.  Any thoughts from you about options to store 1000’s of images safely are welcomed.

I think I’ll go read a book.  At least I didn’t lose those in “the fire”.



The title of this entry is not a word you want to hear about the only credit card you have with you as you travel to your son’s wedding.  Every thing was going wonderfully yesterday until I updated our financial records in Quicken before heading for bed.  The update went along normally but ended with a message that our Visa account was closed and to contact our financial institution.  Say what?  We’ve used this card for at least 10 years and I had paid all the existing charges before leaving Portland.  I just wanted to make sure we had a clean slate in case something came up on the road.

I went online to Bank of America and, sure enough, the Visa account was no longer showing in our list of accounts.  Perfect.  We got a number to call about the account and listened patiently (sort of) as a recorded voice read me a list of payments made and other info about the account.  The recording stopped with “this account has been closed”.  That wasn’t very rewarding.  We found another number to call about card questions and got redirected to the fraud department at B of A.  I was not feeling better as this transpired.  We finally got to talk to a human and, with Dianne’s encouragement to be calm, I entered into a conversation about “help me understand” and “what are my options”.  I gave him all the information I’ve been trained to never divulge over the phone… gulp.  He reported back that, yes, the account had been closed after Visa had reported potential fraud.  It seems that one of the merchants I had used had been hacked and there was concern that my account info could be compromised.  That seemed reasonable to me and my pusle slowed a bit.  He explained that I’d have a new account set up, a new card issued and that any balance on the old one would roll to the new one.  No worries.

I explained that I was traveling for the next 2.5 weeks and would not be home to get my new card when it arrived in the mail.  I also explained that every motel I have reservations at for the coming weeks is using the old number.  “Not to worry” he says.  You can continue to use your old card just like usual.  Say what?  We repeated this question and answer for 3 or 4 iterations and he convinced me that I’d be OK.  I got a number to call if any merchant has a problem processing our old card.  Gulp.  We’ll find out a week from Tuesday when we check into the motel in West Glacier.

This morning there is a brand new Visa account showing in our list of accounts at B of A and all looks to be in order.  We’ll move on but be watching this until we get home and get some success history with the new card.

I’ll leave you with an image taken in Superior, MT this morning.  Dianne and I pulled in to get some coffee since it seems I didn’t sleep all that well last night… wonder why.  We pulled into the market and entered a typical, small town store.  I was pretty amazed when I approached the deli counter.  There is a guy’s reflection in the glass that shows the consequence of eating this stuff.  Absolutely nothing there that wasn’t deep fried.  Welcome to rural Montana.  To be fair, we just shopped at a very nice, up-scale market in Bozeman that rivals most any store in Portland.  Off we go…


This post comes to you without a picture.   You ask, “Why”?  Because my camera is still in line for repairs in New Jersey.  So, this post is 100% rant for me and maybe a warning for you.  Here goes.

I bought a 3 year extended warranty when I purchased my D2Xs.  I rarely (if ever) do this and I was relieved that I had when the camera stopped working 6 months after the Nikon warranty ceased.  The extended warranty is with Mack Camera Repair (www.mackcam.com).  I sent the camera in to Mack on the 11th of September via UPS.  I chose to not expedite the delivery so it arrived at Mack on September 17th.  The Mack website says to allow 3 days to get an item entered into their system.  3 days…. not 3 hours.  I clearly don’t know how complicated it is to unpack an item, retrieve the paperwork enclosed, turn to a computer terminal and key in the Return Authorization number they provided when I requested the service via their website.  It must be a very complicated procedure to enter the information…maybe the workers demand and get an hour break after each key entry.  Like I said… I just don’t know.

Mack says that I’ll get an email message once the item is registered in their system.  I got tired of waiting for the message and went to their website and keyed in my information to check the repair status on the 24th of September.  I learned that the camera had been received and was in line for a technician for repair.  I got their email telling me this several days later.  I guess the automated message system in their computer gets the benefit of frequent, extended breaks as well.

Today was my self-imposed deadline to take the next step and call Mack to see if I could find out anything about the timeline for repairs.  I hesitated doing this because I fully expected to get a long voice mail routine of keying in “1” or “3” or all the numbers associated with my customer ID or Return Authorization.  I did not expect any satisfaction… none.  Well, to my surprise I got to talk to a human after cycling through a fairly limited menu system of choices.  I had my headset on and was prepared to wait for 20 minutes (another personal deadline) and was settling in to make my daily sweep through my favorite blogs when a lady answered the phone.  I asked if there was any way to get an estimate of the time for repairs.  She took my RA number and told me that it would be another 10-20 business days.  10-20 days just to get to the camera and let me know if it is repairable.  Aaaaaarrrrrgggggghhhhh…

Knowing full well that there is nothing I can do to expedite the repair time I chose to not say what I was thinking…. darn hard for me to do, thank you.  I explained that I understood that they were busy but that it was really frustrating at my end to not get any information or to wait this long for repair (or not).  She said she understood… not that they were sorry or that they were working on increasing their staff or process for quicker workflow.  She understood my frustration.  Wow… that sure made me feel valued and confident.  NOT.

So… the call is documented and the clock is running.  I’m just glad that I have backup gear that I can use for jobs in the meantime.   Was the extended warranty worth the angst?  Time will tell.

End of rant.