My Fair Lady

Joseph is located in NE Oregon, the gateway to Wallowa Mountains (‘little Switzerland in Oregon’). It is the kind of place where I go back to visit every once a while and never get tired of it. The town is surrounded by a breathtaking mountain range and inhabited by many talented artisans who make gorgeous copper statues. I snapped the shot walking down the street there a couple of years ago.

To appreciate the image further, I decided to give it a painting touch. I got rid of the clutters on the street and kept only the beautiful fall colors and my favorite mountain backdrop. I don’t know who is the artist for this statue but I certainly give him/her my best respect and gratitude.

Simply Oregon

People are tired of staying home, but not all can easily get out of the house and enjoy the peace of quiet and solitude. But here, a 10-min drive will get you somewhere with greens, colors, wildlife, and nature songs like creek water and bird calls.

Came from a densely-populated city, this natural and wild environment is fresh air for me. When I left Taiwan 30+ years ago, the only bird I ever noticed is the sparrow and now ‘new’ birds are being added to my list of hundreds regularly.  Frogs are nothing uncommon but I have never seen 8 of them in a short walk, and, it’s my first time seeing a toad.

Back in April, the strawberries from the local farms are absolutely godly delicious. I don’t buy lbs or baskets, I bought flats (12 baskets) to enjoy them fresh, make fruit desserts and jams. Even in a gourmet store, you cannot find homemade jams with authentic (non-hot house) and fresh strawberries.

When the strawberry fever is diminishing, we have Blueberries to expect for July-Aug. Lots of organic farms as well as U-pick places. The large (kids call it ‘Jumbo’), juicy, and sweet blueberries are fearlessly tempting to kids and adults.

The United States is one of the main hazelnuts producers in the world and Oregon produces 99% of the American hazelnuts in the beautiful Williamette Valley. Not only possesses high nutrition value, but Hazelnuts also have a distinctive flavor that does not exist in other nuts.

A relaxing Friday, nothing dramatic, simply Oregon.

A Past-Due Post

It’s a summer July day. Sun is aggressively scorching the ground. I took a morning walk to skip the heat and now in the shade, being combed by the breeze and listing to the fountain water sound. Oregon summer can be hot but never been intolerable. Temperature ranges from high 50 to low 80 in a day is normal and this comfortable range lasts from June to September or even October.

I had my first real estate listing in March, sold the house on the second day of my first open house, the absolutely last weekend before the open house was banned due to coronavirus.  A second deal came to me while I was working on the first deal. As a result, first deal was closed in April and the second one in May.  Real Estate is a brand-new advendure for me and I’ve invested my mind and soul into it. An intensive couple of months plus the coronavirus spread have made me wander my second move.

Short-Earred Owl

Work has never bothered me, but days without camera were hard. I kept feeling that I missed something, I think, due to lack of creativity output regularly. Not pursuing perfect bird images, bird walks give me chance to easily stay in touch of my camera and the Nature. So we made a camping trip to the wildlife refuge. Have not camped for years, I was concerned that we might miss lots of essential items, but as it turns out, we have brought everything we need, had a great time and now in the process of planning any trip.

MacGillivray’s Warbler

Walking through the trail with birds flying, calling and singing from both sides of the trail is an amazing experience. For bird lovers, any discovery of a new bird is rewarding. So many targets are within the range and some of them are so colorful… at some point, I did not know where to aim my camera. Wablers are my favorite, but they are small, move fast and hard to be photographed.

Cedar WaxwingCommon Yellowthroat is commonly-known, but I have never seen one. Not until recently I began to identify their call and unexpected, I was able to capture a few shots. Besides Cedar Waxwing, this cute warbler has become my new love.

Common Yellowthroat

After a long pause, I am glad that I am back, blogging and sharing. More about Oregon Life to come.

Oregon Lifestyle – what to do?

A clear and bright winter day is precious since Oregonian’s slogan is ‘rain or shine, business as usual.’ We packed up our cameras and went on a birding drive. Within a 25 mins drive distance from home, we had great fun ‘capturing’ various flyers.

In Oregon, when you are out of the house, you are quickly stepping into nature. When the birds sing, you can hear it. When they fly, you can easily follow them around.  Western Meadowlark is about, but they are usually too far away for a clear shot. Just when I thought I finally grabbed him standing in the perfect light (and close enough), he suddenly turned his head, and my click sound scared him away. Luckily I was able to record their songs.

Spring lambs are out running after their Moms. The adults are hairy enough to be sheared.  The bird buddies enjoyed being cushioned on their backs. Here I see not only nature but also harmony among the creatures. Very often, I feel I am inspired and touched by mother nature. It is the life in Oregon that drives me to observe all these amazing things behind nature.

I live in the 3rd largest city Eugene where there might not have abundant job opportunities like Portland, but the work-from-home folks and people who are in public services still have plenty of jobs to pursue. Many private small businesses offer a family-like working environment where the task becomes a pleasure and co-workers like your family or friends.  With its central location, you can travel north or south to other big cities. Go west to the Pacific Ocean (the famous Oregon coast) and east to Central and Eastern Oregon, the high desert area where you go for recreational activities, e.g., hiking and skiing. *Oregon is unique for its versatile geological features, you see it all in one state. In addition to the 50 hiking trails within reach, there are 100 miles of biking trails. Imagine biking along the river…

Portland, including metropolitan areas, covers a significant ground. Obviously, it is the business and career central. However, unlike other big cities, Portland is beautiful, natural, and has easy access to the nature-enhanced living.   Columbia River Gorge, Willamette River, Mount Hood, and countless scenic sites by the river, on the mountain top, or solely around the city.

Salem is the 2nd largest city with the typical capital city ambiance, clean and organized. If you like to have steady government jobs, this is where you want to be. In fact, you can commute from other smaller towns with short driving distance. Usually, ‘downtown’ does not translate the pleasant feelings, but it’s enjoyable to hang out downtown Salem classic neighborhood and riverfront.

Eugene is a college town, cultural and intellectual. It is also a center of artists who create unique artwork and art pieces. I like the ‘just right’ population size, the easy and fast access to nature and the friendly residents here.

(Oregon Lifestyle – 3)

Oregon Lifestyle – 2

On the recent trip to California for a family matter, I saw California is not as brown as it used to. The snowfall has passed down south, and water enriched the land.  Interstate 5 is the primary channel to connect California and Oregon. I barely used my camera inside California, but when the scenery began to change, and I constantly had the urge to raise my camera, I know I am closer to home in Oregon. This time instead of going all the way I-5 north, we decided to take Hwy 97 north… and pretty soon, my camera battery was exhausted.

Born as a Chinese and cultivated as one, I have a strong tie attached to the culture and am so easily attracted to that smokey and dreaming ambiance in a traditional Chinese brush painting. We could not stop at the freeway, and the windshield is filthy. The wind blew hard, an attempt to open the sunroof failed. So I began to shoot through the window.

I like things to be natural, authentic, and less man-made.  The above picture has a blue hue out of the camera, and the image below is almost black and white.

It came the sunset time, the golden tone was coated on everything. So pure and so original.

We love to photograph birds because Oregon has so many of them. The region we drove by was frozen solid, but Raptors are aggressive predators, and they were almost the only ones around besides a couple of Bald Eagles whose white head stood out on the snow.

I hang out with many seasoned birders, but I have to confess that I don’t make efforts to identify the birds or keep track of the bird count. I simply enjoy them and care mostly about how the image turns out.

Oregon lifestyle – why live in Oregon?

When I moved to Oregon more than two decades ago, one of my sales reps said to me, “What’s in Oregon besides Nature and Sports?” She said, ” Oregonians have nothing to do, and that’s why you go to the ball games.” I know it is our work relationship that she did not want me to leave California. And yet, deep inside, I was unsure myself if it was the right move. Then self-employed, I can live anywhere, why Oregon? Then self-employed, I could live anywhere. I was longing for peace and tranquility. Oregon is close to my California siblings. The green nature was calling.

I pulled my girls from their circle of friends and sustained their complaint, ” There are barely malls here and the boys all look so pale, no nurture of sunshine. ” Soon enough, they made friends in new schools and the comfort of mild weather bring them smiles.  The first thing I noticed myself moving here is the service quality offered by the retailers. The clerks are more caring and customer-service oriented. This is still true up to this day.

Oregon Coast

Here in Northwest, there are distinctive four seasons. You enjoy the mild spring and fall with the warmer and cooler pattern. Summer can be hot but dry, has never been scorching and sweating hot. The temperature all year round is within a comfortable range.  Speaking of Oregon, people often question about rain.  In fact, it does not rain all day long, and the vast green is a major reward. It may snow in wintertime, but very rarely and the snow does not stick for days. People here are actually longing for snow which will give kids a few fun days to walk on the snow and do a bit of sledding.

Four seasons :

Instead of going to the restaurants and shops, we go into Nature birding, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, river rafting, rock climbing, skiing, and anything else Nature can offer.  Hiking and biking trails are around town and within reasonable reach. A healthy lifestyle comes natural living in the surroundings as such.

Trinity Lake

There is a reason why I become a photographer.  You may have heard that Oregon is the photographer’s haven. No shame to gain this name.  When my Taiwan college friends decide to have our reunion trip to Oregon, I was completely unsure of the outcome. To the end, I was confirmed and reconfirmed that the Oregon trip was an unforgettable one.  In the Northwest, we are granted a beautiful and natural living environment and have easy access to the mountains, rivers, waterfalls, creeks and even deserts. Geographic features vary from one region to the other within the State.

Sunrises at Crater Lake

The weather is nice. The scenery is awesome. The service quality is better. But how about Job opportunities? What to do here besides outdoor activities?  (to be continued)


Joseph – a Jewel of Oregon

Walking down the street, I thought this fair lady is waiting to cross the street. I waited and waited, but she did not move…

I am afraid of mice since I was little. However, I cannot help not to photograph this cute guy. I have seen blackbirds and egrets on the back of a cow, but a mouse on the nose of a moose seems new. Their little chitchat is intimate and friendly.

Two simple traditional horseshoes plus a small coil of wire are turned into a cowboy roper who is furnished with a cowboy hat and bandana. A small piece of whimsical art like this makes me smile.

Joseph, one of my favorite destination, is located in northeastern Oregon, on the foot of Wallowa Mountains – the ‘Swiss Alps’ of Oregon. Aside from her picturesque landscape, this town is full of sculpture artisans who produce amazing copper sculptures.  No place is like Joseph where you are surrounded by beautiful copperworks and gorgeous landscape.

Hay Bales

‘Three Sisters’, Bend, Oregon

Mountains are beautiful, but I took the picture because of the sage green hay bales. Either they are squares, rolls or piles, I just like them to be my subject. Brown haybales are what I usually see and that makes these sage green ones special.

On a special project, I might not be as punctual as I used to.


Treasure at Home

I don’t have a big bucket list. If I have to make choices among many things I want to do, travel is probably my priority.  I have seen a lot and still lots more to see. As I grow older, I feel my purpose of traveling has been changed. It is no longer a mindset of ‘I have been here’. It is more about my desire to see what I have missed and feel what I have seen.  It is the same as my photography journey and findings that make my heart leap.

We seem to have a tendency to look up, look further and look beyond in our life. While there are places and resources are available right in our fingertips, we are reaching out somewhere else to find them.  At least, I am that person.

Some time ago, I blogged about ‘Humble Avenue’ in Silicon Valley, California where I found my favorite classy quality homes that I did not think them available in Eugene. On a solo photo walk one day, I discovered the similar homes in University Avenue here in Eugene.
In the last two years, I have been going to the gardens in Salem and Portland area thinking there is nothing worthy in Eugene, then, I changed my perspective immediately one day when I decided to stop by Owen’s Rose Garden. There are surely many kinds of roses, so as other flowers, quite a variety. I am embarrassed to say that I have lived here for almost 20 years.

Oregon has gorgeous coastline and nice beaches. I have never really hang out in the beaches in Washington State till last weekend. I was very surprised to discover that Washington has only rock beaches. The beaches are mostly narrow and rough.  I was expecting to take some pictures with my grandchildren running on the beaches in front of white waves and bluish green water under sunrise and sunset, but rock beaches there have completely thrown out my pre-visualized ideas.

Treasure is right at home, but I kept looking afar.

Friends just toured Lake Louise in Canadian Rockies. The backdrop of Lake Louise is the glacier and that makes it a dramatic setting and stunning view. 

But, I wonder if there are other lakes as unique and sacred like Crater Lake. I have been Crater Lake at least 8 times and I am still going.  I have taken pictures from different angles of the rim, in different time of the day and different season of the year, but the results have not been the same.

My most favorite thing to do is to stand on the highest viewpoint and look down the calm and serene water. The ripples stirred up by the boat created patterns but there was no sound of engine. The reflection on water is almost like tonal etched glass.

This picture was taken as is, no cropping or post-processing. It was an utterly beautiful day. The sky was blue; The cloud was pure white;  Water is looking like glass. The reflection of the rim and cloud is absolutely stunning. I found it interesting to have the cloud reflected the second time on the sunroof of our car. 
Isn’t the coloration breath-taking? I even left the rock on the right because I want the addition of its color. It is so pure and yet so dramatic. Does it need more?
I only drive when I travel alone. Whenever I am a passenger, I usually have camera on my laptop and look for dramatic sky.  I snapped some sky shots while the car is moving, but have not come up anything that would give me a wow.
We had our alarm clock set at 3:00am, headed out of the door about 3:40am, and we were at Crater Lake half hour before sunrise (should be 5:45am). 

These two pictures were taken about one hour after sunrise. I first noticed the large patch of the cloud. Sun was behind. Backlighting makes white cloud dark. Just because the cloud is dark, I was immediately drawn to the sunray behind. And, God’s Glory came to my mind.

I have used this 18-200 zoom lens for at least 5 years. It is my utility lens. Convenient is the main reason that I carry it around, but it does not take tack sharp pictures.  I don’t have problem to get up at 3:00am, but I am not willing to carry a camera bag with multi lens. I want to  use one lens for all and that is not a good photography practice. I told myself not to use this lens for these shoot, but I did it again. 
Phantom Ship is one of the attractions at Crater Lake. Whoever named it phantom must be inspired with that spiritual and surreal outlook of the scene. Someone thought that it looks like a ship. I personally may name it a Lost Castle.
The reflection of the rim and blue sky have created a false landscape. Does the ship sit on water or land? Is the lighter blue sky or the darker blue, or, vis versa?
In an environment like this, illusion may take over reality. It is a solid island standing on water, but our imagination and surroundings have led us to a more spiritual realm. 
I have said earlier that this lake give me spiritual and sacred feeling and it is being proved here as well. If not for the orientation of the island (ship), I may not be able to distinguish the sky from the lake. 

On the Road

Down in bay area California to visit my siblings and run some errands.  Bright sun was shining on me the moment when I stepped out of the airport.  Instead of fog, it was sun ray, bright and cheerful. I had lived here for almost 8 years before I moved to Oregon. It is a familiar environment and all that warm and fuzzy feeling immediately came back to me. I sucked in toasty air and exhaled hoping the chill from home was being neutralized and get out of my system. I love fog, but I have had enough cold weather.
It was a nice change that I did not need a heavy jacket for a morning walk.  There were certainly more houses than trees down the streets, but backlit sunlight has cast beautiful tree shadows on rooftops. Trees are not timberline high, but they provide nice backdrops for rows of contemporary houses. Day was just about to break, these trees showcased a dramatic sky. The blue strip is the blue sky and it also resembles a coast line now I am looking at it. Nature is magical.
It has been above 65 most of the time since I got here.  Should not be a surprise, but it still was when I saw colorful pansy and poppy in full bloom. I expected to see some greens, certainly not full bloom flowers.  My urge was to take some close-up shots, but I did not bring my Macro lens, no polarizer either. Weight concerns, I often did not bring extra lens… When will I learn the lesson?

Just a few days before I left Oregon, I had a little photo tour myself shooting frosted plants. Except that most of the plants were distressed by the snow storm in December. The environment was as bare as it could be.  I was not too successful coming up something resembles what I did last year.  But I need to bring home something.  So I pick up a frosted leave and placed it on the pointed leaves of a dead tropical plant .  We tend to praise and portrait the beauty and the best, but I think reality ought to be addressed as well.

It is dead, dry and lifeless. I need to inject a bit of life to it and I thought about Orton effect. It is the Orton sandwiching technic that I used to make the image looking creaming and softer. Now desolation and bleakness are replaced with a hint of dream and a flare of art. And, The image starts to grow on me.
A yellow leaf is the first article that I had to write in a summer camp writing class back in middle school. I did not have any experience writing prior and had no clue what I can write about one yellow leaf.  We were given 45 minutes to write, but I simply could not write anything till the instructor announced, “20 minutes left”. I then jumped off and wrote three pages. In the end, I was in tears because I had mourned for the dead leaf for 20 minutes. How many silly things I have done in my life? I just began to count.
Taking enough winter images, I had intention to bring home something green, sunny or colorful.  Though there are some flowers, most of the vegetation is just gradually on its way out of winter. Evergreens are always there but they tend to be a mono green tone.

Light was beautiful. Though in multi colors, this massive grass plant has created distraction from all directions. I could not find myself a good angle of view.  So I decided to practice vertical panning and the result looked so orderly and not flexible that bored me to death.

I approached the same plant three times and took at least 50-60 shots from different angles and pan it from various orientation. I was determined to come out something. And this one finally caught my eyes. The white lines are the transformation of sunlight shooting through. All colors of the plant mingled and intertwined. I cannot paint bare-handed and my camera has given me a color paint brush to paint. Fun.

If I take this image at home in Oregon this time of the year, it won’t have the same effect, not enough colors.  But Oregon has the beauty of its own.  I could not get a decent thistle pictures for a long time and I managed to shoot this one that I like OK. I should have done some post processing to clean up the background, but I did not. I know I need to work on my DOF and focal point. While trying to get exposure right first, I often overlooked depth of field and lost track of my focal point. Practice, practice and practice.
I am ready for some warm weather.  I pray that we will be getting an early spring like we had last year.