There were tons of birds on Bellingham Bay this morning – grebes, cormorants, herons, mergansers – here are some of the photos from this morning’s catch…
It was amazing in Bellingham yesterday – the lighting was soft, the boardwalk was quiet, the atmosphere was mellow…
As I was coming back I saw two kingfishers circling around each other and diving into the bay side-by-side and then rising out of the water and flying together for awhile. Too late I thought to videotape it – by the time I got my camera rolling, they were no longer up to their shenanigans. I did get a picture of one of them taking a rest, though…
I stopped to chat about the kingfishers with a young man named Matt. Matt had come to Bellingham from Spokane to participate in a climbing competition and we talked about climbing for awhile. Then I wished him well in the competition, and he wished me well on my blog, and we parted new friends.
I think it is pretty near impossible to have a bad day in Bellingham.
Yesterday my husband, Scott, and I took Samantha the Wonderdog up to Bellingham for a walk along the boardwalk. I took some photos of goldeneye ducks and dogs – the usual stuff 🙂 – but yesterday the thing that most captured my interest was the animal known as Homo sapien photographicus – or the “professional photographer.”
Scott is a photojournalist – he works as a photographer and photo editor at the local paper, and currently teaches a photojournalism class at Western Washington University. I think we can safely say he “knows his stuff.” And so when I asked a random woman with two young children if she’d mind taking a photo of Scott and myself, Scott right away picked up on the fact that she had a camera with a massive lens attached to it strapped to her back – and told me I’d picked the right person to take our photo. It turns out, in fact, I couldn’t have found a better person to take our picture – Holly Michelle is a professional photographer with her own photography business in Bellingham (http://www.hollymichelleblog.net/holly-michelle-photo-blog/tag/bellingham-children-photographer). Forget the photo of Scott and myself – now I wanted a photo of these two photographers standing together:
It was fun meeting Holly Michelle, but the Homo sapien photographicus celebration wasn’t done, yet – we hadn’t gone maybe 50 yards when who should appear but my old friend, Darryl Gunderson. I’d met Darryl on the boardwalk a couple years ago – we’d seen each other taking pictures of birds or something and began to chat and discovered we had a wonderful connection: His Aunt Gladdy and my mom and dad had worked together in Mount Rainier National park 60 years before – Gladdy was actually one of Mom and Dad’s closest friends!
We stopped to chat with Darryl, and he and Scott talked Camera for awhile: They remembered, fondly, an old photography professor they’d both had at WWU years ago, and then talked about their cameras and the cameras they’d like to own – they talked about sensors, and f-stops and shutterspeeds and Canons and Nikons and Samsungs and something that sounded like a “c-x.”.
And as I was listening to them I found myself getting kind of humbled. I didn’t know all these terms they were using. I don’t speak Camera. Darryl laughed and assured me that there was a big difference between talking about photography and talking about shopping for cameras. But… all the Camera-speak got me thinking about my place in the world of Homo sapien photographicus. To be honest, I’m not sure I can really call myself one of them. I’ve never actually taken photography classes. I’ve never been disciplined or committed to this craft. I just sort of… you know… see things that strike me as amazing and snap a picture. I guess I have some natural instincts about balance and line and color – but it’s all kind of intuitive for me.
There are gizmos on my camera that I still do not know how to use.
Yeah. It is embarrassing.
As I pondered my place in the world of photographers I was reminded of the time a professor from WWU, Brenda Miller, contacted me and asked me if WWU’s Bellingham Review could feature my photos in their 2014 spring edition. She’d seen my photos on fineartamerica.com and thought they represented really well the spirit of Bellingham. I was flattered by Brenda Miller’s request and, of course, agreed to send some black-and-white photos to the Bellingham Review. Professor Miller asked if they might conduct an interview with me, and I agreed to this, too. It was kind of a heady time for me. 🙂
But although my photos were featured in the 2014 spring edition of the Bellingham Review, the interview never popped up in print anywhere. I was kind of relieved about that. The interview reveals pretty clearly how far away from Homo sapien photographicus I actually am.
But what the heck? You know, maybe now – when I’m already feeling kind of humbled – might be the perfect time to share that never-before-published interview from 2014 – so here it is – the interviewer was a graduate student named Lee, and the interviewee was yours truly:
Tell us about your gear. What do you shoot on currently?
Well, this is kind of embarrassing. I don’t carry around all the way cool cameras and lenses and tripods you see most professional photographers using. I use a little Nikon Coolpix (16 megapixels 12x). It fits right in my pocket, and when something catches my eyes I can pull that baby out really quick –without a lot of fumbling around or adjusting lenses – and capture the moment I want to capture. My husband, who is a photojournalist, has been trying to convince me to buy myself a bigger camera, with more power. But I’m not quite there, yet.
How did you become interested in photography as a form of artistic expression?
There’s this great Roald Dahl quote that I think expresses really well my thoughts about the magic that artists tap into in their work: “Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
About five years ago I experienced a severe depression – I’d never gone through anything like that before – it was really weird, and really challenging. It was also one of the best things that ever happened to me. It forced me to focus on the moment – to notice things I probably wouldn’t have noticed before – little insects on leaves, reflections in water, the colors and patterns around me. There’s nothing better for capturing those moments than photography.
Around the same time I became acquainted, through the internet, with a woman who lives in Nova Scotia and suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. I wanted to share my part of the world with her, but I knew she’d probably never be able to travel out here because of her illness. I started taking pictures for her. Kathi is an artist, and I wanted to take photos that her artist’s eye would be able to appreciate. I tried to see the beauty of Bellingham as Kathi might see it if she ever came out here – as a tourist and an artist might see it – everything new and never-seen-before.
You mentioned that you attempt to use your writing and your photography to share with others the beauty and joy you see around you. In your words, how are writing and photography connected or comparable?
This is a great question.
I actually have three blogs right now – one that I use mostly for photography, one that I use mostly for writing, and a humor blog that I use as an outlet for my inner hooligan. They all have their place – each offers a different avenue for expressing my perception of the world. Photography captures the moments as they present themselves. Writing helps me process those moments – analyze and synthesize and interpret. And humor underlies it all.
[Off the record] Do you feel comfortable articulating the challenging experience you went through? If not, no problem.
On the record: Oh, no problem-o. I went through a massive depression. Weirdest thing I’ve ever been through. I’ve always been a really joyful person, so working my way through the depression was like exploring a totally foreign world for me. I’m really glad, in retrospect, that I went through that time, though. It made me more empathetic to others, I think. Before that experience if someone had told me that he was depressed, I would have felt really bad for him, but I wouldn’t have been able to understand what his depression actually felt like. After the depression had ended, I was left with some really cool gifts, too – one of them being a greater awareness of the beauty in each moment – I had to learn to focus on each moment to get myself through that time.
Say a word or two about your connection to the Pacific Northwest–specifically Bellingham and landmarks like the boardwalk or landscapes like Lake Padden–and the way that connection influences your photography? [I’m curious to know what you might say about the landscape, weather, light, people, etc.]
I’ve lived in the PNW all my life, and I’ve lived near Bellingham since 1985. I love this part of the state. Bellingham’s tucked between the Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains, so Bellingham attracts folks who enjoy playing in the outdoors – paddle-boarders, skiers, bikers, trail runners, climbers, hikers – snowboarding was actually invented on Mount Baker, which is about an hour to the east. And because Bellingham is a university town – home to WWU – there’s a really amazing literary and artistic culture here, too. For photographers, Bellingham is Paradise. The natural beauty of Bellingham – the light playing on the water and in the clouds, the wildlife that lives in and near the bay and Lake Padden – there’s always something to capture in a camera. I discovered Lake Padden before I discovered the Bellingham boardwalk – when my sons were youngsters, I brought them to Padden to play in the water, hike around the lake, and build “dinosaur nests” out of the big egg-shaped rocks that line the lake’s shore. It was really only about five years ago – when I was going through the depression – that I became acquainted with the boardwalk. The first time I stepped onto it, I felt an immediate connection with the people, the trees, the water, the wildlife. Everything in my body just relaxed, and I felt at peace. I always feel like my thirsty soul gets rehydrated when I’m near the bay.
Name some photographers or writers who have influenced your worldview and your work.
So many! There’s a writer named J. Allen Boone – probably best known for his book, Kinship with All Life – who wrote another book called You Are the Adventure – I think the friendly chattiness of that book helped me find my own literary voice. My tastes in literature are pretty eclectic. My worldview has been influenced by, among others, Mark Twain, John Irving, and Margaret Atwood. I’ve also recently discovered Kurt Vonnegut and am very much enjoying his take on the glories and foibles of human nature. My spiritual outlook has been influenced by the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, Eckhart Tolle, Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and a minister of the late 1800’s named Henry Drummond who wrote a book about love called The Greatest Thing in the World. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Miracle in the Andes, Boys on the Boat, Born to Run – these non-fiction stories about people overcoming great challenges have inspired me to be braver, and more open to life’s possibilities.
And, for photography, I don’t think you can beat the work of Ansel Adams.
And here are the photos of the goldeneye duck and the dogs I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post:
Today was full of some pretty amazing magic! As I was driving home through Skagit County, Washington, I looked over to my left and saw a field full of ducks, trumpeter swans, AND snowgeese. I realized that I’d forgotten to bring my Samsung with me, but I dug out my old Nikon Coolpix and managed to snap a few shots before the battery died on me…
When I got home I grabbed my Samsung and headed up to Bellingham. In Boulevard Park I spotted a kingfisher sitting on a post maybe ten yards from me. He sat still for a few minutes and let me snap his picture, before abruptly leaving his perch and diving into the bay for lunch…
I love it when magic happens.