Sunday, April 27, 2014

Palpable Bonds

When Oakley was a tiny puppy, she stuck to her older "sister" Lucy like glue.  She would imitate whatever Lucy was doing.  This old photo of Lucy and Oakley illustrates the bond they began to develop when Oakley was a young pup.  It's my favorite picture of the two together.

 As Oakley grew, the bond between them intensified.  Oakley is a year old here and she's snuggled up against Lucy, whose arm is around Oakley's body.  Another sweet memory of the two together.

I see a similar bond developing between Oakley, now ten, and my new puppy Gracie.  Oakley puts up with all kinds of puppy antics from Gracie.  You can see the adoring look on Gracie's face as she looks up to Oakley.

Wherever Oakley goes, Gracie follows.  Until last week, if Oakley wanted to escape from Gracie's puppy pesterings, she'd jump up on the bed.  But now Gracie has learned to jump up on the bed, so she snuggles with Oak there too.  

 There are times when Oakley wants a break from the continual playing with Gracie and communicates that desire by ignoring her.  Message received, Gracie then goes off on her own and takes a puppy nap.  Those heavy eyelids signal she's ready for a snooze too.

Sometimes I wonder what the communication between the two of them actually means.  Here it looks like Gracie is whispering something into Oakley's ear.  But she's actually getting ready to groom the inside of Oakley's ear.  Almost every day, Gracie will lick Oakley's ears, teeth, and her face.  It's a wonderful display of the palpable bonds between the two.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What's It Like Up Here in the Winter?

I was done with winter photography.  Then I had a conversation with Pamela Grath on her Books in Northport blog.  She wrote me, "I've been thinking that someone should make up a poster of amazing photographic evidence of what we have endured and title it, "What's It Like Up Here in the Winter?" People ask that question every year, and if we had the poster we'd all be prepared to point to the answer. What do you think, Karen?"  So here's my version of a "What's It Like Up Here in the Winter?" Post(er).

I've learn that winter is a process, similar to other things in our lives.  Winter starts with little warnings.  A few times beginning in early November, we get flurry activity.  We wake up and see a dusting of snow, not enough to cover the ground, but enough to let us know what's coming.

Then one day, usually in mid-November to early December, the warnings stop and the real deal occurs.  Big fluffy snowflakes begin falling and don't stop until the ground is covered and the trees are coated. It is so beautiful and all we can think about is getting outdoors to immerse ourselves in winter's loveliness.  Snowshoes and cross country skis are brought up from the basement and we quickly get into enjoying winter's gifts.

Ice begins to build up along the shorelines of the Bays and Lake Michigan.  And except for an occasional breakthrough of sunshine, gray skies predominate.

As the snow deepens, the landscapes become pristine.  Yet the bleak desolation symbolizes the isolation inhabitants sometimes feel during the winter.  We who live with real winter on a daily basis have to work hard to connect with others to avoid the cabin fever that often sets in.

 As the Bays and Lake freeze over, the snow, ice, and sky create a stark, almost monochromatic view.

Occasional breaks in the cloud cover allow for a peek at the sunset.  Time:  5:15 pm.

At winter's peak, the snow is so deep, one can hardly see the vistas from a car.  Yet, hope for spring begins to arrive with changes in the sky at the end of February into March.  Patches of blue signal longer days and a change from the constantly gray skies.

Out for a drive and always in search for new subjects, I spot a Sun Dog through a hole in the piles of snow near Peterson Park.  Feeling lucky to catch something new.

As part of winter's seamless transition to spring, bare spots begin to emerge where piles of snow recently had covered the ground.  More bright days than gray ones enliven our surroundings.

And finally, in this last part of winter, the ice on the Lake and Bay begins to break up.  Ice sculptures collapse, stress fractures form, and ice bergs are tossed around by wind and wave action.  With these last vestiges of winter underway, spring cannot be far away.  What's It Like Up Here in the Winter?  These images give you an idea of what we hearty souls who stay here year around experience.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

More Fence Jumpers

I was working on my computer in the living room, when puppy Gracie began to growl.  I looked out my sliding doors and saw a line of five turkeys walking along my fence.  Since I rarely see turkeys in my woods, I immediately went into my study, flipped on my camera, and focused on the turkey closest to my fence.

I wasn't sure what the turkeys would do, but it was fun watching these new visitors.  Their feathers were beautiful, almost iridescent.  If I'm remembering what my good friends who are turkey experts have told me, I  think this might be a hen because this bird appears to lack the beard that hangs down the necks of toms.

As I was admiring the turkey feathers, one flew to the top tier of my fence.  Hmm.   It looks like I might have more fence jumpers.

As the bird landed and turkey-waddled towards my feeders, I saw from this angle what might be a beard on its neck.  So may be this is a tom versus a hen.  I'm not sure.

But my attention was quickly drawn to a second turkey preparing to fly over the fence.  What a wing span it displayed!

Quickly, it fluttered to the ground, its wings a blur in the flight.

Soon four turkeys were enjoying the seed dropped on the ground by my sloppy-eating bird friends.  It looks like I have a new breed of bird friends today. 

One of the five turkeys chose not to jump the fence and continued on alone through the woods.   I enjoyed watching the turkeys for another twenty minutes, and then they flew back over the fence and followed the loner through the woods.  I wonder if I will have more fence-jumpers this spring?   I've had visiting bears destroy my feeder systems in past years, but have never caught one on camera.  It would be thrilling to see a bear close enough to capture on camera, but another part of me, prefers to keep a safe distance from this critter.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Wind and Waves Sculpt the Ice

As we inch our way into spring, and the temperatures rise to 50 for the first time in months, I watch the changing ice patterns that are occurring on the Big Lake. 

Pressure ridges form from the stress of colliding ice planes thrust together by wind and wave action. 

This pressure ridge runs all the way from Lee Point to Traverse City.

Shorelines become littered with great piles of ice.

Sand mixes in with the icy heaps.

Ice caves, once strong and large enough to accommodate people, collapse in on one another.

It's all a cycle we must go through to finally say good-bye to winter.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Would They Return?

After I was lucky enough to photograph the two deer who'd let themselves into my backyard a few days ago, I wondered if they'd return.  I knew if they did, I wanted to try capturing their jumps over my fence.  My camera was on its tripod and my settings in burst mode were primed for the deer's return.  Burst or continuous mode shoots several frames a second and allows the photographer to capture a whole sequence of motion. 

It all happened very fast.  The first deer cleared the fence before I was out of my chair.  But I was at my camera when the second deer started her jump.  I could see right away from the markings on her flank that it was the deer I call Lucy.

My jaw dropped in awe at the height she attained in clearing the fence.  I'm glad I didn't have to think much about settings and just kept the shutter button depressed while I watched her progress over the fence.  The snow is so deep in the backyard.  I have a three tier split-rail fence and the snow is up to the second rail.  How did she gain such momentum when she started her jump from a standstill?

Making her landing without missing a step, Lucy headed over to the corner where her now-grown fawn was munching on my hemlock tree branches.

 But on her way to the corner, she turned and looked me in the eye, in a way acknowledging our connection.

 The two deer munched a while together.  There isn't much difference in their sizes now.

Before I could capture its movement, the young deer jumped the fence and joined the rest of the pack who were taking a more circuitous route to my feeding stations.

Lucy continued to eat from the hemlock boughs a while longer.

Eventually, she followed the fence line and jumped over to join the other deer.  While she was out of my range by then, once again I felt fortunate to have photographed the deer as they enjoyed my yard.