RN Calendar 2015 – the Story Behind the Pictures

Robinson Noble’s friends and clients should start receiving the 2015 Robinson Noble calendar in the next few days. If you don’t receive one before the end of the year, send me an email and I’ll see what I can do.

As has become my tradition with each new edition of the calendar, I present the back story for each of the photos in the new calendar here in the blog. So if you are one of those people who like to be surprised each month with a new image, read no further!


Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National ParkThe calendar’s first image is was taken on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park on a day trip Tanya and I made up there in mid-January 2014. Always on the hunt for snow pictures for the December and January calendar entries, I thought a January trip to Hurricane Ridge would be perfect. Unfortunately, last winter there was a definite lack of snow early, and Hurricane Ridge had much less than normal. In this image, you can see bare spots that in a normal year would probably have at least three feet of snow. This image was shot about a mile west of the visitor center. The most memorable part of the trip was that our car died when reached the visitor center. This put a bit of stress on the day’s activities (snowshoeing for me, cross-country skiing for Tanya), not knowing how we would be getting home. But luckily the car started right up when I was finishing taking sunset shots, and luckily so, as the ranger was kicking everyone out of the parking lot for the night. The car, a Saturn Vue, had nearly 200,000 miles on it. When we got home, we took it to the mechanic. To make a long story short, we bought a new car a few weeks later.


Rainier Morning, Owens Beach, TacomaMount Rainier is one of my favorite subjects. With the mountain being so prominent in Tacoma, it is easy to photograph. I have many pictures of it, so many that I don’t remember the story behind all of them. Such is the case here. I don’t remember my motivation behind this image. It was taken in February 2010 from Owens Beach in Point Defiance Park here in Tacoma. As I think back on it now, I imagine I noticed a nice clear winter morning and headed out to see what I could photograph, and what better than Mount Rainier. Not being an early riser (a bad habit for a nature photographer), running down to Owens Beach is easy for me. Point Defiance is only about two miles from my house.


Cape Disappointment Light HouseWe had some nice weather last March, and this prompted me take a Friday off and head south to Cape Disappointment State Park with Tanya and our dog Nahla. Cape Disappointment State Park is at the mouth of the Columbia River, and for my money, is one of the more scenic state parks in the state. I like photographing lighthouses, and with two lighthouses Cape Disappointment State Park is a premier spot for lighthouse photography. This particular shot is of the Cape Disappointment Light (the other one in the park is the North Head Light). This image was taken from Waikiki Beach. I was hoping for a nice sunset to light up the scene, so we came to Waikiki early in the afternoon to scope it out for later sunset shots. This particular image was shot in that afternoon session. We did go back later in the day, but the sunset fizzled (there was a fog bank off shore blocking the sun). Regardless,  I did get some decent shots later as well, but Jim Hay (who is the final picker of calendar images) liked this one better. You can see more shots from that trip on my blog. By the way, if you go down there, be warned that Waikiki Beach and some other sections of the park close at dusk. When those sunset shots turned into blue hour shots last March, a grumpy park ranger ran me and my tripod off of Waikiki. Winter is a great time to photograph at Waikiki, as waves from big winter storms dramatically crash into the rocks below the light house.


Banks Lake and Steamboat RockThis is my favorite image of those I took last year. Early last April, Tanya and I took a trip to Spokane to see my parents. We decided to leave a day early to stop at Steamboat Rock State Park to take Nahla on a hike (and take a few photos, of course). It was beautiful sunny weather, but cold. I was hoping for some wildflowers shots, but we were several weeks too early. We did have a good little hike up Northup Canyon, and I took a few nice shots from the shoreline of Banks Lake with the sun setting directly behind Steamboat Rock. We stayed at a motel in Grand Coulee, and I got up early to head back to Banks Lake for sunrise. The sunrise colors, unfortunately, faded quickly, and I was only able to get one shot with any color in the sky. As the sun slowly rose into the clouds, the light became rather dull. But since I was out, I stopped without much enthusiasm at a couple more places along the shoreline. I found a small turnout next to a large rock formation with access to the shoreline. I climbed down over several boulders and was awarded with beautiful ripple patterns on the sandy lake bottom. Then, the sun briefly shone through a thin spot in the clouds right onto Steamboat Rock. The good light lasted about ten minutes, just long enough for me to make my favorite shot of the year.


Lime KIln State Park ShorelineLast Memorial Day weekend, some friends accompanied Tanya and I on a trip to San Juan Island. Though she allowed me to take my camera, Tanya repeatedly warned me that this was not a photo trip. Saturday was rather cloudy with dull light, so it was easy for me to keep the camera stowed. However, late in the afternoon, the sun came out. Mostly cloudy with clearing along the western horizon is prime conditions for a fantastic sunset. Knowing this, I started getting antsy – thinking I could possibly be giving up photographing the sunset of the year! Unfortunately, from Friday Harbor, you cannot see the western horizon, so I had no idea if the ideal conditions were there or not. Finally, I suggested we have an early dinner then drive out to Lime Kiln State Park on the western side of the island, and the group agreed (though Tanya gave the the eye). There was some nice light on the rocks, as seen on the image above, but the fantastic sunset I had imagined did not materialize. But since my camera was out, there was no putting it away, and I also captured a nice black and white image of the Lime Kiln Lighthouse.


CarouselIn June 2012 I was hired by American Bungalow magazine to shoot images for an article they were writing about Spokane. The great thing about his assignment was that while they wanted a few shots of bungalows, they also directed me to photograph whatever I wanted  in order to show the city using my own unique photographic style. One of the highlights of Spokane is Riverfront Park, so of course I headed down there one evening. Growing up in Spokane, I had always liked the lights of the carousel at Riverfront Park, and I knew I wanted to capture it after sunset. I was just in time too; a few minutes after this shot was taken, the lights were turned off. By the way, while American Bungalow did print 12 of my images for their article, they did not select this one.


Milky Way, 7 Lakes Basin, Olympic National ParkLast July I took a backpacking trip in Olympic National Park with my brother and his grandson. We did the loop trail through 7 Lakes Basin. This trail is famous for its wildlife, with lots of black bears, mountain goats, and elk. Though all three were reported in the area as we did our trip, we didn’t see any large animals except deer. Thus, I had to focus on landscape photography. Luckily, the 7 Lakes Basin is very scenic. We had warm, cloudless weather most of the trip. In landscape photography, clear blue skies are boring, and therefore, during daytime, landscape photographers always want a few clouds. But come night time, forget it. Give me clear skies because it is time to photograph the Milky Way. Prior to the trip, when it looked like the weather would be good, I researched where the Milky Way would be in the sky relative to our campsites. Lunch Lake, where we were camping our third night, looked to be a great candidate. As it turned out, there was a small tarn near our tent that I liked the view from better than the lake, and that tarn is the foreground water in this photo. The only problem was that there were two other campsites on the far side of this tarn. In one, there was a group of five or six women camped. I didn’t want to wait too late to take this shot because I wanted a little color in the sky (rather than pure blackness). And as I set up my tripod, I wondered whether I would get the shot or not because the women, whose camp was in the small trees in the center of the photograph, were having (from the sound of it) a very good time. This included repeatedly turning their flashlights on and off (more on than off). I took about five or six shots (each 20 to 30 seconds long), and this is the only one with their flashlights off for the entire exposure. The yellow glow on the horizon, which was not visible to my naked eye, is probably the glow of the Seattle metropolitan area.


Museum of Glass, TacomaSimilar to Mount Rainier, as I explained above for February, the Museum of Glass is a favorite local subject of mine and I don’t always remember my motivation behind each image. This image was taken in August 2012. I have no big story about this image; I think it was just a pleasant summer evening so I went down to the museum to shoot and found nice light on the reflection pond. Now that Robinson Noble’s office is downtown (behind the building on the far right in the photo), I may be shooting even more often at the Museum of Glass.


Seatlle Waterfront from West SeattleLast year I published an ebook titled Scenic Seattle, the Best Spots – Best Shots Guide to Photographing the Emerald City.  While working on that book, I spent a lot of time photographing in Seattle. This image was taken in September 2012 as part of that work. The view is from Seacrest Park in West Seattle, looking over Elliot Bay to the Seattle skyline. The image was taken shortly before sunset, with the setting sun giving a nice warm color to the city.


Tipsoo MorningDuring a period of clear weather in October 2011, I took a day off from work and headed up to Chinook Pass with Tanya. We made an early start so to reach Tipsoo Lake for sunrise. We got there in time, and I set up on the lake shore together with one other photographer. It was a few degrees below freezing, but I remember thinking it was much colder as my fingers seemed to freeze as we waited in the frosty grass for the sun to rise. This image was taken at 7:11 a.m. We ended up spending the day at the pass, taking a hike with the dog to Sheep Lake, then coming back to the Tipsoo area for more photography at sunset.


Cedar Creek Grist MillI’ve seen several photos of the Cedar Creek Grist Mill over the years, but always assumed it was in the Rockies or back east. Then, about two years ago, someone at one of the photo clubs I belong to showed a image of it, saying it was in Washington. At that point, I knew I needed to photograph it. Last year in November, I finally got a chance. I took a day off work to go do some photography. As the day was horribly rainy, I thought about what might photograph well in the rain and remembered the grist mill. So Tanya and I loaded up the car (we were between dogs at the time, so we took the cat with us; I don’t think the cat had a very good time) and headed out. The Cedar Creek Grist Mill is located east of Woodland in the Cascade foothills, and though we went in and out of rain on I5 as we drove south, it was raining steadily once we turned eastward into the hills. Normally the mill is only open on weekends, but we lucked out and it was open for a school group. The kids were leaving just as we arrived, and the grist mill volunteers showed us around after the kids left, even milling some corn for us. After touring the inside and learning the mill’s history, I donned rain gear (for both me and the camera) and took photos of the mill and the scenic covered bridge that crosses Cedar Creek at the mill site.


McMillan Spire This is the oldest image in the 2015 calendar. I took it in December 2009 when Tanya and I took a day trip up to the North Cascades. The North Cascade Highway is plowed during winter through Ross Lake National Recreation Area up to the trail access to Ross Dam. It’s a long drive from Tacoma, but this road provides good access into the mountains for winter photography. At the time, the snowpack was still relatively light, so I didn’t get the deep winter shots I was looking for. But the weather was clear, so it was a great day to be out on a drive. This image was taken from along the road, just past the bridge over Diablo Lake, using a telephoto lens to draw in the distance mountain tops.

Well there you go, the calendar images for 2015. Please leave a comment letting me know what you think!

Robinson Noble Moves “Uptown”

Last week, Robinson Noble moved our Tacoma office “uptown” by making the big jump to downtown. Our new address is: 2105 South C Street, Tacoma, WA 98402. The office is now in the Brewery District of downtown (perfect for a bunch of geologists), one of the up and coming areas of the city. (BTW, my reference to uptown should not be confused with University Place, also known as UP-town, which according to the Urban Slang Dictionary, is “short for University Place, a totally badass little city of about 45000 right to the South of Tacoma, Washington. It’s used somewhat ironically as ghetto slang, since UP is an affluent suburban community.” Our old office, on Huson Street, was only two blocks east of University Place. So indeed, we moved away from UP-town as well as moving uptown.)

Robinson Noble's new office prior to tenant improvements.

Robinson Noble’s new office on June 24th,  prior to building any tenant improvements.

In the 68-year history of the firm, this is the eighth Robinson Noble office in the Tacoma area. I personally have worked in five Through each of its moves, the company has moved progressively north and closer to the heart of Tacoma, finally now to be in the downtown.

The firm started in John Robinson’s basement in Lakewood (then unincorporated Pierce County), but after 25 years, in 1972,  John Noble, got tired of the basement life, asked for and was granted shareholder status in the firm, renamed the firm from Robinson & Roberts to Robinson & Noble, and promptly moved the company out of the basement to a small above-ground office near Robinson’s house.

Later, after a brief stay in yet another small Lakewood office, the company moved back into a basement in 1980. This one, a daylight basement, was finally in Tacoma, though just barely. It was located on Orchard Street, literally on the Tacoma side of the Tacoma-Lakewood boundary (so close to the boundary line, in fact, that we thought we were in Lakewood and didn’t pay Tacoma B&O taxes  – that is until a City tax auditor came a calling, but that is another story). This first Orchard Street office was the home of the company when I joined the firm in 1985. My memory of it was that it was dark and dank, and had awful green-colored carpet. The courtyard outside the office regularly flooded in the winter, and we were the savior of of the other tenants sharing the courtyard by pulling out our field pumps to clear remove Lake Noble (as us peons referred to it).

When the basement became too dank, and we needed a bit more room, John moved us upstairs in the same building. This new office provided a little more space and a lot more natural light. The space only lasted several years, and in 1997, we moved about three blocks further north into Tacoma, though still on Orchard Street. This 3rd Orchard Street office included an entire small office building that, I think, was designed for dental or medical offices. Important to us was the storage space downstairs for files, field equipment, and our small soils and water lab.

After Robinson Noble purchased Saltbush Environmental in 2003, we gained not only new staff but new equipment, and the office on Orchard Street was too small. We looked for a new place with a combination of office and warehouse space. We settled on our former office on Huson Street, several miles further north but only one block off Orchard Street. We designed the interior layout ourselves, which proved that we are not architects.

The Huson office was our home for 10 years and served us well. But earlier this year when we approached the end of the lease, we looked for someplace new. Horizon Partners offered us the third floor of the historic J.E. Aubry Wagons Building and a storage/lab space across the street. Though not much to look at from the outside, I loved the brick walls and wooden beamed ceiling. Besides, I’m a sucker for old buildings. I live in a north Tacoma house built in 1909. Our “new” office building was built in 1905.

After much interior planning (which we did not do ourselves this time) and even longer lease negotiations, we moved the weekend after Thanksgiving and officially took up residence on December 1st.

Robinson Noble's office on December 9th following our move over Thanksgiving.

Robinson Noble’s office on December 9th following our move over Thanksgiving.

If you are in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hello. We are across C Street from the Holiday Inn Express, and the Harmon Brewery and UW-Tacoma are to our north across 21st Street. All our other contact information (phone, fax, emails, website, and blog) are unchanged. We will be  hosting an open  house in the new space next May; keep posted for details.