RN Calendar 2017, the Story behind the Pictures

Well, it December once again, and that means the new Robinson Noble calendars will soon be in the mail. If you receive a calendar from us, you know that I take all the photos for the calendar. This gives our calendar a special niche, separating it from other calendars that are given out this time of year. While we could populate our calendar with images of drill rigs and backhoes, we prefer Pacific Northwest scenic images so that our clients might be more tempted to hang the calendar on their walls and remember us throughout the year. Besides, I prefer taking scenic subjects to backhoes.

As part of the annual calendar process, I present the upcoming twelve images in a blog post with “the story behind the images.” Below are the stories for the 2017 images.


I’ve mentioned in previous years, there is an unwritten rule that January and December calendar images need to contain snow. As I am not a big fan of winter, I don’t take a lot of photos of snowy conditions. So this year, on February 1st, I made sure I went on a snowshoeing trip with the goal of getting one or two calendar-worthy shots. And this trip was well worth it, turning out to be a goldmine for potential calendar photos.

I went with a friend to Mount Rainier National Park without a specific destination other than to get out on our snowshoes and take some pictures. Halfway up to Paradise, we stopped where the road crosses the Nisqually River. We took a few pictures from the bridge looking down onto the river valley. Here the river forms a braided channel across the valley floor. With snow, this boulder strewn floodplain becomes a beckoning white flat land, perfect for snowshoeing. So we walked down into the valley. We couldn’t hike more than about a mile without attempting a river crossing, which we decided against, but the scenery was excellent and I took a multitude of shots of the braided river channels crossing this winter wonderland, including the shot we used for January.


Recently, I published a book about touring and photographing Seattle (available from me here or through most booksellers, including Amazon). In the book, I also covered the Winslow area of Bainbridge Island. When I was preparing the book, I didn’t have any decent photographs of Winslow, so one February day my wife, Tanya, and I took our dog on a ferry ride from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Our dog is a Newfoundland, weighing in at 145 pounds; she was a great hit with the other ferry passengers. When we reached Bainbridge, we walked down along the Winslow waterfront and then back through town. Though February, there was a hint that spring was coming soon, including this cherry tree by the harbor. I like the image for the delicate cherry blossoms just starting to appear extending a hope of warmer days to come. That trip turned out to be very lucrative. On our walk, I also took a photograph of a stack of colorful kayaks. Earlier this year, I sold a license of that image for several thousand dollars to an art dealer in San Francisco for use at a hotel in Florida.


Fishing boats are a favorite subject of mine. Luckily there are lots of good places in the Pacific Northwest with good working-boat harbors. One of the best is in Newport, Oregon. One thing nice about photographing fishing boats, you can take good photos in almost any kind of weather. That was the case here. The morning I took this shot, it was cold with low clouds and a light rain – not the type of weather to take nice scenic shots of the Oregon coast. But in Newport harbor, plenty of good photographic opportunities could be found.


April’s photo is also on the coast, but up in Washington. Every April I participate in the arts show at Ocean Shores. The day this photo was taken, I was in Ocean Shores with my son, Brooks (who took the “monkey on my back” photo in the calendar), to drop off prints for the art show. After dropping them off, we didn’t want to drive back home right away, so we drove up the coast looking for a beach to walk on. We went to the beach at Moclips, but I didn’t find much photographic inspiration there. Driving back south again, we stopped at Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park just outside the town of Copalis Beach. I had never been to this state park before, and as it was near sunset, was looking for a good subject.

The beach here, like most the beaches north of Grays Harbor and south of Point Grenville, is broad and sandy. In fact, the beach at Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park is even broader than most. While I like walking on such wide, sandy beaches, I find it difficult to get scenic shots on them. But the interesting thing at Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park is that is where the Copalis River enters the Pacific Ocean. And the river doesn’t just run straight into the ocean, but instead, just about 1,500 feet from the beach, the river makes a 90-degree bend from flowing east to north, almost paralleling the shoreline for a mile or more through the state park until it finally turns westward and flows into the ocean. Closer to the shoreline, a smaller, though still sizable, unnamed stream follows the same pattern, running north paralleling the beach. Instead of turning directly west, however, this stream eventually bends almost 180 degrees back to the south before then turning 90 degrees west to the ocean. The state park parking lot is between the stream and the river.

From the parking lot, you cannot get quickly to the beach unless you want to wade across the stream, which I had no desire to do on a cold early April evening. A trail from the parking lot runs through old dunes, paralleling the stream, and slightly above the beach. The April photo was taken along that trail, where I positioned myself so the setting sun was above a smaller branch of the stream (that was following the same pattern of flowing north before turning south and west). The curve in the stream was exactly the type of feature I was looking for to make a “sandy-beach” shot more visually interesting.


May’s photo is of Palouse Falls. Last year I went there for several days with a fellow photographer specifically to take images of Palouse Falls at night with the Milky Way. We were there two nights. The first night, I got a good shot with the falls and the stars (which you can see here). To take the image, my friend lit up the falls with a giant flashlight (6 million candlepower) from the main viewpoint area, while I tripped the shutters on our cameras from a spot close to where this calendar photo was taken. I was very happy with the result. But you will not see it on our calendar anytime soon because I didn’t get one in horizontal format.

The second day I hoped for more clear skies to try again, this time focusing on horizontal compositions. But as the day grew, the skies became cloudy. No Milky Way shots that night. However, all was not lost, the clouds gave us nice sunset shots, like the one used on the calendar. Not a bad consolation prize.


Last June, I took a day trip to Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park. It was kind of misty at the beach; not the best photography conditions. So we decided to go into the Hoh rain forest and come back to the beach at sunset for hopefully less low clouds. The plan actually worked, the low clouds were mostly gone at sunset. Unfortunately the sunset itself wasn’t very good.

This photo was taken on our drive into the Hoh. Unless you live on the coast, you don’t see the Olympic Mountains from the west very often. As we drove past this spot where you could see both the mountains and the Hoh River, I knew I wanted to capture the mountains from this angle, so we turned the car around and pulled over. There is nothing special to this shot; it is one anyone could take. I shot from the roadside for a few minutes, and we continued on to the rain forest. This quick shot from the roadside was one of the better shots of the day.


Miniture trees below Mt Adams, Mount Adams Wilderness Area, Washington

This image of Mount Adams was taken on a hike Tanya and I took with our dog in 2010. It was a partly cloudy day, though the hike was mostly in the sun. You couldn’t see the mountain until near the end of the hike when the trail left the forest. The clouds seemed to be rolling over the top of the mountain. I liked the look and went searching for a nice foreground. We were near the tree line, and I found this area of miniature trees in a boulder field. I really liked the look of these trees and made a lot of photographs here. The tree in the foreground is only about 18 inches tall, but I’m sure it is many years old. After we got back to the car, we drove to Takalakh Lake to eat a picnic dinner and for me to take some photos of the lake and Mount Adams at sunset.

Photographically, the trip was very successful. One of the images from the lake was on the calendar in 2012. I’ve always liked this present image very much and hoped we would put it on the calendar someday; it finally made it for 2017.


The image for August was taken from Lyle, Washington – a small town in the Columbia River Gorge. Tanya and I were there for a family reunion. We were staying at an Airbnb with a view down the river. I have an app that shows where the moon (and sun) will rise and set, and using it, I knew a crescent moon would be setting straight down the gorge the night of the family reunion. So we left a bit early so I could take this shot, which I took from the deck of our room.

Technically, this was a very difficult photograph to make. I made the shot considerably after sunset, so it was quite dark. Even so, the contrast been the sky and river was large, and it was difficult to capture detail in both with one exposure. Because of the light conditions, a long exposure time was needed. However, long exposures caused the moon and star (actually probably a planet, most likely Venus) to be blurred (due to the earth’s rotation). To make matters worse, the wind was blowing hard, as it often does in the gorge. For this image, I ended combining a 2-second exposure of the sky and 10-second exposure of the land and river into a single image (10 seconds was long enough to cause motion blur on the moon and planet).

Because it is so dark, the image is also technically difficult to print. And, unfortunately, the image did not print well in the calendar, with the land and river being much too dark. I was concerned about that when we decided to use this image, but the proof from the printer came back looking good. However, something happened when the actual calendar print run was made, and I am not happy with the results. The image presented here in the blog is much more true to what I saw and what the image on the calendar should look like.

SeptemberAfter the Harvest

I love shooting in the Palouse. Spring brings wonderful greens, and late summer brings delightful golden yellows. Last year, on a trip to Spokane to see my Dad, we left Tacoma in early morning so we could spend the afternoon driving the backroads of the Palouse before heading up to Spokane for the evening. The weather was great for photography, mostly sunny, but with lots of interesting clouds.

I love to just drive on random back roads through the Palouse looking for interesting subjects. And if I have a lot of time, I will do just that. But in this case, we only had a few hours in the afternoon, so I went with Plan B – using a photographer’s map. There are two photographer’s maps of the Palouse – one is free from the Pullman Chamber of Commerce and the other costs $25 from a photographer named Teri Lou Dantzler. Both show locations of barns, lone trees, viewpoints, windmills, and more. Though different in format, both are nearly identical in content, and Teri Lou claims the Chamber of Commerce copied her map. I have both maps, and I think Teri Lou has a case.

Even when using the maps, you cannot tell if the light will be good for any particular shot; some subjects photograph better in morning light and some better in evening. Plus, some of the barns, other structures, and lone trees on the maps have fallen down. So, even with the maps, you still need to search for good subjects. However, when the maps directed us to this tree, I know I had a winner. I hope you agree.


As with the unwritten “snow” rule for December and January, it seems there is an unwritten “autumn color” rule for October. This is a harder rule to follow, because the colorful autumn foliage season is short and colorful autumn foliage is less common in the Pacific Northwest than other parts of the country.

In search of fall colors, Tanya and I took a trip in October 2015 to Silverton, Oregon, which is about 10 miles north of Silver Falls State Park. I’ve seen beautiful photographs of Silver Falls State Park for years and decided I had to go. I was not disappointed. Though the water falls in the park had small flows because of the time of year, the trees were beautiful, and I came home with many wonderful images. In addition to visiting the state park, I made a big looping drive through the central Oregon Cascades and found some other colorful spots, and one of these images may show up in a future Robinson Noble calendar.

The featured shot here is of Middle North Falls, a several mile hike into the park along the Trail of Ten Falls. Considered the “crown jewel” of Oregon State Parks, the park covers over 9,000 acres. Hopefully I can get back again soon in the spring time when the falls will have a higher flow.


November is always a tough month for me to do a lot of photography.  Normally, with work and chores at home, it is hard for me to find time to take pictures. But with a short month and family holiday obligations, November is especially hard. Also the weather is usually rainy and cold; the lowlands just look sadly wet, and the highlands don’t have much snow yet.

Several years ago, Tanya and I made a weekend trip to Port Townsend with friends. According to Tanya, this was not to be a “photography trip” but a “friend trip.” In other words, I could take my camera, but photography was not to control the agenda. During the weekend, the four of us were strolling in downtown Port Townsend after lunch, doing a little shopping. I snuck off and went up to the harbor with my camera where I captured this image of a wooden boat. I was especially taken by the reflection. After this and a few other quick shots, I returned to Water Street and found Tanya and our friends. They barely know I had been gone.


As I’ve mentioned – snow is required for a December image. This photograph was taken at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park and was actually shot in January. The snow pack was very low that winter. We had gone up to Hurricane Ridge to go snowshoeing, and after an afternoon tromping around in the snow, we stayed for sunset. The road closes at dusk, so I stayed near the parking lot in case a ranger came and told us to leave. Sure enough, just as I was starting to pack up my gear, the ranger stopped and shooed us out. It was not the first time I’ve been asked to leave by a park ranger and probably not the last.

Any of these images are for sale as fine-art prints. If you enjoy my photography, please visit my blog at joebeckerphoto.wordpress.com or my website at seldomseenphoto.com. I can be contacted at either, or by leaving a comment here.

Election 2016

In 2008 and 2012, I wrote articles contrasting the two Presidential candidates’ positions on infrastructure and science, with an emphasis on water and environmental issues. Here I’d like to reprise that article with the current candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. As with my previous articles, my primary sources are the candidates’ websites and the Science Debate website.

trump-by-gage-skidmore-flickr-creative-commons2-0-webDonald Trump

On the Positions/Policies page of the Trump website, there are 15 issues listed. Perhaps the most science-related issue listed is energy. However, on his Energy page, Trump does not talk about science but rather gives a bullet-point list of his vision to create new jobs, declare “energy dominance,” develop untapped hydrocarbon reserves (including leasing on federal lands), become energy independent, encourage the use of natural gas and “other American energy resources” to reduce emissions and reduce the price of energy, and rescind “job-destroying Obama executive actions.” More than half the page is spent not on Trump’s proposals but on a “contrast with Hillary Clinton.” This contrast with Clinton is a bullet-list of Clinton’s and President Obama’s actions and quotes. While two of these cite independent publications as source material, several give no citation, and the rest cite Trump’s own press releases.

The Trump website does have an Infrastructure page. Again, it consists of bulleted lists, though on this page his list is considerably longer than the contrast-with-Clinton list. Some of the key points of Trump’s infrastructure vision include: pursuing an “America’s Infrastructure First” policy to support transportation, clean water, electrical grid, and other domestic infrastructure needs; providing flexibility to the states; using American steel; leveraging new revenue sources such as public-private partnerships; linking increasing in spending to permitting reforms (and cutting “wasteful spending on boondoggles”); employing incentive-based contracting; and incorporating new technologies.

Additionally, Trump wants to “make clean water a high priority” by developing a “long-term water infrastructure plan with city, state and federal leaders to upgrade aging water systems.” He proposes to “triple funding for state revolving loan fund programs to help states and local governments upgrade critical drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.”

As I did for the previous elections, I wanted to search the candidates’ websites for certain words. A Google search of Trump’s website (all Google searches accomplished earlier today) for the word “science.” The search returned 73 results. Looking at the first page of results, none deal with policy matters related to science. Most the results relate to statements made by political science professors. The only result remotely related to science is an endorsement by Congressman Lamar Smith, the House chairman of the Science, Space and Technology committee.

A search for the word “environment” returned 118 results. Only one result on the first page deals with a Trump policy related to the environment – a press release of a speech given in North Dakota concerning his “American First Energy Plan.” In the press release, Trump states he will “solve real environmental problems in our communities like the need for clean and safe drinking water.” He describes his 100-day action plan, which includes lifting moratoriums on energy production in federal areas, revoking policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on drilling, cancelling the Paris Climate Accord, and rescinding “all the job-destroying Obama executive actions including the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. Rule.” He states he will accomplish his 100-day plan all while “taking proper regard for rational environmental concerns“ and conserving natural habitats, reserves, and resources. (Of the remaining results on the first page, one deals with Steve Forbes stating Trump will create a positive environment for business; the rest deal with Clinton’s position on the TPP).

hillary_clinton_official_secretary_of_state_portrait_crop-webHillary Clinton

The issues page of Hillary Clinton’s website lists 41 topics including one concerning infrastructure, one about climate change, and one about technology and innovation. The Infrastructure page briefly describes Clinton’s plan for a $275 billion, five-year plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. The page only gives a summary of her plan, but does link to a related, detailed fact sheet. The summary discusses repairing and expanding roads and bridges, lowering transportation costs by expanding public transit, connecting all Americans to the internet, building world-class airports, and building an energy infrastructure for the 21st century. The fact sheet provides additional detail on her improving aging drinking water and wastewater systems, including creating a national infrastructure bank to provide loans, loan guarantees, and other forms of credit for infrastructure projects including water systems.

The Technology and Innovation page again gives summary-level detail and also links to an expanded fact sheet on the subject. Clinton’s plans call for building the tech economy by investing in computer science and STEM education, increasing capital for small business and startups, attracting talent from around the world, and investing in science and technology research and development. She calls for investing in “world-class digital infrastructure” by connecting all American households to high-speed broadband by 2020, deploying 5G wireless and other next-generation systems, and starting a digital communities program to encourage greater access to high-speed internet. She also wants to defend net neutrality, reduce entry barriers to promote competition, improve the patent system, and more. The page says Clinton “believes we should look to technology and data to provide better services to the American people, and make government simpler, smarter, and more effective.”

Unlike the other issue pages, Clinton’s Climate page does not link to one separate, more detailed fact sheet, but rather to six separate fact sheets on various proposed policies related to climate. Clinton calls climate change “an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.” Upon taking office, she says she will set “bold, national goals that will be achieved within 10 years.” These include generating enough renewable energy to power every home in America, cutting energy waste in the country by one third, and reducing American oil consumption by one third. Her plans call on living up to American pledges made at the Paris climate conference and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% by 2025. Clinton specifically intends to “extend smart pollution and efficiency standards,” start a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge, invest in clean energy infrastructure, reform leasing of public lands and waters and expand related clean energy production tenfold, cut methane emissions, ensure responsible traditional energy production, and more.

A Google search of the Clinton website for the word “science” returned 170 results. Unlike in Trump’s search results, all the first page results relate directly to science. There are links to her technology and innovation initiative (discussed above), comprehensive plans for coal, several links to climate change fact and policy sheets, and links concerning her support for science education.

The Google search of the website for the word “environment” returned 241 results. Again, all the results on the first page deal directly with the environment. Several results link to her positions on environmental racism and environmental justice. Others link to pages concerning clean power, protecting wildlife, and climate change.

Science Debate 2016

ScienceDebate.org was started several Presidential elections ago to invite the candidates for President to address science issues. Again this year, the organization invited thousands of scientists and engineers to submit science-related questions of concern to the nation. ScienceDebate worked with leading science and engineering organizations (including the American Geosciences Union, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the University of Washington) to refine, by consensus, the questions into the 20 most important science policy questions facing the country. Both Clinton and Trump, as well as Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, supplied answers. Topics covered innovation, research, climate change, energy, education, water, vaccinations, space, scientific integrity, and more.

The question concerning water was:

The long-term security of fresh water supplies is threatened by a dizzying array of aging infrastructure, aquifer depletion, pollution, and climate variability. Some American communities have lost access to water, affecting their viability and destroying home values. If you are elected, what steps will you take to ensure access to clean water for all Americans?

Clinton’s answer:

Chronic underinvestment in our nation’s drinking and wastewater systems has sickened and endangered Americans from Flint, Michigan, to Ohio and West Virginia. Outdated and inadequate wastewater systems discharge more than 900 billion gallons of untreated sewage a year, posing health risks to humans and wildlife life, disrupting ecosystems, and disproportionately impacting communities of color. In addition, many struggling communities around the United States have limited or no access to clean, safe water.

We will invest in infrastructure and work with states, municipalities, and the private sector to bring our water systems into the 21st century and provide all Americans access to clean, safe drinking water.

Climate change is also triggering changes in weather patterns, including the increased prevalence of long, hard droughts that pose a dire risk to the health and prosperity of American communities, particularly in the West. The federal government must become a better partner in supporting state and locally-led efforts to improve water security. To that end, we will create a coordinated, multi-agency Western Water Partnership to help fund water efficiency, consideration, and infrastructure modernization projects across the region, including significant new investments in water reuse and reclamation. 

We will also work to bring cutting edge efficiency, treatment and reuse solutions to our nation’s water challenges by establishing a new Water Innovation Lab. The Lab will bring urban water managers, farmers and tribes together with engineers, entrepreneurs, conservationists and other stakeholders to develop practical and usable technologies and strategies that can be deployed by local water utilities, agricultural and industrial water users, and environmental restoration projects across the country.

Trump’s answer:

This may be the most important issue we face as a nation for the next generation.  Therefore, we must make the investment in our fresh water infrastructure to ensure access to affordable fresh water solutions for everyone.  We must explore all options to include making desalinization more affordable and working to build the distribution infrastructure to bring this scarce resource to where it is needed for our citizens and those who produce the food of the world.  This must be a top priority for my administration.

The rest of the questions and answers on ScienceDebate are equally interesting and enlightening.

Trump photo provided by Gage Skidmore under a Creative Commons license.

Clinton photo is her official Secretary of State portrait and is in the public domain.

Climate Change and Geologists’ Favorite Beverage

Ibeer_photo_Flickr by Los Paseost’s a well known fact that geologists love beer. I know from personal experience at Robinson Noble that this is true. Most (all?) geologists would also say that climate change is a fact as well. So exactly how do climate change and geologists’ favorite beverage intersect? To find out read this NOAA blog post about climate and beer: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-and/climate-beer

When reading the post, be sure to admire the photo NOAA used of the Yakima Canyon shot by friend and fellow hydrogeologist, Tom Ring.

Beer photo courtesy of Flickr member Los Paseos via a creative commons license

Happy 4th!

horsetails with copyrightIt is hard to believe half of 2015 is over, and we are already at the 4th of July weekend. It has been a good year for Robinson Noble as we have transitioned into our new office in downtown Tacoma. Hopefully you were able to come visit during our open house in May; if not, drop by anytime to say hello.

I can’t say I have much Robinson Noble news to report. We did hire two new staff members in the past month or so. We welcome John Anderson to our Woodinville office and Natasha Garland-Clark to our Tacoma office. I will blog more about our new compatriots after I dig out my camera and get some photos of them to share.

In my personal news, I haven’t had much chance this spring or early summer to do much photography because I am revising my ebook into a print version. It will be published by Schiffer Publishing and is due to be released next spring. Not to worry, though, I still have plenty of photos to put into next year’s edition of the Robinson Noble calendar!

Speaking of photos, the accompanying photograph is the closest thing I have that looks like fireworks. Somehow in all my years of photography, I have not captured any good fireworks shots (I’m not even sure I’ve tried), so this image will have to do. While it looks like fireworks, in reality it is a black and white shot of one of my wife’s chief gardening nemeses – horsetails. (These things grow like weeds in our garden – but then, maybe it is because they are weeds.) Even weeds can have some beauty I guess.

Anyway, all of us here at Robinson Noble wish you a happy and safe 4th of July. Take some time to relax with your family and not think about work – there will be enough time for that next week.

Open House – Come on Down

RN open house merged photo 300Robinson Noble is having an open house at our new Tacoma office on May 15 from 3 to 6 pm. I’d like to send  you a person invitation, so please come on down for a visit and a tour  the new place. We will be serving food from the local Neighbor Bistro, beer from local breweries (not sure which ones yet, Jim and I will be doing sample tastings later today just to make sure we pick the correct brews – work can be so hard sometimes), Washington wines, and various soft drinks.

We are located at 2105 South C Street, just south of S 21st and two blocks up the hill from Pacific. The Holiday Inn is across C Street and UW Tacoma across 21st. It’s easy to find, the first downtown Tacoma off ramp from Interstate 705 exits onto 21st just a few blocks east of our office. Parking can be a bit tight in downtown Tacoma, so we’ve arranged with the Holiday Inn to open their gravel parking lot just to the south of the hotel on C Street.

Come on by and say hello!

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.

2014 Calendars Are On Their Way

Lately, we have been getting phone calls asking if Robinson Noble is doing the calendar again for 2014. For those of you that normally receive a calendar every year, do not worry. The Robinson Noble calendars are currently being printed and should be in the mail soon. The timing of the calendar production is roughly the same as last year. We had intended to get them out a bit earlier this year, but your humble photographer held up the process.

Mount Rainier

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Chuck and Barb’s Epic Journey

Many of Robinson Noble’s friends and clients may know Principal Engineer Chuck Couvrette for his work on stormwater management and slope stability. Currently, Chuck is personally inspecting slopes (“Do we really have to climb up that grade?”) and stormwater (“It’s not raining again, is it?”) along the entire West Coast as he and wife Barb ride their bicycles from San Diego to Seattle. This epic trip, a total distance of over 1,440 miles, is in celebration of their 60th birthdays.Near Pacific City, ORThe Couvrette’s six-week bicycle trip started on April 23rd. Many broken spokes later, they crossed into Oregon on May 21st. After taking a well-deserved day off in Cannon Beach, they crossed back into Washington today. You can follow Chuck’s epic journey by checking out his blog:  http://chuckandbarbcouv.blogspot.com/.San Francisco

Dear Legislature, Please Fund Both Schools and Infrastructure

Sewer and water pipes circa 1956 (Photo credit: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)

Sewer and water pipes circa 1956
(Photo credit: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)

The Washington State Legislature has been directed by the State Supreme Court to properly fund public schools, and Robinson Noble fully supports this action. The proper funding of public schools in the State is crucial to maintaining the local economy and the standard of living all Washingtonians enjoy. However, the State Senate is currently looking at funding schools by taking money from the Public Works Trust Fund (PWTF). Senate Bill 5985 would permanently redirect 67% of the allocated Real Estate Excise Tax funds and 100% of the allocated Public Utility and Solid Waste Taxes funds away from the PWTF and to the Education Legacy Trust Account created in 2010. If passed, the action will become effective in July 2013 and greatly reduce funding for the PWTF.

Improving the infrastructure of Washington State is critical to our economy, including the health of our public schools. It is widely acknowledged among the engineering community that we have a huge problem in the United States with funding infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives the country an overall grade of D+ on infrastructure (an individual grade for Washington State is not yet available – both Oregon and Idaho earned C- grades for 2010 and 2012, respectively). This is not the time for Washington State to be cutting funding for the PWTF. The PWTF provides grants and low-interest loans to local utilities for water, wastewater, solid-waste, bridge, and road projects. The Daily Journal of Business reports that “every dollar invested by the PWTF in basic infrastructure yields an additional $3.60 in statewide economic activity.” So, not only is the PWTF important to improving failing infrastructure, it also helps spur economic growth (which, in turn, provides needed tax dollars for schools!).

Certainly the Legislature can do better for schools than by crippling the PWTF. I encourage you to write your legislators today in support of both schools and the Public Works Trust Fund.