Moving Day

Coyote Valley Photography is moving.  I posted one too many photos on here and WordPress told me that I’d finally run out of room.  I suppose that’s fair considering that I’ve been uploading high resolution photos to their servers for four years for free.  But rather than simply holding the course and paying for more storage, I decided it was time for a makeover.  I’ve moved everything to a brand new website.

Check it out: http://www.coyotevalleyphoto.com

I will continue blogging, but further updates will no longer be available at this site.  All my new posts (along with my old posts) can be found at http://www.coyotevalleyphoto.com/blog

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Thanks for following.

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Not Quite North Shore

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I am not a surfer, nor am I a surf photographer, but a few months ago I went along with my wife and some of her nieces and nephews to one of their favorite family surf spots.  This spot is just south of the more famous beaches of Oahu’s famous North Shore.  The beach here is smaller, more intimate.  There aren’t any sponsored surfers or Quicksilver tents, no pro photographers with $3,000 zoom lenses.  Just a few local people taking in the sun and the waves, and me with my trusty Canon.

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For one of my wife’s nieces, this was her first time surfing and several of her cousins came along to surf with her and help her find her feet on the waves.  This was a different side of surf culture than what I had previously been exposed to.  This was the familial surf culture–the tradition of wave riding that is passed down through generations.  No one is aspiring to be professional here, at least not yet.  The motivation for getting into the water is more spiritual, more pure, more about getting in touch with the rhythm of the ocean and the traditions of their ancestors.

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Not to say that the pro surfers don’t feel the same spiritual surge while in the water–much has been written about how they do–but at this beach on this afternoon, there was no pressure to perform.  There was only sun, surf, and family, which was what I tried to capture most in these photos.

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Posted in Hawaii, Landscape, Ocean | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Torching at Heʻeia

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To live on the water at Heʻeia is to know the ocean differently.  The white sandy beaches and crashing blue surf typical of the rest of Oʻahu are not found here.  At Heʻeia the ocean is lapping bay water, sticky mudflats, and ancient fishponds.  This shore is the ancestral home of generations of fishermen.  They lay their nets off the reef and dive with the sharks at the drop off.  And some nights, at low tide, in the dark of the moon, they come out to go torching.  This is when Heʻeia becomes more than a shoreline; this is when Heʻeia is magic.

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Anciently, Hawaiians fished Kāneʻohe Bay with olonā nets, hard wood spears, white bone hooks, and (at night), with torches made from kukui nut.  On still nights they walked the reef with their torches and speared the sleeping fish in the firelight.  Today, locals have evolved from torches to propane lanterns and high-powered headlamps, but they still call it torching.

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The light in the midst of the black ocean is what makes torching feel magical.  As you walk in the dark water, the small circle of light at your feet reveals an alien world where little red crabs flit in and out of the coral heads, feeding on sea snails and limpets.  In the silt, tiny phosphorescent squid burrow down for protection, a trumpetfish brushes your ankle, and an eel broods nearby. The colorful reef fish are half-asleep and reluctant to flee from the light, making them easy prey for the fishermen.

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Nighttime at Heʻeia is the time of the scavenger.  When the tide retreats to slack water and the reef fills with the strange crackling noise of the skittish crustaceans, then the fisherman appears at the shoreline — his lantern strapped to a harness on his chest and a three prong spear in his hands.  He steps onto the mudflats and becomes a part of that alien world, a participant in the great feeding frenzy of low tide.  He wanders the reef back and forth and the lantern bobs with him as he walks; until finally, from far off, he merges with the darkness and becomes another pale light on the horizon, a vague point of reference in the black, a final piece of the great cosmic tapestry reflected in the glassy water of the bay.

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Posted in Hawaii, Night, Ocean | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A New Year, A Barrel Stove, & A Telescope

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New Year’s Eve 2013 again found me in the middle of a hayfield attempting to light a fire in freezing temperatures.  But this year, because of the extreme dry weather and fire hazard, we could not build a bonfire.  Instead, we hauled an old barrel stove out to a place in the field where the cattle had beaten the ground to bare earth, and stoked the fire until the old stove glowed.

The stove itself has an odd story.  It originated from the years when the ranch was a fully functioning sheep and cattle operation, complete with cowboys and old ranch hands. According to my dad, one of those ranch hands one day decided that he wanted to have a stove in the shop to warm his coffee in the mornings.  With a little bit of ingenuity and a lot of welding, the old ranch hand turned an empty Standard Oil drum into a fine little wood stove.  Eventually, the old ranch hand moved on and my grandfather retired from cattle and sheep and turned the ranch into a horse breeding outfit.  The shop fell into disuse and the barrel stove became lost under four decades of junk.

But last October, in a cleaning frenzy, I cleared the debris from the shop and found the barrel stove hidden under the detritus–slightly rusted, but still strong.  When we went to build a fire in it on New Year’s Eve, we found kindling and newspaper already set.  The newspaper was from 1964 and had a feature story on the trial of Jack Ruby, the man who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald.  We burned the fifty year old kindling and saved the newspaper.

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Along with the barrel stove, we brought my telescope with us to search the sky for planets and constellations.  In all my life I have never known a night sky so vibrant as is found in Lake County.  I have seen darker skies with less light pollution and I’m sure at some point I’ve seen a sky with more visible stars, but none of them had the magnetism of the Lake County sky.  It’s as if the stars in Lake County have each been ground down to their most essential brilliance – the brilliance of pure light – and then expertly arranged onto a profound canvas of inky black night.

I used to think I was just biased, as anyone tends to be when thinking about home, but I found that I’m not the only one impressed by the Lake County night sky.  In 1880, Robert Louis Stevenson spent his honeymoon at an abandoned mining town on the western slopes of Mount St. Helena–about fifteen miles from the hayfield where I took this photo–and he described the night as he saw it back then.

“The sky itself was of a ruddy, powerful, nameless, changing color, dark and glossy like a serpent’s back.  The stars, by innumerable millions, stuck boldly forth like lamps….  I have never seen such a night.  It seemed to throw calumny in the teeth of all the painters that ever dabbled in starlight….  The nameless color of the sky, the hues of the starfire, and the incredible projection of the stars themselves, starting from their orbits, so that the eye seemed to distinguish their positions in the hollow of space – these were things that we had never seen before and shall never see again.” – Silverado Squatters

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(Final photo taken in March 2010)

Posted in California, Landscape, Night, winter | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Cidering

For several years my oldest brother has been bottling his own signature apple cider made from the wild fruit of the Willamette Valley.  It is a dark, full-bodied concoction, never pasteurized and never diluted.  Since my brother first started making the stuff, I had taken many nips from the bottle, but I had never squeezed the mash for myself.  Last month, on a visit to Oregon, I finally got my chance to press the fruit of the valley.  (first two photos were taken with a phone camera)

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To collect the apples needed for cider, my brother awoke me early on my first morning in town and drove me through a maze of foggy backroads and hayfields to a lone apple tree at the edge of an expansive rye grass pasture.  This wasn’t necessarily a secret tree, it grew ten feet from the side of a two-lane highway, but with the valley around us shrouded in fog it felt as if he had lead me to the sanctum sanctorum of apple trees.

I asked him if it was legal for us to pick from this tree.  He shrugged and without blinking an eye backed the truck under the tangle of branches.  Getting out of the cab, he handed me a long-handled garden hoe.  “You want to beat the branches with this,” he said.

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I was confused at first, but the logic of the garden hoe was quickly apparent as I hit the branches.  The tree had the appearance of a very large vine, and the apples were small and grew together in great clusters as would bunches of grapes.  Each stroke with the garden hoe brought down a shower of fruit.  Apples hit me several times in the face, one smashed me squarely in the mouth, and the dampness of the morning dew on the fruit soaked through my jacket and the front of my jeans as it descended around me.  We filled the bed of the truck in fifteen minutes.

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When we returned from the foggy labyrinth of backroads and highways we set about the real work of cidering.  For my brother’s family, the task of cider-making has become so mundane, so commonplace, that it is considered a chore.  His youngest son bemoaned the work as he scooped apples from the truck bed and took them to be washed.  When your father insists on pressing sixty-five gallons of cider every year (one for each week plus thirteen for special occasions and to give away), the job must lose a bit of its magic.

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With the apples washed and sorted (bad spots were acceptable, wholly rotted fruit was thrown away), we prepared them for the grinder.  My brother does not core or peel his apples for his brand of cider.  We did not check them for worms (much to the horror of our mother), and we allowed for small sticks and leaves to enter the mash, something I opposed, though my brother told me that in traditional cider recipes, the presser will often add sawdust to the mash to maximize juice output.  The ground up sticks and leaves served us that purpose.

The masher itself is my brother’s own invention and the product of many years of trial and error.  It is essentially a garbage disposal that has been rigged with a 1 horsepower farm-duty ag motor.  The stock motor on the regular garbage disposals was too weak and overheated. With the added power of the farm-duty motor the blades in the garbage disposal ate the apples easily and produced a thick mash that had the color and consistency of hearty oatmeal.

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As the mash sat in the open air and began to oxidize, it changed from its original oatmeal beige to a deep woody mahogany.  We readied the press and I sank my hands far down into the mash to scoop it into the press-basket.  Soon the skin on my palms was stained with rich color–the color of autumn and earth.

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This is my brother’s apple cider.  He does not add water or spices, and yet there is always a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg in the drink.  Each year’s pressing will be unique, depending on the tree that gave the fruit and the variety of apples mixed in.  This year we gathered the apples from a single tree, making the batch relatively uniform, though still delicious.  No matter what, the cider is always rich and always earthy, worms and leaves and all.

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Posted in Fall | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Cason/Tateoka Wedding – Utah Reception

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Three days before they were married in Louisiana, Charlotte and Ryan had an open house/reception for all their friends and family in Utah.  They held the event in an old dairy barn that the city of Draper has restored and turned into a community event center.

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Charlotte and Ryan decorated the barn with a simple, natural theme.  Charlotte made small stone bowls with succulents that were used for centerpieces, and Ryan hung a few strands of lights and flag banners from the trusses.  They did not cover the walls or take down the existing decor (small plaques and old photographs detailing the barn’s history hung on the walls).  They wanted to make sure that their decorations would not interfere with the organic ambiance of the barn.

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It turned out that their simple decorations were the perfect compliment to the barn’s unique character.  Though it was a large building, the reception felt bright and warm, which only increased as the old barn slowly filled with  guest and family.

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Posted in Night, Utah, Wedding | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wedding in The Bayou State

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Ryan Cason and Charlotte Tateoka were married in Baton Rouge Louisiana on Saturday October 12, 2013.  They had one reception in Utah and one in Coushatta, LA – Ryan’s hometown.  I’ve known Ryan since he was my roommate in college and I had the privilege of following him and Charlotte around through both receptions and the wedding.  These few selected photos are from the reception and wedding in Louisiana.

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More to come! 

Posted in Louisiana, Wedding | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments