Friday, June 29, 2012

Reverse Migration

I've never liked Michiganders who complain about the Michigan winters and constantly talk about fleeing South in search of warm weather. Stop complaining and just move! 

I just don't get it: Michigan winters round out the glorious four seasons that make this place rich and endearing. 

Now, having said that, and at the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I have to confess to a growing disdain for Michigan summers! The stifling heat and humidity is my least favorite part of our seasonal quartet, and global warming is ratcheting it up. 

I can handle it, but considering it coincides with vacation season, I'm warming up to the idea of what I'll simply call reverse migration. I want to travel to where it's cooler. 

I'm not escaping, I'm being very practical with my timing. 

Our recent stretch of near 100º weather is fueling my desire to take that little trip. I've been thinking about places to go for the past year and a Google search of the coolest cities in America (the lower 48) ranked the top three as follows:

1. San Francisco
2. Seattle
3. Portland

The Northwest coast/Northern California is clearly where it's at, and a trip out to Oregon a few years back already secured a deep love for the land out there - so the cool weather is like the cherry on top. San Francisco is number one with average mean temperatures hovering around 61º in Summer! Imagine that! Seattle is second at 65º and Portland third at 67º. 

With my sights on the coolest, (and considering I've already been to the Oregon coast) I looked a little north of San Francisco. I don't like big cities and the towering redwoods are just a little ways up the coast. My map search revealed a scintillating, personal discovery: a small city on the coast with the same weather as San Fran that's also the coastal heart of a redwood paradise. Eureka! What a stunning place to visit and explore. I've never seen Northern California and I've also heard all about the environmental battles waged in Eureka/Arcata over the logging of the redwood forests. It's an ecological/environmental hotspot (no, wait - hot analogies are all wrong for such a cool place).

There's only one problem: money.

Ideally, I'd drive out there and stop at Yellowstone, the Badlands, and other places along the way, and that would add on at least two weeks round trip, including a week or two in Eureka. That's just too much time and money for me right now, so I've been forced to look a little closer to home for a vacation from the heat. 

Two of my yooper friends have repeatedly talked about the 10 degree differential between the U.P. and Kalamazoo, so I decided to revisit an earlier dream of mine to explore the very tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. I've been to Copper Harbor before, en route to Isle Royale, but was prevented from driving all the way to the tip because of a gnarly two-track that growled at my Honda Accord at the time. We surrendered, but vowed to come back with a four-wheel drive.

Well, that time has now come. I just bought a compact SUV that should be the key to the Kingdom of the Keweenaw. I also checked the weather for Copper Harbor for the next week and the highest expected temperature is a comfortable 72º, compared to highs around 97º in Kalamazoo. Eureka!

I guess vacationing in Michigan still falls withing my philosophy of "backyard" wilderness, given it's technically still in the same state. That's all about political boundaries though - the distance from Kazoo to Copper Harbor is the same as from Kazoo to New York City. It's pretty far up there.

Hopefully next summer I'll be able to make it to Northern California, and one of these years to Seattle, since I've yet to see and explore the utmost corner of our lower 48. 

What's starting to emerge here is my own migration pattern, in the face of global warming.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

KITS (I love that word!)

For years, I've hoped my reputation and connections as a wildlife photographer/videographer would yield a fox or coyote family, rearing their young in full view of someone's family room window - making it a slam dunk photo-op. I know those situations occur, it's just a matter of timing and being informed.

A couple weeks ago, it finally came to be. 

I got a call from a woman who somehow knew my work and described a perfect scenario unfolding in her and her husband's backyard: a family of fox was denning under the couple's shed, only twenty yards from their back window. The kits would regularly come out to play around the shed and a nearby woodpile. In fact, weeks ago, when the kits were still weaning, they would suckle on the mama right on top of the woodpile, in full view of the couple watching inside.

Always a little skeptical, I followed up on an offer to photograph them. I arrived at their house, got out of my car, walked 10 feet, looked to my left, and low-and-behold, there was one of the kits, right next to the shed looking up at me! That was easy. He darted away - and so did I, only to return in full camo for a really fruitful, and easy, photo session.

That encounter ended an incredibly long, personal drought on red-fox for me. I hadn't seen a fox since I was filming my urban wildlife documentary, ANIMALS AMONG US, back in 2004 through 2006. That means I hadn't seen a red-fox for roughly 6 or 8 years! Finally........let it rain fox!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Come See The Show!

We had a wonderful opening reception for "The Emerging Animal" at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Unfortunately no pictures from the actual event, but the halls were bustling with scores of excited viewers, even in the face of stiff competition from a gorgeous, sunny, June Saturday. 

Thank you to all those who came out and especially those who helped out with the event. Big thanks to Karen Chadwick and Margaret for coordinating the scrumptious food and drink. Thanks also to Rose Norwood and Chris Babiasz at the Kalamazoo Nature Center for guiding people our way.

The pictures below will give you a pretty good feeling for the show, although the only way to really experience it is to see it in person. It was a big thrill for me to print my work large scale - to see the Church Buck (pictured below) pretty much life size is an awesome experience, as well as the great blue heron wading through Ottawa Marsh. The animals and the photographs carry a much greater presence in this scale. I hope you can experience it firsthand. 

Also, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the show was made possible by a grant from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, which basically financed the printing and framing of the show. With the financial aid of the grant, and considering it's my first, major exhibit of my photographic work, I decided to price the work to sell. That means the prices are significantly lower than what I would normally ask. So if you act now, you can reasonably afford a beautiful little piece of the wild that's ready to hang in your home. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

You're personally invited...

Hope you can join us this Saturday!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Season of the Fawn

All around us fawns are being born. And for years I've longed to come across one bedding down, legendarily frozen in form.

Although I didn't actually discover this one, a friend told a friend who told me where it was situated. And in classic urban fashion, it was three feet away from the curb on a city street, completely invisible to the unsuspecting pedestrian. The friend who found it just happened to be looking into the woods when he spotted it. And it never moved, even for three separate voyeurs.

It's a sweet notion to think all that high octane rut activity in the fall leads to such a vulnerable little creature and a delicate moment. The yin and the yang. Spring and Autumn.