Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Happy Day in May

Oh, where does the time go?

For the past six years, my son Cody has been studying at Mt. Angel Seminary.  Two weeks ago, he finally reached the end of a very long road.  It was graduation day!

The lovely grounds at Mt Angel Seminary

It seemed like only yesterday I was helping him move into the seminary's dorms (as a matter of fact I blogged about it).  Back then, the spring of 2016 loomed far in the distant future.

Peach colored roses

But time has a way of zipping by.  Six years passed in a furious flash, and all of a sudden Cody's term at Mt. Angel was nearing its end.  Receiving his graduation announcement in the mail, it began to sink in.  My son was done with his schooling!

More gorgeous blooms

The day before commencement, Mt. Angel held a special mass for all the graduates.  Since it happened to coincide with my Friday off, I spent the morning photographing waterfalls at nearby Silver Falls State Park before heading to the seminary.  Arriving with plenty of time to spare, I busied myself capturing images of their lovely rose garden.

The Abbey church

It was a gorgeous (but warm!) blue sky spring day.  Perfect for photographing the immaculately landscaped seminary grounds and the beautiful Abbey Church.

Rhododendron garden

However the next day dawned cloudy and rainy.  A complete turnaround from the previous day's lovely weather!  Although not ideal conditions for a spring graduation, at least temperatures would be more comfortable.

Lovely purple rhodies

And I enjoyed the even lighting of the overcast skies to capture a few more shots of Mt. Angel's gorgeous rhododendrons, in full, colorful bloom.

Entrance procession

Then my husband, daughter and I took our seats in the beautiful Abbey Church.  When the organ began playing "Pomp and Circumstance" I had to blink back a few tears.  Then the graduates processed in.

There's my son!

I had an aisle seat and was able to get a quick, but slightly blurry, shot of my son as he passed by. 

Cody receiving his first degree

Cody received three degrees - a Bachelor's of Theology, Masters of Theology, and Masters of Divinity.  Two of the three degrees he graduated with honors (and just missed it on his third one).  That meant many trips to the front altar!

Masters of Divinity recipients

Here's a shot of all the Masters of Divinity recipients.  Most of them will be ordained priests in the coming months.

Cody receiving his second degree

The good thing about Cody having multiple trips to the front, was more opportunities to try for a good photograph.  I didn't use a flash, and turned my ISO up high.  But due to poor lighting, getting a good image was a challenge.  I wished I would've brought a monopod.

Masters of Theology recipients

Here are all the Masters of Theology recipients.  Not as many for this degree!

My super smart son!

When the ceremony was over, we exited the church to rainy skies.  Taking refuge in the dining hall, my family and I enjoyed a wonderful spread while waiting for our graduate to arrive.

Proud parents

Luckily, the rain tapered off long enough for a few family photos outside by the rhodie bushes.

My daughter playing with her brother's tassel

I'm lucky to have such wonderful kids, who get along well, and love to tease each other.  As I was posing them for a photo, my daughter began mischievously playing with her brother's tassel.  I couldn't resist capturing the moment.

Proud mama moment!

Oh yes, it was a huge proud mama moment!  My heart swelled with joy on Cody's accomplishments.

However, it was also bittersweet, as I realized my son would now be leaving Oregon and moving back to Montana.  He'll be ordained as a priest in late June, and permanently assigned to a Western Montana parish.  I'll miss having Cody so close, but I know he is excited for the future, and ready to begin the next chapter of his life.

P.S.  I promise in the next post I'll continue with my Southern Oregon Coast trip...this news was just too good to wait!  :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cape Blanco Lighthouse and Another Sunset

(Continuing the recap of my late April trip to Bandon and the Southern Oregon coast....) 

Day two of my Southern Oregon coast trip, and I'd had a fabulous morning exploring the Bandon beaches.  But all that wandering had worked up an appetite.  Time to find some lunch!

Whimsical restaurant art

So I drove a short distance into charming downtown Bandon, hoping to find that perfect bowl of clam chowder.  Bandon has a lovely boardwalk that parallels the Coquille River, lined by several seafood restaurants.

Oh, which one to pick?  The Bandon Fish Market, with it's colorful school of fish decorating an outer wall caught my attention.  But then I noticed a crowd of people gathering outside a tiny building with a red roof.  Lots of customers usually indicates a good place, so I got in line behind the counter of Tony's Crabshack.

Home of delicious fish tacos!

Oh yeah, I chose well.  Not only did I enjoy a sumptuous bowl of clam chowder, spying fish tacos on the menu, I made an impulse order.  It was a good decision.  Those tacos were to die for!  Sorry, no food pics - it all was inhaled way too quickly.  :)

A great idea

Post-lunch, I took a stroll along Bandon's boardwalk, taking in the views across the Coquille River and westward towards the mighty Pacific Ocean.  Lots of fishing boats were tied up on one end, and the other housed a boat ramp and a long floating dock.  A few people with fishing poles were scattered along it's length, trying their luck.  One of the best things I saw was this kiosk at the boat ramp entrance, full of loaner life jackets for children to use and return.  What a great idea!

Cape Blanco lighthouse

For the afternoon, I'd planned to visit another Oregon coast lighthouse.  A short half-hour drive south took me to Cape Blanco and it's beautiful lighthouse.

Cape Blanco is a prominent coastal headland, rising 200 feet above the sea and jutting out into the Pacific Ocean.  It's the most westernmost point in Oregon, and except for Cape Alava, Washington, extends the furthest west in the lower 48 US states.

Ocean views from Cape Blanco

Although a rough gravel road took visitors to the it's very base, I opted to park and walk the half mile to the lighthouse.  I wasn't sorry at all - the road provided great views of the gorgeous beach below.  Lots of colorful wildflowers bloomed on the grassy slopes.  Plentiful photo ops!

Lighthouse close-up

Upon arrival, I took a quick swing through the gift shop.  Then I climbed up a grassy slope and let myself in the lighthouse's side door.  It appeared a tour was beginning so I hung at the back of the group, until the guide politely told me I needed to purchase a ticket at the gift shop if I wanted to join them.  Hmmm.....I was a tiny bit miffed, having just been in the gift shop and no one had bothered to mention this.  Disappointed, I decided to skip it.  It was more fun taking photos of the outside anyway.

Path to the beach

Walking back towards my car, I noticed a couple groups heading down a flower-lined trail to the beach below.  Never missing a chance to capture more lovely coastal images, I followed along.

Lots of flowers here!

It was so beautiful!  The ocean sparkled a teal blue, capped by frothy white waves.  Lots of yellow flowers bloomed in the grassy cliffs, accented by some purple lupine and more wild iris.  Had it not been for the strong winds, I would've stayed there all afternoon.  But on the way to Cape Blanco, the wind had picked up, and it was now blowing hard. 

Face Rock Wayside with fabulous light

The ferocious winds forced me off the beach and into my car.  I headed back to Bullards Beach State Park and spent a blissfully quiet two hours at my yurt (everyone in the yurt village had left for the day!).  Around dinnertime, when the loud family made their rambunctious return, I took that as my cue to leave.  Time to capture another sunset!

Sea stacks in the evening light

Back at Face Rock Wayside, the low western sun was illuminating its beaches with some incredible light.

After dinner beach stroll

I perched myself at one of the overlooks and enjoyed watching people going about their evening routines.  A few folks were out for a walk, and one couple waded into the surf, trying their luck fishing.

Lone fisherman

Such wonderful light!  I must've taken a zillion photos of this beach.

Fading light at Coquille Point

After an hour or so, I journeyed back to Coquille Point, my new favorite sunset-watching spot.

Observation platform

Despite the strong winds, it was a lovely evening.  Unlike the previous night, the skies were mostly clear and a setting sun cast its golden glow upon the beach.

Wonderful night for a beach walk!

I wandered down to water level, gazing across the sand.  A small group of shorebirds skittered at the waterline, searching for food.

Gettin' up close with the sea stacks

I headed back towards the sea stacks, admiring their spectacular shapes.

I heart the beach

And paused to capture a bit of artwork in the sand.

Fading sunlight

When the sun began it's final descent, this time I was prepared with camera mounted firmly on tripod.  Good thing, as the wind was still gusting quite strongly.

Shorebirds on the sand

There wasn't any shortage of photographers tonight either.  But for the most part, we all did a good job of staying out of each other's way.

The sun is sinking fast

Another fantastic orange-hued sky!  It reflected on the wet beach sand, making absolutely stunning scenes.

Sky reflections on the wet sand

As the sun's glowing orange ball slid towards the horizon, I braced myself against the howling wind hoping it would hurry up and set.  It was getting cold out here on the beach!

Almost down

Another successful sunset capture!  My job done, I headed back to the campground to endure another night of noisy neighbors. 

But tomorrow I had plans to explore Shore Acres State Park, another hidden gem on the Oregon Coast.  Coming in my next post....

Friday, May 20, 2016

Fabulous Morning in Bandon

(Continuing the recap of my late April trip to Bandon and the Southern Oregon coast....)

I learned the first lesson of yurt rental that Friday night - never get a yurt over a weekend at a popular campground.  Bullards Beach State Park had six yurts for rent - all clustered close together in what they called a "village."  Upon returning to camp after photographing the sunset, I discovered I had several noisy neighbors.

Coquille River Lighthouse

It appeared members of the same family had rented at least three of the available yurts, all directly adjacent to mine.  Besides having lots of shrieking kids (yes, I'm a mom and I know kids will be kids, but these were especially loud) the adults stayed up way past midnight, drinking and talking at full volume.  Needless to say, it wasn't a very relaxing night's sleep.

Morning beach view

Waking before 7 am the following morning, I had about 30 minutes of peace and quiet before the neighbor kids arose and resumed their screaming.  Time to go explore the beach!

Looking towards Elephant Rock

I began my morning with a drive out to the Coquille River Lighthouse.  Located across the Coquille River from Bandon, this small, but charming structure sits at the base of a rocky jetty.  Although no longer in service, and only intermittently open to the public, it makes a nice photo subject.

House with an amazing view

After getting a few lighthouse images, I drove into Bandon and discovered a small parking area on a bluff just south of the jetty.  Several local trails led walkers and runners down to the beach or along the clifftop.  The views back towards the Coquille River were especially nice.

Fab morning light on the seastacks

Then I drove back to Face Rock Wayside.  I discovered excellent morning light illuminating the shoreline.  Excitedly, I grabbed my camera, and headed down to ocean level.

Blue sand reflections

It was a beautiful morning for a walk on the beach.

Morning beach walk

Wet sand reflected the blue sky overhead.  Frothy waves crashed on nearby rocks.  Seagulls glided overhead.


Not only the wide sweeping coastline panoramas, other small details also got the attention of my camera lens.  A small group of shorebirds searching for food in the wet sand against the bright blue water.

Lovely purple shell

And this incredibly lovely purple-hued shell.

Bird reflection

Some of the seastacks cast reflections in the wet sand, and I busied myself trying to capture a few abstract views.

Seastack reflecions

Finally, climbing back up the wooden staircase to the parking lot, I stopped to take in the amazing ocean vistas from on top of the bluff.

View from Face Rock Wayside

Gorse flowers were blooming prolifically along the cliff faces.

Gorse bloom

These bright yellow flora made a stunning backdrop to the blue ocean below.

Lovely colorful beach view

Still having some time before lunch, I headed back to Coquille Point.  I'd enjoyed watching the sun set there last night, and decided the place needed a bit more exploration.

Elephant Rock

Many large seastacks sat a short distance from the beach.  Elephant Rock, one of the largest, was especially interesting, as it was shaped similar to a large-eared elephant.  Hundreds of seabirds nested on it's flat top.

Delicate white wildflowers

Since I didn't have time to explore the blufftop trails the prior night, I took the opportunity to check them out now.  I found several varieties of flowers blooming in the grassy slopes, such as these delicate white ones (which I didn't know the name of).

Seabirds on Elephant Rock

Then I spied a small patch of purple peeking out from the beach grass.

Wild Iris

Wild iris!  One of my favorite wildflowers!

More iris blossoms

I love these vivid, purple beauties.  Hoping to catch their blooming season, I felt like I'd hit the wildflower jackpot.

Colorful beach scene

I spent the rest of the morning wandering about Coquille Point's trail system, capturing as many iris as I could.  (Yes, there's quite a few iris images posted here, but you should've seen how many I started with!)

Great morning to be on the coast!

A hugely successful morning for beach photography!  With a full memory card and empty tummy, I now set my sights on Bandon's downtown boardwalk, hoping to score a bowl of clam chowder.

In my next post, I'll continue the day's recap - with another lighthouse visit and more fabulous sunset shots.  You won't want to miss it!

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