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    Entries by Dr. Jeff Harper (304)

    USA Road Trip: Driving the Oregon Coast to the California Redwoods

    The beautiful southern Oregon coast in early April.

    A rugged coast for several hundred miles.

    The old 1996 Chevy 4X4 camper truck working well.

    A classic lighthouse on a high bluff above the raging Pacific Ocean.

    Sea Lions abound along the southern Oregon coast.  We saw them at almost all our stops.

    The famous beauty of the Oregon coast in all its magnificence.

    The drive south on the Oregon coast is wonderful because at every turn there is a new sweeping panorama . . .

    A beautiful bay just south of Crescent City, California after sunrise.

    People out on their morning beach walk.

    I'm glad I had the V8!  Not exactly a tourist trap . . . but a pretty good dinosaur park roadside attraction.

    We made many stops along Highway 101 to ogle at the incredible scenery.

    Of course, my wife wanted to stop and look at every golf curse along the way.  This one, near Brookings, looked so Scottish!  A real links curse, yellow gorse and all!

    Arriving at the Crescent City bay.

    Crescent City bay and lighthouse.

    Crescent City lighthouse.

    A beachcombers' stick sculpture.

    I love these Pacific Northwest coastal scenes.

    On of my favorite photographic subjects: driftwood.

    Worn by sea, sun, and sand into fabulous textures and patterns . . .

    A visitor's cartouche . . .

    A damaged surface.  The orange scrape revealing the natural color behind the grey aged driftwood.

    Twisted driftwood.

    A revelation of the history of the forces and conditions this particular tree has experienced in the past represented in these patterns.

    Ice plant!  Stained all my clothes as a child.  Here, at Crescent City, in flower on a rainy morning.
    We stayed the night in a motel in Crescent City, California and went out for seafood on the pier . . . and discovered the sea lions at sunset.

    Sea lions are fascinating to watch.  Very entertaining sea mammals!

    The Crescent City harbor . . . a gull supervises a log-full of sea lions.

    Sea lions on a log in the sunset.

    It was early April . . . time to take down the Christmas decorations . . . but cute.

    Crossing the Smith River on the way to a redwood stand.

    One of many foreign tourists that visit the giant redwoods of California every year.

    A fantastically dramatic redwood snag left from some past burn.

    Ancient giant redwoods.

    We walked for hours on the park paths among the towering redwoods.

    The park service did a good job of keeping the paths easily accessible by cutting back fallen redwoods.

    An incredible space, line, color.

    Ancient plant spirits . . .

    Sturdy, solid, immense, strong, tall . . .

    Walking in the giant redwood forest is a spiritual experience.

    Wonderful shafts of clear, bright light illuminated the forest.

    A single lit redwood in the dense forest.

    A giant redwood healing an old wound.

    A beautiful path through a magical forest.

    Deeper into the redwood forest.

    The sturdy foot of a giant redwood.

    The existential redwood.

    Redwood bark.

    We could have stayed in these woods all day . . . but the call of a seafood dinner beckoned.

    Out through the small trees to the camper . .  and then, the next day, back to Keizer, Oregon on I-5.

    A Beach Week-End: Hua Hin, Thailand

    It wasn't a Thai holiday, so it was a good time to drive the 2 1/2 hours from Bangkok to the seaside town of Hua Hin.

    Hua Hin is a sweet little seaside town with just enough tourism to have a variety of restaurants and shops of interest.  We are here in the Not The Tourist Season.  It is growing fast.

    There are interesting seafood restaurents built on piers over the Gulf of Thailand.

    There are a number of large hotels and beach front condominiums along this part of the coast.

    There was a surprising lack of tourists at the hotel beach areas.  The weather was fine . . . there were occasional afternoon tropical showers to keep the temperature down.

    This artist serves the tourist trade by making family portraits from photos from iPhones.
    Hua Hin is a nice place to stroll around in to sample the wonderful Thai treats . . . 

    . . . like sticky rice and mangoes.  The best dessert on earth (in my estimation).

    You never know who you will run into.  This young man lived in Los Angeles, California for many years before deciding he had a better life in Thailand as a street cart barista.  "You don't know the difference until you lived somewhere else.  I love my life in Thailand."

    Making a living selling vegetables door to door in Hua Hin.

    People who work outside in the sunshine often completely cover themselves from head to toe.

    It looks like she has dome a little grocery shopping for herself as well . . .

    Hua Hin sees many new European retirees every year.  In this case, a Frenchman came to Hua Hin 25 years ago and opened up this beach side French restaurant.  It serves delicious food.  Real French food.

    The view from the French restaurant is very relaxing.

    After lunch we strolled over to a nearby Chinese Buddhist Tempe.

    I love exploring these temples . . . and paying respect to The Buddha and what he hoped for all of us.

    I love the decoration and the array of colorful votive items at these Chinese temples.

    A small incense pot and altar.  Touching.

    The view from the Chinese temple back to Hua Hin town.  As can be seen, Hua Hin sits on a narrow coastal shelf between low hills and the Gulf of Thailand.

    Back at our seaside lodgings . . . the view from above.

    A lone fishing (squid) boat waiting for the crew.

    A Hua Hin blue hour sunset (looking east, away from the setting sun).

    A Hua Hin sunrise sea.

    Samut Songkhran & Amphawa Village - A Good Day Out and About in Thailand

    Up and out the door at 4:30am to catch the sun rise over the salt pans of Samut Songkhran with a couple of buddies . . . and for a day of photography.
    Roadside salt sales before sunset.

    A workman is a blur in first light.

    At 5:45am the ambient temperature was already 89f . .  with a heat index of 105f!

    Early morning salt pan.  The salt is raked up into cones by one crew, and picked up and hauled by wheelbarrow to a large pile near the highway for transportation.

    The salt workers were working hard at first light to get as much done before the blistering heat to come.

    Scooping heavy, damp salt.

    Loading the wheelbarrow for another trip to the highway.

    Another load full to wheel out . . .

     . . . and then back again in an endless loop of scoop, haul, return, scoop . . .

    Marvelous patterns of salt cones in the morning magic hour light.

    A kindly looking salt worker on a hammock.

    Obey. Indeed.
    Meanwhile, in another salt pan down the road . . .

    After an hour at the sunrise pans, we drove a kilometer up the road and found a big crew out in a damp pan raking the salt into the cones.  Hard work in the morning sun.

    Hard at work while standing in supersaturated salt water.

    Such a photogenic scene . . . especially when the salt workers pose for you!!!

    Windmills, salt, humanity, reflections . . .

    Having a chat while working . . . 

    The salt workers seemed to know each other well . . . it's more enjoyable to work while sharing a joke with your friends.

    Home made crude scrapers for piling the salt into cones.

    Moving  and placing heavy planks for the wheelbarrows that will come to remove the salt from the pans.

    Protection from the sun . . . .

    Extreme sun protection . . . it must be very hot under that hood in this oppressive heat and humidity.

    The is much to see in the area, so we moved on . . .

    Rural roads are few and far between - valuable land is not used up for roads.  As such, the roads that do exist serve for arterials for power, phone, and water.  This is Thai local highway 2001.

    In the next salt pan, baskets were used to collect a special salt from the surface.

    Ongoing salt harvesting.

    I love these amazing contraptions . . . used to flatten the pans after the salt has been removed.

    This is a rare (and valuable) form of flake salt favored by chefs . . . it floats on top of the supersaturated pans and is harvested in baskets (above).

    A beautiful Chinese-style Buddhist temple reflected in the salt pans.

    Light and flakey salt -- very valuable and sought after.

    Directly across from the flake salt gathering was the Buddhist Wat I came to see after 5 years . . . . Wat Lat Yai with the Buddha colossus. 

    I had such wonderful memories of the spirituality of this Wat when I last visited.  There are always interesting and unexpected things to see in a Wat.  Some of what you see are what the monks themselves have arranged (like this small altar), but most of what is seen in a Wat are the results of what the big, rich donors want there to be.
    The surviving old monk quarters.  I am always amazed to see a satellite dish in a Buddhist temple . . . 

    Always beautiful flowers to be seen in a Wat.

    Wat Lat Yai has some of the strangest 'grottos' I have ever seen.  From the outside they are just plain weird . . .

    What exactly is going on here?  Remember, these things are placed in temples by the doners, not by the monks, who renounce material things.  But still . . . .

    Although the outside of this man-made grotto was a little strange, the inside was magic.

    The banana leaf origami on this altar piece was stunningly beautiful.  I felt a little like Indiana Jones discovering a lost tomb or ancient temple never seen before.  These are Hindu religious items revered in Thailand along side The Buddha.

    Remarkable fine detailing.

    Even the cobwebs seem to belong; adding to the spiritual power of this votive object.

    Bikkus, listeners of the Buddha teaching the dharma.

    Another Hindu reference . . . a four face sadhu.

    Sadhu and Buddha images in the grotto.  I loved being in that space . . .

    There were also a series of enclave altars around the outside and back of the grotto structure.

    These are living altars.  As can be seen, people bring offerings, usually wishing or hoping for good luck.  Notice that someone has left the address plate from their house on the altar . . .

    Slung here and there, votive charms festoon the temple trees.

    The reason I wanted to return to this Wat and bring friends, was because there used to be a tropical pine grove with old Buddha images in it . . . covered in pine needles.  The pine forest is gone: slashed because they did not fit the plan of a doner with a new vision for this temple.  The old Buddhas were still there, but looking like they have been 'mothballed' . . .

    These old, and seemingly discarded, Buddha images seemed to me to be highly spiritual reminders of the project that the Buddha called us to try.

    It seems like someone has taken a scraper to clean some of the moss of of this Buddha image.

    Still bright and shiny . . . an overgrown mirror chedi.

    By this time of the morning (9:00am) it was already devilishly hot: well over 40c.  We went inside to the shaded hall where two nice old ladies (helpers) brought us bottled water.  The hall seemed temporary, perhaps being used until some other structure was being built.

    The altar was crowded with Buddha images.  Fascinating.

    There seemed to be many more Hindu symbols in this Wat than others I have visited. I want a hat like this!

    "What, me worry?"  Supreme detachment.  We left the Wat and headed back to the highway where we saw a sign pointing to small road and the name of another Wat . . .

    A short drive up a small rural road in search of another Buddhist temple to explore.  We didn't find the temple, but we did find this wonderful village built on a canal not far from where it emptied into the Gulf of Thailand.

    I love these canal side fishing villages . . . they are so picturesque . . . and visually complex.

    Too hot to do anything other than to sit around with your friends and family and mend nets . . . unless you are a falang photographer, that is!

    I'm not sure what the make of this V-2 long-tail boat engine is, but it was a beautiful scene.

    There was a lovely roadside fish market just outside the hamlet.

    Many different kinds, sizes, and colors of fish . . . all inviting visual exploration.

    These small 'smelt' are very tasty when deep fat fried.  One of my favorites.

    Delicious-looking baby squid.  My favorite.

    Good looking fish.

    The drying fish are meant to be used in soups and curries.

    But, of course, the most visually interesting fish were the baskets with their intricately patterned fish on display.
    While I was photographing these fish baskets, I was thinking that these would print and frame very beautifully as a set.

    Perhaps I should come back here with a big tripod and reflectors for more professional, and better framed, shots . . .

    I took many, many photos of these beautiful fish baskets, but only post a few here.

    We asked one of the fish hawkers how to get to the seashore and they pointed to a small road.  We passed this woman busily building a boat on the roadside in tremendous heat and humidity.

    The small dirt road dumped us out at the foot of these mud flats . . . crawling with small crabs.  These are the mud flats famous for a particular type of small clam that the Thais absolutely love to eat.  

    The elaborate bamboo barrier works extended for miles and miles along these mud flats . . . and off into the horizon of the Gulf of Thailand.

    At a point of a small canal entering the mud flats there were many kinds of barrier works.

    A workman out doing maintenance on the bamboo works.

    Fresh cut bamboo was being unloaded and made into rafts to bring out into the sea.  This was a huge project . . .

    A Samut bamboo wrangler.

    Our next stop was at the village of Amphawa, a floating market.  Too much tourism has changed the feeling of this place since I last visited it nearly 20 years ago.  It is still very charming . . . and visually interesting.

    There are many very nice, upscale coffee shops and nice restaurants . . . a big change from an authentic fishing and market village.
    With the ambient temperature above 105(f) with high humidity, it was little wonder there were few people out and about.

    The repeating patterns of the klong access steps made for a fascinating study.

    Life along the canal (klong)  . . .

    Swimming to beat the heat?  No . . . fishing for bottom feeders with a long-handled net.

    With few tourists around, and crushing heat, the boat vendors sat in quiet repose . . . waiting for a sale.

    When the  canal is full of tourists in their small boats, these floating restaurants serve the water traffic.

    This was the only tourist boat we say all afternoon . . . and they looked HOT!

    In some respects, this might be the best time of year to visit Amphawa . . . the rest of the year it is overcrowded with tourists.  They had the place to themselves.

    Standing on a bridge over the canal . .  and a view one way . . . and . . .

     . . . the view in the other direction toward a Buddhist temple (wat).

    A tourist boat cruising for a fare . . . unsuccessfully.

    That looks inviting.  We went over to this marvelous Old Thai style coffee house for some ice coffee and cold water.

    Such a beautiful place to rest, replenish, hydrate, and sit in front of some fans.

    Old Thai style wood panels are so beautiful.

    After a break we walked along he wooden boardwalks and secretly peaked into the houses.  Such serene stillness in the oppressive heat and humidity.

    We took our time meandering along the shops . . . and this nice museum of the history of canal life.

    A spinning windmill behind the museum.

    Antique canoes stacked along side the museum.

    Even as hot as it was, the propeller still needed repairing.

    The tourist boas were beautifully decorated . . . in hopes of attracting business . . . which never came on this scorching day.

    The ladies in their food stall boats congregated to swat flies and swap lies, as they say.  Not much else to do.

    Back over the bridge toward the car.  The hot day nearly over . . . the car air-conditioner is calling.

    My friend John always on the look out for an amazing image.

    We descended down into the sea of sun parasols and the tourist curios.

    Our last act was to buy a 'croc-on-a-stick' brochet . . . Yes, it did taste like chicken, which makes a kind of sense since crocodiles are actually surviving dinosaurs . . . and birds are dinosaur descendants.  We worried all the way back home that we could have eaten 'bad crocodile' . . . . but we were fine . . . no intestinal turmoil after all.  

    USA Road Trip: Grand Canyon (North Rim)

    The morning of our Grand Canyon adventure began here . . .

    The Grand Canyon (North Rim) barely visible in the distance.  We stayed in Kanab, Utah and drove up to the canyon on a full day trip.

    It was a very long climb up to the north rim. The road eventually flattened out in a series of high meadows.

    We didn't see any bears here, but we stopped for coffee nearby and were told that there had been many sightings that day.
    The National Park Service offers these cabins for rent at the lodge on the canyon rim.

    Very sweet cabin.  We stayed in one like this at the Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming many years ago.

    The park lodge is magnificent.

    We had a surprisingly good brunch in the lodge cafe.  Highly recommended, if a bit expensive.  But, of course, we didn't come all this way for the brunch . . . . .

    As far as canyons go, this one is definitely grand . . . as grand as a canyon can get.

    The Grand Canyon is so immense it is difficult to capture the true size of the place.  Yes, panoramas can give the scope of the image, but you would need to plaster that panorama on the side of a sports arena to really get the true awesomeness.  A first peek of the canyon.  The first overlook, just below the park lodge.  Jaw dropping . . . .

    Awe inspiring views at every turn.

    There are many foot paths up on the ridges and rim of the canyon leading to different viewing overlooks.

    It was a very pleasant day to be up at this altitude . . . much cooler than the 100f+ (40c+) we had seen in the valleys.

    The overlooks were situated in very dramatic, and frightening locations.  This very beautiful and friendly tourist posed for me.  Sweet.

    The path led us out to a precarious viewing point high above the canyon floor.

    A wonderful walk.  A new view.

    I have, like most of us, seen many TV documentaries on the geology of the Grand Canyon.  Each strata in the rocks representing millions of years.  The age of the planet on display, like the rings of a tree.

    Not all 'view points' are authorized.  We saw several fools doing this kind of thing. Not recommended.

    I love these framed views of the canyon.  You can see the excessive smoke on the far horizon from the many wild fires in the western States.  There was also a small lightening fire on one of the nearby ridges.  It was extinguished by the end of the day.

    The lightning fire can be seen in the middle left of this view.  This is also a nice view point for observing the geological strata.  Looks like a storm coming.

    There were some very beautiful trees along the rim path.  I love trees.

    Lovely tree.

    The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is closed from late Fall to late Spring because of the deep snow.  This old tree shows snow weight damage.

    Old tree.  A New Yorker left his/her mark.  Dumb.

    Photographing the Grand Canyon is not as easy as one would think.  The grand vistas can indeed be capture in several photos, but then what?  The huge panoramas can end up all looking the same.  Even moving a half mile one way and the other still yields pretty much the same perspective.  I tried to add interest in the shots.

    Such a pretty view of the canyon.

    After a wonderful day spent at the North Rim, we headed back to our hotel . . . to plan the next day's adventure!

    Road Trip USA: Leesville, Louisiana - A Childhood Home

    I lived in Leesville, Louisiana from 1958 to 1960, three years in all, from the age of 8, 9, and 10.  The house I lived in is now gone, but I noticed this house and it fit my memory of the kind of house we live in . . . a two story wooden duplex.


    This house sits at the actual address of our old home -  Vernon Terrace.  It is now across the street from a modern hospital and medical offices.  I played for hours and hours and had innumerable adventures in that forest behind this house. At that time the forest and wetlands within it went on for miles and miles and were teeming with snakes, wild boar, fish, salamanders, frogs, and bugs of all kinds.  Yes, I was a little disappointed that our old house was not there any more. I was also disappointed that the area behind the houses were not accessible . . . I wanted to go back there and look around.   


    I had the family chore of riding my bicycle the 1/2 mile from our house to this very burger stand and fetch the family order . . . and ride like the wind to get the burgers and fries back home before they were cold. I remember these burgers as the best I have ever eaten. I am amazed it is still there . . . and that I remembered it.


    There are still houses around the old neighborhood that have survived from the older times.


    I was very curious about the downtown of my childhood memories.  We used to ride our bicycles the 7-8 blocks to the movie house there for the double features.  Downtown Leesville showed all the signs of the consequences of a Walmart somewhere on the road leading out of town.  The businesses had mostly died a silent death, but it looked like the city fathers had, and might still be, fixing it us.


    Halloween was only a week away . . . and I was racing to Delaware to trick-or-treat with my two grandchildren.  These decorations reminded me of that. Everything here seems to be named 'Vernon', after the name of the Parish.  All the fire hydrants in town are painted this red, white and blue.


    The old Dreamland Theatre is now an event venue.  This is the movie house I remember so well as a child . . . watching cowboy movies, cartoons, and news reels.  Also, I have a memory of the entire balcony collapsing during the middle of a movie . . . fortunately we were sitting up near the screen, and there weren't other people in the movie house at the time!  Leesville High School had just held its Homecoming Dance there!


    I distinctly remember this ticket booth . . . and buying my tickets with such eager anticipation.  I also remember the Milk Duds and Necco Wafers I bought inside before the movies.


    It's nice to see that someone other than me remembers this wonderful small town movie theatre.  There is (was?) a large military base nearby, Fort Polk, where my father was stationed while we lived there.  There were always a few soldiers sitting alone in the dark theatre, quietly sobbing.  Homesick.


    There is a charm to these old 'dead' small town commercial districts that have been brought back to life.


    The task of bring the Leesville Historic District back to life is not complete.  This building has an asking price of US$37,000.


    There is very little real business going on in downtown Leesville.  Still, this key shop caught my eye. I went in.


    This man, and his son, have been running this key shop. for 36 years, since they bought it from the old man who had it for 55 years.  Yes, this shop would have been here when I was 9 years old . . . more or less exactly as it looks now.


    These keys gave me an idea of what kinds of doors are in the area . . . still some old skeleton key doors.


    Assuming Hundai changes their car key masters every few years, there were either very few Hundai's sold in Leesville, or the local Hundai owners were very responsible.  Dusty Keys . . . potential income locked up in blanks.


    This mural of the New York City skyline with the World Trade Towers intact really caught my eye.  Leesville is in the deepest of the Deep South, so one would not expect to find anything about New York City, but the impact of the 911 bombings had a profound effect on Americans everywhere.  The sense of having our country 'invaded' meant something in small town Louisiana.


    The old Vernon Parish Courthouse . . . decorated for Halloween.


    A public 'book nook' in old Leesville.


    A walk up 3rd Street, the old 'main drag', brought us to the Museum of West Louisiana.  In addition to these old historical buildings that had been reassembled on their grounds, there was also a restored historic train station.


    The old rail station, now the Museum of West Louisiana.  A lot of young soldiers passed through here on their way to and from Fort Polk . . . especially during the Vietnam War era.  "In 1962, Fort Polk began converting to an advanced infantry training (AIT) center. A small portion of Fort Polk is filled with dense, jungle-like vegetation, so this, along with Louisiana's heat, humidity and precipitation (similar to Southeast Asia) helped commanders acclimatize new infantry soldiers in preparation for combat in Vietnam. This training area became known as Tigerland. For the next 12 years, more soldiers were shipped to Vietnam from Fort Polk than from any other American training base. For many, Fort Polk was the only stateside Army post they saw before assignment overseas." (Wikipedia, Fort Polk). And a lot of those young soldiers never came back from Vietnam . . . the rail station is full of their ghosts.


    The rail station doors.  Imagine the emotional send-offs from this platform.  The station was closed in 1968 when regular passenger service ended.


    I assumed this to be the old station safe sitting outside rusting away.


    This coin operated kiddie car still sits outside the rail station waiting room. This relic is actually too new to have been there when I was a kid in Vernon Parish.


    The Museum of West Louisiana placed a few old farm implements around the rail station.  This old horse drawn tiller was fascinating.


    Old tiller seat.


    The old rail workers' bunkhouse had fabulous color and texture.


    The weathered old bunkhouse door.


    An old bunkhouse window, darkened from the light rain that was falling.


    Whenever I see these old, weathered windows and doors I am made aware of the man or woman who made and installed it.  What kind of day was it?  What did they have for lunch?


    Among the old buildings the museum transported to Leesville was this broken well.


    There was no shortage of artistic still life arrangements around Leesville.


    The Museum of West Louisiana spared no effort in obtaining authenticity!


    The view back up 3rd Street.  That tea house looks promising.


    Hazel's Tea Parlor . . . and its open!


    Hazel's Tea Parlor is somewhat new to Leesville.  A retired military man and his wife, originally from Philadelphia, came back to Leesville after being posted to Fort Polk many years ago.  It was their lifelong dream to open a tea house.


    A very cozy place . . . and the scones and tea were excellent.


    This is what I expected to find of my childhood memories of Leesville.  An old wall with the grocery store sign fading . . . and it was actually there!