Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Photo captured from the Robson Bight camera on

Sometimes we need to escape to the outdoors, but find ourselves stuck in the office, or stuck at home thanks to poor weather or the obligations of our busy lives. In these situations, I'm especially grateful for those who endeavor to bring the outdoors to us, such as the people at Here, you can browse through a multitude of webcams that can take you from the beaches of Hawaii to the Redwood forest, to the nests of eagles and hummingbirds, to the arctic circle for a glimpse of the aurora.

However, if you're looking for peace and tranquility, you can't do much better than the Orcalab webcam at Robson Bight in British Columbia. Here you can gaze on tranquil waters, catch a colorful sunset, listen to waves lapping on the shore, hear the sound of eagles chattering or frogs singing. Perhaps you may even catch sight of an orca! It's a blissful scene... take a few minutes to enjoy:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Musings: Behind the Scenes of my Vantage Point

This post was inspired by Light... read on to find out more. 

Maple cathedral, Saint Edward State Park. Lainey Piland photo

There's always some self-doubt and second guessing involved. The trees begin leaning in at the right angles, the ravine sweeps and curves in that familiar way. Click, click. I squint at the screen of my camera and frown. Nope, this isn't it. I follow the trail another hundred feet or so, curve around a corner and stand on my tiptoes to aim my lens over a thicket of salmonberry brambles that grow taller and make this endeavor slightly more difficult with each succeeding year. Click, click. Again, I look at the camera screen and this time everything is perfect: the maple trees arching overhead, sheltering the salmonberry and devil's club-filled ravine below, where the trickling seasonal stream meanders through, unseen.

Of all the trails, nature preserves, and parks I've wandered and photographed, this right here is my favorite vantage point: two square feet of muddy trail clinging to the hillside above the ravine on the South Canyon Trail in Saint Edward State Park. From this vantage point, one has the perfect view of the place I like to call the Maple Cathedral.

Craning to look above the salmonberry, you feel as though you've flung open the heavy doors of some high and holy place: a cathedral formed by bigleaf maples leaning from their anchors on the steep slope, trunks and branches curved to form a vaulted ceiling above the lush ravine far below. Birdsong fills the canopy and echoes through the void in a song more melodious than could be produced by any church choir or pipe organ. It's a view that makes you say "Oh" as you stand in awe, feeling both gloriously empty and lavishly full at the same time. You draw a breath as though it's the first one to ever fill your lungs. Heaven.

I've visited this place many times, in all seasons, and still when I hit those magic coordinates I feel the same overwhelming reaction. The photo above was captured on April 2nd of last year, and shows my Maple Cathedral in the full glow of late afternoon. Although the maples were still bare from the winter and hadn't leafed out yet, the ravine below was filled with salmonberry resplendent in the vivid green leaves of spring, and they caught the afternoon light in a spectacular way.

It can be challenging to take good photographs in the forest on sunny days such as this one, where there is a harsh contrast between light and shadow. Your pictures end up looking like stripes of black shadow interspersed with stripes of glaring green foliage or washed-out tree bark. I was fortunate to arrive at my favorite vantage point during a time when the light was more hospitable and offered a softer, glowing image. It was a rewarding moment to capture.

This Nature Nerd is not a photographer, but loves to tote her hefty Nikon D5000 on all of her adventures in the outdoors to capture some of the beautiful, breathtaking, or interesting sights that exist in nature and share them with others here on the blog. Earlier photos on the blog were all taken with my iPhone 4, but a few years ago I was gifted with the Nikon, and it has been my beloved companion (okay, along with my husband...) on the majority of my adventures. But I know that a digital SLR does not a photographer make, so I'm always shooting with humility and am pleasantly surprised when I can come away with photos like the one above that are actually representative of the scene I witnessed in person. Of course, having a naturally photogenic subject such as my favorite vantage point certainly helps in those endeavors!

So now let's get back to the inspiration for this post. Recently I learned about the Vantage Point project, where photographers share a photo from a special vantage point and the story behind it. The project was created by Light, a company that makes the most intriguing camera I've ever seen. Take a look at the gallery - there are photos from all over the world! I'm glad to contribute a photo from my favorite little corner of the planet. And while you're at it... click on over to the Light website and take a gander at their cutting-edge Light L16 camera that utilizes folded optics technology to create DSLR-quality photos in a small, streamlined design. Look at all those lenses - how cool is that?! With its high-quality images and compact design, this looks like an ideal camera for a nature-wandering blogger who also loves to take photos! Hmmm...

A rare shot of the Nature Nerd behind the scenes. On a rainy hike to Blue Lake, with my beloved camera stuffed under my jacket in an attempt to keep it dry.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Get ready... More Than Just Parks has released their newest film, this time featuring Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Escape to tropical climes where volcanic activity slowly builds new land, where magma is spit into the steaming sea and calderas glow with brimstone. This is a reminder of what Earth must have been like in its early days, with sweeping landscapes of barren volcanic rock that was yet too volatile to be colonized with life.

So very different from our Rainier, Baker, and Glacier Peak volcanoes that slumber inconspicuously beneath blankets of snow, these Big Island volcanoes are active and oozing molten rock, serving as a constant reminder of the ways in which danger and beauty intertwine in the natural world.

We don't often glimpse Earth at its most primal, powerful, and dangerous, but this film brings us right to one of the places on this planet where such processes can be witnessed in person. Just seeing it on a screen is exhilarating, so I can only imagine how breathtaking it is in person!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Saint Edward State Park - this cathedral is always filled with birdsong! Lainey Piland photo

Last week, I was bustling around the house doing chores on a hectic day and paused to open a window and let some fresh air in. I turned to walk away, but the trilling call of a song sparrow surprised me and called me back to the window. With the cool air blowing in over my cheeks, I squinted through the screen to try and locate the cheerful bird in the cedar trees across the street from my house. A few minute's searching yielded no sight of the bird, so I left the window to return to my chores, more relaxed now, my lungs filled with fresh air that flowed straight to my veins and my heart filled with the hope of springtime carried on the few notes of a song sparrow's call.

So often, the sounds of nature are just the thing to pull us from our inward-focused thoughts and draw us back into the world around us. We're awakened to the small sounds and tiny details that so easily escape our notice as we chase the busy-ness of life, and are again able to find a sense of peace.

I recently discovered my new favorite website, called Nature Soundmap. Here, you can listen to nature sounds from all over the world. Want to listen to mud boiling in Yellowstone? The sounds of the Amazon rainforest? An Emperor Penguin colony in Antarctica? You can hear them all on Nature Soundmap.

Let's take a listen to something more familiar and closer to home: the sounds of the Olympic rainforest, including the Pacific chorus frog, waves on the beach, and the dawn chorus of birds:

That sure tunes up the sense of hearing, doesn't it? Are there any sounds on the map that speak to you or bring back memories? This week, be sure to open some windows in your home or office, or take a walk around the block with your ears attentive to the sounds of nature around you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

"May all those who visit find inspiration in the resilience of desert life- which in the harshest of conditions find a way to thrive."
- Joshua Tree NPS on Twitter, Jan 26th 2017
This sentiment showed up on the Joshua Tree National Park Twitter account last week, and I think the subtext here is especially powerful given the current state of things in our country, where - who would have guessed - the National Parks and rangers who steward them led our country toward hope amidst despairing times.

Truly, one can look at the surprising abundance of life in the desert as a metaphor for the fact that we, too, can survive and thrive in challenging times. That there is still joy and beauty present even in the most inhospitable conditions. The film below showcases the brilliance of wildflowers against the stark desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. Not only that, but you can learn the names of a few desert wildflowers, too! Take a look and escape to the desert:

Take some time to show love to our National Parks! Visit, donate, send a thank you or give them a follow if you're on social media.