The Valuable Inspiration of Dr. Scott Slovic

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Dr. Scott Slovic speaks about the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act at the public library in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

If you look at a list of the highest paid state employees in the United States, you’ll mostly see football and basketball coaches. While these people are seen as valuable because of their ability to coach a winning team or recruit talented athletes to play for free, I think the country’s most valuable state employee has very little at all to do with athletics. His name is Dr. Scott Slovic, and he is the new English Department Chair at the University of Idaho. When I was a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno, he was the chair of my graduate committee and the kindest and most warm-hearted person on campus.

Scott grew up in Eugene, Oregon where his father is a professor at the University of Oregon. He earned his bachelor degree at Stanford and was on the track team there for three years. He was also a Fullbright Scholar three times, once in Japan, once in Germany, and once in China. He earned his Masters and PhD at Brown University in Rhode Island and has been the rock star of environmental literature ever since. Just being in the same room with the guy is a treat, and students from all over the world travel thousands of miles to learn from him and be inspired to find their own ways to help improve the world.

Me and my academic hero, Dr. Scott Slovic, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Me and my academic hero, Dr. Scott Slovic, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

When I decided to go to Reno for graduate school, the location of the city on a map of the American West was one of my primary reasons, but I remembered Scott’s name on their faculty list because I used one of his essays about Edward Abbey on my undergraduate honors thesis about Edward Abbey and Arizona’s Glen Canyon Dam. I was beyond happy when Scott was named as my academic mentor during my first year as a graduate student. That first semester, I took his Native American Literature course, and he always went out of the way to help me, even though I was far from the academic all-star like many of his other students. Much of it is my own fault, but graduate school was really hard for me, and I rarely felt like I belonged. I wasn’t a good student in high school, and even though I did really well as a thirty-year-old undergrad, I went to a non-traditional college in Little Rock and never was the oldest student in the class. But Scott kind of took me under his wing and really helped me. He vouched for me and helped me begin my teaching career. There were a few times when I was dealing with some tough situations, and he would invite me over to his house for breakfast, and I could talk about my issues and receive positive feedback from him and his amazing wife, Susie.

Scott Slovic with his amazing wife Susie Bender

Scott Slovic with his amazing wife Susie Bender

The amazing thing to me is that he is doing things like this all the time. I’ve been around him and have heard his phone buzz every time he gets an important email. He gets hundreds of important emails a week from all over the world. He is just as much a diplomat as an extremely intelligent scholar, and I think he should be working for the government to promote global ways to improve the environment. He lectures all around the world about environmental literature, sustainability, wilderness, and many other important topics. When I had the honor to spend time with him this past June at his home in Moscow, Idaho, he had just finished spending a month in China where he inspired many young academics to pay attention to the way that environment is depicted in literature. He does things like this all the time and has been basically everywhere. Scott served as the founding president of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (Asle). He has published more than 200 books and is the author, co-author, or editor of twenty-one books. He also serves on the editorial board for eleven different scholarly journals.

Dr. Scott Slovic at the public library in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Dr. Scott Slovic at the public library in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

One thing that I think is super awesome about Scott is that he hasn’t let any of this go to his head. He’s a super nice person and is helpful, positive, and encouraging to hundreds, if not thousands of people around the world. I know some other professors who couldn’t hold his pencil sharpener but think they’re God’s gift to academics. He is very humble in his daily awesomeness, and that is why I believe that he is the most valuable state paid employee in the country.

 

The Palouse

Palouse Windmills

Palouse Windmills

The very important and inspirational friend that I was meeting in Moscow, Idaho was just finishing up with some teaching work in China, and I didn’t want to arrive too early because I knew that he would be dealing with jetlag and a long time away from home. So I took his advice and spent a few days exploring an area of Eastern Washington called The Palouse Region. It’s a very otherworldly place that looks like it was created just for landscape photographers. If I remember correctly from a geography of the American West class I took in grad school, a natural dam made of ice broke near Missoula, Montana many ages ago, and eroded the ground hundreds of miles to the west. There is also a giant natural aquifer underground which makes the Palouse very lush and green.

Palouse Falls, Washington

Palouse Falls, Washington

I had only read a little bit about the Palouse Region and looked at some photographs that awesome photographers from the Pacific Northwest had posted onto social media sites. My map wasn’t much help, and the Stuck on Earth iPhone app that I had been using stopped working once I finally arrived, so I just went to the notable places that I had heard about and made some stops along the way. Palouse Falls was really high on my photographic hit-list, so I decided to go there first. Even though it is a big waterfall, and I had just photographed a couple other waterfalls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, Palouse Falls is completely different. Instead of the lush green color of abundant plant life, Palouse Falls is more sparse and desert-like. I haven’t been to those famous waterfalls near the Grand Canyon, but I bet that they are similar. Regardless, it is a very impressive waterfall, and the trail which runs near it is quite breathtaking.

Steptoe Butte

Steptoe Butte

Steptoe Butte is the other place in the area that was high on my photographic radar. It’s a Washington State Park and contains the highest elevation of the Palouse Region. There are great, 360 degree views from all over the top of the butte (windmill shot above was made from top of Steptoe Butte), and I also shot some time-lapse stuff that I’ll use for a video that will be put together in a few months. I spent an entire day at the park and ended up shooting almost 3,000 images. My only complaint is the lack of campgrounds. I got tired after dark while looking for one and ended up sleeping in my truck behind some kind of silo on somebody’s farm. Yeah, I know that could be relatively dangerous, and there are a lot of trigger-happy people who are looking for a reason to shoot their new gun at somebody, so I set my alarm for 5 AM and made sure to be back on the road before daylight.

 

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Elowah Falls, Oregon

Elowah Falls, Oregon

When the rainy weather hit the Oregon Coast, I decided to go photograph some waterfalls. Oregon has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, and they’re even more special after a bit of rain. I had been to the super famous Multnomah Falls during my summer 2000 visit, and I knew that other waterfalls nearby wouldn’t have so many people around, and they are just as special. I began by getting a campsite at Eagle Creek Campground, which is the first United States Forest Service Campground and is over 100 years old. The location is great, and for $15, I think it’s one of the best deals in all of Oregon.

Tanner Creek, Oregon

Tanner Creek, Oregon

After securing that night’s lodging, I began hiking near Tanner Creek towards Wahclella Falls. It was so lush, green, and vibrant that I felt like I was walking through the scene of some sort of movie filmed in fantasyland. The beautiful hike crosses a bridge or two over Tanner Creek and then ends at the waterfall. It was flowing super-hard, at least from the perspective of someone who has lived in Nevada during the past six years. My love of nature photography began nearly twenty years ago with photographing waterfalls in Arkansas, and even though Oregon’s waterfalls are a little larger, they did make me think about those waterfalls in the Ozark Mountains that I used to joyfully photograph every spring.

Wahclella Falls, Oregon

Wahclella Falls, Oregon

My intention was to get some groceries the following morning and hike fourteen miles on the nearby Eagle Creek Trail, so I could see and photograph several other lovely waterfalls, but it was the Saturday of Fathers Day Weekend, and by the time I drove over to the trailhead, there was nowhere to park, and hundreds of hikers were already on the trail. Not seeing those other waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge is one of my biggest regrets of my trip so far, but I don’t really like to battle big crowds and felt like it was a sign that I should go ahead and move on to my next destination.

 

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon

The original plan was to slowly work my way up the coast and then make a quick jaunt east towards Moscow, Idaho to see an inspirational and important friend, but about five days before I planned to make the side-quest, a ton of rain hit the Oregon Coast. I was camped at the Oregon Dunes and hiked around a bit but left a few hours before sunset to try to photograph the Heceta Head Lighthouse. It was about an hour drive north from where I was camping, and I stopped at a pullover on Highway 101, which offered this view. I put a neutral density filter on the 12-40 f2.8 Olympus lens to try to slow the exposure down and emphasize the motion of the clouds in the sky. I also timed how long that it took for the light to spin around and started my long exposures just before the lighthouse’s lamp was shining in my direction.

Prints are available at Fine Art America. Please click the link to see the sizes and options available.

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/heceta-head-lighthouse-in-oregon-beau-rogers.html?newartwork=true

 

Three Days in Bandon, Oregon

Coquille River Jetty

Coquille River Jetty

When I began doing research about where I wanted to photograph, I kept reading about and seeing photos of Bandon, Oregon, a place with striking sea-stacks and some of the roughest weather on the Pacific Coast. Many people actually call it the storm-watching-capital of the West. Luckily for me, the weather wasn’t that bad away from the coastline during my three night stay, but one night was really tough for photography. There was strong wind from the west that carried thousands of grains of waste-high-sand across the beach at about forty miles an hour. During that evening, I coincidentally ran into the same well-known professional photographer who was running his workshop at the Klammath River Overlook a few days earlier in California. I guess that going to the same place as where the bigshots are going means that I did a good job doing research. I don’t know if he got anything good, but there were a few seconds of somewhat decent light during my two hour wait. I kind of like the image, but the dirty minds of some of my friends have convinced me that the sea-stack kind of looks like something else.

Seconds of Light at Bandon Beach

Seconds of Light at Bandon Beach

 

Speaking of the sea-stacks, my favorite one in Oregon is right there at Bandon, and during my second night, I waited for some good light during sunset and tried to silhouette it with the reddish-orange sky. I waited a few hours, and the wind was still brutal. The last couple minutes, when the sun appeared to be taking a dive into the Pacific were the most aesthetically pleasing to me. Oh, by the way, this sea-stack is called the Howling Dog.

Howling Dog Sea Stack in Bandon, Oregon

Howling Dog Sea Stack in Bandon, Oregon

 

During my last night around Bandon, I decided to stay north of the Coquille River to photograph an old lighthouse and a jetty that had tons of seagulls flying over it. I’ve been collecting images of lighthouses on the West Coast, and this one may be my favorite. It’s old and out of order, but it sure does look cool.

Coquille River Lighthouse

Coquille River Lighthouse

Most of these images are available at Fine Art America. Please click the links to see the sizes and options available, thanks!

Coquille River Lighthouse — http://fineartamerica.com/featured/dusk-at-coquille-river-lighthouse-beau-rogers.html

Howling Dog Sea-Stack — http://fineartamerica.com/featured/sunset-at-howling-dog-sea-stacks-beau-rogers.html

Oregon’s Whalehead Rock

Oregon's Whalehead Rock

Oregon’s Whalehead Rock

For the sunset on my second night on the Oregon Coast, I drove a few miles north and spent my time at Whalehead Rock. The wind was all kinds of intense, and I ate a couple pounds of sand while waiting on the light, but it was worth it. At least Harris Beach State Park has some nice showers. It was quite a lovely sunset once it finally got time for the magical sun to drop into my favorite ocean. There were quite a few other photographers out there, and I just found my spot and stayed there. I liked the way this little creek emptied into the ocean and thought it might pick up a bit of a reflection from the sun.

Click the link below to see print options through Fine Art America.

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/sunset-at-whaleheads-rock-beau-rogers.html

Oregon’s Harris Beach

Harris Beach Sunset, Oregon

Harris Beach Sunset, Oregon

It’s really hard for me to believe that it took me almost twenty years to get a decent photograph in Oregon. Yes, I have been there before, and I’m not counting my week of working as a photojournalist at the NCAA Outdoor Track Championship in Eugene, Oregon. Even after the meet, I had several days for personal photography, but the weather didn’t cooperate, and I was traveling with a non-photographer. So I finally returned fourteen years later with nothing to do but wait for the light and make some images in one of the most parts of the world. Oregon’s coastline is amazing, and my plan was to spend a good chunk of my summer trip making photographs in many of it’s most aesthetic locations, and my first stop was a dozen miles or so north of the California state line at Harris Beach State Park. I camped there two nights, and this was my view at the beach which was about a twenty minute walk from camp. I feel like it was a real good start for my coastal project.

Prints are available at Fine Art America. Click the link to see the available options.

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/sunset-at-harris-beach-in-oregon-beau-rogers.html

California’s Crescent City and Klamath River

Foggy Morning at Mouth of  Klammath River

Foggy Morning at Mouth of Klamath River

For my last day in Northern California, I decided to focus my photographic efforts on something else other than the redwoods. There are some really amazing groves there, don’t get me wrong, but my photographic-spidey-sense was tuned in on something else. I scouted out the mouth of the Klamath River and knew that it might look great in the morning fog. Not only did I have this hunch, but another very famous photographer who I respect quite a bit was also there with many of his students. I didn’t want to crowd in on his work as an unpaid guest, so I followed a little trail which went below the overlook where his class was shooting. The fog was amazing, and I think I also have some decent time-lapse stuff to use with a video or two that I’ll be making in a few months.

Battery Point Lighthouse, Crescent City, California

Battery Point Lighthouse, Crescent City, California

For the evening shoot, I decided to focus my energy on the Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City. It would be my last photo shoot in California for a while, and I couldn’t pass on adding another image to my growing Pacific Coast lighthouse collection. This one is pretty cool. They do turn on some white lights to illuminate it at night, but it looked a lot better with the vibrant colors of dusk. Even though I stayed out of the forest for most of the day, I feel that Crescent City and the mouth of the Klamath River both made great subjects for my last day of the summer along Northern California’s coast.

 

Prints of these images are available in various options at Fine Art America. Please click the links below to see.

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/foggy-mouth-of-klammath-river-in-california-beau-rogers.html?newartwork=true

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/dusk-at-battery-point-lighthouse-beau-rogers.html

Damnation Creek Redwoods and Rhododendrons

I’m not sure how some places get their names. Some of them are appropriate, and others are just silly. My favorite part of the Redwoods is along a trail that’s called the Damnation Creek Trail. I never knew about it until a park ranger during a visit to Northern California told me about it during my first serious photography trip to the region. It was back in 2000, and I’m sure that there was a sign back then that said, “Damnation Creek Trail.” Now, there’s nothing… just a pullout on the side of Highway 101. Maybe someone stole the sign, or it was taken down because of the limited parking. I would have never stopped there if someone hadn’t told me about it fourteen years ago. Anyway, from what I’ve read and been told, it’s the only place where the redwoods are next to the ocean. The trail will go to a beach, but I only completed that hike during my first visit in 2000. What’s really special about it, in my opinion, is that there are a lot of rhododendrons blooming there during the peak of the wildflower bloom in late May and early June. Also, most of the trail is up on a ridge, so the evening light mixed with some coastal fog can lead to some amazing light for photography. That’s why this image is one of my favorites from the trip so far. The Damnation Creek Redwoods are just damn beautiful.

Damnation Creek Redwoods

Damnation Creek Redwoods

If you are interested in a print, this is available at Fine Art America. Click the link below to see all the various options available.

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/late-evening-glow-at-damnation-creek-beau-rogers.html

Gold Bluff Beach of Northern California

Gold Bluff Beach of Northern California

Many of my favorite parts of California are up north, where it’s a little less crowded but just as scenic as the Golden State’s more southern locations. My Uncle Junior was in many ways responsible for the building of the shopping mall in Eureka, and after my father and I visited him and my Aunt Virginia there one summer when I was 17 years old, I’ve had a real fascination with the area. Humboldt County and Del Norte County are two of my favorites in the entire state, so I decided to spend a little time in the four main parks that represent California’s redwoods. From north to south, there is the Humboldt Redwoods, the Prairie Creek Redwoods, the Del Norte Redwoods, and the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods. During the second night of my Redwood Park study, I stayed in the Prairie Creek Redwoods. Well honestly, I really hung out at the beach all day and slept at the Prairie Creek Redwoods campground. Part of the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is at Gold Bluff Beach, my favorite beach in Northern California that a car can reach. There’s a campground, but keep in mind that it is on a first come first served basis. No reservations are available. I didn’t realize that when I made my reservation and quickly learned that I was camping in the larger campground that’s a few miles to the east.

Fern Canyon, California

One of the coolest things about the Gold Bluff Beach area is that it also accesses Fern Canyon. Fern Canyon is a great little tucked away spot that looks like it belongs in a Lord of the Rings movie.  I went there four years ago and it was less crowded, but with patience I was still able to get a few images that I like.

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