Thursday, September 17, 2015

Coos Bay, Oregon -- 'Beautiful bay, lush forests, mighty Pacific Ocean' and 'Pre'

Coos Bay Boardwalk, Oregon. (Julianne G Crane)
Coos Bay is the largest city on the Oregon Coast and celebrates its history in shipbuilding, lumber products, tradition as the regional hub and hometown to running legend Steve Prefontaine.  This scenic community is surrounded by "a beautiful bay, lush emerald forests and the mighty Pacific Ocean" and offers a wide variety of outdoor activities.

Jimmy Smith and I were in the area for a Crab Rally organized by the Escapee RV Club's Oregon Trails Chapter 9 out of Sutherlin, Ore. The Coos Bay offers outstanding crabbing, clamming and fishing.

Coos Bay Visitor Information Center (Julianne G Crane)
Start your tour of Coos Bay at the  
Visitor Information Center, 50 Central Ave. (Hwy.101); (541) 269-0215.
Hours: Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday - Sunday from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.  Winter: no hours on Sunday. Parking lot. Public restrooms.

The Visitor Center is directly across the street from the Coos Bay Boardwalk and City Docks. The Boardwalk features "historical displays of the area's maritime and wood products history."

 Historic Walking Tour: There is a great little pamphlet that lists a number of attractions and buildings that are within about a five-block square area of the Visitor Center. Where I spent an hour or so is the Coos Art Museum.

Coos Art Museum. (Julianne G Crane)
Coos Art Museum:
235 Anderson Avenue
Coos Bay, OR 97420
(541) 267-3901
Admission: $5; $2 for students, seniors.
Hours: Tues - Fri: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Closed: Sun-Mon and all major holidays.

Oregon’s 3rd oldest Art Museum is housed in the historic art deco former-U.S. Post Office "built in 1934-35 as a WPA project ... On 1/1/85 it reopened as the museum." The CAM features a regular schedule of exhibits, art classes, lectures and community events. The Collection of Contemporary Art rotates on display throughout the year.

Steve Prefontaine (
Steve Prefontaine Gallery
On the second floor of the Coos Art Museum is a room "dedicated to the short life and brilliant running career of Coos Bay native" and international track star Steve Prefontaine.

This small gallery includes the shoes "Pre" wore while running the race in which he set his first American record. The 5,000-meter race took place on July 3, 1971. Pre's time was 13:30.4. "Pre held eight long-distance running records. Runners from all over the world know about Pre’s accomplishments," states

"During his brief 24-year lifespan, Steve Prefontaine grew from hometown hero, to record-setting college phenomenon, to internationally acclaimed track star," according to He ran in  the Olympic Games held in Munich, 1972, however, he died in an automobile crash in 1975, before he could race in the 1976 Olympics. "Pre has become the stuff of enduring legend."

Major Coos Bay events:  

September: 10K Prefontaine Memorial Run. 
Oct. 9-Dec. 5, 2015 -- Coos Art Museum
"JUXTAPOSED: Installation Art" Renee Couture, Dani Dodge, Allison Hyde & Karin Richardson. The exhibit focuses on contemporary women artists, all with strong ties to Oregon. These artists have a history of producing challenging and thought-provoking works through installation and experimental media.
November: Santa arrives by tugboat. Friday after Thanksgiving.
December: Annual holiday lights display at nearby Shore Acres State Park.

- For up-to-date information on Coos Bay and the surround region, click on: Oregon's Adventure Coast 

- For information on RV parking at The Mills Casino and RV Park, click here for an item posted on

-- Julianne G. Crane

Read more about the RV Lifestyle on
Coos Bay photos by Julianne G. Crane. Steve Prefontaine (

Monday, September 14, 2015

RV shutterbug? Here's tips and places for some great photography

When you're home from your RV adventures, there's nothing like looking back and pondering your travels with pleasure. And a great thing to increase your "ponder factor" is having good photos from your adventures. For many RVers, one thing leads to another – the RV adventure leads to the "photo" bug. Racking out your lens just adds to the fun of the trip.

But where to shoot? Here's some tips on photography at National Wildlife Refuges – and some samples to boot.

Wait! Think before you aim that camera at a national wildlife refuge. It may be habit-forming. That’s been true for four standout nature photographers – each hooked on prowling a favorite refuge in hopes of locking eyes with a bird or fox, capturing light and color, and probing the mystery of our animal natures.

All four photographers – April Allyson Abel at Prime Hook Refuge, Delaware; Quincey Banks at Eufala Refuge, Alabama; Marvin De Jong at Bosque del Apache Refuge, New Mexico; and Mia McPherson at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah – say photo opportunities abound on refuges.

“Why are national wildlife refuges great places to take wildlife photos?” asks De Jong. “The obvious answer is because there’s wildlife there. There’s an emphasis on wildlife. But it’s more than that. You frequently have good access to animals and birds. You have a wildlife trail or a road. That’s the great thing about Bosque del Apache Refuge. You can stand on the road and have sandhill cranes being themselves just 15 yards away.”

Adds McPherson, “Wildlife refuges are just amazing. That’s where the habitat is. It’s refuges’ job to manage [them]…and they do an excellent job of it.”

National wildlife refuges, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are part of Americas’ rich natural heritage. They have been so since 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge on Pelican Island, Florida.
National wildlife refuges offer chances to see an almost unparalleled array of wildlife, including many of the nation’s most beloved and spectacular species. Wildlife photography brings individuals and families close to nature, which research has shown to be physically and emotionally beneficial. Find a refuge near you:

April Allyson Abel

If you want to see the world through April Abel’s eyes, rise early. You want to beat the sun to Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge on the Delaware coast so you’re in place when the light show begins. “There are two kinds of people in this world,” laughs Abel. “There’s the kind who say, ‘You’re gonna shoot at sunrise again?’ and the kind who say, ‘Can I come with you?’”

On a frosty March morning, she patrols the bank of a refuge impoundment in a thermal vest and jeans (no jacket, no gloves) and trains her lens on the herons and avocets feeding in the shallows. A heron snags an eel, shakes it, then downs it. “Got it,” says Abel, like a sportscaster offering color commentary on a play. “Now a little sip of water to finish it off.” She keeps shooting as the sun rises through the clouds, turning the indigo sky to purple and orange. The refuge, she says, “is just so beautiful, and the still water makes a mirror for the birds.”

Abel took up digital photography at age 40 after a life change, spending a year documenting the seasons at Prime Hook marsh. She worked freelance as a writer and photographer. Her stories and photos appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and she began racking up photo prizes. Today, she works as exhibits coordinator for Delaware State Parks.

A favorite photo she took at Prime Hook shows a heron about to close its open bill on a tiny fish, for a moment suspended in mid-air. “I watched the heron fishing for about 10, 15 minutes. It caught one fish after another, tossing them back like a kid eating popcorn. I kept shooting frame after frame, and this one showed the fish perfectly balanced mid-air, about to be eaten.”

When it’s too cold in winter for even her to shoot, Abel knows what to do: “spend time learning about bird species and habitat. So you learn what to anticipate in the way of bird behavior and can get a better shot.”

Quincey Banks

Eighteen years ago, Quincey Banks was photographing his son in Eufala, Alabama, when the toddler balked. “He started saying ‘no’ when I was trying to take pictures of him running around the house. So the next best thing was to go take pictures of stuff I saw outside,” says Banks.

He began taking his camera when he went hunting. Then, to get close-ups of wood ducks, he built a floating blind of Styrofoam covered with brush. Launching it before dawn, he waited beneath it, wet and shivering with cold. The discomfort paid off. “You go from spooking the birds to having them within 30 or 40 feet. And for a wildlife photographer, to get a wild animal such as a wood duck within 30 feet, that’s nirvana. I mean that’s just crazy. From that point on, I was hooked. … I didn’t care about anything except photographing those birds.” For Bank, nature photography is about “being outside and seeing what God made. Every time I go out and do nature photography, there’s always something different to see.”

He likes Eufala National Wildlife Refuge for its wide range of habitats and species, from wading birds to bobcats. “The refuge has so many different land types within that 19,000-acre area that I can photograph almost any type of animal that I might see in Alabama.”

He tells beginning photographers: “Learn as much about the animal you’re trying to photograph as you possibly can. A good nature photographer is also a good naturalist. …If you know how the animal is gonna act, or where it’s gonna be, it’s easier to be prepared to get that photograph when it happens.”

Marvin De Jong

What does Marvin De Jong like most about wildlife photography? “It’s satisfying. It’s challenging. Birds are especially challenging because they don’t just sit and look at you. It’s a lot more exciting than wedding photography.”

“My first priority is to get an animal in [a photo],” he says. “I like a photo to tell a story. It’s good if there’s some action. If I can get a green heron catching a minnow that tells you a little story about the bird. If I can get the bird singing with its mouth open, taking off, landing,” he says, that heightens a viewer’s interest.

De Jong turned to photography in retirement. He and his wife were already volunteering at wildlife refuges such as Santa Ana in Texas and Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. “I like the outdoors. I like birds. They sort of came together.”

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is his favorite refuge for wildlife photography. “I like things to be in the air. Flying birds are better than birds standing out in the water. And New Mexico is a great place for some of best sunrises and sunsets I’ve ever seen. The cranes fly out in the morning and fly back in the evening, so that’s when you’re going to be out there.”

Quick thinking helped him snag a favorite refuge shot. He’d just stepped out of the car when suddenly “there was this bobcat. Unfortunately, the camera’s in the car. So I opened the car door and of course immediately you get the noise alerting you the keys are in the ignition…I grabbed the camera, and I had it on the bobcat, but he was going away, so I was gonna get a butt shot. And so I said, ‘Hey, cat.’ He turned and looked at me, and that’s when I got the shot.” You’ve got to get the eyes of the animal. If you don’t have the eyes, you don’t have a photo.”

Mia McPherson

Utah resident Mia McPherson took up bird and nature photography in 2004 to heal from a personal loss and illness. Snapping nature photos was a natural extension of activities she loved. “I like to be out in nature, listen to the birds, be exposed to different types of habitats,” says McPherson. “It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. I just relax and enjoy myself.” She honed her skill enough that two of her photos were chosen for a National Geographic pocket guide to birds of North America.

Nature photography isn’t easy. “You have to have a lot of patience,” says McPherson. “You can sit for an hour or two waiting for a particular bird behavior. Thirty seconds one way or another could make the different between a good shot and a great shot. Dealing with the elements is an issue, too. In summer, it gets very hot and buggy. In the winter, it gets extremely cold. Making sure you don’t get stuck in a snowbank: that’s a challenge, too.”

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, an hour and a half from her home, is among her favorite places to shoot. “They have a spectacular auto tour route where you can drive around water impoundment area and see all kinds of birds from short eared owls and northern harriers to waterfowl and shorebirds. “In summer it’s inundated with nesting shorebirds. One of the most spectacular sights is watching American white pelicans feed. In winter, the calls of thousands and thousands of tundra swans echo all over the place. It’s a magical sound.”

A favorite shot of hers shows two western grebes skating across water at Bear River Refuge. “That’s called rushing and that’s their courtship display.” The birds go through a preliminary ritual “so you can say, okay, okay, there’s going to be a rush now. But it’s definitely a challenge to get the photo because this routine they go through doesn’t always end in rushing. So you have to wait and wait and wait. And hopefully they will rush, but they don’t always. A car might come by or a raptor fly over, and that ends it for them.”

For more information, turn to Tips on wildlife photography:

Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
All photos courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service