Celebrating Benji with the Photoshoot from 2019

I don’t mean to weary you but I’ve devoted this week’s blog to celebrating Benji, the little cat with the chopped ear we rescued from Seattle Humane four years ago. So far I’ve shared highlights from 2016, 2017 and 2018. Today I’ll wrap up the series with a look at 2019.

But before I do I wanted to reflect on my favorite story from 2016, “The Many Faces of Benji,” where I did a photoshoot for a fictitious magazine, American Rescue Cat, and he responded with gusto.

It was a pure work of fiction – until 2019 that is, when life imitated art.

The 2019 Photoshoot

In the spring of 2019 I was resting in the backyard by the stream when Benji came to join me on my lap. This is not unusual – he is a snuggly lap cat. I took pictures – also not unusual –

until that sweet boy looked straight into the camera.

Around that time I learned of a Photo Contest on Cat Human Relationships; there would be entries from around the world and 12 winning photos would be included in the 2020 Calendar for International Cat Care, a charity based in the UK, and sold as a Fundraiser. Hey, why not? I entered.

In September last year – on my birthday in fact – I was notified that Benji was a winner and learned later that his face would adorn the month of May. There was no cash prize – only the kitty that made the cover got that – but we were happy to be included and to receive copies of the calendar and a few kitty prizes.

And so my little story from 2016 seemed to come true in 2019.

Thanks Benji. 🙂

We now return to our regular programming.

~ Susanne and Benji

Celebrating Benji with a Little Cat Humor

It was four years ago that we brought the sweet Benji home to live with us and this week we’re celebrating by looking back. Today I’m bringing you highlights from 2018, starting with a few of my favorite photos and one of my favorite stories from the year.

A Little Cat Humor

“Whatcha doing there Benji?”

“Taking my bath, Sue. Getting ready for the big trip.”

“What trip is that, Benji?”

“I don’t know. Wherever it is you’re going. I’d like to come along if you don’t mind.”

“But Benji, you don’t like riding in the car, have you forgotten? I think you’d be much happier at home. But I’ll bring you back a present, I promise.”

And a few days later I did.

He was enthralled.

~ Susanne and Benji

Celebrating Benji – A Look at 2017

“I didn’t think it would be this hard Benji.”

“What’s that Sue?”

“Picking my favorite story of you from 2017. There are too many!

Whether you were helping in the garden

or thinking cat thoughts;

Watching You Tube

or sleeping in camouflage,

you lived life with gusto! You still do!

But much of 2017 was spent learning to get along with your big brother. I was so happy when you and Tiger began to figure it out.

So I decided to share your story of how you were mentored by Tiger, who helped make you the mighty hunter you are today.”

The Mighty Hunter!

This is Benji and I am a mighty hunter.  Tiger taught me well.

First, he said, you must listen with your whole body until you sense the presence of the varmints underfoot. This I practice.

Do not be quick to attack, he said.  Conserve your energy.  Wait. Watch. You will know when it is time.

When you discover their lodging, he said, but they refuse to surrender, you must dig and dig until you rout them out.

Rest if you must but do not lose heart.  If they escape today they will be there tomorrow for you to surprise.

These things I practice for I am Benji, the Mighty Hunter.

~ Benji

Well said, boy.

~ Tiger

That’s all for now.

~ Susanne and Benji

The Best of Benji

“Okay Benji, it’s time to celebrate! This week is all about you!”

“Isn’t it always Sue?”

“Well. Yes. But I mean on the blog. It was four years ago that we brought you home from Seattle Humane. You looked so sweet and innocent back then. Little did we know …”

“Know what, Sue?”

“How much fun you would be Benji! And how much excitement you would bring us!!”

“We do what we can Sue.”

“Yes Benji, anyway, I thought we could celebrate this week by sharing a story from each year you’ve been with us. Here’s my favorite from 2016.”

The Many Faces of Benji

“Hey Benji, I’d like to take some pictures of you to submit to American Rescue Cat magazine.  They’re looking for their next Cover Cat. Just pretend I don’t have a camera.”

“Sure!  Love to!”   he replied.  “How’s this?”

“Hmmmm,”  I said.  “Very nice.  Only I’m looking for something more relaxed.  Maybe you could tone it down just a bit.”

“Okay, okay.”  he said excitedly.  “I know exactly what you mean.  Something more like this?””

“Great Benji,”  I said. “Really good.  Only ….. well the eyes,  Benji.  Maybe we should forget the props and just go for a headshot.”

“Sure!”  he said.  “I can do it!  How about this?”

“Good Benji, good. But I’m looking for something a bit more natural. Say, why don’t we try again tomorrow when we’re both fresh?”

“Okay ” he said.  “I give up.”

“That’s it Benji! I got it!”

The End

More to come,

Susanne and Benji

Fun with Photos of Mt Rainier where Size Matters

For as long as I’ve been blogging and including pictures in my posts I’ve had a conundrum – file size matters. As you probably already know there is a limit to how much media space you have, depending on your plan. I upgraded a long time ago because of that but even my current plan has its limits.

My Sony RX10 camera takes wonderful pictures but of enormous size. For instance the original of the photo below is a whopping 17 MB which makes it prohibitive to post. Cropping it will reduce the size but also reduce the content of the picture.

I haven’t purchased any software that might deal with the problem. But this morning I did discover (rediscover?) Paint. I wanted to add a border to a picture I took on our recent visit to Paradise at Mt. Rainier, and lo and behold, found the ‘resize’ function and shrank the photo to 10% of the original size. If there’s a difference in quality I can’t discern it. Oh Happy Day!

Here’s one more for good measure where the original was close to 15 MB and the resized version less than 1 MB.

I don’t know how often I’ll bother with adding a border but now I have a tool to deal with the file size of a picture I’d like to post intact.

How do the rest of you photographers deal with this issue?

~ Susanne

Bicycling the Sammamish River Trail

It had been a long time since we’d bicycled the Sammamish River Trail.  It was one of our favorites when we lived in North Seattle, but after our move south we found new trails to ride.  But yesterday was perfect for a bicycle ride so we ventured north to ride the trail along the Sammamish River,  19 miles round trip, powered by electric bikes, which made up for the passing of years.

We started at the Bothell Landing, a lovely historical park complete with play areas and boat rentals.

From there we followed the paved and mostly flat trail along the river through the Sammamish River Valley.

There were a few surprises along the way, like this giant dragonfly and tiny windmill in the distance.

And across the river Washington State’s oldest winery, Chateau St. Michelle. Maybe another day. 🙂

The Sammamish River runs 10 miles from Lake Sammamish to Lake Washington and like many rivers in the Northwest was modified in the last century to deal with flooding. A once curvy 30 mile river with cool shallow waters, its bank thick with willows, cattails and rushes, was converted into a straight deep channel with minimal vegetation. While this helped the farmers, the salmon and other wildlife were negatively impacted.

Now the river is being restored, with boulders, cobbles and gravel added to its bottom, and new vegetation added to its banks to attract wildlife and provide shaded pools for salmon to thrive.

We stopped in Redmond for lunch, went as far as Marymoor Park before heading back to our starting place in Bothell. An easy 19 mile round trip, made easier by the boost of power provided by our electric bikes. Nothing wrong with that.

~ Susanne

The Hummers of Summer

No not this kind, though there was that too – a ride through the woods in a genuine surplus army rig – but that’s another story.

I’m speaking of the other kind – the hummingbirds that live in my yard and frequent my feeders daily.

I get the best pictures in the winter – when the foliage is gone and they stand out against the background. Still I managed to get a few decent shots of the birds this summer.

By the way, if you look very closely you may notice ants floating toes up in one of the feeders above. It’s quite disgusting to me though I’m not sure it deters the hummingbirds. In any case, I purchased a new feeder with an ant guard and put it up yesterday. It’s the one on the left below. The hummers are still inspecting it but hopefully will use it soon. It remains to be seen whether the ants will too.

That’s all for now.

~ Susanne

Just a Walk on the Beach: Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach

The Oregon Coast is arguably the most beautiful in the country and Cannon Beach is one of its most beautiful and popular beaches.

On our recent camping trip to Fort Stevens we made the drive south to Cannon Beach and Tolovana Park for a closeup look at 235 ft. Haystack Rock.

The weather was perfect as we walked the mile to the giant sea stack, sunny with a light breeze blowing and low hanging clouds which slowly lifted.

As we got closer to the rock we noticed the crowds increasing and wondered why. A wedding perhaps?

No. The tide pools were the attraction and children were there for a sponsored scavenger hunt. Yes, masks were encouraged and most of the explorers were responsibly distanced.

Honestly I hadn’t explored any tide pools myself in years and it was wonderful to see them.

As we wandered about I couldn’t help remind those who stuck their little fingers into the anemones, “gently now, they’re living creatures.” Just like an old person I guess.

Soon we were hungry and headed back to where we started, refreshed and ready for lunch.

All in all a wonderful day. 🙂

~ Susanne

Exploring Fort Stevens

For our one and only camping trip this year, Fort Stevens State Park had everything, including 3,700 acres of wetland, forest and dunes, and even a shipwreck! The campground is one of the largest in the Western United States with over 9 miles of paved trails connecting all areas of the park.

We crossed the Columbia River from Washington to Astoria, Oregon and set up camp;

then we unloaded our bikes and hit the trails.

Our first stop was at the Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, a four-masted steel bark built in Maryport, England, in 1890, which ran aground in 1906. We’d come back here later for sunset.

The historic area of the park protects portions of the the Fort Stevens Military Reservation which guarded the mouth of the Columbia River from the Civil War through World War II. We visited Battery Russell where the only attack on a mainland American military site during World War II occurred on June 21, 1942.

According to History.com, “After trailing American fishing vessels to bypass minefields, the Japanese submarine I-25 made its way to the mouth of the Columbia River. It surfaced near Fort Stevens, an antiquated Army base that dated back to the Civil War. Just before midnight, I-25 used its 140-millimeter deck gun to fire 17 shells at the fort. Believing that the muzzle flashes of the fort’s guns would only serve to more clearly reveal their position, the commander of Fort Stevens ordered his men not to return fire. The plan worked, and the bombardment was almost totally unsuccessful—a nearby baseball field bore the brunt of the damage.”

There were more batteries on the Columbia River side of the park and we rode our books over to see them too.

After we’d had enough of the military, we exchanged our bikes for the truck and drove to the South Jetty.

South Jetty is one of three jetties built on the mouth of the Columbia between 1885 and 1939  to help contain the shifting sand deposits at the mouth of the river and ensure a more stable shipping channel.

After climbing the Observation Tower and watching the waves roll in, there was still enough time to head back and watch the sunset over the Peter Iredale, a perfect end to the day.

~ Susanne

Hooray For Camping!

Our first camping trip of the year. Finally.

Not that we didn’t try earlier. It seems that pandemic camping is in.

When things began to open up in late May our favorite campgrounds filled up quickly, without us. And last month, when we tried to book a site in Olympic National Park we had to settle for Plan B and stayed at Lake Quinault Lodge instead (which was even better but I digress.)

Still we had a hankering to go camping and looked once more to our favorite spots this week. No dice. So we gave up on Washington and headed south. To Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific; rich in history, beaches, and bike trails.

As we began to get the camper ready, guess who showed up?

“I’m here to help,” he said. “And of course I’d like to come along. I’ll be no trouble. I promise.”

“Sorry Benji, we wish you could come but who’d look after Tiger?”

So we ignored his pleas and sad eyes and set out anyway, with our lodging, food and entertainment with us. About right – in the middle of a pandemic – don’t you think?

I’ll have more to share with you in the next few days but until then; nothing beats having your morning coffee next to a campfire.

~ Susanne

%d bloggers like this: