A New Morning

Photography provides ways of seeing the world from a fresh perspective. Early in my career I followed my passion for nature by photographing wildflowers, gradually learning the craft of the camera’s focus and exposure, and lying on the ground in contorted positions to get just the right angle. Sometimes these could be artistic rather than straightforward photos, and the discipline taught me that good photography does not come easy.

Half a century later, I am still photographing flowers and leaves, but in more evocative compositions. By carefully controlling what is in focus in the foreground, and letting the background blur into pleasing patterns of colors, I create work that some might call “painterly,” but which is simply a more thoughtful impression of nature.

During the past two weeks I have have gone walking with a zen-like spirit, mindfully focused on leaves and other natural details with my new approach in mind. I walked through two Japanese gardens, the University of Washington Arboretum, around Seattle’s Green Lake, and in Olympic National Park; most of the pictures here are from those walks.

Enjoy the work and click on them to see them larger. If you would like to purchase any of them, contact me at lee@leerentz.com. These are limited edition prints that I have printed on Japanese Unryu paper, which has a soft, painterly look with visible mulberry fibers giving it a special texture. Since this paper is fragile, I don’t trust sending collectors just the print. I mount it on photographic mount board and mat it with a triple-thick white cotton board of the highest quality. The sizes available are 6″ square print matted to 10 x 10,” 11.5″ square matted to 16 x 16,” and 16″ square matted to 22.5″. The prices respectively are $75, $150, and $300, with free shipping to the lower 48 states.



After miles of drizzle and fog on an early December night, I needed to stop for a break. A blue rest area sign caught my headlights, and I decided to pull over two miles ahead. Rolling to a stop in front of the restroom building with only one other car visible, I scanned the grounds for potential trouble, then got out of the car, carefully locked it, and went inside. All was quiet, and nothing untoward happened.

Tree Shadows Crossing a Snowy Winter Landscape in MichiganI took the photographs in this weblog post in three different rest areas during the winter of 2014/2015.


Plains Indian Tipi Motif in a South Dakota Rest Area

For me, visits to highway rest areas are often like that: a little spooky and unsettlling, especially late at night. When I leave the comfort zone of my vehicle I make myself more vulnerable, but usually the short stop is uneventful and barely registers in my memories. It is worth remembering, however, that danger can sometimes lurk in quiet and remote places.

Shortly after I drove through Minnesota on my way to Michigan, I read a news story about a young man from Washington State who had been murdered execution-style around midnight by another man from the same state–in Minnesota’s Elm Creek Safety Rest Area. Someone reported the murder, and a red SUV speeding away from the rest area. That led to a 115 mph chase in which the suspect was shot and killed by police after crashing his vehicle in the median and emerging with a gun. Since both men were dead, the circumstances and motives were unknown. Apparently my apprehension about stopping at night is justified …



Tree Shadows Crossing a Snowy Winter Landscape in Michigan

While lying in bed this morning and thinking about writing this weblog post, I remembered a story from long ago. It seems that two guys I knew in grade school and junior high had moved to the Boston area and were working in a camera store. According to the news accounts, they forced a coworker to accompany them to a rest area, where they robbed him and stabbed him to death. I had repressed this memory for decades until I started writing this story, then it popped into my mind like a nightmare. The thing was, I could understand how one of the boys could end up as a killer, because he had always been a mean little snot, but the other kid was just a sweet, normal boy who apparently followed the other into a life of horror.

Plains Indian Tipi Motif in a South Dakota Rest Area


Tree Shadows Crossing a Snowy Winter Landscape in Michigan

Those stories and others like them feed the fear factor in my brain, but they also gave me some of the inspiration for this series of photographs. These pictures can be seen as beautiful in their own right, but they also have an edge of spookiness that is appropriate for the subject.




Signs and Parking Lot in Rest Area along Interstate 90 in South

Tree and Photographer Shadows Crossing a Snowy Winter LandscapeAnd if you see a photographer late at night in a rest area, please let him quietly go about his work. He really doesn’t want to talk to strangers at midnight.



To see thousands of my photographs in large file sizes for use in magazines or other printed materials or electronic media, go to my NEW website at Lee Rentz Photography or go to my Flickr Photostream.

OLYMPIC PENINSULA: Mystery of the Scattered Pilings

Posts along the shore of Hood Canal

Well, it’s not really a Hardy Boys mystery–my favorite books of a long ago elementary school age.  Frank and Joe Hardy were teenage sleuths of the first order, while it takes years for me to figure out a mystery.  But I finally figured this one out, so I thought I’d tell you about it while presenting my mysterious pictures of the place.

This mystery takes place on the Olympic Peninsula, specifically on the lonely east shore of the peninsula, along Hood Canal.  This body of water, a fjord that is a branch of Puget Sound, is not really a canal in the Suez or Martian sense.  Instead, it is a long, deep natural channel formed during the last ice age.  Divers descend deep into Hood Canal searching for the North Pacific Giant Octopus, which has an armspan of up to 14 feet and has been known to rip off a diver’s face mask.  Hood Canal also has Hama Hama oysters, salmon, and prawns, making it a wonderful fishery.  There are Common Loons and Harbor Seals and occasional Killer Whales.  There are old cannery buildings and sawmills that have largely disappeared into history and into the earth.  Fast rivers tumble down from the steep Olympic Mountains; Elk, Cougar, and perhaps Sasquatch roam the deep woods.

Cormorants perch on the posts

I have driven along the Hood Canal shore scores of times in the last 20 years; each time wondering why there were pilings scattered in the shallow waters near Hama Hama.  Did it have something to do with harvesting oysters?  Were the posts used long ago to tie up boats?  Did they have something to do with the lumber industry?  I didn’t know.  I could have asked a historian, I suppose, but the mystery always slipped my mind soon after I drove past the area.

As a lover of old photos, I picked up a book called Hood Canal, by Shelton and Mason County historian Michael Fredson, which is in the Images of America series.  On page 55, there is a photograph from the 1920s or 1930s showing log booms tied up at Hama Hama.  [According to my source in the comments below] the pilings in my photographs are at Jorstad Creek, and would have secured logs that came from the steeply forested slopes in the Hama Hama watershed above.  The pilings were owned and used by the Buck Mountain Logging Company from the 1950s to around 1975.  The logs accumulated there would have been towed via tugboat to sawmills in the Puget Sound area.

The Hama Hama area was clothed with virgin forest many years ago.  That era ended when the old-growth forests were clearcut in the middle of the 20th century; at that point, the reason for the saltwater post farm no longer existed. Ever since, the posts have stood as sentries guarding the secrets of the bygone era; they also provide perching posts for cormorants, kingfishers, ducks, and herons.  And, in morning fog and in the stillness before a storm, the posts provide an opportunity to see a beautiful–if unintended–statement of sculptural artistry.

My mystery is largely solved, but if you have information to flesh out my narrative, I’d love to hear it.  For now, this blog gave me the flash of remembrance of those Hardy Boys novels of my youth.

Morning sun burns through the fog on Hood Canal

There is a certain grace to the lines of these posts

There is a great blog that is produced by the people who own the Hama Hama Shellfish Farm.  If you are curious about how oysters and other seafood are produced, this is a fascinating place to explore.  Go to: Hama Hama Oysters

To see my web site, which includes photographic prints for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com

To see thousands of my photographs in large file sizes for use in magazines or other printed materials or electronic media, go to my PhotoShelter Website