Neal Mainephoto by Randall Henderson
After a thirty-year career as an award winning biology teacher at Seaside High School, Neal Maine became the first executive director of North Coast Land Conservancy, which he co-founded in 1986. Since his retirement from the land trust in 2010, he has pursued his passion for nature photography through PacificLight Images, a partnership with Michael Wing, dedicated to raising awareness of coastal ecology and the wildlife with whom we share the region’s estuaries, freshwater wetlands and forests. Their photography centers around coastal and Columbia River landscape, ecology and the rich estuary habitat with the surrounding wetlands and forest systems.
Neal focuses his imagery on exploring wildlife in the context of its habitat, while Michael's specialty is capturing action images that illustrates the dynamic nature of coastal wildlife. PacificLight Images is dedicated to working with coastal communities to protect wildlife habitat and its connectivity. A percentage of all photography sales are donated to North Coast Land Conservancy to help further this goal.
THE COASTAL EDGE
In cycles older than time, forces deep within the earth push apart tectonic plates, creating and expanding the oceans whose waters are pushed and pulled by the sun and moon, cooled and heated and calmed and stirred to fury by the skies. Ocean collides with continent, shattering the shore into a thousand facets: bare rock monoliths, vast expanses of sand, saltwater pools that drown, then drain, then drown, then drain. And in that shattering, life asserts itself, creeping and burrowing and swimming and perching in particular niches, particular flora and fauna whose collective presence defines THE COASTAL EDGE.
A limpet creeps up a wave-washed rock, following the rise of the tide. A salmon follows ancient watershed trails to its natal stream. An otter travels along its living trap line for crabs in the estuary to crayfish up side creeks. A vole tunnels into the soft sponge on the forest floor. In the treetops, in the forest, across the land, in the water, and in the air, all become a living slate for NATURE'S TRAILS. This tracery of interwoven trails are unsigned but indelible to generations of travelers.
THE NEXT FRONTIER, OUR OWN BACKYARD
Humans: We take pictures, walks, deep breaths, memories, rides on waves, water, timber, in habitat that used to belong to other trail makers. We thought we could never catch all the salmon, never cut all the big trees, and never pollute the ocean. In our hubris, we thought we could make our own trails. With renewed humility, we are learning how to share this place, to live together with our partner trail makers. PacificLight Images celebrates this partnership as we use our images to inspire others to honor nature's trails in OUR OWN BACKYARD.
"Unless otherwise noted, images are presented as they were photographed. Slight adjustment by cropping, lightening or darkening may have been used, but the photo subject is presented as recorded in the Oregon coastal landscapes." A Certificate of Authenticity is provided with each copyrighted and signed image. Available exclusively at Fairweather's.
23" x 17" $295.
30" x 22" $495.
Fairweather's proceeds benefit NCLC.
Story by NANCY McCARTHY
Published: December 23, 2015 8:00AM
Neil Maine, and his grandson, Michael Wing, right, are both avid photographers.
“That’s another thing I learned from photography: Patience is key. And I use it in everyday life now. I’m not constantly in a hurry to do anything; I just take life one step at a time, no matter how long it takes that step.”
Local photographer Neal Maine and his grandson, Michael Wing, go on a ‘wildlife safari’ every day.
The story goes like this: Two caspian terns show up on Del Rey Beach, each holding a fish in their bright orange beaks. The female tern stands between them, trying to decide which suitor to choose.
Caught in a photograph entitled “Taking Terns,” the scene needs no caption. It’s a quandary as relevant to humans as it is to the black-hooded, white-bodied birds, waiting patiently for the female to make her move.
Michael Wing, who was 16 when he shot that photo two years ago, happened upon the scene while joining his grandfather, Neal Maine, on one of their regular excursions to see what nature offered in their own backyard.
For at least eight years, the two have spent several days a week together, capturing photos that delight, surprise and intrigue viewers. Their partnership has become PacificLight Images. Their mission: to show residents and visitors the variety and vibrancy of wildlife that surrounds them on the North Coast.
"Photography is sort of like filling the gas in the nature car," Maine said. "It’s the gas, but the end product is having people be aware and be engaged."
A retired biology teacher who taught Seaside High School students the wonders of the local landscape for 31 years, Maine wanted to pass that education along to his grandson.
"I hung out with Grandpa many times, and I saw him do photography, and I just decided I would try and pick up on that,” Wing said. “I picked up my first camera — it was a Canon Rebel — and I started taking pictures of cups in the sink overflowing with water while the faucet was on. I was 10 years old."
Pretty soon they started hanging out together every day while Wing was young. Even now, at 18, Wing, who is a father and who works at Lektro full time, tries to catch a few moments with Maine out in the “wild.”
“We’ve got a friendship, a bond; it’s hard to explain but it’s a wonderful feeling knowing you can have your grandfather as your best friend, not just someone you have to visit,” Wing said.
For them, the definition of “quality time” is traipsing through the forest — no matter the weather — in search of nesting birds, elk or interesting plants. They may hunker down for hours near, or even in, a stream, waiting for a salmon to swim in view or a wood duck to take flight. On beach days, there may be birds of prey or whales to capture.
“We just go wherever our minds wander,” Wing said. “We have a basic area — as far as Cannon Beach south and as far as the Warrenton-Astoria area heading north.”
At first, Wing asked his grandfather to rate his photos from one to 10, with 10 being the best. It took many tries, until he started shooting eights and nines steadily. Then, finally, there was the triumphant 10 — the photo of the coho swimming upstream — a shot Maine had found elusive.
“I’d been working on it for years, and then he goes and gets it! I wasn’t mad at him, but, at the same time, that was the picture I was trying to get,” Maine said.
He points to the photo of a male salmon with a big hook nose. “It just says, ‘spawning, life cycle, migration.’”
What Maine calls Wing’s “finest picture of all” is just a simple icicle.
“He’s just walking along a stream and then stops, and all of a sudden he’s laying almost flat in the water. The way the water had been going — it built that perfect icicle.”
Wing was about 13 years old when he shot the photo.
“I just saw an icicle on the end of a stick, and I thought ‘Oh that’s pretty cool, I’m going to lay down and get a different angle’ and just took the picture,” he said.
Usually the youngster looked for “action” shots, like a fish swimming or a hummingbird flying. But, eventually, he learned that waiting has its rewards.
“And that’s another thing I learned from photography, (that) patience is key,” Wing said. “And I use it in everyday life now. I’m not constantly in a hurry to do anything; I just take life one step at a time, no matter how long it takes that step.”
Some of the photos taken throughout the years are set up in their own “gallery” corner at Fairweather House and Garden in Seaside. They are popular attractions during the city’s First Saturday Art Walk.
“People come in, and their jaws drop. It’s more than a pretty picture; there’s a story behind it,” Denise Fairweather said, who owns the shop.
They seem to have pride of ownership over some photos, especially those of the local elk crossing the Necanicum estuary or bobbing up in dune grass. “They call it ‘our elk,’” Fairweather said.
Forty percent of the proceeds from the photos’ sales goes to the North Coast Land Conservancy. Maine was on the conservancy’s founding board and was its executive director for many years. Since its inception in 1985, the conservancy has raised money to buy and preserve hundreds of acres of ecologically sensitive land between the Columbia River, Lincoln City, the Coast Range and the ocean.
“PacificLight Images has been a wonderful asset in support of the North Coast Land Conservancy and conservation on the coast,” said Katie Voelke, the conservancy’s director. “Yes, significant funds have been raised, but the awareness and the inspiration that the images create for people is priceless.
“It’s so easy to drive past the natural world around us and take it for granted during busy work-a-day life,” she added. “The images that they capture of the phenomenal natural world surrounding us all allows people time to pause and take it all in, and this often leads to a desire to care for it as well.”
While the mission is worthwhile, the fun is the photography. Even if that means spending hours operating a 12-pound, 500 mm lens on a tripod while covered in shrubs, waiting for the split second when a wood duck lifts off a stream.
“I think maybe a twig snapped, and it completely spooked him,” Wing recalled of that particular experience on Neacoxie Creek. “For some reason, I can tell when things are just about to be spooked or fly — they sort of get this hunch to them that I notice. I held down the trigger just enough to get two shots as he was taking off.
“I looked down at the (camera) screen and I turned to Grandpa, and I said, ‘Oh boy!’”
Maine and Wing say they will continue to tell the story about the wildlife wonders on the North Coast.
“We want the photograph not to be the end but the means to living in paradise and valuing it as a quality of life issue, not so much just conservation,” Maine said. “When you pay attention to what’s going on around you here, you have a wildlife safari every day.”