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Shooting a newt brings awareness of Oregon's wonder.

Byline: THE OUTSIDER By John Rezell The Register-Guard

Just about 30 minutes into our adventure on Brice Creek, I realized this isn't how I had pictured it in my mind on the drive here. In this case, that was a good thing.

One half-hour after hitting the trail just across the bridge from Cedar Creek, the vital statistics told the story. I had hiked a whopping 200 yards. And had taken 39 photos.

Not just any 39 photos, mind you. They were 39 up-close-and-personal photos of one finger-length Oregon newt, who had happened to be frozen in its tracks, playing opossum on the edge of the trail, rather than swimming in the shallow pools like the majority of the newts along Brice Creek on a sunny spring morning - some of them tightly bonded in a mating ritual.

I suppose that's what drew me to this particular newt, the fact that it didn't blindly follow the masses. The others on this hike headed east up the trail, I headed west down the trail. Kindred souls, if you will.

Still, I know what you're thinking. Thirty-nine photos of one newt is pretty much crossing some sort of line, especially when said newt nary moved a muscle, much less struck a pose.

Anyone who has been to Brice Creek east of Cottage Grove knows it's one beautiful nature scene after another, step by step, all along its banks. To move just 200 yards in 30 minutes takes, well, it takes some serious effort.

In this case, the commitment was to slow it down a notch, not run up miles. It was to find images. The right images, to capture on a camera.

David Stone teaches a nature photography class at Lane Community College, and invited me on one of his class field trips. Stone and a handful of his students hit the trail with tripods in hand, and eyes focused on details - images that slip past us, in my opinion, far too often.

Some 35 minutes into the hike, I remembered why I love hiking with my daughters so much. It's their easy-going pace. Their attention to detail. Their ability to see wonder in the world around us.

I spent the next 90 minutes of the hike peeking over shoulders and through viewfinders, to get a look into the great outdoors from someone else's perspective.

Ankush first stopped when some grandfather's beard moss on a limb caught his eye. The background of the river soon diverted his attention, and then he saw some moss-covered cement steps on the opposite bank.

Lisa and Greg camped on the rocks and shot the rapids dancing down the rocks, playing with shutter speed to get different moods from the water.

Geeta zeroed in on some ferns and tiny flowers clinging to the nearly vertical rock face next to the path, as a tiny purple butterfly fluttered about her head, unfortunately staying out of her viewfinder.

Chuck found some lady slippers nestled a few yards up a little creek trickling out of the forest, and moments later Sandy crawled in like, well, a newt, searching for the perfect shot.

David forewarned his students that when they bring their photos to class this week, he'll hit them with a pop quiz.

Everyone will be asked, simply, "What did you learn today?"

Me? Well, it's pretty simple. I learned two things. In a half-mile of prime Oregon outdoors, there are countless opportunities to give pause, and enjoy the wonder.

And, of course, not too many other folks can get mesmerized by a newt the way I can.

John Rezell, aka Raz, shares more thoughts on the outdoors on the Internet at and can be reached at
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Title Annotation:Recreation
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 1, 2007
Next Article:WET SIDE STORY.

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