Marion Owen Alaska

The day I was hugged by a fern

Alaska’s 2015-2016 winter was the second warmest on record, dating back to 1925. And here on Kodiak Island it’s been one of the rainiest. So when the clouds parted a few days ago, I took my camera for a walk along an ocean bluff, edged with spruce trees, in search of spring wildflowers and fresh greenery.

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Anatomy of a Snowflake: Science, art and a little magic

During Alaska’s long winters, I love to photograph snowflakes but thanks to global warming, the last two years have been a bust. So when we arrived at our friends house in Anchorage

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Let it snow, please. How about that winter 2015-2016 forecast, anyway?

Every morning at 6 AM, our public radio station wakes us up with Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. If you haven’t heard the podcast narrated by Keillor, it’s a wonderful, 2 to 3-minute, “this day in history” snapshot, followed by

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Feeling hugged in Edmonds, Washington: A photo essay

Have you ever arrived in a community and felt hugged? That was my first impression about Edmonds, Washington, my sister’s town. As we sipped coffee, sampled toasted cheese sandwiches, and strolled along the high tide mark looking for beach glass, I thought, “Wow, this is one of the most

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When you don’t need words

I was photographing at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC recently, bedazzled by the amazing display of dahlias. I was having a lot of fun composing the sea anemone-like shapes, textures and

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How to bake love: A photo essay

Perhaps more than anything, LIFE magazine and National Geographic influenced my love for photography. Even before I could read the captions, I found the sequential and stand-alone images mesmerizing. The black-and-white photographs, whether published by themselves or in a series to illustrate an article, were story photos that taught me volumes about powerful compositions.
This series of four simple images was taken while my brother Henry made bread during a rare gathering of us siblings. His stage: The granite topped “island” in my sister’s kitchen.

You gotta feel it

“Making French bread is not about the ingredients,” he said. “That’s just flour, salt, water and yeast. It’s the feel of the dough.”

I got it.

Years ago, I worked on a research ship which employed a baker, Ralph Naughton, as part of the galley crew. “How do you know how much flour to knead into the dough?” I asked during a midnight to 4 AM shift. Ralph a quiet man who lost an eye during a bar fight somewhere in Alaska, reached over to the giant bowl sitting in a warm spot near the galley oven and pinched a little dough between his thumb and forefinger. Then he reached up with his other hand and grabbed his ear lobe and gave it a squeeze.
“That’s how you know,” he said, smiling with his eyes.
Henry spun the ball of dough and pulled it over on itself as if performing a dough-ball. I could almost hear the melody. “Many recipes say to add flour until the dough can’t take any more,” he said. “But that makes for a dry, stiff bread.”
Lifting the ball of dough in his hand, he shared a tip I’d never come across. “The dough should sag a little between your fingers.”
Bread, French, how to make bread, knead, kneading, baking, flour, homemade, baguette

The proof is in the proofing

After proofing the dough and punching it down (no magic amount of time here; we simply went for a walk), he pinched–not cut–the dough into four blobs.
Bread, French, how to make bread, knead, kneading, baking, flour, homemade, baguette

Blobs are beautiful

Then he took each blob and shaped it into a lumpy, artsy loaf, rolled it in cornmeal and gently settled it into baguette pans, like a mother would lay a baby into its blanket-lined crib.
“Let it rise a bit, then bake it in a 400 or 450-degree oven for 30 or 40 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf, humidity, or crunch factor you’re looking for.”
Me, I’m looking for a platform for butter!
Bread, French, how to make bread, knead, kneading, baking, flour, homemade, baguette
My brother Henry is a civil engineer; not a professional baker. He lives in Spokane, Washington. I live in Kodiak, Alaska. We see each other oh, once or twice a year. He makes bread as a hobby and a gift. It’s a way of saying, “I love you. It’s good to see you.”
Thank you for stopping by. That’s a gift, too.

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My garden, my teacher.

My humblest inspirations seem to occur in the autumn when I’m putting the garden to bed.
It’s fall and the garden says, “I am growing old.” The potato vines are limp and the tubers huddle underground in their rough, weather-proof skins, waiting to be dug. Is there any greater treasure hunt than digging for

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Summer eagles of Kodiak: A feathered photo essay

Eagles around Kodiak are plentiful as crows during the winter. Perched shoulder-to-shoulder with their fellow raptors, they haggle over fish scraps, those leftover bits that fall below seafood processor radars.

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Family, photography and reflections of a water cloud

Portraits and landscapes make up the majority of images we see. They’re also the most difficult to take. Why is that? I have a theory.

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