Friday, January 3, 2014

The Year that Sucked

Without a doubt about it, 2013 sucked for me - the worst on record and yet in some ways it's been fantastic. It started out ok... I was riding a high from visiting Antarctica with my dear friends Paul and Meg in a tiny sailboat in Nov/Dec 2012. Then Maverick's was called in January! I love shooting the surfers at Mavericks so even though the waves weren't spectacular it was a beautiful day out on the ocean and life was good.

But I just wasn't feeling right. Finally in March, I was diagnosed with cancer. Not the kind you just trim off and go about your day... this is the bad kind. I listened to all the apologies from the doctors as they told me the cancer has spread throughout my body - I'm not a candidate for surgery or radiation, about all they could offer was chemotherapy. The pity in their eyes and sorrow in the voices said it all.  And so I started chemo... I knew it would be bad but I wasn't prepared for just HOW bad. In one day ALL of my hair fell out. I was lucky to be able to move form the bed upstairs to the couch and on the rare days I could stand long enough to shower I doomed myself to sleeping for the next 12 hours. The nausea was debilitating but the medications to suppress it were worse. Then my doctor discovered that I have a rare genetic mutation that makes one of the drugs I was on completely toxic to me. I moved to a new regimen and while chemo still sucked... it sucked less.

I found myself able to take short walks to the dog park with my dog and husband. There I found some wonderful wildlife - a family of grebes nested on my favorite lake and group of raccoons came out to play. I got my camera in my hands once again and it felt great.

A little while later I received a call from a friend "Get down here, there's a family of coyote in my back yard!" this was the first time I had left the city since starting chemo, the first time my friend saw me standing up and walking (admittedly more dragging than walking). As promised he brought me to his coyote family and I immediately forgot how sick I felt and stalked the animals until I got a shot. A hawk joined me that day too, showing off a gopher he caught. I slept the entire drive home - don't worry, Lee was behind the wheel - but I felt good, hopeful.

 Traveling a bit further afield I rediscovered my love of the Point Reyes National Seashore. Mule deer, Tule elk, more coyote and even an ugly turkey vulture came out to play.

A quick visit to Oregon introduced me to the cutest and fattest little ground squirrels you've ever met as well as a lovely view of the Phantom Ship and Wizard Island  in Crater Lake.

I got to play with a drone and took some fun shots of a lighthouse up the coast - I hope to play more with this type of work and just have to install my gimbal head which arrived today - wish me luck!

I went on assignment for the National Wildlife Federation - documenting the monarch butterfly migration for a book being written by the lovely and talented Beth Pratt.

Finally I was given a break from chemo over Christmas. I still have neuropathy, which makes it difficult for me to hold my camera… difficult but not impossible. At the same time I was also introduced to a young filmmaker, Sebastian Kleppe and spent a lovely day in Point Reyes photographing elk.

I have no idea how long I've got, maybe a year, maybe five - I'll be headed into drug trials next month - but every day I have with my friends and family and a camera in my hand is a good one that I plan to treasure. I hope that your 2014 holds many days for you to treasure as well. 


Friday, March 29, 2013

Hair, Hard News and a Hiatus

I've been growing my hair out for a while now with the specific intent of donating it to a charity who would use it to make a wig for a child with cancer. I really needed about two more months of growth to make a solid donation of 12 inches or more but fate seems to have made other plans for me.

Wigs for Kids

Locks of Love

In January I started to experience ever increasing abdominal pain - after lots of medical tests and a short hospital stay my long story turns short into the hard news - I've been diagnosed with cancer. It's one of the most horrible and terrifying words I have ever heard uttered in my entire life. I start chemotherapy on April 8th and with luck and the hard work of the amazing doctors at the UCSF Hellen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center, after a few months, I will go into remission and get back behind the camera. So here's the hiatus part - I'll won't be posting again until I get this under control - I need to focus 100% of my energy on fighting this cancer.

Back to the hair: since chemotherapy often causes hair loss or at the very least hair thinning I thought it would be a good idea to chop off my locks and proceed with the donation just a little bit early. So last week I turned to my long term stylist Simon Mark who is a hair genius. As it turns out, I've been seeing Simon for the last 10 years - time certainly does fly!

Mr Pink whistle

My friend Dave Cattell was so awesome to give up his day to come with me and document the sheering process. I hope you enjoy his pics.

Wish me luck and I promise to do my best to get back behind the camera before you know it.

I wish you all good health, joyous laughter, golden light and lots of amazing friends to share it all.

10 in of hair just waiting to be cut
Are you sure you want it SUPER short?


JJ models the pony tails - I think he'd make a great red-head!
Simon performing his magic
Super Short but I love it!! Hope it doesn't fall out too soon.

PS: For anyone trying to contact me, please have lots of patience. I am exhausted because of the pain medications I am taking... even before the chemo starts and so I am WAY behind in my correspondence. I will do my best to catch up with you soon.

And don't worry about the Ethiopian wolf book. The final proof has been approved and the printer is warming up as I type. In the next few days we'll be given the final delivery schedule. Will is ready to turn on the pre-order page the second we have that date in hand. The show will go on and I will be back!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Going Walkabout Penguin-Style

Just in case you are all tired of seeing still images of penguins... as if that could even be a possibility... I've put together a little bit of video footage from Antarctica. Hope you like it!

Walkabout Penguin Style from Rebecca Jackrel on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Language Lessons

And back to the Antarctic adventure! 
Hannah Point, Livingston Island 
 62°39′16″S 60°36′48″W
As we dropped anchor at Hannah Point I heard a familiar sound...  
"Baaaahhhhh-roop-roop-roop-roop Bleeeeeeeaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh - Graaaaaaa-runck, Gaaaaaaaaaa-runck - Auuuuuk auuuuuuuk AUUUUUUUKKKK"

That could mean only one thing! 
I was ready... all of my language lessons from the Marine Mammal Center here in California were about to pay off. Albatross may be top in my heart but elies are a close second.

I spent several hours leaning on the warm rocks and conversing with these weaners - every once in a while a female would lift her head and snort at us as if to say "Keep it down, I'm trying to sleep". Is there anything as cute as these huge black eyes gazing at you with wonder?
How about this little guy who wanted to be a walrus... or maybe he was just practicing his Vampire costume for next Halloween.
After a long while I moved off to explore more of the island. There are of course tons of Chinstraps - all showing off their beautiful new eggs.
Then I noticed two penguins that didn't quite fit in...
Right in the middle of all the Chinstraps....

Eudyptes chrysolophus 
The Macaroni Penguin is a new species for me so I was super excited to sit and watch them. The first couple I found was content to just sit and occasionally groom but the second was actively building their nest. The male dug deep into the mud to find a nice pebble to bring back to its mate. She seemed to appreciate all the hard work and found just the right spot for each small offering.
Walking around at Hannah Point one has to be very careful not to approach any high points because of the nesting Southern Giant Petrels. They are easily spooked and won't return to the nest after they've been displaced.  I found one spot I could crawl to without breaking the horizon and spy on a nesting petrel. Turns out they don't do much when undisturbed... just an occasional stretch. I was glad to leave her to the task of incubation.

Another area boasted 5 or six nests of the lovely Blue-eyed Shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps) Unfortunately a Kelp gull was also nesting nearby and didn't like me hanging around so I moved on rather quickly and found more elephant seals. 

It seems someone is always facing the wrong direction. 

At the end of the day I found a nice warm sheltered beach and settled down to watch a few juvenile seals push each other around in the shallow water. All this play now will prepare at least one of them to become a beach master... I wish them all luck!