Monday, April 21, 2008

Christian Heritage Conference 2008

Last weekend our family had the privilege of attending the third annual Christian Heritage Homeschooling and Family Discipleship conference in Redmond Washington, an event very much looked forward to and enjoyed by our family and friends. This year the theme was "Providence and Perseverance." Just as we expected it was an extraordinarily encouraging conference, with such speakers as Doug Phillips (Vision Forum, TX), Donald Chittick (Answers in Genesis), Roger Erber, Ryan Yamane (Global Learning Strategies), and several others, casting vision, dispelling myths and false philosophies, and encouraging a thoroughly Biblical approach to home education, leadership and family life.

Though I attended all the keynotes and several of the other sessions, most of my time was spent rehearsing in the chorale, directed by Neil Craig. We performed four stirring selections at the conclusion of the conference, including arrangements of "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name," "Hallelujah Praise Jehovah," and "The Lords Prayer."

On Friday night we were treated to a program of musical performances, and a passionate historical reenactment of Patrick Henry's (Joshua Erber) plea before the House to prepare and arm for certain war. You may recognize some of these gentlemen.

Friday night was the official "Family Night," with varied vocal and instrumental performances from some very talented homeschoolers.

The "Stars & Stripes" ensemble sang, "God Bless America"

The Overman family and Aaron and Sarah Hall, performed "Hornpipe" by Handel and "Concerto Grosso No. 8 in G Minor" by Corelli.

David Craig played a great marimba arrangement of "Circus Renz" by G. Peter, accompanied by his father Neil Craig.

Daniel Craig sang a solo as well as a duet with his sister Annalisa, it was really amazing.

The vendor hall had an almost constant flow of traffic, mostly around the Vision Forum booth. Nathan and Peter were very occupied, but never too busy to hold babies.

After Mr. Phillips' final address to the conference attendees, we gathered the troops, bid farewell to all the friends and acquaintances we met on our way to the door and went out to eat with several families that live in our area. The sight of 60-70 people crowding through the doors must have made the restaurant employees slightly nervous. :)

Like last year, the conference was life-changing in many ways. Many thanks to the Bradrick family and everyone else who made it happen.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Congratulations Class!

A few days ago I got the long-awaited results of how my art students did in the Junior Duck Stamp contest. Several of them placed in their respective age categories in the state competition, but in my mind they're all winners. Because they put in so much effort and were motivated towards a worthwhile goal each of them has become a better, more focused artist. I like to say, it's not about whether or not you win, but how you grow as a result.

You can see the state Best of Show and a list of all the kids who placed in the contest here.

Drake Mallard
by AnnaLynn Seifert

Hen Mallard
by Aimee Berkompas
(3rd place)

Drake Wigeon
by Jeremy Berkompas

Drake Wigeon
by Zachary Berkompas

Drake Wigeon
by Matthew Berkompas
(3rd place)

Canada Goose
by Daniel Seifert
(1st place)

Drake Mallard
by Caitlin Koch

Drake Mallard
by Katrina Berkompas
(1st place)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Day in the Field

The sun reconfirmed it's existence yesterday. After all that snowfall last week it finally feels like spring, and to celebrate I spent the whole day out at the Vancouver Lake lowlands and Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (my two favorite birding spots), with the intention of getting some photos of waterfowl in breeding plumage, and some inspiration for new artwork. Of course, I brought my new Leica Ultravid 8x42's along for their first field test.

My day started at 5:00 a.m. (an unusually early hour for me), and even though I had thrown all my gear in the truck the night before, the waking-up process took all the 15 minutes I had set aside for breakfast... The stars were shining clearly in the night sky, indicating that it would be a relatively cloudless day. When I pulled up in an abandoned dead end on a solitary road amidst the flooded cornfields and woodlands of the Vancouver Lake lowlands, however, I found that it was determined to be foggy (which usually burns off as the sun rises), and not thinking much of it I retrieved my gear (blind, camera, tripod, tons of other "essentials"), got into my waders and boots and started waddling out to the marsh.

Most of the ducks were feeding in the grassy shallows, so I began my stealthy approach in that direction. You've got to hand it to them, wild ducks are pretty smart. One duck noticed a clumsy camouflage blob creeping toward the water's edge and started thinking, "Something just ain't right." All the other ducks agreed, unfortunately, and off they went to greener pastures. So there I am, laying on my stomach in the mud, peering through an opening in my burlap camo throw-blind, enveloped in fog, and having a shady reputation with all the ducks. (And you're probably thinking, "He's crazy! All that for some pictures of ducks?" As a matter of fact, yeah ;)

Several pairs of Green-winged Teal eventually scooted back in range, but the fog rendered photography nearly impossible. This one is a hen.

One thing that was enjoyable was hearing a buzzy whir of wings as flocks of geese flew just 10 feet over my head (though I couldn't really see them, being covered in burlap and all). Eventually I got sense enough to set up my "real" blind, which, though obvious and out-of-place, afforded room to move at least. A Greater Yellowlegs didn't seem to mind my presence, and came within a few feet of the blind until I scared it off with the camera flash--that's a really great bird, especially since it's the first time I've seen one. I now have (drum roll please)... 4 shorebirds on my lifelist! Maybe I should go up to Gray's Harbor because that number is pretty pathetic.

Greater Yellowlegs

You'll notice I don't look overjoyed... :)

The fog didn't lift very much, so I packed out of there and returned in more civilized attire to sketch some birds and make a list of observed species. After this, I moved on to Vancouver Lake Park where I found a pair of nesting Ospreys and grabbed this shot as one of them hovered directly overhead.


Several Red-tailed Hawks and a Bald Eagle provided sketching subjects--I found it interesting to compare the differences in wing structure between them (something many of you would probably not find very fascinating :) The lake itself was quiet, so I went back to the truck and drove to the wetlands on the other side.

Great Blue Heron. I like the layering in these shots.

Here I was almost mobbed by 5 dogs that got ahead of their master... I once again located a rare Northern Shrike (about the size of a Jay, but omnivorous, meaning it will eat rodents and lizards...etc. as well as insects) and this time got some good sketches.

Next I visited Ridgefield NWR where they have an auto-tour that takes you about 4 miles through the wetlands of the Columbia River floodplains. Sketching from the comfort of a car is great. :) This time I managed to get some pretty good photos of the waterfowl--Northern Shoveler, Bufflehead, Ringneck, Ruddy Duck, Mallard, Canada Goose and more.

Canada Goose

Ringneck Duck (drake)

Northern Shoveler (drake)

Bufflehead (drake)

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Great Blue Heron

All in all, it was a fun day, and I came away bursting with painting ideas and some very usable reference photos.