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Saturday, December 10, 2016

••◊ Sunriver Oregon travel photography blog: Day 4

Day 4 of our travels was at Crater Lake, in Southern Oregon.  It's a popular tourist attraction and a national park.  From Wikipedia...

"The lake partly fills a nearly 2,148-foot (655 m)-deep caldera that was formed around 7,700 (± 150) years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama. There are no rivers flowing into or out of the lake; the evaporation is compensated for by rain and snowfall at a rate such that the total amount of water is replaced every 250 years. With a depth of 1,949 feet (594 m), the lake is the deepest in the United States. In the world, it ranks tenth for maximum depth, and third for mean (average) depth."

The gist is..., it's an impressively large lake in a volcano.  Below are some panoramas I took at the stops around Rim Drive.  The island just off shore is called Wizard Island. None of my views of it were as good as some of the better panorama out there on the web.  See the Wikipedia article for better photos. I seem to have missed the ideal spot.

Our trip wouldn't have been complete without at least one stop at a Pacific Crest Trail sign in the park.  We actually picked up two this day, including the Rim Trail sign.  We walked along the trail for a bit, but quickly realized it was a long way to any view that harbors the spirit and allure of the PCT, so it was only a quick diversion.  The Rim Trail is lined with twisted Whitebark Pine trees that look like something out of a horror or sci-fi film.  In actuality, they are quite healthy and a resistant to the most severe weather conditions at higher altitudes.  Extreme trees for extreme weather.

One photo that I feel good about getting is the "phantom ship."  In this case the 35mm film camera gave a much better photo than the crop sensor digital camera.  The sign at the outlook says..."At first glance, the dark, jagged island just offshore calls to mind the image of ghostly ship with tall masts and drooping sails.  Phantom Ship is actually a resistant remnant of an ancient volcanic cone that was engulfed in the growing Mazama volcano.  This vent shared the underground chamber that fed Mount Mazama and was part of Mazama's early mountain building phase.  These rocky spires remained after Mazama's massive eruption and collapse, displaying the oldest rock in the Crater Lake basin at over 400,000 years old."

We found an ideal spot on the east side of the crater rim and waited for sunset while eating dinner.  I took pictures not knowing what the ideal sunset time or look was going to be. Then my Fuji camera battery ran out!  I didn't have another one to keep going with sunset panoramas.  Sure enough, about five minutes after we drove away from the outlook the sky went completely nuclear with bright fluorescent pinks and oranges - much, much more so than you see in the picture below!  Augh!  Next time I do this I'll know to bring along a car charger for my camera battery, or quit being cheap and get an extra battery. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

••◊ Sunriver Oregon travel photography blog: Day 3

Day 3 of our trip was mainly a drive from Portland down to Sunriver Oregon through Oregon's high desert along highway 97.  There's an amazing and dramatic difference once you cross over the Cascade Mountains.  What was lush rain forest quickly turns into desert grass.  I've done this drive twice with the previous being a trip to the Bend Film Festival for a screening of the documentary I worked on many years ago.  I remembered the drop into the canyon around Madras and the seemingly endless section of desert with mountain views to the west.  The picture below will give you a feel for the visual experience along the drive.

Before we crossed over the mountains we made a few quick stops along the way to see what the local national forests had to offer.  After stopping at a ranger station the lady behind the counter recommended seeing Zigzag.  It's a very short and easy hike that starts at the remnants of the old highway.  If you look closely you'll see the old highway bridge at the trail head, but nature has taken the highway back and only the low concrete guard rails that are left.  The Zigzag hike in itself leads up to Little Zigzag Falls

The first picture in the series below talks about the power of negative ions.  Negative ions are produced as the surface tension of water is broken by the falls and they're been proven to decrease stress and improve mood.  I personally think a nice rain forest hike is sufficient to do both.  In the last photo of this series I used the panorama feature of my new camera for the first time ever.  My mom did a yoga pose and I decided to capture the entire view from trail in to trail out.  It's a stress relieving picture representing the quiet calm of undisturbed nature.

Our second stop was at the well known Timberline Lodge.  This hotel and ski resort was built at part of the Works Progress Administration projects by FDR.  The plaque shows the dedication date in 1937. Walking inside takes you back to a much earlier era.  The wood and stone seem primitive by today's modern luxury hotel standards, but having LED lighting and modern glass panels everywhere would be a bit off-putting, given the experience most people want from a place like this.  The hotel has been preserved as a national historic landmark, and they've even gone so far as to preserve the room that FDR stayed in.

The distance and elevation sign below reminds you that you're truly in the mountains.  That was the case in our experience as well.  When we arrived at the parking lot you could see all of the surrounding mountains and just an hour later we were shrouded in cold fog.  My mom was still determined to get on the Pacific Crest Trail, freezing temperatures be damned, if only to be trail tourists.

After surviving the car ride with nary a butt cheek gone numb, we arrived at our little rental home base in Sunriver.  Almost the entire community was made up of small cabins like these. Instead of traffic lights and stop signs the local streets almost exclusively use traffic circles.  In the rental instructions we had to follow circle 4 to circle 10 to....whatever, I can't remember all the circles.  After a few days we relied on landmarks rather than numbers, which became a challenge after dark.

It was common for the local honey badger deer (because they just don't care if you're around) to walk around the property in the morning and evening looking for food.  You also had to watch out for them while driving because they would just start walking across the road.  I tried capturing "good" pictures of the deer, but they either moved along too fast or showed up when there wasn't enough light to take a decent picture.  Note to self; next time bring along a stuffed deer and pose it for a (faked) photo.

Our dinner that evening came from Glen's Funny Farm in Morton (see previous entry):  Spaghetti squash with pesto, pine nuts, and Parmesan - required fuel for our adventures that began the next day.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

••◊ Sunriver Oregon travel photography blog: Day 1 and 2

This last September I took a trip down to central Oregon with my mom.  My mom asked if we could bring my grandpa's Pentax Spotmatic film camera along; which also meant I had to learn how to do film photography. The idea was that since my mom never got to take this trip with her dad before he passed away in 2009, taking the camera along would be sort of like bringing him along in spirit.  So that's why so many of my previous posts were about exploring how to do film photography.  This digital boy had to figure out how to wind it up old school!  I also recently bought a Fujifilm X-E2S digital camera, so this trip would be the maiden voyage for that camera - if for no other reason than knowing that I actually got the shot!  It's a good thing because my film capabilities were still "developing" (pun alert!), and frankly are still in development.

So today's preview mainly covers the pictures related to traveling from Seattle down to Portland - day 1 and 2.  Our lunch stop was at Chaco Canyon in West Seattle.  The place is vegan, to which my initial reaction is all the enthusiasm of attending a "real estate opportunity" seminar, but my mom, being a vegetarian, was sold on it. At the time I was practicing food photography because a couple producers wanted to do a web series about food.  Below is my first attempt.

After that we went to Avalon Glass Works in West Seattle.  Their workshop/showroom is arranged to include a fish tank with the blower making various glass art.  In the picture below he's making one of the apples you see on the long table below.  The process takes about ten minutes.  The person behind the counter explained that they have to use specific glass and additives that have similar coefficients of thermal expansion, otherwise the glass will just crack as it cools down.

The next day we headed south toward Portland and stopped off at Glen's Funny Farm in Morton, Washington. Glen retired and decided to buy a farm out in the middle of nowhere so he and his dog Oreo can battle the deer to see who gets to eat the crops first!  Glen has a walnut tree, so we picked walnut fruits off the ground and cleaned off the rotting fruit to get to the nut.  The nuts themselves dry on a rack for a few months before they're edible.  We also picked some apples, broccoli, and spaghetti squash for later in the week.  Below was my first attempt at film photography during the trip.

Glen attempted to impress my mom with his new apple press for making apple cider.  I say attempted because when he explained to my vegetarian mom, with her German sensibilities of cleanliness, that the apples may contain bits of worms, the impression was clearly made (of the wrong intention).

Closer to Portland, Vista House is a government works project from the 1910's and sits just above the Columbia River on the Oregon side of the border. It was meant as a place for travelers to rest along the Columbia Gorge.  The first photo below was taken with the film camera, which you can tell by the typical Kodak red shift in the dark bricks, as compared with the second picture (digital) of the backside of the building.  This is where I tried out the panorama feature of the Fujifilm camera for the first time and found that you need to be careful when people are apt to move in the photo.  When I used to do manual stitching with my Canon camera I could choose my overlap points, but Fuji doesn't give you that level of control - so things sometimes don't quite work as intended.  It was still close enough to show what I wanted to show.

Multnomah Falls is just east of Vista House, also along the Columbia River.  The fall drops 620 feet and is a very popular tourist attraction.  Somewhat too popular at times, given the wait for parking.  I found the legend behind the falls interesting:  "According to Native American lore, Multnomah Falls was created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe."  Makes a Mercedes seem like a piece of cake, doesn't it?  The Benson Bridge spans over the lower pool, 69 feet up.

There's a one mile hike to the top of the falls from the lodge, which is primarily cliff side switch backs.  As I was walking up I saw guys trying to do it with flip flops (dumb) and teenagers resting along the trail (wimps!).  In fact most of the talk I heard going up was teenagers breathing hard and whining about the trail being steep, to which I have to say "get off your phones and start experiencing the real world!"  At the top is a heck of a view and worth the effort.  The trail steps can be a bit treacherous -and- slippery at the top, so you really have to watch where you plant your feet.  Any moderately fit person can do it.

Dinner was at Sweet Basil Thai in Portland's Hollywood District.  The lighting wasn't very good for photography where we were sitting, but their presentation and food was excellent.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

••◊ 2016 Idaho Cup Epic Photo Blog

Warning: This is an epic blog post.  Last weekend was the Boise Idaho Cup Bodybuilding Show.  My involvement with bodybuilding shows has lasted thirty years and I decided to retire from it with this particular show.  Yes, I began my work with the production company as production assistant in elementary school!  It was a feeling of adventure in the early years.  Twice a year our small army would invade a local theater in Seattle like the 5th Avenue, Paramount, or Moore, and shoe horn a show into the venue at sprint pace. Over the years the number of shows has expanded and contracted between two and four, now including Boise twice a year.  So that's where I was.

One thing I really like about having a small camera is that I can take it on flights in my carry on bag.  The two photos of San Francisco below were taken just after a stop in Oakland during my flight to Boise.

Whenever I fly into Boise I notice two things: orderly divided farm land and desert hills.  Having lived near large cities most of my life, I would describe Boise as a "town", but in Idaho it's the big city.

One feature of the Fujifilm X-E2S that I've been taking full advantage of is panorama capture.  Below are three panoramas of the backstage area at the Idaho Cup.  In the first two I'm on stage and circling around from the pump-up cattle holding area (beefcake, right?) to the stage.  The third panorama is from the back of the holding area toward the stage stairs.

Working at bodybuilding shows all these years has taught me a couple things: One is how to be calm in the storm and self-meditate when things become chaotic. Bodybuilding shows, or as they're now called, "muscle shows" are a raucous mixture or self-doubt, narcissism, determination, fear, and camaraderie.  The Craig's have always positively emphasized that last characteristic; the result being a long standing success in the industry. The backstage environment is always thick with nervous energy.  At a certain point in my career I realized that I can choose to mentally step aside from all that and just concentrate on doing my best at what I'm currently working on.  No one has complete control, so just let go of the things that are distracting you from doing your best.

Another thing I've learned is to recognize people's energy and either leave them alone or talk to them.  There's so much self-doubt in this sport where you volunteer to have your body judged. People who are otherwise reasonable can get mired in it.  You typically see two types of looks backstage: a steely gaze of determination and/or experience, and a frightened look of "there's still time to back out."  For the latter, I'll remind them this is supposed to be fun (in theory)...smile!  The distraction from the strangely non-muscle bound sound guy at least helps momentarily break up their nervous energy.  99.9% of people I've seen in shows over the years deserved to be on stage.  I've been a competitive athlete and can sympathize with that feeling of not feeling prepared enough.  Just go forward.  Everyone figures things out as they go.

The stage is where doubt gets hidden.  If you can't fully embody a persona, just fake it - like everyone else.  Notice the women in the photo below?  When they have their back to the judges, you see what's really going on in their minds.  Then when they turn to face the audience, there's the smile of confidence.  It's amazing how quickly the transformation takes place.  Everyone works this way to varying degrees.

The shows have always ended with Brad and Elaine taking everyone out for a Craig Productions family meal after wards.  In the early Seattle years we always landed at Tai Tung's in Seattle's Asian District.  They had the best soup and a huge Lazy-Susan that our impressive amount of late night Chinese food landed on.  Just writing this makes me hungry for their soup and sweet and sour pork again.  Whether it was muscle competitors or crew, Brad and Elaine always made their efforts about building community.

Not to diverge too much, but what I learned from this is that I value both sleep and eating enough.  In the 90's I would come home from shows and sleep the entire next day.  Shows were always difficult when it came to eating enough, so I learned to be self sufficient.  It's fun hanging out with crew, but I can't do my best work on little to no sleep and no nutrition - especially in a job that required laser-focused concentration.

There were two shows at the Everett Civic Auditorium that I remember as strong examples.  Just before one show I was laid off from my job and that was on my mind the entire show.  In the other show I had just flown back from Italy and was jet-lagged.  In both instances I knew I wasn't in the right mental zone to stay focused.  In the former case I needed to compartmentalize my focus - concentrate on what I can do correctly, now.  That's something I recognize and practice to this day.  In the latter case, I actually fell asleep while playing back music and woke up just in time to turn it off (barely)!  Good, deep sleep is your friend.  I was determined to get enough sleep during a show after that incident, so Imostly bowed out of pre, mid, and post-show extraneous activities.

Instead of heading straight home, I decided to stop by Seattle to see mom and have a early combined Thanksgiving/Christmas visit.  We met a couple friends at Portage Bay for brunch, which turned out to be a bad experience.  The restaurant was rock concert loud and our reservation at 11:45 only got us on the wait list at 11:45.  About 45 minutes later we finally got a table, only to have two of our orders messed up - and it was mediocre food at that.  So it's not a place I plan to visit again unless they change.  Seattle is a brunch city.  There are hundreds of alternatives that don't require ear plugs.

Through the years I've learned to appreciate the time I have to visit with my mom and the opportunities Brad and Elaine have given me to do so.  Right before one of the shows in 2009 my grandpa died.  Brad was flying me through Portland so I could visit with him before continuing on to Seattle to work his show.  I clearly remember having to email Brad to tell him to re-book my flight because there wasn't a reason to fly to Portland any longer.  It hit home that someday that would be true for my mom, aunt, and other people I knew in Seattle as well.  Time gets shorter every year.

My stay in Seattle was mostly sunny and comfortably warm, but it rained the day I left from SeaTac. If you believe in a connected universe, maybe the weather reflected my feeling of loss for leaving Seattle and also leaving thirty years of work behind by getting on a plane.  In the airport I found myself pacing up and down the jet way to avoid a moment for reflection.  It just seemed too soon.  During the flight I couldn't help but take a few more landscape photos somewhere over northern California.  It's now heading into winter and snow on the hill tops were indicative of such.

So,...that's it.  If you're still reading - congratulations on your fortitude. More travel photos to come.