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The Narrative Image



PHOTOGRAPHY / THEOLOGY / SCIENCE from the Pacific Northwest



Updated: 2017-11-20T04:05:05.539-08:00

 



SILVER FALLS FALL

2017-11-06T16:25:47.895-08:00

South Falls from the canyon floorI wish I could write poetry about the last warm, sunny days of autumn.  I’d try to explain how, despite the morning’s cold, I’ve worked up a little sweat hiking to the canyon floor, and now, coming to a standstill behind my tripod, I shiver as I wait and watch the Sun’s fingers prod and probe through the trees and mist, slowly — imperceptibly — prying their way into the shrouded canyon. The noon’s warmth is yet just a feeble promise. I am glad to start walking again.South Falls from the canyon rimThe sun continues to rise in defiance of the autumn’s measured coup. Where the sun gazes, leaves burst into the colors of wildfire.South Falls (detail)Near the Silver Falls Lodge, a roofed enclosure shelters a small theater where a video loop tells its short story over and over to empty benches. It features a man who captained a canoe over the South Falls in a money making gambit. The camera’s vintage footage shows a close-up of his face and does a creditable job of preserving all the craziness in his oblivious smile as he sits in his hospital bed, mending all his broken bones.South Falls (from the trail)The waterfall makes background noise like the noise of a distant interstate, like some irrefutable subliminal conspiracy, and this never ending subtext whispers continually as the dawn reveals the trees undressing.Yes. It's still South FallsThe trees look all innocent, as if they didn’t see the raccoons cavorting, or witness the bats dancing and the owls performing acrobatics.  The trees hold their limbs in perpetual shrugs. The possums play possum. The bears quietly bide their time, waiting for the right moment.Yes, still.Leaves become compost, moss thrives. Life and decay are juxtaposed and somehow, without human intervention, it all looks beautiful and verdant and smells like a pine forest. Oh why can’t it work like that in my shower?...stillA jungle setting fit for a fruit loop bird.O.K. Pretty sure that's the last one.The sun slices the world into warms and cools.Atop the stairs to Lower South FallsHow lucky we are that we have trails to follow and from which we can branch off. How unfortunate that we don’t appreciate the cumulative efforts and compromises it took to make them.Lower South FallsWaterfalls:  Beautiful engines of destruction.Silver Creek, South ForkI don’t remember where I learned this photographer’s maxim, or even if it is one — I suppose it works as well for tenderfoots in cougar country. But it goes, “Don’t forget to look behind you.”Silver Creek, South ForkA long exposure reveals the paths that water chooses.Lower North FallsHaving descended the Silver Creek South Fork, I realize I’m now ascending the Silver Creek North Fork — because how else to explain the change in direction of the water’s flow?Double FallsIn horror movies, sometimes it is best not to show too much of the monster, too early.Sometimes, a shy, partially dressed naked person is more provocative than an in-your-face completely naked person.So too, it may be, that a visually obstructed waterfall may hold more mystery and beauty than an isolated waterfall. Here, I hope the trees add descriptive poetry with delicate calligraphy branches, or accentuate a point with pointers aflame in golden leaves.Double FallsThe sun throws spotlights on the amphitheater stage.Double FallsIn the background, the water whispers disparaging remarks to stoic rocks in a play that repeats through the eons.On the canyon trail above, but not showing Drake FallsGreat beams of light search the valley floor, as if the sun ( at the last minute ) has forgotten something it needs to take on vacation into winter.Middle North FallsAt this moment, the difference between cool and warm, summer and winter, vibrant life and still hibernation, all seems poised on the edge of a razor.Middle North FallsMy long exposure seems to foreshadow a near future when time will be frozen.Winter FallsWinter Falls, vanquished in summer, lays its plans for the future by saturating the earth and filling the cra[...]



Eagle Creek Fire: Out of Sight, out of mind.

2017-09-26T23:40:17.180-07:00

Several days of rain have driven parts of the Eagle Creek Fire into quiet bouts of seething resentment. But here and there unexpectedly — absent any ventilating breeze — tell-tale plumes of smoke reveal hiding places where glowing embers yet lurk under blankets of ash. According to wildfiretoday.com, the fire is only 46% contained, but one would never suspect it while traveling the gorge corridor confined to SR-14.I took a picture of this sign, wondering where my balls went. Meanwhile half a dozen bicyclists pulled down the orange safety barrier and pedaled out to the end of the viewpoint.Curiosity about the state of the gorge after wildfire ran rampant across its vertical faces inspired me to seek access to the trails and viewpoints along I-84 along the Oregon side of the gorge, but the eastbound lanes were still closed on Friday. I drove the back way into Corbett, hoping to find some unguarded route into the post-fire scenery, but every road I tried, sooner or later, ended in a roadblock or fence.  The road to the Vista House was blocked off.  Even the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint was fenced off, so I had to hike along the guardrail at the edge of the rural thoroughfare, looking for vantage points through the ‘shrubberies’ to catch glimpses of the iconic landmark (that looked distinctly untouched by fire) all the while listening for the approach of monster pickup trucks careening around corners at speeds possible only for locals intimately familiar with the route and the likely location of speed traps.From this viewpoint, the gorge looks largely pristine, save for the singed trees on Archer Mountain on the Washington side (Upper left), the one spot where the fire was able to jump the Columbia.Crown Point (Vista House) as it appears from Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Washington.Sunday, the weather was warm and sunny and the air was fairly clear. Landscape obscured by rain and cloudsI took yet another trip up SR-14 to survey the gorge since last week’s trip in the rain wasn’t very informative.Once again, I’m including this picture from 2010 for comparison purposes.Click on image to view larger versionThis is how the gorge looks as of Sunday the 24th. The pictures were taken closer to the middle of the day instead of toward evening, so I was better able to see where the fire had left its marks. Even though the smoke was minimal, there was still a haze in the air which kept my images from being their sharpest. Using the long lens to shoot across the gorge often resulted in a bluish tint to my pictures which sometimes made it difficult to distinguish between burnt and un-burnt trees, so I’ve taken steps to compensate for this — sometimes at the cost of color fidelity.Straight across from my Cape Horn vantage point is the feature known as Angel’s Rest. It is one of the few places I was able to easily identify, partly because I’m familiar with the Angel’s Rest trail. Video from news helicopters has caused local news anchors to describe Angel’s Rest as 'toast', and the video footage shows sobering images of the trail’s switchbacks climbing through what looks like an apocalyptic landscape.I don’t have a helicopter.In this image, you can make out the switchbacks at lower middle(ish).To be fair, this picture of Angels Rest that I took from my kayak back in August of 2009 shows that this isn’t the first time that the area has been subjected to fireAnother view taken in April, 2010It looks like maybe Bridal Veil Falls fared well.But the fire may have had some impact at Bridal Veil Falls State Park. It’s hard to tell whether I’m looking at singed trees or hints of autumn.Looking upriver, Archer Mountain’s singed trees stick out at upper left.A closer view of Archer Mountain from St. Cloud Recreation Area.The St. Cloud Day-Use Area was formerly somebody's apple orchard. Those who require insights into the nature of gravity would do well to slumber beneath the fruit laden branches here.As inviting as some of the apples[...]



The EAGLE CREEK FIRE & THE END of the WORLD, Part Two

2017-09-13T23:48:33.107-07:00

(So, yeah, it’s just an attention grabbing title.)0% containment vs. 11% containmentMany people commented on last week’s pictures of fire in the Columbia Gorge, expressing grief and sorrow that the gorge would never be the same. The hellish orange outlines spreading before the wind were all too reminiscent of those hot embers we study in the heart of our campfires, leading one to believe that morning light would reveal only a valley of charcoal and ashes. But when morning finally did come, the gorge was hidden by heavy blankets of smoke, and so I was unable to determine the consequences of what I had seen in the night. It was frustrating — and it still is.The fire, as of this writing, is still only 11% contained. That means somewhere amongst the trees, a fire that can spread from Cascade Locks to Corbett in an evening, is feeding and biding its time, just waiting for a favorable wind.Monday was a clear and sunny day with not much wind. I decided to retrace my route from the night of the fire (I-84 is still closed), and see what a wild fire means to a forest.I’ve tried to identify the locations of the areas depicted in my images with the aid of Google Earth and various maps. It was harder than I thought, and I want to caution you that my comments are tentative.01In this supplementary image and the ones that follow, the number shows which image is being referenced and also the point where the picture was taken. The yellow cone shows the approximate field of view. The map is copyright 2017 by GOOGLE EARTHPerhaps East Bridal Veil Rd (as viewed from SR 14 overlook)Editors’s note: This does not look like the apocalyptic vision I saw last week.02The map is copyright 2017 by GOOGLE EARTHLooking eastward up the Columbia River. Angel’s rest is directly behind Phoca Rock. Beacon Rock is the monolith on the horizon at left (as viewed from SR 14 overlook) .03The map is copyright 2017 by GOOGLE EARTHA singed Mt. Archer pokes its head above the tree-line at St. Cloud recreation area. 04Smokey arms of a marauding fire embrace the mountains, pantomiming an apocalypse. Meanwhile, a man in a hat reels in a monstrous smallmouth bass and comments happily, “We’re eating fish tonight!”05The tops of some ridges seem a little bit more than singed.06Dozens of smoldering fires contribute plumes of smoke to the valley (view from Beacon Rock State Park). 07The map is copyright 2017 by GOOGLE EARTHIf I had to guess, I’d say the fire in this picture has a source close to Dodson. 08Fire’s method, to my inexperienced eye, seems random and haphazard. Here a wisp of smoke threatens, “I’ll be back.”09The map is copyright 2017 by GOOGLE EARTHLooking downriver, an enormous plume climbs into the sky like a thunder cloud.  The smoke from the Dodson area is just a smudge beyond Ives Island (as seen from the S.W. edge of Hamilton Island).10The map is copyright 2017 by GOOGLE EARTHThe mouth of the smoke shrouded canyon to the right leads to Wahclella Falls (from a vantage point on Dam Access Rd. at Bonneville Dam).(Go east past the Chevron station and then turn right on that dam access road)11The map is copyright 2017 by GOOGLE EARTHBehind the dam, the notch at center-left is, according to my reckoning, the mouth of the canyon that contains Eagle Creek.12The map is copyright 2017 by GOOGLE EARTHLooking South across the river to Cascade Locks. The Bridge of the Gods is spanning the Columbia at right.13The map is copyright 2017 by GOOGLE EARTHThis view from the waterfront in Stevenson shows that the fire is vigorous and strong. I’m not sure what’s up there on top of the gorge, but judging from Google Earth, I’d posit maybe the Benson Plateau. 14The map is copyright 2017 by GOOGLE EARTHLooking slightly S.W. from the same vantage point, Cascade Locks and Bridge of the Gods are concealed by smoke settling over the water.15“…a pillar of cloud by day…”16Stevenson Landing171819The vagaries of smoke and wind allow a brief glimpse of the Bridge of the Gods. 20Looking upriv[...]



Eagle Creek Fire Jumps Over the Columbia: Childless Adults Even More Thankful to be Childless.

2017-09-07T11:15:31.730-07:00

The Columbia River Gorge 09/05/2017 at 3:00am (As viewed from the Cape Horn Viewpoint on SR 14. Phoca Rock visible in middle of river.)The Columbia River Gorge 05/31/2010 (from Cape Horn Viewpoint)I've aligned these images based on the positions of Phoca Rock and the navigational structure in the middle of the river to estimate what areas are burning.When I arrived at the viewpoint, it seemed I had missed the explosive advance of the fire's front. Still, as the wind gusted, and photographers scrambled to secure their tripods, one or another tree or other combustible item would explode like a solar flare.The smoke stung my eyes. The buffeting breeze reminded me of speeding through central Oregon on a 104 degree day with the windows down.Whenever the breeze lagged, voluminous, billowing smoke would hang briefly, as if in collusion with the ravenous flames, attempting to cover their sins of gluttony.Starting around 4:00am, I started receiving emails indicating that the fire had jumped the Columbia and set Archer Mountain aflame. The photographer next to me pointed out an ominous glow to the East.I drove to the St. Cloud recreation area and caught site of the flames — ever expanding. Looking South to the Oregon side of the gorge from St. Cloud recreation area.Another view of Archer Mountain from a vantage point at Skamania Landing.Looking South from Skamania Landing. Here, having exhausted its orgy options, the fire begins a more refined winnowing process.At dawn, the fire is still occupied with Archer Mountain (from a viewpoint at Shahala Lake).I had hoped to catalog the landmarks affected by the fire in the daylight, but smoke from the fire proved to be too thick, obscuring even the sun hours after dawn.The blanket of smoke continues to obscure the sky at 9:00am (as viewed from Rocky Butte)Editor's Note (09/07/17):Thank you for your comments (here, and on Facebook). I find them fascinating.Let me re-assure some of you, particularly my mother, that my self-preservation instincts are fairly well refined. I am keen to avoid burning, blunt force trauma, falling great lengths, suffocation, drowning and drunken drivers — for starters. But thanks for the reminders.The wildfire in the gorge is frightening. It is like an uncaged wild thing, or like a malevolent genie unwittingly released from its lamp. It feeds with evident cunning, and takes what it can with absolutely no empathy. With the capriciousness of a tornado, it obliterates some locations, while leaping over others and leaving them nearly unscathed. Lives and the works of lifetimes hang in jeopardy.I do not take lightly the terrible consequences of this fire, but I do want to briefly address the recurring theme of sadness at the loss of so much beauty in the gorge, by suggesting that the very beauty we have grown up with is itself a product of volcanic ‘disasters, geography altering super floods, tectonic plate level seismic events and countless fires through the eons. Living in a scenic area where we have found it necessary to fence off our waterfalls and pave our wilderness trails, it is easy to believe that our Gorge is a permanent unchanging feature, bereft of natural cycles. But I suspect this is an illusion fostered by our short lifespans. Born from the stars, life has always contended with fire. Indeed, some life intimately depends on it. New niches will open, and various specialized plants and animals are just waiting to move in and make the world new again. And we humans, I suppose, will continue to risk building our houses near flood plains, or deep in the new forests of the future, because … it’s always going to be pretty.[...]



IF I DON'T GET PAID, DOES THAT MAKE ME — PROMISCUOUS? : I Perform an Unsolicited Review of the Danuu WingMan Kayak Fishing Seat Accessory Pack

2017-09-03T17:44:25.422-07:00

I carefully chose my kayak to be my ultimate photography platform, beer-barge, expedition capable, multi-tasking water-craft, and it has exceeded my expectations.One thing I hadn’t foreseen, however, was my evolution as a fisherperson.  At first, pressured into fishing by my growing awareness of what I’ll term a sort of ‘karmic imbalance’……I soon began to experience brief bouts of not just ‘fishing’, but also ‘catching’, and the catching part turns out to be — really, really fun.But much like photography, the activity of fishing soon suggests a plethora of accessories and additional tools that need to be juggled in the confines of the kayak cockpit. Obviously, there’s fishing poles and lures and baits and anchors that need to have their places — places where they can be easily and quickly acquired. The manufacturer of my kayak (Wilderness Systems) is way ahead of me here. They’ve thoughtfully included something they call the SlideTrax Accessory System and of course, a molded cup-holder.  For normal people, these components allow for attaching anything from fishing rod holders to state of the art electronic fish-finders to the point where today’s fishing kayaks begin to rival aircraft carriers in terms of their relative complexity.  But for me, it all turns out to be an elegant way to dump expensive fishing gear into local lakes and rivers (all I did was unloosen a screw — granted a little too much — to adjust the rod-holder’s position, and now it rests at the bottom of Crescent Lake. I can still see that nut, flashing silver, lure- like, as it escaped down the scupper hole.)Other fisherpeople on a budget have come up with milk crates as a storage solution (with very fine videos available on Youtube showing how to make your own), and while I like the price, I’m concerned about where to put one. Most fisherpeople seem to put their milk crates right behind the seat, but that spot is reserved for my ice chest, for what I think are obvious reasons.If only there was something that could fit in that little space between the back of the seat and the ice-chest.Well, enter the WingMan by danuu Paddle Gear (Editor’s note: to conform to danuu's own logo, our convention will be to spell ‘danuu’ with a lower case ‘d’).The WingMan is a kayak fishing seat accessory pack, meant to strap onto metal-frame kayak seats. Danuu’s literature says it’s, “Packed with Features! “ Essentially, it has two bottle holders, two rod holders, a central storage pocket and several Gear/Leash points.Now those of you who are familiar with the Tarpon 140’s seat know that it is not a metal–frame kayak seat. This didn’t escape me either. So when I stumbled upon the WingMan at Next Adventure Paddle Sports Center (624 SE 7th Ave, Portland OR) I asked a salesperson (who called himself Autzen) if it would be O.K. to try attaching one to a tarponesque seat. Autzen not only said it was O.K., but helped me strap it onto the nearest tarpon.https://nextadventure.net/danuu-wingman-fishing-accessory-pack.htmlThe red arrows show the parts of the seat where I attached the WingMan’s straps, being careful not to interfere with the seat’s own rigging.Note: If you like your seat back to ride really low, this accessory may not be for you. As attached here, the accessory pack prevents the seat-back from reaching its lowest position.This side view of my kayak seat shows that the WingMan’s vertical length isn’t really an optimal fit for the tarpon’s diminutive seat-back . Notice how far the lower straps have to reach. Never-the-less, as the straps are tightened, the device proves rigid enough to hold firmly.My initial trials reveal that the bottle holders are reasonably placed. You don’t have to be a contortionist to reach them, and inflexible as I am, I could easily reach my beverage without turning around in my seat. The fishing-pole holders were a little bit harder, but with pra[...]



2017: A SOLAR ECLIPSE ODYSSEY

2017-09-13T23:11:07.593-07:00

(Formerly, Used Home-made Solar Filter for Sale: Only Used Once!)In the Pacific Northwest, I’ve become accustomed to spending many a meteor shower shivering in the dark beneath opaque cloud covers.So there are clouds.Then, as the media began hyping a once in a lifetime opportunity, the prospect of a million or so extra commuters on the road to Salem made a 99% solar eclipse sound pretty good.So there’s traffic.But Mr. and Mrs. P began helping me chip away at these objections until all that was left was the question of equipment.I had access to two possible camera choices. A Panasonic point-and-shoot with a lens boasting a 600mm focal length (35mm equivalent) or a Canon digital DSLR /Sigma 70-300mm zoom lens combo. Because the Canon’s APS-C sensor has a crop factor of 1.6 the 35mm equivalent is approximately 480mm.  Neither of these  choices has enough ‘reach’ to create images in which the sun fills the frame, so I started giving extra credence to articles that encouraged NOT taking photos in favor of enjoying the experience unencumbered.But Mr. and Mrs. P kept chipping away at my objections — “The corona may stretch out 5 or 6 sun-lengths, so you may not want to fill the whole frame with the sun.” — until I finally came down off the fence and committed to capturing images of the eclipse. My decision made, I went to the internet to find a suitable filter, and discovered that millions of people had already ransacked the world’s stock of such things. In the end, Woodland Hills Camera & Telescopes was able to provide me with a single 5.5 inch square sheet of Baader AstroSolar ECO-size Safety Film (Telescope Quality) and instructions on how to make your own filter holder (out of cardboard).Fortunately another friend, Mr. T, was also constructing a D-I-Y filter and he and his wife acted as host and hostess for Arts and Crafts night. Owing to the shrimp and bacon tacos that Mrs. T served, I’ve begun looking for an excuse — any excuse — for another Arts and Crafts night.The resulting cardboard assembly easily slips on and off the lens, an essential specification for the arrival of totality.  While it would have been easy to stretch the filter material tight, the directions explicitly forbade doing so.Mr. T’s solar-filter-film was a different brand, so we were able to compare.Baader AstroSolar ECO-size Safety Film (Telescope Quality) Helios Solar Film (pay no attention to the leaf encroaching at right)The results were similar, both filter-films resolving sun-spots, but one of them obviously rendering the color orange.While Mr. T was headed up toward Mt. Hood with hopes to use the iconic peak for unmistakable geographical context, I bet that an area in central Oregon (where Mr. and Mrs. P have a place) would provide an equally fitting viewpoint with perhaps more insurance from rain-clouds. The weather report for the area looked promising, but the Milli Wildfire in the Three Sister’s Wilderness was threatening the small town of Sisters, just 13 miles away.The idea of a rampaging wildfire seemed fictional to me Thursday night as Mr. and Mrs. P and I stood beneath the enveloping arm of our galaxy — the one we call the Milky Way. It arched over Camp Sherman with a brightness and clarity that startles city-folks like us.But by morning, gray smoke from the approaching fire was settling over Sisters (when we arrived there early Friday morning to top-off the gas-tank and purchase ice).The Milli Wildfire as seen from Indian Ford Rd.Mr. and Mrs. P were expecting what seemed to be an unrealistic number of guests. It seems their son significantly overbooked, not expecting everyone to accept his invitation. Mr. P simply smiled and commented in the characteristic fashion of long suffering parents who have (and love) multiple children, “The more, the merrier!”In the afternoon, I bicycled downriver to the Wizard Falls fish hatchery in search of Wiz[...]



A-PIKE-MINNOW-LYPSE

2017-08-06T15:10:34.593-07:00

The boat ramp at Armitage County Park is long, narrow and steep and if it had a face, it would probably frown at kayakers who festoon the sides of the ramp with half-packed kayaks and hapless kayak owners here and there on one more trip to the car for those things they forgot. Uncle Rico, still not comfortable under the gaze of my camera, poses awkwardly . Kip and I inexpertly lash essentials to our plastic boats.I pause to marvel once again at Uncle Rico’s fiberglass U.F.O.  Typically used as a stable mount for duck cannons, this one has been stripped of its artillery in exchange for a payload of frozen Pabsts.Kip, Deb, and Uncle RicoKip, I and Uncle Rico take a traditional ‘Before’ selfie. Well, it would be traditional if we ever regularly documented ‘before’ and ‘after’. In this case, I’ll forget to take the ‘after’ selfie making this photo moot. Kip says, “Wait a minute, if I’m Kip and Uncle Rico is Uncle Rico, then who are you supposed to be, Napoleon?”  Kip asks this with an intonation that implies, perhaps, that I’m a narcissist who considers myself the main protagonist of an adventure that is customarily an egalitarian cooperative.“No,” I reply, “I’m Deb.”  I hold up my camera and aim, “Okay, hold still right there. Now, just imagine you’re weightless, in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by tiny little seahorses,” and I snap the picture. “That was the one,” I say, “ I think that’s gonna come out really nice.” Uncle Rico says, “Ah, how you did it…wow…well I felt really relaxed. Thanks Deb.”Kip says, “Is there some kind of vest that I can wear?”The Armitage County Park boat ramp provides access to the last couple of miles of the McKenzie River before it empties into the Willamette.  Uncle Rico manages to catch trout along the way.We make camp on a small island just beyond Scandia Landing. Counter-intuitively, the smooth river cobbles piled loosely above the waterline make comfortable, form-contouring mattresses that are free of sand and dirt.Meant to be appetizers, I prepared cheese-stuffed-bacon-wrapped peppers, but in such quantities that Uncle Rico decided to keep the trout on ice for the next evening.  I was unable to take a picture due to mitigating circumstances that have to do with my ability to focus, so this picture is from a previous camping trip. This year’s peppers were wrapped in much thicker-cut bacon and cooked until quite crispy, though some might describe it as partially burnt. I will likely intentionally cook them the same way next time since the charcoal ‘notes’, I felt, added a certain complexity to the whole presentation.By the time the peppers are done, the sharp tips of the toothpicks (that hold the bacon on) have burned off. This image shows Kip and Uncle Rico carefully heeding my warning that the remains of two toothpicks are hiding in each pepper. Unfortunately I think I told them there were at least two toothpicks when I should have said there were at most two toothpicks which may have resulted in unnecessary caution and concern. Because of those mitigating circumstances regarding my focus, I found I was totally surprised every time I bit into a toothpick. Given four peppers, this means I was surprised eight times. This is why I don’t want to get a job that requires learning safety protocols for radioactive materials.Kip uses his cage- fighting, cat-like reflexes to choose the route without strainers.The last time I took my kayak on an extended river trip, I spent a surprising amount of time out of the kayak, desperately hanging on to it through the latter part of sets of rapids. The Willamette River, on the portion we descended, was considerably less challenging on a technical level, the trick becoming how to locate the predominate channels around islands and avoid up-current eddies at inopportune moments.I suppose the waters [...]



THE DAY AFTER...

2017-07-16T20:16:03.418-07:00

The Gresham Art Festival was a pretty fun experience. I haven’t been a vendor at events like these very often, but when I arrived to put up my booth, there were smiling volunteers available to help unload my gear and who were better at setting up my little tent than I was. It was a gracious greeting, and I’d be honored to participate in this festival next year.My sister Jill and her husband Ron helped me set up my wares and provided support throughout the day. I was glad for their company and for their help. I’d like to add that their commitment to my photography-endeavor reminds me to put forth my best effort, even when I am tired or discouraged — as does the encouragement of friends and their unsolicited positive comments.As many of you know, I sometimes stray toward the introversion pole of the personality spectrum, so photography, for me, is an important means of sharing for when I am having trouble with my words.There were over 150 vendors at the festival, so by the 8:30 deadline, a city of tents and booths lined almost all the streets of downtown Gresham.8:30 AM and just about everyone is set-up and readyAs one friend commented, “The festival was bigger than I expected, and I could still find parking!”.This year my sister convinced me to switch to glass instead of Plexi-glass because while Plexi-glass won’t shatter into lethal artery-cutting blades when it falls from the display-rack, a simple cleaning with a paper-towel  does render it partially opaque from tiny scratch marks, and that’s not so great for display purposes.  I have to agree with Jill, I think the glass looks nicer.Surprise partial re-union of Sunday P.M. staff (left to right: Matt, Lisa, Alexis, Dan, Scott and Lisa K. (not pictured))The award for “people who traveled furthest to visit my art-festival booth” goes to Dr. and Dr. Anderson and their daughter Alexis all the way from Minnesota — even though I know they are really here in Oregon for other purposes.Yesterday was the debut of a new product — sets of themed note-cards. There were 10 different themes, each theme having 5 unique images.  After taking stock of the remaining inventory, I can report that the Portlandish II theme was the most popular. A flower-theme came in second-place (so, good call Susanna). These are the images from the most popular set:Hollywood TheaterTugboat Portland working at the Port of PortlandDowntown foo-dog at the China-town GateIconic sign with stagVista HouseAll in all, I consider yesterday a very good day.I’m resolved to refining my skills at acquiring and sharing images that speak. [...]



I HAVE A BOOTH at the GRESHAM ART FESTIVAL on SATURDAY, JULY 15th from 9am - 5pm

2017-07-01T10:59:40.023-07:00

My photography booth will be up on 3rd Street (close to Main) in downtown Gresham from 9 AM to 5 PM on Saturday, July 15This was my Portland Sunday Parkways booth from before. This year's booth will look pretty much the same...just a little bit older...and with new images from here in Portland and around the Pacific Northwest. Miller Island, Columbia Gorge Dry Falls, Central WashingtonWaterfront Park, Portland ORThis festival will also mark the debut of my home-made note-cards!This is just one of ten different themes.More than 150 juried artists will be spread out along Main St. and 3rd St. offering their wares, plus, you can shop in Downtown Gresham and listen to live performances—though what kind of performances, I'm not sure. Here is the link to the pertinent page: https://greshamoregon.gov/Gresham-Arts-Festival/I'm not technically going to be doing any performances, but if it's going to be hot, you're welcome to come and watch me sweat. I'm thinking about doing some kind of pool where you can bet on how much sweat I'll be able to collect in a graduated measuring vessel by the end of the day—unless that's gross.I hope to see you.[...]



GALAPAGOS PILGRIMAGE PART 4: Truth & the Unreliable Narrator

2017-05-22T11:19:08.028-07:00

“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy." - Some old guy with all the best wordsMale blue-footed booby assuming display posture.Blue-footed-booby-doing-mating-display portion of photo (lower half) Credit: Dawn Cerrone. Diving-blue-footed-booby-portion of photo (upper half) Credit: Scott Dietz.Human male assuming display posture (Picture posted on MadSci Network – not attributed)That reminds me.Sgt. Rock asked me about my trip to the Galapagos. With a perplexed forehead he said, “Why did you go to the Galapagos?” which to my ear included the subtext, “…when you could have laid back in St. Martin, sippin’ gin and juice?” (Editor’s note: After some reflection, it should be noted that the phrase, ‘sippin’ gin and juice’ would be more characteristic of something Kip might say.)I suppose I could have explained how a tropical paradise holds reduced appeal for old fat men who haven’t come to terms with their diminished physicality (talk about existential angst) but instead I tried out my narrative about wanting to experience the truth of evolution. In the course of answering, I mentioned the marine iguanas unique to the Galapagos — evolved for life in the sea. Trying my best to parrot the information I gleaned from my guides, I told Sgt. Rock that only marine iguanas can swim. Sgt. Rock stopped me there, his formerly perplexed forehead resolving into a more confrontational furrowed-brow configuration. He told me about his recent seaside exploration of St. Martin and how its clumsy land iguanas, basking on high rocks at the shoreline, would occasionally misstep and plunge into the ocean. If I were to re-imagine how the conversation went from this point, it would go:Sgt. Rock raised a single eyebrow, the hint of a smile emerging at the corner of his lips, coupled with that distinctive eye-sparkle which precedes devastating sarcastic wit. “Do you want to know how those LAND iguanas escaped their fates?” he asked in a purely rhetorical fashion. “They SWIM!” he boomed with the expected rhetorical flourish.And instantly, my intellectual self- assuredness shriveled 2 - 3 inches.I had to concede what I had said was wrong. Faced with Sgt. Rocks eyewitness account, I couldn’t dispute him. I tried to re-formulate my understanding. Perhaps marine iguanas are the only iguanas that ROUTINELY choose to go swimming — a decided advantage for an animal that subsists on intertidal and subtidal algae.The teeth of the marine iguana, I was told, are specially adapted to scrape algae off rocks (they look like little forks — exaggerated tricuspids). I examined the skulls of mummified marine iguanas on two different islands and confirmed the presence of forked teeth — at least in the dead ones. Since then I’ve googled iguana teeth to find out what the teeth of land iguanas look like (though I have no reason to distrust my guides) and am satisfied that the teeth of land and marine iguanas differ.Significantly, the comparison above is between Amblyrhynchus cristatus (the Galapagos marine iguana) with Iguana iguana and not Amblyrhynchus demarlii (the Galapagos land iguana). The specimens of land iguana I observed appeared to almost be gumming their food and I wasn’t able to see their teeth at all.‘Knowing’ is not so easy. I can’t always go around dropping land iguanas into the ocean or prying open the mouths of marine iguanas to look at their teeth to verify all that I read and hear. I don’t have the necessary funds to follow marine iguanas into the sea to observe exactly what it is they do out there. So, I must often rely on the accounts of others. To rely on the accounts of others means the quality of my world-view is dependent on the quality of my sources. And because we live in a world so interdependent on di[...]



GALAPAGOS PILGRIMAGE PART THREE: The Book of Nature

2017-05-20T01:53:45.379-07:00

“These people have learned not from books, but in the fields, in the wood, on the river bank. Their teachers have been the birds themselves, when they sang to them, the sun when it left a glow of crimson behind it at setting, the very trees, and wild herbs.”—  Anton Chekhov, “A Day in the Country”“We are tossed about by external causes in many ways, and like waves driven by contrary winds, we waver and are unconscious of the issue and our fate.' We think we are most ourselves when we are most passionate, whereas it is then we are most passive, caught in some ancestral torrent of impulse or feeling, and swept on to a precipitate reaction which meets only part of the situation because without thought only part of a situation can be perceived.”  ― Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy“Thanks, Scott, for your comments. I am grateful. Very simply, we can encounter God without even reading the Bible. Aquinas says if you want to know something about God, then begin with creation.Blessings,Carol”I'm having trouble finding attribution info for the Pee Wee picture - likely Warner PicturesWho’s that sexy thang I see over there?That’s me, standin’ in the mirror……If I was you, I’d want to be me too.—Meghan TrainorElvis picture from very cool poster at Rock.com‘Cause I’m a model, you know what I mean And I do my little turn on the catwalkYeah, on the catwalkOn the catwalk, yeahI shake my little tush on the catwalk— Right Said FredPortland to Charlotte, to Miami, to Quito and finally to Baltra Island in the Galapagos archipelago (600 miles off the coast of Ecuador) - Map illustration derived from Google EarthThe Ecuadorian flight attendants were uncannily identical in appearance — from their red hats (faintly reminiscent of Hot Dog on a Stick Uniforms) to their tight bun hairdos to their matching lipstick — so that I was unsure whether I had slid into an alternate universe of 60’s stewardesses or a future populated by identical clones. In either case, they performed their jobs with military efficiency and no sooner had the plane landed, then all the doors were thrown open and we passengers spilled down the closest set of ramp- stairs to the sun baked tarmac.Though I am handicapped by a severe case of monolingualism, the airport personnel were experienced enough, and our cruise guides attentive enough that I merely needed the skills of a cow to be herded to the transfer buses. Languid iguanas watched our little tourist parade with their impassive sidewise gaze, a gaze that because it only half meets our own, manages to seem indifferent…but probably really is indifferent. All the buses followed a curvy, dusty road down to what appeared to be the only destination on Baltra, a dock on the side of a small bay, where we were all deposited — a giant bolus of privileged humanity — into a staging area then sifted and spread onto our prospective boats.While the fleet of excursion vessels prepared to disperse among the different islands, the passengers of the Nemo III were baptized into the equatorial waters of the bay through voluntary self-dunkings as we strove to demonstrate our capacities to regain entry into the kayaks we would soon be using (provided we mastered this skill). For me it perfectly accentuated the idea that I was suddenly immersed into a new environment.Darwin spent 1 month in the Galapagos (Sept. 17th– Oct. 17th), though only 24 days actually spent on just 4 of the islands. Ultimately, I would set foot on 5 different islands and 4 islets over the course of 7 days, only two of which I’d have in common with Darwin. I mention this because when I figured it out, I was surprised at how little time he spent there on a voyage that lasted almost 5 years. Clearly, the ideas that were even[...]



GALAPAGOS PILGRIMAGE - PART TWO

2017-04-06T10:33:02.873-07:00

SEEING THINGSFinch on San CristobalFinch on Isla EspanolaThe finches didn't really make an impression on Darwin. He didn't, at first, notice that the finches in his collection were different from each other until long after he left the Galapagos. When the realization finally came to him, his notes were inadequate for matching each sample to its island. It raises the question, "What are you uniquely qualified for and prepared to discover?"Mitchell: So, uh... so, how go the repairs?Lee: Well, the main engines are gone, unless we can find some way to re-energize them.Mitchell: You better check the starboard impulse packs. Those points have about decayed to lead.Lee: Oh, yeah, sure, Mitch.Mitchell: I'm not joking, Lee! You activate those packs, and you'll blow the whole impulse deck.Lee: I'll, uh, get on it right away. I just wanted to stop by and make sure you were OK. See you later.Helmsman Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) and ship's psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (Sally Kellerman) evolving.  Picture by Paramount TelevisionMitchell: He's a fool.Dr. Dehner: A fool?Mitchell: He'd seen those points, and he hadn't noticed their condition.Dr. Dehner: How do you know?Mitchell: The image of what he'd seen was still in his mind.Star Trek, "Where No Man Has Gone Before.-Paramount TelevisionMaybe it's best to think of seeing as an interactive event. We see things, maybe every day. But then one day we look again and something finally clicks and we say, "Oh! Now I see!" or "Eureka!"Education, experience, and familiarity all contribute to the process of seeing, which results in a gaze that can be more discriminating and more encompassing.Suppose a photo editor needs pictures of World Foods Market on Barber Blvd.and there are two available photographers, Scott and Monkey-cam. Some background knowledge of the photographers might figure into the editor's decision about who should be assigned, depending on what the goals are for a given article.Or say the editor needs pictures of Long Island in the middle of Willapa Bay.Or say the editor needs pictures of 3 species tacos for an unbiased article about the best tacos in the world.In each case, the photographer's background and life experience greatly factor into what gets noticed. I guess my point is, the hard time I did at the oligonucleotide factory changed the way I see.Evolution of a painterIn 1994, I started working as a technician in the synthesis department of a small company that made oligonucleotides, or single-stranded DNA. There I learned that machines (reminiscent of multi-flavored Big Gulp machines) could dispense the 4 different bases (phosphoramidites dAdenosine, dCytidine, dGuanosine and Thymidine) and string them together into specific chains (or sequences) per customer request.A bank of synthesis unitsSection of an oligonucleotide — single stranded DNAThe machines don't do as good a job of making oligonucleotides as nature does. Each time a coupling happens, there are failures which, if the sequence is long, have to be removed later during a purification process.Oligonucleotides being injected into an HPLC purification columnWhen that process is complete and the amidite chains are dried for shipment, the material looks something like this:Visually represented here is enough single stranded material to fulfill a 50 nanomole order. If this particular sequence is 21 mers long (21 bases, for instance, 5'-ACT-GGC-ATA-GGA-AAA-TAT-GAT-3') then a leading manufacturer of oligonucleotides could sell you (as of this writing) an unpurified version for something like 8 - 13 dollars.Once the customer gets their material, they may utilize it as a primer, where it enables DNA polymerase (a complicated DNA zipper) to get a running start at mass[...]



GALAPAGOS PILGRIMAGE - PART ONE

2017-03-26T23:08:08.265-07:00

WHY THE GALAPAGOS?A blue-footed booby. This picture is inexplicably composed to exclude the signature bright blue feet.By then, I had already watched boobies ham-footedly seducing each other with incongruous bright blue feet, disappointed pirouetting sea lions with my graceless, spastic snorkeling — unable to join in their joyous dance — and seen the fork-tailed silhouettes of magnificent frigate birds gliding beneath a near full-moon. That evening, we (me and eleven other travelers) sat in the common area of a 75 foot catamaran being introduced to the crew. Crew of the Nemo III with our guide Veronica acting as translatorThrough our guides, the crew asked us, "Why did you come to the Galapagos?"Up until that point, I'm not sure that I had ever put my reasons into words — and as I stuttered and paused too long looking for the right ones, I began to realize that it wasn't just for exotic 3 species tacos, it was because I wanted to articulate a story of discovery and revelation — to flesh out an account of a scientist deciphering the underlying truths of our existence in the universe. But I felt like an evangelical missionary who hadn't and couldn't read Greek or Hebrew texts — or a witness at a trial who hadn't actually seen the crime.My short answer was, that while there are some who journey to Jerusalem, and some to Mecca, I was on that boat, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, because I wanted to see the peculiar islands that jarred something in Darwin's mind — something that years later shaped his thinking in regards to the origin of species. I wanted to affirm Darwin's observations. I wanted to feel the blind hands of nature shaping life as if by designEarly mariners noted the Galapagos would often disappear into the mist caused by the cold Humboldt current spilling into the tropics earning them some references as the Enchanted Islands.As Darth Vader said, "... let me... look on you with my *own* eyes."So there I was on a naturalistic pilgrimage, not to retrace the stations of the cross or purchase relics, but to follow in the metaphorical wake of H.M.S. Beagle to study the ripples left by its passage through history.As David Byrne said, "Well...How did I get here?THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS EARLIER - AM I A CHRISTIAN?The Elephant of Surprise spots my Dad.I was away at Bible Collegeone year, learning to present sermons via Pastor Jim Cook's patented 3-point-outline method. All the while, unbeknownst to anybody, the Elephant of Surprise trampled roughshod through the ranks of my family.Later, as the recipient of increasingly ominous news, I found myself surrounded by people who optimistically saw God as active in their daily lives, helping them to prepare for tests, providing money for them just when it was needed, and (in some fashion that was never explicitly clear) helping them with their life decisions. Often, daily existence was viewed as just another day of spiritual warfare, in which we young Christians were encouraged to gird up our loins (http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/10/02/how-to-gird-up-your-loins-an-illustrated-guide/) and enter the secular fray wielding the sword of the Spirit — His word (or as narrowly defined by my conservative college, the Bible (hence the likely etymology of the term Bible beaters)). Kind hearted people (some of them strangers) prayed for and otherwise cared for me and my family, so much so that it was hard to tell if it was God working, or just kind hearted friends and strangers. It turns out there are all kinds of Christians and they all have slightly different versions of what they think God is like, and what they think God wants us to do. Left to right, top to bottom: 1. Traditional kind of oily Jesus. 2. Rugged Jesus. 3. Pretty good singe[...]



WILLEXIT

2017-03-10T22:22:02.315-08:00

Kip showed up at the bar with a detailed river-keepers' map and guide-books that explicated his proposed route down the Willamette River. He had performed a careful analysis of the water route, marking potential launch sites, sensible campsites, and devising preliminary outlines for shuttling the boats. He had even spaced the campsites apart according to his estimates about river velocity based on seasonal water volumes and the river gradient, and also which sections of river would require extra time for thorough fishing. It was almost as if he was some kind of project manager. But as the early July launch-date approached, it became clearer and clearer via meteorologists that the trip would test our resilience to rain—lots of it.Though  I often imagine myself to be a daring and self-sufficient outdoorsman (and by often I mean whenever I spend several hours at a bar), the fact is that so far, my camping experiences in the rain have been accidental, infrequent and generally less than vacation-like. Realistically, when it comes to surviving in the wilderness (if I even manage to reach the wilderness), the only reason I think I'm still alive is because I appear to have a self preservation instinct strong enough to keep me from putting myself in life-threatening situations (I'm a big chicken) and more often than not, I've been lucky. It's like when the three of us make the now tacit agreement to eat only the things we find or catch on the fishing excursion (which doesn't apply to beer) yet, because of my keen appreciation for my own fishing skills, I find myself inclined to hide potatoes and sausages out of sight in my cooler. So, at the bar, while I pretended that a little rain would never hurt me, I was relieved when Uncle Rico and Kip began suggesting that perhaps we should come up with an alternate plan—maybe one that would tuck us into the rain-shadow extending East beyond the Cascades.   On decision day, our two car caravan pointed Southeast and after hours of driving, we entered the maze of forest-service roads beyond Oakridge where malevolent, tipsy trees had previously jumped out at me in the night and left their impression on my truck, impressions written in wrinkled sheet metal and the shocking revelation of primer-coat (at least I'm pretty sure that's how it played out). This time, although we arrived in the day time, the maze was no less confusing. Thankfully, I was riding with Kip in his vehicle because he charitably recognized my fear of these particular trees. Occasionally the caravan would stop as Uncle Rico consulted the GPS or as the evil branch fingers reached out and impinged on our path like fences in a slaughterhouse (or maybe something more like gillnets), driving us into a single file.Somewhere in this puzzle landscape, we established a base of operations on high ground next to some nameless meandering minor tributary of water, manifesting as a creek for now, but showing evidence for the capacity to become wetlands or even a lake. For now, instead of a lake, we were perched at the north tip of a vast flat field, perhaps 5 miles in circumference, all of it decorated with sparkling ponds strung together by tentative necklaces of crystal clear water.Despite our best efforts to escape the predicted rain, a nimbostratus cap of clouds concealed the sky and gently explained to us that we should take some care in preparing the evening's shelter. Kip rose to the occasion by providing a —well, I think it was something like a transportable house— which not only provided protection from rain, but also a defense against mosquitoes, who though we did not know it, were silently waiting undercover for the arrival of dusk and the cessation of an i[...]



TIME TRAVELING: Clackamas River Edition

2017-02-04T14:02:21.513-08:00

Thousands of years of human exploits ought to be recorded around here, but the roads that native Americans pioneered, or earlier, the 'highways' employed by whoever it was that thought traveling across a cold land-bridge from Russia was a great idea, have either been reclaimed by the ocean or been paved over by opportunistic Europeans.Prominent in this image is the Fechheimer & White building (approximately 131 years old). The smaller building just to the left is the Hallock-McMillan building, thought to be Portland's oldest existing commercial building (maybe 159 years old).The oldest buildings in Portlandare barely one-hundred and fifty years oldA small architectural accouterment at the North end of reservoir #1 on Mt. Tabor.There is no Acropolis on Mt. Tabor weathering the millennia - no birthplace of Portlandian democracy - instead, crumbling concrete reservoirs are poised to become ruins at the tender age of one-hundred and twenty-two.01Just half an hour from the boundaries of our modern city, the landscape quickly becomes indistinguishable from what we imagine primordial forests might look like, if primordial forests had patchworks of clear-cuts. I guess it isn't surprising that in watersheds where clouds simply sink into the creased landscape, keeping the shadow-lands perpetually wet, painted messages (if any) run off rock, their colors dispersing in rivulets of rain and condensation, human memories transmogrified into mineral supplements for moss and mushrooms.12Red oxides accent evidence of human encroachment otherwise obscured by creeping vines and mosses. 02.  Memaloose Road BridgeSo it is intriguing to read of abandoned water works on a tributary of the Clackamas river. To give credit where credit is due, I first read about the South Fork Clackamas/Memaloose Falls hike in a post by Shane Kucera at Outdoorproject.com. There was enough information to get me to the trailhead......though the effects of a forest fire have resulted in the closure of the road that leads to it, which adds a little over a mile of uphill-walking to the mileage tally.03The first time I went, I found the ropes left behind by previous benevolent trailblazers, but when I took Sgt. Rock, we overshot and ended up straying too far South.04The terrain is steep and the brush thick.06But watching Sgt. Rock bound up steep hills, ...much like a deer,05...helped me appreciate his value as a forward scout.07We found more information about the hike from a post at OregonHikers.org by Brian Edwards. When there was another break in the weather, we found the ropes leading into the canyon. From there, following the trail is pretty straightforward.08This tunnel is in close proximity to Memaloose falls.0910Past the tunnel, I went off trail and descended down to the base of the falls. Meanwhile, Sgt. Rock previewed the rest of the trail.11Sgt. Rock was able to confirm that the trail was passable all the way to the Clackamas River.28So the next time the rain let up, we assaulted the trail by river, thus cutting out the mile long climb to the trailhead (thanks once again to the luv2kayak evangelical outreach).13An incongruous fire hydrant.14Tunnels along the way.15Lower falls on the South Clackamas fork. Note the pipeline just to the right of the falls.16Valves and wheels along what looks like a stone retaining wall mark (perhaps) where pipelines from Memaloose Creek and the South Fork Clackamas converge.17The Memaloose Creek pipeline crosses just below the convergence of Memaloose Creek and the South Clackamas Fork. A short distance up the trail are the remains of what some have called a settling pool. Watch that last step off the bridge headed East.18This is [...]



A FEW MOMENTS I WAS IN (While Moving Furniture)

2016-02-25T23:41:20.597-08:00

I helped Mr. and Mrs. P move some furniture to a beach house in Lincoln City.  On the morning we were to load the truck, menacing rain clouds demonstrated their ability to saturate the earth at will with intimidating bursts of precipitation. Not to be nonplussed, Mr. P, who seemingly has the right tool for the right job (no matter how obscure) demonstrated his determination to beat the clouds by pulling a tarp out of his shed that, in its folded state, was just a little bit bigger and heavier than all the furniture we had to move, and unfolded, well... let's just say that standing on opposite ends, we couldn't hear each other over the vast distance unless we used walkie-talkies (and even then we had to gesticulate wildly like near-sighted monkeys).  Once the huge tarp was deployed, the rain clouds moved on to easier prey. In fact, it wouldn't rain again for the duration of the task.A picture of the coast just South of LincolnCity which doesn't really illustrate anything I've written about so far.Turns out I like moving furniture with Mr. P. Although Mr. P has the stature of a man who could move things by brute force if he wanted to, he doesn't. I'm not saying he's old, but he's lived long enough to have experienced countless moving events (not because there are too many events to count, but because he can't remember them all) and he possesses the native intelligence to remember a few hard-won helpful pointers. This has resulted in a methodical approach to moving that emphasizes economy of energy. So, even though I'm out of shape, I can count on plenty of 'rest pauses' as furniture shapes are mentally juggled like Tetris blocks in Mr. P's impressive mental-simulation where complex problems are solved prior to any physical exertion. Sometimes it takes me a while to come around to his way of thinking, but if I listen to his advice, I'm sometimes treated to mini-miracles, like when three and a half foot wide sofas fit through three foot wide doorways at the bottom of tight stairwells (and all accomplished without saws or sledge-hammers... or sheet-rock repair).Grass holding on to the land for all it's worth and pointing in alarm at the impending approach of the ocean. This picture is still not addressed in the body of the text.The quiet diesel engine chattered away in its normal fashion that makes gasoline engine drivers worry about the oil level but which goes unnoticed by diesel engine drivers. The expansive tarp billowed here and there, but couldn't escape from the near infinite number of straps and cords that contained the furniture securely like a papoose strapped to a cradle board. I say 'infinite number' because Mr. P couldn't remember exactly how many straps he has, and every time I thought they were used up, he'd pull another one out of the truck like a magician.The waves don't seem to be able to reach up this far, so perhaps the erosion is caused by the ceaseless trampling of visitors like me, who scramble up and down the cliffs in search of remarkable vistas. In any case, it is easy to see the exposed roots, and thereby understand how grass can be so important in stabilizing soils perched atop basalt capes.Once the truck was unloaded and the furniture placed in approximate positions, Mr. and Mrs. P took me on a short orientation tour of the area, the highlight of which turned out to be a journey through a maze of tortured trees to Fishing Rock. The maze was a manicured tunnel through those wiggly trees you only see at the coast or at timberlines - those trees that mark their lives in brutal wind and thin rocky soils by tracing their anguish in the contorted shapes of their limbs. I admired the tre[...]



My Tenuous Connection to Water

2017-03-26T17:14:22.968-07:00

In the summer I seek out shade.In the winter, I get in touch with my inner flower.If the winter sun should happen to poke a finger through Portland's perpetual cloud ceiling, and if the wind is not blowing at gale-like velocities, I'll throw the kayak on the truck - well O.K. - I'll strenuously leverage it onto the ladder rack (all the while making old man sounds) and head for a nearby river or lake. This is how Smith & Bybee Lakeslooked two weeks ago. The fickle sun had stopped diddling the clouds by the time I got to the lake, but I had been taking steps to make friends with the rain, even if my camera had not......and so I launched my kayak anyway and enjoyed the spectacle of cat-like clouds stalking the Willamette valley, looking for some dry place to lie down. Sunday, the Sun wasn't teasing anymore. It grabbed the cloud ceiling firmly in two hands and yanked (like a housekeeper yanking the sheets off a hotel mattress) to uncover a radiant blue sky that went all the way up.But this time, Metro's canoe launch at the East end of Smith Lake didn't come anywhere near to reaching the water, so I drove on to Kelly Point Park and launched into the Columbia Slough from their dirt and gravel boat ramp. A man in a canoe exiting the slough reported that the tide influenced water had stopped retreating. Anticipating minimum resistance from the Willamette, I chose to head up-river.The surface of the water started out smooth like a mirror and doubled the number of suns, the lower one flickering and blinking like a strobe light. No matter how I folded the edge of my stocking cap or how low I pulled it over my eyebrows, I was unable to devise a satisfactory brim. While in the gaze of the sun, one could almost believe it was spring. I squinted back into the blinding light, my right eye all closed like a pirate, salty forehead sweat following creases to the corners of my eyes......until, sun-tears leaking down my cheek, the river relented and turned a bit and the sun stepped a few more degrees off towards the horizon, and a tiny breeze shattered the river-mirror into amorphous infinite pyramids that scattered the sun's binary stare. I regained my vision.Once the sun set behind the West Hills, the wind - the real wind - escaped from wherever it had been confined for the day and raced down river to tease me about not wearing my dry suit. The wind's henchmen, the rolling waves, pushed me around to see if they could get me to cry.Compared to my old Tsunami, I felt vulnerable perched atop the sit-on-top. Wind spawned waves rose out of the long fetch stretching from distant Swan Island. These amplified waves with their impressive running starts would eventually collide with equally impressive bow wakes of loaded barges being pummeled upriver by  tugs . Those waves, in turn, were reflected off various concrete retaining walls resulting in a dynamic chaos which is fun in the summer but less so as dusk falls over very cold water. Since my confidence in my ability to stay upright in a kayak has been pretty much shattered since last summer's John Day trip (when I toured significant portions of the river upside-down), I hugged the shoreline to hide from the wind and made sure I could swim to shore if necessary. When I could recognize them, I steered into the biggest waves, but mostly I just kept on paddling because feeling the water's resistance against the blades of my paddle connected me to the river.Presumably, this architectural feature was implemented on purpose.Dark shadows cast from the West Hills chased the last of the day's light up these towers and scared it back into space.Empty piers with t[...]



"...but the overall trend is obvious."

2017-03-26T17:07:27.572-07:00

"Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods,and day by day the dead leaves fall and melt..."William AllinghamWind whipping up white-caps on the Columbia.Obstinate trees do what they can to hold on to their leaves....but the overall trend is obvious.Like a universe of stars rushing to universal heat death, leaves twinkle in the wind, blown away in chaos and disorder.I walk the banks of the Sandy river and capture a subset of a beautiful exodus.Leaves carried away in the current of a rain swollen river.Stems like bones, join rotting salmon in rich silt deposits, perhaps to become fossils...perhaps to see the sun again in some future epoch.Leaves performing one last dance ......in the water of life......in dappled fractured light of a waning sun......beaten against the rocks......to sink, to decompose, to cease to be a leaf[...]



John Day River: Thirty Mile Creek to Cottonwood Bridge

2017-11-12T22:24:27.205-08:00

"Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse;"-Romans 1:20"I'm not so sure about that, but whether or not we all make it through these rapids alive, I'm confident the grading criteria will be fair." - Scott"Get ready to explore your world without boundaries." - Wilderness Systems Owners ManualSunrise found us on the outskirts of Wasco, high on the Columbia Plateau, our 3 vehicle convoy speeding through golden fields of wheat on toward Condon and then West to a 7:30 AM meeting with a rancher who would provide us a private launch site to the John Dayriver and also execute our car shuttle. Startling verdant fields, free of the vestiges of irrigation, belied narratives of drought that punctuated the news. The fresh born morning, still cool to the senses, felt like the fledgling hours of a new creation.The rancher guided us to the floor of the John Dayriver canyon.Kip and Uncle Rico set about loading their boats as usual. I however had a new challenge in that I was expedition outfitting my new Tarpon 140 for the first time. I chose this sit-on-top kayak to be my ultimate photography-beer barge-fishing platform after test paddling three other models. But what is patently obvious to me now is that if you want to compare how kayaks perform carrying 144 beers, you actually need to load them with 144 beers.Buying 144 beers isn't an insignificant financial burden to sustain each time you rent a kayak for a day, but the point is, I hadn't really packed a sit-on-top with 3 days worth of camping gear before, and as the wise old rancher spied my progress, he slowly distanced himself politely and faded away so as not to witness my inevitable accounting with reality.There was my boat, loaded with all my hopes and aspirations. Food, shelter, tools and technology, everything I thought I would need to be independent in an unknown wilderness. I told Kip and Uncle Rico that I would carefully document this trip in a little notebook I brought, and that maybe with some good pictures, I could submit our story to a kayak magazine. That's when Kip said, "They've justprinted a John Day River story...it isn't very likely that'd they print another one so soon." Well, at least I can write down all the jokes we make and not forget them I countered weakly.Meanwhile, small mouth bass were jumping at Uncle Rico's hook before he could even put bait on it.  He and Kip were trying to be patient as I tried stacking equipment first one way and then another, but the call of the wild was doggedly echoing from down the canyon, whetting their appetites for adventure.Though my boat felt kind of tippy, we launched into the gentle current and tied our fates to the whims of a river.There is a rhythm to rivers. They fall and cascade briefly then level out, fall and cascade and level out. The level stretches flow slow and meander, but soon, the river begins whispering its warnings and the water becomes textured and the current grabs your boat and pulls and pushes you towards immovable rocks amid narrow corridors and twisting corners.We started out on a languid level stretch, but at the first simple turn, my top-heavy kayak rocked a bit then tipped over without hesitation. The water was deep so I clung to the hull, legs flailing, until my knees began slamming into rocks. When I was able to purchase footing, I heaved the kayak upright, but it merely kept on turning to flip upside down again, and the rocks rose up like teeth to gnaw [...]



ECOTHEOLOGY

2017-03-26T17:25:30.627-07:00

Smoke from the Cougar Creek Fire drifts eastward, coloring a river of wind paralleling the Columbia Gorge. It meanders like the supernatural cloud that spread out fingers of death to claim the lives of Egypt's first born in that old movie about Moses. High atop the gently eroding  Washington edge of the gorge, single minded wind turbines work to steal the winds kinetic energy. They turn, turn, turn it into electricity, and send it to the air conditioners of those who choose to live in deserts, or to those who merely ride the surface of an ever warming globe.Here the temperature is in triple digits. Windmills shimmer and wriggle behind layers of dancing atmosphere. A truck hurtles along the highway, charging through mirage after mirage but never getting wet.Expansive vistas are typically marked with evidence of humans taking treasure from the Earth.Standing on the shoulder of Mt.Hood, watching its shadow stretch out towards The Dalles and beyond, I could see the edge of the gorge bristling with windmills...and the Columbia River frustrated.For someone who wasn't prepared to spend a cold night on the mountain, long shadows racing toward the East should have been an obvious cue to begin the long hike home, but I couldn't stop watching. I lingered. The beauty in these moments, when nature makes tangible the mechanics of a precious world spinning through space ... makes me susceptible to the presence of the invisible creator. I imagine him taking a stroll through the garden, like it says he did in the old days, and I wonder what expression he wears on his face when he catches sight of the windmills and dams. I wonder if he feigns shock, like he did when he caught Adam and Eve running around with fig-leaf underpants, or does he, as an inventor of sorts, grin with fatherly pride at the antics of his little engineers - made in his own image. There's a story in Genesis about creation, and how god told the man and woman he created to, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it;..."So what are the chances conservatives with a literalist bent might not get the nuances of this story exactly right?Senator Inhofe, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, illustrates the confusion between weather and climate Elsewhere in this blog, I've alluded to a personal hope that careful, perhaps artistic observation of nature will reveal some subtle fingerprint of God. Implicit in that hope is that nature is God's creation, his testament. As it turns out, nature has much to tell us, and (because it doesn't rely so much on King James' English) its story tends to be more testable and trustworthy. As careful observers take their notes and run their experiments, it is becoming possible to suppose that our epoch, the Holocene epoch, may distinguish itself as our planet's 6th major extinction event. Some conservative Christians are aggressively skeptical of this science and renew their efforts at imposing abstinence-only-sex-education. Meanwhile, other Christians look slightly embarrassed and wonder whether or not 'subdue' was the translator's best choice.I know some Quakers who wonder if there shouldn't be more emphasis on words like 'fruitful', and not just in a capitalistic kind of way. I think they mean something like stewardship - the careful, responsible, maybe even sustainable management of something entrusted to one's care. Stewardship is hard to reconcile with what I perceive to be the ambitions of the Christian right who seem to think they can cut down all the trees and burn all the oil th[...]



Fabled Channels of Flowing Catfish

2015-09-26T17:07:21.420-07:00

I told Kip and Uncle Rico about a magical lake that drains at low tide revealing channels of flowing catfish that you can catch with a bucket.So we set sail, testing the waters as we went......but the pelicans already knew.Cafeteria queue Uncle Rico strikes a classic heroic beer drinking pose(I call this one the '10 o'clock meeting')Last Friday when I left work, I thought I caught the faintest hint of autumn gently wafting on the breeze. This scene seemed to confirm the arrival of fall, but Uncle Rico reminded me we were downstream from a super fund site.End of summer lakes leave broad fertile plains around their perimeters.Uncle Rico and Kip engage in a competition to see who can catch the smallest fish.Dr. Jekyll clouds begin their amazing transformations. Far-away rumblings are carried on the wind.Even though the waning tide has begun to suck all the water out of the lake promising the writhing rivulets of catfish I described, our collective reasoning dictates that we spend the rest of our daylight on acquiring a campsite.The craw-fish traps contain a surprise. Shrimp (supposedly with glowing red satanic eyes). I ask Uncle Rico, "Fresh water shrimp?"Uncle Rico said, "I've never seen anything like it around here.""Maybe bait shrimp have escaped and started a colony?" I wonder out loud, imagining the tiny wounded crustaceans pulling themselves off  hooks and fashioning bandages from algae. "oh shit." said the crawfishDespite a lengthy bout of indecision (or delicate diplomacy) we secure a campsite on an island that seems to welcome visitors.Slowly... ...but surely......the day's bounty transforms into......something we call, Three Species Tacos......and I suppose it would have been heaven, if not for the bold, evidently sentient raccoons that, once aware of the presence of food, summoned reinforcements, surrounded us, and waited for us to drift to sleep.We made it out alive, but we will probably never be the same.Editor's Note: ...it was raccoons.Editors Note:  Alert viewer 'Jarm' posits the identity of these shrimp as invasive Siberian Prawns. We are providing these two additional pictures to aid in a positive identification. These shrimp were caught in a crawfish trap at the 'fishing balcony' where Sturgeon Lake empties into the Gilbert River.Editor's Note: I asked Kip to take a picture of his kayak deck with a ruler on it. He sent me the picture and I've superimposed it over the shrimp picture (50% transparent) to give a fairly close estimate of size. Given this graphical evidence, and accounting for perspective distortions, I'm revising my length estimate to somewhere between 2.25 and 2.5 inches.[...]



Road-trip to Cove Palisades and Beyond

2015-05-29T21:26:45.217-07:00

Clouds, like insubstantial whales, drift almost inquisitively over the high desert plateau. Perhaps they taste the frosty tips of a sorority of mountains, or,  rising on ephemeral flippers to test the bounds of the stratosphere, they glimpse the face of a goddess.And I, perched on the edge of a reservoir, feel the chill sneak out from the shadows of the vast scar below me, chasing the sun's residual heat out of massive basalt rim-rock back into space.You'd think the gentle breeze could be the faintest evidence of the turmoil of a planet's atmosphere spinning, on average, hundreds of miles per hour against the vacuum of space, but only because your dilettantish comprehension of vacuums is based mostly on an object named Hoover. Regardless, you imagine it really is the sound of the world turning, and try to feel the ground trembling as it turns away from the light.Given imperfect knowledge, given mathematical ineptitude, given mistaken assumptions, I still grasp at a sound byte or two that I picked up from Cosmos, and feel a moment of gratitude, maybe even joy, that there is something instead of nothing, even if that something means there will still be work again on Tuesday.Here at the confluence of three rivers, I explore the canyon carved by the incoming finger of the Deschutes......marvel at texts written by lava......consider our ingenuity at making reservoirs both with admiration and misgiving......am surprised by the color red......am confounded by the sheer scale of this body of water, and big though it may be, am chagrined that all the surrounding camp sites are full (according to a ranger).There's frugal.  And then there's idiotic.I take idiotic naps along the night highway, furtively hiding on tree sheltered extended shoulders...in fear of the intentions of other night travelers who do not carry screaming orange kayaks on top of their vehicles...waking to the peculiar wail of tires approaching from miles away...a slow-motion crescendo that ultimately drowns out the sound of blood pulsing through veins, the lifelong subliminal background soundtrack I usually only ever hear at 4 a.m.The sun sneaks up on me from the other side of the world and finds me in a land where deep time is written on hills of colored kitty litter.It says right on the pamphlet, "Sunset is the best time to photograph the painted hills."Once again I take a page from the J.J. Abrams book of lens-flare videography.I try to see the mountains dissolve over the eons...imagine the layers of ash laid down...the animals covered, the rivers of molten basalt...but I can't quite piece it all together, or explain this irregular pocket of color.Sometimes it's all too clear that in our passing, we leave marks upon the earth ( I hope this isn't the trail of some of those effing photographers).As the sun leaps above the hills on the horizon, the formerly mysterious and moody landscape takes on a loud and gaudy aspect.Transitory footsteps on hills of deep time.Life persistently checking for footholds.[...]



A Face Like a River...

2015-06-03T20:43:41.712-07:00

...lies about its intentionssmooth skin over muscles underneathcovers the pointy thingspolishes objections into tiny pebbleshas forgotten your name, but keeps a straight faceA face like a river is beautiful......and divisive I purposefully stroke her wrinkled but ageless faceonly to find myself an islandClick on image to view slightly larger versionAs night approaches, the river and the sun call a temporary truce.Waves of discontent diminish in the silenceBut once the sun is gone, the river whispers...dark tales of floods and cataclysmsthe passing of cultures and godsemphasizes Good Friday at the expense of Easter...click on image to view slightly larger version...shows me the transitory nature of grass waits smugly for me to understand the metaphora sharp cold breeze... convinces my bones"Yes, but resurrection." the sun reiterates.[...]



Test Paddling the Thresher 140

2017-02-02T00:05:27.826-08:00

Wilderness Systems has broadened their sit-on-top offerings this year with the introduction of the Thresher (this includes a 14 and 15.5 foot version). The Thresher seems designed to bridge a gap between overly stable, relatively slow fishing platforms and sleeker more touring-orientated craft, all for the sake of fisher-people who need to cover significant distances to reach their intended fishing locales, whether that's in the middle of a huge bay or out beyond the breakers in the open seaThe characteristics that make this boat a good fishing option, should also make it a killer expedition photography platform/beer barge. I knew my test trials wouldn't be complete until I auditioned this state of the art bid for kayak fishing supremacy.The Thresher 140I've probably been remiss for not highlighting this before, but the reason I've been able to rent and evaluate various sit-on-top kayaks is because of the reasonable and renter friendly policies of the Next Adventure team at the paddle sport center on S.E. 7th and Alder. For 35 bucks, they give you a kayak for 24 hours, a paddle, and a personal flotation device (if you need one). The staff is friendly and they are knowledgeable about - even experienced with - the products in their inventory.I'd been waiting for an opportunity to try the Thresher ever since I started seeing articles about its pending release last summer.Unfortunately, Next Adventure allocated their only rental Thresher 140 to the Scappoose Bay Paddle Center, and that outfit's 'water-front service' with exorbitant hourly rental rates is punitive in comparison to the excellent deal available at 7th and Alder. When you rent a kayak from Scappoose Bay Paddle Center, you're essentially going to go kayaking in Scappoose Bay. They don't let you car-top the boats and take them elsewhere. They also roll the kayaks down to the dock for you, so you can't really evaluate whether or not you're going to be able to put them on top of your car.  I noticed the Thresher doesn't have traditional side handles, but instead has recessed hand-holds built into the cockpit area plastic. I have no idea if that's a good idea or not. The bow and stern handles are sized just about right for the Hulk and are probably not breakable, even when he is angry.Where the Tarpons have a sealed hatch for internal storage in the front of the boat, the Thresher has a distinctive storage compartment covered by a big plastic hood. The plugged up scupper holes in this compartment should have served as foreshadowing that this compartment is not really intended to be dry. For those who intend to do a lot of fishing, it seems like the thing you'd want to do is maybe take those plugs out and fill it with ice and then periodically throw in the fish you catch. But me, I just assumed a new fangled fancy hood would be water-tight and I put my old dry bag in there.The next new feature down from the hood is something called a 'flex pod sonar console'. This is a fishing specific item that is intended to hold a fish finder and its battery.The idea is that you can pull this whole module out at the end of the day, throw it in your car and go home, or vice-versa.Underneath the module, there's a protected hole that goes all the way through the boat. That hole is where the transducer goes, and I'm told that there's enough space in there to keep the transducer from getting scraped off when the boat runs agr[...]



Test Paddling the Tarpon 160 (finally)

2017-02-02T14:59:24.516-08:00

The problem with 'objectivity' is that it's usually 'subjectivity' cleverly disguised as objectivity.I've wanted the Tarpon 160 ever since I saw it sitting in the rack at the kayak shop. However, I'm trying to take the universal advice of the broad community of kayakers who suggest that choosing a kayak is a personal choice based on how a particular boat fits one's body and objectives, and so, going through the motions of due diligence, I've finally come to the day when I actually get to paddle my dream boat.It doesn't escape my attention that I seem to have a Wilderness Systems' bias. The first kayak I ever sat in was their 12 foot plastic Pungo which delivered me down the Sandy Riverwithout making me a candidate for the Darwin Awards. The first kayak I ever bought (so far the only kayak I ever bought) was their Tsunami 125 which has, over the last eight years, patiently taught me everything I know about kayaking except for that bit of advice from Bernadetteand Keith about paddling with your core and not your arms so much.Mostly, my kayak acts as a platform and facilitator for my photography, taking me to places where nature still looks pretty natural for the most part. But as my expeditions become more ambitious, I find I need more easily accessible storage space. I've also noticed that my 12.5 foot Tsunami struggles to make headway over big water in the wind and chop of inclement weather. Even in optimal conditions, even if I was not always pausing to unwrap my camera and seek ideal shots, I can't seem to keep up with others in their sleek longer boats.Enter the Tarpon 160, touted as the fastest of the Tarpons and the go-to reference when reviewers make speed comparisons, such as, "The ACME Sting Ray isn't quite as fast as the Tarpon 160, but we've slapped a couple of extra flush-mount fishing-pole-holders on this one to help justify the steep price."If form follows function, then the Tarpon's long slender hull speaks about speed. But I'm not a hull designer, I realize, and I may be confusing aerodynamic sexiness as a solution for a problem better suited to hydraulic equations. Striving for objectivity, I go on to note differences I think I see between the tarpon and the Trident Ultra 4.3. The bow of the Tarpon seems pointier and streamlined, without the fast flared bulging that seemed evident on the ultra. Does this mean that the Tarpon will poke through waves instead of riding up over them? The Tarpon doesn't seem to have any rocker...and if it's supposed to, then this one has lost it, its 16 foot length of heavy plastic slowly collapsing over time. Perhaps the Tarpon 160 is testing the balance between structural rigidity and weight.The keeled ends of the kayak quickly transition to a long flat belly with multi-chine sides.Two long grooves, like negative-space rails, travel the length of the flat belly, perhaps as a kind of novel keel substitute...or perhaps a means to architecturally stiffen the hull.Without the helpful Next Adventure's employee available to help me unload the Tarpon, I quickly gain an appreciation for how heavy this boat is. Without a traditional cockpit to stick a shoulder in, there doesn't seem to be any balanced way a single individual can carry this behemoth. The Tarpon 160 (with rudder) is listed at 79 pounds. If it was a bar with free weights, it wouldn't be a problem, but this thing is 16 feet long and bulkier than a log and something like a sail [...]