Family, History and Love

Wanda and I have been discussing, of late, the need to set down in writing some portion of our family history so that in the future our children and grandchildren will have the stories and tales of our lives direct from the source. The technophile that I am, I choose to do this online so that the what we write will be accessible and available for comment to our wider family (though I reserve the right to moderate those comments).

To that end, I have repurposed this blog. In coming posts, we will endeavor to provide an abridged story of our life (hey, everyone has their secrets). We're writing this for our children and their children and those that come later so elements of these tales will be familiar only to our family,

Monday, October 29, 2007

Pumpkin Patch

Just north of where I live, over the ridge and down to the river, lies Sauvie Island. The narrow bridge to the island leads to an expanse of farms, river beaches, and wildlife sanctuaries. In October, it also opens the way to pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and haunted houses and barns.

This past weekend we had beautiful weather so it was time to visit the pumpkin patch to play and to pick out a nice pumpkin for carving into a Jack O'Lantern (whether it ever gets carved or not depends on my eldest daughter who promised to carve it but has yet to make good on her vow.)

I grabbed my camera and a couple of lenses and off we went. I wanted to get some photos of the granddaughter playing in the pumpkin patch as well as some landscape photos on the island. It also felt good to just get out of the house and to walk around on the farm. Makayla enjoyed playing on the hay pyramid, seeing the farm animals, and playing the pumpkin patch. She was most fascinated, however, by all the jets flying over the island (Sauvie is directly below the western flight path for Portland International Airport). Well, it doesn't take much to amuse small children and the spacing of the jets matched well with her attention span.

The day was quite warm. We didn't need jackets at all, and the pumpkin patch was quite dry considering the time of year. There weren't a lot of great pumpkins left, but we found a couple that met our needs and used the stroller to get them back to the main entrance. We then took the time for a quick lunch and treats for the ladies. The farm we visited sets up outdoor food vending during October for the large number of visitors and offer everything from sausages and pulled pork to corn on the cob and candy apples. Just the things to satisfy the appetite on a beautiful Fall day.

After our snack we took the lovely (and curvy) ride back over the ridge and got home long before dark. The turning leaves of the deciduous trees were beautiful against the dark colors of the evergreens, and there was not real traffic to speak of on the trip home. In the distance we could see both Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood, and the St. Johns bridge stood out starkly green against the deep blue sky. It was just a very nice outing for the weekend, especially given the miserable weather of the past weekend.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hump Day

The week is now officially "over the hump." I was supposed to be in Arizona for a business trip for the rest of the week, but it got canceled at the last minute and that's fine with me. While a little more sunshine would have been nice given the very wet weekend, it was very nice here Monday and Tuesday so I managed to get the seat in my truck reasonably dry (though it's still humid enough to fog up the windows when the heat is on). The rain returned today, but is was more of a mist that a true rain.

After arguing with the dealership on the phone about getting the truck looked at and repaired (it was barely out of warranty by time and still under 36K miles), I just drove down there at lunch and explained the situation to the guy that normally takes care of me. That helped a lot. He promised to look at it and try to get it covered under warranty. Not very long afterwards he told me there was a bad seal around the upper brake light and they corrected with a waterproof sealant with no charge for the repairs. Which is all I really expected. I don't know why the body shop manager had to be so snotty about it all when I spoke to him on the phone. He was acting like I was asking him to do major body work for free.

In any case, it's fixed (for now), and that's one less worry on my mind. I really like some leisure time to do some model shooting and perhaps write a new article comparing some lenses (with photographic examples). I think that will have to wait for a while as I still have some wedding photos to process and a number of other items to do around here to prepare for what looks to be a very wet winter.

Oh, the photo today? It's from a film shoot from nearly 30 years ago.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wet Weekend


Friday and Saturday of this past weekend, we were supposed to spend a relaxing evening in the Columbia River Gorge at Bonneville Hot Springs Resort. We both took Friday afternoon off as we wanted to beat the traffic out of town and get checked into our room fairly early so we could enjoy most of the evening. The idea was to spend the night there, and in the morning she was going to have a spa treatment (mineral bath, body wrap and massage) while I went shooting in the Gorge. It was a good plan, but it just didn't quite work out that way as it poured the entire weekend. Well, I mean it didn't affect her massage, but it was really much too wet to shoot in the Gorge and the wind and low clouds didn't provide for a very photogenic environment. To top it all off, the roof of my truck started leaking and totally soaked the back seat.

We did have a nice relaxing evening when we first arrived. We had a couple of drinks in the lounge, followed by a wine tasting event in the main lodge, and then dinner. We also took a dip in the pool and sat in the mineral spa for a while. That was very relaxing.

When we got up the next morning, though, it was raining harder than ever. We had breakfast (very tasty) while we discussed plans for the day, and I decided that I was at least going to attempt to get some shots. It was either that or sit around for several hours while she got her spa treatment. So I headed out with my weather-sealed (but not waterproof) camera and lens and did some shooting.

The first image is of a rain swollen stream that cascades directly into the Columbia River. This was located just inside the little town of Stevenson on the Washington side of the Gorge. It was raining quite hard as I was shooting off the bridge here, and my camera and I got quite wet. A quick wipe with the towel when I got back into the truck sufficed for both me and the camera. I then drove through the town looking for something of interest to shoot, but didn't see anything worthy enough to make me want to get out of my warm and semi-dry vehicle (the roof was still leaking onto the back seat).

I gave up on Stevenson for the day (though I might go back there on drier day), and drove up to Skamania Lodge hoping for a nice view.....no such luck. It was pretty well socked in there too. So I headed back west with hopes of getting some photos of Beacon Rock or perhaps a locomotive on the heavily trafficked rail line that parallels the river. Along the way, I noticed one of the tour boats headed west down the Gorge, and I managed to get far enough ahead of the vessel that I could stop and grab a few shots as she went by. This time the rained had slacked off enough that I didn't get too wet, though the wind was quite strong and it was pretty tough keeping my hat in place.

I did drive down to Beacon Rock, but it simply wasn't possible to get any good shots there with the rain and the wind pounding everything, so I gave it up and headed back to the lodge. On the road to the spa though, I noticed some Halloween decorations that were certainly worthy of a shot. It seems like the residents really have a thing for jack o'lanterns.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sunsets

Most people love to photograph sunsets, and they can certainly be beautiful, but often the shots turn out to be very clich├ęd. The key to sunsets, I believe, is to find something different or unusual about the sunset - the weather conditions, the activity, the terrain - or anything to make the sunset just a little (or a lot) out of the ordinary.

For me, a photograph of a sunset can vary in tone and the feeling it evokes. For example, this sunset is soft and puts me in a contemplative mood:


Pacific Coast Sunset during a storm

While this sunset has a slightly different nuance to it:


Sunset on the Big Island of Hawaii

Sunsets can wonderful variations of colors such as these two from the Caribbean Sea:




Two views of sunset as seen from the deck of the USS Fury

Sometimes with the sun goes down one color predominates and sets a mood or tone that's almost scary in it's intensity:


Death Valley Sunset

Sometimes sunsets can be very, very wierd:


Iridescent Sunset in Las Vegas

Or they can be very, very subtle in color and tone, yet still be beautiful and evoke feelings of quiet solitude:


Dusk in Death Valley


Sometimes sunsets can provide a feeling of serenity:


Oregon Sunset

While other sunsets can provide a sense of fun:


Sunset Surfer, Big Island, Hawaii


Sunset Riders, Las Vegas, Nevada


Outrigger Canoe Team Practice, Hawaii

Sometimes beautiful sunsets show up when you least expect them:





Two view of sunset in Maupin, Oregon


But no matter what, when you see a lovely sunset, you should take time to enjoy it with someone special.


A couple enjoying sunset on the island of Kauai

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Friends

Fortunately, over the years I've had quite a number of friends who have been willing to be my photographic subjects. Often their husbands or boyfriends were more than willing to assist me by holding reflectors, carrying extra cameras or lenses, or just staying out of the way. Most of the time they knew that by helping me, they were making their ladies happy and ensuring the photos from the session would be better for their efforts.

In the case of this photo, my friend Roberta was helping me with a budoir shoot. She was posing on a settee in my living room. While there was sufficient natural light from the windows and skylight in the room, I wanted more moody lighting, and so I instructed her husband to stand at the top of the stairwell with a small, golden reflector and to catch a portion of the light streaming from the skylight and to focus it on Roberta's upper body. This gave her a nice warm color that complimented her tan and set her body off from the white lingerie she wore for the shoot. The reflected light also provided more moody shadows and allowed the intensity to taper off toward the feet. All in all, it was a very fun and successful shoot.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Portraits

I enjoy shooting portraits. They can be very challenging images to make because a good portrait must not only be technically good, but it has to capture the personality of the person portrayed. This is quite difficult to do when working with only the head and shoulders of the subject (the classic portrait). I also find it more difficult to shoot male portraits. I think this is because, despite popular opinion, men are actually more self-conscious of their image and the whole portrait process. Or it may be that I simply have more experience with and relate better to shooting portraits of women.

The two female portraits shot here were photographed on location at a friend's house late in the afternoon of a clear August day. The soft, low light contributed to the warmth of the photograph and provided the soft shadows that help define the portraits. The ladies were posed in a open, grassy area already turned a golden brown brown by Oregon's dry summer. The background was a large stand of evergreens.

A large aperture, a long focal length and a relatively close camera to subject distance was used to minimize the depth of field and throw the background out of focus. This isolated the models to make them stand out from their surroundings. The focus point was on the subject's eyes and a shutter speed was picked that would minimize camera shake for the focal length and sensor size used for the images.

An assistant with a large white reflector provided fill light to soften the shadows even further, and an external flash set to minimum was used to provide a small catchlight in the eyes.

The models were simply asked to look natural. As you can see, one lady smiled for the camera and the other did not. This isn't so much reflective of their personalities, but of their mood during the shoot. They both had fun shooting and were pleased with the resulting photographs, but one model was far more at ease during the shoot than was the other. Neither lady is a professional model (but one has had to put up with my cameras for many, many years).



For the portrait of the couple seen above, many of the same techniques were used, but instead of a reflector, on-camera fill flash was utilized. Posing two people together isn't as easy as shooting one subject at a time, but the couple has a great dynamic and I think this shot works very well for them.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Autumn Photography


I enjoy shooting in the Fall. Of course, the seasonal colors were much better when I lived in New England and Upstate New York. Here in Oregon, the colors are more subdued and tend toward the yellows and oranges as opposed to the bright reds and deep burnt oranges of the Northeast. Also, the weather here makes for more difficult shooting as the storm fronts start moving in off the Pacific beginning in October and a dry day becomes more of a rarity.

I took a day off last week to do some fall shooting. My plan was to drive over Bald Peak into Yamhill County and down to McMinnville to shoot around the vineyards and the town. t was supposed to be a dry day, but the morning was actually pretty foggy and damp. By lunch, however, the weather had cleared and I managed to get in some shooting. Driving over Bald Peak was quite interesting in the fog, but I did get some spooky looking shots at Bald Peak Park and on the property of some friends who live up on the mountain. I found some interesting colors driving down the mountain into valley, but the colors were still fairly dull due to the overcast skies.





When I got into McMinnville, I was happy to find quite a bit of color in the town itself. There were several maple trees outside the Hotel Oregon which had turned, and there was a Farmer’s Market scheduled for that afternoon and the vendors were setting up some very colorful displays. I wandered around town for a bit, had lunch at the hotel, and they shot a few frames of the market, the town, and some of the outlying vineyards. All in all, it was a nice relaxing day, but I sure would love to visiting Vermont and Connecticut in the fall again.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Projects and Fun (NSFW)


I'm working on a long-term project, something that I hope will provide me with a creative outlet for the next couple of years. I've been exchanging some e-mails with some prospective models, and this description of the project from one of the e-mails:

The them of the project is The Fae in All of Us, and so I'm looking to find various models to help me depict this in images - so the images will vary depending on the person, the season and the desires of the photographer and model. While, I do intend to complete the seasonal series (Winter, Spring and Summer), I also intend to depict the elements as well (Earth, Wind, Fire and Water).

The project does, however, allow me a great degree of freedom to work with the model to achieve her vision as well. For example, I have one friend who wants to be depicted as a "Combat Fairy." That's her vision, and it will be fun to work with her to see it to fruition. In this case, she is designing her own costume and we'll work together to find the appropriate location and we'll begin shooting when we're both satisfied with the concept and preparations. In another example, I have a model who interested in posing as the fire fairy. He concept is red wings, red hair, and a sheer red outfit while she dances around a bonfire. I have a friend with some property and a burn pile who is willing to provide the location for that shoot. Other shoots will be done either in a studio, at other locations I've used over the years, and in some cases will be suggested and provided by the models themselves.

In the case of the 1st set which you've seen on my website, the model was hired specifically for the project. She had no particular vision or emotional investment for or in the project and simply was seeking the modeling fee for the work. After post-processing the images and reflecting on the shoot, I came to feel that I would get better images that would convey more of the project's concepts by using models who were specifically interested in the project for the fun and the art rather than simply for the money.


The set of photos mentioned above are located here: Autumn Fairy

So, that's part of what I have planned for the future. I do hope to be able to post some of the resulting photos in the next few months, though I envision this as a long-term project that will continue over the next 2 to 3 years.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Naval History

I spent 21 years in the Navy. For the vast majority of that time I served in the submarine force. You would think that this
would mean that I got to spend lots of time in various ports of call and saw much of the world. This was only partially true. My first two submarines were what are known a Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines or FBM’s and in Navy vernacular, “Boomers.” These submarines were part of the Nuclear Triad. This triad consisted of land based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Air Force B52 (then B-1) bombers, and sea based ICBMs. These sea based missiles were carried by mobile platforms hidden deep beneath the sea. Hidden is the key word here. The job of a Boomer was to go to sea and hide. Once on patrol there were no port calls, no mail, and no fresh food. So, for about 72 of 105 days of each patrol cycle, Boomers were on patrol, cruising silently beneath the waves. The other 32 days were spent in home port refitting and preparing for the upcoming patrol. Boomers were two crew submarines - a Blue Crew and a Gold Crew.

On my first submarine, the USS Daniel Webster (SSBN 632), I was on the Gold crew. Our home port was in Holy Loch, Scotland. I mean that literally. When we were in port, we were tied alongside a submarine tender in the middle of the Loch. To get to shore, we had to board a “mike boat” which took us to a pier in the Scottish village of Sand Bank. The nearest town of any size was Dunoon which was locate seaward down the loch. I did six patrols on the Daniel Webster and 5 refits out of Scotland (we did one refit in Charleston, SC for a missile conversion). Now, during that time on the DW, I did get to see Edinburgh (they have a camera obscura located on the King’s Way on the way up to the castle), Glasgow, and a great deal of Dunoon. I have a good many photos from that time, but they haven’t yet been scanned. I will find a couple of them for this entry (the two I have in mind are of the Edinburgh Commons and the tender anchored in the loch).


The Daniel Webster in Holy Loch, Scotland




Sailboats in Holy Loch



The Commons in Ediburgh with the Castle



Dunoon at Low Tide



My second submarine was the USS Von Steuben, (SSBN632). On that boat, I was on the Blue Crew. I did 11 patrols on the Von Steuben, and it was by far my best tour of duty. That submarine was home-ported out of Kingsbay, Georgia (although when we were off-crew we lived in Charleston, SC). On the Von S, I got to visit the Bahamas and were got to spend quite a lot of time in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. That was about it. Still, she was a good boat with a fine Captain. But the ports were anything but exotic.


Church in Bermuda



Chopping Onions


My last ship was the USS Springfield, SSN 761. This submarine is what as known as a Fast Attack. I spent a little over two years on this ship before I finally retired. It was also the worst vessel. The captain and the XO were terrible. The ship was not well run, and the engineer was an idiot. But, I did see more ports of call on that ship than on any other. On that vessel I visited Bermuda, the Bahamas, Nova Scotia, Macedonia, Italy (several times), France,Sardinia, and Crete,


The Springfield in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico



The Springfield in Naples Harbor


Mount Vesuvius as seen from Naple Harbor


Public Building in Sardinia


Macedonian Tower



Castle in Naples


Ironically, I’ve done more and better photography since leaving the Navy than I ever did when I was in the Navy. I wish I had had half the skills that I have now when I was in the Navy. But, I have more time (and energy) for photography than I did when I was in the Navy, as well as access to online forums like Photography-on-the-Net and Photo Net that didn’t exist when I was still in the Navy.


Mediterranean Village




So, there is a little more of my photographic history. Don’t hold it against me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Memories and Photos

I bought my first "real" camera in late 1978. A real camera for me was an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) that used interchangeable lenses, had built in metering, and could use an automatic flash. I had always been interested in photography, but had never owned anything more sophisticated than a Polaroid that my then fiance bought me for a birthday present.

I was inspired to get a better camera by one of my best friends and room-mates. He purchased an Olympus OM-1 SLR in the summer of 1978 and shortly afterwards a group of us (him, my wife, me and another friend and roommate)went on a rafting trip down the Snake River in Idaho and then traveled cross-country from Idaho to Georgia passing through Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park along the way. The quality of his photos, compared to mine was like night and day. So, for Christmas in 1978, I got a Canon AT-1 SLR camera and a 50mm f/1.8 FD lens. I still have both the camera and lens and they still take great photos nearly some 30 years later.

Of course, I wasn't very good at first. I had to learn about exposure, depth of field, sharpness, composition and all the other aspects of real photography. I loved every minute of it. So, by 1988, I felt I had a pretty good handle on things. When I look back, though, I find many flaws in the photos I took back then. It was fortunate that I had a willing a patient model (models if you count my kids, who were willing but usually quite impatient).

The photos in this post are from the 10th Anniversary trip that my wife and I took to Florida. These were taken on the beach at Fort Lauderdale. She got a lot of catcalls and whistles while we were shooting and totally enjoyed the attention. These photos are scans from the original print and so lack the clarity and "pop" of the digital photos I currently take. But these photos have a history and they bring back memories of a wonderfully fun vacation in the hot Florida sun with a beautiful woman. And bringing back memories are what photos do best.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Mortality


My mother died recently. It was an expected death. She had been quite sick for a very long time. She had a heart attack in 2000, developed diabletes in 2001, continued to smoke after her heart attack (2-3 packs a day), and then developed emphysema, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Congestive Heart Failure. I thought I was moving forward after her passing, but my uncle died last week from almost exactly the same health issues. Then, this last Friday, a friend died in a car accident leaving behind a wife and two small children. All this death just makes me think of my own mortality and takes me back to thoughts of my mom.

Despite her failing health, my mom was a scrappy fighter. She came out to Oregon for a visit every year from 1997 until 2005 until she was too sick to travel. So I went to see her. She was living with my Aunt Joyce and had been for twenty years, and they fussed like a couple of old hens - but they loved each other and wouldn't have it any other way. They grew up together and fussed then, so it was only natural they would do it when they got older.

Over the years she made sure she visited her grandchildren whenever she could. She came for both weddings my children have had, and she loved our 4th of July cookouts. But what she loved most was sitting out on my back deck in the wonderful Oregon summer away from the high heat and humidity of the Southern climate. Once out there she would just sit and enjoy the breeze and watch all the birds fly by. She was thilled to no end once when a fledging red-tailed hawk landed on the back fence.

Sometimes she would sit on the deck and paint. She brought her oils and brushes with her and we would get her small canvases to work on. Sometimes she painted rocks, driftwood and other materials. I still have some painted rocks in the planter on my deck. She was very artistic and always came up with some new idea for a craft item or a decorative display.

She loved her grandchildren and that was the role she cherished most. She was known as Granny to them and all their friends. Heck, aftter a while even her kids started calling her Granny.

Last year, I made her an hour long DVD entitled "Memories with Granny" and I gave it to her for Christmas. She loved it and showed it to all her friends and family. In the end, she requested that it be shown at her funeral. So it was. So, for an hour, we watched a video depicting her life in photos, videos, music and more importantly, in her own words. It was a most unconventional funeral for a most unconventional woman, and I think, a fitting tribute to her.

We'll miss you Granny.

Monday, October 08, 2007

2007 Oregon Country Fair (NSFW)



The Oregon Country Fair this year was, as always, a great photographic opportunity. I went on both Friday and Saturday. Friday was my day to indulge in abstract photography (patterns, colors, textures) while Saturday was the day to meet friends, enjoy the food, and shop. Unfortunately, the fair gets more crowded each year and it becomes more difficult to get around through the crowds, and there is seldom an opportunity to simply sit and rest for a few minutes. The fair has always been a colorful, chaotic event, but the crowds make it more chaotic and I fear that eventually it will reach the point where it becomes self-defeating.

The good news was that Kathleen the body painter was back at the fair this year and there were lots of people sporting her work. Of course, there were lots of others wandering the fair in their own imaginative paint jobs and costumes. The photo posted with this entry is of a very lovely, happy and enthusiastic young lady dancing at the main stage. She was very happy to pose for this and subsequent photos and she flashed the most dazzling smile.

Yes, I'll probably go again next year, despite the crowds.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

New Models



I had the distinct pleasure of working with a new model a couple of weeks ago. Sierra is a lovely young lady who obviously enjoyed posing for the camera. Although she is just starting out as a model, she has a natural ability to move for the camera and to strike poses that show off her lovely smile and physique quite well. I particularly like her eyes and her smile. I am looking forward to working with her on several more projects in the very near future. She has expressed an interest in working with me on my light painting and fairy projects, and we may very well revist Cathedral Park under the St. Johns Bridge (where these photos were taken) when the fall colors become more prominent.

In addition, I met another lovely young lady this week for coffee and a discussion about photography. She's done some pretty good work herself, but she's also interested in working with me on a couple of projects as well. We'll be setting up test shoots in the very near future, I hope. She has some great ideas for us to shoot as well.

Unfortunately, with the onset of the wet Northwest winter, much of my photography will be curtailed. There are very few fairs, festivals and other outdoor events during the wet months, so usually this means I don't take the cameras out much during the winter. This year, though, I'm planning to do more during these months. I have a friend who is building an indoor studio and I'm sure that with my help and the ability to use some of my studio gear, he'll be more than happy to trade me for studio time. I also plan to get out more and do some wet landscape photography, and perhaps even some model photography in the rain or the snow. So, I do have some planning and some work to do this winter.