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The Nehalem Experience (Part 5) Saturday, April 26, 2008

[left] Sunday morning, Pierce Henley was back in the kitchen again. [below] Joe and Kate Mitchoff enjoy breakfast in the sunshine.

On the way home, Ben, Todd and I stopped at Oswald West State Park (right), just up the coast from Manzanita. It's another nice place to camp (more primitive than Nehalem) and the beach is popular with surfers.

I don't know why the "west" is in the name—there isn't any "Oswald East State Park."

And we were back in town around 3, just in time for Ben and Todd to head off to Footy training.

The Nehalem Experience (Part 4)

Back to the Nehalem saga (see also parts 1, 2, and 3):

After dinner on Saturday night, many of us headed down to the beach to see the sunset. The weather was relatively good (i.e. neither snowing nor raining) but the sunset was pretty blah. Nevertheless, it did seem to put people in a contemplative mood ...

And then it was back to the meeting hall where a couple of the DJs in the group kept the tunes pumping well into the night.

US Fencing National Championships Friday, April 25, 2008

Weston "Seth" Kelsey (left) of Brush Prairie, Wash., parries Eric Hansen's attack Apr. 25 in the men's individual epee championship at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. Kelsey won 15-7 to capture his third individual title.

Fencing is one of those sports where everybody knows what it is, but no one knows anyone who does it. Portland, though, is a bit of a hotbed for American fencing. Portland-area fencers include Mariel Zagunis, the first American to win gold in 100 years at the 2004 Olympics
(women's individual saber), Cody Mattern and Seth Kelsey, both of whom also competed in Athens, and others.

[left] You can almost see Kelsey's face in this one. [right] Kelsey goofs around with the trophy at the awards presentation.

I'd never seen fencing live before, let alone tried to shoot it. In addition to the typical challenges of dim, flickering fluorescent light and horribly cluttered backgrounds, I struggled with the unfamiliar sport where hardly anything happens for a while and then a flurry of activity happens so quickly you can't even see it. Add to that athletes that (for obvious reasons) wear a mask that almost completely obscures their face and were surprisingly nonchalant after winning a national championship, and you have a real challenge.

The youth division championships are also being held at the convention center. Mason Speta of Chicago (shown here, at right, in the semifinal round) beat Mandeep Bhinder in the Y12 girls epee championship.

The championships continue at the convention center through Monday.

I can't believe they made that!

OK, we're taking a brief break from the Nehalem Experience (there will be one or two more posts in that series) to bring you:

Today's products:

  1. Humpty Dumpty Sour Cream & Clam Ripple Chips. Made in Maine ... "a taste worth fallin' for!"
  2. Why Wii™, when you can pii? Those crazy folks in Japan will do anything with high tech. It's not as easy as it looks, ladies.

The Nehalem Experience (Part 3)—Paella!

Pierce and Kate sautee onions and tomatoes for Saturday night's paella.

The highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly Saturday night's paella feed. As they do every year, Pierce Henley and Kate Mitchoff cooked up a huge amount of rice, shrimp, scallops, crab legs, vegetables and—new for 2008—chicken and sausage, into a gargantuan feast for everybody. There were about 24 of us at the table, but food enough for 50!

[right] Pierce demonstrates how not to add the rice.

With the precision, coordination, and urgency of a cardio-thoracic surgical team—and a little help from a couple of sous-chefs—Pierce and Kate sauteed, steamed, boiled and baked the concoction to perfection in a pair of garbage can-sized paella pans. The heat was provided by a pair of Pierce's homemade grills.

[right] The chef tests his product. [below] Pierce and Kate check for "socarrat," the caramelization of the bottom layer of rice that is indicative of a perfectly cooked paella.

[left] Monique pulls steaming crab legs out of the pot. [below] Kate and Pierce show off the final product (the crab was added to each plate).

Sorry, no pictures of the crowd enjoying the results—my hands were full of crab!

The Nehalem Experience (Part 2) Wednesday, April 23, 2008

[left] The early risers—Erin, Kate, Paul, Pierce and Jocelyn—chat in the meeting hall Saturday morning. [below] Saturday morning's agenda included a trip into town for brioche from the Bread and Ocean bakery and deli ... and not much else.

The brioche is highly recommended. They make it with cinnamon (which I had), chocolate, almond-poppyseed, brie, and sometimes brie with ham or bacon. But they only make it on Saturdays, and they go fast!

[right] There was a short sunny break around noon on Saturday, and I had a group of about four ready to go for a walk on the beach. But one person had to finish a Scrabble game first, so we waited. Then another had to pick up something at the yurt. Then a couple others wanted to join, as soon as they cleaned up their lunch stuff. And then the original three decided not to go at all. About 90 minutes after the idea was proposed, the revised group—Ben, Todd and I—started the quarter-mile trek to the beach. Then Todd stopped at the bathroom, so Ben and I waited. Then it started snowing again. We went to the beach anyway. We only stayed about five minutes.

[right] While others look on from the warmth of the meeting hall, Ben makes a graupel-man on the picnic table. [below] The rest of the afternoon consisted of playing cards, Scrabble, Connect 4, reading, and drinking beer.

The Nehalem Experience (Part 1)

Camping gear sits outside Ben Cyphery's car Apr. 18, waiting to be loaded for a trip to Nehalem Bay State Park.

Every year, a group of my friends celebrates Joe Mitchoff's birthday by camping at Nehalem Bay State Park. The park is on the Oregon coast by Manzanita, about two hours' drive from Portland. After missing the chance to join them the last couple of years, I finally got to go last weekend.

It's pretty cushy camping, really—yurts with beds, lights, and heat; a group meeting hall with more of the same (no beds); hot showers and flush toilets. But this year, at least, we were all glad for the comforts because the weather was awful.

Ben and Todd take in Cannon Beach from a highway lookout en route to Nehalem Bay State Park.

As we drove out to the coast, there was snow in the air over the David Douglas Summit (about 1600 feet). Saturday—on the coast—was marked at various times by mist, rain, snow, thunder, graupel, wind, and a couple of brief sunny breaks. Sunday morning was sunny but cold, and it rained again later in the day. The temperature never got above 50F.

I rode out there with Ben and Todd. We arrived at about 6:30, with just enough time for a quick beer before heading into Manzanita for pizza.

From the archives Monday, April 21, 2008

Carey Price follows the puck in goal for Tri-City as the Americans defeat the Portland Winterhawks 3-2 in a shoot-out at the Rose Garden on Mar. 10, 2006.

One of the disadvantages to living out here in Portland is that I don't get very many Montreal Canadiens games on television. So I had mixed feelings about the Habs going to seven games against Boston in their first-round series—as a longtime fan, obviously I want them to win. But since they lost on Saturday, tonight's game was on TV here. And we got the right result—Montreal beat the Bruins 5-0 to advance to the next round.

The NHL hardly gets a mention in the local sportscasts, but highlights from the game made the evening news here tonight. To tie it in to the northwest they reminded the viewers that just two years ago, Montreal's star goalie, Carey Price, was playing for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. (The Americans are based in Kennewick, Wash.)

That's funny, I thought—two years ago I shot the Americans playing against the Winter Hawks. So I looked in my files and, sure enough, there was a guy named Price between the pipes for Tri-City.

I'm happy to have CHL hockey here in Portland, but I haven't had the opportunity to shoot—or even see—the Winter Hawks since this game. I guess I'm not missing much, though: with a record of 11-58-2-1, they were easily the worst team in the league. Maybe next year they'll be worth watching.

Photo ethics Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fig. 1: Portland city skyline, adjusted for maximum effect. Pretty, no?

After a glorious weekend, we're back into wintry weather again here in Portland. Though the skies were fairly bright for most of yesterday, it rained and hailed on and off until the late afternoon. The clouds broke after dinner, though, so I took my camera up to one of my favorite vistas to see what I could find. Normally, Mt. Hood would be in the background of this shot, but the clouds were in the way this time.

What I really have on my mind today, though, is photo ethics. This probably isn't the best example to use, but it's what I have on hand: the lead photo (Fig. 1) is modified somewhat beyond what I would normally do, and beyond what I would consider ethical for photojournalism. I didn't go crazy or anything, but I did burn in the sky quite a bit for added drama. I probably could have done more if I
were more of a Photoshop wizard and had more time. Fig. 2, below, is what it would have looked like if I'd submitted it to a newspaper. And Fig. 3, for reference, is how it came out of the camera.

Fig. 2: Within the bounds of journalistic integrity.

Fig. 3: As it came out of the camera.

The topic of ethics in photojournalism has been a recurring theme in my short time in this profession. To be clear, the discourse that follows is about photojournalism. In the world of commercial and art photography, anything goes—as it should. Heck, an advertiser would use a pencil drawing of unicorns and dragons if it made their point. But in journalism, the rules are different.

As a member of the National Press Photographers Association, I subscribe to the NPPA code. The key point in this context is:

6. Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images' content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.

That seems pretty straightforward to me: cropping, and minor dodging and burning (lightening or darkening areas of the photo) are alright, but you're not allowed to add or subtract anything that changes the picture. That includes burning to the extent that it hides elements of an image.

That's the topic of the latest "bust" in the world of photomanipulation. As Carrie Niland revealed in this blog post last week, a young, talented photographer made some pretty serious modifications to a football photo and won some pretty big awards with it. The issue came to my attention through this discussion on, and it is continued here.

Just to be clear, I've never met the photographer in question. I have no doubt that he's very gifted, and this post is not about picking on him. But to save you the trouble of looking it up, here's his website.

I remember seeing the photo in question a while back, and being impressed with it. It definitely stands out from the hundreds of post-game shots I see (and make) each year. It looks like it was shot at a night game with some kind of zoomed flash setup that isolated the subjects from the cacophony of the post-game scene—a pretty bold, risky choice when you've only got one chance at something.

In fact, the reality is far more ordinary.

Much of the discussion has asked why it matters if you do something after the fact in Photoshop that could have been done in the field. From my point of view, it's pretty simple: who's to say that that's what it would have looked like if you'd really done it? And if that's the way you expected it to look, why didn't you do it that way in-camera?

It seems to me that most of the cases of photo manipulation are about making the picture (and by extension, the photographer) seem better than it actually was. The bombing of a city not sufficiently spectacular? Add more smoke! Don't have a great action photo from the game? Add a ball! A key emotional moment usurped by flat light and background clutter? Just burn them out!

Ariel Reynolds leads a stream of Jefferson players and fans onto the court after the Democrats clinched their first state basketball championship Mar. 8 with a 67-58 win over Hermiston. Could this photo have been "improved" with Photoshop?

For me, knowing that this kind of photo manipulation is going on—and winning—in some of the contests that I enter is at the same time relieving and frustrating. On the one hand, it makes me feel better about the gulf between my images and some of the contest winners. On the other hand, you wonder "how am I supposed to compete with that?"

That's what I mean when I say that Photoshop is to photojournalism as drugs are to sport. I can understand how athletes feel pressure to use performance-enhancing drugs when it seems like all of the top competitors are. But Photoshopping, like using drugs, is a shortcut to the top. Both distort reality and make your performance better than it otherwise would have been.

That brings me back to the point: in the world of commercial photography (as in the WWE), it's only the end result that matters. It doesn't matter how you get there.

In photojournalism, though, the point is to make a truthful representation of the scene. As photojournalists, we are there to document reality, not make reality seem better than it is. Yes, you want to make the pictures as visually interesting as possible, but photos are visual quotes—you don't get to change them to make them fit the story you want to tell.

What it all comes down to is trust of the audience: as a journalist, that's about all that separates you from gossip and urban legend. If the readers can't trust that your photos reflect reality, what's the point?

OK, I'm off the soapbox now.

Aussie Rules Football in Portland Sunday, April 13, 2008

My buddy Ben has been bugging me to come photograph the Portland Power play Australian Rules Football for a while. Yesterday, the stars aligned and I had the chance to shoot their first inter-club match of the season.

Roughly half of the Power's roster of about 30 are Australian expats. They play several split-squad games each year as well as a home-and-home series against the Seattle Grizzlies. This year they are also hosting a tournament that will include teams from Denver, Vancouver and Burnaby, British Columbia.

Saturday, after a slow start, the Power dominated the Grizzlies en route to a 66-45 win. The scoring was well distributed with no player on either team kicking more than two goals.

The game was played at John Deere field in Gresham. I'd never been there before, and I was pleasantly surprised. Its location at NE 181st St. just south of I-84 is an industrial part of town—warehouses on three sides of the field—but their plain facades and a view of Mt. Hood made for a clean background. The field itself was a little uneven and hard, but the grass was in pretty good shape.

Of course the beautiful weather—sunny and 78F (26C)—was hard to complain about.

Apart from a few clips on TV, this was the first Aussie Rules ("Footy") game I've ever seen. But it was a lot of fun, and quite easy to follow. Basically, each team is trying to kick the oblong ball through a set of uprights at opposite ends of the field. It doesn't matter if it bounces or rolls through, it counts. Kicks through the middle pair are worth six points; kicks through the outer sets are worth one point. The ball is almost always live; you can carry it as far as you want, as long as you bounce it every 15 meters; and you pass it off with a kick or by hitting it with your fist—no throwing. And you're allowed to tackle the opposition by hitting them between the shoulders and the knees. There's not much more to it than that. Oh, and everybody goes to the pub for beer after the game.

The next game for the Power is a split-squad match Apr. 27 at Willamette Park.

In the neighbourhood Friday, April 11, 2008

The coffee shop "Wired on Burnside" on W Burnside at 22nd highlights its main attraction in neon.

After 21 consecutive days of below average temperatures and frequent rain, the weather was finally pleasant again here in Portland. After a cool morning, it warmed up to about 70F (about 20C) and we had sunshine all day long.

So I took a few minutes this afternoon to walk around a part of my neighbourhood that I don't usually visit (it's not really between my place and anywhere I want to go). But of course I had my camera along.

I was looking for a particular shot, but I didn't get it on the first try. I went out again in the evening when the light was better, but I guess I waited a few minutes too long and the area I wanted to shoot was already in the shade of the West Hills. There was still sunlight further down Burnside St., though, so I chased it about 10 blocks towards downtown.

[left] Usually when a For Sale sign changes it says "Reduced" or "Sold." Perhaps this sign (on SW Vista near Burnside) is a reflection of the current housing market? [below] PGE Park glows in the late afternoon sunshine.

I'll have to go back another time to get the shot I was originally looking for. It's not far away, and it's not going anywhere. Stay tuned ...

Track & Field at Clackamas HS Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Micah Strong of Clackamas is first to the tape with a time of 11.23 seconds in the boys 100 meter dash Apr. 2 in a dual meet against Oregon City High School.

I got a last-minute call from my buddy Craig Mitchelldyer last week to cover a track and field meet at Clackamas High School for the Clackamas Review and Oregon City News (which are basically the same paper).

It was a bit of a busy afternoon for me—I got the call at about 1:30, just as I was leaving for a brief appointment in Beaverton (a suburb west of Portland). After that, I stopped at home just long enough to grab my gear and head off to Clackamas (a suburb southeast of Portland). I left the track meet before it was over and got home about 6:45 only to remember that I had a meeting in Vancouver (a suburb north of Portland) at 7. I downloaded and filed my pictures as quickly as I could, th
en rushed off to the meeting. I got there a little before 8; it wasn't a big deal (I knew I could get there a little late). I got home around 9:30, ready for a rest.

A quick snap of Justine Belliveau for ID purposes became a spontaneous portrait. Belliveau won both the javelin and shot put events for Oregon City.

This was the first track meet I'd shot this year, and I'd never been to Clackamas High School before. I love shooting track and field—it has a whole bunch of very traditional, straightforward athletic endeavors. There's lots going on all the time, and a lot of opportunities for creativity. It does come with some challenges, though: because the events run concurrently, sometimes you have to be in two (or more) places at the same time. (That occasionally happens to the athletes, too.) And the events generally start as soon as the previous one is done, which means you have to pay attention to everything lest you miss an event you needed to shoot. The toughest part, though, for a photojournalist—at least in these smaller events—is that the athletes don't wear numbers on their uniforms. Sometimes it's tricky to keep track of who is who.

The facilities at Clackamas offered another, unexpected challenge for this photographer: in almost every event (or at least all the ones I needed to shoot) the athletes were coming straight out of the sun. It's hard to imagine how that could happen, but it's true.

[left] A diagram of the events I shot at Clackamas High School, produced with the help of the good folks at Google Maps. [right] In the perfect, golden sunlight of the late afternoon, the triple jump landing point was right in the shadow of the football scoreboard, the only shady spot in the entire stadium.

To be fair, the shot put was in a reasonably good direction. I held high
hopes for the girls triple jump, which started pretty late in the afternoon with beautiful golden sunlight coming in at a low angle. And that was great for the run up to the pits, but the landing zone was right in the shadow of the football scoreboard. What can you do?