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Busy weekend Monday, September 29, 2008

Cindy Sieler, 5, cools off Sunday at Esther Short Park from a late-September warm spell that’s expected to last at least through Tuesday. Sunday’s high, 88 degrees, topped the record for the date; today may be another record-breaker.

It was a busy weekend for me. After working like mad on Thursday and Friday to get the Po' Girl interview online, I was up early Saturday for the "local day" of the NPPA's Flying Short Course.

The conference was held at the University of Oregon's new Portland campus, which is less than two miles from my apartment, so it doesn't get much more convenient than that.

The presentations were generally related to video production. I haven't stuck my toe into that pond yet, but the discussion was enlightening in a general sense, and a lot of the concepts apply to audio as well. It was fascinating to see the work-behind-the-work of television photographers like Kurt Austin (KGW) and Mike Rosborough (KATU).

I went to see Sloan play at Dante's on Saturday night. Chris was getting over a cold or something, so he struggled with his voice a bit, and Patrick flubbed the solo to "Everything you've done wrong," but I think things like that help to let you know that you're not listening to a tape. Other than that they were great. By the end of the show, Chris was clearly having fun with the couple hundred knowledgeable fans in attendance.

The upside to Chris's sore throat came at the beginning of their encore, when they played "Underwhelmed," which he introduced as "a song that doesn't need any falsetto." Although (or perhaps because) it is the song that put them on the map back 1992, they don't play it often anymore.

Debra Callaway, who went to the Gingerbread House in 1968 and 1969, looks at graduation photos Sept. 28 during the daycare center's 60th anniversary reunion. Owner Rosalee Johnson estimates that 2000 children have attended the center since her mother started it in 1948.

Sunday morning I was up and back to the official Flying Short Course day. The FSC is a traveling workshop put on every year by the National Press Photographer's Association. Portland was the final stop on the three-day tour, which included Boiling Springs, N.C., and Arlington, Texas, on Friday and Saturday.

Washington, D.C., photographer John Harrington opened the session with an excellent presentation on business practices. I think Regina McComb's presentation about video skills covered a lot of ground that had been covered the day before, but there were more people there on Sunday.

The three presentations I was most interested in came after lunch: Kelly Jordan's "Producing Multimedia," Betty Udesen's "Audio and Stills," and Dave Honl's lighting lecture.

Unfortunately, I had to miss all of these because I had a last-minute assignment for The Columbian.

Sunday was the 60th anniversary reunion at the Gingerbread House daycare center in Vancouver, so I went over there to see what was going on. You can read more about it (and see one of my photos) here. I don't know what other pictures they ran in the paper, but this one (below) is my favorite from the assignment.

Linda Griffiths (front) and her husband Richard get down to kid level Sunday afternoon at the Gingerbread House 60th anniversary reunion. Linda graduated from the school in 1965.

And, as often happens, one assignment leads to another. While I was at the Gingerbread House, the reporter handed me her phone with the editor on the line. I guess another story fell through so they needed something to fill the hole. I went off looking for pictures of people enjoying the record-breaking heat.

After getting a couple of so-so photos down on the Columbia River, I headed over to Esther Short Park and found the picture at the top of this post. I think the paper publishes pictures from that park fairly often because it's right across the street from their office. But when you put kids in a fountain it's like shooting fish in a barrel, and when you need something in a hurry you go with it. Here's the story they ran.

I got the pictures in with a couple of followup phonecalls to the paper by 7:45. Then it was time for dinner, a bit of television, and zzzzz...

A bird on a wire?

Last week, while I was sitting at my desk and talking to my parents on the phone, a large hawk landed on the telephone pole about 150 feet away from my window. At first I thought it was a red-tail, or maybe an osprey, both of which are pretty common around here. But I knew that wasn't quite right.

It was still sitting there some 15 minutes later when I finished talking to my parents, so I got out the bird book.

It didn't take long to narrow the choices down to either a Cooper's Hawk or a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but even so, my eyesight wasn't good enough to positively identify it. So I put the 200 mm lens on my camera and took some pictures.

The book says that the two birds are pretty hard to distinguish in the field. Comparing my photos to the pictures and description in the book, though, I'm pretty certain that it was a Cooper's Hawk.

According to the book, its habitat is "mature forests, open woodlands, wood edges, [and] river groves," none of which describe my neighborhood, but a large tract of forest is only a mile away, so maybe that's close enough.

Panorama! Sunday, September 28, 2008

Photographer Doug Wyland mounts a Fuji GX617 camera on a magic arm Sept. 23 in preparation for a photo of the senior class at Mountainview High School in Vancouver, Wash.

I had the opportunity to learn a bit about old-school photography last week. We shot a class portrait of some 400 seniors at Mountainview High School in Vancouver. Unlike almost every other job I've done, though, this one was on film. We didn't use the typical 35-mm roll, though. For a higher quality negative and because of the wide shape of the group, we shot it on medium format film with a panoramic camera.

[left] Michael Flanigan hands the shutter release to Doug Wyland.

The Fuji GX617 that we used is not an SLR camera, and everything is manual, so you have to focus with a ground glass focusing screen before you load the film. Basically, that's a translucent screen that fits into the back of the camera exactly where the film will be when you expose it.

Once you have established the focus and measured the exposure with a light meter, you can load the film.

As its name suggests, the GX617 shoots a 6cm x 17cm image (considerably larger than the 2.4cm x 3.6cm size of 35-mm film, and much wider). But you only get four shots per roll.

[left] Bill Berger looks through the focusing screen.

Once we had everything set up, we herded the seniors into the gym, arranged them on the bleachers and took the photos—two formal, and two "spirited."

And, because we live in the digital age, we took a few with a D300 "just in case."

Headliners: Po' Girl Saturday, September 27, 2008

My interview with Po' Girl is online now at Northwest CanCon. You can find it here.

The whole thing was set up in a bit of a hurry—I didn't get confirmation on the interview until less than 12 hours before it happened, and I was committed to sleeping for about seven of those.

We met at the Ace Hotel in downtown Portland, where the girls were staying. I'd never been there before, and I didn't have time to scout it out ahead of time.

The hotel desk staff said I was welcome to do the interview in the lobby but I couldn't do photos in the hotel without arranging it in advance and signing a contract.

No problem. After the interview, Allison, Awna and I stepped outside and found a convenient wall right across the street. Not the most original portraits, but not bad for five minutes of prep.

[left] Allison Russell (left) and Awna Teixeira of Po' Girl are close friends as well as band mates.

Homestead website updated Monday, September 22, 2008

It took a little longer than expected, but I finally updated the Homestead Images website today to include some of the architectural shots I've made recently (and a few older ones too). More to come in the near future. Well ... sooner or later.

As usual, feedback is welcome, especially if you find a problem.

Sarah Harmer's long-lost twin?

Yesterday I interviewed and photographed Allison Russell and Awna Teixeira of Po' Girl for the next Headliners feature on Northwest CanCon.

After a couple of shows in Seattle last week, Po' Girl were in Portland for the taping of Live Wire!, a cool variety show that runs on OPB here in Oregon—think Garrison Keilor or Stuart MacLean for a less family-oriented (but still FCC-acceptable) audience.

Alli and Awna were great. We squeezed in a few minutes for an interview and photo session on Sunday morning before they headed to Eugene for their next show.

I'd never seen the band before, but when I got home and was looking at the photos, I kept thinking that Awna looked really familiar. It didn't take long for me to figure it out. I clicked over to Sarah Harmer's website and checked the photos ... they can't be the same person, because Sarah was playing a concert at Mt. Nemo (near Burlington, Ont.) Saturday night, but they must be long-lost twins, no? Maybe it's just me.

The funniest thing was that it turns out Awna is good friends with a girl that I knew (a bit) in high school. Small world.

Anyway, be sure to catch Po' Girl on OPB radio Saturday night, or pick up the podcast here. The interview with Po' Girl should be online before then.

(That's not my photo of Sarah, I borrowed it from the lyrics page on her website.)

Northwest CanCon Headliners: elsiane Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Just a quick heads up about the latest Headliners feature on Northwest CanCon, starring Montreal duo Elsiane. Find it here.

NEW! You should also be able to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. This link should get you set up.

[right] The name of Montreal group Elsiane combines the names of singer Elsianne Caplette and drummer Stephane Sotto. The result sounds like the singer's name, but Stephane is ok with that.

Street of Dreams 2008 Sunday, September 14, 2008

Not much to say about these ... some interior images I shot last week at one of the homes on this year's Street of Dreams. This home was built by KDC Custom Homes.

[left] I thought this one looked cool in sepia, and I added a bit of grain as well. [below] A shot of the garden in front of the home.

In other news from last week, I interviewed Elsiane on Friday for the next Headliners feature on Northwest CanCon. Later that night I saw them perform at the Wonder Ballroom. Elsiane was excellent.

Delerium, another Canadian act, is headlining the tour. They don't have any official singers; they're touring with Kristy Thirsk who often sings with them, and Leigh Nash whom you might remember as the lead singer for Sixpence None The Richer. I got a chance to say hi to her after the show, which was cool. Delerium's show was ... mostly fantastic, with one major problem. I'll write about that later this week on Northwest CanCon when I post the Elsiane interview.

Geocaching Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A plaque marks the site of the first geocaching stash at N 45° 17.460 W 122° 24.800, near Oregon City, Ore. The original cache was hidden there by Dave Ulmer on May 3, 2000, just one day after the government disabled the selective availability system that limited the accuracy of civilian GPS units.

Geocaches are all around you. You can't see them? Probably because you don't know where to look. It helps to find the coordinates on a website like this.

So what is geocaching? You can read the full history here, but basically it's a global game of hide-and-seek. Someone hides a cache somewhere on planet Earth, and posts the coordinates on the website. Then someone else plugs those coordinates into their GPS unit and goes to find it.

About a year ago, I think, my mother sent me a surreptitious email asking what I knew about GPS units, because she thought my dad might enjoy geocaching and she wanted to get him one for Christmas. Well, she was right.

Since then, my parents have been scouring the woods and cities looking for these little hidden treasures. When my dad discovered that the very first geocache was placed about 30 miles from my apartment, it went on his list of "must-dos" when they visited last week.

[right] Alison Ginn opens up the stash at the site of the original geocache.

A typical stash consists of an ammo box or other waterproof container with a logbook for visitors to sign, and some kind of trinket to exchange. The smallest caches—"microcaches"—are just a film canister, and usually don't hold anything more than a roll of paper to sign.

Since the geocaching phenomenon exploded around the globe, several variations on the game have developed.

Some caches, for example, contain a "travel bug"—a little metal key tag with a bar code on it. Whoever finds one is supposed to take it with them, log it into the website, and then hide it in another stash. You can track its progress around the globe. (I think my parents carried three back to Ontario.)

Other caches are puzzle problems—the website doesn't reveal the actual location of the stash, but it sends you out to find clues that reveal the necessary coordinates. Once you have all of those, you know where to locate the cache.

[left] Peter and Alison Ginn read the log book from geocache no. 1 Sept. 2 near Oregon City, Ore.

When you find a cache, particularly at urban sites, you have to be on the lookout for "muggles." The term, adopted from the Harry Potter books, refers to anyone not aware of the sport of geocaching. Sometimes muggles stumble on hidden caches and take them, so you have to be a bit stealthy when you are trying to pinpoint your target in a busy area.

Today there are more than 650,000 geocaches hidden around the globe, and tens of thousands of people looking for them.

Columbia River Gorge Sunday, September 07, 2008

Peter and Alison Ginn hike along the Latourell Falls trail Sept. 2 in the Columbia River Gorge east of Portland, Ore. Latourell Falls is one of several 200-foot-plus cascades in the area.

Last Tuesday was my parents' last full day in Oregon, and we had saved some of the most scenic sites (sights?) for the end.

We headed east from Portland on I-84 as far as Troutdale, then took the historic Columbia River highway. That route goes up and down along the edge of the gorge, providing spectacular views of the river as well as the numerous waterfalls that plunge hundreds of feet off the cliffs.

The stop at Latourell falls was pretty arbitrary—when I was researching online the night before, it was the first hike I came across that was a reasonable length and had some positive recommendations. After prematurely parking on the side of the road on the west side of the bridge, we discovered a large, empty parking lot on the east side.

You can see the lower part of the falls (about 250 feet) right from the parking lot, but you have to hike in about 1.5 miles to see the shorter (about 100 feet) but prettier upper falls. Definitely worth the walk. We tried to return to the parking lot on the other side of the river, but the trail stayed on top of the cliff and kept heading west (we needed to go northeast) so we backtracked, crossed the river on a fallen log, and headed back to the car the way we had come.

After that Latourell Falls, we continued east and stopped at Bridal Veil Falls. That is one of the most popular falls in the gorge, but I'm not sure why. There is a bit more of a park there, and the falls are decent but didn't really stand out in my mind.

The final waterfall of the morning was Multnomah Falls, undoubtedly the most popular (and most well-developed) site in the area.

Multnomah Falls (left) may be the most-photographed sight in Oregon. Easily visible from I-84, the 620-foot chute is the second-highest year-round waterfall in the United States (after Yosemite Falls). It attracts nearly two million visitors a year.

Multnomah Falls drops 620 feet (189 m) off Larch Mountain in three steps: nine feet, 542 feet, and 69 feet. We hiked up as far as the Benson Bridge between the two larger cascades.

We had planned to have lunch there, but we didn't see any suitable spots to picnic, so we drove to Hood River and ate at a swimming beach that appears to have been developed just this summer. The wind was surprisingly still for the gorge, which was nice, but it meant that there weren't any kite boarders or windsurfers to watch.

After lunch, we drove around the "back" of Mt. Hood as far as Sandy. Instead of heading directly back to Portland (via Gresham), though, we cut cross-country toward Estacada to find a geocache. I'll write more about that in the next post.

[right] Obligatory photo of Mt. Hood (11,249 feet). This is looking roughly north from OR-35, just east of the junction with US-26.

The Coast rock the coast Saturday, September 06, 2008

Just a heads-up to my loyal readers ... the interview I did with The Coast at the end of August is now online at Northwest CanCon, along with a portrait of the band and some concert photos. And this snazzy new podcast logo (left).

As you can see, there is a bit of a thin spot in the Portland-area Canadian concert calendar over the next couple of weeks, but after that we get hit hard and fast with at least 13 acts between Sloan (Sept. 27) and Celine Dion (Oct. 16). Other big names over that period include Great Big Sea, Tokyo Police Club, Stars, and Born Ruffians. I probably won't be able to cover them all, but I'll keep you posted on what is coming.

Playing the tour guide again Thursday, September 04, 2008

Peter and Alison Ginn read stories of the pioneers Sept. 1 at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Oregon City. The center teaches visitors about the six-month journey that tens of thousands of immigrants made from Missouri between 1843 and the 1870s.

After a couple weeks touring around Crater Lake, Redwoods National Park and the Oregon coast, my parents stopped back here for a couple more days in and around Portland.

We kept busy, filling both days with as many touristy things as we could.

Since Monday was Labor Day, we decided to postpone our trip to the Columbia Gorge until Tuesday, hoping that the crowds would be smaller.

Instead, we spent the morning at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Oregon City. It looks like they get a lot of school field trips through there, with plenty of hands-on activities for the kids. For the most part though, I found it a bit disappointing considering that it represents such an important part of American history. There were some artifacts there, but the exhibits were really text-heavy.

After we left the Interpretive Center, we found three geocaches near the center. I'll write more on geocaching in another post in the near future.

After lunch and a quick stop at home, it was off to the Portland Japanese Garden. That was definitely worth the price of admission.

Like most of the places I took my parents, this was the first time I'd been to the Japanese Garden. Before going, I guess I thought of Japanese gardens as those flat expanses of combed white sand.

That, of course, was there, but the five-and-a-half acre property has five distinct garden styles. And looking at them, you realize that they each look like Japanese gardens you've seen in a movie or on TV.

The Japanese Garden was designed by Professor Takuma Tono in 1963. According to the garden's brochure, a former ambassador of Japan to the United States described it as "the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan." The gardens use stone, water and plants to "realize a sense of peace, harmony, and tranquility."

The garden was pretty busy in there; not surprising, I suppose, for a pleasant holiday afternoon. Even so, the sense of tranquility was clearly evident. It would be a great place to go for some quiet contemplation on a weekday afternoon.

Once we'd seen enough of the garden, we wandered around the area looking for more geocaches. We found all three on our list, including one in the International Rose Test Garden, which is right next to the Japanese Garden.

I was impressed with the rose garden, considering that we were about two months past its peak season (June). Here's one of my dad's pictures of the roses.