Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Venus on Christmas Eve

Early last night, Christmas Eve,  I carried my camera, mounted with a long telephoto lens, into a quiet field some distance from a forest of tall evergreens.  It was about 20 minutes after the sun had set, and a single planet -- I think it was Venus -- shone bright in the growing darkness in the southwestern sky.

Back at home there was a fire going in the wood stove, Christmas lights and candles burned in our family room, and the scene was cozy.  Leah was making a special Christmas Eve meal and the house smelled wonderful. Our son had come out for the night, and Leah’s mother was there too.

Earlier in the week, however,  I’d noticed the striking planet in the night sky and had thought to myself: “Wow, if it is clear on Christmas Eve, wouldn’t it be cool if I could make a picture that night?...”  So,  despite all those comforts at home, I had politely excused myself from the family gathering, promising I’d only be away for a short while.  I got in the car and drove a couple of miles to get to the spot I’d previously scoped out for the shot, this field where I stood now,  just me and my not-too-conversational three-legged friend the tripod.

The sky was clear, as I had hoped, and it was a fairly simple matter to make the picture I had in mind.  I focused on the very top of a distant, tall evergreen and waited for Venus to move into just the right spot in my viewfinder.

I shot about 10 frames, packed my gear into my car,  and headed home  (stopping along the way at our local craft brewery to get a growler jug filled with holiday ale.) 

In short order I was back home and seated at the dinner table, taking part in the holiday meal.

Time away from home: Probably 30 minutes.

Ho Ho Ho.  I LOVE IT when a plan comes together!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pictures for Friends

I thought I’d do something on this blog today that is a bit unusual...something that, for a photographer -- this photographer at least --  is not at all easy:

I am posting photographs that are not what I consider My Best Work.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I like these images well enough, though not necessarily for aesthetic reasons.  Rather, the pictures touch me because I am personally fond of the people who are in them; and today (as the Christmas and New Year holidays approach) that feels like a good enough reason to put the images on my blog.

My friends from the Seattle area Tibetan community gathered last weekend for a potluck dinner to celebrate, as they do every year, the Dalai Lama’s winning of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.  Community members brought their best Tibetan hot dishes, and, while they ate, folks chatted and visited with one-another. In a room of probably 150 people, Leah and I and one other fellow were the only non-Tibetans, though, throughout the evening, we were greeted warmly and made to feel welcome. Again and again the Tibetans told us how much they appreciated our involvement with their community.

I moved quietly around the room, taking candid pictures that, as always,  I give to the community for its web site and Facebook page.

I didn’t wind up making any extraordinary images, though what I did shoot came from my heart.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mountain Daze

There are a number of months in the middle of each winter when the crews who work Washington’s North Cascades Highway don’t even attempt to plow the roadway and keep it open for cars and trucks. The highway crosses two mountain passes, one of which is over 5400 feet in elevation, and the peaks near the route are steep and subject to avalanche.  I suspect it won’t be long now -- a winter storm is forecast for the next several days -- before officials close the highest portion of the highway  and it won’t open again until about Easter.

My friends and I decided that we’d do one last hike up off the North Cascades Highway, before it is gated for the season. We met early at a park & ride near Seattle (that’s when I shot the sunrise picture you see above) and we drove north to Mt. Vernon, then headed east to Rainy Pass.  We parked the car, donned snowshoes, and hiked south. Several hours, four miles, and 1800 feet of elevation gain later we reached Maple Pass, elevation 6800 feet.

The spot was spectacular, with views to forever, and beyond.  I pulled out my backpacking stove, melted snow and boiled water for the group, and we shared hot chocolate and chai over lunch. I made a number of photographs, including one series of images in a panorama that I could piece together later on the computer (click on the tiny, middle image below to see it at a larger size.)

Warm sunset light kissed the peaks around us during our hike-out, and it was dark by the time we reached the car. We headed home, stopping along the way at a wonderful Mexican restaurant in Burlington,  where we ate to excess and talked excitedly about the fine trip we’d shared.

These Mountain Days: Wow, Wow, Wow.