Monday, August 24, 2015

Seeing Culture

I photographed Tibet Fest in Seattle this past weekend, a two-day event celebrating Tibetan culture. And, though there are things about the city that make me crazy -- its terrible traffic, high cost of housing, and its general too-bigness -- one thing I do appreciate is the way Seattle embraces and honors the cultures of people who have moved here from afar.

Throughout the year the Seattle Center will host a series of events for emigres from West Africa, Turkey, Ireland, Brazil, Iran, and on and on.  The city's "Festal" program makes it possible for Seattleites to sample the world's diverse cultures,  while staying right here at home.

This was the 20th annual Tibet Fest and the seventh year I have photographed the event (on a volunteer basis.) I have been hanging around the Tibetan community for so long now, I'm pretty much a fixture. I'm considered to just be part of the community, and thus I can quietly and candidly photograph this unchoreographed moment and that.

haven't really analyzed it, but I guess it is my hope that, over the years,  the body of work I'm producing will amount to something. 

Probably due to my long-term involvement with them, Seattle Tibetans seem to understand that my motives for photographing their events are positive,  and they just let me do my photojournalist thing, no questions asked. But when they do talk to me about my photography, there are two things I hear:

--"Thank you for documenting our culture. This is a valuable thing you do."

--"Please don't put my picture on the Internet.  I have family back in Tibet and we Tibetans worry about the Chinese government. We never know what government officials might do."

The trust that is shown me by the Tibetan community is something I would never betray. And, as I made pictures Saturday and Sunday of my friends singing, dancing and celebrating their beautiful culture, it struck me as ironic that an event like Tibet Fest likely would not be permitted in Tibet.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Close to the Heart

No pro shoots were on my Work Calendar for Saturday.
No hike was on my Recreation Calendar for that day either.

Leah was stuck with me for the day.

So, we drove to Bainbridge Island to shop the Farmers' Market.
Leah wound up buying a bagful of radishes,  with a Sunday plan (when I would be hiking) to make preserved relish. I wandered around with my camera and people-watched.  What caught my eye was that there were a number of individuals carrying and wearing various stuff on their chests:

A chicken was sleeping inside a kid's jacket.
A man was wearing an amazing necklace he had made of seals' teeth.
A young woman was showing off her baby goat.
Another woman had a baby human on her chest.

All these things were being worn,  or carried,  close to the heart, you might say.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Nature's Ways

I have a wedding to photograph tomorrow evening and it will be held in a sweet little park on the east side of the Olympic Mountains not far from where I live.  I'm sure that, as the bride and groom planned their event, they hoped for good weather because Hood Canal is nearby and there is a peaceful beach where wedding guests could gather to watch the sunset.

I've been keeping my eye on the weather forecasts; and though, for two months we have had no real precipitation to speak of -- there was a 30-second shower Tuesday that produced the rainbow above -- we might finally get some rain tomorrow. Nevertheless I suspect my wedding clients will happily hold their ceremony indoors in a quaint and cozy cabin on the park grounds, not complaining one bit if it rains on their big day. Our land is dry, dry, dry and we all know that "perfect" weather is not perfect.

All of the photographs I'm posting today were shot this week, offering a visual example I guess of the take-away/giveth ironies to be found in Nature:

A forest fire, caused by a lightening strike back in the Spring,  has been smoldering in the Queets Valley Wilderness in Olympic National Park, perhaps two  hundred miles away from my house. The fire flared up this summer and is taking away incredible old growth trees and putting smoke into the atmosphere.

At the same time,  that smoke is making for some dramatic and "picturesque" evening skies.

Beauty is resulting from destruction.

And, for we little humans,  I guess our wisest reaction might be to just shake our heads and be amazed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Anyone who has spent time in an alpine landscape can tell you that the mountains often are an environment of extremes: The sun is more intense up high than it is at sea level;  winds in the mountains can knock you off your feet; and a chilly day in the lowlands can feel bone-chilling and frigid up high.

This past winter was a very light snow year in the Cascade Mountains, and this summer has been unusually hot and dry. High country hikes where I'd typically expect to find snow, even in July, take me this summer to a landscape that is bare and dry.

There has only been one day of rain in the last six weeks in the lowlands near Seattle, and lawns and gardens in populated areas are brown. Of more concern --  to me at least -- is that our mountains are tinder-dry, and fire danger in our forests is extreme. Two weeks ago I hiked in the Olympic Mountains,  and the landscape (photo above) looked more like the arid American Southwest than the rainy and green Pacific Northwest.

I shot the two photographs below last Sunday when three friends and I hiked at Rainy Pass (not aptly-named this dry summer) in the North Cascades. Part of the day I could see and photograph the dramatic peaks that surrounded us.  When the wind shifted from the southeast, however, haze and smoke filled the atmosphere, stark evidence of a wildfire that was burning near Lake Chelan about 50 miles away.