Archive for October, 2008

Winter wonders

Thursday, October 30th, 2008
Winter wonders

It is times like these days when I love winter in Alaska. We have had a few days of clear, sunny weather; which, in the winter, means cold weather. But, as a photographer, I love the quality of the light, the opportunities to capture the golden hues, the pastels, and see winter in all of its frozen glory. I hate the mid-winter Chinook winds that crank the temperature up to 40 degrees and spill ugly rain over all of winter’s sculptures. No, I prefer the bitter cold mornings with fog that creates the delicate hoar frost on the trees or sculpts rivers into marvels of ice, like this image of the Knik River. A local talk radio host, C.C., said earlier this week that she loves this weather, that, for our six months of winter, she would prefer if we could have three months of this. I would tend to agree.

Human logos as metaphor

Saturday, October 25th, 2008
Human logos as metaphor

Late in the morning today, a group of around 350-400 Obama supporters gathered on the Delaney Park Strip with a seemingly impossible mission: to come together to create the visual of the Obama logo and the United States flag.  What started as an idea only a week ago came to fruition, based on what seemed to be about 40% planning, 40% insipiration and 20% winging-it.  The organizers had a good idea of what they wanted to do, and had staked out the outer corners or plot points for both the logo and the flag.  Coordinating from the third floor room of a hotel across the street, a handful of Obama staff and volunteers corralled this group of volunteers into place to form the logo.  More amazingly, they coordinated a mass exodus from the spot, only to return again and run almost perfectly back into place.

Add to the fact that the air was chilly, and it had taken forty minutes to perform the previous maneuver, which was to create a representation of the United States flag.  But everyone present had a belief in the power of what they were doing.  They came together with a common goal to create something that in and of itself did not produce anything tangible.  It did not raise money, it did not gain publicity (no local media was there other than a photographer from the Anchorage Daily News), and it did not change any minds.  But these people were energized, excited and inspired.  They had fun, driven by a sense of hope and wonder, and faith that they were merely a small microcosm of power represented in a movement sweeping this country.  I thought later as I was processing the photos that while there have been several pro-Obama rallies with hundreds, even thousands, of enthusiastic Obama supporters, I have not seen one pro-McCain rally in Alaska.  Sure, there have been a couple lightly attended and access-restricted pro-Palin rallies, but she is not the G.O.P. presidential candidate – though don’t tell her that.  No surprise over the lack of visible support for McCain in Alaska – he did only finish fifth in the Republican primary here in February.

For Doug Burns’ photo diary and narrative on the event, visit his piece on The Daily Kos.  You can also read the Anchorage Daily News coverage here.

Upcoming publications

Friday, October 24th, 2008
Upcoming publications

This image will be appearing in the Winter membership newsletter for The Wilderness Society. It just so happens that the image they selected is also my February 2008 Print of the Month.

I also just completed an interview with the editor of South Dakota magazine to accompany a photo portfolio of winter images from Badlands National Park that will appear in the January/February issue of the magazine. To preview some of the images that will appear in the piece, visit my Badlands National Park gallery on my Printroom site.

Clouds and texture

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
Clouds and texture

After photographing a gymnastics meet between Service High School and East High School over at South High School – don’t ask me how that happens – I came out to find the evening sun beginning to peek under the cloud ceiling.  The rolling, pillowy texture of the cloud cover created a perfect setting for a cascade of light and shadow, allowing for the contrast of warm and cool tones represented in the pink/orange and blue.  While I had brought only my Nikon D300 and my Nikon 70-200 lens for the gymnastics shoot, I reached for the assortment of spare gear I always kept in my trunk; namely, a tripod.  I aimed high to emphasize the sky, but to also crop out the clutter in the foreground; I took the photos in the parking lot of the school.  Since I did not have a shutter cable release, I used the self-timer of the camera to reduce camera movement for longer exposures.  After determining the optimum exposure, I set the exposure manually and shot off six images, which I later merged in Photoshop to create the final result.

Un-American Photos, the First Amendment, and Other Ramblings

Monday, October 20th, 2008
Un-American Photos, the First Amendment, and Other Ramblings

By some “real” Americans’ standards, this would be an “un-American” photo.

This past weekend, I photographed the ASAA (Alaska School Activities Association) football championship games for the Small School and Large School divisions. I arrived a little late for the first game, where the National Anthem was underway as I arrived at the gate set aside for those with ASAA credentials. I flashed my badge to the woman working the gate – an employee with First National Bank of Alaska, the premiere sponsor for all ASAA state tournaments – and started to proceed in. She told me to stop, that I could not go in because the National Anthem was still ongoing. I told her that I had work to do and kept going, to which she responded, “That’s un-American.”

This on the heels of Sarah Palin’s recent comments suggesting that there are parts of America that are un-American; or Michelle Bachman’s suggestion that the media should investigate possible anti-American members of Congress, a sort of Media Un-American Activities Investigation (ala “I have in my pocket a list of 71 employees in the State Department who are members of the Communist Party” and HUAC) – both absolutely ridiculous suggestions in and of themselves. But more ridiculous is the faux-patriotism exhibited by people who do not know the first thing about the National Anthem or the flag. If it is un-American to take pictures during the National Anthem, then a lot of photojournalists are being unpatriotic while exercising the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. Hey, “real” American lady, how else would you get your patriotic images of flag ceremonies and people honoring the flag during the National Anthem without guys like me taking pictures?  Besides, Title 36, Section 301 of the U.S. Code does not require that people remain immobile during the National Anthem. Rather, it indicates you should remove cover and put your hand over your heart. If you are military in uniform, you are required to salute. It also provides the option of merely standing at attention. From my own military experience – see last paragraph – it was drilled into me that when out of uniform, you are required to stand at attention; not put your hand over your heart.

But that is not where my diatribe ends. The constant disrespect shown for the flag itself since 9-11 warrants mention. For all of these supposed “good” Americans who ran out and bought a flag after 9-11, I have some questions for you. Why did you not own a flag before then? Were you not patriotic before 9-11? Also, why do you continue to fly your flag on your beater truck long after it has been reduced to a faded, shredded rag, in explicit violation of Section 8(e) of the U.S. Flag Code? And how about you retail operators, who don’t know how to hang a flag properly in your stores? When a flag is hanging suspended indoors, the flag field is required to point to the north (Section 7(o)). When hanging on a wall, the star field must be on the upper left corner when viewed from the inside (Section 7(i)). Yet, so many retailers just hang it up there, without any knowledge of how to give it respect. For those of you who display a flag at your home to show your patriotism, did you know that it violates the Flag Code to leave it after sunset if it is not lit properly? Under Section 6(a), it must be “properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.”

And then there is the whole flag lapel pin thing. Once again, the corporate media and right wing talkies gave Barack Obama a hard time for not wearing a flag lapel pin. Gov. Sarah Palin showed how really American she was by wearing a hand-made, beaded flag pin at her V.P. debate that was large enough to kill small animals. Yet what does the Flag Code say about wearing the flag on clothing? First, only the immediate family of a person serving in active duty of the U.S. Armed Forces may wear a service lapel pin of a design and manufacture approved of by the federal government. In addition, Section 8(d) provides the “flag should never be used as wearing apparel.” Finally, Section 8(i) states the “flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.” Thus, if you are wearing some sort of flag lapel pin to advertise – often for political purposes – that you are a “true, patriotic American,” but are not wearing one approved of by the federal government to honor a member of your immediate family who serves in the Armed Forces, you are violating the Flag Code. That means you, Sarah.

And what about flag burning? Well, Section 8(k) of the U.S. Flag Code prescribes burning as the preferred method of disposing of a flag in a dignified manner after it has become too worn.

Of course, this only suggests to the lady at the security gate, and all others like her, that you should know what the hell you are talking about when you call someone un-American or proclaiming yourself a patriot. Perhaps you should also know WHO you are talking to as well. For example, if you are calling someone “un-American” who is a natural born citizen, former Boy Scout (including a member of the Order of the Arrow), a recipient of the American Legion Honor Award and decorated Navy veteran (these all describe me), then you really need to think about what it takes to be an American under your standards. Especially when that American is exercising his First Amendment right, a right he has spent time in uniform defending. Have you, lady?

Midnight at midtown

Sunday, October 12th, 2008
Midnight at midtown

After photographing the wedding of Jenny and Todd at the Anchorage Museum, I stopped by the Loussac Library to photograph the fountain. The lights are pink for the month of October in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I was not sure when winter would set in. I wanted to get a nice long exposure on the flowing water. While I was there, I took the typical view, looking from the west side of the fountain to the east, which provides for a nice black background. I switched to this angle because I wanted to give the fountain some context — it is, after all, located at the library. And the Loussac itself is a neat architectural feature, replete with great lines and curves. This image was created from seven individual photos, stitched together using Photomerge in Photoshop CS2.

Love in the neighborhood

Saturday, October 4th, 2008
Love in the neighborhood

Yes, the Powerline Pass area above Anchorage, in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains, is a prime location for viewing and photographing moose at this time of year.  The rut is pretty much in full swing, and a dominant bull will have a harem of about ten cows by now.  But you do not have to go all the way up there to see rutting action.  As I was getting breakfast ready before heading out to photograph the state cross country championships out in Palmer, Michelle told me to grab my camera, the cow and calf were back in our yard.  The camera was in the trunk, waiting to go to Palmer.  But, I was able to go out and get the camera, with the cow and calf standing a mere fiften feet away.  They were not concerned with me because the cow was distracted by the mid-size bull moose working his way down our street toward her.  Ignoring her spring calf, the cow wandered over to the bull, lowering her head to sniff him and allowing him to sniff her, wimpering and letting out mixed signals of being interested and wanting to be left alone.  She wandered across the street, and he followed; yet she stopped and let him sniff her again.  They continued on through the neighborhood in that fashion, cutting between houses as the rutting chase went on.