Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I had another go at fireworks photography tonight at a little different location on Haystack Hill than last year.  I'm glad we tried the new spot - it involves more of the town than just the church and I especially like the bottom photo that shows the creek in the foreground.

I have to say in hindsight I'm amazed by how good last year's photos were with a hundred dollar point-and-shoot, propped in a snowbank to try to hold the camera still.  This year, I had a brand new DSLR on a tripod but STILL have camera shake because I had to manually hold the shutter open for long periods.  NEXT year I'll either have the remote control or a cable operated shutter release, and I have a few ideas for a new location as well.  It just goes to show you, the camera is only part of the process . . . .

How was everyone else's New Years?  I'll post some goals tomorrow - I think I might aim high since last year's goals were pretty lofty and I ended up knocking out around 50%.  By the way, this is my 400th post on Sense of Place - thanks to those of you that have been around pretty much since the beginning and also all my new friends.  It's pretty cool that we are developing a little blogging community on the island - just 400 posts ago I think I was the only one, and now we have maybe 8 blogs of all different styles and flavors!  Cheers everyone, and enjoy the beginning of a fresh new year!

Happy Birthday Dad!

The top picture is my Dad and Mom taken in front of their house in 1956 - 52 years ago.  My Dad lives there still and today was his 76th birthday!  He is still sharp as ever and can beat Goldfish arm wrestling.  I miss him daily and as I've said before, he is my target audience when I blog.  Happy Birthday Dad!

The bottom photo shows the Pentax K200 that Santa left for me.  It is the only dust and weather-proof camera in its class and has gotten pretty great reviews so I'm very happy to start bringing it outside and seeing what it can do.  I have to say, I'm a lot more hesitant to bring it out into the weather, especially with the last 4 days of on and off snow, but I'm sure it's up to the task.  Santa apparently has something to do with Valentine's Day as well (Who knew?  Is it because of the economy that Santa needs a second job??) and has promised me a nice long lens for wildlife photos.

Tomorrow are the New Year fireworks and a day of reflection on goals for next year - plus the usual 11 hours of work, of course . . . . 

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas in Dutch

We had a great Christmas with friends over on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Mother Nature has finally cooperated and brought us a bit of winter to dress up the island for the season with temperatures to match.  It was great talking to all the family over the past few days - I miss you all!

Santa brought me a big boy camera (a digital SLR) so I guess I'd better get my butt out there and take some big boy photos!  Cheers everyone and happy holidays!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Nightfall from Strawberry Hill

This is the typical after work dog walk lighting until the days get longer.  I've always felt this is a beautiful time of day as well - everything silhouetted against the remaining natural light until only signs of human activity remain.  These were taken on Strawberry Hill looking towards the Unisea Plant.

Happy holidays everyone!  While we had a wonderful evening with friends tonight our hearts are reaching out towards our families stretched from Alaska to Maine.  Love you guys!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Join in Any Eagle Games . . . .

I'm really not sure what the eagles were doing beside our car the other day - usually when you see this much activity you also see blood, fur, or feathers along with the tracks.  I'm just fascinated by the marks left in the snow by eagle wings - it is my very favorite thing to spot in the winter.

An adult female (the larger of the sexes) has a wing span of over 90 inches so the evidence they leave behind can be truly impressive.  Sure wish I could have been looking out the living room window when all the activity happened!

We just got back from a wonderful meal at Elaine's with Care Bear and Neil.  It was worth the wait!  I'm heading to bed and the gathering storm outside will be the perfect lullaby to send me off to sleep . . . . . just a couple days left until Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ghosts from Christmas Past

A couple years ago I spent the winter in Maine, doing some work on my Dad's house, playing a lot of cribbage with my brother, and working on a few projects that needed doing.  One of the things I got done was scanning all my Dad's slides, thousands of them, mostly taken in the 50's and 60's.  They are wonderfully low resolution - they upload in the blink of an eye with no problems what so ever!  Anyways, these are for my sons to check out - here's your Dad at ages 7 (top), 4 (second picture) and two (bottom 2 pictures).  Enjoy and take lots of pictures this Christmas - they sure are fun to have around later!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Still Having Problems

Blogger is still having problems uploading anything with decent resolution and it's a bummer. You can see from above it has nearly driven me mad - this is just a 142 KB file and uploaded almost instantly (taken with the web cam). Any photo I take with my point and shoot comes in around a 1 MB file and they just time out with Firefox or upload endlessly with Safari. The only time I got anything to post - my last posting - I had to upload at 2:30 in the morning.

On a positive note, Goldfish is back from visiting family in Anchorage, we attended the company Christmas party earlier this evening (king crab legs, prime rib, dozens of other entrees and lots of prizes) and now we're decorating the tree and putting up all the Christmas decorations. I'll keep trying to post now and then and maybe just post text sometimes to stay in touch if I have to in the interim. I'm not going to change anything with my photography, I'm sure Blogger will be back to normal eventually and I can go back to the pictures I still take everyday. Until then, the Christmas carols are playing and the house is filled with cheer. I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday season!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Surviving Winter

Wow, Blogger is allowing high resolution uploads again! I was starting to lose hope and thought I would just give it one more try before bedtime using Firefox instead of Safari.

I've lived in Alaska for over 20 years, mostly in places where the days get a lot shorter than they do in Unalaska, and I think everyone is affected to some extent by the lack of daylight in the winter. With long work hours and few days off, the only daylight I see sometimes is through the window and briefly at lunchtime. It can be tempting to go into "cave mode" in the winter, but those that resist and get outside know that all those favorite summer hikes and activities are still there and waiting. Here are a few keys for staying sane in the winter:

1. Embrace the weather in all its fury. Our temperatures out here don't get low enough to create truly deadly wind chill - and the old adage there is "no bad weather, just bad gear" certainly applies. Walk on the beach and watch the angry Bering Sea and be grateful you have a warm house and hot cocoa to return to after your walk.

2. Be flexible. When Chico and I walked up the backside of Bunker Hill last Friday and I took the above photos, I had completely different ideas of the pictures I wanted to take - it was the biggest full moon of the year, and I was hoping to be able to see it shining over Illiuliuk Bay from the top of the hill. What actually happened was a snow flurry came in as we walked to the top and pretty much blocked any hope of seeing much of anything - but it was still a great dog walk, just not like I planned.

3. Don't be afraid of the dark. With the landscape covered in snow (until the latest melt-off over the last few days) it is never truly dark. For me, the bottom photo lit only by the lights from Unisea and the Small Boat Harbor far below with a 1/8 second exposure is much more visually interesting than using a flash to try to banish the darkness.

4. Try things you can only do in winter. Goldfish and I love snowshoeing and we're looking forward to when we can get some snow that sticks around for awhile. There is also sledding and skiing at the Bowl, bird watching for those species that only winter in the Aleutians, and watching that most exotic temporary resident of all - the Bering Sea crab fleet with their DC circus in tow.

Cheers and happy holidays!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Technical Difficulties

I should have remembered from when I used my Dad's laptop to post when I was in Maine - Macs and Blogger don't always get along well.  I was having a little success in uploading photos and tried to improve the situation by installing all the updates and security patches, upgrading to Safari 3.2, and then trying Firefox.  The web is full of advice for fixing the problem as it is common.  Unfortunately, all those downloads take time at the dismal bandwidth out here, and the situation has actually gotten worse.  I'm going to keep working on it and go back to uploading photos from Goldfish's laptop . . . . 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ready for Winter

This is a tough time for photography is Alaska - the days are very short, even as far south as Unlaska.  It's dark when you go to work and dark when you get out so that noon dog walk is about the only chance you get these days.  Despite all that, I am ready for winter.   I'm ready for the weather to stop being coy, giving us a little snow and then stealing it away with a hard rain.  I'm ready to snowshoe and be back on a more equal footing with my dog when it comes to playing Find the Fox.  And tonight, for the first time, it felt like maybe winter was here to stay . . . . . 

PS - it's frozen mud on our Honda's rocker panels . . . . . . 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Early Christmas in Unalaska

Goldfish's laptop has been a loyal companion out here on the island but gradually it was starting to show its age - the fan ran more, the letter "B" stopped working  unless you really pounded it, and its tiny hard drive just wasn't up to the task anymore.  Santa must have heard about the problem because he dropped off a sweet 24" iMac with 4 megs of RAM, 750 GB hard drive and a 1 TB Time Capsule.  Unfortunately for me, that will mean my blog entries will still suck but I won't be able to blame the computer anymore.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lobo de Mar

I have a couple thoughts this evening . . . you can see I took these photos last week, before Thanksgiving, while we still had snow. The 3 days of gale force rain followed by 45 degree temperatures has chased the snowline 2 or 300 feet up the mountains. The Sea Wolf is a pollock boat that packs about 700,000 pounds and has a first rate captain and crew. Whenever I see this boat at our dock I'm reminded of my seasons as a salmon boat deckhand in Cook Inlet, Alaska. We had a boat in our group called Lobo de Mar (Dale, if you're reading this, drop me an email!), translating roughly as Sea Dog or Sea Wolf. I remember Dale perched high in flying bridge, incessantly chain smoking and always wearing his lucky yellow sweat pants, flashing a grin as he sped by to set his gear. Man did we ever give him a rough time about those sweat pants . . . .
You may notice that sometimes I post different photos of the same thing. When you see that, know my mind is exhausted and I am literally incapable of deciding which composition I like best so I post them all. Seriously, sometimes I am almost falling asleep, flipping between two different photos, trying to decide which one I like best. This way, YOU can decide . . . . and I can head to bed . . . .

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name . . .

I had to go back a few days to find some fair weather shots on my camera, it has been storming for a couple days now. It is fairly amazing it can blow at a steady 30 to 40 knots, gusting to 60, for days on end; the power of the weather out here is truly humbling. I feel sorry for the boats that are still on the grounds, chasing the last of their quota.
This is what the crack of dawn looks like out here - around 9:30 or 9:45 am. Listening to the storm raging outside it's hard to remember the East Channel was ever that calm . . . .