Month: February 2015

It’s all about the grain, and the global marketplace

Vancouver, Wash., is home to the United Grain Corp.’s export terminal. According to the company, the grain elevator complex is the largest grain elevator on the West Coast. This is a massive facility. The complex dominates the landscape on the banks of the Columbia River north of Portland. Cargo ships will line up on the Columbia River and basically park in the river until there is a berth for at the terminal or across the river at the Port of Portland’s export terminal on the Willamette River. Wheat grown in western Washington is one of the main exports, mainly for global markets.

I took the photos of the anchored cargo vessels from Frenchman’s Bar Park, in Clark County, just north of Vancouver. It is a beautiful spot to see how the global commodities market works–one ship and one train at a time.


No stick is too big when playing fetch

Hot diggity. I love finding a beautiful new place that is ignored by the busy world and destination tourism. Frenchman’s Bar Park is such a place, in Clark County, Washington, just north of Vancouver. The park lies along the Columbia River, and many fishermen, dog owners, and families can be found on the sandy banks. I loved this mutt. He didn’t understand the meaning of, you can’t fetch that. He just did it. Good boy!

Winter’s long shadows on the campus of Reed College

I love the long shadows cast by late afternoons on a winter’s day. Late yesterday afternoon, I realized the conditions were near optimal on a clear day in Portland. I visited the campus of Reed College, a private liberal arts school that now costs about $60,000 for tuition and room and board.  The school has three landmark buildings that utilize Tudor Gothic style: the old dorm block, Eliot Hall, and the old library building. All make for excellent photo props in every season. Despite the exorbitant costs to attend the four-year college, the campus is beautiful, located next to a wildlife refuge that is the source for Crystal Springs. The campus’ orientation is mostly east and west, so the sun will hit most buildings at an angle, creating the aforementioned shadows, except the library which faces west. Right after the simple shoot with my trusty GoPro camera, I headed to my ultimate destination, the Gigantic Brewing Co., co-founded by one Reed grad and former musician. I always like to support home-grown suds businesses, especially a creative one from a fellow alum.

The Brooklyn intermodal rail yard, still chugging and causing a fuss

For more than a year in my 20s, I lived within a half mile of this large track of industrial land in southeast Portland, now run by the Union Pacific Corp. The yard itself dates to 1860s, and today serves as a Union Pacific transfer point, where cargo is either moved from rail cars to trucks for local distribution or vice versa to the rail system.

A huge fight broke out in the 1950s between the rail yard owners and neighbors in the Eastmoreland and Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhoods. A more than five-decades long injunction limiting some rail yard activity was lifted in 2012, and the Union Pacific moved forward with a planned upgrade worth $75 million. However, pollution by the yard is being monitored with the help from nearby Reed College. In 2014, the head of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association bought a drone to monitor activity at the yard. The association represents the upscale subdivision in southeast Portland that is next to the rail yard. I guess it remains, trust but verify in my part of this city. Seriously, a neighborhood association is now using a drone to promote its interests against a major U.S. corporation.

Manzanita Beach driftwood

On the northern Oregon coast, a lovely spit about three miles long juts south along the Nehalem River. The south end of the spit is protected as Nehalem Bay State Park. Driftwood piles high at the mouth of the Nehalem River, next to the stone jetty. It is a really nice spot.

Having fun in the Methow Valley

It is not a great ski year for the Pacific Northwest. Snowpack is seriously below seasonal averages. Skate skiing this season is mostly a bust in western Oregon. So I thought about past trips, including one I took to the Methow Valley in December 2010, and that turned out to be a great trip because I reconnected with someone who I had not seen in years who showed me the trails. This weekend, the Methow Valley is predicting warmish weather for their annual Tour of the Methow, a great race with many distances, including 80 km.! This is a lovely place, and I always tell my good friends who have not been there, try and go once during ski season.

Art and the loss of human heritage


In the last 30 years, several countries whose current dominant religion (Islam) considers artistic representations of the human form as idolatrous, have seen the destruction of some of humanity’s great artistic and cultural heritage. Those countries include Afghanistan, where cliff-size statues of Buddha at Bamiyan were dynamited in 2001 by the Taliban, and Syria, where the Baathist regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad has outright plundered and looted the great Roman ruins of Palmyra. Both places have been ravaged by civil war, invasions, and religious intolerance. Even before these attacks by religious fanatics and criminals on monuments to cultural melting pots that were ancient Syria and what is now Afghanistan, art from these areas has been plundered and sold.

The St. Louis Art Museum, a great institution that I love dearly, has two examples of art from these locations. They include a funerary bust in the Roman Palmyriene style and the head of a Buddha that mixes Greek-Hellenic features with Chinese traditions, which dates from the 4th century of contemporary Afghanistan, from the ancient Gandhara region. I have no idea how these two pieces ever entered the art market, but many pieces like them have flooded into the global art market because of civil conflict and violence in both countries, where proxy wars, terrorism, religious intolerance, and intolerance have prevailed. Our sense of who we are has been lessened and ultimately chipped away by the destruction of such places.

Grain Silos, Lincoln County, Washington

It was a hot August day when I snapped this picture as the sun was setting on wheat country in Lincoln County, Washington. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful place indeed.

I said, you talkin’ to me?

The Cape buffalo of Africa is one of the world’s largest and strongest land mammals. It can toss full-grown lions with a shake of its head and horns, and they are not afraid to attack lions if their herd is threatened. In Tanzania, where I shot this, I was told they are among the most dangerous land animals in Africa. This enormous male bull looks like it had tussled before with a lion, and clearly it did not lose that battle. I would hate to cross their path if they felt threatened. (Click on the photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Heeler mixes

In central Washington, in farm country, one can see quite a few of these heeler mixes. They are very beautiful dogs, and so smart you almost think they could speak to you. I captured these two young males at the Omak Stampede back in 2012. I just saw a similar mix today while running, and its happy smile brought this pair back to mind. Make no mistake, these are working dogs too. (Click on the picture to see a larger photo on a separate picture page.)