Washington State

Group portraits in black and white

(Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

It has been years since I have been in a black and white darkroom, using chemistry to develop film and prints. I miss the intensity and joy of that process and the work that is needed to take lasting black and white photo portraits.

This week I was digging through my boxes of old prints and found a couple that I gave to a friend, who is featured in one of these two group shots. One is of his extended family who I have known for decades now. The second is of my friend in Vietnam, with his public health colleagues in Hanoi.

The warmth I find in a black and white group portrait, taken on film, can’t be replaced by digital. Digital may provide a level of sharpness and clarity, and simplicity. It still lacks the feeling I always experienced seeing my prints slowly emerge in the developer bath under the safe light of a darkroom, reeking of chemicals.. More than 15 years after I took these shots, I still feel that emotion.

The joy of fellowship

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Today, I learned of the death of an old friend, Carter, who I had the great pleasure of getting to work with for a year in Seattle for an employer in the early 2000s. He was one of the people who made that short chapter of my life there meaningful.

He died from Alzheimer’s disease, which is a horrible illness. I did not have a chance to say goodbye.

However, his passing also served as an important reminder to me that the essence of life is indeed death. Death gives life meaning. It is the universal characteristic of all living things. It provides purpose and shape. It should not be feared. We all are touched by it and we all lose ones who we love (something we are thinking of now with COVID-19).

I will remember Carter with fondness. I will recall the times we spent in conversations about his son, his wife, and his many experiences, such as serving in the Peace Corps in the Caribbean after he was trained as an architect.

I took these shots on the porch of my home in Seattle in 2003, where I was joined by a wonderful group of people. One was born in Sweden, another in Iraq. We ate salmon, laughed, drank wine and beer, enjoyed a summer night, and savored what it means to be alive in fellowship.

A study in beauty

(Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

In the early 2000s, I was enmeshed in the wonderful world of black and white portraiture. I used that time well.

I reached out to friends and contacts and asked them if they’d like to have their pictures taken. Everyone I asked appreciated the chance to have their portraits done.

These images come from that period, when I did a photo shoot in natural light in Woodland Park, in Seattle, My model was an admittedly beautiful person. I met her working, and we bumped into each other infrequently.

This photo shoot also represented a collaborative effort. We each contributed to the final body of images, which I took with a Nikon and Yashica twin-lens reflex.

All I can say is, some people are simply beautiful. They just look good on film. My model was one of those people.

I never saw her again after I gave her the 11×14-inch prints I promised. I would like to think she has one hanging in her study.

The new normal: fire everywhere in the Northwest

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

This week, the majestic Columbia River Gorge experienced an unprecedented fire that spread to more than 40,000 acres in less than five days. Residents and experts in this region were stunned by the still-unfolding disaster in what should be a fire resistant and lush region.

The blaze was reportedly intentionally ignited by some teens on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, when temperatures were in the upper 90s. The group reportedly threw fireworks into the Eagle River Trail area, setting off a blaze that literally exploded in 48 hours, moving more than 13 miles and shutting down Interstate 84, a major transportation corridor, and threatening the primary drinking water source (Bull Run Reservoir) for more than 1 million people in the Portland area.

The blaze is one of many in the region. Nearly 170,000 acres are ablaze at the Chetco Bar Fire, near Brookings, Oregon. Fires have scorched more than a million acres in Montana. Many experts are pointing to climate change and drying conditions as the main driver for the now frightening new normal.

I have not had a chance to observe the wrath of the fire near my Portland home, because it is still an active conflagration, and the firefighters need to keep gawkers out. I will go in once it is safe.

In light of what has happened this summer, I decide to dig up some pictures I took of the devastating Carlton Complex Firs in the Methow Valley area, in Washington state, in 2014. Seeing what fire can do to communities and landscapes is a sobering experience. I expect the worse is still yet to come, if that is even possible.

 

Me, I like herding dogs most of all

Ever since I traveled to Omak, Washington, in 2012 and met a couple of amazing Texas heelers adored by their owner, I have been smitten by this breed. Herding dogs just have that certain special something. Hey good boy, you are looking might fine. Click on the picture to see a larger photo on a separate picture page.

In an instant, everything can change

You truly never know how tested you are until everything changes, and your world flips, and what you thought to be true one moment is no longer true the next. It is at those times when you make your hardest choices and decide what matters most. I took these pictures in the Methow Valley in August 2014, when the world changed for some. (Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Fancy dancing at the Seafair Seattle Pow-Wow

I really like pow-wows. They are lively, loud, physical, colorful, cultural, competitive, creative, and welcoming. One of my favorite activities in Seattle, when I lived there, was to visit Discovery Park for the annual Seafair Seattle Pow-Wow. The event fell on hard times recently, and has been cancelled, but it looks like funding was secured once more and it was held again, most recently in 2015. These shots all date from July 2013. All but one are of the male elders. What I noticed was a lot of intensity among the younger male dancers, and more energy conserving movements of the older, more veteran contestants. The most athletic did not win; it was the one who was in a space of personal expression, feeling the drum, and how that moved him.

Contestants who participated came from across the Northwest region and Canada, and tribes from the Spokane, to the Colvilles, to the Warm Springs, to the Umatilla, and more, were represented. Everyone I saw appeared to love it. The place was packed and everyone was taking pictures.

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

 

Bottoming out in Spokane

During a recent trip to one of my favorite cities in the United States, Spokane, I toured lots of neighborhoods. I was struck by the degree of poverty I did not recall seeing before. There are pockets of despair in any city in the United States, but Spokane surprised me because of how close some of these neighborhoods with high numbers of foreclosures were to downtown. The number of foreclosed properties is reportedly higher in Spokane than either Washington State or the United States, according the company Realtytrac.com.  January 2016 alone saw 200 foreclosed properties in the city of 484,000 residents. As of 2014, the U.S. Census reports that more than 15 percent of all residents in the city alone lived below the poverty line.

Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

Season’s Greetings from the Pacific Northwest

I can think of few better ways to enjoy a winter holiday than skate skiing. Hoping you find a way to enjoy yours, and that it brings you closer to nature, friends, and the world around you. (Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

In the long shadow of Evel Knievel, daredevils still risk it all

Every modern motorcyle and extreme sports daredevil since the 1960s and  1970s stands in the long shadow of stunt rider Evel Knievel. The Butte, Montana, native and international showman built a legacy of thrilling audiences with death-defying leaps on his motorcyle over long distances. From the grisly televised crash at Caesar’s Palace in December 1967 to jumping 15 buses in Wembley Stadium in London in May 1975, Knievel conquered the public’s imagination. He had spectacular failures and reportedly broke more than 400 bones in his battered body over his long years as a showman extraordinaire and one-of-a-kind daredevil.

The Sports Illustrated cover shows Evel Knievel in his purest form, decked out in his all-American jump suit (great photo).

The Sports Illustrated cover shows Evel Knievel in his purest form, decked out in his all-American jump suit (great photo).

Knievel completely invented himself, his persona, and his brand of entertainment from the ground up, with his imagination knowing no boundaries. His first recorded jump, according to the new documentary on his life called Being Evel, was over two cougars and a box of rattle snakes in Moses Lake, Washington, and he crashed open the box of snakes who got away. He then built up his reputation the hard way, show after show, and also crash after crash. His greatest media stunt, and failure too, was attempting to jump in a specialized vehicle over the Snake River Canyon on Sept. 8, 1974, with him crashing yet again in the canyon floor. But he got back up and kept at it.

As a kid, I likely fell under the Kneivel spell, and saw him many times on TV, on lunch boxes, and on tabloid newspaper covers. He made more than half a dozen appearances on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the 1970s, when I was growing up. He personified a type of fearless recklessness that excites nearly every young boy, and inspires a few to try such feats later in life. The current climate of Red Bull fueled stunts, jumping from outer space to leaping from cliff faces in wing suits, owes it all to him. Knievel proved you can become a legend if you are willing to put it all on the line and entertain the masses while doing it. Knievel died in 2007 at 69 years of age, a badass to the end, being totally himself.

The photos above were taken at the Omak Stampede in August 2013. I took these shots during practice for a great half-time event at the stampede later that night. Three daredevils, whose names I now cannot find, put on a show with multiple leaps on their dirt bikes and four wheeler. The best rider did a back flip during the show on his bike and totally nailed the landing. They had all of their gear in trailers they hauled by trucks, a bit like Knievel. All three of these guys were accompanied by a trio of totally beautiful women, who stood proudly by their sides. In that way, nothing has changed since Knievel’s day. The daredevil is made of different stuff, and it is the stuff that still appeals to women who like dangerous men. As Knievel may or may not have said, “bones heal, pain is temporary, [and] chicks dig scars… .”