Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Boathouse and dock, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, before Hurricane Isabel
(Click to view larger)

In 2003, Hurricane Isabel flooded my parent's house on the Chesapeake Bay in Southern Virginia and washed away the dock and boathouse pictured above.  Consequently, whenever hurricanes threaten the East Coast, I obsessively track the weather and tide websites to try to assess if they are going to have to go through that again.  It looks like they dodged the bullet on this one, though there is one more high tide this morning before the surge from Sandy stops contributing.  

Ellen's sister and her family live in Rumson, New Jersey, which is a little north of Sandy's predicted landfall.  They are threatened by massive storm surge and higher winds than my parents will experience.  Their house is high off the water (30-40') and a little inland, so they should be safe from the surge, but I'm sure the area will suffer, power will be lost, and trees will come down.

Here's wishing everyone well in the path of this storm.

Keanesburg, NJ

Monmouth, NJ

Manhattan looks like a watery place when viewed from NJ.

Bei and her cousins enjoying a gentler summer breeze in 2010 on the Jersey shore.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Show at the Dairy Center for the Arts, Boulder, CO

(click to enlarge)

I'm off to Boulder this afternoon to hang a show of my Uganda photos at the Dairy Center for the Arts.  The show opens this Friday, October 26, with artist talks from 4-5 and a reception from 5-7.  If you're in area, stop by and say hi.  Of course our first significant winter weather of the season is also scheduled for Friday, so If I get snowed into Laramie, I'll let you know--but even if I do, stop by and have a look.  Bay Roberts will be there representing One School at a Time, the NGO whose projects are the subject of my images.

Study session, Kyamulinga, Uganda

Girl with Pencil Box, Kukanga School, Uganda

Thursday, October 18, 2012

From the Archives: China Portraits

Woman with pipe, Yunnan Province, China
(Click images to view larger)

I'm too busy right now for a proper blog post, so here are a few portraits from China--above is a woman that we met at a market in a small town called Liming in the mountains up a side valley off of the Yangtze.  She wasn't smoking tobacco.  Liming, by the way, rests below spectacular sandstone cliffs that appear to have potential to be a climbing mecca.  To the best of my knowledge, nobody has put up routes there.  The image below is of a man at another Yunnan Village, called Wenhai, in the mountains above Lijiang, where we lived.  A woman in the village had died the previous week (of a heart attack while working in the fields apparently) and he was at the wake, which was spirited and not glum.  The young woman below lived in the grasslands above a town called Xiahe in the Gansu Province.  Xiahe is a Tibetan town and home of a large monastery.  There's been a lot of unrest there since we visited in 2006.  I was out for a walk when she came out of her house and down the hill to offer me some wildflowers that she had picked in the pasture behind her.

Man with cigarette, Wenhai, China

Young woman, Xiahe, China

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Canyoneering: Baptist Draw to Upper Chute

Jim Akers, enjoying the sunset at our camp near Baptist Draw, San Rafael Swell, Utah.
(Click images to enlarge.)

Here's the quandary (more on Quandary Canyon later):  

Canyoneering provides the chance to descend some of the most beautiful canyons in Utah with a bunch of good friends while executing a series of sometimes bizarre and interesting maneuvers to overcome obstacles along the way.  All of this makes for heartbreaking photo opportunities, but at the same time, threatens to destroy your expensive camera gear with water, mud, sand, and high impacts with rock.  And the light is difficult as well--deep dark canyons mixed with intensely bright spots of sunshine and slivers of sky mean that no camera can handle the dynamic range.  You can expose for the darkness, where all the action is taking place, and the sky blows out.  Or you can expose for the sky, but then the action is in blackness unless you somehow light it up with a bunch of flashes, which are also expensive, time consuming to set up, and targets of destruction for the same reasons I already talked about.  Not only that, but your hands are full just trying to get yourself through whatever canyon you are in without taking forever to set up shots so that you aren't vulnerable to afternoon storms and the ire of your peers, who have to wait for you every time you stop.  

My solution:  take fairly crappy pictures with a less-expensive and smaller point-and-shoot camera than my big DSLR. I use a Nikon P7000, which I'm not that happy with for a number of reasons, but that at least it won't put me in debtor's prison if it gets destroyed.  It takes pretty good pictures in good light, but doesn't do very well in darkness, and I can't see the screen on the back very well to compose images because I don't carry my reading glasses with me when I'm canyoneering.  Sometimes it's just more important to have fun than to obsess over good photographs.

Last weekend I made a quick trip to the San Rafael Swell and dealt with all of these photographic problems, but had a great time.  Larry Scritchfield, Don Reyes, and Jim Akers had already been there for a week when Scott Lehman and I arrived, so they were a little tired.  We did Quandary Canyon on Friday (a future blog post), and then on Saturday Jim, Scott, and I did Baptist Draw to Upper Chute while Larry and Don started their long drives home to Tucson and Reno. 

Baptist/Chute is a gorgeous loop, minimally difficult, with just a few rappels and some groveling under and over chockstones, followed by miles of undulating narrow canyon.  Even the exit and hike back to camp is enjoyable--a long pretty walk up a little side canyon punctuated by easy slickrock steps around obstacles.  As always, details are on Tom's Canyoneering website.  This would be a nice trip for an adventurous family if the kids aren't afraid to get on a rope now and then and the parents aren't afraid to lower them off of cliffs.

Rappelling from Baptist into Chute.

Upper Chute.

Upper Chute.

Jim Akers.  Upper Chute.

Jim and Scott enjoying some rare sunshine -- Upper Chute.

Jim and Scott.  Upper Chute.

Jim, Upper Chute.

Jim, Upper Chute.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Photography Show at BCA

Sunrise, Skull Rim, Red Desert, Wyoming
(click images to view larger)

I'm showing ten prints tonight at the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (BCA) offices in downtown Laramie from 6-9.  Actually, the photos will be up all month, but BCA is sponsoring a reception tonight with music and refreshments.  If you're in Laramie, come down and say hi.  Part of the profit from any print sales will go to BCA.  The images that I'm showing are mostly focused on Wyoming Basins--BCA is active in helping to protect these places from the relentless pressure of energy development. 

BCA is located in the white building at 412 S. 2nd.  It's the big white building with the hollyhock mural on the south side.

Old Tree, Shirley Basin, Wyoming

Ferris Dunes, Wyoming

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Off to Utah

Bei, Cedar Mesa, 2007
(Click to view larger)

I'm off to Utah this afternoon for four days.  Destination:  the San Rafael Swell.  Mission:  swim around in "keeper" potholes and try to escape from them to make down-canyon progress.  Team:  Larry Scritchfield, Jim Akers, Don Reyes, Scott Lehman.  Missing:  Steve Millard (who thinks passing a professional certification test is more important).

I'll report on how it all goes when I return next week, after I finish panicking about all the work I'm blowing off. 

Have a great weekend.  

Jim Akers, Robber's Roost, 2011:  fine wine.