Ancient history, caught in silver

31 12 2010

For the past two years, I’ve had some rolls of film scattered throughout my work room as I’ve added film photography to my repertoire. Right before Christmas, I dropped off a roll of black & white film for processing at Moon Photo, one of the three places in town that will handle it. As I headed out the door, I grabbed an exposed black & white roll that I’d found in my closet and I dropped it off as well. I couldn’t remember when I shot that roll. Perhaps last year, when I spent most of the summer shooting film… but I felt sure it was from 2008. That’s when I bought my first “serious” film camera, and at the time I didn’t realize how hard it would be to get B&W film processed. I expected to have a roll or two of exposed B&W film sitting around from my early experiments.

I was wrong. This roll of film was waay older than 2008. When I got the developed roll back, I just stared at the pictures in surprise. It wasn’t anything I expected to see at all. Photos from Maine? I’ve been there several times… when was this? Pictures from the coastline of the Olympic peninsula? When did I go out there? I couldn’t remember…

Luckily, I’d shot a few frames out the window of my apartment, and that let me date the roll of film: The summer of 1999. I was a mere 25 years old, less than a year at Microsoft, not yet three years in Seattle, and my only camera was a point & shoot that my dad had bought me for a trip to Ireland in 1995. The digital photo revolution hadn’t started. Somehow I carried this roll with me for 11 years. I moved it to three different homes/apartments. And I’d forgotten all about it.

Time’s not that considerate to film. The developed frames had very low contrast and were washed out at the edges. I’ve recovered them was well as I can, and there are amazingly enough a few “keepers.” So here you go, a bit of ancient history, captured in silver.

Maine (1999)

Made it to the top! (1999)

(I was a lot skinnier 11 years ago…)

The Coast

Rocks on the Coast (1999)

Continuing Education

14 11 2010

For those who don’t know, I’m finally learning how to take pictures. More specifically, I’m taking the Black and White 1 photography class at the Photo Center Northwest. I took a workshop there two years ago (which was enough to get my picture on their website), and I’ve been looking forward to taking the full class ever since. I like the darkroom! It’s quiet and meditative. And it has nothing to do with computers! I work with computers… does my hobby need to involve computers, too?

Another neat thing about black and white photography: you must make prints. Lots and lots of prints. Each tweak you want to make to the photo means another sheet of paper in the developer tray. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s also tangible. I have 338 digital photos from our recent vacation to Paris, but the only prints I have hanging on our wall are seven black and white photos from the three rolls of film I exposed on the trip. I haven’t gotten around to printing any of the digital pictures, and who knows when I will.

If you wonder why there have been so many black and white photos on my photostream recently, you now know why! Here are the three prints I had to make for this week’s assignment, which was about “light and shadow.”

On Top of the World

To Infinity...!

Shadow, Curves

Finally Done with the Virginia Photos

6 06 2010

We’ve been back from our trip from Virginia for about a month now, and I’m finally done going through all of the photos. Here’s one of my favorite photos from the trip. It’s just Alex at the playground near my dad’s house in Herndon:

Playground Fun

What the picture lacks in photographic merit, it makes up for in nostalgia. Here is my very first photo uploaded to Flickr, almost three years ago:

Fun at the playground

…which means, of course, that the Alex of that second picture is considerably younger than the Patrick of our most recent trip. So strange to think about how big this little man is getting.


Goodbye October…

8 11 2009

Autumn isn’t over, but the nice part of Autumn likely is. The weather is increasingly wet, the color is disappearing. With the end of daylight savings time, it’s now pitch black when we get the kids from daycare. It’s time to hunker down until March.

Goodbye, October. We hardly knew ye.

Seasons Change Red, Green, Frost

Fall Beautiful Decay

Autumn's Growth

Prosser Hot Air Balloon Festival

29 09 2009

This past Saturday, I convinced Molly to let me take another mini-vacation. Friday night, after the kids ate dinner, I threw my camera bag and a change of clothes into the car and headed over the mountains to the small town of Prosser, Washington for their annual hot air balloon rally. I crashed for a few hours in a Best Western in the Tri-Cities, then drove under the clear pre-dawn stars to the Prosser airport, which is really a grass field with a few small corrugated metal hangars.

Even though I made it to the airport by 6:00 AM, the field was already full of people, pickup trucks, and blue tarps spread over the grass. The balloon crews were stretching the deflated nylon balloons in long thick lines over the tarps. The crowds sipped coffee bought from the PEO Sisterhood table. Everybody had a camera in hand.

Balloon Detail

The inside of a hot air balloon, photographed during the cold-fill.

The real action started around 7:00. The sun peeked over the nearby hills, the master of ceremonies released two small helium balloons into the sky so the pilots could judge the winds, and then the pilots started filling the balloons. The loud droning of thirty-four large gas-powered fans filled the airport. For ten minutes, the crews used the fans to inflate their balloons with cold air. All across the airport, the colorful nylon popped up from the ground like gigantic mushrooms. When the balloons had enough structure from cold air, the pilots started firing the propane burners. It was as if each wicker basket had magically transformed into a fire-breathing dragon. Each tongue of flame shot upward with a loud whoosh and if you were standing anywhere close to one of the burners, you felt the waves of heat wash over you.

Breathing Fire

The crew starts hot-filling a balloon.

In surprisingly little time, the sky filled with balloons. Camera gear in hand, I jogged three blocks from the airport to the Yakima river. Just like at the airport, a small crowd lined the sidewalks on both sides of the bridge. From this vantage point, you could enjoy the most picturesque sights of the rally. Most of the balloon pilots rode the wind over to the Yakima river, then descended for a splash-and-dash: They let the basket dip into the river, then fired the burners to ascend from the water. Some were able to cruise along the surface of the river for a considerable distance. Others started their river runs on the east side of the bridge. The winds blew the balloons westward, and the pilots waited until they were right next to the bridge before firing the burners. The balloons skipped over the bridge as effortlessly as you’d step over a curb. The crowd cheered for each of these close encounters. Once on the downwind side of the bridge, the balloons descended again to the water’s surface.

Balloon and Ripples

A balloon does a splash-and-dash.


The balloon “Checkmate” gets ready to fly over the bridge.

Unfortunately, the rising sun also brings stronger winds. By 9:00, all of the balloons had dropped back to earth to avoid getting caught in unpredictable currents. The balloon rally was over, but I still had a few hours of mini-vacation left. On balloon rally weekend, Prosser is a great place to be. It’s the heart of the Washington wine country. In California, that would translate to excessive bling. But this is Washington, and “heart of wine country” still translates to “rural America.” Downtown Prosser is a few streets, old-time storefronts (too many empty), a nice park, and a big feed & grain store. Napa it’s not.

Truck, Hay, Chow

A truck outside the feed & grain store in Prosser.

This small town throws down the welcome mat on Rally weekend. There’s a farmer’s market in the morning, complete with a Kiwanis club pancake breakfast. Of course one of the farmer’s market tables was staffed by a local winery: Daven Lore. I talked to the winemaker, Gordon Taylor, at the market. (Of course the winemaker himself was standing at the table at the farmer’s market. That’s what I like about travelling through Yakima instead of Napa or Sonoma.) He described himself as the winemaker for the locals. At the farmer’s market, he even sells one of his wines (“Recovery Red”) in a refillable bottle. If you bring the bottle back to him, you’ll get a discount on your next bottle. Alas, I didn’t get to taste his wine, but I’m going to be on the lookout for it in Seattle. One of the other events happening in Prosser on Rally weekend is the Harvest Festival. This is a small crafts/food/music fair that spreads over a few downtown blocks. The booths at the fair have the typical assortment of candles, photographs, and garden art. The music, though, can be really charming.

The best part of visiting Yakima Valley, of course, is visiting the wineries. I saw the full spectrum in just a few hours. Oakwood Cellars is a small operation run out of the winemaker’s house. Terra Blanca clearly aspires to Napa Valley. But my most cherished memory will be my visit to Chinook. It was my first time there – it’s always been closed on my prior trips to the valley. I’ve bought & enjoyed a lot of Chinook wine from McCarthy & Schiering in the past. So I felt humbled to be in the tasting room, which was a modest, clean farmhouse room no bigger than our kitchen. Kay Simon, the winemaker, was of course one of the people pouring wine and answering questions. It was a low-key, intimate operation, and everything I tasted was delicious. In Prosser, the greatest treasures are found in unassuming locations. I couldn’t leave without buying a case.


Grapes growing at Oakwood Cellars.

The plus side of waking up before dawn? I could have all of these adventures, drive three hours through desert and mountains, and still make it home in time for the kids’ dinner! Surely Molly will let me go again next year…

Seven of Thirty-Four

Seven of thirty-four balloons.

Count the Balloons

How many balloons can you count in the picture?

Typical Cannon Beach Weather

13 08 2009

I’ve mentioned how the Seattle heat wave made Cannon Beach clear, sunny, and warm. We did have a couple of more “typical” beach days, too. Even those days were nice, because the mist and fog looked cool. They were more fun days to photograph, too, because whatever colors I managed to get in the frame really stand out.

Grey by you.

iPhone Vacation Diary

9 08 2009

While in Oregon, I took one picture per day from my iPhone and posted it to my Flickr site. If you were paying attention, you may have seen these pictures float by. (If you really care about the details of the vacation, and you haven’t already, make sure to click on each picture and read the descriptions.)

Vacation day 7: beach bonfireVacation day 6: Seaside AquariumVacation day 5: Cat in the HatVacation day 4: running in the waterVacation day 3: bunnies!Alex and haystack rockVacation day 1

I work with technology every day, so I take a lot for granted. But I must admit I’m amazed at how easy it is to take photos, edit them, and share them with people all around the country without using a computer. I did this all from my phone.

That’s it. I just wanted to share my slack-jawed amazement at how far technology has come.

Back from Vacation

9 08 2009

We just got back from a two-week vacation in Cannon Beach, Oregon and Rochester, Minnesota. This vacation kept us out of Seattle for the record heat wave. “Heat wave” in Cannon Beach translates to sunny days and 80-degree temperatures. Perfect beach weather, in other words. So to those who stayed in Seattle: Your suffering was not in vain. You sat in 103-degree heat so I could enjoy clear skies and great sunsets. Thank you.


Ready, Set...

One thing I wanted to do on this vacation is make a little movie. I used my beloved Panasonic LX-3 to get a few HD video clips that I may someday edit. Here’s a clip I got during one of the sunsets. I put the camera down very close to the water to capture the surf.

I don’t know if it was that rogue wave or the very fine omnipresent sand that did the camera in, but the next morning I couldn’t get the camera to work. The lens motor grinds and the camera refuses to work. This makes me sad. It’s the best point-and-shoot camera I’ve owned. Unlike everything else electronic, it’s gone up in price since I bought it, and you still can’t find it anywhere. It’s going to be tough to replace. R.I.P.

May iPhone Wallpaper added

5 06 2009

I added photos from May to my iPhone wallpaper collection. Click here to see the whole collection.

Bringing the Olympus E-520, Panasonic LX-3, and Nikon D700 on Vacation

27 02 2009

On the trip to Florida, I brought a backpack full of camera equipment, and three different camera systems: The Panasonic LX-3, the Olympus E-520 and two lenses, and the Nikon D700 and four lenses. This is just insane. My advice to you: If you’re ever going on a “vacation” that involves two kids still in diapers, leave the backpack full of camera gear at home. Bring more kid toys, not more grown-up toys. That said, for those who are interested, read on for my hard-won opinions of using these cameras on vacation.

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