Have not had time to go through much of anything yet, but here are a few quick shots that I liked on first glance:
I had some time today to work on some of my long-overdue projects. One of them was to fix the switch for my bandsaw (it was damaged during our move). The fix involved cutting and shaping a new plate for the new switch to be installed into, and I grabbed this shot while cutting the metal plate for the switch.
I had an opportunity to join Jim from http://improvephotography.com and Darren from http://shootboise.com last night on a midnight hike to an old abandoned mine outside of Boise, Idaho. The hike in and out is VERY steep, but completely worth it to get a shot like this:
The weather was perfect, with clear skies and excellent viewing of the Milky Way. Shot on a Canon 60D with a Tokina 11-16 2.8 II lens, 15 second exposure at F2.8, ISO 1600.
Isaac recently joined Boy Scouts Troop #1 in Meridian. This troop has been in continuous operation since 1917, and meets at and is chartered by the local American Legion chapter. The leadership is fantastic, and they have a great group of boys in the troop.
This past weekend was the annual Willow Creek competition camp, and was Isaac’s first camp with this troop. I decided to go along with him for this one, and I’m glad I did. The camp was a ton of hard work, but very fulfilling and worth the effort.
We arrived Friday early evening having already eaten dinner. The senior patrol leaders (yep, his troop actually uses the patrol method) had already been up to the site earlier in the week to put up the large mess tent and set up all the tents for the scouts to use. So, Isaac just needed to find which tent he was assigned and get himself settled. I had to pitch my tent (which I wound up sharing with another dad, which was fine because it’s a HUGE 8-man tent with plenty of room) and then we headed off to the bonfire.
So this campout is what is known as a “competition camp” – something I’d never heard of before. There were 20 or so troops there from all over Idaho and 1 from Bend, OR. There were also 3-4 explorer units involved. There were a LOT of scouts there…. something like 225 boys all together. I mention these numbers so you can sort of get a feel for the sheer scale of things… imagine 225ish boys and about 75 adult leaders arranged in a huge semicircle around a pile of pallets and other scrap wood that was easily 20 feet tall and 15 feet across at the base. Then picture a vintage civil war canon firing at exactly 9 pm right over everyone’s heads while a crazy scoutmaster throws a lit flare at the base of the kerosene-soaked aforementioned massive pile of wood.
Everyone had to back off around 100 feet from the fire because it was literally a towering inferno and WAY too hot to even approach.
It was easily the biggest bonfire I’ve ever seen.
Various troops took turns doing skits in the no-man’s land between the edge of the fire and the distance away from it where the heat was tolerable. The skits were all short, and some were even pretty funny… though it was hard to hear them over the sheer noise of the fire.
After the bonfire we all retired pretty quickly because we had to be up at 5:30 to start preparing for the competition day on Saturday. We started with a flag ceremony / welcome / orientation from the event organizers at 6, then headed back to our campsite to have breakfast and prepare for site inspection (part of the competition). At 9 sharp everyone assembled back at the flag ceremony area to receive their orienteering maps for the day and the competition was officially underway. I decided to join an adult patrol to run the course the same way all the scouts did. This accomplishes more than half of what has to be done in case I ever decide I want to be an assistant scout master or fill other leadership roles in the troop.
The gist of the competition was like this: You’ll be given a topographical map and a list of a series of waypoints in the form of compass degrees and distances. Use your compass to plot a waypoint on the map, (adjusting for declination away from true north to magnetic north, etc) and then hike to that waypoint. You should find one of the 10 stations there where you need to perform a skill. There were stations for knots and lashings, first aid, flag ceremonies, rifle shooting, fire building, an obstacle course, civil war re-enactment, scout knowledge, and some others I’m forgetting. Once you perform the skill or accomplish the task at the station you’ll plot your next waypoint with your map and compass and head off to the next one.
The hardest part of all of this was getting the points plotted on the topo map correctly and then finding the stations there. The area was mountainous with lots of steep hills, sharp corners, hidden ditches, etc. Of course, unless you were pretty accurate with your orienteering, you’d never find the stations.
The boys worked in their own patrols, and the adults worked together in their own patrols. By noon we had only finished up 3 of the stations, and the camp organizers started passing along the word that it was no longer necessary to find all the stations in order – just try to get to them all. So we stopped messing with the mapping and used a cheat-sheet map that they provided that had all the stations marked. We did manage to get to all of them before the course closed at 5:30, but just barely.
In short, it was a long, hot, hard day. We hiked around 6 miles all together, and learned about and performed all the scout skills I’ve ever heard of. In talking with Isaac, his patrol did not fare quite as well as our adult patrol did. They didn’t get to all the stations, and he was particularly disappointed that he did not get to the rifle range (it was the furthest away from everything and the highest elevation). But, he did seem to have a good time overall and is enjoying getting to know the boys in his troop and patrol.
We had another massive bonfire on Saturday evening, again with skits and lots of fun jokes etc from the boys running the show. At the end of the bonfire fun, the event was changed into a flag retirement ceremony. In all the years I’ve been involved with scouting in various ways, I’ve never seen one of these: It’s when a US flag has reached the end of its serviceable lifetime and needs to be destroyed. Each troop was given a flag to retire, ranging in size from 50 feet across to maybe a dozen feet across. The first troop formed a color guard, carried the flag over to the fire, unfolded it to its full size, then everyone would salute as the flag and recite the pledge of allegiance. Then the flag was carried over the top of the fire and lowered over the fire like a blanket. Salutes were held until the flag was completely destroyed, at which point the next troop’s color guard would march forward and the process would repeat, omitting only the pledge. It was an extremely solemn and respectful ceremony, and really touched me. Isaac was not selected to be in his troop’s color guard, but I spoke with the scoutmaster after the camp and he was surprised I’d never seen one of those before. He says that the troop does it at every campout, and Isaac will get plenty of opportunities to participate.
Sunday started bright and early with another flag ceremony, then breakfast, then a non-denominational church service that featured a guy with a guitar singing generic christian soft-rock songs in the rain. That was followed by a brief sermon about god’s love for us. In talking with Isaac about it afterwards, he said that it was sure different, but that he liked the stories in the sermon.
Up next we had a visit from a life-flight helicopter to demonstrate what the chopper and crew can do, and to teach the scouts about the important role that life flight plays in backwoods rescues. All the scouts had a chance to go right up to the chopper and look inside while talking to the pilot and paramedic that it carries. That was pretty cool, and Isaac really seemed to enjoy asking how many cup holders were in the chopper. 🙂
After lunch we had a closing awards ceremony and flag ceremony, then packed up and headed home, exhausted.
While Isaac’s troop did not win any awards in the competition, I’m really impressed with how well organized and run the troop is – especially since the troop is very focused on having the boys run everything. They organize the meals, they collect money and shop for the food, they make sure everyone has all the right gear, they run the camp and get themselves where they need to be when they need to be there, etc. The adult leadership is really just there for safety and to make sure things are running smoothly. There was very little I needed to do other than try to keep up with the boys.
Isaac is looking forward to the next campout.
I’ve driven from Boise to McCall a bunch of times, and each time I drive over this bridge just to the north of Smiths Ferry and wish I had time to stop. I finally made time to schlep up there with some friends in the middle of the night to get this shot.
By the time we were finished shooting I was frozen nearly half to death – but that was a small price to pay for this shot.
Isaac came home from his first week of school with a homework assignment for his parents: “In a million words or less, describe your child.” After doing the assignment for him, I thought it would be worth saving what I wrote. Here it is, for all posterity:
Isaac is a vibrant young man full of a love for life and all things comedy. Blessed with the ability to see the world through the eyes of a comedian, he is constantly ready to make everyone around him laugh with a joke, quip, or quick observation of the absurd.
He also loves baseball, and has been honing his skills on the field in little league play for the last year. Someday I believe he’d love to either play second base for a major league team, or be the guy in the giant mascot suit helping the fans have a great time at the game.
Isaac also has a vivacious imagination full of the need to explore and create. He loves games such as Minecraft, Roblox, and SimplePlanes, all of which revolve around the idea of building something from raw materials and then using your creations to achieve the goals of the games. He is constantly sharing his latest virtual creations with the rest of the family, and they are impressive.
Isaac also has a naturally calm and caring disposition. He’s the peacemaker amongst our children, and is always ready to lift another who may be feeling down.
He is quite talented as a videographer as well. One of his favorite things to do is to make movies with his sisters or with a sketching program on his Nintendo DS. He shares his videos with pride with the family, and they are honestly very well done and very funny.
Isaac loves to watch shows such as Mythbusters with his dad. The exploration of myths as presented there appeals to his love of learning and natural curiosity – but he’s most interested in the explosions.
He is a voracious reader, and asks to go to the library at least once a week where he’ll pick up another huge stack of books, after spending time playing and researching on the library computers.
Most of all, Isaac is a joy to have in our family.
Back in May of 2016 Christine and I went on one of the most physically demanding adventures we have ever attempted: Hiking the Grand Canyon. This was no simple trot along the rim for an hour or 2 followed up by some fro-yo at the gift shop… this was a massive, grueling, difficult, stupid hike that neither of us really should have attempted.
But we did it.
And it was amazing.
Christine’s father has done this hike several times, and very luckily for us he took care of all the logistics and planning. We literally had to just show up at the lodge the night before with backpacks full of snacks and a can-do attitude. After a fantastic dinner at the local pizza joint where we did some carbo-loading, we returned to the Maswick lodge near the edge of the canyon for a fitful and short night’s sleep. There are several well-known stopping points along the trail we were planning to take, and one such place is known as “Ohh-Ahh Point”, so named because if you get an early enough start you can be there by the time the sun comes up.
So we awoke sometime around 4:15 as I recall, and headed out to meet a cab at the entrance to the lodge. The cab service there is apparently of the “we’ll get there when we are darn good and ready” variety, so after 20ish minutes of waiting we bailed and walked over to where a shuttle picked us up. This is where the first surprise hit me: There were more than just a few people crazy enough to be up before 5 am cramming themselves onto a bus headed for the most difficult hike I’d ever attempted in my life. Luckily, we got on the bus early enough in the crowd that we got seats – but I spent the bus ride to the trail head bobbing and weaving my head to avoid hitting either of the packs of the gentlemen standing in the row next to me or the pack of the woman seated directly to my right, who had decided against that all-important morning shower and was taking the opportunity the bus ride provided to dig around in her seemingly bottomless pack. Think “Mary Poppins after a year or 2 on meth” and you’ll get the picture.
Anyway, we eventually arrived at the trailhead, but by the time we got there the sun was nearly up, so in spite of a near jog down to Ohh Ahh point, we arrived several minutes after the sun did. However, the view was still stunning – sunrise or no:
After a VERY brief pause at Ohh Ahh point, we got cranking on down the trail at a good pace. The day had dawned cool, with a slight breeze – ideal for hiking. Rodney (Christine’s dad) warned us repeatedly about the heat that was to come, but at this point the day was cool and comfortable and we were still full of enthusiasm, ambition, and cheery attitudes.
Those of you who may be familiar with the trails in the Grand Canyon may recognize that Ohh Ahh point lies on the South Kaibab Trail, a little less than a mile from the trailhead. If you are not familiar with the Kaibab Trail, but would like to learn a little more, the National Park Service has provided this handy PDF chocked full of information. You may notice the warnings about hiking all the way down to the river and back up again in one day in that PDF: They’re not kidding. The whole way down Rodney regaled us with tales of hikers who had attempted that hike with poor preparation and wound up in serious trouble, with major injuries, or even losing their life.
This was, of course, the hike we were planning to do. If you are planning to hike the Grand Canyon, do yourself a favor and hike the South Kaibab Trail down to Cedar Ridge. Then, after enjoying the view and bolstering your confidence in your hiking prowess, turn around and hike right back out. Trust me.
Unless, of course, you have some sort of mental condition that makes you believe a) you know better than the National Park Service (they’ve been at this for a while now) and b) for some reason your body is not susceptible to the dangers of dehydration, exhaustion, or gravity. That appears to be the attitude we all adopted as we bravely and blithely continued meandering down the trail.
The views on the way down are spectacular:
We stopped frequently to photograph the canyon, have a snack and a drink, and rest briefly. Spirits stayed high, but by the time we were finally in view of the river, I was beginning to become very concerned about how much elevation we had lost and subsequently would have to gain to get back out that afternoon.
The bridge at the bottom was a welcome sight – but also appeared with a hefty weight of trepidation knowing that now we were down, and the only way out was back up. The entrance to the bridge is a tunnel cut right through the rock face – we are still smiling, so things can’t be all that bad yet….
We expected it would be significantly hotter at the bottom of the canyon – and it was. But the coolness of the river seemed to absorb some of the heat. By this time I was VERY ready for the anticipated rest stop at Phantom Ranch at the bottom, but I did take a few moments to get some shots on and around the bridge:
We planned to eat lunch there and rest for a little while before starting the trek up Bright Angel trail. Here is a shot of us finally entering Phantom Ranch – really ready for a break.
We started with soaking our hats and bandannas in water, taking off our packs and sitting down at a picnic table outside the little trading post they have there. I took out some water and started to take some drinks – and began eating. This is where things for me began to go from “hey, this is a fun hike!” to “That’s it, I’m going to die.” I was really surprised how quickly I went from feeling pretty good to feeling really terrible… Christine and I retreated into the trading post to sit where it was cooler, and to buy some lemonade. While trying to enjoy a glass of cold lemonade we filled out some postcards that would be delivered US Mail on the back of a mule out of the canyon to our kids. This is when I really began to realize not only the physical toll that the hike had taken on my body, but the mental one as well… I could not think of the right words. I could not remember our address. I could not remember where the stamp goes on the postcard (hint: in the box clearly labeled “Place Stamp Here”).
As I was working on trying to figure out how to fill out a postcard, a guy sitting across the table (who had been slumped over with his head down when we came in) perked up and casually asked if we were Canadians or something. We got to chatting and it turned out that he was doing a rim to rim to rim RUN that day – he’d started on the South rim that morning, had been down to the bottom and back up to the north rim already, and was now BACK down at the bottom getting ready to run (you read that correctly) back up to the south rim.
He had to explain this to me multiple times before I understood the madness that he was pursuing… And unfortunately he was in a similar mental and physical state that I was – i.e., not doing great. He had been doing this run with a friend, but when he started to feel sick at the bottom his friend decided that the best course of action was to ditch him and take off alone… so we invited him to join our party.
I figured I needed to just cool off and both rehydrate and eat more, so that’s what we did.. we rested at Phantom Ranch for as long as we could, but knowing that the hike out was up next, we knew we needed to get going or we’d never get out of the canyon. So after what I thought was way too short of a break we loaded up all our gear (I was starting to feel a little better) and started off.
There is not a lot that I can show you about the hike out because I didn’t actually take any pictures at all – I was no longer able to exert the mental energy… our goal was singular: get to the top. There were much more frequent stops for water and rest on the way up, and there were a few times we stopped to help other hikers in distress. Christine had a chance to practice her nursing skills on a young woman who had badly banged up her knee, etc.
Now during all the planning stages of this hike and even all the morning down the Kaibab trail Rodney had been warning us about how HOT and miserable the hike out would be up Bright Angel. I’m sure that for most people stupid enough to try this hike that is the reality – but for us on this particular day we got to enjoy a small meteorological miracle: rain. During the afternoon while we were on what had historically been the hottest part of the trail, the skies clouded over and a very light rain fell. It was enough rain to keep you cool but not so much to soak through your clothes. Christine is especially prone to heat-related problems (heat stroke, etc) and for her this was possibly the most wonderful thing that could have happened. As a result of this rain, the hike up was mostly very cool and nice, though difficult given how tired we were.
Even with the rain and a reduced pace, I started to feel ill again. I didn’t know it at the time, but I now realize that while I had been drinking plenty of water, I had not been getting enough electrolytes. On the lower part of the trail we were really only stopping at the more-or-less designated stopping points. The further up we got, the more I had to stop and find a rock to sit on to fight off a mix of nausea, dizziness, and overall fatigue. During one of these stops Tony pulled out what I can only describe as the most magical dried pineapple I’ve ever seen. He offered a few bites to me, and I don’t believe I’ve ever tasted anything quite so perfect for what I needed at the time. That stuff was magical – after a few minutes I was feeling much better and we were able to pick up the pace a bit.
Each time we stopped from then on, I asked for some more pineapple and tried to eat something salty as well. Eventually we neared the top as the sun fell over the far horizon. We stopped several hundred yards from the top as a group and sang “Nearer My God, To Thee”. If you have ever wanted to have a chance at some real introspection, try hiking this canyon and then singing a hymn. Try not to pass out on the long notes.
Before I knew it, we were out of the canyon and stumbling back to the lodge. Christine and I grabbed a late dinner and almost immediately passed out in our room, thankful for the journey we had made and that we returned safely.
The Grand Canyon is a surreal, magical, amazing place. If you ever have a chance to do more than peer over the rim, I highly recommend exploring its depths yourself.
Last year Christine and I decided it was time to sell our house on Cassidy Drive and move on to something that would fit our family better. After walking through too many houses to count, we ultimately decided to build instead of buying something existing. This post will serve as a photo album of the progress of the build process.
When I started really getting serious about my photography habit I spent a considerable amount of time looking at really fantastic images that other photographers had captured. I did this for inspiration as well as to learn the techniques they used and the locations where they shot. One such location that has always stood out to me is a small little slot canyon in northern Arizona known as Antelope Canyon. Located on Navajo land a little ways to the east of the city of Page, the canyon is broken into 2 main sections known as the lower and upper canyons.
For several years I’ve admired shots from other photographers from both the upper and lower sections of this canyon, and have wanted to visit it myself for quite some time. I finally had the chance as Christine and I took an extra day to drive down to the Grand Canyon and stopped in Page to photograph Horseshoe Bend as well as Antelope Canyon.
There are several companies that run tours through both sections of the canyon, and we opted to visit the lower canyon. There are 2 types of tours: walking tour and photographer’s tour. If you are there to photograph the canyon, I strongly recommend you take advantage of the photographer’s tour. You’ll need a tripod and to know how to use your camera’s manual settings to make the most of the tour. The canyon is a very popular destination, and is going to be full of people but the photo tours are kept to relatively small groups of people and the guides will clear all the other tourists out each chamber or area of the canyon so you can avoid shots full of tourists. Christine opted for the walking tour, and I set off on the photographer’s tour. Our guide did a great job with knowing where the light would be best, and pointing out specific items to photograph along the way. Several of the other people in my group had been on this tour multiple times, and reported that they always find something new and interesting to shoot in the canyon.
This canyon is formed from petrified sandstone that is very red in appearance and full of undulating layers of slightly different shades. The rock structures truly look like something from another planet, and once you are in the deep end of the canyon there is only very diffuse, reflected sunlight that penetrates the depths. Along the way, the light is colored more and more red, as it reflects off the red rocks. The result is that it is very easy to find areas of the canyon that literally look like they are glowing hot coals.
Many many people have waxed poetic about this canyon, and my weakness in writing lends me to believe I should leave the attempts to convey the beauty and awe of this place to someone more capable, but I will say this: Being in this canyon moved me. It is magnificent.
I shot more than a thousand frames in the canyon. Here are just a few of my favorites: