Every April, the Skagit Valley in Washington State erupts in color with the annual Tulip Festival. I had an opportunity to visit the festival this week (April 16, 2013) and took some photos. For the most part, the only enhancements to these photos were adjusting brightness and contrast. The colors really are that vivid. I spent most of my time at the RoosenGaarde Gardens, and one of their tulip fields. I doubt the pictures need individual descriptions. Click on any photo to get a larger view. And visit my online gallery at http://www.whidbeyphotos.com. Thanks!
This year was an eventful one for us, mostly good. We hope you are receiving this in health and happiness and that the coming year is prosperous for you and your family.
Sara was promoted to a managerial position at Game Stop where she works at Game Stop in Louisiana. Jake was deployed to Guam for a couple of months late in 2012. They came to visit us in early August and to attend Jake’s mom’s retirement from the Navy. She lives near Sequim.
For the rest of the family, 2012 proved to be eventful. Early in the year, we were able to get a vehicle for Sean. We found a fire-engine red 2003 Mustang for a good price, which was close to Sean’s dream car. He’s now a Senior at Oak Harbor High School. He’s been checking out colleges, and this summer spent a week in Redmond attending a gaming program at DigiPen Institute of Technology.
Alice continued working at NAS-Whidbey Hospital as an oral surgery technician. Rick was “fired” from his Coupeville Chamber job in January so now instead of working three days a week, he volunteers at the Chamber one day per week. Rick replaced his lost income by applying for Social Security.
In March we hosted a Japanese exchange student for 10 days. He didn’t speak much English, but we got along. Sean drove him to school most days. In April, all four of us took a week vacation in Victoria, B.C. For us, that involves a half-hour drive to the ferry terminal in Anacortes, a two-hour ferry trip through the San Juans, then another half-hour drive from Sidney to our resort in Victoria.
We had a two-bedroom unit with a spectacular view of the harbor and Fisherman’s Wharf. We spent a day at Butchart Gardens and Rick, Alice and Sean drove to Sooke for a zipline tour which was a lot of fun, but scary. There were seven zip lines in the tour and several of them were way up high.
A week after returning home, Rick, Alice and Sean went to Tukwila where Rick and Sean went indoor skydiving.
In early May, one of Rick’s former co-workers and his wife visited for a couple of days. We had a great time seeing the sights and talking over old times. On Mother’s Day, Sean and Rick took Alice on the Deception Pass boat tour.
In June, just after Sean’s last school day, Rick, Alice and Sean took the Island Transit bus to the ferry from Clinton to Mukilteo, walked to the train station and rode the train to King Station in Seattle, then rode light rail to downtown where we walked to the cruise terminal.
We boarded the ship for a one-week Inside Passage cruise to Alaska. This was an awesome trip except Rick had a painful back. On the second day of the cruise, Rick and Alice attended a talk about acupuncture and back pain. Rick signed up immediately and after being thoroughly punctured, he was able to walk upright and with little pain. A second treatment helped even more and saved the cruise for him.
We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway with a visit to the Sawyer Glacier and Mendenhall Glacier. We took a bus trip up White Pass to the Klondike, saw a bear along the way. The food was awesome and we ate ourselves into a stupor almost every evening
The last day in July, just before Sara and Jake showed up for their visit, Rick had an acute case of vertigo, ended up in the emergency room and spend the night in the hospital. It took a couple of weeks for the dizziness to go away.
In August, Sean turned 17 and a month later started his Senior year at high school. Rick entered three of his photos-on-canvas in the annual Coupeville Arts & Crafts Festival, and sold two of them. He also had four photos-on-canvas on display at the Oak Harbor Library during the month of August. He continues to sell is Whidbey Island photo books, prints, calendars and other products.
Alice had one of her Deception Pass Bridge photos accepted for the KOMO Weather calendar.
That’s about it for this year. Sean will be visiting his sister in Louisiana during the Christmas break.
If you haven’t visited us yet, please make 2013 the year to come see us. We’d love to have you visit and have the chance to show you around. If you’ve visited before, time for another trip up North.
Please keep in touch and let us know how life is treating you!
Whale Watching Tour
September 7, 2011
I signed up for an Island Adventures Whale Watching Tour out of Anacortes on September 7. Departure time was 11 a.m. Weather was picture perfect. Warm, calm, no breeze. I left home about 9 a.m. for a 10 O’clock check-in time. We boarded the Island Adventurer III at about 10:30, and departed the Cap Sante Marina at 11 a.m.
We sailed out toward the San Juan Islands with another whale-watching boat pacing us. We saw harbor seals and other wildlife on the way, along with some kayakers, container boats, a cruise ship, ferries, and personal water craft of all sizes.
The only wind was that generated by us moving, and the only waves caused by boats. There were a few places where a light wind kicked up for a moment or two, but most of the day was calm.
It soon became clear that we would be heading out, far, far out along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, beyond Victoria, past Port Angeles. The other whale-watching boat turned back, and we began to wonder if we’d find whales or not.
Finally the crew of a container ship radioed that they had sighted Orcas nearby. In half-an-hour we were near the container ship and began seeing the whales. Over the next hour we enjoyed a whale of a show, including breaching Orcas.
While water craft are prohibited from approaching within 200 yards of Orcas, the Orcas themselves are allowed to get as close to the boats as they want. We were lucky to have one or two surface near our boat.
Photographing whales is as frustrating as it is rewarding. You need a telephoto or zoom lens to get good shots, but a telephoto lens restricts your view. You need to aim where you think a whale might surface, only to hear shouts of “wow” “spectacular” and such on the other side of the boat.
I can’t tell you how many times I looked toward such exclamations only to miss the whale that popped up into my viewfinder at just that moment. Aaargh! The other issue is time. The Orcas might be on the surface for a second or two at most. That’s not a lot of time for you to see and react. The reaction is usually mashing the shutter with a jerk, which blurs the photo. Much different that photographing birds or most other wildlife where you can see it coming and have a much better chance of getting a good shot.
I have much more respect for those who get those awesome shots of Orcas and whales. It takes patience, time, and a huge helping of luck.
We finally sailed for home, arriving in Anacortes two hours late.
A great day of whale watching!
Leaving Home—On Foot
We left home at 4:30 a.m. on Friday, carrying all our luggage, and walked to the bus stop near our home. I was a bit worried because I had somehow strained my lower back the Monday before and it had gotten worse, not better so any time standing or sitting my back tightened up and I walked all bent over. On the move it wasn’t too bad.
We rode the bus to the Clinton ferry terminal, took the ferry to Mulkiteo and walked to the train station. The train dropped us at King Station in Seattle at about 7:30 a.m. We killed about an hour there, then took light rail to down town. Total cost for the trip: $6.00 a person.
Alice had packed a light breakfast for us which we ate on the train. Once downtown, we went to the indoor mall and looked around for a while. Then we retired to the food court as Sean was hungry. McDonald’s was still selling breakfast, so we waited a while and Sean got his quarter pounder meal. Alice and I had more sensible lunches (noodles for Alice and a caesar salad for me).
Checking In—Line Up!
It had started raining as we began our final trek to the cruise terminal, a couple of blocks north of Pike Place Market. When we arrived at Pier 66, the check-in process had already begun and we joined the line. We got our luggage checked and got ourselves checked in and on the boat (Celebrity Infinity) by 2:30 p.m. Check-in involves the typical metal-detector (place your hand-carried luggage and everything in your pockets on the conveyer and step through here), but what I didn’t realize was that we would repeat the procedure aboard ship every time we returned from going ashore.
We had an inside stateroom which was (barely) large enough for the three of us. A queen-size bed for Alice and me, and a small loveseat/sofabed for Sean. His legs kind of hung off the edge if he stretched out. Our room had a modern television, an adequate bathroom, and sufficient storage.
After getting stowed away, and attending the mandatory “what to do if the boat sinks” lecture, we went exploring. The only place open for food at the time was the hamburger/hotdog place near the pool. Since our dinner seating was 8:30 p.m., we decided to have a tide-me-over, which for Sean meant a hamburger and a hotdog with fries.
The boat was scheduled to depart at 4 p.m. but we didn’t actually leave the dock until 5 p.m. because one of the supply trucks broke down. The rain continued and a fog moved in, so we were unable to see Whidbey Island as we passed. That set kind of a pattern for much of the trip; morning and evening fog with some rain during the day. Sunshine was very rare.
“Poke me, my back hurts!”
Our first full day (Saturday) was at sea. After breakfast, we looked around the ship and attended a program by the on-board naturalist. We tried to catch as many of his programs as possible because he was excellent. Afterwards Alice and I attended an acupuncture talk that focused on, guess what? Lower back pain. Since pain killers weren’t helping and my back wasn’t getting any better, we decided to sign up for an appointment that afternoon. I had never had acupuncture before and was skeptical and kind of nervous. But, while expensive, it did work and I was able to stand upright and move without much pain. While my back still hurt, it no longer limited my range of movement and I no longer yelled when turning over in bed.
We tried to make most of the entertainment, all of which as far as I could see, was family friendly. The comedian was super funny, the magician excellent, and the Broadway-type shows very good.
Our first stop was Ketchikan, one of the few places we actually had some sunshine, fleeting though it was. We hadn’t signed up for any excursions there so we got off the boat and just looked around the tourist shops near the port. There were two other cruise ships docked there as well (they can handle four), so the town was rather full.
After buying some souvenirs—fudge and Sean bought two giant-sized jaw breakers—we walked around town until it started to rain.
A couple of images of downtown Ketchikan, our first stop.
Up Early for Icebergs!
We were up early the next morning as we were entering the Tracy Arm Fjord and the Sawyer Glacier. We were actually able to get relatively close to the glacier, we were told, which was unusual. The scenery was awesome, which icebergs in the water all around us (some with harbor seals), imposing mountains wrapped in fog, with dozens of waterfalls. One or two of the icebergs were the rare iridescent blue color.
While it was a bit cold, we got no rain. After we left Tracy Arm, Alice and I took advantage of the mineral pool and hot tub and soaked ourselves for a while. Due to the weather, few people other than a few brave kids used the outdoor pool.
Foggy, but no rain.
This is a narrow passage for a cruise ship. Someone said we even scraped bottom at one point, getting close to the glacier.
There were literally hundreds of small waterfalls descending from these magnificent mountains.
The scenery was awesome!
Take a look at these stunning icebergs, art in motion.
Yes, it was really this blue. Something about old, compressed ice losing oxygen turns the ice blue. Just like us, I guess.
Some of the icebergs even had harbor seals on them.
Juneau We Are Almost Late?
That afternoon we pulled into Juneau. We were the fourth ship and had no place to dock. We got to shore on the ship’s tenders. Our arrival time was scheduled for 2:30 and we had an excursion scheduled for 3:30 which would have worked fine if we had been able to simply walk off the ship. Luckily we actually got there about 1:30. We had gotten our excursion through the web site were we purchased the cruise. The excursions purchased from the ship were more expensive but had an added bonus: If the ship was late, the tour would wait, and if the tour was late getting back, the ship would wait. There was some problem with the tenders and we didn’t get on one until 3:15. By the time we got to the pier and off the tender it was just 3:30 and we had quite a walk to meet our bus. We made it, barely, the last three on the bus.
Unlike the cruise-bought tours which used full-size buses, we were able to tour Juneau as well as a small part of Douglas Island and West Juneau. Then it was off to the Mendenhall Glacier. There was a huge waterfall off to one side of the glacier, and a trail to hike out to it, but we weren’t there long enough for that, so we just hiked out to the glacier viewpoint down from the visitor center. After returning to town, we went to the public library and checked e-mail (cost of Internet access on the ship was prohibitively expensive).
It was an interesting day. We heard later that some of the cruise-bought tours had actually been cancelled because they couldn’t get all the people off the boat in time. So we were lucky.
Juneau didn’t impress me as a place I’d like to visit on a regular basis. It has no roads to the outside; the only way in is by boat or plane. It is not a large city, with about 32,000 people very spread out. The “downtown” area is mostly tourism and in the winter it basically shuts down.
Visiting the Mendenhall Glacier…
This glacier has been receding about 100 feet per year.
Colder Than A Cast-Iron Commode in the Klondike
The next morning we arrived at Skagway, gateway to the Klondike gold rush. Since the gold was in Canada, gold-seeking Americans arriving in Skagway had to haul their stuff up and over White Pass. The Canadian government required they bring one ton of supplies to see them through the winter, which meant the gold prospectors had to make many trips up the pass. Sometimes thieves would steal a stash and sell it to other miners.
We took a bus trip tour of Skagway (which is largely devoted to the tourist trade) and then up to White Pass into the Klondike. On the way up, the driver stopped the bus on the road so we could photograph a bear eating vegetation alongside the road. We actually entered Canada for a short time and got another view of sunshine along with incredible vistas. Sean and I (among a few other people) won a prize for using the very un-serviced outhouses at the top of the pass.
Back in Skagway, we went to the town cemetery and a hike up to a waterfall. After going back to the ship and having lunch, Alice and I walked to town to look in the shops and a museum. The wind started picking up and on our way back, we almost got blown off the pier.
We saw a bear!
A stop in the Klondike where people build these good-luck rock people. There are acres of them.
A great view from the Klondike.
Woozy and Gluttony
After leaving Skagway, we had two days at sea. The first one was a little rough and all three of us had some motion sickness. Sean and I got better and went to the buffet brunch where we ate ourselves silly. Alice spent much of the day in bed and ordered room service.
The food was pretty much awesome. There were three restaurants on the ship that charged an additional fee to eat there, a couple of them $40 a person. We weren’t about to do that, so can’t comment on the quality of the food (nor did we eat in any of the towns when we had food we’d already paid for on the ship). The main restaurant was uniformly excellent and most of us, most of the time, ordered multiples of something (soup and salad, two entrees, or two desserts, and sometimes, especially for Sean, all three). I liked the fact that the right side of the menu changed each night, but the left side stayed the same (with staples like chicken, salmon, and steak). So we always had a choice of about six or seven appetizers, six or seven soup/salad, six or seven main courses, and the same for desserts.
The other main restaurant was more of a cafe-style where you got in line to get your food. We mostly ate breakfast and lunch there. Sean used room service a couple of times because he could play games on his iPod, watch TV and stuff himself.
One of the classes we attended was “How to Cook the Perfect Steak” and when we got home Alice tried it and it worked. The steak she cooked was one of the best I’d ever eaten.
Our last stop was Victoria, B.C. but since we’d spent a week there in April, we stayed on the boat. We docked at 6 p.m. so the first dinner seating was moved up an hour to 5 p.m. and our seating a half-hour to 8 p.m. This meant that when we went to dinner, almost everyone else was in Victoria. Including us, there were three groups on our side of the restaurant. We had great service that night!
Home and Final Thoughts
The next morning we were back in Seattle. Getting off the ship was a fairly painless process. Our original plan was to kill time until the 3:30 train left King Station, dropped us at Mukilteo, onto the ferry, then catch a bus home, reversing what we had done the previous Friday. However, we were all anxious to get home so we decided to splurge. With a little help from our daughter in Louisiana, who looked up the phone number for Whidbey-SeaTac Shuttle, we made reservations to be picked up at 11 a.m. (the shuttle makes cruise terminal runs Fri-Sun), so we ended up getting home at 1:30 instead of around 7 p.m.
We had a great time. The service was excellent. I didn’t like the idea of paying almost $50 for a soda package, so twice a day I got my fizz fix from our stateroom fridge at $2.00 a can. Everything you do on the ship that costs money also costs a gratuity (even the cost of the acupuncture treatment). The standard gratuity for your restaurant server (and whoever else gets some of it) and room steward is automatically added to your bill on a daily basis unless you choose to adjust it.
Smoking is allowed on the ship, but only in specific areas. Unfortunately, some of those areas are where everybody else has to walk to get from one end of the boat to the other. Although the ship was (we were told) full, there were only a few times when we felt there were too many people. Usually sufficient activities were available to handle everyone.
Would we go again? Absolutely, although we’d wish for better weather.
“Foggy Ebey” was taken from the Ebey’s Prairie overlook near Sunnyside Cemetery during the early morning. The entire prairie was blanketed in fog, and I zoomed in on this farm (the Jenne Farm, I believe) all the way across the prairie.
I manipulated the image to enhance the fog as much as possible. I also removed some of the color and gave it a sepia tone. It has a soft, and old-fashioned look to it and you can almost hear Ma calling the ranch hands in to breakfast.
Images captured under less than ideal conditions can really benefit from enhancement and adjustment in the computer. Early morning and late afternoon offer opportunities to get some amazing shots, and the computer can help your bring out those details that you saw with your eyeballs, but were lost to the camera in shadow.
Digital photography creates a computer file that can be stored in more than one place by simply copying it to a thumb drive, an optical disk (CD, DVD, BluRay), or in the cloud. This is probably very elementary advice, but it took me a couple of months to learn it: Never alter your original image that came from the camera. Always use Save As to give your modified file a different name (I simply add to the filename a code that tells me which application I used to create that file).
Manipulation almost always degrades the image to a certain extent, so having that original file to go back to is a valuable resource.
And you never know what the future will hold. Someday, someone may develop an application that might provide amazing capabilities. If you have your original, unaltered images, that gives you the opportunity to start from ground zero.
The great thing about digital image files is that they are not going to fade over time like prints and negatives are wont to do; nor are you as likely to misplace them. Losing them, however, is the same pain in the patootie as your spouse tossing that shoe box full of priceless negatives by accident.
You need to back up your image files. The more places, the better. This can be a daunting task if you’re an avid photographer. After seven years, I’ve accumulated almost 400 gigabytes of photos (with some video mixed in). Those cloud services that advertise “unlimited storage for $50 a year” choke, spit, sputter, cough, and break wind at the thought of 400 gb of “unlimited” storage.
So I use a couple of external hard drives to back up my images, one of which I try to store somewhere other than my home. I also copy better images to optical disks. Just like people, hard drives fail. Disks get lost, broken, or simply go bad.
If you don’t back up your images, eventually you will lose them. Then you will hate yourself. Save that hate for someone who really deserves it (like politicians) and back up your files.
Lighthouse in the Fog is a 30×24″ Gallery Wrap with 1.5″ edges. It depicts the Admiralty Head Lighthouse on Whidbey Island during a foggy morning with the sun trying to break through. This is an unusual and dramatic depiction of this iconic landmark.
I’m loving this new world of digital photography. I grew up with black-and-white film cameras and spent many, many hours sniffing darkroom chemicals. I even set up my own darkroom in my parents’ bathroom, having purchased my own chemicals, trays, paper, lights, and enlarger.
When I put away my twin-lens reflex camera and moved into 35mm color photography it broadened my horizons significantly. There were problems, however. Without an investment of tens of thousands of dollars, you had to send your rolls of film off to a lab and wait until they were returned to see if you got the picture you wanted. And it was up to the lab equipment how the finished product looked.
Today that has all changed. Most, if not all, digital cameras have a view screen that lets you get at least a preliminary opinion of your capture. Once back home, your images can be downloaded to your PC and manipulated, cropped, adjusted. Modestly advanced practitioners can remove (or add) people or objects, change backgrounds, alter colors, move elements, and just about anything else. It doesn’t take a laboratory to modify even modest-resolution images taken by phones, toys, and tablets.
In fact, the entire concept of a photograph is changing constantly and is no longer simply the image you saw in your viewfinder.
Fundamentals remain unchanged, however. The finished product, different as it may be from the original, needs to make that artistic connection with the viewer. Today, taking 100 photos costs next to nothing. In the old days that meant the cost of three or four rolls of film, the cost of processing the film, and the cost of printing– no ink jet printers back then!
I tend to do most of my image enhancement on the PC, and thus leave the camera settings in a more neutral position. Someone looking at images directly from my camera would not be impressed. This image of the Admiralty Head Lighthouse was cropped to fit the size of the canvas. It was processed through various filters to enhance detail, contrast, and color, with a goal of making the image match what I saw in my mind’s eye at the location.
I’ve been working to get some of my photos onto stretched canvas. Living in the Pacific Northwest it’s very easy to get awesome photos, but it’s difficult to put them on something that’s easy to display and looks nice. Framed and matted prints do the trick, and I have many available at my online gallery, but they can be expensive.
I’ve found that photos on canvas are a great way to display fine art. Canvas is light, less prone to damage and done correctly, they last for many decades. Here is an example of photo art on canvas:
This canvas is $125 plus tax (and shipping if needed). The actual canvas is gallery wrapped which means the image continues around the outside edges of the frame unlike as pictured above with a black edge.
The Deception Pass Bridge in fog is an iconic image of this 75-year-old structure. If you’re interested in owning this canvas, contact me at email@example.com. Otherwise, just enjoy the scene.