Burning Man 2008

This is my trip report for Burning Man 2008, my first time. I am starting with an overview of the events; the journey, followed by short essays on several topics.

Overview

Bus en routeFinal load was Saturday, as was departure. I would have liked to have left more on schedule than we did. We had intended on leaving my place with the bus at 9AM that day, but due to last-minute loading (not everyone was available for the pre-load the day before), we weren’t able to get out of town until closer to 3PM that afternoon.

There was lots of group-dynamic stress that came about from this. The people we picked up on the way (who blessedly had only a modest amount of stuff) had to wait a while to go. But finally, we were all ready to go.

It was a good feeling to get out on the road, southerly-bound for the desert of Nevada. I was finally on my way to Burning Man. For the first time ever. It was exciting!

We stopped many times along the way to get supplies that various of us needed. Groceries, liquor, etc. There were more stops than we could have done it in, but this part wasn’t very well scheduled. Oh well, no big deal.

The driving took longer than anticipated to reach our stop. The goal had been to stop in Lakeview, OR that night, but due to the late start, it wasn’t to be. We ended up pulling into Bend, OR around 3AM, and found the only motel with rooms available that night. We all doubled up (and doubled-up again) and slept four to a room. I ended up sleeping next to Scottie.

Then the next morning, we had a good breakfast at the IHOP in Bend. The food was pretty good, and it was nice to eat a hot meal.

We then drove from there to Black Rock City. The drive was mostly uneventful. The pass at Cedar Pass was troublesome for the bus. On the way down, we had to pull out because of the massive load on the breaks. There was the strong stench of burning breaks, and a little smoke.

As we neared BRC, we stopped to help some young women whose RV had broken down. Really, all we did was stop, and take a message for them to post at Playa Info for their friends. Entry to the city took a long time.

We joined the long line of cars along NV-447 that runs along the western side of the Black Rock Playa. The string of taillights wound around the desert much like a serpent might. I stared off into the distance at the line of cars, and eventually to the flood lamps of the greeters stations that lead into Black Rock City.

It took a long time for us to get from the road by Gerlach to the actual entrance to the city. But we did it. Along the way of waiting in line for greeters station, a couple of our bus passengers bailed out to go collect their tickets from will-call. I was alarmed that they did this, but didn’t worry about it too much, or say anything. Off they went into the night.

From that point, we continued on. I read the signs that line the way, full of ideograms and sayings from various writers. Lots of very American sayings. Neat stuff.

Eventually, we reached the first greeters station, where they checked us for stow-aways, and took our tickets. We did all that, it was easy and straight-forward. Next, we passed to the real greeters station, where we were welcomed home. Those of us who were newbies had to ring the bell, and were made to do dust angels. We laid in the dirt, and did like you would in the snow; thus, dust-angels were made.

Then, we proceeded into the city, and dropped off our non-camp riders at their various places. Dawn rose over the playa while we were unloading our riders’ possessions. I had hoped to be camped by now, but it wasn’t to be.

Then we made our way to where our camp was. I awoke Todd (who was our camp mapper) and got home to specify where the bus should be parked. We parked the bus, and set about setting up our camp. Then it became time for me to go off to my volunteering with Camp Arctica/9, all the way across the middle emptiness of the city. This ended up being a bike-ride by the man, and was when I got my best view of the man. It was perhaps 8:20 in the morning, and already the sun was high in the sky.

I got to Ice Camp early, perhaps 8:30. So I had a bit of a wait before me. This was my first day on playa, and I’d been up since we left the motel the previous morning, so I wasn’t certain of myself yet. I could have explored around the 9 o’clock plaza, but I didn’t. What I did do was let a lot of people know that “no, we’re not open yet. Come back after 9am.” Eventually a few people decided to wait with me. There was a lovely young woman, topless and unconcerned. She sat down, and we talked some. I don’t remember her name, or what we spoke of.

Eventually Frozen Monkey (Brian) showed up, and we were able to begin the process of opening. We still had to wait for the cash-registers to arrive, but no big deal. Time passed, the things necessary arrived. I helped out in a variety of ways. I slung some ice, and did things that needed doing. It was good. Around 10:30 or 11AM the dust began to pick up. The wind blew. The rest of the shift was a little more interesting from the difficulties that the blowing dust provided, but it was done. The tips from the day were split among the crew. Three dollars. That’s nice. We also get a complementary bag of ice for each shift we worked.

So I then left. I rode my bike around the esplanade back to camp. This took a while, and I had a pretty good time doing so. The blowing dust made it harder for me to bike. Biking with a particle mask on is a harder thing than I anticipated. I made it back to camp, and was tired. I helped Janice set up her tent, and then I took a nap.

I’d have slept until evening, but I was roused by my camp-mates when they were having trouble with securing one of the structures and needed my help. So I got up, and helped out. From there, I don’t remember very well how things went. I don’t even remember where I slept that evening. I know my tent wasn’t up yet (because I had gone to volunteer with Ice Camp).

Unfortunately, a lot of my memory of the week after this is a blur, and I can’t say precisely how it was spent. I wasn’t on any drugs, so I have no excuse there. ;) The following are my writings on various topics that I thought about after the event.

The Dust

Blowing, gusty
It flows over and
Through everything.

I feel swept up
And Carried to
New places
And dreams.

The dust at Burnign Man 2008 was truly amazing. On Monday, we rolled into the city at about 3AM. The greeters station follow, a man of medium build and with a big, black beard and bright eyes greeted us. He made us get off the bus and lay down in the playa. He had us do dust angels, six of us together, our heads touching as we lay on the black rock playa.

I remember smiling and laughing during this. It felt childish and good.

The day progressed; we let off our riders at their camps. Then we went to our home in Gigsville and did some setup. The wind began to pick up, and the dust blew ’round.

Then it grew into a storm, sustained gusts and streams of dust flowing across the ground. I was at Ice Camp when this began.

We didn’t manage to get our shade structure set up for tea, but no one came by that day, anyway. It was too dusty and windy to do anything. I couldn’t set up my tent in theis kind of weather. I think I slept on the bus. The next four days, Tuesday through Friday, were much nicer; the skies were calm and blue, with light clouds, and only occasional gusts of dust. They were beautiful, and tea was well done.

On Saturday, the weather turned harsh again, and we had whiteout conditions all day long. There was even talk among the BRC Rangers of delaying or not conducting the burn that night. But eventually that evening the winds did die down, and the burn of the man was able to go off. The fire performers were cancelled, however. I’m sure their hearts were heavy and upset. I’d have been angry had all my preperation for performing there been cancelled due to the wind.

On Sunday, we had to pack up camp, and prepare to leave. We did this during the day, before the Temple burn that night. The winds were pretty reasonable until shortly after noon, when they picked up and behaved a lot more like the previous day and like Monday. We got most of our packing done, but not all of it. We had intended to take refuge in one of our Costco Carports that evening after the burn.

That evening, I went to the Temple Burn. It was a beautiful experience. Right before the burn, the Playa gifted me with a bandana. How odd. It even had hot peppers printed all over it. Just my style. Then the temple burned. Towards the end of the burn, the winds and dust picked up. It began to blow hard. By the time the temple collapsed and fell, there was a great storm brewed. I noted the direction of the wind before the temple fell in. Then after the burn, I oriented myself by the wind, and walked back to camp. This was no where as easy as I make it sound. The wind was driving, and the air was full of dust. It was harsh. Eventually, I saw the shadow of Ubie against the dark nights sky. This was great! I was nearly back. When I got within a hundred yards or so of camp, Ubie lit up, bright and tall. I made it back to camp, and stumbled into the bus, cold and filthy.

I slept for a few hours, and then I was roused by Jake; we had to get everything together to go! It was hard. The weather still blew, and I was cold, cold in my bones. But we packed, and I was cold. And we got the packing done.

Dusts of the Playa

The dust of the playa gets into everything. This is very hard to believe or understand without having been there. I thought before going, “how bad can it really be?” But when you’re there, you come to understand. The wind blows the dust, and the dust makes its way into everything. Even sealed containers. Even your food. Even your drink. Everything you bring to the playa will be bathed in the dirt.

The dust was amazing.

Gigsville and our Uberman (Ubie)

Gigsville.
Fuck off.
He said with a smile.

They’re all assholes
so they’ve said.

I don’t buy it; never did.

When I’m in Gigsville,
fuck off means
I missed you.

Ubie
Ubie led me
Home at night.

Cold blowing winds
Or just drunken
Stumbling.

He waves to me.
Time for Pie.

Red-Orange glow
In the great sea
of Night

Gigsville is a big community. And at Burning Man, Gigsville is a village. This means it’s a collection of affiliated theme (and non-theme) camps that share space (and friends). Gigsville has two mayors. For the year colmunating with BM’08, they were Normal and Jet Fuel. Both wonderful people. They wrangle the village, interacting as a single point of contact with BMOrg, and as a central agency of social and geographical means.

Gigsville is one of the older villages. They’ve been around for 11 years. This year, the gate to the village hung a banner that read “Gigsville 2nd annual tenth anniversery.”

Normal and Jet Fuel are both wonderful people. They willingly took on the mantle of being responsible for a huge amount of work for a huge number of people. They worked literally second jobs in making Gigsville be a success. I really appreciate them.

Gigsville has its own man. This man is called the Uberman, or Ubie for short within the camp. Dishearteningly, the man is known outside the village as “The Time-for-Pie guy”.

Ubie is a 40 foot tall metal structure wreathed with neon lamps, and air-raid sirens. Ubie this year held an American flag and a cross, firmly mocking the theme this year, The American Dream. Ubie was lit every night. His light was bright Red-Orange, and was visible more than a mile away on the other side of the city. His head is an inverted triangle, with a pair of glowing eyes. In his chest is a sign that reads Time For Pie, with a Whirlygig man, and a letter G, and the word “Gigsville” below that. He has a perimeter fence surrounding him. Any time someone violated that perimeter, the air raid sirens would go off. This did a great job of keeping people from fucking with him.

I found the presence of him to be very reassuring and helpful to me. When I was elsewhere in the city, I could use Ubie to find my way home quickly. He was almost always visible at night, and he stood out.

He literally led me home on several nights.

This year was Ubie’s last year in his current form. He’s too broken and too tough to maintain. Next year, he’ll be something else.

Good travels and thansk for bringing me home, Ubie.

Self

I feel like I leanred a lot about myself at BM this year. This was my first year attending, and it was awesome.

I learned that for me radical self-relaiance is not so much about the physical world, and the event. That part was fairly managable for me. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly difficult, either. For me, it’s really more about hte mental and emotional components. I feel like the event tested me from an emotional stance. It was both wonderful and hard to do.

For me, the most lonely part of the whole time at Burning Man was when I was at the Burn of the Man. I was alone, among a sea of people. But I wasn’t with anyone I knew, or that meant anything to me. I thought most at that time that I wished Melissa had been along.

I aclimated to the weather, the dust, the sun, and the wind after a couple days. Monday and Tuesday were hard. By Wednesday, I Was Just There. I could do fine in the day, or the night. I felt fine physically.

I feel thinner and stronger after leaving the experience. I didn’t eat nearly as much as I should have for the exertion of things. I brought home a lot of food. I walked all the time. I think I probably walked about 10 miles a day, and at most, 25 miles. The whole experience was very big. I did a lot, saw a lot, learned a lot, and felt a lot.

Melissa

I missed my wife a lot while I was on the playa. I thought about her often, especially when I encountered something that I thought she might enjoy, appreciate, or value.

Being apart from my close and wonderful wife for nearly two weeks was hard. It’s been very rare in our relationship to be apart for a long time, and I missed her a lot. We have a close relationship, and I value that.

Melissa, I love you.

Friends, new and old

I ran into a lot of people that I know from around the Seattle area while I was at Burning Man. It was great to run into them, to hug them, to reconnect. I’d been absent from the Seattle scene due to preparing for BM, ironically. We had build days the same day as the social event in Seattle that I attend.

I also made some new friends while at the event. Some were from Gigsville, some from Seattle, some from other places entirely.

I had the chance to meet people from Gigsville, and I was really glad to do so. They’re great people.

CatCatI made a really great new friend. She camps in Gigsville, and she’s from Colorado. We talked a great deal, and I felt a real and strong connection with her. Solid friendship was made, and I didn’t expect to do so at all. We spoke at length, and openly. We told each-other our stories. I still miss her.

From Seattle, I met KatiePie while volunteering at Ice Camp. I was being shy that first day of volunteering; tired and more than a little overwhelmed, and Katie came up and said hello to me. We talked, and got along well. Later on, at the Ice Camp volunteer party, we talked more. She talked about her relationship (both the good and the bad, and its on the balance more for the good), of her becoming a cosmotologist, and lots of other things.

I also ran into several existing friends from around. Drunken/Frozen Monkey from INW/Seattle. Rob/Anybody who I’ve known for a while. Reba, who I first met at Critical Massive earlier this year, and others from Seattle and Portland.

I continue to feel a lot of joy and happiness at the openness and closeness that I found in the Burner community. It feels like home, and it feels like the friends I never had before.

Growing up, I was home-schooled until the 5th grade. Being home-schooled, I didn’t really get socialized with kids. I was around adults a lot more. This was a real problem for me when I finally got to public school in the 5th grade. I was terrible with the other kids. I couldn’t relate to them. It’s taken me a long time to realize how terrible homeschooling was for me. It took me a long time to make any friends at all. For a long time, starting earlier than 5th grade, and lasting until 9th grade, I had no friends. None at all.

That hurt so much. But now I feel like I’ve got community, and friends for real. And I find real connection with people in this rabble. We’ve all had our problems, but we’ve also found each other now.

Rob AnybunnyOverall, I was surprised at the quickness of friendships, and all our willingnesses to share. In talking about this, people hold a variety of views as to why this is. Some feel that it’s because of the harshness of conditions. Others feel that the environment is one of more openness, where we’re willing to walk around with fewer masks up. I feel that it’s these reasons, and others.

I know I’ve made some real friends. People who I’ll stay in contact with as time passes. Rather than just the sort who I meet, we talk, and then drift away from each other. I’m happy about that.

I was sad to leave. I miss the friends I’ve made, and the experience. I look forward to seeing them again.

Art

The art at Burning Man was really good. It ranged from huge works like the Temple Basura Sargrada and the Flaming Lotus Girls to smaller works like the Iron Monkeys’ Cauldron, to small works like individual necklaces made by individual people.

There were many expressions. Of music, of performance, of sculpture, of flat art, and many others.

I don’t feel like I’ve got a lot to say about the art; it was there; it was beautiful.

The most moving piece for me was definitely the Temple, followed by all the really small expressions. Photographs by CatCat, musical performance by Eric, the CarBeQue, an dall the small works by people.

The process of creating is what’s beautiful to me. The action of invocation and evocation of dreams into concepts into reality is the soul of art. Create and you are a god. A god of small, wonderful things.

(Burning) The Man

Stand on your tower
Tall Idol of self.

I watch the flames lick at
Your feet, perched
Atop that fragile tower.

Alone in a crowd,
You (and I) wait until your
Destruction
In Flames.

They cheered when
You fell from your spire,
High above
The Desert floor.

Ashes
Hot Carbon mass.
See you next time.

The man was far from everything. He was placed on a tall wooden tower at the center of the circle that deswcribes the city. That tower could be climbed earlier in the week (though I didn’t), and you could look out and see all the city from there.

I think that placing the man up so high was a mistake — I think that making him so out of touch with everything made him seem like an observer to the event, rather than a participant.

For me, the man was a small part of the event. He was cool to see, and I’m glad I did, but he was removed from things. Always a distant watcher to what happened in the City.

The night of the Burn was a lonely time for me. My camp-mates had all gone to do other things, or weren’t leaving camp to watch. I walked over to the man, half a mile from our camp on the Esplanade, and made myself a place to sit, two rows back from the burn perimeter.

Then I waited. While I waited, I wrote a lot in my journal (of which some has ended up here). This was a good opportunity to get my thoughts and feelings from the week out in a written form. Something more concrete and intelligible than my ramblings by mouth.

Eventually, things began to pick up, and it became apparent that the man would burn. All day Saturday, there had been doubt whether the man would burn or not; the weather was being the sort of weather that might delay or halt a burn that night. Windy and dusty. Whiteout.

We all knew he would burn when his arms raised up to the sky, neon lights blazing in blues and purples. The man raised his arms, and the crowd cheered his coming death.

The man was burned. Fireworks roared to life, and the tower was ignited. Fireballs of jet fuel or propane rose like mushroom clouds up the framework of the tower, setting it ablaze along its height. The man was lit.

Eventually, the man wobbled. We wondered if he’d fall before the tower did, or if the tower would fall and take him. In the end, it seemed to be that man and tower fell at the same time; both crashing to the ground.

The crowd took flight at this time, and raced forward to the flaming wreckage of the Burning Man, swirling around the pyre, dancing, evoking. I was drawn in with the crowd, and circled the man once. It was hot, and bright and good.

Eventually, I broke free from the mob, and looked about. Ubie. I saw Ubie, and he led me home from the Burn. I followed his glow back to Gigsville. The man had burned. The ritual could be repeated next year.

The Temple Basura Sargrada and its Burn

On Saturday morning, I got up and got ready for my day. I filled up my hydration pack, filled an extra bottle of water, and put some energy bars into my pack, but I didn’t eat anything.

I decided that this morning would be my time to go see the Temple. I started walking out to the temple after I got ready. It’s a long walk from where I was camped. About a mile, over the dusty, duney windblown playa.

As I walked there, I thought about the meaning of the temple; a place to contemplate, a place to let go of pain and the past. I thought about things that I wanted to let go, and as I approached the temple, I started to cry. I became upset on my sojourn to that ephemeral shrine in the desert. That place that would be consumed in flame soon.

When I got to the temple, I spent a little time looking around on the ground floor, but quickly decided to climb to the second story. I climbed the double helix spiral staircase that led up into the temple.

I walked around on that floor, and read some of the many things that peole had written there. Some were people asking for forgiveness from others; people saying goodbye to a departed loved-one, copies of divorce decrees stamped Filed, people letting go of anger that they held at themselves or at others.

I had a marker with me, and I added my own things to the temple. Things that I wanted to let go of. Regrets over past things, things that I wanted to pass outside of my Self.

Afer I wrote my statements, I went and sat down on the edge of the floor for a long time. I watched the people come and go, embrace their friends, cry, and simply be. I watched the dust-storms roll along, past the temple, obscuring the people on the ground.

I watched the dust devils 500 feet across race across the playa at 30 miles per hour.

Most of my time in contemplation was done sitting half-way between the sides of the front of the temple, facing out towards the Man. After a time, my friend Cat showed up and waved up to me. She came up into the temple, and I went down and met with her.

She pointed out to me where I had been siting in the Temple. Right above the opening in the middle, right above the words, “Love Is Real.” How beautiful.

I had spent about three hours in contemplation at the Temple. I am not a spiritual or religious person, usually. For me, the experience was deeply spiritual and moving. I felt good after leaving.

Sunday night is the night that the Temple is burned. My camp spent the day on Sunday preparing to go. We packed, and made ourselves mostly ready.

At about 8PM that night, right after the sun had set, I set off for the temple. I took along my camera and tripod, and I photographed the temple burn. I got to the perimeter for the burn, and spoke to a couple temple guardians. They were pleasant. I then walked around the perimeter until Jake called out to me, and I stopped there. I was up-wind of the temple, and it was a good spot.

We talked for a while, and I set myself up for the coming burn.

That night was a cold one. Waiting for the burn, I was cold. I tried (and mostly succeeded) in not letting the cold touch me, but eventually I had to pull out a Mylar emergency blanket. I had prepared poorly for going to the Temple Burn.

The temple was burned, and everyone was solemn during the hour-long burn. I made my way back in the cold to camp.

Food at Burning Man

Food. That thing that we all need, but at Burning Man, that thing I did a poor job of actually partaking of.

I think I managed to have about one real meal each day, and some snacking. On a really good day, I made the time for two meals. So much to see, so much to do.

On Friday, one of my camp-mates, Todd, made a group dinner that was to die for. He made penne pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts in a pesto sauce. He also made fresh dolmades right there on the playa. The food he made was fantastic and delicious, and laden with garlic.

Most of the time, the food I ate was directly out of can, or was a cheese sandwich. I am glad I took mostly canned food, since I ate so little.

Summary

Burning Man was a great experience. I am incredibly glad I went, and I’m looking forward to attending in the future. The harshness of the experience fades as time passes, but the wonder of it grows. I had a really good time, and I can’t wait to go back.

-Gabriel

The end of Ivey, film processing, resources for local (analog) photographers

I heard the other day that Ivey Photo is going out of business today, June 30th. What a shame! They’ve always treated me well as a customer; answering my questions, and being helpful. I’ve been a smallish user of film development through them, and a non-user of their other services (quality printing).

But then I heard last week that they were going out of business, as seen in the Seattle-PI.

So today I stopped in and I thanked them for all the great work they’d done for me; for the help that they’d provided me in being an artist, and doing my art. Jesse, whose last day is today, thanked me for what I’d said. He gave me some resources for other local film development.

I got into photography a long while ago, and I only got good at it when I stopped, slowed down, and used film. I think it was because the process had a lot more labor behind it for me — that for everything I did I had to be sure about my choices because I couldn’t simply correct them on the fly and recover there. I had to know that I was composing things well, and had to commit to the choice of firing the shutter.

I’m writing this post to both promote the local analog photography community, and to bring attention to the existance of the community. Here are some local resources for doing film photography around Seattle:

Film Processing

  • Moonphoto
    7704 Greenwood Ave. N.
    Seattle, WA 98103
    206-783-3377
    moonphotolab.com
    35mm and 120 B&W, C-41, and E-6 film processing, and scanning, darkroom printing, exhibition grade fiber prints, copying of negatives. Pricing is roughly $8.50/roll for development, less if other services are combined with it.
  • Panda Photographic Lab
    533 Warren Ave N.
    Seattle, WA 98109
    206-285-7091
    www.pandalab.com
    C-41, E-6, B&W film development, exhibition grade prints, B&W darkroom prints, digital prints, optical color prints, other services.
  • Film Stop
    508 3rd Ave W
    Seattle, WA 98119

Scanning / Digital

  • Cosgrove Editions
    Dick Busher
    206-524-6726
    Tango Drum Scans, Inkjet prints on archival rag stock, giclee)

Printing / Mounting

  • Wallingford photo center
    1815 n 45th st
    suite 104
    seattle, wa 98103
    206-545-4521
  • Dos Rhinos (Giclee printing)
    31004 28th ave S
    Federal Way, WA 98003
    253-941-3094
  • Color One (Mounting / Finishing)
    Carl Bebe
    411 2nd ave south
    seattle, wa 98104
    206-622-7107

I’m going to miss Ivey being around. Their services were awesome, and it’s a blow to the community for them to be gone. I hope this list proves useful.

Burned out at Burning Man (Sierra Club article)

http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200807/burningman.asp

A friend of mine referred me to this article that is the cover story for the July issue of the Sierra Club’s magazine. The article presents interesting arguments about the balance between the kinds of gigantic, fiery self-expression, about creating community, and changing peoples’ minds through radical expression.

It’s an interesting read, and made me think sovaldi india. It’s an interesting article. Go read it! :)

Take care,
-Gabriel

(Attempting to) Hike from Richmond Beach to Carkeek Park

Amtrak #21 near Richmond Beach Park, Shoreline, WALast Sunday, my family and I went on a hike from Richmond Beach in Shoreline, WA down to Carkeek Park.  Or we tried to, anyway.

We started off by taking the 348 bus from near where we live to Richmond Beach, in Shoreline.  This trip also provided me with an opportunity to try out my new hydration pack that I’d gotten for my upcoming desert camping.

We started out a little later than we wanted; around 1PM.  We got to the end of the bus route, and walked to find the path to the beach.  Now, the 348 stops quite near the beach, but the end of the line is not the stop to get off the bus at.  You should get off earlier in the route before it winds its way down.  Use Metro’s trip planner.

We took the route to the end of the line, and had to climb back up hill some to get to Richmond Beach.  I was struck by how much the park there looks like it’s out of southern California.  The way the hills were covered with Scotchbroom, and the character of the day felt like my trip to SoCal a few years ago.

We ate a snack at the park before heading out.  There is a nice bridge out over the rail tracks, leading to the beach itself.  It was a beautiful day, and many people were out playing.     The kids decided to wade into the Puget Sound while we walked.  This was cool.  Sadly, one of them failed to give us his cellphone before doing so, so he trashed it.

Rail Sign and Tracks

We walked and walked.  As we travelled away from the park, the population of people thinned out.  Eventually, we were nearly alone.  Only a few people walked around as well, and they were far from where we were at.

Eventually, we came to an underpass that led into the forest on the other side of the railroad tracks.

We explored it a little, and found a nice place to sit down and eat.   From there, we continued to head south.  We went around a bend, which you can see it in the second image in this post; the camera is facing north, just past the bend in the background is where the tunnel under the tracks is located.  We continued to walk.  No one was around at this point.  It was around four in the afternoon, and the tide was starting to come in.  We got to about 2 miles from Carkeek before we elected to bail on the trail because the kids were running short on water and hadn’t planned well flagyl 400 mg.  The tide was coming in, and things were getting hairy.

On the way back, I climbed up to the rail grade, and took some shots along there.   I kept my eyes peeled for trains, and saw the Amtrak Coast Starlight when it was two miles away, so I was able to  position myself well, and safely.

We went through the underpass that we’d seen earlier, as it had an obvious trail up and out.

What we didn’t expect to find was big, locked gate on the other end.  Turns out that the underpass there goes to Innis Arden, a private community.  We had to be let out.  It was fortunate that there was someone working out in their yard, otherwise we’d have to go back down, and walk back to Richmond Beach.  The kids would not have enjoyed that. ;-)

We climbed out of the valley, following the road up.  We came across Shoreview park, were we refilled our water containers, and had a good rest.   Then we walked from there up, and came to Shoreline Community College, where we caught the Route 5 Bus, and eventually got home.

Whew, it was a fun hike, and I’m going to do it again, but with better planning so we complete it.

We learned about this hike from Metro Bus Hikes:  a web page by someone who wanted to know what hikes could be done without a car.

8 Million Gallons of Sewage Spilled into Ravenna Creek

So apparently over the last 10 days or so, King County has spilled about 8 million (total) gallons of sewage into Ravenna Creek (and then Lake Union/Lake Washington).  This strongly impacts local ecology and recreational areas around here.  The place impacted is at the Seattle Arboretum, and beautiful place to photograph wildlife and native vegetatio, and it will be impacted for a long time over this!

I am appalled at the County and their apparent negligence over this matter.

Mistake sends raw sewage into Ravenna Creek

By BRAD WONG
P-I REPORTER

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

An estimated 8 million gallons of raw sewage has poured into Ravenna Creek after county crews mistakenly diverted it into a Seattle storm drain, a King County spokeswoman said Saturday.

The sewage has overflowed at a rate of 800,000 gallons a day for 10 days and likely went into Union Bay, county Wastewater Treatment Division spokeswoman Annie Kolb-Nelson said.

“We are committed to finding out what happened,” she said. “A spill of this level is unacceptable. We need to take steps to prevent this.”

My Wife’s Upcoming PCT Hike

In a relatively short amount of time, somewhere around mid summer, my wife is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon.  It’s her mission to complete the whole of the PCT before her fortieth birthday, a ways off yet.   I’m really proud of her doing this, and I think she’ll do wonderfully.

She’s put up a fund-raising page on her website, in place of its usual content to try to get together all the resources she needs to make this adventure as successful as it can be.  Her website, Dreaming Crow Studios, is where to go for that.

She’s pre-selling prints and calendars of her trip, and I suggest that anyone whose interested in the the mountains, the outdoors, nature, etc., should go take a look at her work.

The Ballard Terminal Railroad

Jumbled Rail As continued from my previous entry about walking the rails in Ballard, yesterday I walked the rest of the rails in Ballard. I saw many cool things, and learned about this railroad.

This shortline railroad, which is officially the Ballard Terminal Railroad, is a shortline that acquired the trackage rights from BSNF after they abandoned the track in 1997. The company was formed to support the three local industries that this shortline serves: Pioneer Western (a fish processor), Salmon Bay Gravel Co., and Olsen Furniture.

It is, as far as I can tell, operated by three guys. There are two switchers that are owned by this railroad company, the most prominent is the #98, the red Ballard Li’l Beaver, a EMD SW-1 600 HP switcher. It lives in a lot just off NW 45th St.

References:

  • http://www.irta.org/irta/IRTAReport/1999-02.htm
  • http://www.docwightman.com/railroad/btrr/rideonbtrr.html
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballard_Terminal_Railroad

Click the image to go to my flickr set about the Ballard Terminal Railroad.

Exploring Ballard and meeting up with friends

RailSo today, Melissa and the kids went to explore Whidbey Island. That’s cool. But I didn’t go with them. I took a day for myself. A day where I explored what I wanted to explore, and did what I wanted to do. I’ll start with my conclusion: I had a great day; my legs hurt, but my heart is happy.

I started of the day at around 10 AM when we got up from bed. I fixed myself some cold pizza for breakfast, and got my stuff together to go out for a day walking. I took my camera, my rain jacket, and the purple knit had that Melissa made for me. All these things were needed today, for the weather was dynamic, and the scenery multidimensional.

I left the house at around 11:30AM, and walked west to the bus stop. Ten minutes early. I had to wait a bit for the bus to arrive. Someone I didn’t know walked up, and I struck up a conversation. Her name is Taren. She’s a recent graduate from the UW, looking for a job. I gave her my card, and told her about some job openings at my employer. We had pleasant conversation as we both rode the bus down to the University District, where the first leg of my adventure would truely begin.

I got off the bus at 47th & University Way. I walked a bit south, and went to Trabant, where I ordered a drip coffee from them. They’re apparently doing a special thing with their drop. It was a good cup of coffee, but was more than I wanted to pay for such a thing. After I got my cup, I walked around the corner in the place, and saw my friend Robin. He lives at Trabant, you know. He does IT, so he can do such things most anywhere. I sat down, and said “hi.”

We had good conversation for a while, and he inquired if I’d had lunch. I said no, and we went to Shultzy’s. I had a burger, and a water. Good food. He and I talked for a while. It was nice to run into him and going and being social. After lunch, we talked back up to Trabant, and I parted ways with him.

Hopper Cars by Salmon Bay Gravel coThen I went to go catch the 44 to Ballard across the street on 45th. The ride into Ballard was uneventful, and quick. Before I knew it, I was in Ballard. Ah, Ballard. It’s a lovely place. If you’ve never been, it’s one of the older parts of Seattle. It used to be a seperate community from the city, and was annexed many years ago. It has a strong norweigen heritage, with old men smoking pipes, and eating lutefisk. My trip to Ballard had neither old men with pipes, nor lutefisk. I’m thankful for the absence of the latter. I got off the bus at Market and Leary, and went to the ATM, where I got some money out for my adventure.

Then I went to Cupcake Royale. I love their cupcakes. I bought a 16 oz drip coffee (my 2nd 16 oz for the day), and a Plain Jane (lavender icing on a vanilla cupcate), paid, and left. I then walked down into “Old Ballard”, and looked at the Sunday Market. There were lots of neat things to see. New spring peas being sold in pots for $3, smoked salmon that the fish monger was handing out handful sized samples of to passersby (“Yum!”), many things.

I figured roughly after getting my treat that the day would be one not focused on Things, but on Experiences. I wanted to do stuff, to see things, to have memories of the day to look back on, and to write about here. And so I did. I looked at the things at the market, but didn’t end up buying anything. I spoke with some of the merchants. It was fun.

Then I went to look around. I popped into Second Ascent, which is a great new and used hiking gear shop. I remember the sunlight streaming in through their back windows, shining down on the rows of clothes and shoppers. I thought for a minute that they’d moved everything around the place. But that wasn’t it. It was just well lit, and full of positive feelings. Then I left.

My feet took me down the hill, down towards the water, and towards the old local service rail sidings that serve the industry there. I took some pictures of the hoppers in front of Salmon Bay Gravel Co, and of the tracks. Then I decided to follow the tracks, and see where they met up with the mainline. I started to the west, following the rails where they led.

I passed a lot of boat repair shops, and other sorts of industry. I saw geese lounging on the grass, and lots of lovely graffiti on the buildings and vehicles back in the secret places of the city. It was neat to follow the rails through those backgrounds of industry. Often the puddles along the tracks would be huge, and I’d have to skirt around them. Once, a car came along quickly, and made a huge splash into one of them. I laughed at it.

folding railroad bridgeAs I followed the tracks, I saw that the way in fact led in front of the Ballard Locks, which are used to raise and lower ships between the Puget Sound, and Lake Union. There’s a dam and a fish ladder there, but I didn’t explore that today. I walked along, and followed the tracks. And walked. I passed two older latino men outside a restaurant. They were having a smoke, and I said hello. They responded in kind, and I continued on. The path led along farther, and I came to pass under the rail bridge across the ship canal. This bridge is cantilevered, and is usually in the raised, up position, except when rail traffic passes. I saw that the siding went under the the tracks, rather than meeting up with it. Interesting.

I followed the tracks a ways longer. I was on the Burke Gilman trail at this point. Eventually, I got to the end of the BG trail, where it turns to go down along Seaview Avenue. The tracks continued to the north, and were coming closer to the mainline rails. I wanted to go see where they met up, but I didn’t. It would have meant trespassing on BNSF space, and they’re not keen on that. Up until that point, I’d seen no “NO TRESPASSING” signs, which I was quite happy about. There was a trail that ran under the tracks, to a set up steps.

Graffiti'd PathwayThese steps climbed up perhaps 30 feet onto 64th street & 34th ave NW. I climbed up, and walked along the sidewalks. I kept to a path that followed the rails. Trying to see where a good place to see trains might be. I never did see a train pass today. I would have liked that, especially if I’d been close when it did so. But it wasn’t to be.

I found a good spot, where a road dead-ended near the mainline, and at grade level with the rails. This spot is one I’ll come back to later in the spring or summer to photograph trains from.

At this point, I was really thirsty, so I walked back down (going south at this point) to the crossing of 35th & market. I went to the 7-eleven, and got a water. Yum, nice cold water. Then I walked back into Ballard, and caught a 44 back into the U-District.

From there, I took a 66 to Northgate, and ran an errand. I came home, tired and happy after my long day exploring. All told, I walked about seven miles today. Not bad.

Hand-held Shoot-through Flash Gun

So, I went to Norwescon, and I ended up attaching an umbrella to a Vivatar 285HV with rubber-bands, and holding it to get off-camera light that cast nice, soft light for portraits on the go. I was walking around the place with the umbrella and camera, and asking many beautiful people if I could take their pictures. Everyone I asked said yes. (This is a lead-in to a rant about the other asshole photographers there that were being rude pains in the ass, and giving the rest of us a negative reputation.)

But then I thought about the project more, and I realized that with a little bit of work, I could modify my 285hv to hold the umbrella in a sturdy manner, and without as much strain on my grip by adding a handle. So I did this. I took some pieces of wood that I had as scrap from an old project, and attached them together. I drilled a hole for the umbrella’s support shaft, and I epoxied the handle assembly onto the side of the 285HV.

Doing all this took several days. Currently, it’s unpainted. I intend to change that. I’m going to paint it black to match the rest of it, and probably coat the handle with clear enamel paint after that. But for now, it’s functional, and that’s great.

For an example of what this ends up producing, go take a look at my Norwescon 2008 set on flickr, or take a look at the other image here.

My Personal History of Photography

So, here’s my story with regards to photography:

I’ve always enjoyed/appreciated pictures.  I’m visual.  I like to experience the world through my eyes.  Very keen on that.  The thought of going blind is terrifying.  Visual is my primary way of interacting
with the world.

Up until a couple years ago, I really never took photographs.  My mother had (still has, actually) a Pentax K1000.  I had used it a handful of times. But that was more than 15 years ago.  Time passed. Then, I got a digital camera, a fuji finepix 2 megapixel, back around 2002 to take pictures of my ironwork.  My wife, Melissa used the camera much more than I did.  She takes beautiful pictures. Go see them!  Several years passed.  One christmas, I got a good bonus at work, and got her a Nikon D70.  I bought a Nikon coolpix 5400 for myself.

I grew jealous of the attention and of the stunning beauty of her work, so I thought to myself, “Self, you can take pictures.  Why not try?”    So I started.  And I sucked.  I sucked for a long time.  Probably until the day that a good friend told me, “Hey, those party pictures you took sucked.  No more party pix.”

I was hurt.  I thought, “wow.  I need to improve.  I don’t want to make crap photographs.”  So I made an effort to Not Suck.  It took a lot of pictures.  Then I took a lot more.  And then a lot more.

I bought a manual camera, a Pentax K1000 (which is made of awesome), and shoot a lot of pictures there.  I purchased a film scanner (see my review) to digitize my shots.  I learned how to compose.  I learned how the technical quality of a photograph is measured, to understand f/stops, exposure, and the correlations between them.  I learned to develop B&W film myself.  I’ve experimented with doing my own printing.  I strongly believe that shooting with a camera where you have to do everything manually is essential to developing a technical base.

But basically, I put forth a lot of hard work to improve my skills.  A great book, if you haven’t seen it, is “Photography” by London and Upton.  I found it immensely helpful.

And then my photographs became acceptable to me.  I grew to be critical of the shots I made; to judge them more harshly; to not tolerate a bad picture (whatever that means? *grin*)

But still, much improvement was to be had.  So I read.  And I found strobist.  Lighting up until then is something that I didn’t do.  I knew I didn’t like on-camera flash.  So I had worked with ambient light.
Which I do like. But then I saw what else could be done.  How light could be controlled and moved and shaped to make a new, interesting pictures.  So now I’m working on learning about light.

I’ve made progress doing what I enjoy.  I can now make a photograph of someone that they enjoy.  That others enjoy.   That I enjoy.  I’m happy about that.

I’ve got a long way to go still. There you have it.

Musings on Technology, Society, and Photography