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Friday, January 31, 2014

Crocuses in January

Nora and I investigated the garden yesterday and found crocuses coming up.  Say it 'aint so! This may well be the worst winter in 10 years. I remember in 2009/2010 we had crocuses in February, but that year we got a lot of snow in March & April.  The winter of 2002/2003 remains the worst that I remember.  We never got snow that winter.  And it could happen again this winter.

It's funny because the Lower 48 has been enjoying a glorious winter.  Lately it has been colder in Atlanta, GA than here on Kodiak.  On the news I saw that political pundits on the East Coast are decrying global warning theory based on the cold temperatures they've seen this winter.  The pundits need to come to Alaska.

Despite the lack of snow I've still managed to keep skiing.  The photos below are from the last 2 days on Pyramid.  It's pretty desperate snow.  Yesterday and today there was fog down low and the sun was out. The visuals alone made the climb up from the road worthwhile.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My new favorite bookstore

I almost titled this post 'cabin lit', and really that's what the post is all about.  Last fall during an archaeological survey by kayak around Afognak Island Mike S and I gained an appreciation for paperback novels found in cabins. During the trip, we were weather bound next to two remote cabins,  and we shamelessly plundered their bookshelves for tent bound entertainment. 'Cabin Lit' is by definition limited.  You choose what you choose and that's what you read.  Afterall, every book there was already chosen by a prior cabin dweller and NOT YOU.  It tends to be action/adventure, romance, bra buster, sci-fi, fantasy type stuff.  But really the operative words are random and 'limited selection'.

Despite the random, limited selection, Mike and I enjoyed every book that we read. We even did book club like talk about what you read type stuff. And this got me thinking, 'how important is a big selection of books?'  Might I be better off with a more limited selection where it is easier to make a choice?  Sort of like TV channel selection in the pre cable days - no angst about choice?

Fast forward to post Christmas holidays when I go online to buy some new books.  Both Amazon and Barnes and Nobles no longer let you check out 'as a guest'.  It is all password and account driven.  Of course I'd forgotten my passwords, and after many complications I bagged the whole online thing.

And that is when I found Safeway!  I found books to buy while shopping for food. And I am happy to say that it is the ultimate version of 'cabin lit'.  There is not a huge selection, but it is bigger than it looks because each rack contains many titles - you have to flip through them by hand, each rack at a time.  But I am realizing that I don't like a lot of choices.  I have not picked a loser yet and I KNOW that I would not ordinarily have chosen many of the books I have recently purchased at Safeway.

Just this week I discovered a new series that ought to keep me entertained for years.  It is the 'Rogue Angel' series by 'Alex Archer'.  And I put quotes around Alex Archer for a reason.  On Wikapedia I learned that it is bi monthly series is put out by Harlequin and written my multiple authors (there are already like 40 titles for me to read).  It is about a female archaeologist who is the heir to Joan of Arc's sword.  What's there not to like?  The one I am reading now takes place at an archaeological conference in Madison, WI - the very place where I went to archaeological graduate school!  All about Mayan temples underwater in lakes and lots of murders etc. It's like a comic book for adults - HUGE entertainment value.

To finish, I have to add that Zoya wants me to go to the new Kodiak library.  And that makes total sense - check out books for free!  But hey, I still like Safeway.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Time to get into rafting

Putting in at Sargent creek

Here on Kodiak it has been raining a lot lately.  And the bad part is that it has been so warm that even the tops of the mountains have been getting rain and not snow.  Right now it is 42 degrees here on Kodiak - At Waimea in Hawaii it is meant to get down to 48 degrees tonight.  There's still snow for skiing up above 1200 feet but it is pretty skimpy.  It's been a struggle to stay motivated and ski on a daily basis.

So today I tried something new.  I went river kayaking with Brent, Jeremy and Mike.  We made good use of all that melting snow.  We ran two creeks - we first did Sargent Creek and then did Virginia Creek out near White Sands beach.  Tomorrow I think I'll go again!


Update:  Just now when I checked the temperature in Waimea, Hawaii (on the island of Kauai near where we stayed) it was 41 degrees - that is colder than it is here on Kodiak right at this moment where it is 43 degrees!  Right now there is a HUGE dip in the jetstream that is pushing cold air from Siberia down to Hawaii, and then the air is coming all warmed up back up to Alaska (and then it pushes down the 'polar vortex' towards the lower 48 where they are expecting a serious cold snap).  WEIRD.

I had some seriously bad deep fat fried, batter dipped shrimp in Waimea.

The top section at Sargent Creek

The first drop on Virginia Creek

Friday, January 24, 2014

Stuey's Camera

Stuey taking some final pictures with his camera on the way to the airport - after these pictures he left the camera in the rental car
When we left Hawaii Stuey left his camera in the rental car.  This made him very sad.  The worst part was that he lost his pictures of the beautiful sunset.  Zoya has called the rental car company - so perhaps all is not lost and we may well see the little blue Panasonic water proof camera yet again.

But it's not all bad.  He has been borrowing my camera for our 'photo safaris' into Abercrombie, and it takes panoramics and stitches them together in what stuey calls, 'the computer in the camera'.  The old Panasonic did not do this.  Stuey really, really wants my camera for his birthday, and it is not such a crazy idea.  Afterall, I did fog my camera up diving too deep underwater in Hawaii, and any camera that Stuey does get has to be water and shock proof.  So we will see.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Finding True North with Troop #118

Today  Brownie Troop #118 found their 'True North' (as well as their magnetic norths!). The girls gazed at  the compasses which they held with their winter-gloved hands. Patrick guided the troop and  taught the group about true north, magnetic north and how to read maps on Near Island.

The Brownies pulled out their compasses and oriented their  maps correctly to learn where THEY were on the map.  The marked trail, road and topo lines were all clues. Today was the first  day working with the group on  trail navigation. (Thank you to Philip Tscherisch with Island Trails Network on obtaining the maps for us!)

We hiked on Near Island, starting at the Rotary Park trail, going out to the South End point on Near Island and then back to Rotary Park. The weather was a balmy low 40's and the sun was out-so lovely!

At the half way point we stopped for hot cocoa and some sitting time. During the course of the 2 mile walk, the girls were troopers-they jumped and ran along and caught with their friends. The group was very curious about where they were on the maps and we checked in with them several times along the way to have them guess our location so they could see if they were accurate. 

There were lots of parents along for the afternoon as well and it was fun for us to catch up! Grown up fun time hiking in the sun. 

(I"m not one to normally be boastful about my husband, but once every 10 years I think I'm allowed.
 I was so proud and thrilled to have Patrick along today as a Brownie Dad. He is so energetic about helping and teaching the girls. We came upon several people along the trail today, and he would tell the strangers so proudly, "this is a girl scout Brownie Troop, and I'm a brownie troop dad."All of us adults learned so much about compasses, trails, etc as well. Having him alongside me has made being a Brownie Troop leader that much more fun! Thank you to my rock-star Brownie-dad husband!)

Fellow Brownie leaders, Alexis and Kathy,  at the hike rest stop

Patrick teaching the girls about maps. 

Trekking along with maps in hand. 

fabulous evening light for the hike

along the beach

up to the point on near island

through the forest

snack time soon!
hot cocoa

enjoying time with friends

walking home

Friday, January 17, 2014

My Favorite Photos from 2013

I enjoy photography, and lately I've been checking out the 'Kodiak Camera Club' Facebook page for ideas.  I highly recommend that you visit the website  (click here). There are some beautiful photographs on there.  But looking at all the photos I am also disturbed by a few trends that I see in current photography.

First of all, where are all the people?  Practically all the photographs are landscapes or animal pictures.  Perhaps this is because the website is oriented towards Kodiak photography, and the best thing about Kodiak is our landscapes and animals.  Maybe if the newspaper or wedding/party photographers put more photos on the page this would change.  

Still when I took photography classes in college it was all about people photography on the streets and 'catching the decisive moment' a la Cartier Bresson.  I like the photo I took above backstage at the Nutcracker because the graininess, contrast and mood remind me of a black and white Robert Frank photograph. Not that I'll ever come close to the real deal.  Ever see the one he took of the bored girl operating the elevator?  That is my favorite Robert Frank photograph. (click here for an awesome story about the photograph).

The other current photography trend that I find disturbing is the garish use of saturation and color shifts.    Basically people are doing too much 'photoshopping'.  I do touch up my pictures in both photoshop and iphoto but I try to return a photo to what it really looked like.  I try not to overdo it.  The photo below of an archaeologically excavated housepit with mountains and reflections behind it is an example of mine where I overdid it a bit with the photoshopping - note that the color saturation is a little over the top.  I stand by all the others - within the frame that is what it looked like.

Generally, I try to the let the composition and natural shadows, colors, reflections etc make the picture.  I think landscape photography is actually pretty easy.  Afterall, nothing is moving!  Basically, it is just up to the photographer to get the exposure and composition right.  The hardest part is getting it right before the light changes.  And light changes far more slowly than people move.

My final pet peeve is that it seems current photographers tend to emphasize technique rather than composition to get a good photo.  On the Kodiak Camera Club webpage there are numerous tripod supported night shots.  Everybody seems to be using slow shutter speeds to get cool effects.  And they certainly do achieve some spectacular images.  But my favorite images are still the ones with inherent good composition.  

I still remember my photography teacher, way back in the 1980s, who emphasized composition over everything.  He always said that while sepia or selenium toning (the 'photoshop' of 1980s black and white photography) might make a photo look interesting.  A well-toned badly composed photograph is still a bad photograph.  I really don't think anything has changed all that much.

So check out what I consider my best photographic images from the past year, and let me know what you think.  Patrick

Chirikof lupin and archaeological field camp

Kodiak's windturbines at sunrise

I took this one of surfers out at Narrow Cape from a long way away and then cropped it to create a pleasing composition

My favorite animal photo - a Chirikof Ground Squirrel

A 400 year-old Alutiiq house after archaeological excavation

View at dawn from our archaeological field camp last summer at Old harbor

Another view from the Old Harbor field camp at dawn

A blown out dandelion blossom up close

Stuey showing off no hands on an Afognak zipline

Pauls Lake sunrise and moonset

Hawaii Panoramics

My first task after getting back from a trip is stitching all the panoramics I took together in photoshop. After a long archaeological survey through scenic country this can be a LOT of pan stitching.  It's a pain to do, but I find if I don't do it right away that they never get done.

The good part is that I get to relive the trip and find out what panoramics 'worked' and which did not.  I am always surprised by a few images I did not expect to work out, and there are also always few that don't work out as expected.  On this trip I had high hopes for a few of the sunrise and sunset pictures but the sea ended up warped in them. 

The unexpectedly good pan is the one of the porch.  I created it from five vertically oriented pictures.  I wish I had done the same for a view of 'baby beach'.  All of my beach pans had problems created a nicely curved beach, and I think the fix would have been more pictures breaking up the curve so to speak.  This technique also worked for the top picture of Waimea Canyon.  Patrick

Favorite spot on vacation - the porch

Waimea Canyon - deep canyon for such a small island

Catamaran scene and the Na Pali Coast

Another favorite spot - baby beach

Rainbow over baby beach

Sponge Bob Square Pants!

2 Stueys at Baby beach

Wedding on the beach just after sunset

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Last Days

We pretty much stayed at the rental for the last 2 days of our trip.  The weather was a bit unsettled and the surf in front built up dramatically.  The waves were too big for snorkeling, and I think the water clarity would have been bad anyway.  So we hung out on the porch and went swimming at 'baby' beach.

The surf might have been a bit too high outside or some other critters too, and Nora and Stuey were delighted to find 2 sea turtles hanging out in the minuscule but protected lagoon in front of 'baby' beach.    We generally gave them a lot of room, but I will admit I did go close for just a few underwater pictures.  They did not seem to care at all and just moseyed around and vary occasionally stuck their heads up above the water.

For our last dinner we cooked up a steak and large chunk of ono on the grill.  It is very sad that it all has to end.

Still I can't wait to get back to skiing and we all miss Tank and Jake.  It is time to go home.  Patrick

Nora's sand sculpture - 'the sun'

The view from our seat at a restaurant on the penultimate night of our stay

The Turtle with Stuey in the background