Friday, September 28, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Yep, it's time for another batch of pics from the VuPoint keychain digicam I picked up for $14.99 a while back, taken mostly around Jamison Square in the Pearl.
I guess if we're going to pick nits, the price is really $14.99 plus the cost of a computer, plus the price of an image manipulation app unless you use a free one. The VuPoint usually overexposes stuff, so I ran most of these through GIMP (which is free). I don't think that counts as cheating, really. Besides, I restricted myself to darkening the pics a bit with the Levels tool, and sometimes boosting color saturation with the Hue-Saturation tool, but other than that they're exactly as the camera spit them out.
Previous batches of VuPoint pics here, here, and here.
The stuffed animal you see here is Firefox schwag I picked up at OSCON. This was taken with the wide-angle doodad I picked up for my real camera. I don't think the wide angle is very obvious with this photo though. You can also see how noisy the VuPoint's photos get in dim light situations, like indoors at night. And this isn't even close to the worst example. What I think it's probably doing is boosting the ISO sky high to compensate. Your expensive digital camera could do that too if it wanted to, but perfectionist types out there would complain about the noise if it did, and besides, your fancy camera has one of them newfangled "flash" thingies, and the VuPoint doesn't.
Monday, September 24, 2007
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You can always tell it's fall by all the spiders. Huge freakin' spiders, everywhere you look. I ran across these particular huge freakin' spiders down at Metzger Park, near Washington Square. The place has got to be prime habitat for gigantic spiders, at least for the moment.
If my spider field guide is right, these beasties are nothing but common garden spiders. Just inordinately well-fed ones.
Taking photos of spiders is a challenge with my puny little point-n-shoot camera. Its autofocus is arachnophobic, so spiders always end up as blurry blobs in front of nice sharp backgrounds. Manual focus was an afterthought when they designed the camera, and you have to twist a knob and press a couple of buttons to turn it on. Then you get a postage stamp sized region on the LCD that shows you what the camera's focused on, or it does if your target's big enough, and you squint a bit, and you're lucky.
I guess what I'm trying to say here is that these are merely intermediate results in my continuing quest to take a decent photo of a spider on a web, similar to the third-rate squirrel photos I post here now and then. Focusing properly is one big issue. Another is that the little bastards just won't hold still for the camera. All you have to do is breathe on the web a little and they run away. I suppose it'd be a lot more worrisome if the spiders didn't run away. If a spider ever stands its ground, itching for a fight, I think I'll be the one running away, thank you very much.
The spiders are only one of the park's many horrors. Ok, maybe I'm overstating that, but they did film part of a stupid horror movie here back in 1992. I've never actually watched Dr. Giggles, but I have it on good authority that it's a truly rank piece of filmmaking, wretched even by filmed-in-Portland standards, and that's really saying something.
The Kingdom of the Spiders bit in the title refers to another cheesy horror movie I haven't seen (yet), this one starring the one, the only, William Shatner. I'm probably harming my bad movie street cred by admitting to two such movies I haven't seen in the same post, but hey.
If you're in the mood for a bad Shatner movie, and you can't quite stomach Star Trek V, may I recommend the Shat's singular work in White Comanche. Ok, not precisely singular, in that he plays twin half-breed Indians, one good (and "civilized"), the other psychotic, peyote-mad, and evil through and through. It's a real hoot. Trust me on this.... But I digress.
I suppose you could count zombies as the park's third horror, since the mall's just a short drive away. C'mon, you've seen 'em too. Waddling from a Suburban to a waiting table at the Fatcake Cheesery, devouring everything in its path. Splattering blood and gore everywhere during a frantic 3% off sale at Nordstrom. Oh, the horror of it all!
So anyway, I'll get to the park itself in a minute, if you're still interested. But first some flowers. Yes, there's more to the place than freakin' humongous spiders and crappy horror movies. Honest.
Before anyone complains, I realize I'm being patently unfair to the place, and I'm sure the park is in reality a perfectly nice and pleasant, if unremarkable, spot. I do realize that. It's just that with the spiders, and the horror movie thing, certain themes begin to suggest themselves. And, y'know, Washington County's extracted a fair chunk of tax money out of me over the years (although not at present), and my taxes went to support the park all that time, and this is the very first bit of enjoyment I've ever gotten from the place. So I think I'm entitled, don't you?
As longtime Gentle Reader(s) of this humble blog must've noticed by now, I have this occasional and rather silly hobby of tracking down local parks, monuments, greenspaces, and so forth, and taking some photos and writing a few words about them here. C'mon, I already admitted it was silly, and I saved it for the end, so you have to admit I still have some sense of perspective. C'mon. Please?
I'd been mildly curious about Metzger County Park for a while, and I happened to be in the area, so I thought I'd take a peek. I don't expect anyone other than me to find this intriguing, but Washington County has exactly two county parks: The huge one out at Hagg Lake, and this one. All other parks on the westside are either city parks, or part of the Tualatin Hills park district. So the place is kind of an anomaly in a bureaucratic sense, but other than that it looks like any other neighborhood park. I suppose it just happened not to be within an incorporated city or the Tualatin Hills district boundaries, so the county ended up with the job somehow. I recall reading some years ago that the county wanted out of the parks business, and wanted either the state or Metro to take over Hagg Lake. I imagine they also wanted to unload Metzger Park on someone else too, but so far they've still got both of them.
I wasn't entirely accurate earlier when I said there were two parks. Technically there's at least one more county park, a place called Rippling Waters Park, located on Gales Creek way out past Forest Grove. If you need another little bit of trivia you'll probably never be able to use, I've got more of the story here, although (as usual) no definitive answers. For what it's worth, that same post also mentions Multnomah County's sole remaining county park, a nano-sized one it kept after handing all the others over to Metro. See? I told you it was a silly hobby. Possibly even a stupid one. Although not as bad as trainspotting, though. Man, those guys are dweebs.
I'm afraid the photos I've got here will give you an unbalanced idea of the place. It's not just forests and flowers and titanic bloodsucking arachnids. There's also a grassy lawn for picnics, some tennis courts, a play structure, and a 60's-era community center building with some roses around it. Nothing here to go out of your way to see, really. Oh, well. Curiosity satisfied. Mission accomplished.
Monday, September 17, 2007
I usually start these out by saying "today's adventure takes us to...", but I probably shouldn't this time. I've gotten the distinct impression that basically everyone in town except me goes to McIver State Park all the time, and has done so for years. Ok, I might be exaggerating a little, and just everyone on the eastside has been going there for years. Here's a map -- the park is the V-shaped green bit just west of Estacada:
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So apologies in advance if I'm going on about your home away from home here. I grew up in Aloha, and we didn't head out to Estacada all that often. Basically never, in fact. I vaguely knew there was this large green blob on the map next to the Clackamas River, but I'd never been there and didn't know anything about the place.
Ok, that's not strictly true, I did know the park had hosted the Vortex I hippie festival, I mean, "Biodegradable Festival of Life", back in 1970. Which I know because this city's thick with nostalgic boomer types who can't seem to STFU about the 60's, just like the way their parents go on and on about World War II every chance they get. I swear, if I'm 50 years old and you ever hear me waxing nostalgic about the early 90's, insisting they were the Golden Age of music and culture or whatever, you can just go ahead and slap me silly.
Of course there's a flip side to all of that. The only thing more tedious than people waxing nostalgic about the 60's are those prim bow-tie-wearing cultural-conservative twits on FoxNews whining about how the 60's ruined everything and must be "undone" somehow, at all costs. So don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not one of those people. It's just that poking fun at hippies is fun, easy, and mostly harmless. They probably won't even notice, much less care.
I think knowing about that festival colored my expectations of the park. I really didn't expect it to be scenic at all, I just figured it'd be a large open space where a few hundred thousand stupid hippies could squat in the mud and trip out to an endless procession of cheesy jam bands. I wouldn't have guessed there'd be high cliffs overlooking the Clackamas River. That doesn't seem very hippie-friendly if you ask me. Possibly that was the whole point. As the oldtimers love to remind us, the festival was organized by the state's Republican governor to lure the city's disaffected war-protesting youngsters away and keep 'em "sedated" while the American Legion convention was in town. If a few hippies decided gravity was a bummer, man, and tried to fly away off the cliffs, hey, even better. Oddly the festival seems to have gone off without any reported fatal incidents. Although it's entirely possible some random hippie just wandered off and disappeared and hasn't been missed by anyone for nearly 40 years. It wouldn't surprise me.
I've never been into the whole psychedelic thing, but I did take a couple of cool/weird infrared photos at the park. I think they're probably groovy enough for our present purposes.
A couple of links about Vortex I from out on the interwebs, before we move on:
- "Vortex I or why there was no Vortex II", from someone who was there.
- And a brief reminiscence by someone who lived nearby. Her reaction is mostly "ugh".
- The PSU Vanguard's book review of ""The Far Out Story of Vortex 1", a recent book about the festival.
- A recent post on the book's author's MySpace page noting that there's also a Vortex I documentary, and it's showing at the Clinton St. Theater this very evening (9/20/07). I don't believe in fate, but that's a rather amusing coincidence. Although I don't actually plan on attending.
So enough about hippies, dammit. At one overlook above the river there's a plaque honoring Milo McIver, once chairman of the state highway commission, the predecessor of today's ODOT. The plaque was executed by Avard Fairbanks, the same sculptor who did the Campbell Memorial plaque at Portland Firefighters' Park.
As fate would have it (if I believed in fate, that is), I was just down at Powell's Technical a couple of hours ago, and right there in the store's free bin was a book with Mr. McIver's name on it. I figured it was appropriate so I grabbed it, even though 90% of it consists of boring trigonometric tables. If that strikes your fancy, or you simply need to build yourself a standard highway spiral, ODOT has the current 2003 version of the book (or at least part of the book) here [PDF].
Heading up the state highway commission obviously commanded a great deal more honor and respect than it does now. Besides McIver, you might also recognize the name Glenn L. Jackson, as the I-205 bridge in east Portland is named in his honor.
So about the park itself. There's an upper area with the cliffs, a large picnic area, and such, and there's a lower part down by the river. There are actually two ways down to the river but I only checked out one of them; if you haven't noticed yet, this is not really a comprehensive post about the park's amenities. I didn't play any disc golf, or camp, or fish, or look for bats, or go horseback riding, or float down the Clackamas River on an inner tube, carrying a six-pack. Although I saw a few people doing that and it looked like fun. Fashionable Portlanders sneer at the practice, figuring that it's something trailer-trash people out in Clackamas do, so therefore it's bad and couldn't possibly be any fun. I hadn't really given it a lot of thought before, but it was a hot day, and the river was very cold, and I can see the attraction. Haven't actually tried it, I'm not real keen on the whole "getting plastered and falling in the river and drowning" thing, although I understand that's an optional part of the experience.
So basically I just wandered around with a camera for a couple of hours looking for photogenic stuff. I think I've mentioned before that the state parks department has started an annual photo contest, with the winning photos appearing in the next year's Oregon State Parks calendar. So I spent the day looking for material, here and at Bonnie Lure, the other state park near Estacada, with a side trip over to Fearless Brewing (which I mentioned before here). I later discovered my poor little camera doesn't have enough megapixels to qualify, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have used any of these pics even if they'd been eligible. But at least I'm getting a blog post out of the adventure, which I guess is something. And besides, there's always next year.
PS, here's a heron I saw down by the river. Besides loading up on additional megapixels, I think I'll need to look for a telephoto lens with a little more oomph to it. I know I've sung the praises of "digital zoom" before, but it's really no substitute for having a proper long, if rather Freudian-looking, lens at one's disposal.
...although you wouldn't know it by looking outside. Autumn is fine and all, don't get me wrong, I just wish it hadn't started back in early August. Well, that can't be helped now, so we might as well make the best of the new season. Which means another round of that September-November mainstay, photos of Leaves Changing Color and subsequently Fallen Leaves. If you find a good example of either and take a halfway-decent photo, people will read all sorts of things into it, like they do with flowers budding out. I'm not sure whether this is because the subject matter is inherently deep, or because it strikes a chord in the human psyche, or simply because it's cheating somehow. I'm inclined toward the latter explanation, because a.) I'm a cynic, and b.) it's just too easy for it to be transcendent, or deep, or meaningful. You just point the camera at the leaf and press the little button, and poof. Anyone who says there's anything more complicated going on is trying to sell you something.
Every year about this time I find myself feeling oddly energized and restless, as if I ought to be out frantically gathering acorns, or chopping firewood, or filling the cellar with hearty root vegetables. Mmmm.... potatoes.... tater tots.... But I digress.
It's possible this humble blog will metamorphose again in the near future, as it tends to do every so often when I get to feeling restless. I have this nagging feeling I've been too carefree and frivolous for the past, oh, I'm not sure quite how long it's been, but the last few months have been pretty heavy with the flowers and waterfalls and so forth, and I feel as though I'm creating the wrong impression. In my heart of hearts, I know this is quite the serious, intellectual blog I've got here, but I admit that fact has rarely been in evidence of late. So we'll have to see. I may try another Logical Week of Monomedia, seven consecutive posts with no photos, videos or whatnot; the previous one wasn't entirely successful, so it looks like a challenge. I like a challenge, now and then, but I've never been very good at living within arbitrary restrictions, even self-imposed ones.
However, the semi-promised metamorphosis isn't happening just yet. Energized or not, I'm still too lazy to take up that particular challenge at the moment. This is the point in this post where I search around for filler material, since I have more photos than I have paragraphs. And this time I really don't have very many photos, by recent standards. So to stretch the material a little, why don't we call it a paragraph and move on to the next? How about it?
Ok, here's that next paragraph I promised you, and I have high hopes for it. The above & below photos are of leaves gnawed by... something. They aren't precisely Leaves Changing Color, much less Fallen Leaves, but I thought they had a certain appeal about them, and here they are. Well, that's about it for this paragraph, and I really think it turned out well, all things considered. So I think we can call it a day after a few brief closing remarks or something.
... hmm... Safari locked up on me while finishing the last paragraph, and I had to kill -9 it, and now I've lost my train of thought, and I no longer have any idea whatsoever about what kind of closing remarks I had in mind earlier. So I think I'll end this like a art French film, since I'm trying to elevate the tone of this humble blog and all: