So I did a very minor good deed yesterday, and now I'm pissed off about it. Let me explain. I got on the bus last night after work just as a woman got off, and when I sat down I noticed she'd left her gloves on the seat. I took them up to the driver, who honked and got the woman's attention, and gave the gloves back to her. Mission accomplished. So far so good. So I sat back down, and the guy across the aisle smiled and chuckled and said "Only in Portland.", in the smug, self-satisfied tone people always use when they say "Only in Portland". That's when I got annoyed.
I think the implication of "Only in Portland" is that we're fortunate to live in the only city in the entire universe where people will spare a whopping five seconds for an act of basic common decency that costs absolutely nothing. If that's true, the human race is doomed. "Only in Portland" is crazy talk. You can only honestly believe it if you've never traveled much outside of here. There are, believe it or not, nice people to be found outside our city limits. Honest. I suspect most people know this, deep down, but say "Only in Portland" anyway because it reinforces our collective smug tribal identity. Either way, it's idiotic and I don't want any part of it.
"Only in Portland" also suggests everyone here does what I did yesterday, which again is untrue. Like, duh. If it was true, nobody would think it worth remarking on when it happened. Which would be nice, really. Oh, and I ought to point out that the asshat across the aisle, Mr. Only In Portland himself, didn't budge a single inch or lift a single freaking finger to get those gloves returned. He had to have seen the gloves, yet he sat there and did nothing. Apparently he still gets equal credit, though, just for living in the same city as me. I dunno why. It wasn't Portland that gave those gloves back, it was me, dammit. I'm not saying this because I want mad props for it. As I said, it was a very minor thing, and I'd rather it had passed entirely unremarked-upon. But if you really, absolutely, must say something, is it so hard to say "That was a nice thing you just did", without any tribal-identity nonsense? Is that really so impossible? I don't see how the city has anything to do with it. If I was in Detroit, or London, or Cairo and saw someone misplace a pair of gloves, I'd do exactly the same thing, and so would a lot of people. And, you know, I probably wouldn't get a smug "Only in Detroit" for my trouble.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
Mt. Hood from Washington Park, your basic classic tourist photo.
Another sign of fall: It's winged ant season. I didn't squash this guy -- it's the one fleeting moment of glory available for male ants, so I figured I'd let him have his day, for all the good it's going to do him.
A couple of sunset photos from a few days ago.
Spooky, mysterious Kelly Butte lurking in the fog, near SE 82nd & Powell.
At the streetcar stop @ 21st & Lovejoy. Or was it 19th & Lovejoy?
Yet another sign of fall: Attractive but inedible fruit.
A few assorted photos from my mini-roadtrip back in June. These are from Hart Mountain again. The first two from the road there, and the third from the ranger station up top.
And finally, a seagull in Old Town.
So this is what it looks like when you put a quarter in a tourist telescope and hold your digicam up to the eyepiece. These are from the Vista House out in the Gorge. Top one's Beacon Rock, and the other shows some cliffs on the Oregon side of the river.
Doing this isn't a terribly original idea. Here's a post where someone else did it, with (IMHO) better results.
The technical term for this is "digiscoping". I've tried it before with a telescope I have at home, with very little success. I finally broke down the other day and ordered a T-mount adapter so I can hook a "real" camera up to the thing, just in time for the rainy (i.e. starless) season. Impeccable timing is maybe not my thing, I suppose.
Some photos from the sunny days we had last week, taken with that vintage film SLR I've been playing with lately. One unfortunate thing I've noticed with this camera is that people see it and want to talk to you. I don't like talking to strangers very much even in the best of times, and I'm even more antisocial when I'm friggin' busy. I don't know what it is that draws 'em. I had a guy ask me, in all seriousness, how I managed to take pictures while it's windy. What made this a stupid question is that I was taking pics of Rusting Chunks #5 at the time, which is made of the finest Cor-Ten steel and must weigh several tons at least. Possibly it wouldn't remain perfectly still during a tornado, but we don't get those very often here.
So you get a few stupid questions, but you get even more people who want to be helpful and won't take no for an answer. They assume you're a tourist and they want to make a new friend. They rattle off a list of things you need to go take photos of while you're here. The Grotto is always a big favorite among these people for some reason. (I'm probably not going to take their advice, either, because religion creeps me out.) So, OK, it's not totally unreasonable to see a camera and think "tourist", but one time I mentioned to someone that I'd lived here for close to 30 years, and it didn't even slow him down. Grotto this, Rose Garden that, blah blah Pittock Mansion, blah blah Multnomah Falls. I wouldn't mind so much if they'd come up with something original now and then, but nooooo.
In any case, the first few pics are from Tanner Springs. Tanner Springs is a good place for photos because it's usually empty. If you do run into any locals, nearly all of them are recent transplants from California, so they probably won't try to give you "helpful" advice about Portland.
I realize the next photo is sideways, but that's how the scan came back from the photo lab. I must've made it too abstract and they couldn't tell which way was up. After looking at it for a bit, I decided I kind of liked this little accident and left it the way it was.
And now a few from Washington Park.
This next photo required a bit of work. It was a sunny day, and some guy was hanging around the Chiming Fountain you see here, waylaying passers-by and chatting them up. I kept a safe distance and waited for Mr. Friendly to leave, and he just wouldn't leave, dammit. I thought I had a good shot and took it, and just as I did he saw me and waved and wanted to make a new friend or ask stupid questions about my camera or something. Luckily I was around 30 or 40 feet away, so I acted like I didn't realize he was talking to me and wandered off.
Then when I got the photos back I noticed Mr. Friendly had wandered into the frame, the bastard. So I loaded the photo into GIMP and erased him. That was quite enjoyable.
It's not the first time I've erased people out of photos before posting them. I like to think I'm just being considerate, since I don't really like taking photos of people without their permission and posting them on the interwebs. While it's apparently legal to do so, I'm not comfortable with the idea and I generally just sort of don't want to. I think I'd make a really poor street photographer, in the unlikely event I ever felt like giving it a try.
Besides, people don't know how to hold still, dammit, and they whine and complain if they don't like how your photos of 'em came out. Even if they really are that ugly in real life, they still feel it's still your fault somehow. So I think I'll stick to flowers and waterfalls and stuff, thanks.
Friday, October 26, 2007
A few days ago I promised to post some pinecone macro photos, and here they are, for good or ill.
Generally speaking you're supposed to have the lens stopped wayyyy down so you get adequate depth of field this close. But if you do that, you need to compensate by pouring mass quantities of light onto the doodad you're photographing, and I just don't have that kind of lighting gear at my disposal. If you leave the lens at a wider aperture you'll get the dreamy sort of effect you see in the top photo. I really like this effect, actually.
A few more photos from the eastern Columbia Gorge. First a few from the Rowena overlook, just across the street from the Tom McCall Preserve.
And a few from the Memaloose overlook, a few miles further west.
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A few photos from the Nature Conservancy's Tom McCall Preserve at Rowena, out in the east end of the Columbia Gorge. This may be my favorite spot in the Gorge. It may be one of my favorite spots, period, but explaining why is difficult. I don't think I've ever convinced anyone. I could go on about the wind in the grass, sheer basalt cliffs, and so forth, but most of eastern Oregon is basically like that. There's something else I can't put my finger on. I don't mean that in a mystical mumbo-jumbo sense. It just means it's something I haven't figured out just yet. If it comes to me, I'll let you know.
So for now I'll proceed under the assumption I haven't convinced you. And really I'm not sure I want to convince too many people about the place. Present company excepted, of course. Feel free to visit, O Gentle Reader(s), but don't tell anyone else about it. They'll all show up at once and ruin the silence and desolation. They'll probably stand around with their cellphones yakking to their brokers, or whine that there's no Starbucks nearby, or drive all over everything in their gigantic SUVs, or demand guardrails for the protection of small children and large dogs. They'll ruin everything. In short, it's best to take a Tom McCall sort of attitude about the place.
So the preserve is a desert plateau high above the Columbia River, pretty much the last place you'd expect to find a wetland area. But the preserve hosts a couple of small ponds, with frogs, lilypads, trees, the whole works. You can see one of them in the top photo, right above the cliff. Here are a few closeups of one, including a couple of infrared pics.
One of the many trails around the plateau. Here's a decent page about hiking the area, although I'm not sure that's necessary. It's hard to get lost here, being mostly flat and treeless. But if you do, the plateau's surrounded by cliffs on three sides, roughly, so there's only one way on or off. In the worst case, you could just find any cliff and do a wall follower algorithm and you'll get back to the entrance eventually, probably.
When you do see people discussing the McCall Preserve, it's often about spring wildflowers. I've never actually visited when the plateau was in bloom; there were a few tiny blue ones being whipped around in the wind, but that was it. I've seen some photos, though, and I think I may have to go check the place out in April or so. A few good wildflower galleries can be found here, here, and here.
Looking southwest, with the tip of Mt. Hood in the distance.
The road past the preserve is an eastern bit of the old Gorge Highway, and it crosses over a narrow part of the Rowena Dell on another of those great, photogenic bridges they built back then. I don't want to sound like one of those old coots who insist everything was better back in the Good Old Days, because that would be stupid. I'm sure modern bridges are built to a high standard of technical excellence and so forth. They just aren't as photogenic, generally speaking.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
A few photos of Disk #4, a small and unassuming sculpture tucked away in a corner of NE Portland's Peninsula Park, just north of the rose garden. I can't find anything on the net about this beastie, so the plaque is all I know about it:
I don't have any strong feelings about the sculpture itself, although it has a number of attributes I admire in public art: It's relatively small, inoffensive, not in anyone's way, and the Feds paid for it instead of local taxpayers, courtesy of the Comprehensive Employment & Training Act, or CETA. From what I've heard, CETA was a large and basically unsupervised pot of money with no strings attached, and you could get funded for just about anything if you had a good grant writer. I kind of miss those 70's-era warm-n-fuzzy, overly generous government programs; now it's just bluenosed control-freak Calvinism all across the political spectrum, and your only choice these days is whether you want a red nanny state or a blue one. Feh.
During the Reagan years, CETA was replaced by something called the Job Training Partnership Act, authored by the one and only Senator J. Danforth Quayle. Which is really all you need to know about that.
In any case, I didn't stop and dally at Disk #4 because of its overall aesthetic merits, or lack thereof. Overall, I don't really have a strong opinion about it one way or the other. But like most bronze sculptures, it has an interesting surface texture. The day I took these was one of the summer's many bright overcast days, with that ugly blue-grey light you generally can't do anything with, photo-wise. That light made for some interesting reflections off the warm bronze of the sculpture, though. I think this is the first time that light's been useful for anything. And even then, it's only just useful, I wouldn't call it great or anything. I'd meant to do a post about the park as a whole, but these are the only photos I got that didn't totally suck. Seriously. Not even the roses came out ok. Bloody weather.