I took a little over a week to go and visit my friends and family back East in western and central New York including a quick trip up to Niagara Falls while there. My parents, having been married for now fifty years warranted a celebration by the family. My sisters and their children all converged on Skaneateles, New York to quietly celebrate and reminisce under the humid warmth that is central New York. The humidity of New York cannot be fully described; it is better left to the uninitiated to experience. While the humidity saps you of your strength the heat and light breeze under the shade of a tree nestled into a hammock soothes and sends one into a bliss that cannot be simulated by spas or any other proxy: sun’licious.
As I meandered down Route 20A from Orchard Park to Skaneateles I was reminded of how much of western and central New York are places of rolling hills, small villages and independent farms. On my morning runs from my parent’s home it took me less than 90 seconds to be running along farms and up over hills with vistas that stretched over miles and miles of tilled earth. My father’s former office is within 2 miles of the house making me envious to think that sans the 190+ inches of snow they got this winter one could easily run to work every day; the only dissatisfaction is that it is too short (a quick 2 miles) to make a worthwhile morning run. Equally surprising to me is I could have circumnavigated all of the town and some of the surrounding farms every morning in one of my middle distance runs of 15km; back in Seattle I barely get out of my neighborhood with one of these runs.
On my return from far afield I found myself yet again under the less than welcome long hand of overcast clouds that have become my personal scourge over Seattle. While I had hoped to camp at Olympic National Park for a few days I opted instead to drive down toward Bend, Oregon to Goldendale, WA for an overnight camping trip. I love a good roadtrip and the vistas once you get over the passes on I-90 are well-worth the first 90 minutes under the pending hazy gloom of rain and clouds. The near eastern side of the Cascades is one of arid color and a valley irrigated with farms both independent and incorporated. I must confess that the campground I hastily found was not one I can recommend to anyone, but even still I did find a quiet meadow a few miles from the campsite that allowed me an unobstructed view of Mount Hood while enjoying many, many hours before and after the sunset at 9pm. I had hoped to get some astrophotography done that night, however I had neglected to note it was near full Moon and thus there was little in the way of crisp dark skies to photograph. Nevertheless, the hours by myself in the dark reminded me I have an over-active imagination: I was quite certain aliens were on their way to abduct me.
I woke early on Friday to drive back to Seattle. Instead of retracing my steps I instead took Highway 410 out of Yakima to drive through both Wenatchee and Mount Rainier National Parks. It might surprise people outside of western Washington that much of the mountain trails are still inaccessible to hikers due to the some 80 or more inches of snowfall resting on trails. And while there is a warm front that has settled itself over all of western Washington melting much of this as I write and you read and which means that Mount Rainier is primarily covered in clouds, the drive is still worth the time and $15 park fees. In some ways seeing Mount Rainier shrouded in clouds is paradoxically a better way to appreciate it. Clouds come and go within minutes and sometimes tens of seconds. The view now obscured will snap into shades of snow blue and sky azure that require you to remain ever vigilant. And it is not just the moments waiting between and amongst clouds that deepen your appreciate, but even on the road itself can surprise and even transcend the ordinary. As one point when Mount Rainer in the near distance, two crows broke off from a tree and flew in front and above my car. For a mile or more we glided in formation down the road while we three enjoyed a quiet moment with Mount Rainier framed by trees appeared in front of us.
On July 8th I drove up to Niagara Falls while out visiting my very good friends in Buffalo, New York. Like so many things that when in your backyard you often do not see it in the same light and joy that visitors do; until that is you return as a visitor. And Niagara Falls is, or was that is till Friday, that way for me. Having completed by undergraduate studies at SUNY Buffalo and being born and raised in central New York I never truly appreciated Niagara Falls as a destination spot; nor could I ever get past the kitsch that is Niagara Falls the tourist trap city, both US and Canada sides. The summer heat (read humidity) is back on in New York and thus it was a bit overcast when I drove up from south Buffalo. I parked on the US side at Goat Island where there is a US reservation to take in the US side. And like everyone will attest the falls is a subdued affair from this side. Where it is at, as it were, is over on the Canada side. So I decided with only Washington state driver’s license in hand I would see about getting past the border patrol. After a gentle reprimand that I needed my passport and a smile from myself I was allowed across into Canada. Oh Canada! Home of half my heart. I was back and ready to take some snaps. There is something lovely about the Canada side besides the grandeur of the falls; it is the simple fact that Canadians, unlike Americans who assuage man-made order for nature, love gardens and managed greenery and thus the path up along the way to the falls has all the appearances of a lovely stroll falls or no falls. On returning to the US I was more firmly informed that I needed some form of identification identifying I was a US citizen. When asked what I looked like on my passport I quipped “goatee: like a member of Russian mafia” to which he immediately laughed and let me (re)enter the other half of my heart’s home.
I have been wanting to visit LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) for quite some time. It is not merely a physics experiment on the highest magnitude, it is an astro-physics experiment of the highest caliber. LIGO is one of two facilities in the United States funded by NSF to attempt to detect gravity waves by measuring the very distortion of space-time. Yes. It is that fucking awesome.
LIGO is located out in Hanford, Washington which is more remembered for its nuclear waste legacy than it is for pushing the envelope of our very understanding of the universe. But there it is. LIGO. Out in the middle of nearly nowhere (at least relative to Seattle and western Washington) are two lasers both running some 4 kilometers in length, directed orthogonal (90 degrees) to each other. At present LIGO is in the middle of an upgrade in order to increase its sensitivity by two orders of magnitude. It is a ballsy gamble given that LIGO, as of yet, has not yet made any detection of said gravitational waves in the some four years it continuously collected data. But that does not stop them, or us, from hoping that these upgrades will herald in an age when even the tremors of space-time, perturbed by the interaction of large stellar bodies such as two stars orbiting each other, are detected on a regular basis.
While I was out visiting LIGO I dropped down to Fidelitas Winery in Benton City. Some 16 bottles later I drove over to Prosser, Washington where I was hoping to also stop in on Maison Bleue which, unbeknownst me, is by appointment only. Bummer. I instead hung out in Prosser at Wine O’Clock for dinner while listening to the blues band at the nearby winery. Some few hours later I saw the clouds encroaching upon the valley so I decided to head out in hopes of camping in Yakima, WA. But by the time I reached Yakima it was both quite dark and quite obvious that the clouds were there to stay the night, completely negating the desire for me to stay up trying to catch some starry skies; instead, I drove back to Seattle where I got home in the very hours of Sunday; it was one helluva day.
Yesterday was one of those perfect days that it is hard to fully describe either in words or pictures. The weather was so clear and sunny when I woke at half past six that I almost skipped out on my typical Saturday long-distance run. But even that proved to be a particularly excellent run, both for the company thanks to Loka, Danielle, Jeremy and the rest of the crew, but due to the vistas we caught along our thirteen miles. Given the rarity of day like this I had decided to do some ferry riding and tour a bit of the Olympic Peninsula. I had thought I might change my route by starting downtown; however, it was Doug at Cafe Solstice that reminded me of activity downtown prompting me to go up to my established route starting from Edmonds, WA to Kingston, WA. It took the typical hour from the time I arrived at Edmonds to get on the ferry which gave a little bit of time to relax in the and read. Once on the ferry it was reasonably crowded with folks, enough so that I got some great shots of kids and folks enjoying the sun. But I think I burned the most film, as it were, on birds, especially the seagulls who flew along and above us as we made our crossing. Once in Kingston, I drove up to Hansville and Skunk Bay for some more shots of the Cascade mountains. I then headed south to Point Gamble where I caught Seabeck Road down to Seabeck and Holly to catch some glimpses of the Olympic mountains. I tried to time my crossing back to Seattle from Bremerton at sunset which was around 9pm PST. This allowed me to get some twilight shots of downtown Seattle.
I happened to have the great pleasure of reconnecting with a good friend, Dave, who I have not conversed with, at least in person, in over 15 years while visiting Berkeley. In many ways Facebook has been a great way to stay connected with folks I knew from my days at Kanazawa University who are now all scattered across the globe, but there is nothing quite like seeing a friend again after so many years apart. Even though Dave has been at UC Berkeley for much (all) this time, it was not till yesterday that he and I actually got to sit down over coffee to chat. I am certain we have changed in many ways, but for me I could not discern any marked differences in Dave.
Once we parted our ways, he to continue work on his doctoral dissertation and I to wander the campus of UC Berkeley, I found myself trying to get a better view of the cumulus clouds I glimpsed in the distance. I recalled Dave reminding me that a short drive to the Lawrence Hall of Science afforded a good view of Berkeley. I am glad I listened to him and timed my drive to coincide with sunset. I almost left before then in order to make back to SFO for my return flight, but fortunately the allure of catching this rare combination of locale and event persuaded me to remain; the result are the below exposures. Note, all the images are composites using 3 exposures bracketed +/- 2 stops. This composition of exposures allows the creation of single exposure with a greater dynamic range than any single exposure thereby better mimicking what the human eye is able to perceive unaided. In some instances I tried to mimic natural light and in others I intentionally selected parameters that emphasize the vibrancy of colors. For those wondering, Berkeley and Oakland are in the foreground and down San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge are in the background.