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The Environment, our Earth’s Lost Frontier?

22 Apr

 

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(On the left horizon, hydrocarbons are being released into the air, blemishes an otherwise clear arctic day.)

Multimedia eLearning by: David A. Johanson © All Rights

All Roads Lead to Nowhere

Early in my career as a photographer I received assignments which took me above the Arctic Circle. Construction companies and architects working for oil companies in Alaska’s North Slope hired me to photograph their on going developments. At that time the Prudhoe Bay oil field’s production had peaked due to years of sustained extraction. A new oil field near the Kurparuk River, west of Prudhoe Bay was the site I was sent to. The Kuparuk oil field is the second largest oil field in North America by area, and traveling by aircraft was the way I moved from site to site.

Roads and construction sites above the arctic circle, rely on heaps of gravel placed over the tundra’s surface to prevent them from sinking into the earth when the ground thaws. Traveling less than 100 feet off the tundra, at 150 miles per hour, the pilot of the Hughes 500D helicopter races to horizon. The orange shelters at the edge of the road, is our intended destination. These metallic enclosures are used to pump hot steam down-into the wells, for recovering a thick slurry of oil, locked deep below the frozen tundra.

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Environmental stock photography for a New Dawn.

Alaska, the Last Frontier  

Flying above an older oil facility, it can clearly be seen — the years of oil production have left Rorschach-like-ink-blots, splattered on the surrounding tundra. I have not been to the oil fields for many years, but I was told at the time — ‘oil companies were trying to cleaning up their act, while leaving a smaller footprint.’ I pray what I heard was true, but as we know — accidents both large and small continue to happen.

On a clear day while flying above vast stretches of tundra, we spotted a small monument, which marked where Will Rogers and Wiley Post had been killed in a plane crash. I spotted dozens of randomly placed metallic cylinders near the site. My bush pilot brought the airplane down for a closer look and cynically said, those are abandoned, empty 50 gallon oil barrels… known as —“Alaska’s state flower.

 Environmental stock photography for a New Dawn.

An old barn in the shadow of Anacortes oil refinery.
There’s something charming about old barns as they weather over the years. This one with its organic wood earth tones, is contrasted against the metallic cylinders of an oil refinery in Anacortes, about 70 miles north of Seattle, on the edge of Puget Sound. On April 2, 2010 five workers were killed at this oil refinery as an explosion and fire ripped through part of the refinery.

EARTH Day seems to have more meaning as the impact of global warming, seismic and volcanic activity focuses our attention on the big picture.

Environmental stock photography for a New Dawn.

Our world is delicately balanced, spinning through space, with us all aboard along for the journey. At least one day, one week, out of a busy calendar year, we’re asked to give homage to our planet by being aware of its’ environment. In honor of this day, I’m sending out photographs and prose that reflect current events affecting our world’s environment.

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Earth Day 2010

“One World, One Planet.”
A fascinating, outdoor setting, with an incredibly diverse ecosystems is the Rainforest of the Olympic National Forest. It was a late summer day when I hiked down form Lake Osset, to where the rainforest meets the Pacific Ocean. This area has never been logged, the old growth forest here stands as it has for thousands of years.

After setting up a tent I walked along a trail leading to a lush meadow. A twig snapped a few feet away from me, revealing two unusual looking deer, grassing in the tall grass. Never have I encountered wildlife, where if I desired, could reach out and touch it. The deer could plainly see me; yet they made no effort to scramble away or even conceal themselves. The reason this wildlife seems tame is that they reside within a remote National park, where no hunting is allowed.  Slowly, I raised my camera loaded with my favorite Kodachrome transparency film. As I began to take a series of photos, I noticed unusual patterned markings on the deer’s body.  Refocusing my lens, amazingly, what appeared was a map of the earth, patterned on the deer. Last year I scanned the transparency, then enhancing it with Photoshop, the world continents clearly revealed themselves in what I’ve themed
– “One Planet, One World.”

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Have you ever gone back to a place and found what you had once treasured was missing? The longing for beauty, which once was, is a reoccurring theme used to select many photos in this essay.

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Earth Day 2010

“Paradise Lost” –
The enchanting scene with a man gazing into the pools of water is from Whatcom Falls. My college roommate sitting on the moss-covered boulders is Mark Nishimura, a fine-art photographer, originally from the state of Hawaii. Mark asked that I photograph him in a place that was reminiscent of the waterfalls back home on Ohau. I used a Hasselblad and slow speed transparency film to help capture the dynamic range of shadows and highlights. This was one of my favorite places to photograph when I attended school at Western Washington University, in Bellingham. Many students would spend summer afternoons cooling off, diving and swimming amongst the deep pools of water. A short walk into Whatcom Park, placed you in a lush environment, under a thick canopy of evergreen trees, moss-covered vegetation with sounds of cascading waterfalls running throughout it.  Environmental Photography

Some years after this photo was taken, tragedy struck, instantly incinerating this charming environment. A refinery’s 16-inch fuel-line running next to the park, ruptured, spewing nearly 300 thousand gallons of gasoline into the creek. In an instant, the fuel ignited, creating a river of fire, which killed three youths fishing in the creek and sending a toxic vapor cloud six miles into the atmosphere. The fireball and plume of smoke was visible from Anacortes to Vancouver, B.C., Canada.  Now, ten years after the catastrophe, I plan to return to the falls and photograph the site with hopes that nature’s healing process is transforming it back to the way it use to be.

Environmental Photography

Environmental Photography

Environmental Photography

Earth Day 2014

“Paradise Found” –
I remember a photography teacher I had in college took us to a beach near Chukanut Drive. When he gave out the assignment, most of the class groaned; we were to pick a spot on the beach, stay within a 25-foot diameter and shoot a series of photos to tell a story. Most of us wanted to take our cameras and explore what the entire beach had to offer. Surprisingly, it was one of the best assignments I was ever given in school; because it broke the stereotype about how you were suppose to see. Within that small domain we discovered, a whole universe was waiting to reveal itself before the camera lens. That photography lesson has stuck with me since, although world travel is a passion, I realize that I really didn’t have to go any farther than my backyard to find great images and no matter what, if resourceful, amazing subjects can be found everywhere.

My home’s back yard is like an outdoor studio full of indigenous plants, birds and amphibians. We avoid using pesticides and only use natural fertilizers on the yard and garden. One afternoon I found this charming tree frog sitting on a leaf, warming itself in the sunshine. With a macro lens on my camera, I was able to get within inches of the frog and let the background merge into soft abstract forms. The photo makes me smile whenever I see it because it reminds me, I never have to go far to reconnect with nature.

Environmental Photography

On a moonlit night, traveling the back-roads of Washington and Oregon —
we found countless sentinels standing guard against the cold breeze of darkening skies.

Environmental Photography                  

The Future is Now…
Working tirelessly with the wind, turbines spin against the moon backdrop, producing ‘clean energy’ for the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the Americas and many other places in the world, the tide is turning as we move more towards wind and solar for a clean, renewable energy source.

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Web Links For Earth Day 

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local/illinois&id=9511926

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/04/22/tri-state-area-commemorating-earth-day-with-series-of-events/

http://www.earthday.org

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140421-earth-day-2014-facts-environment-epa/

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/04/22/earth_day_2014_a_few_fun_facts_about_our_planet.html

 

 

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The Unworldly Splendor of Oregon’s Painted Hills.

3 Apr

Photo/video and text by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

The sun had just set as I arrived at my friend’s condominium on Lake Washington near Seattle.  Rick was loading camera equipment into his SUV Ford Escape, which is a gasoline-electric hybrid and incidentally one of the first American-built hybrids.

We had a long drive ahead of us and we’d be traveling all night until reaching our destination in the high desert of Central Oregon.  It was a cool, but clear, May evening, as the SUV climbed steadily up Snoqualmie pass; taking us over the Cascade Mountains and  into dryer Eastern Washington.  After a few hours of driving the glow from a near full moon was illuminating the desert sagebrush outside the town of Goldendale on the Columbia River.

Wind turbines above the Columbia River are lit by the moon.

Our adventure to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, was planed  to coincide with a full moon to illuminate the surreal Painted Hills within the Monument.  Rick and I use digital cameras, featuring full-sized imaging sensors and fast optical lenses, which are ideal for capturing in lowlight environments.  Taking the opportunity to harness some moonlight as it rose above the Columbia Gorge, we made a stop to photograph wind turbines, which populate this section of Washington and Oregon.  The site is ideal for wind farms due to the wind tunnel conditions created by compressed airstreams forcefully moving through the constricted Gorge.   

Standing next to a colossal tower is a strange experience.  These wind catchers are the largest machines you’ll probably encounter on land and the eerie sounds produced from the massive propeller blades takes some getting use to.

Driving on the Washington side of the Columbia River and into Oregon you see legions of wind turbine sentinels, as they constantly harvest the restless winds.  It takes an hour of driving south on the highway before we no longer have towers flanking our drive. What I’m surprised not to see are other cars traveling in either direction on the highway.  The vast size of Eastern Oregon is not appreciated unless you spend some time touring in its’ large, unpopulated counties.

After traveling all night and encountering some falling snow as the hybrid SUV started ascending the road to the high desert—we finally entered into the realm of the primeval Painted Hills.  It’s totally dark now that the moon set hours earlier, so we pull into a remote area to catch a couple of hours of sleep before our video and photography expedition begins.  The John Day Fossil Bed National Monument is organized into three Units; the Painted Hills is the third Unit, which contains 3,132 acres of wildlife, plants and some unusual geology.

Over millions of years, layers of ash from nearby volcanic eruptions mixed with clay through the process of erosion to cause intense patterns of color.

The following morning was a like waking up in some eye-candy dreamland.  The colors just popped out of the scene like a TV monitor, which had been over adjusted with the saturation turned way up.  Stunned by the startling beauty, I grabbed my video camera on a tripod and began shooting panorama footage.  Ready for capturing the details of the environment; an external microphone was used to record the outburst of chattering songbirds, which had woken up to herald the beginning of a new day.  My first impression was an experience of sensory overload; it was  challenging to take in all the colors, sounds and surreal shapes of the textured topography.  What I was seeing, appeared to be out of this world —like viewing some futuristic post cards of a terraformed  Martian landscape.

What I remembered from earlier road trips to Southwest was how striking the Painted Desert in Arizona appeared but that now seemed pale in comparison to the Painted Hills.  What makes the  geology at this site so vivid with saturated color was caused by a series of volcanic  eruptions, occurring over millions of years.  The accumulation of bright  layers of ash, dust and clay mixed together from relentless years of erosion — forming intense, saturated strata of colors, layered into the hills.

What remains buried beneath the volcanic soil is a time-capsule, of preserved fossil remains from mammals and plants, which thrived  during the  Cenozoic Era – the Age of Mammal [roughly 65 million years ago.] This National Monument is a target rich environment for paleontologist studying fossils from this time period.

After I shot about an hours worth of video from the spot we had park at from the night before, it was time to scout other dramatic locations.  Not too far into our drive we spotted a family of graceful antelope, casually grazing in a large field.  Apparently, from talking with one of the NPS Rangers, this National Monument is full of indigenous wildlife including: bears, cougars and eagles.

Latter in the afternoon we stopped at the side of a gravel road to take in a stunning view of  one of the larger hills at the site.  The clouds above were opening and closing like a massive shutter on a spotlight; producing lighting effects which were irresistible.  We set up tripods along with our video and still cameras to begin shooting right away.  Shortly after, a ranger  pulled up close to the SUV and was intently watching us. Rick and I looked at each other with a shrug, thinking perhaps we had unknowingly parked in a restricted area. Eventually the ranger introduced himself, he had the impression we were part of a National Park Service video crew, which was schedule to be doing work at the Monument.  The ranger was there to lead a group of photographers into a restricted area for a guided tour, so he invited us to join in.  As it turned out, this special photography tour only takes place one weekend out of the entire year —when the John Day chaenactus (a bright yellow wild flower) begins to bloom; then as quickly as it appears—it begins to fade away.

The photographer’s tour was visually fantastic and can only be experienced under the supervision of an NPS Ranger.  The plant life is so fragile here, you’re only allowed to  walk inside a dried out creek bed while touring this area.  The Ranger was gracious enough to allow me to interview him about the site.  Wind is common and unpredictable in this high desert area, so I came prepared with a wind guard on my microphone; but I did experience a few audio dropouts,  hopefully you’ll able to hear the main message clearly enough.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMno4hbg-ZA

Later that evening we photographed the landscapes using a full moon for our lighting. I’ve never seen greater clarity of the stars and moon from this high desert environment, which created a great backdrop for an unearthly landscape. We photographed throughout the night until the light of predawn appeared.

At a little over 2,000 feet in elevation, the high desert can produce cold, bone-chilling weather and as mentioned—windy conditions.  I recommend warm clothing and gloves to help keep your hands comfortable from wind-chill.  For photography, the higher altitude is a great benefit, especially for optical clarity if your focus is on night photography of stars and landscapes.

I definitely plan to go back to the Painted Hills as soon as possible… it’s a dreamlike setting I have rarely experienced, which captivates the senses, with its splendor of stunning colors contained within an unworldly environment. ~

LINKS:

Here’s a link to National Park Service’s John Day Fossil Bed National Monument:   http://www.nps.gov/joda/index.htm

Paine Field in the Pacific Northwest is becoming an aviation mecca.

27 Mar
General Aviation Day 2013, is on, Saturday, May 18th, Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. For details please visit:  http://www.painefield.com/

 
Most of the following photo/video essays can be seen in another format which features an alternative graphic style and a black background, please see:  http://bigpictureone.wordpress.com 
General Aviation Day 2012 is on Saturday, May 19th. Admission is $5. or $10. per family.  For details please visit:  http://www.painefield.com/
In
Paine Field in the Pacific Northwest is becoming an aviation mecca.
Paine Field’s, General Aviation Day takes place in mid-May, located next to a vast aviation center; including the world largest building (by volume), where Boeing/MacDonald assembles most of it’s commercial aircraft, along with an ultramodern Future of Flight museum, all clustered around an international airport.  
Photos & essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights
Wow, I knew to expect a great event from the warbirds appearing at the General Aviation Day, but I had known idea it would be so fantastic! This dynamic annual aircraft exhibition held at Paine Field in Everett, WA has one of the best settings for such an event and is becoming a major aviation mecca.”
A surprise appearance of a Boeing Dreamlifter has photographers scrambling to get a shot.
Aerial view of Paine Field Airport looking north.

Paine Field’s, General Aviation Day takes place in mid May, located next to a vast aviation center; including the world largest building, where Boeing/MacDonald assembles most of it’s commercial aircraft, along with an ultramodern Future of Flight museum, all clustered around an international airport.  Located next to these aviation assets are Paul Allen’s, (cofounder of Microsoft and commercial space visionary/developer) Flying Heritage Collection and John T. Session’s (Seattle attorney and entrepreneur) Historic Flight Foundation.

    It’s remarkable this quality of event has such minimal admission fees, yet it offers the public a rare opportunity to walk right next to these historic World War II airplanes; to look inside at flight controls and touch the aircraft aluminum skin of these fierce flying machines. Only minutes later these same vintage World War II fighters, bombers and scout planes are beginning to fire up their inline and radial engines; which sounds like a monstrous dragon clearing it’s throat until there’s just a steady roar that grabs everyone’s attention. As one airplane after another takes off and returns making multiple passes, spectators are lining the edge of the airfield and to watch in awe.

Formation flying over a navy blue warbird with her mighty wings folded.

    At midday the participating, Historic Flight Foundation open house began.  Within the Foundation’s grounds were scores of World War II aircraft, along with dozens of people in army uniforms of the era; I had to remind myself… this was not a movie I was watching, nor a dream, but an actual live event. Even Steven Spielberg couldn’t have outdone the staging for this assortment of warbirds, soldiers in uniform and military equipment of the era.

Is that Steven Spielberg
Is that Steven Spielberg wearing an aviation hat in the background? No, it’s John T Sessions, founder of Historic Flight Foundation.
Having taught history of photography courses,  I had some fun adding postmodern sepia to the photos taken at the event.

Constructed in 1936, Paine Field was a works progress administration project during the great depression. Most of the vintage collections began flying shortly after the Field started operating, so it’s fitting the warbirds are now roosting here. Inspired by history and the original purpose for these aircraft; I employed digital post production techniques for the images in an attempt to recreate a photographic “look” of the 1930’s and 1940’s. In particular, sepia-tone as well as early Kodachrome transparencies inspired my recreated images.

This image looks so authentic, as if it could’ve been taken 60 years ago.
Another birds-eye view of the warbirds.

It’s rare to see such multigenerational enthusiasm for a public event. Especially seen within children and adolescent’s eyes were  genuine looks of awe and wonder from what these aircraft inspire. Seeing the kids excitement resonated with my own memories about aviation when I was a youth. The fact that these historic fighters and bombers were not just static displays — but actually flying at “tree-top-levels”  — whose roaring, rumbling engines you could feel, hear, and smell –captivated every age-group’s attention.

Cub Scouts enjoying the day, viewing vintage aircraft making fly-overs.

Being that my house is only minutes away by car, I enjoy taking photos from my backyard of visiting warbirds in the days before and after the event. Within easy reach is my ever-ready camera with a telephoto lens mounted, so I’m always ready when that rare vintage aircraft makes a surprise appearance overhead.

I look forward to the coming years to see how this show will grow and receive even greater support from the public.

A beautiful day for a vintage air show.

One particular image in the photomontage series below, captures the wonder within faces of a group of youth standing underneath the wing of a Historic Flight Foundation bomber, just as an aircraft roars nearby. The adage –“a picture, tells a thousand words” applies to this one; but also simply put…  a face can sum it up with just one… wow!

Hope for the future, by remembering the past.
Female pilot inspects the B25 she’s ready to take into the sky.

Here’s my flying quote of the day — “Both optimist and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute.” ~ Gil Ster

Look, up in the sky it’s a tight formation of warbirds.
Yes, that tough cat really does have claws.
“Navy blue” ready for takeoff with a ribbon of Cascade Mountains in background.
Looking and touching is encouraged for a great live interactive experience.
An awesome flyby with two fighters accompanying a B25 bomber.
Up close and personal views of warbird taxing for takeoff.
Plane spotting groupie at Paine Field’s GAD vintage airshow.
This warbird isn’t shy and knows how to be a crowd pleaser!
Never a dull moment for a full house, and plenty of flybys to see.
For over three generations these warbirds still inspire awe on the faces of youth and elders alike.
Something for the entire family to enjoy.
Another target rich environment for a photographer.
Inspired by the wings of flight.
A target rich environment for airplane spotting photographers.
This vintage navy warbird gets ready to fly by modern Boeing airliners.
Mom and dad with kids in tow to see a great show.
A sunshine halo encircles vintage warbirds returning home from a successful flight.
Father and son with a birds-eye view from top of the world.

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